Sunday, November 25, 2012


A Teaching Story


Long ago, there was once a King who cared for his populace.

His kingdom was in an undeveloped part of the world and the people were quite backward. 

The king wanted his people to progress. 

So he decided to visit the developed part of the world and see for himself how he could harness the fruits of development for his people.

During his visit he saw a sundial. 

Curious he asked what this strange contraption was.

“A sundial is a device that determines the time of day by the position of the Sun,” they told him, “you can tell the time by looking at the shadow cast by the Sun as it shines on the pointer of a sundial. As the sun moves across the sky, the shadow-edge aligns with different hour-lines. Thus, you can tell the time of the day.”

The King was so fascinated as he witnessed the working of sundial next day that he bought the sundial.

He took the sundial back to his Kingdom and had the sundial installed in the town-square of the city as a gift for his people.

The sundial changed the life of the people in the kingdom. 

They began to differentiate parts of the day and to divide up their time and plan their work accordingly.

In short, they became adept at time management and became more efficient.

The sundial made the people of that kingdom conscious about the concept of time.

Before the advent of the sundial they knew only about night and day. 

The populace became more punctual, prompt, orderly, reliable and industrious; thereby producing great wealth and achieving a high standard of living.

The sundial had enabled them to realize the importance of the adroit use of time which resulted in great prosperity for the people of the kingdom.

One day the king died.

After giving their king a grand funeral, his devoted subjects gathered together in the town-square to decide how they could pay a fitting tribute to their beloved king.

When they enumerated the king’s achievements, they all thought of the Sundial, which their benevolent king had gifted them long back.

They looked at the magnificent sundial installed in the town-square.

The Sundial symbolized the king’s generosity and love towards his people.

The Sundial which was the main reason for their prosperity and success.

So the citizens decided to build around the sundial a grand temple with a golden cupola.

They unanimously decided to build a fabulous temple with a beautiful golden dome to adorn the sundial. 

Everyone thought that this magnificent temple adoring the sundial would be a fitting honour to the departed king since the sundial was the best gift he had given them.

Soon the awe-inspiring temple with a dazzling golden dome was built around the sundial.

But, when the magnificent temple was built and the imposing golden cupola soared above the sundial, the rays of the sun could no longer reach the gnomon of the sundial.

Yes, as the sundial was now completely covered by the magnificent temple with its impressive golden dome the sun’s rays could not reach the sundial and the shadow disappeared.

The covered sundial did not work since its shadow had vanished. 

It was the shadow which had told the time to the citizens of the kingdom and now there was no shadow to indicate the time of the day.

Now, since the sundial did not work, the citizens could not discern the time of the day and they started losing their sense of punctuality and promptness.

Deprived of their standard of time, they forgot about the importance of time and time management. 

Soon, the citizens of the kingdom soon reverted back to their old ways and started adopting their erstwhile disorganized laid-back lifestyle of the pre-sundial days.

It was just a matter of time before their prosperity dissipated away and the kingdom collapsed.


The metaphor of the Sundial Story is relevant in so many relationships.

When you communicate, imagine that the person talking is the sun and the person listening is the sundial and the temple represents the barriers to communication. 

In marriage, the seamless relationship between husband (sun) and wife (sundial) can be encumbered by “obstructions” like your parents, in-laws, or even children.

If you look at our education system, the Teacher (Sun) is not allowed to illuminate the Students (Sundial) because of the Education System (Obstruction). 

Imagine that the Sun is a Teacher and the Sundial is the Student.

If you allow the Sun (Teacher) to seamlessly illuminate the Sundial (Student) then the best learning will take place. 

But if you put a barrier or obstruction between the teacher and student (like covering the sundial with a structure of temple and dome) this can badly impede the learning process. 

This “obstacle” can be the “education system”, the “administrative hierarchy”, the “rules, regulations and red tape”, the “academic environment” in the particular place, anything which is detrimental to seamless teaching and effective learning. 

I have experienced this phenomenon during my teaching days.

I have also experienced this many times in my career when I was hindered from delivering my best because of the sundial metaphor.

You can see this phenomenon everywhere, especially at your workplace, hindering inter-personal relationships and acting as a barrier to effective communication.

Even within your internal self, there can be taboos, hang-ups, phobias, complexes, values and beliefs, which act as internal “impediments” and inhibit you from realizing your full potential.

Apart from red tape, rules and regulations, sometimes things like Rituals, Customs and Traditions, Cultural and Societal Pressures can also be akin to the “cupola dome” between “Sun” and “Sundial” and hamper your aspirations.

If you observe carefully, you will see this metaphor of the sundial in all aspects of life. 

Indeed this sundial phenomenon is prevalent in all aspects of management especially relationship management - both inter-personal and intra-personal relationships. 

Remember the story of the sundial and think about this phenomenon and how it will affect seamless communication when you are thinking of outsourcing customer relationship management or consumer care or any process via ITES or BPO.

Sometimes, these “temples” you build to cover your “sundials” may be well-meaning with good intentions.

It is for you to ensure that you do not “build temples” around “sundials” – you must let the “sun” shine brightly and unhindered on your “sundial”.

And it is for the powers-that-be to ensure that they do not “build temples” around “sundials” which act as a barriers to efficiency and progress.

We must let the “sun” shine brightly and unhindered on the “sundial”.

Think about the Sundial Story, let the metaphors perambulate in your mind, look around and apply the allegory to your real life, and try to make sure that you remove barriers and let the “sun” shine brightly and unhindered on the “sundial”. 

Have a nice “sun”day.

I look forward to your comments, views and feedback.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2012
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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1 comment:

Maj Pradeep Khare said...

Really interesting and relevant analogy of the sundial.
Maj (Rtd)Pradeep Khare