A Session with Seshan

We had an awesome talk today on “Corporate Governance and Ethics: lessons for Indian entrepreneurs” by Sri T.N.Seshan, former Chief Election Commisioner of India and orator par excellence.

He was excellent in acads too …..
* Masters degree in Physics at the age of 19 with a gold medal
* Police exam in 1953 – all India topper … didn’t join
* IAS exam in 1954 – all India topper … decided to take up civil services for a career

Some key takeaways:

“That which sustains human life is dharma. The ability to distinguish between dharma and adharma i.e, what is wrong and what is right, is only present in humans. Two cows watch a banana peel on the road; they don’t say you saw it first, you take it.

Dharma is at the center of all of it. It is my fervent prayer that you should learn dharma. You should learn ethics. Not because you fear getting caught …. I hope you will have time to think about it.

The ability to say no is not available to the lowest fellow. It is available to the highest fellow. If the highest fellow sets the tone of the organization by saying no to corrupt means, then you may only be say an assistant engineer or an assistant manager or whatever you are called, you don’t have any difficulty ………. none of you are going to occupy positions of inferiority, you are going to be occupying positions of superiority. In that place it is easier to set the tone. The higher you are, the easier it is to set the tone.

Set the tone. Set the tone. Set the tone.

You never never give up. Never …. Those who have licked the boots of all their superiors have come to no great good

Seshan Humor:

When you don’t have anything worth to say in someone’s bio-data, you say Mr.Seshan needs no introduction” (after he was introduced to the class by saying he needs no introduction)

Your standing presence is forbidding” (To a faculty who was standing)

Palghat brahmin comes in four varieties: they are cooks, crooks, civil servants and musicians. I am every one of these.”

“I was made in-charge of forest, environment and wildlife. My wife called me up at Toronto where I had gone to procure some equipment for the dept of space. I had a colleague called Das . He was posted secretary, culture and I was posted secretary, environment and wildlife . My wife calls me up and says Das got culture and you got vulture.”

“They tried everything in the book and outside to throw me out …. they tried to impeach me … even that idea was given to ******** by me. I told him: There are three ways in which you can get rid of me. One is for me to resign in my own handwriting, the other is for god is to take an active hand and the third is to impeach. Since I was not willing to resign and god wasn’t helping him, they decided to impeach me. They did not even know how to write an impeachment petition …. so I offered to the opposition MP saying that I will write an impeachment petition”

“I remitted office in 1996. What have I been doing since then? I have been inflicting myself on educational institutions”.

“Alexander came, Porus came and Rukhsana came. Do you know who was Rukhsana? She was Alexander’s wife” (when talking about the History of India)

“Where there is sugar, there will be a fly. You can swat one fly but not all. The more flies you swat, the more will appear” (when talking about corruption and about Chanakya’s work in Arthashastra)

“That was the result of some gentleman who tried to rewrite my history and ended up rewriting my geography. Secular or otherwise”

“I need to cover 2500 years in 5 minutes …. I have to move fast … no no .. and then BC became AD … and then there was Shahrukh Khan as Ashoka ..”

“The Indian kings .. they were fighting each other, marrying each other or marrying and fighting each other”

“3M is a little bit difficult if the state and the people both start printing money”

“Akbar decided that there were 2 simple elementary formulae for uniting India: one, he would marry any Rajput princess found wandering; two, he created a religion in which chapter one was from hinduism, chapter two from islam, chapter three from hinduism, chapter four from islam.”

“Then came Aurangazeb who was the first true Taliban. He disliked women. He disliked music. He disliked his brothers …. he said women did not exist … most children were born by divine concepts”

“The portugese had very little possessions … but they owned whole of Bombay island … they gave it away as dowry to get their princess married to the prince of England … must have been a ugly princess … just imagine getting the whole of Bombay in dowry … my father in law didn’t even give me a plot of 40 by 40”

“From a country that did not produce more than 3/4ths of an inch cotton today we produce 1 1/2 inch staple cotton so that the most unlikely shapes can go around in denims and jeans. Have you seen the unlikely shapes walking around in denims and jeans?”

“The chinese population statistics are as dependable as any of their other statistics. The chinese statistics are always 300% higher. They don’t tell you higher than what”

“He was not particularly strong in English and I was not particularly strong in Hindi. Yet I wrote in my file and sent him … hoga hoga badnaam hoga lekin hoga badnaam aapka”

“One member (MP) one day asked a question deliberately … how much lotonium do we produce? I said ……. we are not aware of a material called lotonium, therefore we do not produce it …. I knew that the only way to answer them is to come down to their level”

“There was once a health minister of a state who said: kamaal hai, idhar log baithe hain jinke paas khoon nahi hai and idhar log baithe hain jinka blood pressure high hai. Inse khoon nikaalke unko dete kyon nahi?”

“If a generalist tends to ask questions which he has no business to get into, then of course the generalist will be a pain in the anatomy

Posted in: ISB

5 thoughts on “A Session with Seshan

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