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Role of HR post Covid crisis

Work from anywhere

What could be the role of HR in the post Covid scenario ? This is a question, which may be lurking in the minds of many people. I would state that HR could evolve their “Ten Commandments” post the Covid crisis is over and employees gradually trickle back to the workplace.

1. Job Security : In the post Covid scenario, most employees would be worried about their jobs. This would mean a lurking fear that their organisations would have lost revenue for more than a few months and this could result in job losses for many. So, the first duty of HR could be to make the CEO communicate to all employees how they plan to get over this crisis and assure employees at all levels that they would not lose their jobs.

2. New Workplace : The new workplace will have a new normal. It will not be the same place of work like in the past. Apart from physical sanitisation of everything, there would be silence and loneliness at the workplace. There is need to make people adapt to this new work environment through effective communication and counselling by the managers and leaders at all levels.

3. Cost optimisation : While HR leaders should try their best to save jobs, they could be the champions of cost reduction efforts in the organisation. They could engage with employees at all levels and enable formation of teams so that cost reduction is in everybody’s radar and the organisations are able to make up for the losses incurred by this pandemic.

4. Employee engagement : In the post Covid scenario, employee engagement actions become all the more critical. It is important to make employees adapt to the new workplace and at the same time realise that we need to continue to serve our customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders and all other stakeholders as we did before.

5. Work from anywhere : While the Covid crisis forced organisations and employees to adapt to the work from home option, it may be an opportunity for HR in organisations to enable employees to work from anywhere. This means no fixed workstations, laptops for everyone and they could work from any office or any place of their choice in the future.

6. Re-engineering processes : This is a great opportunity for HR to facilitate all the functions in the organisation to challenge all their existing processes and eliminate unwanted ones, simplify those needed and automate wherever possible. The shop-floor could also be digitised and automated so as to minimise human interface in routine operations and use employees for human value addition, which robots or machines cannot do like listening to and attending to customer grievances.

7. Rewrite the HR manual : Just like the Constitution of a nation gets amended from time to time based on the needs of the nation, this is a great opportunity in the history of the organisation to re-write its HR manual. It may be helpful to keep it simple, eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy and all paper work if possible.

8. Productivity : While many of us may not realise that India still has one of the lowest labour costs in the world but our productivity is not on par with the best in the world. This reset post Covid gives us an opportunity to rejig our productivity levels at the shop floor, in our offices and also in all our processes with suppliers and customers. For eg. is it possible for all employees to deal with all HR processes through their mobile phones and eliminate all paper work in the future.

9. Digitalisation : The ability to go digital in all aspects of work is a real possibility in the new workplace. Sales can happen online and service can be remotely handled. This means manufacturing can be digitilalised and automated and so can be all other processes. If banks can provide all their services through digital means so can all other organisations and this is the best time to transition and go digital, wherever feasible.

10. Employee Health & Safety : This crisis provides the best opportunity for organisations to rewrite its health and safety standards. It is not only physical health but mental and emotional health and wellness, which will get tested post this crisis. So , it is the best time for organisations to prepare for similar unknown crises in the future.

While I may not have listed down all possible things, which HR leaders could do post this crisis, I have focussed on the most important and called them the “Ten commandments for HR”.

Do let me know if I have missed out anything ? You can make your own “Ten commandments for HR” based on the needs of your own organisation.

S Ramesh Shankar

12th May 2020

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Relearning from childhood…

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Learning is a life long journey. I was sitting with my grandson, who is 7 years old. He asked me if I knew how to use Instagram on my phone. I said yes. He asked me if I could take a photo of his with the whiskers of a rabbit. I told him that I did know how to do it. He readily agreed to teach me.

He advised me to open the app on my phone. He then showed me as to how change the setting on the phone and then take a selfie as in the photo above. I was quite stunned. It was great learning to use a mobile app from a 7 year old.

As children, we are inquisitive and curious. We learn continually by observing others and things around us. When I asked him as to how did he learn it – he said that he saw my son doing the same on his phone. As we grow up in life, we possibly forget to be curious. Our inquisitiveness is buried within us. We feel shy to ask questions and thereby our learning retards.

It is time to look back and learn from childhood. If we cannot turn the clock back, we can observe young kids around us and learn from them. Another incident made me realise how simple observation can be of great learning value. My grand son was at home for his school vacation. We were playing with each other. Then he wanted to download a few games on my iPad.

I gave him my iPad and enquired which games he would like download. He glanced through the app and shortlisted a few. When I was about to download, he told not to do so. He informed me that every app has a preview. We should preview the game and only if it is interesting, we should download the app. It would otherwise be waste of money. I could not believe that a young kid of 7 years could be so knowledgable on how to carefully download game apps from the internet without wasting money.

To be honest I was not aware of it. This helps learn an important lesson in life. We all are good learners as kids. We observer everything around us and learn. We do not hesitate to ask questions when in doubt. As we grow up our observations skills fades away and hence may be our learning ability also diminishes. We are scared of asking questions when we do not know so as to hide our ignorance rather than learn from others who know.

It is time to reflect. It is time rekindle the child in us. It is time ask questions of curiosity from everyone around us including kids. It is never too late to change. It is also never too late to unlearn, learn and relearn.

Time to restart is today ?

S Ramesh Shankar

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Joy of giving…

I have always be in awe of our festivals in India. Diwali is no exception. Apart from lights and crackers, one recalls Diwali with fond memories because the entire family got together once in a year and celebrated together. We got up early at dawn and had an oil bath before sunrise and enjoyed all the sweets and savouries all day.

Today I got a new insight on Diwali. It is celebrated in India with two different beliefs in the northern and southern part of the country. In the north, people believe that Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after his 14 years in the forests and hence is welcomed back with lights and crackers. In the South, it is believed that Lord Krishna killed a ghost by name Narakaasura on this day in Dwaraka Yuga.

The new insight I got today is from a forward about the story of Narakaasura and the lessons for all of us. It is believed that Narakaasura is the “I” or ego residing in all of us as humans. When Lord Krishna killed Narakaasura, he eliminated our ego and released more than 16000 evils in us. So the next day on amavasya we pray to Godess Lakshmi to lead us to the right path.

Every ritual in Hindu religion and so in other religions has a deep insight for all of us. We generally get swayed by the rituals and start believing that they are of no use and most of us including me give up rituals because they serve no human purpose. I have been no exception. Now that I have all the time in the world, I am able to reflect and get new insights into these rituals.

Another interesting belief that we should clean our home and get rid of all the unwanted things. This is also symbolic that God wants us to give up all that is not necessary and take up the good things in life.

It is also enshrined in our religions that the best way to serve God is to serve the human kind. If we give more, we get more. If we are content with what we have, God always gives us more than what we need. This is the challenge for all of us. How much is enough – is a question difficult to ask and answer for oneself ?

I have admired people who give away without expecting anything in return. Recently another friend forwarded a message with a great insight. It was a couplet from Rahim. When Tulsidas looked at Rahim donating, he found his eyes looked at the ground and so asked him ” O great person, where have you learnt this amazing way of giving ? “. As your hands rise ( to give), your eyes look down. “. Rahim replies – “. The Giver is someone else ( God Almighty), giving day and night. The world has a misconception that I am the giver. So, I lower my eyes in embarrassment. ”

The best people I have met in life are those who give unconditionally. They are anonymous most of the times and recipient does not know that they are the donors. They give because they have a surplus and they are grateful to the Almighty for it and want to thank him for the generosity bestowed on them.

It is like the exotic orchid in the photo above, given my colleagues at work, which are blooming because of their unconditional love.

This blog a salute from my side to all the wonderful people who have made me what I am today. They have given me support, advice, money and love unconditionally. I can never ever return their favour in any form. I promise to give back without expecting anything in return as I bow in gratitude to them.

S Ramesh Shankar

27th October 2019

Abundance…

We live in a world where nature has bestowed us with abundance. Why do we live with an attitude of scarcity ? We tend to live life miserly. We want to conserve everything around us. We tend to have a hoarding mentality and never want to let go on anything in life.

I am not sure if this is evolved in the family environment or influenced by the society around us. I am not professing lavishness or waste of anything in life. I do agree that we need to preserve everything in life for our future generations. However, an attitude of miserliness in our thinking could lead to actions which reflect that behaviour in our everyday life.

As parents, we may not allow our children to enjoy some privileges in life because we did not have them when we were kids. Is this fair ? I am not sure. As teachers, we may be reluctant to share all our knowledge with the students because we may believe that they may outsmart us. As managers, we may not be willing to let go of our skills or knowledge because we believe that may degrade our corporate value.

This attitude percolates to every aspect in society as well. Everyone wants to guard their key skills or knowledge with the worry that it will get replicated. Imagine a world of open sharing. Imagine a world of sharing and caring. Imagine a world of spreading knowledge skills and attitude. We need to believe that the more we give to others, the more we learn.

I was lucky to grow up in an open environment. My family members shared everything they could and enabled me to pursue my passion in life. We ( my spouse and me) have also tried our best to create the same environment in our family. Our children ( daughter and son) have pursued their passions in life . We have not imposed our interests on them in any way ( at least consciously).

Similarly, I have been privileged to work with managers and leaders, who have shared everything they could. They have enabled me to succeed and learn from failures in all that I wanted to do. There has never been a deliberate attempt to hoard knowledge or skills. I have been coached to give more than what I have got in my career. I have tried my best to share whatever I can with everyone I can in my life.

I firmly believe that the more you share, the more you learn. I have never declined an invitation to interact with students unless my work prevented me to do so. I have been willing to share my knowledge and skills with everyone in my team and with colleagues in other organisations, whenever I could. I have benefited from cross industry forums, which has given me great opportunities to share and learn.

Nature gives us everything in abundance. It is we, as selfish humans, are not willing to conserve it for our future generations (as in the photo above).

Let us learn to give more than we get. I have realised that the more I am able to give back to society, the more I feel blessed. I am grateful to my family, friends, colleagues and the Almighty to inculcate the mentality of abundance in me.

Let us give back more than we get always.

S Ramesh Shankar

5th August 2018

Let us spread “Positivity”

The world is witnessing one of the worst tragedies ever seen in recent memory. This virus has spread to every nook and corner of the world and destroyed countries, communities and families.

While our scientists and medical fraternity are working day and night to save lives, they are limited by resources and limited knowledge of this deadly and evolving virus.

It is at such times, we as individuals, families, communities or nations need to spread hope and positivity. We need to remember that positivity is infectious and if we are able to spread it faster than the virus, the despair of people suffering can be minimised.

While we cannot compensate a family, who has lost a loved one, we can pray for them to withstand this tragedy in their lives. We can share stories of innumerable good samaritans working around the world to save lives.

Every day I read a positive story, my belief in humanity soars. I know of young volunteers helping individuals and families getting beds, ambulances, medicines etc. I read of actors driving ambulances to save lives. Today I read of bikers using their motorcycles as mobile ambulances to take patients to hospitals.

While we may have every right to criticise governments and those in administration for the lack of infrastructure or timely support, it may be more helpful at the current juncture to provide a lending hand to the already crumbling support systems.

The tragedy has spread far and wide. It has made life dark for many. In this situation, we have a choice – we can either light a candle in their lives or light a fire. It may be more appropriate to light a candle and kindle hope rather than fume despair.

We as individuals can support our own family or friends. We can volunteer in our community and spread positivity. This is enough. If each of us can take care of our family, friends and community, we may have done our bit.

It is time for us to salute them. It is time for us to be grateful for whatever they are doing within the limited resources available to them. Let us fight this virus together and wait for things to normalise before we fix the blame as to who is wrong and why.

We need to remember that the medical fraternity, the healthcare workers, the sanitary staff, municipal authorises and the bureaucrats running the administration, the ambulance drivers, the crematorium staff and innumerable others are working 24×7 only for us.

I would appeal to politicians also to sink their partisan differences and work as one team supporting and enabling each other to succeed. Let the experts and bureaucrats work independently and we need to ensure their success.

I would appeal to the media – both print and TV to share positive news first. I am not for one recommending that we need to hide facts or suppress news. Let the headlines be of heroines and heroes, who are saving lives of common men and women every day. Let the other news be on the back pages.

Last but not the least, I appeal to every individual to take responsibility for themselves. Let us spread positivity and hope among our family members, community and society.

Let us use social media responsibly and share news of hope, service and bravery. Let us appreciate the small deeds of unknown women and men around the world working round the clock to save lives in a global crisis like this.

As in the photo, it is time to light the lamp and spread hope.

I commit to spread positivity in every possible way. Will you please join me ?

S Ramesh Shankar

11th May 2021

Self motivation versus Selfish motivation

We meet people of different hues in our lives. Some are adorable and a role model in every respect and some we feel like forgetting them as soon as we meet them and experience them the first time. One of my colleagues recently talked about the self motivated and the selfishly motivated people in the world.

I thought about the people I have met and worked in my life and wondered if I could distinguish between the self motivated and the selfishly motivated people in my life. What are their distinguishing characteristics , how do we differentiate them and how do we deal with them in our lives ?

Lets start with the self motivated category. These people are like live electric wires around us. It is easy to spot them. They inspire you with their actions and are always willing to work for your success. They never give up and never allow others around them to give up either. Their motivation comes from within and they are selfless. Their motivation against all odds is infectious and positively impacts others’ lives.

On the other hand, the selfishly motivated are self centred. They believe that they are born in this world to succeed at any cost. Their motivation comes from outside. They want to win at any cost. Others success or failure is of least concern to them. They may appear to be outwardly inspiring but are inwardly hollow. You can see through them as they do not have any depth in themselves. They may put down others to ensure their own success.

Now is the tough question, as to how to deal with these two categories. The first category of self motivated people are easy to deal with. The motivation touches you and hence the more we interact with them, the more they inspire us. They are born optimists and never give up under any circumstances. Even a cup of tea with such people helps you to energise yourself and hence we should not miss any opportunity to be with them. We should spot them in the family, work place or society and find ways and means to be with them.

On the other hand, the selfishly motivated category may be avoided to say the least. They set the wrong role models in society. They create a political work place and are always working at their goal accomplishment at the cost of everybody around them. While one may learn from their determination, one may be demotivated by their behaviour. It may be sometimes difficult to avoid them if they are members of your family, colleagues at work or even your boss. It is best to spend the least time with them and learn from their dogged determination to achieve their goals. One may consciously avoid to learn the selfishness from them.

As in the photo above, the self motivated will find a road for themselves and others while the selfishly motivated will find a road to escape from others.

The world is a mixture of selfless and selfish people. The former are self motivated and the latter are generally selfishly motivated. It may sometimes take time to distinguish the two. But our honesty will make it easy to know the difference. Once identified, we can do everything to be with the self motivated and avoid the selfishly motivated whenever possible.

Let us learn to be self motivated.

S Ramesh Shankar

5th August 2018

How to deal with a boss, who does not inspire you ?

All of us would have had multiple bosses in our career. Some good, some better and some best. Most of the bosses I worked have inspired me and provided me bundles of opportunities to learn. However, we do end up with one boss, who does not inspire us at all. On the contrary, it would be a nightmare to get up every morning and meet this boss. Further one’s motivation would be the least when you have to work with such a boss.

There are two people in life who we do not choose. On the contrary, they choose us. The first is our mother and the second is the boss. A mother along with her spouse decides to conceive us in her womb. Similarly, a boss recruits us and is willing to take the risk with us by giving us an offer of employment. So, we neither can choose our mother nor can we choose our boss at anytime in our life.

Now that we do not have a choice, what do we do. We have two primary choices. One is to quit and run away from this boss at the earliest possible opportunity. The other is to take this as a challenge and inspire your boss since your boss is not able to inspire you. How do we inspire our boss ? We excel in whatever we do and everyone in our team and outside admires our excellence. In this scenario, this boss will not have an alternative but to be inspired by us. There is a possibility that they may or may not impacted with our inspiration. But, we need to learn to live with this challenge.

I have had the experience of trying out both alternatives. In the first instance, I worked with a boss, who believed that nobody should be trusted unless proved otherwise. I believe in trusting everyone around me till they betray my trust. It was very difficult to work with this boss. I tried all tricks under my sleeve. I tried to excel in whatever I did and also kept myself in projects beyond my scope of work. After three years of sustained efforts I decided to quit. It is better to quit before you lose faith in your own capabilities. It may be just a mismatch between two individuals and their styles they it may be good to part ways rather make each other’s life miserable.

In the second instance, I got the opportunity to work with a boss, who did not inspire me. I believe that leadership is all about personal credibility, trust and values. This boss never walked the talk. Trust was one sided and values were relative. On the other hand, for me leading by example was the only way to lead your team. Trust was mutual and built through the robustness of your actions. Values were absolute and non negotiable. I decided that I will try my best to excel and inspire my boss through my actions. This worked and then the feedback from my team and my colleagues made my boss to realise my value.

It may be easier to write about this subject today then to experience it in your every day life. I can easily state that it is indeed a frustrating experience when you go through it. However the true leaders are willing to sacrifice the present for the future. One needs to learn to deal with the challenges of today for a better tomorrow. There is no gain in life or career without any loss. One has also to remember that a boss is an inevitable part of one’s career. It is better to learn to deal with one’s boss effectively rather than crying wolf all the time.

We may not get to meet , see or choose the boss as in the photo above. However, if we are willing to look at the mirror often, we can turn out to be a better boss than what our team members expect us to be.

The best lesson to learn is to look at the mirror. We need to remember that all of us are also bosses for someone in our team and hence if we can practise what we expect from our bosses, life would better , brighter and happier.

Time to start is today.

S Ramesh Shankar

22nd July 2018

I am responsible

We are in the midst of a worldwide crisis. It is a pandemic impacting every nook and corner of the world. It started about a year and a half ago and does not seem to be ending soon. We in India fought the first wave quite well but our ability to anticipate the more treacherous second wave was not good enough.

Today, we see people suffering in every nook and corner of the country. It looks like almost every other family is impacted by this deadly virus. While statistics may look different to different people, the real impact is on the family which is facing the brunt even if it is the only family in that town, city or community.

We have had a lot of criticism of the way it has been handled by everyone. We are blaming the central government, the state government and even the experts from the healthcare industry for this state of affairs. Whichever end of the political spectrum we belong to we are willing to blame the party in power without knowing how much everyone knew or could anticipate this second wave.

While it may be easy to write about it or criticise it, (having been an administrator for almost four decades I can say with confidence ) it may be more difficult to anticipate or manage it as an administrator. So, the next question is , what do we do about it. I would recommend the following steps to deal with this situation :

A. Let the governments at the centre and state do whatever best they can in the current circumstances. Let us support their efforts without being critical of every action since I am not sure if we could have done better even if we were in their seats of power.

B. Let us take responsibility for our actions – wearing masks, keeping distance and washing hands everywhere we go

C. Let us take charge of our family and friends whom we can directly influence.

D. If we are large hearted, let us take responsibility for the community we live in to ensure compliance to all the guidelines prescribed by the government.

E. Let us be more responsible in not posting anything negative or creating false panic by forwarding messages on social media etc.

I believe if we are willing to do the above, the crisis will be under control sooner than later.

As in the photo above, this child is taking responsibility for his behaviour even standing on a beach. If a child can do it, why not we.

The most important step is that I take responsibility for the conduct and compliance of myself, my family and my community. If each of are willing to do this, then we make the task for the governments easier.

Let us start now.

S Ramesh Shankar

26th April 2021

Everyone has a place…

Everyone has a place in life. Life is a series of possibilities if we are willing to look at it that way. I was in a business school today. There are were almost 500 brilliant young students in the auditorium during a conference. The sparkling eyes of everyone confirmed to me that everyone has a place and there is a place for everything in life.

Let us examine this from a student’s perspective. We may have brilliant students who top the class in academics. We may have scientists whose quest for inquiry is par excellence. We may have sports enthusiasts and we may have debaters, singers and artists in the class. We may have creative and innovative wizards. If we think that all students have to end up in a corporate world, we may be mistaken.

Today I met a young student in the business school I visited. He is working on development of an engine which can work on gas and is 75% more efficient than conventional engines used in automobiles. This student wants to invent this engine and change the world of engines. He does need funding and support but he does not need a job in a corporate.

There are similarly many people I have met in my life who have excelled in various fields. Some have come together and worked on a start up idea. If you are willing to live your passion in real life, then sky is the limit. You can set up your own business. You can join a corporate. You can excel in sports and become a professional. You can excel in culture and arts and make a living out of that.

In the past, many of us believed that getting a job in a corporate was the ultimate measure of success in life. Today it may not be true. Rather I would emphasise that it is not true. Success lies in living your passion in life. We may not have had the guts or the opportunity to live our passion. But today, we have the opportunities to realise our passion in life. Hence, I believe everyone has a place in society.

Another important positive change from the past is that every profession or vocation is viewed with equal respect and that is how it should be. In the past, if you became a professional artist, it may be thought that you took it up because you did not get a job of your choice. Today that’s not true. Everyone is at liberty to choose what she or he wants to pursue. Fortunately parents, teachers and society at large are open to all ideas and are willing to support the youngsters to pursue their dreams.

It is also true that one can live a dream if we are not willing to give up. Some could succeed in their first attempt while others may not. The most successful entrepreneurs in the world will tell us that there is no guaranteed road to success. One has to pursue one’s dreams and work hard to make it a reality. It may be easy for some but difficult for others. One has to learn from the sportspersons the art of never giving up on anything in life.

Just as in the photo above, every doll has a place, so in life each one of us has a place for ourselves.

Let us learn to live our passion.

S Ramesh Shankar

5th August 2018

Discovering your dream job

One of my ex colleagues called me up today and stated that she wanted to change her job. When I enquired the reasons for the same, she said she was not happy with the team. I have heard some say they dont enjoy their job anymore. There could be many other reasons for not enjoying whatever you do in life.

One of the most complex questions in life is – “What do I enjoy doing in life ? . Each of us are trying to discover the ever elusive joy in whatever we do. The good news is that we are not different from others. While this may look simple, it is possibly the most difficult to answer to find oneself.

It is fine to live in a world of ambiguity and keep discovering and rediscovering ourselves till we reach a stage, where we feel we have arrived in life. This is true for life and also for career or vocation.

I remember reading an article in the Harvard Business Review long time back entitled -“Job- Sculpting”. Our sculpting a job or vocation is like a sculptor crafting a piece of art. Many a time the sculptor may start with something in mind and end up producing something else. It is no different in life.

Our ability to try many times, fail or succeed and redesign our path will possibly take us closer to our dream destination. It is almost like someone searching for happiness around the world till they realise that happiness lies in discovering it from within and not without.

Most of us in the past took a field of education not because we were excited about it but because our parents or elders or well wishers thought that it was the best for us. They may have been right or even wrong. We may discover this along the way. As we complete our education and move on to a career or business or vocation, we may realise that what we studied is not what we wanted to. It is important to realise that this is fine and we need to learn to move on with life.

Our career choices are no different. If we started our career in a particular function, we may have done so because we did not have a choice when we started or it paid us well or was near our home. While mid way in our career, one day we may realise that this is not what we enjoy.

We need to realise that most of us go through this dilemma and it is natural and nothing to be worried or ashamed of. However, what is important is to discover what you want to do and how to do it ? If we spend the rest of our lives trying to discover what we enjoy doing, then we may not get much time to do that very thing.

The earlier we ask ourselves searching questions, the better it is for us. It may help to have a life coach, who can help us ask the right questions and find answers ourselves. Once we know the questions, it may be easier to find the answers. It is like if we know where we want to go and our destination is clear, it is easier to decide the path we want to take.

Another important factor for those in a job is about not only enjoying what you do but also enjoying the company of your team along the way. We need to remember that the world is not ideal and nor are we. Just like we have our strengths and improvement areas, so do others. If we wait for the day to work in a dream team, where every member is ideal, it may remain a dream.

It is like the best players in a team will not look to play in a dream team. They will always look for how best they could contribute to make their team a great team. If we start looking at life as full of possibilities, then it turns out that way. On the other hand, if we think that there is a speed breaker in life at every corner, then may be it will be that way.

It may be easier to change oneself rather than attempting to change others. This is the simple truth of life. The best players in sports excel in whatever they do. They not only compete with others but try to compete with themselves to be the best version of themselves. In life, we need to believe that the world is looking at us rather than we looking at others to excel.

As in the photo above, a drive through the forest may kindle your love for nature and that could be the career break you are waiting for. You could become a naturalist or a forest service officer and spend your life in forests amidst nature.

Life is a journey of discovery every day. We need to enjoy the journey, the company and the destination. We need to believe in ourselves more than others and look at life as a string of possibilities always.

Let us discover ourselves everyday.

S Ramesh Shankar

9th April 2021

Godmen & Godwomen

A friend of mine asked me as to why people in general throng to God men or God women alike cutting across religions. I said I really dont know but could be because most people who have some weakness need an emotional anchor to cover it up.

I find the rich and the famous thronging to religious leaders of all faiths. This could be because they have grown their wealth but lost out on their health – physical or mental. On the other hand, the common men and women also throng to these spiritual leaders – may be to seek what they have not achieved in life so far with a short cut.

All of us aspire for something in life. We work hard and also trust our luck to get us where we want to reach. But sometimes, either our luck or lack of efforts does not take us there. Then we possibly take refuge to God men or women to accelerate our path to success.

We may also look at these religious leaders to be an emotional anchor in our lives. Many of us do not have real family members or friends to support us although we have many in the social network. Then we get swayed to these leaders to seek emotional refuge.

On the other hand, sometimes we are stuck with consecutive tragedies in life and then we lose faith in ourselves, others and even in the super power, we seek refuge somewhere. It is at this time that the religious leaders take full advantage of our emotional weakness and mesmerise us to follow them blindly. We are willing to give away our wealth, health and even happiness to listen to them in every way.

In a democracy, every individual has a right to pursue whatever she or he wants. I have nothing against God women or God men. However, what I am against is their uncanny ability to exploit a human emotional weakness. They prowl around and catch hold of women and men in distress who are seeking an emotional support.

One thing I must admit that these Godmen and God women have something in them. They either have assimilated knowledge in their area of expertise or the gift of the gab. They also develop magical mystic and through their hypnotic powers are able to impress and sway their followers into blind disciples. Then these disciples in turn become their brand ambassadors. We possibly have an opportunity to learn from this strength of theirs.

In my life so far, I have met only one religious leader who did not follow this path. He was simple in living, high in thinking and attracted followers through his simple living and high spiritual powers. He neither sought wealth nor encouraged his followers to bestow their wealth on him. He never used cars, airplanes or material wealth of his followers to establish his credentials. That made him a real Guru.

On the other hand, all the others I have met in life so far have made religion a business. They not only have amassed wealth in the name of religion but travel around almost like a tycoon and wield their political power for other than religious or spiritual reasons.

As in the photo above, the kid displays how most Godmen or God women have misled people more than they have led.

I do envy these fake gurus who are making religions a business and feel sad for their gullible followers who seek refuge in them to get over their own emotional crises in life.

Is it time to discover who can be our real guru in life ?

S Ramesh Shankar

9th Feb 2021

Use & Throw

We have moved from a culture of “recycle & reuse” to “Use & throw”. I remember an interesting incident which happened a few years back. I was digging out my old coloured lights to light it for the festival of Diwali. Usually we use it for the festival and then dump it in some closet for the rest of the year.

We take it out just before the onset of the festival season and invariably find that a few bulbs are fused. The same thing happened to me. I picked up the light and went to an electrical shop to repair and replace the fused bulbs. The electrician was surprised to see me. He politely told me to dump the old bulb set and buy a new one.

I belong to an era, where we were brought up in the family and the community to “recycle and reuse” things. So based on my upbringing, I went to the shop to repair and reuse my colour lights. The shopkeeper gently smiled and said that the cost of repair may be more than the price of a new set of colour lights. I followed his advise,  left my old bulbs with him and bought a new set.

When I returned home I reflected on this issue. I realised that life has indeed changed. The way we look at life today is different from the past. If we considered recycling everything in life as the right thing to do, use and throw is the norm for everything in life today.

It struck me that this may be true in our relationships too. We were brought up to respect our parents and elders right through our life. We were trained to be grateful to people who help us at various stages of life, throughout our life time. But today, we tend to use our parents as providers of comfort and forget them as they grow old and may depend on us. We forget friends and relatives after we have benefited from their help and move on with our own lives.

Relationships have also transitioned from gratitude to usefulness. Gratitude symbolises renewing our relationship for our lifetime. Usefulness on the other hand fixes an expiry date for a relationship. We tend to “control+alt+del” or move on as soon as the usefulness of that relationship is over.

One may wonder if we are moving from “Selflessness” to “Selfishness” in life. It may be difficult to state whether it is right or wrong. After all today, we have mastered the art of justifying every action of ours. No value is absolute and sacrosanct any more. It is all relative and we find innovative reasons to justify our behaviour all the time, to everyone around us.

One more learning I got in life. Once when I was buying new clothes for my family for a festival someone suggested that every time I buy new clothes, I could consider donating an equal number of clothes ( in good condition) to those who need them more than me. This may again be an old fashioned belief but it does help others and is based on the philosophy of recycle and reuse.

Life comes a full circle. Today, use of plastic bags is being banned all over the world as it is polluting the environment around us, choking the drains and causing floods everywhere. We are urged to use cotton bags for our shopping and reuse them. I am happy with this change and I commit to do my bit in this direction.

We used to recycle a pair of shoes for at least two generations in the past whereas now it does not even survive one person for more than a few years as in the photo above.

Is it time to recycle and reuse everything in life ?

S Ramesh Shankar

21st July 2018

How little I know ?

I spent a weekend in the city of Pune. It’s a beautiful city just about 150 kms from Mumbai. It is popular for educational institutions, defence establishments and the enviable weather. I took a city tour to see the major tourist places around the city.

The first thing which struck my attention in Pune is the greenery. Pune is very green and has trees, which may be centuries old. Everywhere you travel, you feel as if you are driving through a lane of trees all around you. This could possibly be one of the secrets of the Pune weather.

The second thing which strikes you are the huge defence establishments. Every part of the city is blessed with military establishments and you feel proud of the prowess and the discipline of our soldiers. The cantonment areas are clean and well maintained. They provide a glamour to the city.

The third thing which struck me are the research institutions. The central institutes like the National Metallurgical Laboratory, Automative Research Association of India and so on. I saw an institute of tropical meteorology. This was fascinating as I was not even aware that a subject like that existed. It proved to me “how little I know ?”

Another impressive part of the city is the array of educational institutions. You have arts, science commerce, engineering, medical, management and every subject you can imagine in the world. You have public university and private universities. You also have autonomous institutions of repute.

After spending a day in the city and visiting some interesting sites like the Ambedkar museum and the Kelkar museum I realised the rich heritage of the city. But what really impacted me is the diversity of research institutions. I did not even realise that there are so many areas of research, which I have not even heard of.

I am aware that I do not even know enough on the subjects or areas I have been working for the last 38 years. Having come across different areas of research, which is happening in our country was a gentle reminder of “How little I know ?”This experience grounds me.

I salute every researcher through this blog and their dedication. I salute the government in the centre and states which sponsor and promote such institutions. I salute the corporate organisations which are also contributing to pure and applied research in various fields.

Let the research institutions flourish and bring innovations and prosperity to human kind. They can also inspire us to assimilate more knowledge during the rest of our lives.

It may be good to realise “How little you know in life ?

S Ramesh Shankar

11th October 2018