A close encounter with “Beauty & Brains”

Many a men crave to have a woman in their life who has “Beauty & Brains” and more still crave someone who meets both these criteria. I am no different either. I have met a few girls with both these criteria’s and also worked with a few of them. But today was the best of all of them because she not only embodied “Beauty & Brains” but also was a renowned celebrity and a prospective Tollywood Actress.

I had been to Hyderabad to attend the 16th National HRD Network Annual Conference and also to participate in the Best of Breed HR Practices competition being conducted by NHRDN (incidentally we-Schneider Electric won the first prize in the competition). The conference was spread over 3 days and many a eminent speakers largely from the HR fraternity spoke and shared their thoughts and experience mostly revolving around the theme of “Energizing for Excellence”. For most part it was not so much energizing as most of what was shared was old wine in old bottle. Personally I didn’t find much of new ideas or Next Practices.

However we were really energized by 2 speakers who surprisingly were not from the HR fraternity. One of them was our former President Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam and the other was the women with “Beauty & Brains” and a renowned celebrity.

Many of us were wondering what would Ms. Vasuki Sunkavalli, Miss Universe 2011 pagent from India, would speak on and what relevance it was in bringing her to speak to an august gathering of leading HR professionals in the country. She proved us wrong.

She was asked to speak on Corporate Social Responsibility and Socially engaging Leaders.

She first feigned ignorance on the subject but came with a prepared speech and she held the audience with bated breathe for the next one hour or so. To my mind her was the best part of the 3 day conference and she really “energized” all of us with her “Beauty & Brains”.

For the beauty part she was a tall girl (wont be surprised if she is near 5’10), surprisingly not the fairest celebrity (wheatish complexion) and she made no effort to artificially hide it, slim with a perfect figure (otherwise she couldn’t have been a Miss India Universe representative) exuding with confidence, grace and humility (unlike many others who crave for attention). There was an air of unambiguousness about her and she was extremely approachable reaching out to all who wanted their share of her attention – posing for photographs or autograph or shaking hands.

In 2002, Vasuki enrolled at the Symbiosis International University in Pune, India for her Bachelors in Law degree. While in India, Vasuki did a series of internships at local law firms and at India’s National Human Rights Committee. In 2007, she moved to New Delhi to pursue a Diploma in Intellectual Property Rights from Global Institute of Intellectual Property. It was during this time that Vasuki was approached by members of the Indian fashion industry and she also started her modeling career. In 2009, Vasuki enrolled at New York University School of Law as a recipient of the prestigious Dean’s Scholarship to study International Law and Human Rights and graduated with an LLM degree. Upon graduating from NYU, she interned at the Human Rights Watch in NYC and went on to work as the Third Committee’s Research Assistant at the United Nations’ Permanent Mission of India.

A lawyer by profession. Specialises in International Arbitration. Which means she helps countries to arbitrate and settle disputes. Wow……

Here intellect part was greatly exposed when she started speaking and later on handled with aplomb the many questions that were fielded to her.

She said that we should not feel guilty about making profits- reminds of me what my uncle, late Dr.CK Prahalad told me. You need profit to share. Without money how will you share – Corporate Social Responsibility. However she said that how you make money is as much as important on how much of money you make. You needn’t feel guilty of how much money you make but you could feel guilty of how you made those money.

So she exhorted Corporates to work on the nuts and bolts and work towards maximizing profits. However she said that there is a Joy of Giving and hence corporate, the wealthy should also share a part of their gains with the have-nots. She said the giving / sharing should be voluntary and driven from within and no efforts should be made to make it mandatory or compulsory. She was referring to the proposal from P Chidambaram ,Finance Minister for leving a CSR Tax of 2% to make it compulsory for Corporates to earmark some part of their profits towards Corporate Social Responsibility program. She said the moment it becomes compulsory, people will find a way to beat the policy and reporting and will become a sham.

She said that instead we should make it fashionable for the wealthy to raise funds and take part in fund raising programs for charity, which mostly happens in the western world. She said we should create situations where the wealthy would be shamed and morally embarrassed to partake their wealth.

She quoted late Prime Minister late Rajiv Gandhi, who once said that out of every 1 Rupee that is spent by the Government, only 15 paise reaches the people or the reason its intended for. The remaining 85 paise is either siphoned off or frittered away due to in-efficiency (no wonder all these scams). She said that last year the Government of India has spent 2 Billion USD on Rural Development programs and around 4 Billion USD on Urban Development programs. As per Rajiv Gandhi’s formula, nearly 5 billion dollars out of 6 Billion dollars has been siphoned off or frittered away due to inefficiencies in the system. If that be the case, she argued the Government should rather plug the leakage rather than taxing further the people. She argued that it’s the job / responsibility of the Government to take care of the needs (housing, education, healthcare, infrastructure) of its people and not the responsibility of the Corporates. If all the taxes were well spent and in its entirety (without any leakages), we would have plenty of money to address the needs of the downtrodden and the have-nots.

She said that charity must be driven by an inner need and drive and not thro compulsion or regulation. Giving back to the society need not necessarily be in the form of cash, it could also be in the form of service. When she was a student she used to offer her services to the Gates foundation, the Human Rights watch society etc. So she urged that if cant afford to pay, then offer your service – voluntary service for a social cause. She said that there are many fortunate women in India who don’t have to go to work because of rich husbands and exhorted them to offer some bit of their time for some social work / social cause instead of sitting before the idiot box – TV.

When asked about Need vs Greed, she said that it’s a Human tendency to be greedy and there fore people hoard. But she said may be people hoard because of insecurity or the need to live the same high standard of lifestyle till their death and in many cases ensuring that their children, 2nd and 3rd generation also should maintain the same standard of living. Hence they hoard for generations to come. She said that may be the Government could consider levying an Inheritance Tax to prevent people from hoarding.

When asked what she would like to be remembered – as a lawyer or a Miss Universe / Model. She said “why not both”. She said that she will continue to pursue her profession as an International Arbitrator and also walk the ramp as a Model and endorsing brands. She said that long after we would want her family and children to remember that she was a Miss Universe India and will have a story to tell. She concluded by saying that every one of us must live a multi-faceted life and should have stories to tell to family, friends and the society. So she urged people to work towards building stories to be shared.

All in all it was a very fascinating session and an encounter with a celebrity with Beauty & Brain. Will cherish this special encounter and not sure if I will be able to meet another one at close encounter.

May be there is one in the making in my home and only time will tell……

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