The Great Indian Tamasha

Imagine for a moment that you just got lucky. You have won some contest to own/manage a house. This house is not yours forever but you get to enjoy it with all perks as long as you remain its owner. However, ownership comes with a term limit of 5 years and need to be renewed every five years, if people in the house are happy with your conduct. So overall great. However, like with all good things, there is as usual a catch.

The original owners who drafted the will, were not so fond or certain of future owners.  Hence they have kept a proviso that the house cab only be managed by caretakers. This provision is also needed for the fact that people who wish to become house owners, have no prior experience in managing a house but still a great desire to own house due to the perks.
The caretakers are selected through an elaborate exam which tests their linguistic skills and memory but not any other skill related to the management of the house.  Hence while on paper it looks like that your job is to manage the house, in reality, your job is to manage caretakers. As you can neither hire caretakers, nor fire caretakers, you should rather amuse caretakers so that things run as smooth as they can.  Caretakers being caretakers and that too being favourite of the original master, have their own style, privileges and fancies. So you have to be careful so as not to trip on their egos or manners as they have a power full association. 

As far as caretakers are concerned, they keep on getting multiple masters for a variable duration, hence they have learned to live with such nuisance or rather mastered the art of managing these short term owner. Caretakers don’t have any ownership or any long term right and also no punishment, hence their focus like any other rational human being, is to maximise gain for themselves as they are more of backroom boys. 

Caretakers also have some sort of contempt for the house owners and other occupants as they miss good old days of originals masters and rue the scenario of hoi polloi mastering over them. Further the owners can be real nuisance as they have no understanding of the house or how this can be managed but have lot of advice.

While caretakers are pretty good, they keep on getting transferred now and then, for example, somebody who was earlier in-charge of dusting is now head cook, while head cook has been given the task of a plumber and so on so forth. Further, there is no accountability for caretakers as to punish a caretaker, you need the help of other caretakers, and to make the matter more complicated, one can not hire outsiders as caretakers. So you have to manage with whatever is available. On the other hand, for any mess, house occupants always blame the house owner, hence the house-owner tries to make things rosy by keeping caretaker in good humour. 

This house with its unique design of perpetual instability has ended up in creating a scenario where caretakers focus on maximising their gain from the system, while house owner, wants to manage the house with the sole intention of extending the ownership right beyond 5 years while extracting maximum benefits for self. All this ensures that nobody is really willing to invest time and energy for long term repairs, planning after 10 /20/30 years as the burden will be on new master and new caretakers. Everyone is looking forward to the next day and the whole focus of house owner and caretaker is to keep house occupants happy with good whitewashing, weekly parties and good food.

Any action which is long term and does not show any visible effect immediately is brushed aways by owner and caretaker with  equal zeal as there are always more pressing daily challenges. 

If this perpetual game of musical chair where caretaker and house owner keep on changing with no alignment, has hammered your mind, wait to know two other important occupants of this house.

The house also has one old grandfather. He is not related to either house owner or care taker but is there for a long time. The grandfather is very stickler about his routine and holidays. Come what may, the holiday must happen and routine can not be disturbed. Meanwhile, as house-owner and caretakers don’t get along very well, they keep on going to grandfather to sort out all the issues and many time use grandfather name to cover their tracks. Further given advance age and being little senile, grandfather is not in touch with ground realities of the house but has the habit of interfering in all affairs of the house and give a sermon to all occupants about a perfect life and good habits all occupants of the house must follow to make this house a perfect house. Grandfather is also very fond of Latin and English and generally issues his orders in 100-300 page long orders quoting all phillosphers. The beauty of these orders is that everyone thinks it is in their favour and generally takes month to decipher the message. 

The last but rather most important occupant of the house is children. Every key person of the house ie house owner, caretaker and grandfather are always very concerned about the children. Children being children create racket all the time. They also keep on going to grandfather to keep them safe as well as put caretaker and house owner in their place. Needless to say, grandfather is very fond of children as long as they don’t disturb his afternoon siesta. There is another important thing that children have a way with house owner as an extension of the lease/term is totally dependant on children. Hence every house owner tries to please children with a lot of gifts and entertainment and never ask children to study or do physical exercise lest children get angry with them, hence house owners keep on pampering them. Caretakers have no such challenges, so while caretakers talk of serving children with an aim to please and focus on their long term benefits, they despise children and consider them as a nuisance. And when Grandfather is not looking, caretakers don’t mind boxing ears of children and giving some punishment. Children being children have figured out the scenario and while they keep chasing house owners for more gifts, they keep a safe distance from caretakers. 

And life continues. 

Shailesh Vickram Singh

Shailesh Vickram Singh is an entrepreneur / venture capitalist with more than 20 years of exp.