The Clutch – Part 1

Too sudden and steep…

Sunday, May 19th.  I am writing from an unusual place—Room 610, Ruby Hall Hospital.  It is important I pen this experience.  But, I am unable to process my thoughts.  I have an hour or two before I go downhill again. Tomorrow is a big day.  My wife is telling me not to think about it.  It will attract negative energies of the universe.  So, whatever happens I need to deal with it and write about it later.  For now, this paragraph will suffice.  It works as a prelude to another blog that I had been working on recently. It is uncanny how my unpublished work has captured the essence of my current predicament. So, here it goes. 

Every life comes with its share of downs.  Fortunately, life itself prepares us to handle the lows.  The challenge, however, comes when the fall is too sudden and steep.  From where should we draw comfort when faced with a calamity such as a dramatic financial loss, a spectacular fall from grace, or perhaps, a terrible disease?  This blog is an attempt to search for the ‘clutch’ when something precious is snatched away from us.

Rajat Gupta:  Way before Indra Nooyi, Satya Nadella, and Sunder Pichai made India proud, there was Rajat Gupta—the first foreign-born head of the world’s number one consulting firm, McKinsey. He served on the boards of Goldman Sachs, P&G, American Airlines, was an advisor to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UN World Fund, founded the Indian School of Business (ISB), was a regular at Davos, rubbed shoulders with the world’s richest, and shared podiums with the heads of nations from east to west!

Then, one fine fall day of Oct 24, 2012, everything was seized away from him.  In the fallout of 2009 economic meltdown, Rajat was convicted of insider trading on Wall Street. He became the first (and the only) high-profile public figure to spend two years in the U.S. prison, while being officially castigated by the very institutions that once showered him with accolades and placed him on the highest pedestal.

This is not how fairy tales end.  This is the stuff for tabloids.  And last month, I was given the dubious privilege.  One that of moderating a session with Rajat Gupta in front of business leaders of Pune in a talk show setting.

It was a daunting ask for a commoner like me.  How does one interact with the Alumni of IIT and Harvard—people with brains the size of a football field?  To prepare, I read his recent book—Mind without Fear.  I expected it to be heavy, complex like the one you will expect from high-end consultants.  To my surprise, it was smooth and easy—as in Rajat’s words—the primary audience he had in his mind were his grandchildren.

Arun-Rajat

Apr 12, 2019.  I decided to break the ice with Rajat before our session at JW Marriot, Pune.  He arrived late, visibly exhausted from his prior commitments.  He was dressed in a wrinkled shirt, half-sleeves peeping out of his vest.  His voice had a soft, whisper-like texture, almost that of a person tired of talking.  I barely got minutes to gauge his comfort zone.  He had no hang-ups, I was given the free rein for the interview.  Rajat then headed to the restroom to wash his face and that was all the preparation he needed.  That, and a peg of single malt on his coffee table during the interview.

As we walked to the podium, I decided to shy away from Rajat’s much-publicized trial.  He had spoken enough on the subject, on and off the book.  My hour-long interview was not going to prove his guilt or innocence.  Instead, I chose to put Rajat in a different kind of a witness stand, one that of a fellow business leader.

All of us have some guiding principles, so does Rajat.   In his book, his personal leadership style has been captured by one of his friends, as eight laws of Rajat Gupta:

  1. If someone else wants to do it, let him.
  2. The softer you blow your own trumpet, the louder it will sound.
  3. Being there is 90% of the game.
  4. If you have 10 problems. Ignore them, nine will go away.
  5. There is no such thing as too much work, or too little time.
  6. You can’t push the noodle, you have to find a right angle and pull.
  7. Listening takes a lot less energy.
  8. When in doubt, invite them home.

As the session began, I delved into his eight laws. How much they helped him climb, and perhaps also led to his fall.  After all, we are a sum total of our beliefs.  When we dissect our beliefs, our true colours come shining through.  Some places I cornered him, some places he stumped me, other places he circumvented me.

The audience had their share of fireworks, everyone drew their own conclusions.  From my perspective, I was uninterested in judging him.  My objective was to discover the ‘clutch’ that had held him steady, particularly during his fall.  Towards the end of the interview, I discovered his clutch.  It came out loud and clear during his narration of the two years behind bars.

The session came to the end.  I gave him a dignified closure.  To my disappointment, Rajat didn’t stay back for interactions with me or the audience.  There was no vibrant thank you either.  I felt his goodbye to me was cut and dry.  On my way back, I wondered about his coldness.  Maybe because he had three back-to-back sessions in Delhi the next day?  Maybe he felt I didn’t give him a fair chance to prove his innocence in the interaction?  Maybe it was just in my mind?  By the time I reached home, I was startled by a realization—there was one more ‘clutch’ that Rajat had been trying to hold on to!

When things go dramatically wrong, humans seek solace in not one, but two clutches.  Based on their life experiences, the readers are welcome to take a shot at naming these two clutches. 

I am fully recovered now, hale and hearty, and will be discharged from the hospital tomorrow (May 25).  Once I have caught up with work, I will share my personal experience in a follow-up blog.



Bumps, Clutch, Original

19 Comments

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  1. There is no bigger super power .. than to be able to shift someones emotions with story telling. Your blog leaves me speachless… reflecting… thank you for sharing

  2. Get well soon Arun… Keep smiling

  3. Nice…i watched his book release st the ISB a few weeks ago. What an example of how life turns around and you still steer it to success. As a student of the ISB and an employee of Cybage, i feel great to see Rajat Gupta and yourself in one frame.

  4. Arun, glad to know that you are fully recovered now. And I hope soon you will be fully fit, happy and healthy, as always.

    This is a beautiful narration of an event. As like all your blog’s, this helps us to see things from different perspective.

    Recently I had a very tough situation to handle. I was caught into work place politics from a newly joined senior person and I almost lost my job in that process. Its very minuscule situation than the one narrated above but for a week, it tested my integrity, resilience and my mental strength. And based on my personal experience, I can think of two clutches which helped me immensely to hold my nerves, maintain composure and come out of this tough situation.
    1. Support of close family and friends: And in this situation, it’s better to avoid sharing feeling with all or making new friends to avoid awkward discussions.
    2. Spirituality to find peace, patience, strength and some luck to come out of this situation and start over again.

  5. Amazing write, especially from room 610. Good to hear you are back to the office.
    A quick answer to your Q – the 2 clutches are your “Past” and “Future”. Reflection – You did something that got you down. Determination – You are gonna do something that will get you up.

  6. Please accept my best wishes and prayers for your speedy recovery!

    First clutch is Acceptance – Bad things do happen in life, we lose our loved ones, face failure etc. Eventually, one has to accept the situation and focus on channelizing their energies for better outcomes.

    Second clutch is giving importance to what matters and ignoring the rest (bad noise as in this case) – People will have opinions – especially for those who are under the spotlight.

    So underlying ingredient for both the clutches rather all the clutches is just one – channelizing efforts and energies in the direction of better outcomes depending upon the situation. If one has injured themselves then focus should be on healing the wound and recovery or on a broader level, fixing the situation with whatever options are available at hand.

  7. I heard you were feeling unwell. Here is to wishing you a speedy recovery.

  8. Excellent article, Arun. Really dealt with how a person deceives the clutches he has.

  9. Awesome blog. Got to know from two personalities Rajat and Arun what their clutch is .My clutch is the faith always there is dawn and if not today at least tomorrow.

  10. Eight laws of Rajat Gupta. Nice! And sending you a boatload of well wishes for a speedy recovery.

  11. Somehow reading this post reminded me of “Invictus”. Also looking forward to read “Mind without Fear”. It feels that more than explaining his circumstances or defending his actions, he was thinking of his legacy and passing on this experience to his future generations. Wishing you health and happiness.

  12. Glad to know that you are fully recovered now. One of the clutches for Rajat could be even this situation will change. So good times passes and so does bad times. I think 4th law of Rajat Gupta has a hint of this clutch.

  13. Oh!… Bless you with the happy health… as after all you are the man of the house…. House of Cybage.
    Awesomely written… I like his 8 laws… seems to be easy but hardest to master…
    I feel the “clutch” is like the “Manja” (kite thread)… one should command the balancing act between the hold and the release…
    And the biggest clutches could be – believe in yourself and your values….and the power of willpower… the strongest predictor of lifetime success, health, and wealth.
    Where there’s a will, there’s a way!!!

  14. Sometimes de-clutching can be a reliable clutch. Letting go, instead of holding on. Surrender, instead of fighting back. Time, as they say, is the biggest healer. Space, then is, a big reminder of how insignificant we and many of our problems are.

  15. As usual Amazing write Arun. Good to hear that you are fully recovered and are back in action at the office.

    I did read all your blogs but some how never thought of answering to single one,
    This one I felt at first instinct and replied.

    A quick answer to your Q –
    2 Clutches I believe are Karma and Karma-fal ( outcome of your karma)
    If one believes in Karma then would also agree that , God does not make one suffer for no reason nor does He make one happy for no reason. God is fair and gives you exactly what you deserve.”

    Karma is not punishment or retribution but simply an expression or consequence of natural acts. Although it may often appear like a punishment (or reward), the purpose of Karma is to perfectly follow the cosmic law (God’s system of Universal operation) and not to punish (or reward).
    Often the way we learn the best is to endure the same type of suffering (of happiness) that we have inflicted (or offered) on others in the past.

  16. “If you win, you need not have to explain…If you lose, you should not be there to explain!” – Adolf Hitler

    Clutch #1 – If we tell others about our plan (or available options), they might try to block those (as well) for us.
    [PS:- Applicable to only those with whom this had occurred in the past]

    Clutch #2 – Believe in yourself (and the Almighty) that you will end up and take the best option (path) available. [‘Everything happens for the Best’]

  17. Two clutches: Positive attitude & Faith

  18. Nothing lasts for ever, the only truth of life!
    Nice article Arun. Wishing for a speedy recovery.

  19. Arun I admire you in many walks of life. I have read through and through your blogs but never been able to find few answers –
    1. Does regret and failure augment each other?
    2. When we perceived failure does it mean it is just part of ones journey?
    3. When we had dinner at your home you said, it’s all cycle of life, how does one survive that one moment that puts one down and rise again or rather just stand up.

    I could link all these points to some blog of yours but what if it wasnt a success story? How does a commoner see to these points in life? Hope you answer them in some or the other blogs.

    God bless you with best of health and love of family.

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The Clutch – Part 1 | Arun Nathani Blog