Growing up and for a very long time thereafter, Navratri, or the “nine nights” was a festival of abstinence and good food.. yes co-existence it was.. and continued to be even as I learnt more and more- of the Demons and the Devis. The supreme divine form annihilating all that is not good for us.

What has amazed me in my recent reflections of this nationwide festival has been the applicability of the stories to our lives. Stories aplenty.. learnings applicable across times and age- interpretations to serve our purpose. We live in this world where much as we may not want to, we do end up facing our worst demons.

Recounting here some of the demons awaiting annihilation…pervasive as they are in our professional existence- its as if they make our roles that much more meaningful by the simple challenges they pose- realized or unrealized by us.

The demonic Shumbha denotes self-doubt. Often in our lives have we been at a point where we don’t think we are going to be able to do it/ achieve it. For instance, all those who thought they would follow a path and then didn’t, or rather couldn’t. That’s the time one’s doubt in one’s abilities are the maximum. Its when we struggle the most to overcome the demon within which is out to annihilate us by our own selves. Of course, the presence or absence of folks who believe in us has the ability to defeat this one that rears its head, but why should we depend on others, made as we are with the strength given to us by the Supreme power. They say, that there is never anything thrown our way that we cannot deal with. So if you have it in your way, know that you have the strength to deal with it! 

Then there is Nishumbha the one that signifies doubts in others. To me this one rears its head in the form of that manager who can never delegate. He/she would rather run themselves dry of energy doing it all by themselves, than leave it to someone else to take charge! What if they failed? How would this show up on performance of the team as a whole. Someone who believes thus perhaps forgot the old adage- a team is as strong as the weakest link in it. A true leader works on strengthening that link and not in avoiding the opportunity to enable it to build its strength. Every opportunity to develop lost should be viewed as the loss of a gift for the leader- the gift of developing someone, of grooming, of helping them unearth the potential we all have within us.

But then what does one do with colleagues/ team members who dawn the form of Mahishasur the buffalo. The one who represents lethargy, the inertia. These are the folks for whom, their comfort zones are very precious. They come with this all-pervading knowledge of all there is to know (in the limits of their wisdom). ‘Been there, done that’ is the motto they live by, exuding the sense of how nothing new could ever be tried, to give results any different from what they have experienced. Embodying the laziness of a buffalo, moving these people from their positions sometimes takes more energy than leaving them aside and finding an alternative path. Well, I guess its best to make the choice of which is a better road to progress- beating the buffaloes for that inch of turning of heads they may deign you with or digging a new road to pass by while they continue basking in their self-established beliefs of the purpose of their existence.

But worse than the human embodiment of Mahishasura is the one who also has that form combined with Chand Munda- the ones who dont listen, strong headed and incessantly argumentative, distorted perhaps in their perception. We all have seen many of these in some form or another in our lives. We have argued till the cows come home, almost like it was a debating duel and the trophy on that one is all that mattered. But sometimes, its about the point being made, and a refusal to acknowledge the many facets to the issue at hand. Our levels of energies, patience and perseverance generally determine our victory over these demons.

Madhu Kaitabha the demons who denote cravings and aversions – all driven by our senses especially our sense of hearing. Its like when we hear of it, we crave for it. Its often happened with several of us- we are happy with our jobs, our positions, until we hear of someone who was moved ahead- and there goes our minds in its incessant spin of why wasn’t I the chosen one!

It’s the same for aversions.

How often has it happened that we may have been happy with someone, their way of working, their demeanour, until comes another who does not think too highly and plants that seed of doubt which has a life of its own, germinating and growing until we stand corrected in our own minds of our opinions about that individual. How common and yet how much beyond our control are the workings of our mind.

The consciousness of this behaviour is in itself the power of not letting it take root.

Deep-rooted beliefs represented in the form of Raktabijasur are to me the most dangerous of all demonic forms that we humans dawn. These are folks for whom, age old ways of doing and behaving are very difficult to change- not to blame them coz it’s the way they have been brought up. Its what exists in their DNA- it’s the only way they have lived. When we hear of how organizations that have been in existence for more than a century, struggling to make changes (E.g., in case of bringing in diversity in their workforce), we know what we are up against. In fact, the bias in this example is not just decades, but centuries old. To me, once we recognize the bias, we have won half the battle. It’s like they say, acknowledging a problem is half the problem won. The demon recognized is already on the path to being vanquished.

The only one to me that beats the last in terms of its potential risk is Dhoomralochana– the one that fogs the vision, or who’s vision is fogged. Its like we lost sight of what matters – what is the purpose of what we are doing- what is the purpose of the roles we play or the organizations we manage! We miss the forest for the trees and just like that, several of life’s opportunities that come our way. Lost as we are in the everyday battles, we forget about the war to be won.

The battles will continue, perhaps too core to our existence to be given up. Our strength as humans and our leadership as professionals displayed at the times we are not vanquished by the demons within and without. They will not be lain to rest permanently, but the veracity of our characters developed enough to chop the heads every time they rear! After all, we all love the celebrations of the war won by the Devi within!