The Mahabharata tells us the story of a princess who lived in the country of Gandhara, located in the region we now call Afghanistan. We don’t know her name. We only know her as Gandhari, princess of Gandhara. She is told that she would be marrying the powerful prince of the Kuru clan, but on the eve of her wedding she discovers he is blind. So, she decides to tie a cloth around her eyes, and blindfold herself. Why does she do that? The official reason: she wants to share her husband’s suffering. The unofficial reason: she wants to express her rage at being tricked so. She bears the king a hundred sons, the Kauravas. They grow up in the shadow of a blind father and a blindfolded mother, one parent who cannot see and the other parent who will not see. How does it feel to grow up unseen by one who can see you? Did it play a role in the insecurity of her sons, an insecurity that was amplified by the talent of their cousins, the five Pandavas?
The epic tells the tale of what happens when Gandhari finally removes the blindfold. She does this twice in her life, once just before the war at Kuru-kshetra, and once only after. Both these stories come from folk retellings of the Mahabharata.
The sages said that after years of covering her eyes, the first thing Gandhari would gaze upon would become invulnerable to all weapons. Determined to save the life of her firstborn son Duryodhana, Gandhari told him to appear before her naked. Duryodhana obeyed but covered his hips with a banana leaf out of modesty. So, when Gandhari saw him for the first time, she wept. She could save him, but not entirely. She realised he would die as was fated, with a blow to the hips.
We are becoming Kauravas as our managements turn into Gandharis. They are not Dhritarashtras–they can see, but they don’t want to.
Culture in an organisation is determined by what a boss sees or does not see. The boss, like the blindfolded Gandhari, sees things very selectively.
Devdutt Pattanaik is an Indian physician turned leadership consultant, mythologist, author and communicator whose works focus largely on the areas of myth, religion, mythology, and management.