Ego is not always your enemy.
I first realized this in 2001, when as a police officer, I was facing a fierce agitation by a tribal group from Kerala’s Wayanad district.
For publicity, these agitators decided to disrupt the annual Onam procession, a huge cultural event in Kerala.
We could not allow that disruption, but we also realized their game – somehow, they wanted a police lathi-charge so that they could get public sympathy and paint us as villains. The images of police beating them up would be perfect propaganda material.
We decided to deny them that.
So instead of arresting them, we formed a human cordon around them, with dozens of unarmed policemen. Nobody even carried a lathi.
Now the agitators got really frustrated – they were not getting the violence they wanted. So they kept punching and kicking us, trying to break the cordon. But we did not strike even one lathi blow. After 2 hrs, when the procession was over, they were defeated, not by force, but by the lack of it.
To an observer, it might have appeared that I did not have any ego – after all, which police officer will tolerate someone punching them for 2 hrs?
But my ego was about handling the situation smartly, not about getting even with them.
Our ego will make us do things we take pride in. An artist who has little discipline in personal life, and a highly disciplined person with zero artistic inclination – both have an ego. One’s ego is about art, and the other’s is about a disciplined life.
Ego is not always an obstacle. Take pride in the right thing, and it will make you do it.
Ego is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.