Presence of Mind An imperative gift

Presence of Mind An imperative gift

Knowing that many people are applying for a coveted job an applicant applying for a post in a famous advertising agency sent a potato as his bio-data...

Smart people face challenges all the time. They are thrown in situations where each and every sinew is tested but they are not easily rattled. They thump the situation and emerge as winners – smilingly!

Potato in the organisation

Knowing that many people are applying for a coveted job an applicant applying for a post in a famous advertising agency sent a potato as his bio-data saying "I want to be a potato in your organization". He was called to the interview and asked as to what he meant by that outrageous statement. The candidate replied "Sure, a potato is a very versatile vegetable, it can be used in any dish, it can be used to enrich any dish and it gives lots of energy. So like a potato you will find me very versatile and I would fit into any department and I would be very versatile". Needless to say he got the job.

Beautiful story

It was the selection process for a batch of civil engineering students. They were taking a TAT test. For the uninitiated, TAT stands for Thematic Apperception Test. TAT test has a single picture or a series of pictures. The candidates are then asked to make up a story on the spot about the picture or the series of pictures. The mental framework of the candidates could be found out by the type of story that they recite or write down. It is a type of psychometric testing that tests the psychological health of a candidate.

The civil engineering students were shown a picture that had mountains and a river meandering through the mountain. On the shore was a small village and there were fishermen shown fishing in the river. The picture excited the students. Armed with the gift of the gab and a colorful command of English learned over a period of 15 years they went to work. They wrote pages and pages of colorful stories of people watching beautiful sunsets.

Some had written love stories and romantic river cruises. Some had woven stories a la bollywood style including heroes, heroines and villains. Suitably satiated after a binge of exciting writing they handed over their papers. They were expecting to be selected for the next round.

To their utter dismay only one student was short listed. He was the student who had scribbled only one sentence and HE WAS SHORTLISTED. Curious the other candidates asked him as to what he wrote in the script. He said “I was very disappointed. I was not able to write anything. I was not getting anything in my mind. So out of frustration I wrote Blast the mountain and Dam the river”.

This student was very lucky instead of writing the swear word DAMN he wrote DAM. That saved him. After all blasting the mountain and daming the river is what is expected from the civil engineering students not a second rate cock an bull story lifted from a third rate bollywood movie!

Deadly fall

One of the things that every candidate should possess while facing an interview is presence of mind. A bright freshly minted MBA from a premier institute who incidentally was a topper at IIT had prepared very thoroughly for the final interview at his holy grail – a very reputed FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) company. He has all his certificates ready. His suit was immaculate and his shoes were shining.

As he entered the interview room the candidate tripped and fell flat on his face. As he fell, he thought “Oh my god! Here goes my chance of getting a job in this reputed FMCG Company”. Slowly, the smart MBA graduate got up, dusted himself and said “Thank god I fell in good company!” The horrified interviewers were greatly relieved at his ready wit. It goes without saying that our MBA graduate got his dream assignment at the FMCG Company and went on to become occupy one of the top echelons of the company.

Horse drawn carriage

In the Madras Presidency, as it was then called, only the Governor of the province could drive a carriage drawn by five horses. A rich local businessman committed an ultimate faux pas – he was caught driving a carriage drawn by five horses. He was hauled to the court. The rich man was not upset at this, surprisingly.

He appointed a very smart lawyer and told him “I can pay the hefty fine but that would mean accepting the fact that I have committed a crime. I will pay you five times the penalty fee but you have to prove that I me not guilty”. The smart lawyer assured the rich man and told him to go home and sleep tight.

Finally the day of the reckoning arrived. It was the city court. The smart lawyer addressed the judge and said “Your honor! I agree driving the carriage drawn by five horses by anyone other than the governor is a crime. Let us examine the photograph of the carriage drawn by five horses. This photograph was taken on the day of the crime”

The lawyer dramatically points to the photograph and says “Your honor this is a horse, this too is a horse; this one too is a horse, but your honor this is a MARE (a female horse). This means your honor this carriage was drawn by four horses and a mare. In which case my client did not commit any crime. I request you to dismiss the case”. The judge had no choice but to dismiss the case.

Split second timing

The tenth class students had planned a drama for their school’s annual function. It was the dramatic confrontation of Prahalad with his father Hiranyakashyapu. It is the story of Hiranyakashyapu the Asura king who does not believe in Vishnu as a god and but considers himself one. His only son Prahalad is an ardent devotee of Vishnu.

The scene happens in courtyard of Hiranyakashyapu. Hiranyakashyapu asks Prahalad “whom do you worship” and Prahalad innocently says “Vishnu”. One thing leads to another and Hiranyakashyapu challenges Prahalad and says “Where is Vishnu?”. Prahalad says “He is Omnipresent, he is everywhere”, to which Hiranyakashyapu says “aha, can you show him in this pillar”.“Certainly”, says Prahlad. Hiranyakashyapu breaks the pillar and Vishnu magically appears from the pillar in the form of Narashimha (half man and half lion) and slays Hiranyakashyapu.

This famous story is a huge crowd puller and the class had planned it in a dramatic fashion. Usually as soon as Hiranyakashyapu says “can you show me Vishnu in this pillar” the stage screen is drops and when the screen is lifted Vishnu is already present and he kills Hiranyakashyapu.

The class wanted a dramatic finale. They convinced the school management and constructed one of the pillars with paper Mache. They installed Vishnu (the boy playing the role of Vishnu) in that pillar and provided him with air holes to breathe. On the school function day the drama was progressing smoothly and heading towards a grand finale when Murphy’s Law (what can go wrong will go wrong) kicked in.

Hiranyakashyapu got excited seeing the huge crowd. He said “ Can you show me Vishnu in this pillar’’ The entire cast and the director were aghast as Hiranyakashyapu was pointing to the wrong pillar! – a pillar where there was no Vishnu in hiding. But the student who played Prahalad was made of sterner stuff. He saved the day by saying “Father I can show you Vishnu in that Pillar and in this pillar also (the correct pillar)” Thus he pointed the correct pillar to Hiranyakashyapu. Suitably chastened Hiranyakashyapa cracked the correct pillar and Vishnu slayed Hiranyakashyapu. It was Prahalad’s presence of mind that saved the day.

By:Dr M Anil Ramesh

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