The pecking order

Formal situations invariably follow a protocol. Social behaviour and etiquette play a prominent role in any given situation. When we observe the social order around us, it is not very difficult to see that most people do mind their manners at least outwardly.

In fact we are most likely to find that most people who invariably make a show of high respect to their superiors are often found wanting in basic decency and decorum while dealing with their juniors and underlings.

It appears as if the said people give vent to their disgust and frustrations whenever an opportunity presents itself. Or it could simply be an expression of their innate desire to be the boss.

An episode in the Mahabharata enumerates this human weakness ever so well. When the Pandavas and Draupadi had to spend a year incognito, they chose to live in disguise in the kingdom of Virata.

Though King was impressed by the skills and the worthy demeanour of the disguised royalty of Hastinapura, they were subjected to menial treatment. The king once hurt Yudhishtira by flinging dice on the latter’s forehead in order to show his displeasure. Arjuna became the laughing stock of the young women in the palace because he presented himself as a eunuch.

Bheema, Nakula and Sahadeva had to bear many indignities for they were disguised as the royal cook and heads of the horse and elephant stables respectively. The princess of Panchala who took up employment as the personal maid of the queen of Virata attracted the unwanted attention of the queen’s brother Kichaka.


Queen Sudeshna took no cognizance of her maid’s disinterest in the matter and even encouraged her lecherous brother which pushed him to his eventual death.


In due course of time, the period of agnathavasa lapsed. The royals of Virata Nagara became aware of the true identity of the Pandavas. Immediately the tables turned in the favour of the Pandavas and their queen. Profuse apologies were tendered.

Measures were taken to redress the insults and humiliation heaped upon them unknowingly. Though the king and queen of Virata were gracefully forgiven by the Pandavas and their spouse, the fact remains that they had taken their employees for granted.

If we remember that there is dignity in labour, we will certainly not put down our underlings or be superficially respectful towards our seniors.


If every one of us understands that there is a difference between instructing or correcting a team worker and bearing down upon him or her officiously, the working environment will become more amiable and productive.

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