Published in Corporate Dossier, ET, July 29, 2011

In Hindu mythology, there are two types of heaven: there is heaven (spelt without capitals) and there is Heaven (spelt with capitals). The smaller heaven is also called paradise, to distinguish it from Heaven. Of course, this complex denotations emerge because of the limitations of the English language that was designed to serve the needs of the Bible that has only one Heaven. Belief in one life that underlies Christianity results in faith in one heaven. Belief in many lives that underlies Hinduism results in faith in many heavens, and Heavens.
Paradise or heaven is called Swarga and is ruled by Indra, king of the gods. He is surrounded by wealth and beauty and fame, but he is always insecure, fearful that another king or sage or demon may topple him anytime. Then there is Heaven, the Vaikuntha of Vishnu or Kailasa of Shiva, where there is no threat; there is peace forever. But here time stills, there is no ebb and flow of things, no hunger hence no quest for satisfaction, no thirst hence no satiety. In the case of paradise, there is prosperity but no peace, while in Heaven there is peace but complete indifference to prosperity.

Thirty years ago, David and Jacob, after completing their engineering degree, took up two very different jobs for two different reasons. David joined a private engineering firm that offered him no job guarantees but a lot of opportunities.Jacob joined a Public Sector Enterprise that offered him job security but not many opportunities.

David spent years moving from city to city, from job to job, changing roles and domains, fighting office politics, struggling for appreciation, making his presence felt, battling recession, and is today Vice President of a Dubai-based company with major investments in India. Needless to say he is doing very well financially. He has bought three houses in India. But he looks stressed. The job has very high demands. The shareholders want results and the auditors are strict about governance. Every day he has to take tough decisions and every day he has to answer tough questions from people upstream and downstream. The customers are difficult to acquire and difficult to retain. David spends all day thinking about the job and this has seriously affected his work-life balance. He envies Jacob.

Jacob joined a Public Sector Company. He finds his job boring. Every thing is decided by policies. He knows he can do a better job but the organization makes no demands of him. He is expected to behave as per his grade. His remuneration is as per his grade. If he wants to attend a conference abroad he has to take permission from superiors. He has hardly any autonomy. Even if the chair in his office is broken, the requisition has to go to some senior who will sign a document in triplicate. His colleagues, he feels, have lost all enthusiasm. Even the fire in his belly has started to ebb. He does enough work so that he is not seen as a slacker. He reaches office on time and comes home on time. He gets to spend a lot of time with his family. For that he is grateful, especially when David calls him and tells him how he was unable to attend his daughter’s graduation ceremony in a fancy Singapore University. He knows that boom time or bust, he job is secure, and if he is patient, eventually, he will get his promotion. He may not have bought three houses, but his company quarters are huge and located in the best suburbs of Mumbai and Delhi. He is content but occasionally he does feel his life lacks the thrill of David’s private sector job.

David is in paradise; Jacob in Heaven. David enjoys growth; Jacob enjoys stability. David is blessed with prosperity; Jacob has peace. We yearn for both, but often one comes at the price of the other.