Dear Dr Raghuram Rajan,
Heartiest congratulations on having taken over as the interim captain of the RMS Titanic following the untimely self-imposed liquid demise of the hitherto skipper resulting from unexpected mid-sea rendezvous with stiff obstacle. May your tenure be swift and painless. Vazhga Valamudan.
Ha ha. I kid Doctor. I am not one of those journalists who have been recently inundating columns of newsprint all over the country with endless pessimism about the currency, the economy and the politics. I am, in fact, a long-term optimist in this country. Eventually, I am certain, on a day not too far in the future, India too will have a proper manufacturing policy, export programme, progressive politics, liberal society, functioning fountains in public places, cold fusion and zero cholesterol vada pav.
Until that glorious day each Indian must motivate himself/herself with these famous words uttered by none other than Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi: “I am moving abroad for a few years, fed up of this nonsense.”
And standing at the forefront of this change will be you yourself. So far, you have been associated with the Prime Minister’s Office and his inner circle of advisers. But this is the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The fun and games stop now.
However, as you begin work as the central banker of one of the world’s greatest economies (conditions apply), I think it is important that you pay attention to some office culture niceties. Showing a little “cubicle-awareness” may go very far in helping smoothen your tenure at RBI. Soon the organization will become putty in your hands and you will be able to change the lives of millions of Indians through shrewd manipulation of money supply (more), interest rates (more), inflation (less) and taxation (no).
What are these niceties?
First of all under no circumstance must you remove the turkey towel that is currently draped along the back of your swivel chair in the RBI governor’s office. Yes Doctor, you have many years of experience in international work environments, where prominent display of bath linen is frowned upon. And it is possible that this turkey towel, originally gifted by P.C. Mahalanobis to governor H.V.R. Iyengar, is a repository of communicable diseases such as influenza and leptospirosis.
However, in many public sector environments, this turkey towel is a sign of power and prestige. He/she who controls the towel controls the PSU. Removing the towel is tantamount to shearing the hair of Samson or laser-removing the scar of Gorbachev. Throw it away and immediately the corridors of RBI will brim up with gossip of the new chap who is a powerless pawn. Insubordination will rise and before you know it, deputy governors will be signing off small Post-it Notes as legal tender. Chaos will reign. Let the towel be.
Next you must try to avoid making any positive reference at all to your previous international work environments. Doing so in an Indian office is considered deeply offensive, arrogant and insensitive. Might as well just publicly allege that the Indian national anthem is “not the best national anthem in the world, according to Unesco”. Bad form. By all means motivate your co-workers to rise to international standards. However, never compare them to the University of Chicago or the World Bank. This will only end in bad blood and income-tax raids.
Third, it is always a good idea, at least in the beginning, to act as if RBI is functioning very nicely indeed and very little needs to be changed. Say things such as: “My job is to merely let this august institution continue to function in the august way this august institution has always functioned augustly.” Avoid saying things such as: “For too long RBI has been a haven of ineptitude and incompetence and I am going to change all that starting this very moment, oh dear, I have been transferred to department of fisheries as Hindi Officer. I wish my successor all the best.”
Also on the basis of recent press photographs it appears that you are the kind of person who chooses his clothes very well. Your business suits seem impeccably cut and meticulously stitched. And your neck ties are fashionably narrow. Unfortunately for you, this is RBI and not the Ralph Lauren Bank of Abercrombie. One glance at the Lok Sabha will tell you that this country deposits its faith in the under-tailored and over-sized. Kindly revert to more populist attire forthwith. Safari suits are always recommended.
Finally, and this is a humble request from one stunning sample of south Indian masculinity to another, kindly avoid passing any restrictions or regulations that hamper the free transport of gold or “hot drinks” into the state of Kerala from overseas markets. You and I both know that a few years ago, you appeared at a graduation ceremony at a major centre of learning in India wearing a fabulous ceremonial gown of gold fabric with brown embroidery, that made you look like an Alif Laila villain. Any fiddling with import of above mentioned items will result in instant leaking of gown photos to the international press.
I wish you a happy governance Doctor.
Cubiclenama takes a weekly look at pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read Sidin Vadukut’s previous columns, go to www.livemint.com/cubiclenama