C Gopinath

Business of awards

C GOPINATH | Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on August 04, 2015

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It creates a gravy train of beneficiaries

The banner on the stage in the glittering banquet hall of a Delhi hotel proclaimed a bunch of well-known companies as sponsors. The table on the side was overflowing with plaques and mementoes that included some products of the sponsors. The hall was full of suited-people eager to network. It was your typical business event.

An acquaintance approached me after an hour of applauding people who were given plaques for being ‘Excellent’ in something or the other. ‘How does one get nominated?’ he asked. Perhaps his self-evaluation told him he was excellent in something and needed to be recognised, or, as his tone suggested, he felt that if these people could get awards, so should he.

Handing out awards appears to be a profitable business. The winners invariably want their subordinates to attend and they walk in with an entourage. For the organisers, that means at least three or four registrations and accompanying fees per awardee.

Moreover, the awardee’s organisation would like all attendees to know what they do. So they release an advertisement that appears in the brochure, apart from paying to put their logo on the banner, all for a fee, of course. Can you hear the cash register ringing? After deducting cost of the plaque and hotel charges, there is a comfortable balance for the organisers, and everyone is happy.

I wonder if these functions could be advertised as ‘drive-in’ award functions, for the awardee often leaves immediately after receiving the award and the troop he came with follows.

Sometime ago, one organisation in the holy town of Tiruvannamalai (made famous by Ramana Maharshi) discovered me to be a suitable person to be honoured. I was selected for the ‘Bharat Ratna Mother Teresa Gold Medal Award’ (really!), which is only given by them to ‘extraordinary meritorious persons who have done outstanding service.’

An accompanying brochure had pictures of previous award functions and objectives of the association. My eye quickly caught one item which said, ‘The society will promote national and international understanding for mutual benefit …’. At least they were honest about what they are up to.

Pleased, I began to think about all the extraordinary and meritorious contributions I had made in my life till now to promote national and international understanding when I spotted the attached ‘Participation Form’ requiring me to become at the very least an Individual Member for ₹12,000.

If I felt like spending someone else’s money, I could become a Corporate Member for ₹20,000. That’s not much for the recognition being offered, I justified to my self, but unfortunately, the offer got under the accumulating pile on my desk.

I was nudged again when I received another mail from them a month later. I was now offered the ‘National Citizenship Gold Medal Award’ at another event, though the participation fee remained the same.

The Bhagavad Gita teaches us a hard lesson on seeking rewards — don’t! The Lord wants us to do our duty and not expect any award (my interpretation). Looking to profit individually is the driving engine of our capitalist system. An award makes me worthy of other rewards.

Oh, and did I mention that I have now been contacted by someone from Nigeria who is keen on depositing $42.36 million in my account! Another award?

The writer is a professor at Jindal Global Business School, Delhi NCR, and at Suffolk University, Boston

Published on August 04, 2015
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