Bharatdas Darshandas lives in solitary splendor in an ashram in Banej, 20 km deep in Gujarat’s Gir forest. On Wednesday, a clutch of five Election Commission officialsand a policeman gathered at a watchpost deep in the jungle to transform it into a polling booth solely to cater to the 65-year-old priest. Election regulations require that voters should not have to travel more than 2 km to cast their ballot, so all these staff had been mobilised to ensure that one man could participate in the world’s biggest democratic exercise.
Darshandas – or Bapu, as he prefers to be called – is no stranger to this kind of attention. The EC has set up this booth solely for him four times before.
On polling day, Bapu took his time getting to the station, so officials instructed journalists who gathered to witness the event to go off to shoot the lions in the interim. The forest, after all, is the last home of the Asiatic lion.
Near the post, officials had set up a pole with several rough-hewn plastic boxes on it, each with a mobile phone inside. Each box was in a different colour, each representing a different network. For some reason, officials said that the phones wouldn’t work unless they were placed in the boxes.
Just past 9.30 am, Bapu made his appearance, followed by a TV camera. But the officials wouldn’t let the crew into the booth to shoot Bapu voting and an argument broke out. Bapu waited patiently, watching the squabble. In the end, the crew gave up, and Bapu went inside to cast his vote. He came out to declare that Banej had now cast 100% of its votes and that he could confirm that to the world.
He returned to his ashram, where he has lived since 2000, crossing a stream he called Choti Ganga. His only companions are two pet peacocks, Sonu and Monu. But it’s less lonely than you’d imagine. Other sadhus sometimes drop by to stay with him. Tourists out spotting lionsoften stop by his shrine. On Shiv Ratri, he gets as many as 4,000 pilgrims.
Back home, Bapu revealed that he’d voted for the Bhartiya Janta Party. If the party comes to power, he expects it to give him money to renovate his temple. After that’s done, he wants to start charging visitors to stay in ashram, just the way the forest department charges tourists to enter the forest.
From the boardroom to the battlefield, bad decisions have been a recipe for disaster
On New Year’s Day, 1962, Dick Rowe, the official talent scout for Decca Records, went to office, little realising that this was to become one of the most notorious days in music history. He and producer Mike Smith had to audition bands and decide if any were good enough to be signed on to the record label. At 11:00 am, either Rowe or Smith, history is not sure who, listened a group of 4 boys who had driven for over 10 hours through a snowstorm from Liverpool, play 15 songs. After a long day spent listening to other bands, the Rowe-Smith duo signed on a local group that would be more cost effective. The band they rejected went on to become one of the greatest acts in musical history – The Beatles. However, in 1962, they were allegedly dismissed with the statement “Guitar groups are on the way out”.
Decca’s decision is a classic example of deciding based on biases and poor information. History is full of examples of poor decisions that have had far reaching and often disastrous consequences.
In the world of business, where decisions are usually made after much analysis, bad decisions have wiped out successful giants. Take the example of Kodak – a company that made a devastating wrong decision despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Everyone knows that Kodak couldn’t survive as digital photography replaced film. What is so ironic that Alanis Morissette could have sung about it, is that the digital camera was first invented by an engineer at Kodak as early as 1975. In 1981, an extensive study commissioned by Kodak showed that digital was likely to replace Kodak’s film camera business in about 10 years. Astonishingly, Kodak did not use this time to capitalise on their invention of digital cameras – rather they focused on making their film cameras even better. In 1996, they released a combined camera – the Advantix, which let users preview their shots digitally to decide which ones to print. Quite understandably, no one wanted to spend on printing when they could view, store and share photos digitally. The Advantix failed, but the company’s unwillingness to shift focus to digital technology continued. Kodak went from a 90% market share in US camera sales in 1976 to less than 10% in 2012, when it filed for bankruptcy. It sold off many of its biggest businesses and patents and is now a shell of its former self.
Few military blunders are as monumental as Napoleon’s decision to invade Russia. The military genius had conquered most of modern day Europe. However, Britain remained out of his grasp and so, he imposed a trade blockade against the island nation. But the Russia’s Czar Alexander I refused to comply due to its effect on Russian trade. To teach the Russians a lesson, Napolean assembled his Grand Armée – one of the largest forces to ever march on war. Estimates put it between 450,000 to 680,000 soldiers. Napoleon had been so successful because his army could live off the land i.e. forage and scavenge extensively to survive. This was successful in agriculture-rich and densely populated central Europe. The vast, barren lands of Russia were a different story altogether. The Russian army kept retreating further and further inland burning crops, cities and other resources in their wake to keep these from falling into French hands. A game of cat and mouse ensued with the French losing soldiers to disease, starvation and exhaustion. The first standoff between armies was the bloody Battle of Borodino which resulted in almost 70,000 casualties. Seven days later Napoleon marched into a Moscow that was a mere shell, burned and stripped of any supplies. No Russian delegation came to formally surrender. Faced with no provisions, diminished troops and a Russian force that refused to play by the rules, Napolean began the long retreat, back to France. His miseries hadn’t ended - his troops were attacked by fresh Russian forces and had to deal with the onset of an early winter. According to some, only 22,000 French troops made it back to France after the disastrous campaign.
When it comes to sports, few long time Indian cricket fans can remember the AustralAsia Cup final of 1986 without wincing. The stakes were extremely high – Pakistan had never won a major cricket tournament, the atmosphere at the Sharjah stadium was electric, the India-Pakistan rivalry at its height. Pakistan had one wicket in hand, with four runs required off one ball. And then the unthinkable happened – Chetan Sharma decided to bowl a Yorker. This is an extremely difficult ball to bowl, many of the best bowlers shy away from it especially in high pressure situations. A badly timed Yorker can morph into a full toss ball that can be easily played by the batsman. For Sharma who was then just 18 years old, this was an ambitious plan that went wrong. The ball emerged as a low full toss which Miandad smashed for a six, taking Pakistan to victory. Almost 30 years later, this ball is still the first thing Chetan Sharma is asked about when anyone meets him.
So, what leads to bad decisions? While these examples show the role of personal biases, inertia, imperfect information and overconfidence, bad advice can also lead to bad decisions. One of the worst things you can do when making an important decision is to make it on instinct or merely on someone’s suggestion, without arming yourself with the right information. That’s why Aegon Life puts the power in your hands, so you have all you need when choosing something as important as life insurance. The Aegon Life portal has enough information to help someone unfamiliar with insurance become an expert. So empower yourself with information today and avoid decisions based on bad advice. For more information on the iDecide campaign, see here.
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