Citius, Altius, Fortius – a view from the Infosys Rotunda

“Citius, Altius, Fortius” Latin for Swifter, Higher, Stronger, the Olympic motto over the past century has today been so widely adopted into most contemporary pursuits of success and excellence, be it in business, fields of education or governance and administration. It’s not just an Olympic motto anymore. It’s become like a modern day mantra for winners – no matter what discipline. Somewhere during the course of time in its adoption and extension to other disciplines, however certain matters of deep thought behind the motto seem to have been lost.


It was a few years back that I had entered into professional pursuit, parking my intentions for immediate higher studies for a while. The decision was quite easy for me and the thought process quite well grounded – if I were to put it across very concisely, there were unmet needs at the bottom of the need hierarchy. This was in spite of my wanting to learn further and my parents’ insistence that I not think ahead of my age for a homebred day scholar, as regards my decision. It wasn’t a compromise in any sense however, as I was intent on learning what had to be learnt no matter which way it came. So it happened that I got to a job and then shortly switched to another, hopping from the neighboring town to the neighboring state in professional pursuit. I was at Bangalore with Infosys for my posting, which is where I gained this valuable self realization of the essence of Citius, Altius, Fortius for life and relations.


The Training Facility at Infosys Bangalore as it was back in 2003, was set up in two huge buildings facing each other, one called as the ILI (Infosys Leadership Institute) Building and the other the E&R (Education & Research) Rotunda. The two buildings hosted all the Infosys Training Laboratories, Class and Activity Rooms, the huge Library, and the cabins for the senior executives and professionals of the E&R and ILI wings. In between the two buildings was an artificial yet marvelous lake with fishes in it, built around with walkover bridges, boats and a central vertical water fountain. The Infosys Lawn and Facilities Maintenance team would turn on the fountain each afternoon between 4:00 PM and 5:00 PM for any visitors to view. In those days, when the Bangalore Campus had only 31 buildings, the lake between the E&R and ILI buildings was a must-see for most visitors who came to the campus. Software Engineer Trainees would also go around the lake which had a very calming effect in the midst of their training days. I also know of many of my batch mate friends who had their first boat ride together in the lake and today have accompanied each other ever since then into the bliss family life today.


It was a Saturday afternoon during those days, that I and my project mates had gotten together to churn out some of the pending work on our Mainframes project, when we decided to take a break that pleasant December afternoon. We had just stepped out of our lab on the 3rd floor, and had walked to the passage to lean on the parapet wall looking outwards toward the lake. The fountain had been turned on for the visitors who were in their usual count in and around the lake. As I gazed out I could see that the tip of the vertical fountain that day came up to the same height as our floor, though it was not a very usual sight for the fountain to be that low. I observed it for a while and it looked like the usual vertical stream. To many it’s not the most impressive of fountain flows, and more importantly to me it was just like every other day. However, as I stayed lazily there and continued to gaze I began to get curious and observed that the tip of the fountain was not at a fixed height, but it changed every 2 to 3 seconds even at constant water pressure and inflow. It was then that a stream of thoughts ran through my mind, which relates to our theme.


Picture: A side view of the Infosys Lake showing the vertical fountain and the ILI Building on the Left

Picture: A side view of the Infosys Lake showing the vertical fountain and the ILI Building on the Left


As the tip of the fountain rose each time, I noted the height and would wait until it was beaten. It was an interesting way to spend your time being lazy physically yet active in your mind. Each time, the fountain rose to a new height, I would increment a count in my mind, each one bettering the last, and I would think that this drop of water was the luckiest! It then occurred to me that if it were indeed this drop which was the strongest in its flow and the highest, then the one just above it, which had lost all of its upward motion and force by the time this one below it made it up there, should as well have been carried by it! It’s a simple law of physics – when an upward bound body reaches it highest point, it velocity is zero, and it comes under the influence of the acceleration due to gravity, which was until that point defied by the driving upward force applied, the effect of which lasted only until the object continued to move upwards. So, if this body had come to rest, whatever force the lower body carried would have a bearing on it carrying it further up – probably equaling the height achieved by the lower body! It was an interesting thought that kept me further thinking on it. I had never visualized this or thought about it before, and hence it captured all my attention. Now this is when my lazy body got active, and I hopped around ecstatically like Archimedes from his bathtub to my project mates who were just standing around close by (Vijay and Vivek, whom I had known over the time gone by to be stimulated at times and lazy at other times as me) and shared the whole thought. We talked about it for a while and agreed in inference, that for every new height attained by the fountain, it was not one lucky and successful drop (or other granular unit), but two of them! Something so true, yet so less realized.


Now, this was only a stimulus to start thinking further. The next thought that came to our mind was ‘for any given snapshot of time, what if the penultimate drop was stronger in force?’ Well, since we had reasoned this far, the answer was quick to come too – if there was a stronger penultimate drop, the one after it, probably did to make it as high or contribute to making it go higher, but the highest one definitely shared the highest spot with its predecessor on the lines of these two thoughts (this one inclusive). At this point we shared the same ecstatic feeling of having made a chance discovery very much like Archimedes, Newton and the many others who continue to discover things as I write. Our discovery was nothing to call out or make known, but the beauty of the learning comes from the self realization of the matter and the bearing it has on our outlook towards assessing success and team work. Not that we needed it much for our getting along as a team then, but there is always the joy of having learnt something yourself and having applied it your self, like most of the novel ideas that we so much marvel about these days in learning principles of motivation, management and leadership. Indeed “Citius, Altius, Fortius” applies to team work and getting the one with you to the top as much as it should motivate you to go swifter, higher and get stronger with time!


If you have ever seen a vertical fountain, you might realize that it is not one of the most interesting ones but for the height it achieves – especially so when you compare it with the musical ones and the ones that take various forms and shapes like the ones at Las Vegas an elsewhere around the world. However, the image of the less than usually high fountain tip from the Infosys E&R Rotunda that Saturday afternoon has so much been engraved in my mind even to this day – all for that beautiful realization that day!

One Response to “Citius, Altius, Fortius – a view from the Infosys Rotunda”
  1. Amit Churiwal says:

    Superb article Jichin!!

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