Nobody sticks to rules if they can be circumvented, bent or broken for benefit. Cutting corners, finding excuses, blaming others, claiming innocence, feigning ignorance, these are the traits of modern-day traders, business persons, industrialists, professionals and others.
In the circumstances, when the ends always justify means, does the much-vaunted Four-Way Test propagated by Rotary International have any relevance? Does it need to be mothballed and consigned to oblivion? An overwhelming majority in any gathering will respond to such a query with a resounding “Aye!” But what would take its place? A motto that exhorts one to “win at all costs”? If that were the case, the Four-Way Test would have been abandoned long ago.
For, the above scenario is not typical of the present times. Such scenes have played out in every decade of the last century and not only in the first decade of this one. Yet, the Four-Way Test has stood the test of time and continues to guide, motivate and inspire professionals and business persons in the year 2012 as much as it did in the year 1932 when it was first introduced.
(For those who came in late, in 1932 Herbert J. Taylor, then president of a nearly bankrupt Chicago cookware company, believing his employees were in need of an “ethical yardstick”, wrote these four questions on a small piece of paper: Is it the TRUTH? Is it FAIR to all concerned? Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned? (When those lines were penned, the USA was in the grip of the Great Depression.
Herbert Taylor went on to become President of Rotary International in 1954 when he formally presented to it the copyright to the 24 words of the Four-Way Test.
(By that time, it was already in wide use around the world and was even acknowledged by Newsweek magazine.) Proof of the fact that the Four- Way Test is relevant even in today ’s cut-throat world came at the last meeting with the screening of a Hindi film with English subtitles based on the Test and adapted from a stage play penned by PP Dadi Engineer; this play was first performed at the Club in 1978 and again in 2009.
FOUR-WAY TEST FILM TO BE UPLOADED ON‘YOUTUBE’; MAY BE
COPIED ON PEN DRIVES
The film version of the Four-Way Test, titled “Kya Yeh Sach Hai?” was made by Chairman Suresh Jagtiani. He wrote it, produced it, directed it, photographed it on his digital camera and even handled the entire post-production work, including the editing, synchronisation, music and so on. One of the unique features of the film was the karaoke section towards the end that enabled the audience to sing the title song as it was rendered on the screen in the mellifluous voice of Sudha Malhotra Motwane.
Adding to the thrill of the moment were scores of Rotaractors from H.R. and other colleges, some of them sporting red t-shirts; they emerged from the shadows to sing the chorus, “Kya yeh sach hai, kya yeh sahi hai”. It was a fitting finale to the premiere show of the film.
The plot, in brief, was as follows: A firm bagged an export order that it knew it could not fulfil within the required time. So it got a lawyer to draw up an agreement with one important clause, that of “force majeure” which, it believed would enable it to cite circumstances beyond its control and to get away with any delay in delivery.
However, it soon realised that the goods prepared would not be approved by the buyer, so it allowed the working conditions in its factory to deteriorate, forcing the workers to go on a strike. Citing the strike as something beyond its control, the firm bought time, got a new consignment prepared and then exported it – to the satisfaction of all concerned.
But was this approach truthful? Was it ethical? Although it appeared to have benefited everybody, did it build goodwill and foster friendships? These were the questions posed by the narrator of the film.
The film had Sitaram Shah playing the main role, that of Mr. Chopra, the man who insisted that the ends justified the means. His character asserted that by allowing the workers to go on strike, he had protected many jobs, ensured that the firm did not suffer a loss, earned the gratitude of the board of directors and of the shareholders and so on.
Shyyamniwas Somani enacted the role of the general manager, a man forced against his wishes to toe the line being taken by Mr. Chopra. While Madhusudan Daga looked every inch the works manager at the factory, Suresh Jagtiani was quite smooth as the legal brain that drew up the agreement.
And PP Kalpana Munshi was confidence personified as the narrator. Suresh thanked Meera Kumar for her assistance in translating the original lines into Hindi and Sudha for singing the theme song. He had a special word of praise for Baji Bilimoria who had inspired him to make the film. He said later that the film would be uploaded on YouTube so other Rotary Clubs could download it for screening. Those interested in a highresolution print could approach him for a copy of the film on a pen drive.