Memories and Musings: Memoirs of Easaw Joseph John

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Article - 4

Has Y’sdom regressed?

A Y’s Men’s convention is a gathering of people who are committed to a culture of community service. Its declared aim is not only to reaffirm their pledge to discharge their duties but to give the new members a formative exposure to these duties. That sounds fine, but can they in all honesty claim that there has always been a convergence between the precepts that they are sworn to practise and the way in which they practise them?

I write this against the backdrop of our SWI Regional Convention held at the Travancore Club, Thiruvalla, over the first weekend of June 2008. Looking back, how I wish I had not attended the convention! Hindsight they say is a perfect science but, unfortunately, I could not have foreseen what awaited the delegates before I had decided to attend the convention, could I? And the sequel to it tells a tale, and not a very happy one at that.

Let me hasten to add that the Thiruvalla Y’s men’s Club deserves our congratulations for the way they managed the event with professional efficiency. The host committees carried out their assigned responsibilities with great aplomb. It was clear that they had given attention to every little detail that goes towards making a meet such as this a success. They had naturally assumed that the delegates present at the convention would also co-operate in the task of ensuring the success of the convention.

Yet, it takes only a few determined malcontents to disrupt even the most meticulously laid plans, and, as it turned out, the organizers had also to contend with such unforeseen indiscipline as though they did not already have enough on their plate.  In one instance, a few of them made a scene at the shamiana where food was arranged to be served during the convention. These men barged in noisily and demanded to be served food without having to surrender their meal coupons. When the members of the food committee demurred, the protagonists of our story threw a tantrum like a bunch of spoiled brats. And when this bit of playacting failed to have any effect, they proceeded to pick up the food and crockery that they could lay their hands on and hurl them in all directions with no thought for the others present there. For a moment, I took them to be gatecrashers who were out for a free meal. But, no, I was soon to learn that they were indeed ‘bona fide’ delegates who had expected preferential treatment as though it was their due. Are there some who are more equal than others among us?  If that were so, I dare say, it calls for naming them and shaming them no matter who they are. And, perhaps have bouncers on hand in future to pre-empt such ugly scenes?

Then there was the curious spectacle of delegates theatrically making their way to the makeshift ‘fellowship’ space set aside at the back of the shamiana, to quench their thirst. It is one thing to go there discreetly without drawing attention to yourself and partake of whatever is on offer with quiet dignity, but it is quite another to make a spectacle of yourself, and that with your child in tow, your dhoti hitched up well above your knees and tucked in chest high, in the manner of our local ne’er-do-wells on their way to their familiar haunts for a booze-up. I am inclined to think that our membership profile has changed for the worse! It is high time such people are asked to shape up or ship out. And, what is more, there should be very stringent screening before new members are inducted. 

Again, our elections and the canvassing that go on prior to the elections have of late been revealing a tendency towards undeserving candidates being put up by some clubs. If the criterion for running for office is the large amounts of money at your disposal to run an unequal campaign, it would make a mockery of the idea of ‘the office seeking the candidate’. If networking is all that matters, then merit and commitment become inconsequential in the choice of candidates. Not very many candidates measured up, this year either. And what was worse, the polling was not conducted with the efficiency we had been accustomed to, thus causing more raised eyebrows. Anyway, the main question we must ask ourselves at the time of electing our office bearers is whether we want selfish people who have an eye to the main chance, or whether we would much rather have public spirited individuals to lead us. It would be dishonest on the part of a club to project as a prospective candidate any person who has not been known to have offered a sufficiently long term of selfless service to the community. I suggest, a committee made up of members with irreproachable reputation across the board would be desirable to scrutinize the credentials of the candidates before they are allowed to run for office.

One who has been a detached observer of the goings-on in the movement is unlikely not to be dismayed by the manner in which some members have moved away from a culture of community service that transcends self-interest and have succumbed to the temptation of ‘reaping where they have not sowed’; in other words, seeking undeserved credit. This trend can only further lower the esteem in which the movement was once held.

In his address to the delegates at this convention, one of our leaders sounded so full of his own importance that he made others wonder whether he was indulging in point-scoring rather than making points. His speech was peppered with the first person pronoun ‘I’, ‘I’ and more of it in a similar vein as he turned the spotlight almost entirely on himself. He waxed eloquent on how he had done this and how he had done that and, as if that were not enough, how, in the run-up to his election to his present post, he had garnered more votes than had any of his predecessors. Such attempted one-upmanship might well have been the result of his being nagged by self-doubt; not to mention that it was in poor taste. It is only when one is unsure of oneself that the need to bolster one’s image arises.

This was in sharp contrast to the self-deprecating, humorously anecdotal, and yet thought-provoking keynote address that the Chief Guest, the Hon. Minister Mathew Thomas, had only a day earlier delivered at the convention and was enthusiastically received by the delegates. Of course no one wants our leaders to project a self-effacing image, but a little less of selling oneself would not have gone amiss on this occasion. The audience would have been more indulgent towards him if he had dwelt mainly on the things that one normally hears at such gatherings. In the event, by this needless act of self-promotion, he only managed to diminish himself in the eyes of the more discerning in the audience. And yet this is of a piece with the notion of leadership which the less discerning amongst us continue to hold! Lack of discernment is a sign of mediocrity. And, mediocrity can only breed more mediocrity. Perish the thought!

Y’sm Easaw Joseph John, Y’s Men’s Club of Maramon

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