Emotional Dustbin


We may consider the dustbin as the least attractive place in the house or office as we end up throwing all that we do not want in life. However, we do not realize how valuable the dust bin is as it relentlessly accepts all our garbage we throw into it.  I was wondering how valuable the dustbin is in our life.  In life, you always want people around you, who are willing to listen to all your outpouring.  We may call them the emotional dustbin.

  I had a colleague of mine in one of the earlier organizations I worked who ( in the photo above) symbolised the emotional dustbin.  He was easily accessible and was always willing to listen to the feelings of everyone around him.  I have seen him from morning to night listening to people and enabling them to outpour their emotions.  This is not an easy task.  One may get emotionally discharged if we keep listening to others sorrow all the time.

  However, in life, we all need an emotional dustbin.  As we grow up, it is generally our parents and in most cases our mother or an elder sibling, who plays the role of the emotional dustbin.  We can pour our emotions on them endlessly.  They have the patience and perseverance to listen to us and tolerate our non sense too.  It is this ability of a person, which makes him or her adorable.

This is equally true for us as parents at home. As our kids grow up, our patience tends to diminish. While all of us wait for our child to speak the first word in the world, we want to shut up the child as he grows up. We cannot tolerate the continuous muttering of our child. Then adosclent children tend to test our patience. Their rebellious nature challenges our emotions and we refuse to give in. It is at this stage, our listening skills are put to test.  

In the organisational context, most people managers are not good at listening.  We need to realize that our team members are people with emotions.  Our ability to enable our colleagues to share their joy and sorrow with equal measure will help us grow as a leader.  We need to learn to be like the emotional dustbin.  In most situations, we may silence our colleagues by our inability to be good listeners.  

  As adults, we always get along better with people who are active listeners.  We like their company as we can share whatever we feel like.  We pick friends and colleagues at work or life, who are willing to invest their time in us.  We are impatient with people who are restless.  While we want to liberally share our feelings, we are not equally excited when others want to do the same with us.

  In the cycle of life, we all are emotional people.  Some of us hide our emotions and find it difficult to express them till we lose control.  While others look for people around them all the time so that they can freely express themselves.  It is true that all of us want to share with others many a time.  It is easier to share with others and make them listen to your feelings and emotions.  However, it is difficult the other way around.

  May be it is time to realize that the dustbin is invaluable and human being as an emotional dustbin in life is the most valuable in our lives.

  Is it time to emote ?

S Ramesh Shankar

No tears to cry…


All of us would have faced situations in life where we are drowned in grief and have no tears to cry.  It is these situations where you feel lonely but do not want to be disturbed.  You want to confront God as to why he has besieged you with such a crisis.  You are lonely but prefer solitude to a crowd.  You want to be left alone as reflection helps you deal with sadness.

I have myself been through situations like these in my life.  The first time after I lost both my parents in my early twenties I lost faith in God.  I stopped visiting temples and questioned the very existence of a spiritual power beyond human kind.  It has happened to me on a few other occasions later in my life too.  Every time, it makes you cry but without tears in your eyes.  Every time you look at the world with different eyes and console yourself only by comparing with people who are in more distressed situations than you.

Last week one such incident happened to me.  I called on a friend who is as gregarious and vivacious as human beings can be.  She is a person whose mere presence can energise you.  I have seen her brings smiles to the lives of many around her.  I have always seen her finding opportunities to help everyone around her in every possible way. I called her to enquire about her well being since she stays in another city.  She did not even pick up her phone.  I was worried.  I sent her a message and she replied that her mother is seriously unwell and her grand child is also not well.

I reflected on this incident and realised that even a person like her did not have tears in her eyes to cry.  When all the good deeds you do to others does not ensure your happiness, you wonder whether it was worthwhile to be good in life.  You wonder if helping others is necessary when God does not want to help you in a crisis.  This applies even to people like her who are selfless.

I have also seen colleagues and friends confronted with multiple crises at the same time.  One sometimes wonders why God is cruel to such people.  Even before they barely wriggle out of one crisis God presents them with a bigger challenge and this shatters their confidence in themselves.  It is during phases like these, we need to be around to help such people in distress.  We may not be able to relieve them of their stress.  But, our very presence and being around may instil faith in them that they are not alone to face this emergency in their life.

However, I am a born optimist and I realize that every night is followed by a day.  Everyday the sun sets to rise again.  Hence while our tears may dry up during a crisis , we need to keep our hopes alive.  We need to believe that we are capable of dealing with everything in life.  After all there is no dead end in our life.  There will always be a turn and we need to have the patience to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Let us pray to God so that he ensures that good people in life do not suffer this way.

It is better to cry with tears than without.

S Ramesh Shankar

The last journey


I had gone for my morning walk today as I do everyday.  I go to a beautiful park opposite to my house and it is along the Arabian Sea.  The greenery of the park and the sound of the morning waves from the sea apart from the chirping birds make my day fresh and wonderful.  So, today was no exception to this great start to my day.  However, as I was making my final round I witnessed an unusual incident.

I saw a dog pulling a dead crow, which had died on the sea shore and pulling it to a grass lawn to have it as her morning breakfast.  What was astonishing was to see a cluster of crows in the sky ,following the dog screaming and announcing the death of the crow.  While the dog was least impacted by the shrieking of the crows above her, it really moved me as to how the crows were mourning for the last journey of one of their siblings.  They seem to be hurt that it died on the sea shore and had become fodder for the dog.

While this may be a stray incident, it stirred the emotions in me.  I have always been told from my childhood that it is ok if you do not visit a friend or a relative on the good news of the birth of a child in their family.  This is because you could always do so sometime in the future.  But, if you come to know the sad demise of a friend or relative and if you are in town, you should never miss the last journey of the person who has died.  This is because you will never be able to see that person again and it will his last journey on earth till the graveyard.

I am not sure how many of us realize this as human beings.  We are so caught up with our daily chores that we hardly have the time for our family or friends to share their joy or sorrow.  We neither have the time nor the inclination to visit anyone.  The herd of crows reminded me of how even birds and animals are more human than us.  They gathered together and mourned the death of another crow and screamed down to the dog to spare the dead crow alone.  Why cannot we as human beings learn from birds and animals if we are not able to learn it ourselves ?

The lesson for me today was that we need to find time for our beloved ones.  It could be to celebrate together a joyous occasion.  It could be to mourn the death of a near or dear one.  Especially in the latter case, life does not give us a second chance.  If we as human beings  think we are superior to animals and birds our behaviour has to prove it.  The crows made me realize that may be we still have a long way to go.

It is time to wake up.  It is time to find time for others.  How long will we justify our lack of etiquette to lack of time ?  How long will we run the rat race ? .  We may  realize that there is nobody to run the race with us anymore and then it may be too late.  It is time to realize and wake up now.  Let us resolve to ourselves that even if we do not have time to share joy, let us ensure that we will be around to share the sorrow of others always.

If crows can show humanity, I have not doubt, humans also can.  It is only our ability to reflect and resolve.  It is our ability to prioritise and act on our resolve.  If we think we can, we will.  The time to start is today.

Let us just do it.

S Ramesh Shankar

Terrorism 


We see innocent human beings – women, men and children of all religions, caste and communities being killed by a phenomenon called terrrorism.
While everyone condemns terrorism in all its forms, there are some countries and states, which directly or indirectly support it.

It is time for all countries of the world to unite and fight and eliminate terrorism. How can any human being kill other human beings in the name of religion or ideology and be proud of it ?

If a family loses a member, it is tragedy. It does not matter which religion, caste or community they belong. We have become apathetic to such incidents. It becomes statistic when reported till you are impacted personally by it.

Every day a human being from the defence forces or the para military forces is killed. This human being belongs to a family and if we put ourselves as a member of that family we can realize the extent of damage and the depth of grief of that family.

Politicians and members of the civil society organise protests more to gain media coverage and cheap publicity. They condemn killing of human beings of a particular religion or caste and make it a public issue. This then gets debated in TV channels as if these debates and protests can help the bereaved family get back their loved ones.

It is time to boycott people who protest for the sake of protest and for the sake of publicity. We need to condemn any killing anywhere in the world and fight unitedly against it.

In my view terrorism has no religion. It has no humanity. It has no principles and it has no morals. It has nothing to do with secularism or democracy. It is inhuman and let us not eulogise it.  

Let us together get to the root cause of terrorism and help our children and younger generations of the future to live in a peaceful world, where everyone loves each other irrespective of religion, caste, creed or nationality.

Terrorism leaves behind families homeless and headless like the remains of a dead honey bee comb(as in the photo above), which once was home to hundreds of bees.

Let us fight for humanity and condemn killing of every human being wherever and whenever it happens and pray for their families. Let us not be selective in criticism and project ourselves as the saviours of humanity, only when it suits us and helps us become TV stars by making arrogant and irresponsible statements to get cheap publicity.

Let us preserve and promote love and humanity in the world.

S Ramesh Shankar

Friends forever

IMG_5164
One is born with relatives but we make friends in life.  We do not have a choice to choose our family or relatives but we do have an option to choose friends and so we do.  My experience in life has taught me so far that relatives are generally less reliable than friends.  I do not want to generalise that all relatives are non dependable or all friends are dependable.  After all both relatives and friends are humans and they are bound to err like all of us.

I was born in a lower middle class family and my father was a central government employee.  While I was born in Trichy, Tamil Nadu, India, I have grown up in different parts of the country.    I have had the privilege of living in east, north, south and west of India.  Even as a child I have seen that family friends were more supportive than relatives.  The true test of reliability is not when you are doing well but when you are in distress.

I have experienced in many such occasions in life when I have gone through a bad patch.  Way back in the early eighties, I lost my mother and then within two years my father was on the death bed with a kidney failure.  It was  mostly friends who supported me financially and emotionally rather than relatives.  As I said earlier, there were some close relatives who helped me too but the selfless help came from friends.

Today I remembered these friends because I was in Bhubaneswar to attend the marriage of a friend’s daughter.  I started my career in a steel plant and grew up with a group of young friends from different states of India.  Although we belong to different states and speak different local languages, we have been together and in touch for more than three decades.  We have not met many times during the course of these thirty years but something somewhere strikes a chord between us even today.  We do not miss an opportunity to attend any marriage or other social functions in each others’ families.

As regards relatives, they are inherited in a way with your family.  They are with you and support you in ways they can.  However, as you grow up and separate they get into their own world.  If you do well in life , they still connect with you and seek your help too.  However, if you are in distress, many of them may forget you or feign ignorance in times of need.  As I stated earlier, it is not fair to state that all relatives are like that.  Some of them have been of great support to me in my life and I will ever be grateful to them.

I recently attended the alumni meetings of the graduation classmates and post graduation mates.  Both of them were nostalgic and we could relate to each other as if we had just passed out of college.  The bohenomy was symptomatic of our unconditional relationship.  We shared our joys and sorrows and when in need everyone was eager to help each other.

I would just like to emphasise that friends are forever and we need to nurture and cherish those relationships.  Relatives are inherited and we need to be in touch and keep a respectful relationship.  If they behave like friends, then we are lucky but  if they don’t we should never regret.  After all some friends also may behave in abnormal ways after being in touch with you for years.

As in the photo above, three of us are friends for almost four decades now.

Let friendships last forever

S Ramesh Shankar

Minimalist versus Maximalist ?

IMG_0082
In my definition, the minimalist fulfills his needs in life while the maximalist tries to fulfill greed.  Most of us grow up from middle class families and it is but natural to be aspirational.  I think there is nothing wrong with that.  We need to work hard and look to a brighter future in our career and life.  We tend to start accumulating material wealth and look for ways and means to fulfill our dreams.

As students, we mostly cannot afford to live our dreams as we do not want to burden our parents.  But, as we get into a job, we look for every occasion to save and realize our dreams.  It may sometimes not happen when we want it to happen but as and when it happens, it is a moment of joy.  I still cannot forget as to how I used to aspire to buy a world class music system of a particular brand and it took me almost 5 years to realize it.  I used to visit the show room of this brand on every occasion I could and admire the system from the window till the day I could afford it.

As our responsibilities increase, we try to balance our income and expenditure.  We do try to save and thereby look for fulfilling our life long wishes.  As long as one works honestly and hard, there is absolutely nothing wrong to dream for anything.  It is but human to have needs and as Maslow taught us long years ago that human needs are hierarchial.  It starts with physiological needs, then safety, social, esteem and finally self actualisation.  Interestingly our behaviour today validates Maslow’s theory on motivation.

We first try to fulfill our needs of food, shelter and clothing.  We then want to secure our family and safety.  We then look for love and belonging by being social, then need recognition to enhance esteem and finally we want to attain nirvana or self actualisation.  This could also be linked to different age groups and career stages.  In our twenties and thirties we are focussed on fulfilling physiological and safety needs.  In our forties, we are looking for social,  esteem and recognition.  After we enter our fiftees, we tend to move towards attaining self actualisation.

When we reach the stage of nirvana, we all want to be minimalist.  We want to give back to society more than we have got from it.  But this may be easier said than done.  Let us take a simple phenomenon like shopping.  If we enter a mall, we end up buying clothes or other accessories of our interest even though we may not need them.  This is inspite of the fact that we have enough clothes and accessories we need but we cannot resist the temptation of shopping.  I call this phenomenon as minimalist in thought and maximalist in action.

I have been no different.  I have gone through all the stages of fulfilling my needs as I have stated above.  Today, I am moving towards the stage of self actualisation.  However, as I said earlier, I am still tempted to buy things which I like although I may not need them or already have them.  For example, I recently bought a new camera since I love photography and this is the latest in terms of technology.  This is inspite of my having three other cameras in my possession.  

As in the photo above, we all want to eat less and maintain our health( like a minimalist) but end up gobbling away(like a maximalist) and impact our health adversely.

The only way I have learnt to get over this temptation is to give as much as I take.  So, I decided to give away two of my old cameras to people who will need them after I bought a new camera.  Similarly, I try to donate old clothes as many as I buy new ones to people who need them more than me.  This is no way the best way to be a minimalize but may be a less guilty way.

Life is a journey and we need to learn to live every day.

S Ramesh Shankar

Romantic Rains


We all eagerly await the monsoon after a dry and long summer.  It is indeed one of the most eagerly awaited events in our lives as it brings instant relief from the sweltering heat of the summer.  But much beyond the relief from the summer dryness, the monsoon brings joy and romance into our lives.  The trees look greener, the rivers are full and sea roars as if to keep us active all day.

The farmers await the first rains with bated breath since their  fortunes are tied to the rains.  A shortage of rains or a drought could mean disaster for their lives.  Hence, rains help us have adequate stock of food grains and vegetables right through the year.   The ground water is refuelled and this ensures adequate drinking water for all of us.  We do not realize how much the rains contribute to our daily lives.

Every aspect of our lives is impacted by the rains.  It starts with ensuring adequate harvest of food grains and vegetables.  Then it ensures that we have a perennial source of water for drinking, bathing, washing etc in our daily lives.  The rains also ensure that all our buildings, trees and surroundings are cleaned and washed every day for three months by God without any dry cleaning charges.

The romance of the rains kindles the artistic curiosity of poets and authors.  We have had innumerable movies made around the world, which are based on rains and monsoons.  The waterfalls in the mountains are a source of inspiration and admiration.  The misty clouds in the valleys create a mystic around you.  Rains can only benefit us all the way if we do not obstruct nature in all its natural forms.

The other side of rains faced by humans are disasters due to floods and landslides.  If I reflect back on this negative aspect of the rains, I would say we are mostly to blame for this situation.   We cut trees unabashedly while constructing concrete jungles around cities and towns.  We obstruct the natural flow of rivers and rivulets so as to fulfill human greed rather than need.  So, it is up to us to respect nature and benefit from it or ruin nature and face the wrath of it, as we do nowadays.

Rains also help in bringing out the child in us, which we have lost as we grow up in age.  We have forgotten to dance in the rains and share joy with others.  We have forgotten the fragrance of the wet mud after the first rains hit the soil.  We have nobody else to blame other than ourselves for this state of affairs.  Even the animals and birds protect the environment better than humans as they realize that by doing so they benefit more than they lose.

We have to ensure that our greed is less than our needs in life.  This balance may ensure that we protect nature and the environment around us.  We are keen to take away all the positives of nature without having the gratititude to give back to nature in equal measure.  The day we are content with fulfilment of our needs and not greed, we may be able to protect nature and benefit from it always.

Rains are God’s gift to mankind and we need to learn to do everything to protect our rivers, mountains and lakes so that nature gifts us with more marvels always and we do not deny our future generations of the miracles of nature, which we have enjoyed all through our lives.  Let us continue to enjoy hot chai(tea), pakodas ( Indian snack) and Bhutta ( corn) to celebrate the rains as we have always done.

Let the rains continue to add joy to our lives.

S Ramesh Shankar