Monday, April 8, 2013



Monday Morning Musings

Each individual has some good points and some bad points.

Yes, every person has some good habits and some bad habits.

When two individuals interact, or become friends, or colleagues, we expect that each one will imbibe the good aspects of the other one.

But on many occasions exactly the opposite happens and each one picks up the bad habit of the other one.

In most cases, the “bad” tends to influence the “good”.

It is very rare that the “good” wins over the “bad”.

This phenomenon of “reverse osmosis” is more predominant in youngsters who are of an impressionable age where peer pressure influences you and dominates your actions.

Let us take a scenario of youngsters studying in college.

Suppose a non-smoker become friends with a college crowd, most of whom are smokers.

Tell me, what is more likely:

Will the smokers pick up the positive virtue from the non-smoker and quit smoking?


Will the non-smoker “emulate” his friends and start smoking?

Yes, if you are a non-smoker and have smoker friends you are more likely to become a smoker rather than all your smoker friends emulating you and giving up the smoking habit and becoming a non-smoker like you.

Think of your school and college days and all the habits you picked up.

It may be due to peer pressure or other reasons, but we tend to pick up bad habits from others rather imbibe good points from those we interact with.

It is the same with other bad habits like drinking, gambling and harmful addictions and undesirable activities.

It is more common to see good persons “falling” into bad company and ruining their lives.

On the contrary, it is quite rare to see a “bad” person being reformed by “good” company.

It is easier to slide down the slippery slope of vices. 

It is difficult to climb up the steep gradient of virtue.

This phenomenon of “reverse osmosis” happens at the group level and organizational level too.

When two organizations interact we expect that each organization will imbibe the positive aspects of the other’s organizational culture.

But on most occasions the reverse happens.

Let me give you an example.

In an inter-service research and development (R&D) organization in which I once worked there were employees of two different cadres:

1. Uniformed Defence Personnel of the Army Navy and Air Force


2. Civilian Research Scientists

I expected that when these two different types of cadres interacted with each other, each cadre would inculcate the positive aspects of the other.

I thought that the “laid back” scientists would imbibe the good habits of punctuality and discipline from the defence service officers.

I also expected that the regimented do-as-you-are-told “soldiers” would cultivate a right-brain “out of the box” thinking “scientific temper” from the scientists.

To my amusement I observed exactly the opposite.

The “soldiers” were quick to embrace the slack discipline and the laid-back “chalta hai” attitude of the scientists.

And the scientists were quick to adopt the rigid thinking and hierarchical rank-consciousness prevalent amongst defence officers.

In fact, some scientists became so rank conscious and sensitive about their “status” that they were obsessed with things like inter-se seniority and rank equivalence  especially vis-a-vis  military officers and civilian bureaucrats,  often resulting in strained relations and infructuous red tape.

Despite the fact that they called themselves “scientists” they were extremely hypersensitive about their place in the “pecking order” and spent most of their energy in arguments as to who was senior and who was junior instead of getting on with their scientific research work.

Research Scientists had imbibed military hierarchy concepts which are totally alien to a “scientific temper”.

The upshot of all this was that most “research scientists” became more interested in “administering” and “managing” rather than devoting themselves to conducting scientific research.

Probably the same phenomenon of “reverse osmosis” happens when the academia interacts with the administrative services

That is why you see so may “academic babus” rather than genuine scholars in academia and the education system.

Conversely, there are so many “babus” with a “scientific temper” in the bureaucracy.

Such are the ironies, paradoxes, incongruities and absurdities of life which you can observe all around you.

You want “osmosis” – but you end up getting “reverse osmosis”.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013
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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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