Condoleezza Rice recently raised a bit of dust in the Indian political circles by making a statement that the policy of non-alignment had no more relevance in the current international scenario. Indian politicians promptly launched a verbal assault on her for bad-mouthing a doctrine that has held sway for 60 years as a legacy left behind by Jawaharlal Nehru. Even Ms.Rice’s admirers conceded that she had put her foot in her mouth on this particular issue while Keshav came out with his typical cartoon of her in the center page of The Hindu. I can understand the feelings of our politicians on this issue. They have thrived on the principle of non-alignment all their life. By following an improvised form of non-alignment called flexible alignment, they have hogged the limelight right through their existence! I really do not know about the ramifications of Condoleezza’s statement in the international context. Maybe she was wooing those nations, which continue to be reluctant to come under the protective ambience of US. Maybe not. I am not into all that mindboggling international manoeuvres and would leave it to guys like Sashi Tharoor! But I find Condoleezza’s statement on the ineffectiveness of non-alignment very significant in our personal lives. Right through our life, we all have to encounter groupism at every stage from our school to office and to retirement and beyond. We have it in our families too. Many of us are forced to align ourselves with one group or the other depending upon multiple factors. Most of us have a tendency to align ourselves with the majority and remain safe. Even when we sympathize with the minority, we do not openly align with them for the fear of being isolated and being labeled as rebels or young turks! During my banking career with SBI, I have observed a lot of trade union activity at close quarters. While I could understand the reason for the majority of staff remaining with the Union recognized by the management, the few who stayed with the splinter groups were always a great puzzle to me because these people had to face the wrath of both the management and the majority union. But the ones who had to pay a heavy price were people like me who treated all the groups alike in our managerial decisions. Our principle of being good to all the groups alike invariably landed us in bigger muddle than others who went with the tide! In retrospect, my tendency to be good to everyone has been a kind of millstone round my neck. This tendency of mine was also the reason behind my desire to satisfy all the people all the time. Little did I realize that it was more difficult than including a climb of Mt.Everest in our daily work-out! Due to my pursuit of non-alignment, I had to maintain a stoic silence even when I knew that one side was grossly unfair to another. And my desire to keep everyone satisfied invariably isolated me from the crowd. Have we not seen in our households that whenever there is a friction between a wife and mother, if the man maintains complete neutrality and silence despite his knowledge of who is on the erring side, he appears in very poor light? While his mother may think that he has been enslaved by his wife’s wily charms, the wife may think that he has not made much progress ever since his delivery by his mighty mother. His non-alignment policy doesn’t do much to improve his image either with his wife or his mother! In the professional scenario, pursuit of non-alignment can be more disastrous. The need to please everyone slowly erodes over a period of time our ability to say NO. We forget that we have the right to say NO. We say YES when we want to say NO. Thus we lose the greatest weapon that we have. What an abysmal depth we plunge ourselves into by not saying NO when we ought to! I really do not know why everyone is making such a fuss about Condoleezza’s statement on non-alignment. I do feel that she has spoken sensibly. I have observed many climbing the corporate ladder at the speed of light by aligning themselves with the Chief! What more proof is needed?!