JUST ONE

Thursday, October 8, 2009
‘One’ is not just the lowest single digit numerical value; neither is it just a show of miniscule strength. Instead, the digit has the wherewithal to change national destinies, unflinchingly challenge mighty emperors and irrevocably alter your life condition!

It is just another day, yet today, this one date has begun to signify something of great importance to all of us. Its impact has been felt all over the world. Yes, 9/11 or September 11 today symbolises terrorism. One incident on this day shook up the entire world. Overnight Kabul and Kandahar became the most talked and written about places. The world became more knowledgeable about bombs and forget about our way of thinking, even our manner of speaking changed. ‘Ground Zero’, the original meaning of which was the epicenter of a nuclear explosion, now meant something else entirely. ‘Terrorism’ was no more an activity that happened in far away places for Americans, but something that took lives in their own home. One event and look at the profound impact it has had on all of us.

In fact, one way to judge the impact of any event is to see how much it affects the language we speak. In that sense at least, 9/11 has added words like jihad, holy-war, Taliban and Twin-Towers to our collective vocabularies. Another event had similarly enriched the English language – World War II. Words like jeep, blitz, java, flak, sonar, radar, bazooka and atom bomb didn’t exist prior to World War II.

Clearly, one event can change a generation’s outlook. ‘One’ may be the smallest of numbers, but ‘one’ is all it takes to have a profound impact. It’s interesting to see how ‘one’ has influenced us in more ways than one. To start, take the date 9/11 and flip it once. This one change brings us to a date dramatically different from the previous one. If one stood for terror, and destruction and ruin, the other symbolised unification, hope and brotherhood. The 9th day of November or 11/9 was the day the Berlin Wall fell. If 9/11 divided the world, 11/9 was an attempt to unify a city that had been divided for over 30 years. The 28 mile barrier dividing Germany’s capital was built in 1961 to prevent East Berliners fleeing to the West. ‘One’ of anything (even the flip of a date) can do wonders.

ONE WORD, ONE ACT – CHANGE...
One word and its wrong interpretation caused irreparable damage. The Americans issued an ultimatum demanding the unconditional surrender of Japan. Nearing breaking point, the Japanese wanted to negotiate for peace, but not surrender unconditionally. They issued a statement using a Japanese word ‘mokusatsu’, which technically meant ‘refrain from comment’, but had another interpretation i.e. ‘ignore.’ And that is how the Americans decoded it. Keeping the Japanese ‘refusal’ in mind, Americans continued to fight and eventually dropped two atom bombs – an event that changed Japan forever. One wrong translation caused so much destruction. In contrast, one statement shot this actress to fame and resurrected her failing career. Yes, one racial slur shot Shipla Shetty to fame and made her a fortune. So much so that now everybody seems to want one!

But, it was bravery of a different kind that changed the world. A simple seamstress from Alabama refused to relinquish her seat on a city bus to a white man. It was her one act of courage that sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and brought the Civil Rights Movement to national attention. Jack Kemp ‘once’ said, “the power of one man or one woman doing the right thing, for the right reason and at the right time, is the greatest influence in our society.”

ONLY ONE, YET NOT INSIGNIFICANT
It may look small and insignificant but sometimes ‘one’ can have tremendous impact. It was one vote per precinct in key states that gave victory to George Bush. It was one vote by then Vice President Al Gore that approved President Clinton’s budget, which included the largest tax increase in American history. It was one vote that made Hindi the National language. History proves that one vote absolutely does matter. So next elections, remember that your vote could be the crucial deciding factor.

Compared to this vast universe you may look like a tiny dot but you have the power to control this vastness. However small, but you do matter. When in doubt hum the Song “Everybody makes a difference.”

ONE – IS ALL IT TAKES
It was ‘one’ film and ‘one’ title of the ‘Angry Young Man’ that changed the career of Amitabh Bachchan and catapulted him to fame. When he was deep in debt and was ‘written off’ by the industry, it was one game show – Kaun Banega Corepati – that again saw him riding the high wave of fame and fortune. Not just Amitabh, KBC even changed the fortunes of television. Suddenly, TV programming was hot & happening and worth watching again.

Back when Indians were fighting their war of independence from British Colonial rule, the favourite British jibe was that “Indians were not ‘manly’ enough to rule themselves.” Mohammed Salim was a simple boy from Calcutta, known for his ability to keep a football in the air. He, together with his team used football to give a firm retort to the British. He proved the British wrong by defeating them in their own game and showed that Indians were not inferior to the British in any way. Most interestingly, the Indian team played the game bare foot and defeated the haughty English men in boots. That ‘one’ victory sent a strong signal to the whole world!

Large numbers are simply no good because sometimes just ‘one’ is enough. One album ‘Thriller’ shot Michael Jackson to fame and made him immortal.

Napoleon was obsessed with the idea of ruling the world. He seemed unstoppable, conquering one country after another. It took one man, one day to smash Napoleon’s dream of invading Britain. In the Battle of Trafalgar, inspite of being outnumbered by the French, Nelson won and that too without losing even a single ship. The Trafalgar Square in London stands testimony to that beautiful victory.

In the corporate world ‘one’ is the new buzz word. Top executives globally are facing criticism for drawing hefty salary packages and the growing financial crisis. CEO’s are now pruning down their packages to just one dollar. Vikram Pandit the CEO of Citigroup will now take home a one dollar salary, Larry Ellison the Oracle CEO too would take home just a dollar this year as salary – a cool $999,999 less than last year.

Steve Jobs and even the founders of Google have been old members of the ‘$1 CEO club’, which now seems to be getting bigger and bigger. We hope that it also helps the economy – but one thing that it is doing for sure is attracting attention.

‘One’ is small, but has the power to make a big difference. Sometimes the number of chances that you get or need to completely overhaul your whole life is just ‘one’. As Abraham Lincoln said, “It matters not the number of years in your life. It is the life in your years.” Seize the moment now; know that this is your one chance to change everything. Strength, my friend, doesn’t lies in numbers, but in just that ‘ONE’ opportunity. Don’t miss it!