Eggshell Rule, Vosburg vs. Putney, Harassment

In February 1889, a fourteen-year-old boy Andrew Vosburg was kicked in shin by 11-year-old boy George Putney. While George had no intention of hurting Andrew, Andrew developed infection due to this and became lame in one leg. The court ruled that while George had no intention of hurting Andrew and while in normal circumstances such action may not do any serious harm, previous injury Andrew had got serious due to kick, so George was responsible for lameness. He had to pay Andrew $ 2500 as compensation.

This case highlights the Eggshell rule, which states that the defendant must “take their victims as they find them”. The argument that victim suffered more damage due to precondition, not due to action of defendant is not valid.

“The difference between how a person treats the powerless versus the powerful is as good a measure of human character as I know.”
―Robert Sutton

Abusing subordinates is common in corporate world. In fact, it is matter of pride for boss to abuse his subordinates as it is considered to be way to motivate subordinate to perform. The boss always argues that there is nothing personal in abuse, he is just trying to urge them to perform better. In case a person is emotionally weak it can even lead to suicide. In such case, as per eggshell rule it won’t be wrong to hold boss responsible for suicide.


Self Defeating Personality Disorder

“Good bosses remain alert for symptoms of neurotic imposture in their employees: fear of failure, fear of success, perfectionism, procrastination, and workaholism.”

–  Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

In psychology there is interesting personality disorder called Self Defeating Personality Disorder. It is defined as a pervasive pattern of self-defeating behaviour, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts. The person may often avoid or undermine pleasurable experiences, be drawn to situations or relationships in which they will suffer and prevent others from helping them.

People suffering from this disorder are experts in snatching defeat from jaws of victory. It is combination of two behaviours, the person doesn’t feel that he is good enough and secondly, he is interested is sacrificing himself for others.

The first kind of behaviour is also called as imposter syndrome. The term impostor phenomenon was coined in 1978 by Georgia State University psychology professor Pauline Clance and psychologist Suzanne Imes in a study of high-achieving women.

These psychologists discovered that many of their female clients attributed success not to their talent but to factors like luck, timing etc.

Sometimes this results in person working too hard to overcome their perceived inadequacy. They become workaholics and forget work life balance. They feel guilty enjoying life.

Even when they are working hard, they feel that they will fail, they never visualise success as a result of hard work and talent.

“With every success, neurotic impostors think, “I was lucky this time, fooling everyone, but will my luck hold? When will people discover that I’m not up to the job?”

–  Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

Management expert and psychoanalyst Manfred Kets de Vries suggests following steps to help people overcome their fear of success.

  • The first step towards getting over the fear of success is to recognize it. Think back to your childhood. Did a parent, another family member, or a teacher, or a sports coach keep telling you that you weren’t very capable or likeable, or never seem to be satisfied with your work, no matter how well you performed?  To overcome his fears, I get client surface his associations around success. He needed to better understand the sources of his fears and discard his secret self-image as an unsuccessful, undeserving person.
  • During the coaching process, client realizes how busily he had engaged in self-sabotaging activities that held him back from achieving his goals and dreams—including in his personal life. What he found particularly helpful was being asked questions that challenged his internal narrative of success. For example, how did he envision success? Could he do a “cost-benefit analysis” of what it meant to be successful?


Luso Indians, Henry Vivian Derozio, Casimiro Monteiro

The Portuguese Empire included major colonies like Brazil, Angola and Mozambique. They also had colonies in other countries, including Goa in India. The Portuguese conquerors married local women resulting in new mixed races like Luso Indians, Luso-Americans, Luso Africans, Luso Asians etc.

Luso Indians gave India two interesting personalities- Henry Vivian Derozio and Casimiro Monterio.

My country! In thy days of glory past

A beauteous halo circled round thy brow

and worshipped as a deity thou wast-

Where is thy glory, where the reverence now?

Thy eagle pinion is chained down at last,

And grovelling in the lowly dust art thou,

Thy minstrel hath no wreath to weave for thee

Save the sad story of thy misery!

Well-let me dive into the depths of time

And bring from out the ages, that have rolled

A few small fragments of these wrecks sublime

Which human eye may never more behold

And let the guerdon of my labour be,

My fallen country! One kind wish for thee!

– Henry Vivian Derozio, To India- My native land

Derozio was one of the India’s first nationalist poet. He was intellectual who influenced his students with his ideas. The students called themselves Derozians and started Young Bengal Movement, they started questioning orthodoxy and beliefs of Hindu religion. This helped in reform of Indian society.

Derozio became teacher in Hindu college at very young age of 17 years. He died at the age of 22 years due to cholera. So, within a short span of 5 years he could influence society with his ideas. He wrote poems on pathetic condition of India, which was once a great nation.

Why hang’st thou lonely on yon withered bough?

Unstrung for ever, must thou there remain;

Thy music once was sweet — who hears it now?

Why doth the breeze sigh over thee in vain?

Silence hath bound thee with her fatal chain;

Neglected, mute, and desolate art thou,

Like ruined monument on desert plain:

O! many a hand more worthy far than mine

Once thy harmonious chords to sweetness gave,

And many a wreath for them did Fame entwine

Of flowers still blooming on the minstrel’s grave:

Those hands are cold — but if thy notes divine

May be by mortal wakened once again,

Harp of my country, let me strike the strain!

-Henry Vivian Derozio, The Harp of India

Derozio died in 1831. Almost a decade later in Goa, a son was born to Portuguese father and native Goan mother. He was called Casimiro Emérito Rosa Teles Jordão Monteiro. Unlike Derozio , he was neither an intellectual nor did he have any love for his native land India. In 1961 Jawaharlal Nehru decided to make Goa, he got support from Goan nationalists.During this period Casimiro was member of Goan Police who tortured Goan nationalists. Casimiro took active part in torture.

When Goa became part of India, Casimiro joined as secret service agent of police in Portugal. Portugal then was ruled by economist turned dictator called António de Oliveira Salazar. Salazar was keen to keep whatever had remined of Portuguese Empire. They had already lost their most important colony Brazil in 1822. Inspite of Salazar’s efforts Goa became part of India. They were now keen to retain two other key colonies – Angola and Mozambique.

Salazar’s authority was challenged by another leader General Humberto Delgado. Task of eliminating Delgado was given to Caisimiro. Casimiro shot Delgado and killed him. He also strangulated Delagado secretary, a Brazilian woman called Arajaryr Moreira de Campos.

In Mozambique, Portuguese authority was challenged by nationalist leader Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane. Both Eduardo and Casimiro were born in same year i.e. 1920. Eduardo started nationalist movement called FRELIMO- Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (Mozambique Liberation Front). FRELIMO operated from Tanzania.

Casimiro managed to get in to Tanzania and sent a parcel with bomb to Eduardo. The bomb exploded when it was opened by Eduardo and killed him.

After Salazar’s regime was overthrown, Casimiro shifted from Portugal to South Africa. He died in South Africa in 1993.




Lu Xun, Zhong Kui and Lin Zexu

“When you talk with famous scholars, the best thing is to pretend that occasionally you do not quite understand them. If you understand too little, you will be despised; if you understand too much, you will be disliked; if you just fail occasionally to understand them, you will suit each other very well.”

-Lu Xun

In ancient and medieval China, bureaucrats were selected through Imperial Civil Services. Scholars all over China used to appear for this exam in hope of getting coveted government job (situation not very different from what happens in India today- thousands appear for Civil Services exam for few hundred jobs).

Manual labour was considered beneath dignity for scholars in China, so they preferred desk jobs.

One such scholar was Zhong Kui, he was brilliant but ugly looking. He topped the exam, but officials refused to offer him job because of his looks. In anger and frustration, he committed suicide in palace. After his death he went kingdom of Yama (yes, domain of our god of death is beyond India and Hindu religion), Yama saw lot of potential in him and made him incharge of ghosts. Usually after death, the dead is given a tea of forgetfulness, so that soul does not remember his past life or his tenure in hell after rebirth. This job is given to Yama’s assistant, a lady called Meng Po. In case of Zhong Kui, no such tea was given, he came back to living world and got his sister married to his friend.

Another interesting story on scholar is by Chinese author Lu Xun. Lu Xun was critical of society prior to communist rule. In his story he tells about scholar who keeps failing in exam but does not think of doing any manual work. The story is narrated by a 14 years old waiter in an inn. Scholar Kong Yiji comes to inn to drink warm wine. Kong keeps failing in civil services exam.

After drinking half a howl of wine, Kung would regain his composure. But then someone would ask:     “Kung I-chi, do you really know how to read?”

 When Kung looked as if such a question were beneath contempt, they would continue: “How is it you never passed even the lowest official examination?”

-Lu Xun, Kong Yiji

For earning living he does job of calligrapher. He has habit of stealing pens, ink, brushes etc. of his clients. When caught he gets beaten up by his clients. He never admits that he stole anything, he just borrowed it.

And someone would call out:    “Kung I-chi! There are some fresh scars on your face!”

Ignoring this remark, Kung would come to the counter to order two bowls of heated wine and a dish of peas flavoured with aniseed. For this he produced nine coppers. Someone else would call out, in deliberately loud tones:   “You must have been stealing again!”

“Why ruin a man’s good name groundlessly?” he would ask, opening his eyes wide.

-Lu Xun, Kong Yiji

 Kong Yiji is subject of ridicule at the inn. One day he gets badly beaten up and drags himself to inn for a drink. After that he is not seen for a long time, people assume that he is dead.

One brilliant student who cleared civil services exam was Lin Zexu. Lin was known for his honesty. During the reign of Qing dynasty, the British tried to export opium in China in exchange for silk, tea, porcelain and spices. Opium addiction was ruining health of Chinese. Lin Zexu was sent to stop opium trade, he first wrote a letter to Queen Victoria for stopping the trade. Next, he got rid of British traders and destroyed opium. This lead to Opium War and huge losses to China.

“We find that your country is sixty or seventy thousand li from China. Yet there are barbarian ships that strive to come here for trade for the purpose of making a great profit. The wealth of China is used to profit the barbarians. That is to say, the great profit made by barbarians is all taken from the rightful share of China. By what right do they then in return use the poisonous drug to injure the Chinese people? Even though the barbarians may not necessarily intend to do us harm, yet in coveting profit to an extreme, they have no regard for injuring others. Let us ask, where is your conscience?”

    — Lin Zexu, Open letter addressed to the sovereign of England

Sadegh Hedayat, Mahmoud Dowlatabadi and Marjane Satrapi

From 1794 to 1925 Iran was ruled by Qajar Dynasty. The last ruler of this dynasty was Ahmad Shah Qajar. He was overthrown by commander of one of his own brigade called Reza Khan. Reza Khan declared himself as monarch and took title of Reza Khan Pahlavi. Pahlavi dynasty replaced Qajar Dynasty.  Reza’s son Mohammad became next ruler of Iran (Shah of Iran).  He was overthrown during Islamic revolution by Muslim leader Ruhollah Khomeini.

Two events i.e. rule of Mohammad Pahlavi and Islamic revolution made huge impact on Iranian society. It also influenced the field of literature.

Sadegh Hedayat was Iranian writer and intellectual. He saw transition of power from Qajar to Pahlavi dynasty.  He was critical of Pahlavi ruler. He wrote novels like The Blind Owl, Stray Dog and Older Sister. He was influenced by Franz Kafka. Influence of Kafka can be seen in his novel The Stray Dog.

“I thought to myself: if it’s true that every person has a star in the sky, mine must be distant, dim, and absurd. Perhaps I never had a star.”

-Sadegh Hedayat, The Blind Owl

The Stray Dog is an interesting novel about a dog who has a very nice owner, but one day while accompanying his master during shopping, he gets distracted by smell of a bitch, though he never finds the bitch, he finds his master has left without him. Now life becomes difficult for dog. He now becomes a stray dog and people in that area start torturing him. The dog has beautiful brown eyes. One day he is shown kindness by a person sitting in car. He starts running after car, but months of hunger and torture has already made him weak and he collapses, crows gather around him, waiting for dog to die, so that they can eat his eyes.

His novel Older sister is story of two sisters, older one is ordinary looking while younger one is beautiful. Younger one gets married, while older one remains unmarried. The older one starts losing her importance in family, as her parents are more interested in their younger daughter and son in law. To show her significance the older sister turns to religion. She is now critical of her parents for not observing religion. But older sister cannot get over her lower status in family and commits suicide.

Hedayat committed suicide in Paris in 1951.

Novelist Mahmoud Dowlatabadi saw transition from Pahlavi dynasty to Islamic revolution. He also witnessed Iran – Iraq war.

“I have always been thinking that I am a writer with the scent and smell of my own country and the Persian language,”

-Mahmoud Dowlatabadi

Mahmoud’s famous novel is The Colonel. It is story of Colonel  in Shah’s army kills his wife for her infidelity. He had five children. Two daughters Farzahneh and Parvaneh and three sons. He loses fourteen years old Parvaneh during Islamic revolution and is forced to bury her himself. His eldest son Amir is tortured by Shah for his leftist views, but the new Islamic regime too is equally repressive. His youngest son Mohammad Taqi dies in Iran- Iraq war and one more son Masoud gets killed in revolution, his other daughter Farzana is married to an unscrupulous man Mr. Qorbani.

“Farzaneh was aflame and her wailing melted everyone’s hearts. Parvaneh had lost control of herself and was flapping madly around her brother, while Masoud got up off his knees beside his brother, clenched his fists, like two balls of fire, to his head and screamed: “I’ll kill them, I’ll kill the bastards who killed my brothers…”. His rallying cry was taken up by the crowd, and from that point on Mohammad-Taqi’s corpse was no longer ours – it has become public property.”

― Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, The Colonel

Another author to witness similar transition is Marjane Satrapi. A descendent of royal Qajar family and daughter of Marxist parents, she was against Pahlavi dynasty.

“My great-grandfather was a Qajar, that is the dynasty before the Shah. The reason I wrote that is that at the beginning of the century, the only people that had enough money to send their kids abroad … was Qajar princes. They went at the beginning of the last century to Europe, and the dominant idea was the Communist idea, was the socialist, Marxist idea. … That is the paradox of the whole thing. … My grandfather came from this family and he ended up being a communist.”

-Marjane Satrapi

She joined her parents in their protests against Shah of Iran. But after Islamic revolution, the things got worse. She was forced to wear veil and there was no freedom for women. She has written about that era in her graphic novel Persepolis. She lives in Paris.




Nazis, Herta Muller and Imre Kertesz

“Ceausescu was mad and he made half of Romania mad…I’m mad because of him.”

-Herta Muller

Herta Muller is Romania born German writer. Her father was member of Waffen SS, armed unit of Nazi party. Amongst other members of this unit there was a young boy called Gunter Grass. While Mullers were of Germans from Romania, Grass was German from Poland. Nazis under Hitler initially won many battles, but ultimately lost to combined army of British and Russians.

“My father was on the side of the murderers, and my mother had to pay for that. It was a really big dilemma for me that I came from the side of the murderers, and that everyone was still singing these Nazi songs in the village. It really tore me to pieces.”

-Herta Muller

Herta’s father was kept prisoner of war in England and her mother was deported to USSR to a forced labour camp.  This was punishment to Germans in Romania for supporting Nazis. Herta was ashamed for her father’s past and felt that her mother was punished because of him.

Gunter Grass too was taken as prisoner, in prison camp he learned sculptor. Gunter Grass hid his Nazi past and soon became novelist. He wrote books like The Tin Drum which was critical of Nazi invasion of Poland. He won Noble Prize for literature in 1999.

After World War, Nazism was replaced by Communism. Communists under Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu were as bad as Nazis. Herta was critical of communist rule. She wrote novel called The Land of Green Plums, which was critical of treatment given to Germans in Communist Romania. Some characters in novel get killed, but their death is shown as suicide.

Herta never forgot about the treatment her mother got in Russian forced labour camps. Based on what her mother told and memories of Oskar Pastior, a Romanian German poet , she wrote novel on deportation of Germans to Russia. The novel The Hunger Angel describes life of Germans in forced labour camp.

Herta believes in freedom of speech. She criticised Gunter Grass for hiding his Nazi past. She also revealed that Oskar was informer of infamous Romanian secret police, but she still considers him to be her friend.

Herta got Noble Prize for literature in 2009.

As an opponent of totalitarian regime (either Nazis or Communists), she was against giving Noble Prize to Chinese author Mo Yan. Mo Yan is active member of Chinese Communist Party and believes in censorship.

Mo Yan won Noble Prize for literature in 2012. His most famous novel is Red Sorghum. The novel starts with story of Dai Fenglia who is married to leper Shan Bianlang who owns a distillery. But before reaching village she is raped by Yu Zhan’ao, who kills Bianlang and his father Shan Tingxiu and makes Fenglia owner of distillery. Zhan’ao helps her in running distillery and also fights against Japanese. The story cover period from 1923 to 1976. It covers critical periods of Chinese history like Sino- Japanese War, Communist rule and Cultural Revolution.

While Herta’s father and uncle were fighting for Nazis in Romania, in neighbouring Hungary, the Nazis wanted to get rid of Jews. So when they captured Hungary, they deported all the Jews to concentration camps. One of the deportee was a fourteen-year-old boy Imre Kertész.

“I already know there will be happiness. For even there, next to the chimneys, in the intervals between the torments, there was something that resembled happiness. Everyone asks only about the hardships and the “atrocities,” whereas for me perhaps it is that experience which will remain the most memorable. Yes, the next time I am asked, I ought to speak about that, the happiness of the concentration camps.”

― Imre Kertész, Fatelessness

Imre managed to survive in concentration camps and became journalist. He wrote book on his experience of concentration camp called The Fateless (also Fatelessness). It is story of young boy of fourteen years called György Köves who is resident of Budapest, who ends up in Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz and is later shifted to camps at Buchenwald and Zeitz.

Imre won Noble Prize for Literature in 2002.







David Ogilvy, Matsuri Takahasi and Karoshi

“Hard work never killed a man. Men die of boredom, psychological conflict, and disease. They do not die of hard work.”

― David Ogilvy

David Ogilvy was a British tycoon who founded advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather, he is known as the father of advertising. David started his life as chef, moved on to become salesman, was part of British Army, became farmer before starting his own advertising agency. David believed in hard work.

In faraway Japan, the management of Japanese advertising agency Dentsu also believed in hard work. They made employees work for hours, well beyond statutory requirement.

“It’s 4 o’clock. My body is trembling … I just can’t do this. I’m gonna die. I’m so tired,”

-Twitter message by Matsuri

Matsuri Takahasi, a 24 years old graduate joined Dentsu. She was working overtime, as working overtime was seen as sign of dedication and productivity. In month of October 2015 she clocked 105 extra hours of work. Overworking made her depressed and in December 2015 she committed suicide.

“Why do things have to be so hard?”

-Matsuri in her suicide note

Japanese even have word for death due to overwork- Karoshi.

Death of Matsuri did have some impact on work culture. Dentsu’s president Tadashi Ishii was forced to resign. The Japanese government decided to keep tight control over overworking.

“It was extremely regrettable the company had failed to prevent overwork by a new recruit, in order to take full responsibility, I would like to resign as president at a board meeting”

-Tadashi Ishii