Author Archives: Sanjay Jha

Sanjay Jha Profile


Mr. Sanjay Jha,
Executive Director,
Dale Carnegie Training India.

Sanjay Jha is the Executive Director of the world-famous Dale Carnegie Training operations in India, which has a global experience of having worked with over 400 of the Top Fortune 500 companies. In India, Dale Carnegie has worked with over 3000 corporate firms, multinational companies, public sector, government and NGOs and trained more than 200,000 Dale Carnegie graduates in the last ten years. His area of professional interest and management science specialization includes leadership development, change management, corporate culture and ethics, business strategy and emotional intelligence. Sanjay is a Motivational speaker, an Executive Coach and Mentor who has advised top management, including CEO’s as well as senior political leaders.

Sanjay has often received an overwhelming feedback and recognition for his high-quality training and leadership talk. He is one of the senior leaders in the worldwide Dale Carnegie Training network, and has addressed global audiences in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago, Singapore, Bermuda, Taiwan, Mexico and Toronto. Jha has addressed managers and leaders at ICICI Pru, TEDx, IBM, Axis Bank, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, Oracle, British Gas, Brookings, Dainik Bhaskar, Crompton Greaves, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Bajaj Electricals, SHRM, Standard Chartered, Tata Motors, CII, IMC, Venture Capital Association, NHRD, Apple, Bharat Petroleum, Citibank, Mahindra & Mahindra etc. He has conducted several corporate programs focused on executive development, advised companies on corporate image management, done executive coaching and consulted with companies. He has also addressed business schools, industry conferences and knowledge symposiums, and has also been engaged frequently as a strategic consultant/ advisor on training to a leading political party. Mr. Jha is also the National Spokesperson of the Indian National Congress Party.

He has made several contributions to mainline news and business dailies and magazines such as Business Standard, Indian Express, Financial Express, Hindustan Times, Mid-Day, Tehelka, and The Huffington Post, and appears regularly to air his views on print and electronic media. He is one of India’s top influencers on social media.

He has founded one of the world’s leading internet portals called CricketNext.Com which was ranked once amongst Alexa Top 1000 sites globally, and is now part of the Network 18 media Group.

Prior to starting Dale Carnegie, Sanjay was instrumental in setting up the private sector mutual fund industry in India, having worked as a Senior Vice President with ITC Threadneedle Asset Management ( part of BAT plc, UK) and as a Vice President , Alliance Capital ( New York, USA).  His career in banking included stints with both Bank of America and ANZ Grindlays Bank where he worked in NRI marketing and operation services, product-technology training, retail banking and branch management. He started his career in sales with Bharat Petroleum.

Jha completed his MBA from XLRI, Jamshedpur and his Master’s in Economics from Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, University of Pune. He graduated with distinction in Economics from Fergusson College, Pune.

Sanjay has also written a cricket anthology titled 11—Triumphs, Trials and Turbulence in Indian cricket, two cricket quiz books and published his first collection of poems.  Jha has recently authored a book on leadership called The Superstar Syndrome (The Making Of A Champion), co-authored with Dr. Myra White, who is a Professor at the Harvard Medical School. This book was launched in August 2013 and featured in the Crossword Bestseller list.



‘A thoroughly engaging and enjoyable book which delves deep into the human psyche and the superstar resident within each one of us.’
Naina Lal Kidwal President, FICCI and Country Head India & Director Asia Pacific, HSBC
‘The Superstar Syndrome is not about how to become one. But to release your natural talent to exhibit your true stardom. This is because you are a natural superstar. Whose stardom is hidden. Here is a book that tells you how to take off the covering.’
R. Gopalakrishnan, Director, TATA Sons Limited
‘The Superstar Syndrome is a book filled with wisdom. Wit, and well known leadership superstars. Dr Myra White and Sanjay Jha have done a superb job.’
Peter Handal, Chairman and CEO, Dale Carnegie and Associates
This is a must read for everyone who is looking for deeper insights and leadership.’
H.N. Shrinnivas, Senior Vice President-Human Resources, The Taj Group of Hotels
‘The Superstar Syndrome will help many of our young mentees and millions of other to look deep in to themselves and find the courage and commitment to excel.’
Dr Ganesh Natarajan, Vice Chairman and CEO. Zensar Technologies
‘An insightful, inspiring guide to unleashing our potential. Practical and powerful, this book uniquely includes terrific examples from India that have relevance across cultures.’
Rajeev Gowda, Professor, India Institute of Management Bangalore
‘Engrossing, intriguing, and highly recommended.’
Dr Thomas G. Guthell, professor of Psychiatry’ Harvard Medical School
‘The book is well-written and easy to read.’
S.P. Raj, Distinguished Professor,Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University, New York
‘This book gives hope-and concrete steps-that each one of us can use to create magic in our lives.’
Rajeev Dubey, President (Group HR, Corporate Services and After Market), Mahindra & Mahindra

Heard That?

May 2011

(On Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi) – The mad dog of the Middle East. – Ronald Reagan

March 2009

I am on a seafood diet. I see food and I eat it.

February 2009

What is the thinnest book in the world?
Everything men know about women.

January 2009

Everybody has a little bit of watergate in him. – Billy Graham
American Evangelist

I am in shape. Round is a shape.

December 2008

The buck does not even pause here. — Donald Reagan

The war between the sexes is the only one in which both sides regularly sleep with the enemy.

Anger is one letter short of danger.

The fear of death is the greatest compliment we pay to life.

November 2008

Personally I have always looked on cricket as organized loafing.

If they figure out a way to channel my anger, they could solve the energy crisis.

George Bush went into a think-tank this week and almost drowned.

October 2008

The two most beautiful words in the English language are ” Cheque Enclosed”.

When Bill Clinton was asked what he thought about foreign affairs, he replied,” I don’t know. I never had one”.

The mentally retarded are treated equally in Texas—some executed, some elected to President.

September 2008

Sport is a universal language. Yes. If you learn to speak it, you can
communicate at a superficial level with idiots all over the world.

A politician is a fellow who will lay down your life for his country

Pessimist; His usual greeting is: “Good morning, probably.”

When a woman makes a fool of a man it is usually an improvement.

Only in America………….do people order double cheese burgers, large fries, and a Diet Coke

The average girl would rather have beauty than brains because she knows that the average man can see much better than he can think.

Behind every successful man stands a surprised mother-in-law.
Hubert Humphrey

August 2008

A sales conference is a gathering of people who singly do nothing and together decide that nothing can be done.

Minds are like parachutes; they only function when they are open.
—-Thomas Robert Dewar

They call him OPTICIAN: two glasses and he makes a spectacle of himself.

To err is human, but it is against company policy

In the Clinton administration, we worried the President would open his zipper. In the Bush administration, they worry the President will open his mouth. – James Carville.

I Screwed Up: 10 Lessons in leadership

President Obama Delivers Address On Immigration Reform In Las Vegas, Nevada( He may be down and out for the moment after the defeat in the “ fall” elections of November . But US President Barack Obama, visiting India over the next few days has challenged conventional leadership

This article is from a contribution made by the author to the journal of the Delhi School of Economics, published in August 2010.

I woke up one morning to the best quote, and what was finally the winner of the sound byte of the year 2009. US President Barack Obama , not once, but several times confessed on national television that “I screwed up” , with reference to his nomination of Tom Daschle , Health Secretary who unfortunately ended up being a tax violator. Shoddy due diligence, but it happens. What was truly refreshing though , like driving down a deserted Marine Drive at 3 am in the morning, was his straight- from -the- heart brutal transparency. No pretentions! No justifications! No shrouded in calibrated jargon! I am sure the conservative Republicans cried foul at the usage of the slang term with a sexual connotation, but Obama was  ‘cool

But this is Obama’s second staccato-fire. His first was absolutely brilliant, when he termed the financial jack-asses ( the erstwhile over-rated over paid investment bankers of Waterfall Street ) as “shameful” for pocketing million dollar bonuses even as long-term investors went bankrupt, families got wiped out, and the world plunged in The Great Recession . And that too from the bail-out funds from government charity and tax-payers money! What a monumental repugnant act of self-aggrandisement ! It took a honest, bold and a true leader to condemn the preposterous day-light robbery by these flaky fools in pin-striped suits chewing on Cuban cigars, to set the record straight. And while these thick-skinned financial racketeers are collectively protesting, Obama has gone and done the hitherto unthinkable; he has put a cap on their disproportionate salary levels, thus ensuring no subterfuge methods of compensation. Now that’s what you call a real leader; he does the right thing, fearlessly, and without blinking an eyelid.

For Corporate India there some lessons to be learnt from both Obama ( I confess to having initially welcomed him with guarded circumspection and restrained enthusiasm, as I found the hype claustrophobic ) and the home-grown Ramalingam “Satyam” Raju story. Paradoxically enough, even Raju ultimately did say “I screwed up” without choosing the same colorful vocabulary but that was after he had sowed the seeds of India’s Himalayan financial catastrophe .

So instead of giving you blue-blooded, business school sanctified , sacrosanct gyans ( that is the rare prerogative of foreign – educated esteemed Board Members of some IT companies) , let me give you simple down to earth learning from some of the most momentous experiences of recent times:


Cut the crap! The world is short on patience and verbal jingoism, and playing silly hide and seek games in the corporate boardroom and press conferences. If you have done great work , please do shout from the roof-tops. If you haven’t, don’t sack your PR firm either ( unless you cannot afford them ) . Speak up, even if from the ground floor whose rentals are now on your piling payables. Disclose, disclose and disclose, and do so without fear.


Companies have this mindless obsession for being the biggest and all that; it is a fruitless endeavour. Everyone wants to be on a LIST of sorts, and size seems the common denominator of CEO obsession. As the collapse of financial behemoths and others such as AIG , Citibank, Merrill Lynch, GM, Ford , Satyam prove, ultimately their size became their undoing. Sure enough cheap funding can create big scale, but what happens to the key task of managing those multi-product, geographically spread , cross-cultural and complex structures when they are simultaneously challenged? Even Tata Motors defaulted on paying suppliers, and we are not even shocked anymore. And despite the pink papers massaging egos of their advertisers by repeatedly showcasing them , please stop taking those Forbes billionaire lists too seriously. Focus on customers and quality; size will follow almost logically.


One of the principal reasons why many companies are floundering is because of this self-created pressures of providing Dalal Street a well-spread buffet meal every three months , a staple high calorie, deep fried meal . Companies I think are meant to exist for the long-term, and sometimes projections do go haywire, and unexpected shocks are inevitable. It’s not the end of the world if your stock price slumps because of short-term profit-bookings or cut-loss operations on account of unreasonable punter expectations. Instead, what you should look for are far-sighted investors, and your own business strategy over a sustainable period. I think CEOs over-react to stock analysts and media pressures. Instead, they should show them the door.


There is the new culture in town that tells you that you must be seen in EVERY conceivable networking dinner, corporate party , a ET or BT or FT or TT bash. Dump it! In any case, you meet the same old usual suspects mumbling the same ancient incoherent crap. I am not saying business socializing is not important, it is . It is also the cheapest form of brand-building ( especially in these cost sensitive times) , but if over-done, it results in diminishing returns. Why don’t you spend that saved time in mentoring your future leaders, reading the audit report, just calling on your customers, or maybe just driving home early?


Good or bad news—– your employees must know about it before that Mr Patel scratching his head at his Fort office or the journalist from those TV channels. CEOs keep repeating ad nauseam-“My employees are my biggest asset”, but actually treat them like their disposable liabilities. If you can’t take your team into confidence, good or rough news, you should quit, you do not deserve to be there; instead start by giving the pink slip to yourself in a white envelope.


We have an obsession with all things alien, western, esoteric, heavy-sounding — we are constantly looking for role models to ape, concepts to implement, buzzwords to crow, fads to follow. It is time we acknowledged that while being adaptive to global ideation is being smart, we are distinctive, and perhaps need to create our own case stories , business models, best practices, and performance standards. As a company, each one can have its own defining values, work culture and management principles. The best benchmark is not your competition, but where you want to be.

These days the giving away of ” Awards” is become a real joke. Essentially it is a brand-building agenda of the host, a sponsored event, which also becomes a revenue generating model, a double-edged sword. It is a farce. Satyam got the Golden Peacock ( poor bird) for corporate governance , for god’s sake? So if you are not a great place to work or truly admired, but only got the award because you filled up the forms with politically correct information before the due date expired, don’t accept it. Instead of becoming a motivational tool, it will be a long rope with which you will end up conjuring some death-defying stunts that may unfortunately succeed. Create your own standards, and reward yourself and your team. You need no external endorsement.


In the final analysis, it is your openness, transparency, goodness, the whole set of work values and business ethos that will help you through difficult times. But this must start at the top, leaders must set the pace, practise what they preach and teach ( unlike Enron which had a voluminous book on ethics) , and set exacting standards of fair-play. And don’t get frightened if you made mistakes and “screwed up”, it’s human to do so. Your journey to your destination will not end. The basics usually matter the most, they are the bed-rock of endurance.



Many leaders sink in a cesspool because they get “emotional” about their work-place. “Ego” worsens the situation considerably. It is a deadly toxic combo. The two drive several business barons to unknown limits to either grow, maintain or salvage their enterprise. You know, one can understand the involvement, passion, sweat and toil and tears and all that, but frankly, in the end in business you do not control the outcomes, the environment, the future. It is important to let go, take things dispassionately and not be too harsh on oneself. The world forgets. More importantly, they also forgive. Better still, we move on, with the comfort of the knowledge that one did the best one could. And forget the neighbor’s new car, you may not be aware of his repayment capabilities. Clean and maintain your own jalopy like a black stallion.


There are volumes of work and strategies on crisis management, but when it comes to the crux, we are not just caught napping, we are usually comatose. Leaders of The modern Great Recession era ( 2007 – 2009 and still continuing in some places) need to be conservative in their projections, and realistic about its potentiality . Ceteris paribus is good just for micro-economics for higher secondary schools. Risk-assessment is not just to satisfy the audit committee, but to mitigate against unforeseen quirks of nature and some man-manufactured disasters of epic proportions. Essentially, we should not look too stunned when suddenly surprised. It is easier said than done ( which is why I am writing this piece) , but leadership is not everyone’s cup of tea or coffee, my dear friends. In calm waters, everyone is a good captain. When you see an iceberg, the end does not have to be ‘titanic’ .


I think leaders take themselves too seriously ; they try hard to appear to be constantly engaged, value every second of their time as if the world will stop revolving when they take a loo break, and speak with the gravity reserved for making funeral speeches. Lighten up, folks, it’s all right to crack a smile, you hurt no one in the process. And with or without you, the business will thrive, everyone will come to work, and life will move on. Who knows, the customers may even rejoice, and your employees will break into a salsa ? Frankly if you are not having fun despite the house-car-club-bonus-PR-stocks deal, clearly you have a problem. Remember, he who laughs , lasts.

Start by being honest to yourself; that’s a great first step. Practise saying this before a mirror every day ” I screwed up, I screwed up, I ———“. Because you will. But when you do, you will not be a chicken. You will be a leader.


( As Chennai Express becomes the biggest blockbuster in the history of Indian cinema by crossing 3 Idiots , I remember my piece written in 2009 .  Shah Rukh Khan’s success and endurance has a lot to do with his own unshakeable inner faith in a world of cynics, critics and competition. He is not called King Khan for nothing).

I met Aamir Khan in the halcyon Internet days of Y 2000 , when the word dot com on the visiting card represented a new zeal, the symbol of risk-taking , of creating a dream global company. With Shah Rukh Khan already the reigning badshah of the web world with, Aamir became for us fledgling entrepreneurs the next best alternative. Astutely suave and certainly discerning, and with a more cerebral outlook than his other contemporaries, we met Aamir to proposition a brand ambassador role with an equity stake attached in our proposed entertainment portal.


Aamir was remarkably modest, possessing down-to-earth humility, an attentive listener, and having a sharp instinct for worldly affairs. While there have been several sardonic digs at the ” madness in his method acting” , Aamir came across as a successful actor with a open, flexible mind-set, ready for novel experimentation. Lagaan was yet to be released, as he escorted us to the production studio in his back-yard where Ashutosh Gowariker was circumspectly editing the film’s rain-song sequence . We were amongst the few to get a sneak preview of what soon to be Bollywood’s landmark cinema.

Eight years later I write this piece , provoked by a stray comment made by an office colleague last Friday afternoon, when the corporate world usually gets into unwind zone, gradually dissipating the hectic pace into lower gear as the week-end beckons.

” Shah Rukh Khan seems to have been suddenly targeted by the entire film industry; everyone from the Bachchans, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar , Aamir; you name it. Odd bedfellows , but they are all ganged up in this anti-SRK campaign”, said the anxious fan. Normally, I would have thought nothing of the post-lunch observation uttered by a devout follower about the celebrity crowd we know nothing of other than what we read in Page 3 gossip columns.But I admit this one got me thinking.


I remember discussing Asoka , SRKs home-production( which was just about a financial break-even) with Aamir in a CII get-together . Asoka was by no standards a war epic or a cinematic master-piece. You could make out it was made on a limited budget and with modest ambitions, attempting to take a personal slice of the former emperor’s life, and weave it into a commercial format. While it may have failed the critics-test or the box-office window, it was certainly not a tacky ham-handed effort. I told Aamir just that , adding that I loved the emotional last few moments. Aamir’s sharp, cold response somewhat stunned me. He was bitterly caustic, rubbishing the film’s whole premise, and almost ridiculing SRKs misadventure. The seething competitive rage within was palpable. A fleeting thought passed me by; if I were to re-make the classic Amadeus, I know who would play Mozart , and who the conniving arch-adversary.

Therefore, recently when there was the expected brouhaha about Aamir’s ” my dog is called SRK ” comment, it hardly surprised me. As have the unpredictable Salman Khan’s bitter tirade against SRK , Akshay Kumar’s rather pathetic attempt to live under delusions of grandeur that he is supposedly the new King, and even the great Amitabh Bachchan’s rather unwarranted sarcastic digs at SRK’s quiz show. Even Manoj Kumar , resurrected by a calculated frown on his forehead joined the anti-SRK bandwagon. Bollywood is a dirty rat-house despite the steaming coffee with Karan, and synthetic smiles. It’s an insecure world out there, living a paranoid existence.

They may anoint him as King Khan but strangely enough SRK may be a victim of the fact that he will be perpetually perceived as ” an outsider” by the grand old family-networks that still strangulate free enterprise in Bollywood. For many, the short-sized slender cigarette smoking middle-class Delhi-wallah was an alien intrusion . The fact that he usurped the coveted throne, and has steadfastly refused to give an inch for over a decade, has clearly rattled Bollywood rivals. I think no one anticipated such impregnable , enduring dominance from brand SRK. Like Sachin Tendulkar in cricket , the man has been extraordinarily consistent. Box-office success and acting awards , hosting quiz shows and award functions, a slew of commercial ads, jet-setting with corporate honchos, Madame Tussauds , Temptations road show, book -releases, the IPL franchise-ownership , a self-owned production company and an animation studio. Lunch with the Gandhis. He has even made doing his Dard-e-disco at private weddings a revenue stream. Other fellow actors, have quietly followed. With increased corporatisation and free capital inflows, the financial stakes in Bollywood have become astronomically high. SRK has single-handedly created the entertainment industry’s financial capital warehouse; both working funds and huge profits. Now everyone seeks a lion’s share. It’s pure financial arithmetic.

But I think what has unnerved most about SRK is the fact that behind that ” I am the best” macho line, he is remained the simple old Delhi wallah. He has not beaten up his sultry wife Gauri, and his sister is not filing a criminal suit against him. He is a protective, indulgent father, and a trustworthy friend. These are all rare commodity traits in our glittery stardust world. Underneath the six-abs pack he remains a small-town boy in a world he knows only essentially worships the last man standing on a Friday opening.

I thin SRKs hidden biggest strength comes from his own internal pain. The fact that his parents died when he was still young. That his mind-numbing success will be forever elusive to them. I think only those who have no parents will understand his emotional-mental construct.. I think he lets his passions overflow , his energies double-up, his character assume new dimensions whenever he gets in front of those whirring cameras. It’s a cathartic moment. He lets it go.

So Rahul becomes the new name of several new born children in India. SRK may pretend otherwise, but Bollywood  is not his real home. It will never be. It is only his corporate office and a place where he has a job to do, expectations to meet and moments to memorize and mesmerize the world. . A scene to act. A product to endorse. A super- hit to deliver. Again and again.

Because his biggest family is now widespread across the desert plains of Rajasthan, his home-town of Delhi,  across the seas in Dubai,. the congested by-lanes of Hyderabad , the maddening multitude of Kolkota, the home-sick in New Jersey , the fan clubs in Jhumritalaiya, the upscale gentry of Mayfair in London, and the many, innumerable unknown cities, towns and villages that make India. And the world.

That’s where Rahul rules. That is his home.

The L of Lehman’s leadership

FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2008 file photo, Lehman Brothers world headquarters is shown in New York, the day the 158-year-old investment bank, choked by the credit crisis and falling real estate values, filed for bankruptcy. After weeks of intense focus on the crisis in Syria, the White House is set to use the five-year anniversary of the Lehman Bros. collapse next week to lay claim to an economic turnaround and to press congressional Republicans to not use the threat of a shutdown or a unprecedented debt default to extract a delay of President Barack Obama's signature health care. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, file)

“Greed……is good. Greed is right. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit—-. Greed—-mark my words—–will save…….the U.S.A.”
Michael Douglas (1944–)
American actor in Oliver Stone’s 1988 motion picture Wall Street

At the moment, Gordon Geckos’, the Wall Street master – brokers’ words are somehow not quite saving the US of A. In fact, there is a salvaging operation on by the free enterprise US government itself, perhaps, marking the first case of reverse nationalisation. Blue-blooded pedigree investment banks such as Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch have all changed hands with extraordinary alacrity. Mighty institutions have been felled by ingeniously crafted risky mortgage products by creative investment bankers which have now boomeranged. One of the world’s largest insurance and financial behemoths AIG has been forced to take a government bail-out, and even Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are on the verge of a precipitous collapse. Amidst all the brouhaha of financial gluttony, we may have missed the woods for the trees. What does the stumbling, crumbling, collapsing Wall Street drama really imply? It actually reflects —— the failure of leadership. Strangely, the virus of greed affected all the fine gentlemen in black suits and red ties simultaneously. The reverend CEOs perhaps, forgot what their management trainees spend hours learning in five-star classrooms; the risk-reward curve.

The story goes that when Bear Stearns was getting stowed over burning charcoal, Jimmy Cayne, chairman was busy playing bridge, even forgetting his portly mobile phone behind. And that Lehman Brothers chairman and CEO David Fuld was making rosy predictions about his firm’s glossy future to the shrewdest investors of them all, Warren Buffet, fully aware that in reality they had hit insurmountable road-blocks. Numerous investors who got taken for a real ride forgot a simple saying; if stock market analysts were indeed such experts, they would be buying stocks instead of selling advice.

Not so long ago, Kenneth Lay, erstwhile chairman of Enron, once amongst the most highly visible entities in the energy sector, threatened the Indian government with dire consequences if we reneged on the Enron deal in Maharashtra. A head of a multinational Fortune 500 company was threatening a sovereign democratic republic of over a billion people with unambiguous arrogance. A few years later, Enron existed but only on legal documents, and Lay had become an unfortunate victim of trying circumstances. Incidentally, Enron apparently had a 79 page code book of Ethics, and we all know that perhaps, it was just an in-house paperback bestseller.

I remember reading several articles on leadership and ethics, business principles and values around that time, as the USA experienced a series of deadly CEO frauds. Martha Stewart had also made dubious headlines, almost savouring the media spotlight. Even bad publicity is publicity after all. Years later, after the standard pontifications, we can see that nothing really changed. Sure, the current investment banking failures are not regulatory violations or cases of deliberate criminal misconduct. They are , to use common parlance, bad business decisions. But ethics is not just about corruption and violation of existing rules and regulations. What leaders need to understand is that ethics also has to do with one’s priorities, a comprehension of the bigger picture, assessing the likely fall-outs on all stakeholders – customers, investors, shareholders, employees, partners and the industry itself. Blind obsession with quarterly profit projections has ended up creating CEOs with a fuzzy vision, even irreparably blurred.

Newspaper reports say that Lehman Brothers senior team-members in India are being already head-hunted for big jobs with high emoluments; isn’t that a queer irony? But what about the hapless staff in BPOs, the ordinary work-people without the MBA tag, the administrative team, the back-office guys, and the contract labour ?

The collective leadership failure of the blue-chip investment banks is already become part of financial folk-lore and business school case-studies. They say that gentlemen prefer blondes. However, problems arise when they develop a passion for bonds instead. Maybe Wall Street CEOs could take that as a first lesson.

Death of a Professor

The brutally slaughtered Professor Harbhajan Singh Sabharwal never gave me classroom lectures. Neither did he solicitously provide me career advice. In fact, outside the academic fraternity of Ujjain, he was perhaps just a simple middle – class family man , low profile and living a modest existence of a professor a few months shy of retirement. . But last Saturday, as a frenzied mob of irate students of Ujjain , visibly bursting with incendiary fury and seething with incalculable rage callously hammered him to death, he has overnight become a national symbol of our disintegrating culture, caught on candid camera as he collapsed into a tragic limp heap, motionless . I am compelled , by an imperceptible surge to remember another professor. Professor Diwakar Jha. A teacher. And my father.

Father’s Day for me , in our rain-washed metropolis , is a wet manifestation of the onset of the monsoon season in June ; lashing waves against the Marine Drive embankment, black umbrellas sprouting like innumerable dark canopies as desperate commuters hurriedly elbow into suburban trains. Die-hard romantics soar their faces skywards allowing the rain streams to fall in an incessant rush on their faces, the unending serpentine mass of four-wheelers dodge assiduously ahead amidst the slowly shrinking road space which is Bombay city, and overjoyed cricket fanatics bat away in unusually unfriendly weather conditions , the leather ball skidding on slippery and muddy turf. The Kanga league can have a prolonged wait.


The night before, four years ago , he had been his usual imperturbable self; totally calm against the impending crisis, just a fleeting tremor of uneasiness. Father was often christened by his contemporaries as not just a simple bloke , but a virtual simpleton. His contemporaries called him ” Professor”, he was the archetypal teacher of economics, which was in complete contrast to his spendthrift ways. Clearly, he favored the law of demand over supply-side economics. In the traumatic post-partition days of 1947, this bespectacled son from an agricultural family in the rural interiors of Bihar , set sailing to the London School of Economics , carrying with him a dozen pre-rolled ties , as he had almost strangled himself the last time he had endeavored in those adventurous territories.

Most children are thrilled beyond description when they win school prizes for outstanding achievement , as they march triumphantly in rehearsed steps up the school pedestal to receive framed certificates from School Principals grinning away at their little protégés. Not me. In my growing years , perhaps the most difficult time was the prize distribution ceremony , as I was thoroughly embarrassed to be show-casing my rotund parents ballooning from all directions, my father accentuating matters by also proudly displaying his irradiant bald head. Apparently, a hereditary affliction.

He remained the quintessential professor; invariably immersed in voluminous books , perched incongruously on his reading table like several sky scrapers inhabiting an urban nightmare, while he made copious notes on the impact of the capricious monsoons on our farm production. His absent mindedness was legendary ( he had once got into a train going in the wrong direction, and even incredulously enough made it across the sensitive borders of China in those frosty days of the 1980s without a valid visa). And despite being a certified diabetic , it did not take wizardly knowledge to know that he had surreptitiously disappeared to the nearest sweet-shops on lazy Sunday afternoons. After all, whenever he returned from those casual sojourns there were traces of his gluttonous consumption on his shirt, which he was usually oblivious about.

One day when I had rudely remonstrated against my abysmal pocket-money, he called me by the side and said, ” This is all I can afford. Your father is a professor, and salary is my only source of income. I have spent all my life’s savings on giving all my children the best education, at least on that I have not compromised , if I could help it. I know I cannot do everything you ask. Just keep one thing in mind—- you are rich not by the material possessions you own or your bank balance. You are enormously wealthy if you have knowledge and wisdom. A sound knowledge base will give you the ability to discriminate, to make choices, to see right from wrong, and to look beyond the perceptible optical vision. All your worldly possessions are meaningless if you do not possess the intangible strength of these basic characteristics. “. I mumbled incoherently, cussing under my breath, not entirely pleased with his long-winded explanation. It sounded like the usual mumbo-jumbo parents resort to when they cannot acquiesce with your requests.

He understood that I did not understand or chose to be stubbornly defiant. Either way, he continued , ignoring the audible snigger of his adolescent son ” Expand your horizons, and pursue knowledge with an insatiable passion. It will lead you to riches beyond the boundaries of your dreams, and above the specks of white clouds in the sky. I promise you, you will experience wealth far more than the metallic grandeur of gold or the unending stacks of currency bundles”. And saying that, he put his pudgy hand in his creased trouser-pockets and pulled out some crumpled notes and coins and gave them to .me. ” Here, take what is left with me for the day, but spend it wisely”.

Twenty-five years later, on an overcast afternoon when it rained intermittently and where the world looked a perfect place to me as I sipped on some hot aromatic tea, savoring the Sunday papers , a few days before Father’s Day , he passed away. As quietly , as he had usually retire for the nights. As I went through his badly documented file of papers and books , there were an assortment of colored passbooks of his numerous savings accounts, all aggregating to a few thousand rupees, which could be easily exhausted over a week-end family brunch at the popular deli.. There were several notes hand-scribbled and written to bank managers for mundane enquiries, to which he had apparently received no response. And amidst the chaotic mess of his study-table was one singular investment he seemed to have been particularly proud of , as it was properly covered and stored; a Post Office fixed deposit receipt of a thirty thousand rupees, which would not even get me an economy class ticket to New York. That was all I could find, besides some other frivolous investments where the promoter firms had perhaps ceased to exist. I don’t think he was even aware of that.


He was no globetrotting industrialist or a savvy businessman. He was not an inheritor of ancestral wealth or a beneficiary of windfall profits. He was leaving behind no legacy of material acquisitions or a will which would require a microscopic scrutiny by a legal eye. But I knew something no one else did. The professor who died was a rich man.

Last Saturday, as TV cameras captured the maddening assault on Prof Sabharwal and his colleagues, I remembered my father’s words all over again. Former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee is perhaps still ruminating on hitting the right chords, re-drafting a politically appropriate response to the inane massacre , which he will one day utter with his archetypal masterful oratory , each pause an excruciating wait. One by which he will seduce us perpetual suckers with his ostensible pain, while he will with expert craftsmanship try and convince us all that the hapless , ” misled” students ( murderers?) only had a momentary lapse of reason. And in a few weeks , Sabharwal will join the slain Shanmugam of IOC as another sad victim of India’s increasingly violent social system. Forgotten. Laid to rest.

I am glad that my father was not in Ujjain, hit and hammered by the same students he wanted to become India’s future, the pillars of our destiny blah-blah! And I am also glad that he is not alive today to witness such a humiliating end to a dignified existence of someone of his ilk.. I still reminisce a senior politician who went onto become a Chief Minister of Bihar who used to respectfully get up from his seat and frequently touch his feet whenever my father went calling on him; all because he had taught him public finance and developmental economics once, and drafted his budgetary speeches sometimes.    Times sure have changed.

As someone who has studied in India throughout his learning years , we have grown up treating our school teachers and college professors like a consecrated learned community, a powerhouse of intellectual prowess and worldly knowledge, to be respected and looked upto. Always. We have had the same deep deference for our teachers as we have perhaps for our parents. Even today, if we providentially encounter any of our old teachers, we are spontaneously overwhelmed by nostalgic memories, and one feels humbled. Yes, some of us have been fortunate enough to have gold credit cards with unlimited spending limits and find international business class travel a monotonous experience, but the old retired man awaits his superannuation benefits which matter so much to him. The irony is palpable, and if you ask me is one of life’s strange paradoxes.

Old-fashioned maybe for today’s BPO generation , but we believed our teachers finally gave us that valued knowledge, taught us those basic values that today defines our real net worth. Not necessarily measurable on an XL sheet.

At Ujjain on Saturday, it was not just Prof Sabharwal who died. But a country’s character.

(Sanjay Jha is the Managing Editor of Views expressed here are his own.)


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