It began with the mother of all respectable corporates, the business group that wears good governance as a badge of honour: the House of Tatas. Overnight, it sacked Chairman Cyrus Mistry in a messy boardroom battle that is likely to go to the courtrooms.
To begin with, no one knew what the pinprick was. Was it a clash of generations: Ratan Tata in his late 70s incompatible with Cyrus Mistry, in his early 40s? Was it a clash of cultures: of a baron who grew up in the hustle bustle of ‘construction’ and of another who had his moorings in the more sophisticated but less cash rich business of ‘manufacturing?’ Had it to do with sense versus sentiment? The months ahead might narrate the story in fulsome prose, but the Tatas are not known to wash their dirty linen in public. It’s been messy, and we don’t know whether blood will spill.
The sacking of Cyrus Mistry thus came as a rude shock to corporate watchers.
The unbelievable happened. The brash aggressive bulldog with the penchant to scream and rant on the News Hour Tonight had been asked to put in his papers. Arnab Goswami of the I-Me-My-Mine fame had become so full of himself that he had called everyone in town ‘anti-national.’ The crowning piece came when he mocked his employer: a Lakshman Rekha even he couldn’t breach.
Over the years, Goswami had become unbearable with his habit occupying television space while not allowing guests elbow space to speak. If you disliked those he hectored, you might like his show. But if you in your growing up days were taught about dignity and grace, this public display of petulance was like the roadside street fights that follow an adda. The self-styled, most watched anchor was blatantly biased and for someone who prided in being abrasive, he came out as a modest mouse in his interview with the prime minister. Of course he brought about a sense of accountability amongst politicians but there were times he got his facts wrong: Rohtak, Delhi traffic signal, Glasgow and Jayalalithaa to name a few. And he was never apologetic about it.
And so it was that another Berlin wall fell.
Around this time Narendra Modi decided to show who was the boss. The Prime Minister changed the rules of the game with his address to the nation where he snapped his fingers, and presto! The Rs 500 note and the Rs 1000 note became infructuous! While the common man smiled and the pundits scorned, the Opposition wondered if a select few had been tipped off. Demonetisation didn’t matter to those who live on plastic cards and e-wallets for most of their needs. It hurt those who relied on the cash economy. Long queues in front of banks and the drying up of ATMs notwithstanding, India was willing to give its Prime Minister the benefit of doubt. After all, by going straight to the people without asking the RBI governor to make the announcement, he had put his personal brand on the line.
It was incredible. Exactly mid-way into his 5 year term the Chanakya had played his ace card: the fight against black money. It did not matter that it would affect only 6 per cent of the black market. It was ‘interval’ time.
Hours later, Uncle Sam woke up to the incredible news that underdog Donald Trump had stumped presidential favourite Hillary Clinton. He had done it in style; winning more electoral colleges while collecting less of the popular vote. In short, Clinton had won and lost. Trump had lost but won. America was transfixed.
A niece of mine, born and brought up in the US, wrote to me: “the stunning outcome of the U.S. election is slowly wearing off, but it’s draining to think of how and why it all happened the way it did. How was Trump even allowed to run for president? It’s deeply disappointing how we have put human decency over tax breaks. Fine, the rural working class felt disenfranchised and forgotten about with Clinton. But to vote for Trump is to normalize his behavior and to make it okay to accept the vile things he has said about immigrants, people of colour, same sex couples, people with disabilities, females, etc. Who does that? What kind of a world are future generations inheriting? It is scary.”
Four disruptions in one month is a disruption by itself.