The Creative Compromise
Young people fret and fume when they hear the word ‘compromise’. Elders groan:
“Compromise is but inevitable.” There is a strong notion that to compromise is to curb one’s freedom, to give up dreams. The virtues of compromise are often ignored. We are reluctant to understand its nuances. A new world would dawn if the art of compromise is practiced in our day to day lives. .
To understand the nature of compromise, let us recount an episode from our history. In 1917, Mahatma Gandhi visited Champaran in Bihar to look into the farming related problems faced by the peasants due the European planters. The planters extracted high rents, illegal taxes and also forced the farmers to sell crops at the rates dictated by them. Gandhiji took statements from thousands of peasants and compiled their grievances.
With courage and patience, he could convince the then British rulers to appoint an official commission to inquire into the peasant’s condition with Gandhiji as a member. Unable to deny the voluminous evidence gathered by the commission, the European planters agreed to refund the illegally extracted money to the peasants. The planters felt uneasy that they may be asked to pay the entire money. Gandhiji asked for a return of half the amount. Assuming that he would be adamant, the representative of the planters proposed that they would return much less than the half. To their surprise, Gandhiji agreed with him and brought about a quick settlement. Later, he explained the ‘compromise’ to the peasants. According to him, the fact that the planters parted with their prestige was more significant than the amount they refunded. He wanted the essence more than substance.
From this episode, we can have an insight that compromise is giving up less important things to pave way for greater happenings. By using the weapon of ‘compromise’, Gandhiji made the planters realise that they too were bound by the rules of the land and the peasants could as well claim their rights.
In order to compromise, we must know what is essential and what is not. For many of us, our likes and dislikes are of greatest importance. Our perspective
is the only proper perspective. When others acknowledge our importance, we feel successful. ‘Compromise’ threatens these self-identities and hence is bitter. This is true in the cases of personal relationships, individuals working for organisations and sometimes for organisations as a whole. Placing higher ideals above our petty self-interests, having a broader perspective, acknowledging others priorities, working under men of greater vision, all these are needed to ‘compromise’ in a creative manner.
Now, we will sit at the holy feet of Hanuma:n ji to learn lessons in the art of compromise. Sugri:va called up va:nara heros like Angada, Hanuma:n, Ja:mbava:n, Gaja, Gava:ksha,Sushena and others. He teamed them up and assigned Angada as their chief leader. Later, Sugri:va lavishly praised Hanuma:n that he could succeed in every mission. Inspired by Sugri:va’s confidence in him, Sri:Ra:ma gave his ring to Hanuma:n to give it to Si:tha De:vi.
Here was a typical situation for Hanuma:n. Angada was young and inexperienced. He was yet to earn the trust of his king. Hanuma:n was loyal, efficient and effective. Sugri:va had faith in his abilities. Yet, as per instructions of Sugri:va, he was to work under the guidance of Angada. Hanuma:n did not resent. He did not withhold his abilities. He provided advice whenever it was needed. Reminded by Ja:mbava:n, he assumed his mighty form, crossed the ocean and located Mother Sitha. In the end, he returned from Lanka and reported everything to Angada and other seniors and asked them to decide the future course.
It is also interesting to observe Ja:mbava:n’s role. He wisely reminded Hanuma:n of his greatness. He gave timely suggestions to Angada. He used his maturity and wisdom for the success of the team.
Characters like Hanuma:n and Ja:mbava:n stand for their team and its objectives. They are not distracted by their relatively lower position in the team. They don’t cringe to share their single handed achievements with the entire team. They do not suffer from the burden of self-glorification. They are clear about the objectives of the team. They do not hesitate to compromise their individual needs to attain the larger, collective goals.
When should we not compromise? Sri Lal Bahadur Shastri was Prime Minister of India. At that time, there was severe shortage of food in the country. He inaugurated schemes which lead to Green Revolution and White revolution in India. Having asked his family to cook a single meal every day for a week, he gave a call to the citizens of the nation to skip at least one meal per week. There were skirmishes at the borders. Soon the issues escalated and in a speech to the parliament, he declared that ‘we would prefer to live in poverty for as long as necessary but we shall not allow our freedom to be subverted’. Even his opponents were surprised at his uncompromising and fearless attitude. He was as tender as a flower yet as strong as a diamond!
We can also remind ourselves the famous speech of Abraham Lincoln, in which he said, “…Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to
the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” We can as well recollect with reverence that the poet-saint Po:thana never composed poetry for wealth or for the fear of kings. His poetry was offered to the Divinity. All these great people lived for principles. They gladly compromised lesser things to attain lofty ideals.
At individual level, when we attempt to compromise in our everyday issues with people around, we begin to analyse our own priorities. Are we too particular about the taste of our food? Do we become restless if we miss our regular entertainment?
Do we care to give up some expenses on ourselves and brighten up other’s lives? Are we irked by other person’s behaviour? Time to practice the art of creative compromise! By practicing ‘compromise’, we can recognise our obsessions, smooth off our rigid behaviours and enhance our sensitivities. Opportunities to compromise come to us in our day to day lives. We can practice virtues like affection for others, forbearance and firmness while we strive to compromise.
Our self-awareness increases when we observe the grounds on which we compromise. If it is easy for us to compromise on our ideals, it must be easier
to compromise on our likes and dislikes ! We have to pay attention to the battles of compromise that rage in our minds. We have to work on those taken-forgranted notions that we carry, those stubborn habits that rule us, those mistaken self-identities. We must give a hearing to those tiny inner voices which reveal us what our real needs are and let those guide us when we have to compromise. When we compromise, we transcend our rigid, gross ego. Our deeds become a worship of Divinity in and around us.
Many times, compromise is a harsh reality. We have to decide when to flow along with it and when to struggle against it. The guiding parameters are selfimprovement and service to others. Sometimes, to compromise is to fail. However, such failures do not go waste if we can turn into a better human being.
Observing the lives of great men and women, studying the scriptures guided by an a:cha:rya, analysing and implementing them in our day to day lives will teach
us the nuances of ‘Compromise’.
A creative compromise cuts through each one, hurts none and heals everyone.
-By Ramakrishna Tupurani, translated from