Like Father, not Like Son

Business, Indian Mythology 6 Comments


Published in Corporate Dossier ET,  January 21, 2011

The Padma Purana tells the story of Krishna’s son, Samba, who looked just like his father. Taking advantage of this resemblance, he would impersonate his father and play pranks in the palace. When Krishna learnt of this, he cursed his son that his face would be covered with skin lesions enabling everyone to distinguish the true Krishna from the false one. Samba apologizes for his behavior and is told to worship the sun-god to get rid of the skin lesions. That is why sun temples around India such as Konark trace their origin to Samba, the son of Krishna.

Samba once dressed up as a pregnant woman and asked a group of sages if he would bear a son or daughter. The sages divined that this was a prank by Krishna’s son to test their powers. Annoyed by this display of immaturity, they declared that in the bundle of clothes that made Samba look pregnant was an iron mace that would be instrumental in destroying his entire family.

Samba comes across as a spoilt brat, someone who takes advantage of his father’s position and someone who cannot handle the pressure of being a great man’s son. These stories were clearly written to tell devotees that Krishna is divine but his offspring need not be divine. In family businesses, the one who starts the business often assumes that his business acumen and his genius are hereditary and this assumption can work to the detriment of the business.

Every day of his life, Senthil is told what a great man his father, Mr. Raghuraman, is, how he began as a small time insurance agent and how he built up a large wealth management practice. In every party that he attends, he hears tales of his father’s famous clients, from film stars to cricketers to politicians to private trusts. Everyone wanted Mr. Raghuraman to handle his or her money, to be their broker and agent. He has the golden touch.

Senthil feels the pressure around him. He has to be just like his father. He has to be brilliant. He has to know the secrets, just like his father. He too must have the sense of the market, the uncanny ability to know when the market will crash before it crashes and when it will boom before it booms. Raghuraman tries to explain it all to his son, but it is not an analytical skill as much as it is an intuitive skill. Senthil watches his father’s every move and realizes his father’s decisions are non-replicable and follow no logical pattern. This frustrates Senthil, makes him insecure. He feels he has failed his father and those around him.

To hide his fears, he behaves arrogantly and is always on the defensive. He resents the senior managers who his father consults and those who assist his father in the business. He feels they laugh behind his back and mock him. He wonders if his father will make him the next head of the firm. Should it not be declared in the next board meeting? He is the son, the only son, that position should be his.

Mr. Raghuraman knows his son is a very good wealth manager, and in time he will head the firm, but not yet. He also realizes, regretfully, that his son’s skills are no match for his. Senthil is as good as the other wealth managers in the firm but with the added advantage of being his son. He knows Senthil will feel inadequate when compared with him. He also knows that Senthil will have to face the hostility of his colleagues who envy and resent his lineage. Mr. Raghuraman only hopes that in his insecurity and haste and resentment, Senthil does not do anything harsh that will jeopardize his career and the business. But that only time will tell.


  • a l mohan

    it is a predicament that many corporate czars confront.eagerly looking forward to dev’.s recipe to resolve it

    • Amit

      You are at wrong place. I think he does not give prescriptions. Raghuraman(each one) has to find his way. Any how some suggestion are there in other commets

  • ashim

    Seems like a detective serial WITHOUT the “… to be continued” suffix !!!! Disappointed !
    No, Doctor, I did not like this article.

  • Dear Dev Ji,

    It is a wonderful situation depicted by you. I am reminded of a similar story from Pachatantra. An old sage had a son who was very capable. But, to ensure that his son does not stop his learning by becoming complacent, he never appreciated his son on his face. The son got so much fed up with his father that he decided to kill him. One day, he climbs on to the attic with a big boulder to drop it on his father when his father comes and sits under it. It so happened that his father came; sat on his seat underneath that attic, and along with him, there came another friend of his. Son heard his father telling his friend. Old man was telling, “I never imagined that my son would one day become such an erudite scholar, and so capable. Now I feel that if I die I shall die a contended man. But I never appreciated my son before anybody thinking that he might become complacent and thereafter end his learning.” Overhearing the conversation of his father with his friend about him, he could not stop bursting into tears, also realizing the most foolish thing he was contemplating because of not properly understanding his father’s heart. He came down crying and apologizing to his father.

    So, in my opinion, Raghuraman should confide in his son, Senthil; do some good counseling to him and tell him how great his son’s skills are and how, over a period of time, he feels that he himself would be no match for son, (even if the fact might be otherwise) and that what he requires is little more experience. This would motivate his son into adding more experience, and at the same increase love, affection and respect for his father.

  • kiran teja

    that it means it becomes a great responsibility for being a son of great man .

  • Mangal

    It is unfair to expect the son/daughter to be a clone of the father…

    Its ironic that the ones we love most are the ones we understand least :-)