“Bombs are the strategies employed by people who reach their level of incompetence,” said Shyamsunder to his son, Manvender.
“Why did people explode bombs near where Modi was speaking?” The 14 year-old Manvender had asked.
“... and incompetence is reciprocal,” Shyamsunder went on. “Modi had exploded some bombs about a decade ago. They are now coming back to him.”
Shyamsunder was running a coaching institute for IIT aspirants (“and also for ordinary students,” he would add with a sly smile) in Patna. He had a been a computer programmer for a while in a private firm in Delhi. He had to leave when the director of the firm, Mr Ram Kumar, had risen to his level of incompetence.
According to the Peter Principle, the corporate sector gives promotions to the staff until they reach a position whose demands turn out to be beyond their competence. Incompetence gives birth to manipulations.
“Management is not possible without some manipulation,” Mr Ram Kumar used to say when he was the senior manager – before he was elevated to position of the director. He turned manipulation into a gospel. Soon sycophants attached themselves to him. Sycophants are people who have reached their levels of incompetence in their present area of work but believe they can be superstars given a chance in another area. For catapulting themselves to that area of perceived merit, they need support. Ram Kumars and sycophants walk hand in hand, with a bomb in the other hand. They will let go the joined hand and trigger the bomb in the other when the occasion is apt.
Shyamsunder believed that he had been thus bombed by Ram Kumar. When Ram Kumar had been just one rung below his level of incompetence, Shyamsunder was one of his protégés. Ram Kumar made use of Shyamsunder’s characteristic inclination to talk through his hat. He pretended to be letting out certain precious secrets and Syamsunder shared those secrets with his colleagues in his own unique way imagining that he was winning friends and supporters by doing it. But Ram Kumar was actually using Shyamsunder to spread whatever rumours would help him ascend the ladder of success to his level of incompetence.
“I tried my best to save you,” said Ram Kumar handing Shyamsunder his termination letter a week after he had reached his level of incompetence. “The management thinks you are a serious liability to the firm.”
Ram Kumar explained that the management had decided to follow Professor Robert I. Sutton’s ‘The No Asshole Rule’, according to which all toxic staff had to be expelled for the wellbeing of the firm.
Shyamsunder stood up with the termination letter quivering in his hand and said, “Mr Ram Kumar, I want to tell you two things: one, you are ruining a person’s life including that of his family; and two, pip pip.”
“Papa, don’t forget to buy bombs for Diwali.” Shyamsunder woke up from his reverie.
In the evening when he joined his family to burst Diwali crackers, he put aside the loudest crackers for the end. “Ram Kumar bombs – for the climax,” he said to himself with a grin that neither his wife nor his children noticed.