The Spirit of the Betel Vine


Article by Dr Saundarya Rajesh, Founder-President – AVTAR Group

Around my home is a small patch of earth that allows me to try my hand at gardening. When Chennai was hit by Cyclone Vardha, it was heart-rending to see so many of my beloved plants fall victims to Nature’s fury. Rehabilitation of my green friends was the first thing that I embarked upon once normalcy was restored. Glad to report that in its new, pruned down avatar, the flora continue to contribute as much as before to my home and that of neighbours!

One of my favorites is the Betel Leaf (Paan ka Patha or Vettrilai) creeper. Delicate and fragile, the betel vine’s external slenderness belies its awesome core strength. One such vine took its home next to a young Indian Cork tree (also known as Tree Jasmine) right below my kitchen window. Every day, I would see it trying to gently circle the thin tree and grow upwards. A few leaves were sufficient heft for the creeper to wind itself around the trunk of the host and grow along the length of the tree when Vardha struck. The storm unleashed its wrath and uprooted the Tree Jasmine completely.

The Betel escaped with damages and I decided to give it support by providing a tall bamboo cane which it could curl around. The cane did not prove compatible and the vine slipped down. The next attempt was suggested by our gardener (whose pan habit the vine supported!) – he tied a string to the edge of the vine and hung it to a nail on the compound wall. This time too, the idea failed, the vine snapped, taking us all several steps behind. An old unused rubber hose, a branch of a neem tree, a piece of rope and the list went on for months together. While we refused to give up, we were very impressed to see that for its part, the betel too displayed awesome resilience. Even when a hungry garden bandicoot tore up its roots and ate up the baby leaflings, the betel stayed strong, only to arise with bigger leaves later. For months, the vine grew slowly, trying to spread on the garden floor in a horizontal fashion, as against its natural urge of climbing. As was my habit, I would look out the window each day, trying to measure its progress and see what the betel plant was upto!

A few weeks back after a particularly busy time at work, I was back home and amazed to notice that a strong central creeper had emerged and the vine had actually climbed gradually onto the railings on top of the compound wall! This was success! The hardest part of the wait was over. Now, the betel was on familiar territory. The railings were a strong hold for the creeper to wind itself and spread. And spread it did! As if to compensate for the lethargy of the previous months, the betel vine grew rapidly, covering one side of the railings in less than a quarter of the time that it took to reach there.

Disruption is here to stay as is evident in the VUCA world which we inhabit. And the Human Resources function is one that emerges stronger with each such disruption. All around us, there are role models in HR who have stayed strong and true to the value systems of their organization and not allowed the storms of VUCA to lead them off-course. Using the opportunities offered by the digital world while still retaining their core values is their success secret.

All of us in this wonderful space of HR are heroes in our own right! Like our humble betel leaf which adds a bright spot of verdant greenery to the garden, members of our HR fraternity too are ubiquitous in their value creation! Start-up or steady-state, big or small, IT or Non-IT, whatever be the industry, the HR function is one which has ridden the waves of disruption and emerged stronger!

Wishing you a great year ahead filled with the spirit of the Betel Vine – resilience, strength and upward mobility, even in the face of disruption!