I watched Disney’s animated classic – The Lion King, almost a quarter of a century ago with my son. It is the story of Simba, a lion cub, who goes through a lot of challenges in search of his place in the Great Circle of Life. Little did I realize then how much I would resonate with some of the famous quotes in the years to come, especially in my role as Trustee of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP)!!!
Lesson No. 1: Simba’s father Mufasa famously tells Simba, “Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.” I quickly adapted that to “Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As trustee, you need to understand that balance and respect all the stakeholders, from the humble beneficiary to the benevolent donors.”
Leadership is not about power or position, it is about service and duty. Power must be used Positively and Position must me wielded Productively.
Lesson No. 2: Much of the conflict we experience today at the BPP is because of the baggage this Board carries from the previous Board and that’s when the sage advice of that wise baboon, Rafiki, echoes in my mind, “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But from the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.” Simba’s friend, Timon – the meerkat, put it even more candidly – “You got to put your past behind you. Look kid, bad things happen, and you can’t do anything about it, right?”
Lesson No 3: Benjamin Franklin famously said, “If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten; Either write things worthy of reading, or do things worthy of writing.” But, there’s times when frustration levels peak and thoughts of walking out and away from all the negativity begin flooding my mind. But, that’s when the words of Mufasa begin to thunder in my ears- “You have forgotten who you are. Look inside yourself, you are more than what you have become, you must take your place in the circle of life. Remember who you are…remember…”.
And soon enough, I return to take my place in the cesspool of Parsi Politics that this once hallowed institution has been reduced to. t night, while gazing at the sky, I think of Simba lying in the grass and mumble, “Somebody once told me that the great Kings (read Trustees) of the past are up there, watching over us.” I really hope they are!
Lesson No 4: There are times when I fantasize how much better things would be at BPP without certain individuals. Like uncle Scar, I blurt out to myself, “I am surrounded by idiots”. But, I soon smile while imagining Zazu say, “There’s one in every family – two in mine, actually – and they always manage to ruin special occasions.” And, how I laugh thinking of that!
Lesson No 5: As BPP Trustee, one usually receives more brickbats than bouquets for doing a duty that is thankless and a drain on one’s energy and other resources. But, Timon’s words offer comfort- “When the world turns its back on you, you turn your back on the world.” When looking to rebuild my confidence, it’s Mufasa’s roar I remember, “Believe in yourself and there will come a day when others will have no choice but to believe with you.”
As a person, I am emotional and sensitive. But, in the course of my work I have come to realize, as did the great Abraham Lincoln, that, “if I care to listen to every criticism, let alone act on them, then this shop (BPP) may as well be closed for all other businesses. I have learned to do my best, and if the end result is good then I do not care for any criticism, but if the end result is not good, then even the praise of ten angels would not make the difference.”
Lesson No 6: As trustees we discuss plans and strategies. We adopt and adapt policies that sometimes work and most times fail. However, an important lesson I have learned from Simba is, “As you go through life, you will see that there is so much that we don’t understand. And the only thing we know is things don’t always go the way we plan.” But, once again, Mufasa roars, “There’s more to being a king (sorry, trustee) than getting your way all the time.”
We all like perfect beginnings and perfect endings. But I have realized the hard way, that we live in a perfecting world. Some verses don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear or clean beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having the courage to face change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Some meetings end in harmony and most in dis-. It’s a potluck of occasional surprises and perpetual ambiguity. I have learned to have patience with everything that remains unsolved in my heart and in the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, I am learning to live in the question!
Lesson No. 7: Another important self-discovery I made as trustee was finding out as Pumbaa the boar, did that, “I may run from Hyenas but I always fight a bully.” But I also learned from Mufasa – “I’m only brave when I have to be. Being brave doesn’t mean you go looking for trouble.”
What I remind myself about every single day are the words of Mufasa which I have slightly modified, “A trustee’s time as community leader rises and falls like the sun. One day, the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with another as a new trustee.”