Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thoughtful Thursday - My tryst with Ithaca

It's the last week of the term and as usual it has been power-packed to say the least. Hence the one week absence from The Lilac Avenue and the probable absence for another 4 more days. (Promise to get back with inputs on Festive Mumbai soon).

But you know how exams and assignments do weird things to normal people, right? They make you all thoughtful and reflective and introspective and so on. Well at least they did do that to me! And what a time! Cos it's Thoughtful Thursday!!!

Today was our last lecture with Prof Nerkar - a brilliant professor. I was never a fan of entrepreneurship - call me risk averse or whatever, but over the course of 10 classes, I have been exposed to a new meaning of entrepreneurship. Not just the facts and figures, but a new way of looking at entrepreneurship - I learnt that by and far entrepreneurs are the most risk averse individuals ever, since they wish to diversify risk in as many ways as possible! Ok, enough of fundas. But the reason why I loved Prof Nerkar's classes, was because of his way of conducting the class and making people with a completely lopsided view of the entrepreneurial process see clarity without ever pushing a jargon or a concept down their throats.

Since today was his last class, he left us with a message. He read out the poem Ithaca by Constantine P Cavafy. It is a beautiful poem that goes thus -


When you set out for Ithaka
ask that your way be long,
full of adventure, full of instruction.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon - do not fear them:
such as these you will never find
as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare
emotion touch your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon - you will not meet them
unless you carry them in your soul,
unless your soul raise them up before you.

Ask that your way be long.
At many a Summer dawn to enter
with what gratitude, what joy -
ports seen for the first time;
to stop at Phoenician trading centres,
and to buy good merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.

Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don't in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn't anything else to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn't deceived you.
So wise you have become, of such experience,
that already you'll have understood what these Ithakas mean.

Constantine P Cavafy

And given how life can be here and beyond, this poem had a very strong message for me. I have been thinking about it ever since and I really feel that maybe, just maybe a quick, shortcut to success may not really be what one must ask for. The Gita says - work for the journey, not the end goal. Cavafy says ask for a long route to your destination, ever keeping your goal in mind. It's all about the process - the route. I remember every minute of my Fuji climb and precious little of what I saw after I went up to that peak.

Think of our route to our goals. With our keen eye pointed in the direction of our goal, we have blinkers on our eyes, and so, we miss beautiful trees with pastel hues, mountains, meadows, exotic birds - all of which line our paths to make our whole experience all the more enriching. In a less metaphorical sense, in our quest for a self-appointed end goal, we miss out on value time spent with friends collecting memories that will last a lifetime. We miss out on conversations that can form anecdotes twenty years from now. We miss out on the finer nuances which no amount of glossing over the goal can provide us. And so, after my chaai in the atrium with my dearest friend at 2:30 am, after a whole evening of reports and assignments, I thought to myself - Life is beautiful, savor it. This won't come again...


Varun said...

Hi Sindhu, I was hoping for something on Cornell. My tryst with Ithaca was quite different :P. It was good reading nevertheless.

Anonymous said...

oh! I wonder how much get influenced!!! Did you think about Entrepreneurship and this ITAHCA (or whatever) before this professor of yours taught this course. And if I understand this professor based on what you have written, he wil NOT like you getting influenced. He will say, if you believe in it, do it otherwise don't.
And I also same the same thing. This is the problem with you MBAs (statistically NORMAL people) and with other junta. They just get influenced. Why can't everybody believe in what they think, have an opiniion of their own, fight for it, prove it. Why do we need Gandhi to raise us? Why do we Prof Nelkar to arouse interest in Entrepreneurship? Why do we need ISB / Harward to create manager? Why can't you yourself be Gandhi, Nelkar, Rajat Gupta...
Give it a thought !!

and I guess you are a Mumbaikar... So Happy Ganapati Chathurti. :-)

Yours Truely :-)

Sindhu Subramaniam said...

Hi Earth,

First, yes, I did think about entrepreneurship before the course was taught, and hence the mention of how my thought process was changed. And not just mine, many others' views were changed as well. That said, we haven't seen wayyyy too much of life to be able to actually have very strong ideas already. I remember one of my favorite profs at grad school once told us that till the age of 30 one must be a sponge absorbing everything that comes our way without turning any piece of input away and so I see nothing wrong in listening and absorbing contrary views.

Statistically normal or following a Poisson distribution, I see nothing wrong in being influenced by others' views, while holding on to the good sense of finally letting myself take my own decision as regards ideas and ideologies. Come to think of it, Obama was influenced by Gandhiji, as were many others. And to become an Obama who can influence others, one must first find a source of inspiration, which comes from listening to diverse viewpoints and ideas, again while holding on to the discretion of finally forming my own intrinsic opinions.

Thanks for reading and do keep coming back.

Anonymous said...