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Are you waiting for the "knock” at the door?

By G. Balasubramanian

Ms. Suja heard the knocking of the door. She was certain that someone is calling from outside. Ms. Suja opened the cover of the bull’s eye on the door and questioned “Yes, what do you want?” The person standing outside said “Madam. I am a courier. I have come to deliver a parcel to you.” Ms. Suja continued “But I didn’t order for anything.”

“Madam, this parcel has come with a special message to you. It is superscribed “award” on the parcel. It is sent to you by…...” Ms. Suja was surprised, rather shocked. “Award? What are you talking?” Hesitatingly, she opened the door. The gentleman outside was standing with a parcel carrying her name and professional designation and domestic address. She wondered how someone could send her any material even without talking to her, without consulting her and even without her knowledge.

She called up the person who had sent the award. “Madam. It is just an award in recognition of your professional services.”

“But I didn’t ask you.” She was slightly upset. “Madam. It is not only for you. For several others, we are sending this in recognition of their professional excellence.” She couldn’t even believe that one could even get awards through a courier! “Excellence? How do you know I am excellent professionally? And who are you to decide whether I am excellent or not in my profession?” Her anger was visible.

Ms. Suja was an upright woman. She calls a spade a spade. She was not comfortable with such actions. She sent the courier back without receiving the ‘award’!

When she called me to narrate the course of events, I just asked her “Aren’t you happy being recognized?” She replied “Sir, I receive so many mails everyday asking me to nominate myself for an award. I have no quarrels if anyone finds it gratifying to them or that helps them to make a brand of themselves. But I am uncomfortable with such recognitions.”

We are in a world where titles, awards, recognitions are delivered to you even without your knowing who is giving it to you and for what purpose and what exactly is their inner motive. Oftentimes, one could find the mailbox being flooded with such suggestions. “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated,” said William James. And people tend to take advantage of this craving!

I recall fondly an incident about thirty years before, when as the head of a search committee for some awards at the national level I called Ms. G. “Hello Ms. G. I have great pleasure in seeking your profile which could be placed before the committee for consideration. You have done a yeomen service for more than two decades.” And her reply really moved me. “Sir, Thank you so much. But believe me, I am not doing anything for any recognition or award. I am doing what I could just because I love it. I do not want to get into any rat race. Further once yield to the temptation of any award, my mind and intention will get corrupted looking for the next one. Please pardon me.” She lived for another decade to serve the community.

There are others like Ms. AY who called me up after the announcement of the list of finalists for the award. “Sir, I am so disappointed with you. Having known me for so many years, you have not considered me.” I responded “Listen Ms. AY, the fact that I know someone doesn’t qualify them for an award. There is a committee which will examine and take the decision on merit. Further, I am the last person who encourages any personal favouritism.” She stopped even talking to me for nearly ten years and then when she got the award, she called me up to say that there are some good souls who help their friends!

Mr. Sam was one of those who was disappointed that even two strong recommendation letters he brought from people in power did not make any impact on his being considered for the award. As such that worked against him.

In contrast, I must share how Mr. ST was upset after he received the award in a gala function. “The entire event has been so badly planned.” He showed his anger. I asked him “Everything is meticulously planned, articulate, and organized. What went wrong?” His answer really shocked me “You know, among all the ten awardees I am the senior most. But the juniors were called first to receive the awards and as a senior in the field I felt so low and upset.” “But Sir, the list of awardees has been organized in the alphabetical order.” “I don’t care how your organization does it. But they should have applied their mind to call me first.” He wasn’t happy even after receiving a prestigious award. And I am pretty sure that any number of professional awards could mend his ego!

Well, titles, awards and recognitions are methods by which an organization, a community or a system recognizes people who contribute to a cause with passion, commitment, and devotion. They are like tonic and vitamin; they provide motivation to people to enhance their self-esteem and progress in their chosen field with more passion and commitment. It is intended to enhance their spirit of service! Over the years, these appear to have gathered a brand value to position and project people as “icons” of the system. But when such recognitions come without any base, merit and for external considerations, they have a short shelf-life. People tend to forget or reject them sooner than later.

I had the opportunity of visiting a senior educator at his house, who was a celebrity at one time. In a relaxed mood, he spoke; and showed me the showcase in his room “you know, these are all the so-called awards and recognitions I got when I was in office, everybody showered encomiums and celebrated me. Pure flattery …. Called me Bhishma, Drona.. what not! Now, I am out of office. No body is bothered. No body cares. Each of them is chasing some title, some award as I did! It is all Maya…. But believe me, it was too late when I realized it! All these appear as a big burden I carried in my life. They make no meaning to me at this stage. All that I feel happy is the work I did! He smiled and recalled the quote by Josh Billings “Flattery is like cologne water, to be smelt, not swallowed.”

Imagine, when somebody calls you for an award or a title for a premium of a few thousands or lakhs and assures you that he would take the payment on EMI! Don’t really blame them, because they are entrepreneurs in a global market, but examine your worth as you are an EMI payee for your recognition!

“Deserve and Desire” is one of the earliest lessons I got from my Guru in early seventies. I know people who are so upset not because they didn’t get a recognition, but someone known to them has got it! Imagine of a person listing twenty awards and recognitions in just two years of taking up a profession; well, I am certainly not talking about the stars in the celluloid kingdom for whom one glorious role in a movie is good enough to get them credits for a lifetime! Unfortunately, we have platforms wherein one can select what type of award one needs!

The list of awards, recognitions and titles won by business organizations and industries do carry a high economic value. Indeed, they create an imagery about the organization or the products they live with. It can help in their price positioning and capturing the mythical hunger for the products by consumers. But when it comes to services, I think recognitions and awards have limited value and for a short time. If the service value is not established, they go into the oblivion. “The proof of the pudding is eating it.” One cannot be carried away by the awards received by the individuals or the organizations.

“It is up to us to give ourselves recognition. If we wait for it to come from others, we feel resentful when it doesn't, and when it does, we may well reject it” says Spencer Tracy.

Well, hold on! Somebody is knocking at the door. I only wish and pray that he is not a courier bringing an award!