The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, February 27, 2000

Are you guilty of being ambitious?
By Belu Maheshwari

SOME myths become truisms, a part of national cultural psyche. One such myth is that a good human being is one who does his karama without expecting any reward or gains — Nish Bhav, Nish Karama. The Gita says,"Your right is to work only, not the fruit thereof. Let not the fruit of action be your object nor let your attachment be to inaction.’

Over the years we have added to the myth by aligning goodness with a person who sacrifices/renounces, and evil with anyone who has desires and wants. Desires are made out to be demons which lead one to the wrong path. This ethos of renunciation has been given a spiritual context. Control of desires, needs and ambition are the biggest virtues which are inculcated from childhood itself.

We have overlooked the operative word ‘work’ from the Bhagavadagita. If we delve deeper into Krishna’s words, he says that nothing is unattainable. He even says" "You can be God" and urges Arjun to the highest level of ambition.

  Is being ambitious unethical? Does it have negative connotations? Ambition is ardent desire for distinction and aspiration. It pertains to personal growth and achievement. There is nothing negative in its essence. The world progresses and grows because of this desire. Edmund Hillary scaled Mount Everest because of a desire to scale new heights. Every innovation and invention is a product of someone's ambition to forge ahead. It was Mahatma Gandhi’s ambition to free his country from bondage which drove him to fight for freedom.

Being ambitious, or having ambitions, is normally confused with manipulation, cut-throat competition, or back-stabbing. It is like confusing laziness with contentment. A child who studies hard to clear tough a entrance examination does it because he is ambitious to do well in life. Is it wrong? A person who wishes to better his lot in society and is upwardly mobile is not committing a crime.

Piyush Bahl, senior director, CII, who gave industry a human face in the North, admits: "I have always worked when I knew it mattered. In school, I was an average student. But in Class XII I worked hard to get into St. Stephens. In college I knew my goals. Now I work long hours every day. I prioritise my work and believe in action. I feel that Indians miss out because they do not have a killer instinct and no long-term vision. There is generally also total lack of commitment. Look at small countries; they have a workforce which delivers and thats why they are way ahead of us, both economically and socially."

Lata Vaidyanathan, principal and director, Eicher School, and a role model for a whole generation of students, says, "Circumstances have allowed me to do what I wanted to. I target higher after I achieve something. I keep on opening up more vistas. If in the process I am sacrificing some aspects of life, it is with pleasure."

"The meaning of the word ambition has been distorted. We feel that all those at the top are corrupt and have reached there by unscrupulous means. We need to correct this impression. There should be a paradigm shift in our thinking. Ambition means hard work, diligence.

Reaching set targets can not be wrong. It is lack of providing the right atmosphere for growth which is leading to brain drain — NASA has so many Indians, and the Silicon Valley is practically owned by them. These were ambitious people who have worked hard to chart their own course.

In my case my father’s words drive me. 'I am a king,' he used to say, and as my beta you should know horse-riding.' I want to prove something of my own. I don’t want to disapprove anyone else. I have my needs and desires and I do look forward to returns from my work," she adds.

Ashutosh Mohanta, a well-established advocate, says, "Without ambition you cannot go high. But one’s ambition should be related to reality. We should be intelligent enough to assess our strengths and weaknesses. If one desires to go beyond ones capabilities it is day-dreaming. Ambition to achieve must be honest and sincere, there should be no foul means or dubious mechanism adopted to achieve one’s goal.

Ambition, according to me, is of two types. One is personal and the other social. An ideal minister can give much relief to the general public and that can be his ambition."

Chitvan Singh, 26, an upcoming potter with her own studio, who has held many solo exhibitions feels, "I have combined my hobby with my ambition. I learnt pottery under Gursharan Singh. So I thought, why not do something which I enjoy too? Now pottery for relaxation and stress management has become popular, I conduct workshops for executives of MNCs.

To me ambition is ability, vision. It is a challenge to be able to conquer. It is the driving force behind attaining goals. You do no know whether you will succeed but still you must carry on working."

Billa Brar, a teacher of long-standing, differs slightly, "Ambition for man and woman, even those who are working, should be different. T he most important job for a woman, according to me, is to bring up children with proper values. For a woman it is not possible to do a high -profile job and also do justice to her home. There is nothing wrong in a woman just being a support to her husband and children.

A man’s ambition is in his job, in pursuing it with hard work. But you should not break your back (literally and figuratively) trying to achieve it. Moreover, ambition could be all-consuming, it could swallow your entire being and to pursue it you could cause a lot of heart-breaks. You also become part of a blind rat race,"she opines.

Every person has his own yardsticks to define life concepts, and the same goes for his attitude towards ambition. Moreover, every age has its own ethos and its own complexities. Currently, there is emphasis on personal growth. The new ism is individualism --- the right of a person to uphold his dignity and aspirations. It is not individualism which consumes those around you but the one which lets everyone maximise his own potential.