Addressing a group of Presidents-Elect of Rotary International District 3131 (Pune and Raigad) at a Training Seminar in Goa some time back, Mr. Manohar Parrikar, current Chief Minister of Goa, narrated the story of the Parra Kalingad. This is an amazing account of the significance of wisdom, and how it is different from education.
Many years ago, when he was in school in his native Parra, a village in Bardez, Goa, the Parra kalingad (watermelon) was known far and wide for its texture, taste, colour and size. People used to drive down in their Ambassador cars and FIAT cars from faraway places to Parra to buy the best kalingads. A brand had been built!
Unknown to the customers, the best kalingads were not even on sale! The farmers used to put away the best kalingads for the local youth to eat and enjoy. There was one condition, though. The kalingads could not be taken home to eat. They had to be eaten at the farm, and the seeds had to be collected in a container kept there for the purpose. As Mr. Parrikar puts it, the youth were used as free labour to extract the best seeds for the next year’s crop! Year after year, the best seeds were thus kept aside for the next year’s crop, which usually was better than the previous years’.
The bright young Manohar then went away to IIT Bombay (now Mumbai) to do his undergraduate studies in Metallurgical Engineering. When he came back to Parra some years later, imagine his shock when he found out that the Parra kalingads was not as famous as they used to be! They were not even as meaty, or as sweet, or as colourful, or as big!!
Mr. Parrikar wanted to understand why a proven system that always yielded good results in the past, had failed now.
Here’s what he found out: The wise farmers had “retired”, giving way to their sons to run their businesses. In their anxiety to increase business, these twenty-something MBA grads had put up the best kalingads for sale in the market. They continued the traditional kalingad feast for the village youth, but the kalingads that were providing seeds for next year’s crop were not the best ones. Kalingads have a “generation” of one year, and so, a few generations later, the kalingads had lost their fine qualities and hence their appeal.
Today, how many of us drive down to Parra for kalingads? In fact, how many of us have even heard of the Parra kalingad?
There are two lessons to be learnt from this:
1. Education does not necessarily give us wisdom. (Mr. Parrikar categorises people as illiterate, literate, educated, and wise!)
2. To build brands, one must always think long term, and must avoid short term thinking.
Mr. Parrikar concluded saying, “It is three generations since India gained independence. The quality of public debate has deteriorated significantly in these three generations. Are we going the way of the Parra kalingad?”
Food for thought, surely?