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The seven habits of highly effective kings

STORY so far: On my birthday, when I would rather have liked to celebrate with friends, there is an important meeting with the auditors. Not to answer their queries, but to query them about their work quality. Sitting in the auditee side, I am a witness to the lackadaisical attitude of the auditors to the performance of duties. However, the threat of changing auditors seems to sober them up. But I don't understand the anti Big Four shrieks.

Episode 43

After the auditors exited from boss's room, Chandru and I spent a few minutes to continue discussions on how to tackle audit inefficiency. "Should we complain to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India?" I asked. "No," said the boss, "that would not help us, though it could ruin OB." "But, sir," I said, "that would prevent him from spreading his inefficiency around."

"Swati," said the boss, "we are not here to reform OB. I would be happy if he did our job properly. For that, I am ready to use sama, bheda, dana and, if necessary, danda too."

"What's that?" asked Chandru. I turned to him and said, "You didn't know: they are the four Vedas in Indian literature." Boss smiled, "Looks like you didn't study Sanskrit in school. If only you'd read Agni Purana, you would have known that there were seven techniques that kings were supposed to use in ruling their kingdoms."

"You mean the seven habits of effective kings?" I asked naively. "Covey might run a book like that," remarked the boss. "The techniques were known as sama, dana, danda, bheda, maya, upeksha and indrajala. Of these, the first four are the most famous, and that's what I mentioned, though in a different order. Sama means the art of gentle persuasion, that Chandru had tried with OB. Dana means the usage of donations or money to achieve one's purpose — something we give auditors all the time in the form of carrots, eats and creature comforts. Danda is punishment, the stick that OB would have suffered if we had sacked him. And bheda is the art of aggravating dissension amongst parties opposed to each other."

That, I knew, came into play when the boss pitted the Big Four as an alternative. It was when I returned to my desk that I did a simple search to learn that maya means the use of illusions or deceit; upeksha is to deliberately ignore people so as to achieve one's purpose; and indrajala literally means jugglery — as we all do, balancing amongst opposing pulls.


"Ms Swati," said the caller from the ICAI. And I jumped, "Have I not paid the fee yet?" Because my senior had told me that the only occasions when one would receive a letter from the ICAI were when one failed to pay the annual fee. "It's not about fee that I am calling," he explained. "There is the oratorical competition for CA students, to be held on Saturday, in Image auditorium."

I wondered if the Institute records still showed me as a student, in which case, perhaps, they may ask me to write the exams once again, and I was already sweating. The worst torture that can befall any qualified CA is to make him or her sit for papers once again.

"Hello, hello," the ICAI staff was yelling, and at last I came back from my nightmarish thoughts.

"We want you to be one of the judges." What a great surprise, I thought, though a fear lurked in my mind about accepting a job that I was not cut for. "Sir," I said politely, "I have never acted as a judge. Though, in a school drama, I played a brief part as a sleepy judge." He laughed, "Madam, our Deputy Secretary has noted that you had presented a paper at a CA student conference and that was well appreciated then. There is always a first time, you see."


I spent a few minutes before the mirror to see if I looked like a judge — respectable, impartial, fair and so on. But time was up, and soon I was in the auditorium. Much to my relief, there were two other judges, who were drawn from the top-end of academic and corporate fields, and quite senior. My biases and prejudices could even out, I told myself.


Topics given to the contestants ranged from Accounting Standards to effective communication, from company law to ethics, and from management to e-commerce. And they spoke passionately. "CAs enjoy the utmost trust of the society," said Anu Joseph, and somebody giggled. I kept a straight face, but in the process, lost track of what Anu was saying thereafter.

At the mailbox:

Venkatesh Goudar has been sending regular mails. "HELLO MADAM, HOW ARE YOU?" he asks. I'm FINE. "I am a regular reader of your column." Great! "This time, it was more interesting and little joking also." Only this time? "I feel very happy when I read your column." That's nice.

"I am expecting your article to help more CA aspirants. I am a student of CA (PE II) writing my exams in November 2003. Please include some study methods in your story. Relate the same to subjects such as income-tax, info-tech, FM and so on."

Not much time left for exams, Venkatesh, so study well. All the best!

There is a long-pending mail from Arun Ranganath. "I am extremely keen on a writing career." That's good. "I have just about started writing on a freelance basis (holding a full time job as well)." Playing safe, which is what is right, actually. "How long have you been into writing?" Now, this piece started about 30 minutes ago.

"Does one need specific qualifications to write? How is the writing profession on a long-term basis? I understand that it's not the greatest paymaster.

Do you specialise in writing on one subject/ topic?" Answers to these and more later.

(To be continued)

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Stories in this Section
The building blocks of law

The cost of failing to file
The seven habits of highly effective kings
Payslip of the nation
Tired of sticks, try some carrots
Cartoon corner

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