Devaluing your value

Modern Mythmaking 11 Comments


Published in Corporate Dossier, ET, Dec. 02, 2011

Sati asked Shiva to show her his house. Shiva did not have any. “What protects you from the heat in summer?” she inquired. Shiva took her down to the valley full of Deodar trees. “What protects you from the rain?” she asked. Shiva took her into a cave. “What protects you from the cold in winter?” Shiva took her to the snowy peak of Mount Kailasa. “Where do you keep fire?” Shiva took her to a crematorium where there was always a funeral pyre burning. Sati declared Shiva to be Bhola, the simpleton, a guileless pure soul; she fell in love. Sati’s father, Daksha, declared Shiva to be uncouth, uncivilized, a destroyer of all things respected in culture. Shiva found Sati’s need for a house incredible, an imagined unnecessary need. He found Daksha’s opposition to him bizzare: in nature nothing is excluded; everything has its place.

Value is imagination. When an animal is hungry, it values food. When an animal is frightened, it values shelter. Humans seek food and shelter even when they are not hungry or frightened. Or rather, humans are hungry even when their stomachs are full and frightened even when there is no predator stalking them. All thanks to imagination. So we grant meaning to things and make them meaningful.

Logically speaking, living in South Mumbai did not make sense to Ravindra. His office was in the distant suburbs of North Mumbai. As CEO he could have got himself a bungalow nearby, or maybe in the central suburbs, which is equidistant from every corner of the metropolis. But everyone told Ravindra that the people who matter live in South Mumbai. A house was not about convenience, it was also about status and significance. Ravindra knew that both he and his wife craved to belong to the movers and shakers of the city, and they seemed to be living in South Mumbai. So when he took over as CEO, he demanded that his accommodation be in South Mumbai. The rates were astronomical and the CFO protested. But Ravindra would hear no argument. He knew the value of what he was seeking. He was no Shiva. He understood the rules of Daksha’s game.  So finally a flat was found, not a large flat, about half the size of the one near the office, and with fewer toilets, and parking spaces. But it was made the official residence of the CEO,who was more than happy to travel for 2 hours each way for the sake of prestige.

It is this notion of value that enables in maximizing revenue. Value transforms a commodity into a brand, allows for the charging of premium. People do not buy products or services or ideas; they buy value. Value mitigates imagined fears, satisfies the predator and comforts the prey that lurks in every human being.

  • A thought provoking post with great relationship between Shiva and Ravindra. Liked the following words Humans seek food and shelter even when they are not hungry or frightened. Or rather, humans are hungry even when their stomachs are full and frightened even when there is no predator stalking them. All thanks to imagination. So we grant meaning to things and make them meaningful.

    But I would say to each his own. While Shiva was contended to live in Mount Kailash with bare necessities, Vishnu reincarnated as prince- Ram, Krihsna. What matters at the end of the day is satisfaction. Will Ravindra be happy if he has a big house near his work place, may be not? Fortunately or unfortunately the world cannot be divided into black and grey. What human beings have the privilege of making a choice and every choice has its consequences..just as Ravindra had to travel 2 hours everyday!

  • Dora

    when we think about satisfaction In reality it will be mixed result, some of them good & rest may not good.

    If I understood correct, we gave value to prestige which matters in civilization , it is not matters when we stay without uncivilized and staying in civilized.

  • Nilesh Chavan

    i like your articles its filled with meaning which has a heart

  • Kartik Pandit

    As always an excellent comparison. In the mad world, where you have to live, survive and find your worth and acceptance, are you not restricted by the rules of the world. Ravindra might have been happy with the distance house internally, but he has to live, perform and find acceptance in the world around him. If he goes against the bench marks and rules of the world that he and his family live can he find his worth in that world..? the sentence -both ravindra an his wife craved to be part of movers and shakers is the heart of the matter and may be finally that matters? i wish i knew

  • Kishor

    True Devduttji .,
    Just for the sake of personal gratification and external show Human beings subjects themselves to more inner pains…But todays generation is getting build this way…and these values need to be stressed.
    rgds kishor vyas

  • Apsa gayatri

    Had I been in Ravindra’s place I would have chosen both convenience and status. A house for convenience and another house for status. Super status. LOL

  • K Kanakasabhapathy

    The characters of Sati and Shiva do not fit well in the narration, given the rather narrow meaning in which the word value is used in the Corporate Dossier. No issue of core values is involved.

    Again, value is not an absolute entity which has exclusive domain in decision making. In any decision making process, it is conditioned by attributes of priorities and balances.

    Ravindra obviously acted according to his perceptions.

  • Dear Pattnaikji,
    I came to know you via Youtube by your very popular show “Shaastrarth” and have become a regular viewer of it. You have very intelligently woven the mythological principles with modern business and have inspired many minds to plan efficiently.

    What I have personally interpreted after listening to you is that the wrong understanding of ancient
    texts and its message among the mob is due to our faulty education system.

    Few months ago I came across an article stating Macaulay’s opinion on India and his strategies to
    change the education system here so that britishers can rule us for long. His plan was to ruin the self
    esteem of Indians and their language and make English language a brand of Literacy and Intelligence and
    also to mar the faith of Indians in their religion. It shocked me a lot.

    My question is how far do you hold Macaulay’s conspiracy responsible for the present intellectual and
    emotional degradation of Indians and to what extent. What would have been the scenario if such event
    had not taken place?

    Awaiting your reply.

  • Pradyumna

    Dear Devdutt.

    great article. Your unique blend of mythology, corporate-speak and philosophy is indeed a heady combination. but i hope not to only become giddy with it, but to use some of its insights into life.

    thanks, as always.

  • Consumers are having a hard time differentiating between utility value & esteem value. Needless to mention, when there is a downturn of economy, they pay for their delusions.

  • J Panda

    The first paragraph has unusual beauty and describes Shiva so well. Not necessarily an antithesis, but a binary to Vishnu; Shiva is a role model for environmental protection and care. Myths have their own logic, but Sati should not have died and there was no need for her to be born as Parvati. Shiva should have remained devoted to one wife like Rama.