The power of things?

Mar 17, 2013, 00:29 IST | Devdutt Pattanaik

In my new book Business Sutra, I speak of how things are used to position ourselves.

Devdutt PattanaikIn my new book Business Sutra, I speak of how things are used to position ourselves. When Hanuman, a monkey, entered Lanka and identified himself as Ram’s messenger and asked for a seat as protocol demanded, he was spurned by the rakshasa-king, Ravan, who insulted him by denying him one.

Hanuman retaliated by announcing that he would create a seat for himself: he extended his tail, coiled it around and created a seat higher than Ravan’s throne. Instead of being amused or impressed, Ravan was infuriated. His power was threatened. In a fit of rage, he ordered Hanuman’s tail be set aflame.

Illustration/ Devdutt Pattanaik

The story reveals how a thing (a seat) is used to communicate a thought (pecking order). Hanuman does not care for power or for thrones but he realises these things mean a lot to Ravan. By the dramatic use of his tail, he breaches the fortress of Ravan’s mind and shatters his mental image in an instant. What is interesting is that Hanuman does not need an external thing to position himself; he expands what he already has—his tail. In other words, he finds strength within and does not need the help of an object or a salutation.

He has enough Shakti (internal power) to compensate for the Durga (external power) that Ravan refuses to give him. We constantly use material things to position ourselves: our cabins, our houses, our cars, our mobile phones, and so on. When these are taken away from us, or damaged, we feel hurt. When our car gets scratched, or our watch gets stolen, or our seat is given to someone else, our social body gets damaged and this causes pain to the mental body; even though the physical body is perfectly fine.

That is why when it is time to buy a new mobile phone, Pervez had a simple rule. He checked what models his clients and his bosses were using. He then bought an inferior model. He did not want to intimidate any of them or make them feel insecure. In fact, he wanted them to criticise his choice and mock him for buying a poor-quality phone. “I want them to put me down. I want them to feel superior. It helps me in my relationship with them.” Pervez has understood the power of using things to gather external power or Durga.

That is why our VVIPs demand high security cover. Not that anyone wants to kill them but having guards around makes them feel more powerful, more important, more valid.

The author is Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group, and can be reached at

The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper. 

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