No tears to cry…

Life is a journey filled with joy and sorrow. We go through days filled with joy and want to share with family and friends. However, there are other days when we are drowned in sorrow and have nobody to share with. In life in general, most people will be willing to share your joy but avoid you when you are doomed in distress. It is at this time you get to test your true family members and friends.

I have personally gone through many years in my life when it appears that the sun does not rise at all. It looks gloomy and cloudy and you have no tears left to cry. All your tears have dried up and you fail to see light at the end of the tunnel. The road in the tunnel seems endless and full of twists and turns. When someone tries to console you, you get more irritated than relieved.

It is at such times one needs to reflect. It takes time and patience to look within and reflect. Your true family and friends are beside you and provide the psychological support for you to get over this crisis. During these times, listening to your own inner voice and reflecting on it is more soothing than listening to others. However, we also need to remember that there are many people around us who are also drowned in an ocean of sadness as compared to us.

I have also met some people in my life who have gone through one crisis after another. I have no words to console them. I am aware that their tears have dried up. Only time and reflection can help them get over this phase of life. It is a tedious and arduous journey. Most of the time one has to travel alone in this journey. The secret is to live on hope. While easier said than done, I have found no better alternative so far.

What can we do when we meet people in our life, who are in such situations. Most of the time, we may not have answers to their soul searching questions. But, we can be a good listener. They also know that we may be helpless. But our physical presence and psychological support gives them hope. It is hope, which helps them limp back to normalcy. There can be no life without hope and we need to rekindle that hope in them.

It is in such weak emotional moments, the “Godmen &God women” of various religions exploit our social vacuum. They exploit our emotional weaknesses and most of them make us believe that they have super powers to help us get out of this situation. We need to guard against such men and women. They are enemies of God in human form in my view. We need to believe in ourselves and our near and dear ones, who are by our side during these times.

While I am a born optimist, it is difficult to infuse optimism in people, who are in deep distress. No words can console them. No stories can inspire hope in them. No cloth can wipe their tears since their tears have dried up by now. The one sure way of supporting them is by being with them and listening to them silently. It may be helpful to share their emotions at this hour of crisis to the best of our ability.

When you have no tears left to cry, life looks as if you are standing in front of a hill like in the photo above and it may take years to climb to the top and go over to the other side.

We also need to let them be alone during this time. Self reflection helps a lot. Our ability to be grateful and also realising that there are millions around us in more distress enables us to gain composure. We need to let them cry when they want to and lead life at their own pace. We can only embrace them with the psychological blanket of emotions.

We need to believe that tomorrow will be better than today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Millennials…

Who are Millenials ?

Social scientists have given various age brackets to identify “Millenials”. It is broadly agreed that all those born between 1980s and 2000 would belong to this group. This is a social cohort with specific behavioural characteristics. While there is a lot of talk on the concept of dealing with multiple generations in organizations today, it has been so even in the past. The only difference could be in the radical behavioural shift of this cohort as compared to the past.

The first distinguishing characteristic of Millenials is that they are very clear in what they want to do in life. They are confident and ambitious and define their own path. They are not worried about what society thinks of them. They can deviate from time tested paths and carve a road of their own choice. This makes them difficult to understand as a cohort as individual behaviours may not necessarily reflect the behaviour of the group as a whole.

The second unique characteristic of this group is that they are technologically savvy. The mobile phone is ubiquitous in their lives. They easily adapt to technology and make the best use of it. Sometimes you do get a feeling whether technology determines their behaviour or they manage technology that way. They are well versed in technology and know how to use it to their best advantage.

The third nature of this cohort is they are restless. While being impatient for results may be a good idea, it may make them demotivated very fast. For eg., if they post something on social media and do not get many likes within minutes of their post, they get disappointed easily. This impacts their work and their life. They want to achieve success in half the time of their seniors. While it is good to be ambitious, it may be necessary to be patient for results.

The fourth quality of the Millennials is they have a lot of ideas. If their ideas are channelised and they are guided properly, they can achieve results much faster than their older generations. I have always felt energised in the company of these people. They challenge you all the time but are also willing to be challenged in every way. We need to have a participative style of leadership to deal with them.

The last quality which I admire most in this group is their ability to take risks. In my class in college, hardly one or two students would venture out to start a business after completing our professional education. In this generation, more than one third of the class wants to start something of their own. They are willing to work hard, put forth their ideas and are not afraid of failure. On the contrary, many of us do not have the guts to do that even today.

As in the photo above, this duo is full of energy and they only are looking to channelise the same to bring out their best always.

I have enjoyed every moment I have spent with this generation. It is not right to imagine that they have arrived from a different planet and behave differently. It is true their goals and aspirations are different. They have clear goals, willing to take risks, adapt to technology faster and are impatient for results. If we are willing to channelise their ideas and create a supportive environment, they are bound to succeed.

It is up to us to learn from them and lead them into a brighter future.

S Ramesh Shankar

Best kept secrets of HR

We recently had a annual HR strategy meeting in our organisation.  This year there was a suggestion given by a young colleague of mine.  It was to request all employees to name one family member of theirs, who have made a lasting impact on their life and career.  They were advised to give this information well in advance to the organisers.  The organisers on their part printed a nicely worded letter of appreciation signed by the CHRO.

I was touched by the idea and the way it was implemented.  Almost all employees had tears in their eyes, when they received this appreciation letter along with the token gift from their respective managers during the course of the conference.

This was not the end of it.  After the conference, we got emails, messages and letters from their family members for this thoughtful gesture.  I was overwhelmed by their response.   What started as an innovative idea by a young colleague ended in stirring emotions amongst hundreds of human beings across the organization and their families.

The lesson we learnt from this idea was that gratitude and recognition are much more valuable than monetary rewards.  In our daily routine, we tend to forget these simple deeds,  which can make them feel cared for and appreciated.  We always have to remember that what we are today is the outcome of the toil of many unsung heroines and heroes in our lives.

S Ramesh Shankar

Quest for life and living…

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All of us may have learnt scientific inquiry as part of our school education. Most of us give up this spirit of inquiry as we transcend from childhood to adulthood. Very few of us have this spirit as a way of life. My sister’s husband was one such being. One can understand this spirit since he was a scientist in the Indian space research organisation for almost four decades.

Today I started my workday with a meeting as usual. I had kept my mobile phone in the silent mode. However I realised that some of my close relatives were continuously trying to reach me. When I sensed there could be an emergency, I interrupted the meeting and picked up the phone. It was indeed one of the saddest day of my life. I was informed that my brother in law had passed away. His name was K Natarajan and had served the Indian Space Research Organisation as a scientist.

He had got up in the morning and had gone to the rest room. When he did not return in reasonable time, his family members knocked the bathroom door. When he still did not respond, they broke open the door and called the doctor. The doctor examined and gave the sad news within minutes. He had died out of a massive heart attack while he was in the rest room.

This may be a very peaceful way to leave Mother Earth for himself. But, I could not imagine the fate of my sister, who was waiting outside with a cup of hot coffee for him to return. I could not imagine how one could wipe the tears of his mother, who is 94 and was staying with him. Life has its way of shocking us. We are rattled out of our normal being. We realise that life can change for any of us within minutes or even seconds.

I would say I was lucky. I had been to Trivandrum only last week for our leadership offsite. I spent a night with my sister and her family. I had spent hours discussing with him on various issues from politics, sports to spirituality. I have seen him from my childhood and have always admired his spirit of inquiry. He always explored knowledge and knowing about life and living.

He was a brilliant student and had an illustrious career in the Indian space research organisation in the field of electro optics. One could spend hours with him discussing on any subject. Apart from being well read, he was open to respect alternate view points and always stood by his views on all issues. I always admired his hand writing. It was almost like engraving in gold. I wish could I could have inherited his beautiful handwriting.

Another invaluable learning from him was his respect for elders and service to them. I still remember how he used to stay with my grandmother and take care of her when he was a student and took all opportunities to learn from her wisdom. He was very comfortable in interacting with people of all ages and used all mediums to interact. Today my son told me how he used to be the first to comment on his facebook posts and even wished him in German whenever he visited Germany for official work.

He took care of his mother right through his life. I had recently visited them and realised how blessed he was to be able to take care of his mother in her nineties. I did not know that today I would write his obituary in front of his mother, who is 94. Life teaches you many lessons the hard way. I cannot imagine how a mother in her nineties will feel losing her son in front her own eyes. I dread to think how my sister will lead the rest of her life without her life partner.

The photo above is symbolic of his family bonding and care.

I commit to live the spirit of inquiry and take care of elders to the best of my ability in life . This can be the only way I can pass on my tribute to him.

S Ramesh Shankar

22nd November 2017

Heritage

“A thing of beauty is joy for ever” said Keats. Every time I pass through a heritage building, I am struck with the beauty of the same. I cannot take my eyes off it and wonder why modern day architecture cannot do the same to me. Today design and architecture has evolved and technology has enabled the unimaginable to be imagined and created. In spite of all these developments, I am yet to come across any modern architecture which can be more stunning than a heritage building.

I sometimes wonder how our forefathers could design, develop and create something out of the world and make it last for centuries. Even today if you visit a building or monument around the world you will notice that the older the building is, the stronger it is in design and execution. I recently visited the state residence of the Governor of our state. It is a huge mansion built almost a century back. When I visited the campus I was amused to know that buildings built in the last fifty years need renovation but the ones built over a century back or intact and in great condition.

“Old is gold” is another common saying. I do not know if the earlier generations spent more time in planning then execution, which has created heritage buildings, monumental in design and beauty. Today we hear of buildings collapsing within a few years of construction. What has gone wrong ? I can understand that relationships have become more virtual than real due to the evolution of technology. But how can evolution of technology in the field of architecture and design create buildings that do not last for a century as in the past. How can material science with all its advancement not help us create structures of envy as our earlier generations did ?

Just like heritage buildings, I also love the antique furniture of the bygone era. I still love to go around town shopping for antique furniture or handicrafts, which represent our rich heritage and culture. I wonder why today we cannot design furniture or handicraft, which can be the envy of the generations to come. I do not know the reasons but the reality is that antique has more value than what is designed today. It has more art and more followers than modern day creations.

Another interesting insight is today’s film songs also do not stick to our hearts. I can sing a song of the generation gone by even today and they are termed classics. The wordings of the song are like pearls of wisdom and each word gives an insight into life and living. Today’s songs are rich in music but fade within years of their release and most people cannot remember their lines.

I sometimes wonder whether this is a generational issue. I have no answers but may be more questions. I have met young artists and architects, who agree with my views. Hence, it may not be an issue of my growing old and not appreciating the new. It is much more deeper than that. It could be that the generations of the past created art with limited resources and hence created more value out of limited inputs. Today, we have technology and resources at our command and may be long lasting value is no longer a goal in the minds of the creator.

The Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus ( Victoria Terminus – VT) (in the photo above) is the main railway station of Mumbai, built during the British era in India. It’s a world heritage site and I pause in front of it every time I pass by even today.

What is your view on heritage ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Luck versus Hard Work

One may always be in a dilemma if luck or labour is needed for success in life. We hear stories of both categories being successful in life. On the one hand, we hear of many successful people, who work their way up in life through dint of hard work and perspiration. On the other hand, we also meet people, who are at the right place at the right time and catapult to success due to sheer luck.

One is always in a dilemma whether luck or hard work is the mantra for success in life. If I have to look back at my life and also the experience of admiring successful people around me in all walks of life I would say that hard work is the foundation for success in every aspect of life. Hard work is necessary and luck can supplement hard work but not the other way around.

Sometimes people get carried away by some rare examples of lucky people achieving success. It may be true that some people are indeed lucky and they achieve success not because of their efforts but because of their luck. This in my view would be more of an exception than a rule. It is like some people having great health right through their life and living in their nineties inspite of smoking and consumption of alcohol on a daily basis. If one concludes based on these examples that smoking and consuming alcohol every day could help us lead a healthy life, this could be misleading.

One of the reasons why many people do not consider hard work as important for success in life is that we tend to notice people only after they have become successful. We are not privy to the hard work and the challenges many of the successful people go through before they become famous. A good example could be that of a sportsman or woman. After they become famous and earn a lot of money through advertisements and endorsements, we tend to believe that life is so easy for them. We do not realize how many hours of practise they would have put in day in and night out before attaining the glory in their chosen field.

This is equally true in every aspect of life. We see famous sportspersons, actors, singers, dancers, corporate honchos and others being successful in life. They lead a life, which many of us may envy. But, we do not realize the trials and tribulations they go through before they become successful in life. They burn the midnight oil and fail many times in their attempts before success greets them.

In life, we need to work hard and if we are fortunate for it to be supplemented with luck, we could be happy. Hard work is like our daily meal. It has to be healthy, full of vitamins and regular. If we get a desert once in a way, we could be happy and that could be the supplement of luck with our daily meal. I cannot imagine we becoming healthy only by eating desert every day. So luck can help us like a catalyst but cannot substitute hard work in life.

Another important lesson in life is that we need to patient to be successful. Every process has its time limit. We cannot expect to have a child in less than nine months in a natural way. We cannot expect the monsoon to last in India for more than 3 to 4 months. So, everything in life is defined by time. We need to put in our best efforts and wait for the time for it to ripen and deliver results. Sometimes we are in a hurry and hence we end up disappointed.

It is like we tend to visit a temple one day before the exam hoping that God will bestow us with luck even if we have not worked hard enough for the exams.

Lets work hard and hope luck smiles at us on the way.

S Ramesh Shankar

The journey is as important as the destination

Today our scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation almost made a landing on the moon after valiant efforts. The mission may have partly failed to land on the moon although the orbiter is encircling the moon and will give invaluable data to our scientists to explore further.

While the nation was watching the entire episode through the night on national television channels there was a sigh of despair amongst the mission team when the object failed to land on the moon. It was kind of the Prime minister of the country to watch this live and then go and address all the scientists the next morning to keep their spirits high.

One of the statements made by the prime minister of India was “The journey is as important as the destination”. It was a great insight for me personally. Many a time in our lives when we fail, we tend to focus on the failure which is the destination and forget the learnings through the journey.

Our wonderful space scientists would have worked for decades to achieve this impossible mission. They would have learnt a lot of valuable lessons through this journey. Hence, it is important for us to celebrate the journey as much as the destination.

It is true for scientists, sportspersons and even the common women and men like us. We need to enjoy our journeys as much as keeping the focus on our destination. It is like someone undertaking a trip to a beautiful hill station and keeping their eyes closed through the journey in a train waiting for the hill station to arrive. Imagine what all beautiful sceneries one would missed if one were to do that.

If we take any company in the world and even the most successful ones, they would never have achieved success unless they enjoyed their journey and celebrated all along their way to success. It is important to remember for every successful product in the market, there would be hundreds of products which would have failed and never hit the market before.

Life is no different. We need to keep our focus on our life goals. However, it is important to learn throughout the journey of life and celebrate each milestone on the way. If we do not do that, we may stop learning and that can be our biggest failure.

Another important lesson learnt today from the ISRO experience is the role of a leader. The leader should be with the team more during failure than during success. It is the inspiration of the leader during failures that makes a team succeed again and again.

Our best wishes to our Indian Space Research Organisation scientists and every Indian is proud of their accomplishments today. We are one of those pioneers in space research in the world only because of them. Let us salute them. I dedicate this blog to my brother in law was a scientist with ISRO for four decades.

S Ramesh Shankar

7th September 2019