Published in Corporate Dossier, ET, Jan. 06, 2012
Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, has three fathers. There is Varuna, god of the sea, that gives the world salt, fish and all the water it needs. This is why Lakshmi is called Sagara-putri. Then there is Puloman, the Asura-king, who rules from the subterranean realm of Patala, where the primary form of all wealth is located. This is why Lakshmi is called Paulomi and Patala-nivasini, or resident of Patala. Finally there is Bhrigu, the sage who can see the future and so bring fortune. This is why Lakshmi is called Bhargavi.
Varuna gives Lakshmi away freely without resentment; and so is blessed with abundance. Puloman resists giving away Lakshmi and keeps fighting with the Devas, who want to make Lakshmi their queen, Sachi. Bhrigu rarely shares his secret and very selectively parts with his daughter. That is why for most humans Varuna is a generous god, worthy of worship, while Puloman is demon and Bhrigu, the guru of demons.
Wealth was visualized as a daughter that we create. She sits in our wallet. But she brings value only when she is given away. This is kanya-daan, giving away of the bride. To not part with wealth, to hoard, was considered the gravest of crimes. Yakshas, who hoard wealth, are therefore visualized as demons, who are often attacked and tortured by their half-brothers, Rakshasas, just as Devas are perennially at war with the Asuras.
Through these stories value was placed on wealth distribution, allowing wealth to flow so that it brought in more value. It also revealed the mindset that was considered beneficial to society at large, and ultimately, to the individual involved in wealth generation.
Jamshed owns six bakeries across the city. Each bakery has a turnover of over two lakh rupees each day. But Jamshed does not care so much about the turnover, “ The more bakeries I build, the more boys and girls get jobs, more people get to taste my bread and my cake. There is so much joy in that.”
Firoz is also in the baking business. He has two. But he does not want to build more bakeries. He says, “It is so much headache. The vendors do not give enough credit and the employees threaten to form unions. And the taxes are so high. Customers prefer Jamshed’s breads to mine. He is too stiff a competition. I barely make profit.”
Samsher also has a bakery that makes the most exquisite scones in the city. There is always a crowd in front of his store. He does not share this recipe and makes the batter for the scones himself. He cannot expand the business, as he might have to share his trade secret. He is happy being exclusive and highly profitable.
Jamshed is like Varuna, who uses his money to take care of his employees and lavish his customers, who return the favor. Firoz is like Puloman so careful about his money that both employees and customers feel the pinch. Samsher is like Bhrigu whose customer-friendly secrets ensure his success.
While all generate wealth, Jamshed’s wealth is shared amongst many people and it gives livelihood to many, reducing unemployment and helping society at large. The wealth of Firoz and Samsher helps only them. They become rich. But when one is rich in a world where there is poverty and unemployment, one lives perpetually in fear, facing the resentment of the rest. This is unhealthy in the long run. We become ‘demons’ for other members of society.