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Role of HR post Covid crisis

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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

Anybody can fit into a frame …

I was passing through our domestic airport at Mumbai and was fascinated by people taking photographs in a frame. I realised that everyone – young or old, thin or fat could easily fit into this frame. I reflected and realised that life is no different. If we want to lead life happily, we can live life within our frames. On the other hand, if we are not content than we will not fit into any frame.

Life is a balancing act between need and greed. The day we convince ourselves that we can fulfill our needs but never are greed, we may be happier. The frame of life is drawn by us. It is not built by God and thrust upon us. Each of us have the liberty to draw our own boundaries in life.

Let me illustrate this through examples from my personal and work life. The first example I can share would be the people I have met in life, who live a simple life in spite of all the riches they have. They are symbols of humility difficult even to emulate. They can define the frame of life in which they want to live but on the contrary they fit into any frame they come across in life.

One such name that comes to my mind is that of JRD Tata. He could have bought almost anything in the world if he wanted but showed us outstanding examples of simplicity in everyday life. I was recently reading of how he used to buy chocolates for his gardener whenever he returned from his trips abroad. He used to take his secretary and her family for a treat on her birthdays. I have not come across many CEOs, who would show such gestures.

In my life, I have met people who will happily give credit to others for their successes. We see them in the field of sports every day. We see players, who play for the victory of the team rather than promoting their own personal glory. These persons create a space within their life frames for everyone in their life.

One such name that comes to my mind is that of MS Dhoni. Here was a leader who faded in the background of the team after India won the World Cup in cricket in 2011. He made Sachin Tendulkar lift the cup and lead the Indian contingent jog around the stadium. Such is their humility that if possible they may even disappear from the frame so as to let others get a place to be within it.

Even at the work place, you are privileged to work with leaders, who are willing to lead from behind. They are willing to lead the team in front and then follow the team. However, when there is a crisis they will be the first to be in the forefront. I recently visited Diu, where there is a memorial for our soldiers when an Indian ship was drowned by our enemies during a war in 1971. The captain of the ship decided to drown with his soldiers rather than save himself from the jaws of death. Such people create a frame large enough to fit everyone in their life.

Lets learn to live within our frames of life.

S Ramesh Shankar

4th August 2018

Technology & HR

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Everyone today is talking about technology and its impact on people. The impact on people could be from different perspectives. Let us examine it from the angle of impacting life and living.

I grew up in an era where the computer was not around nor the television in homes. Both these appeared in our offices and homes post the eighties in most countries and homes. How have they changed our lives ? Our quality of life has improved materially and physically although may have deteriorated emotionally ?

I remember many unions especially in banks were worried about introduction of computers and had resisted it for some time. Today a bank cannot imagine its existence without computers. We as customers do most of our banking ourselves on computers or mobiles. Has it impacted bank employees ? I would say it has helped the bank employees to improve the quality of their work and their productivity.

I believe the impact of technology will be similar in the future as well. Technology may develop more rapidly in the future than in the past. The quality of our lives and living may improve further. However, the same technology may be helpful if we are willing to use it prudently.

Let us examine the impact of technology on employees from a Human Resources perspective across the employee’s life cycle process – from recruitment to retirement. Technology may help in screening and assessing candidates more objectively and much faster. But I cannot imagine whether even artificial intelligence will ever be able to substitute human judgement in the future.

While it is true that a “Alexa” or IBM Watson may be able to derive logic from tons of data available to them but still may not be able to beat human judgement. It is like the development of technology, which brings the best of cameras in the world every day but none of them have been able to beat the human eye as a camera in its capacity and delivery.

We could trust computers and artificial intelligence to help in addressing routine tasks and also developing them in employees. However, the ability to respond intuitively like a human being may not be a reality in the near future. Even today the Alexa and Watson depend on inputs from human beings and programmers to derive logic from data fed into them.

Now, if we move to assessing and motivating employees, we need to examine the impact of technology. Technology can help us in objective performance assessment but the ability to empathise may not be replicable like a human being. I am aware of robots performing all types of tasks including love making but all of it will be without any emotions.

Similarly technology may help in making more precise decisions including in exits. However, human judgement is a combination of logic and gut. Logic can be built in by technology but not the gut. Most of the times in our lives, our decisions are based on gut and not by logic.

I believe technology will change life for the better in the future. But, no technology can substitute human emotions. We need to use  technology for improving our quality of life without getting impacted on our emotions. Today, we are willing to embrace technology and are increasingly losing the human touch.

Its like technology enables you to take a beautiful selfie without much effort as in the photo above. However, if we end up getting drowned in the sea taking a selfie on the beach, whom should we blame ?

Let technology lead us to a better tomorrow and we continue to trust human relationships to improve both technology and ourselves.

S Ramesh Shankar

16th May 2018

My ten learnings from a US holiday

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I have always admired the United States of America as a country for many things. Apart from being the wealthiest democracy in the world, it has a lot to teach the world as countries and individuals. I had been on a holiday for a fortnight to this wonderful country and learnt the following ten lessons as an individual :

1. Dream big : You need to kindle a dream in a individual and then strive hard to achieve it. Every American who migrated from different parts of the world to settle in this country dreamt of making America the best in the world. They have worked hard to achieve it and within a span of a century.

2. Unity In diversity : People from all parts of the world have come and settled down here. They are diverse in religion, culture, ethnicity and race. However they have evolved a common nationality. A common dream and a disciplined way of achieving their goals.

3. Discipline : A colleague of mine used to state of “Starting with enthusiasm and ending with discipline”. You can see it in action in this country. Every body is enthusiastic in whatever they do and enjoy doing it mostly. However they do not compromise on discipline. This quality you can see in most developed countries of the world.

4. Pride : While all of us are proud of our respective countries, one can observe a sense of patriotism amongst all categories of citizens. They display it in their behaviour and in discharge of their duties in whatever they do everyday in their lives.

5. Focus on your work: Everyone is focussing in what they are supposed to do. They are neither aware of what is happening around the world nor interested in knowing it. We spend most of our time in worrying about others and the world and lose focus in what we are supposed to do.

6. Every job is respected : We generally look at every job from a social status angle. Some jobs are more prestigious than others. However, what one learns from this place that every job is unique and needs to be respected. Every individual is respected in society irrespective of what she or he does.

7. Create a competitive spirit : Every state in the USA competes with the other to be the best. Every state is unique and wants to be that way. They set standards for other states and are not willing to compromise on their freedom or liberty.

8. Preserving your culture: While everyone is proud to be an American, they steadfastly maintain their state identity. They are proud about their culture and history and want to preserve it. Every state wants to lead the others in preserving and promoting their uniqueness.

9. Respect : The respect for senior citizens and the military is visible in their day to day actions. If you are waiting to board an aircraft, the active military personnel are given first preference after aged and the kids. They are given precedence over first class or business class passengers as well. This signifies the respect for the citizens who sacrifice their lives for their country.

10. Everyone wants to contribute : Everyone in the country wants to contribute in their own ways to make the nation the best in the world. This means that each of us have to strive to excel in whatever we do and not do it as a ritual.

The photo above is my tribute to Martin Luther King, one of the heroes of the American success.

I am not for one saying that there are no negatives in the USA. There are some things which I would not like to learn from here. But the positives far overweigh the negatives.

Let us learn from their positives.

S Ramesh Shankar

16th May 2018

“WELCOME” to College

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Today is the first day for you at college. I remember I entered this wonderful institution 37 years back. It was a dream come true. I had done my graduation in science and it was my father’s choice. I wanted to study about people, which was my choice. My father gave me the freedom to choose and this college took the risk of admitting me.

I was nervous and the first day was memorable. If I have to welcome you today, I will urge you to remember the word – WELCOME – and what it means to you.

A. W – Welcome to the world of professional education. You may have graduated in arts, science, commerce or any other subject. Today you enter a professional course and it is different. You need to learn to learn all over again.

B. E – Education at college level is different from school. Whether graduate or post graduate level, you have to stand on your own feet and learn. There will be nobody to hold your hands or scold you. It is an opportunity to be self reliant.

C. L – Learn, unlearn and re-learn. Today the world is changing at an enormous pace. What you learnt yesterday may be history today and irrelevant tomorrow. Our ability to learn, un learn and re- learn will be our competitive edge in the future for you.

D. C – Change – Change will be the only constant in the world of tomorrow. Our ability to change ourselves and adapt to the changes around us will be our only guide to success.

E. O -Openness – We have to open our minds like a parachute. There is an opportunity to learn from everyone and everything around us. If we keep ourselves open, the opportunities to learn are limitless.

F. M – Morals – We often have the dilemma whether to be ethical or not. We see a lot of people around us in all walks of life who have made good money, the wrong way. We are also tempted to do. In my view, it is worthwhile to lead an ethical life. It ensures good health and happiness for you right through your life. Please remember, health and happiness, money cannot buy for you.

G. E – Excel – You need to excel in whatever you do here. Excellence is a journey and not a destination. You have to excel in academics, sports, cultural activities, field work, assignments and et all. If you excel and be the best nobody can ignore you. You will land up with a great job even before you finish your course.

Wish you all the best.

S Ramesh Shankar

July 2018

The Invisible stickers

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A friend shared a story with me. It touched my heart and hence this blog. He said he was driving behind a car and was getting impatient since the driver in the car ahead of him was driving slow and not giving way. He honked and was fuming till he saw a sticker which stated that the car in front of him was being driven by a physically challenged person.

Why do we need stickers to teach us to behave ourselves in our lives ? Do we need people telling us that they are “suffering from cancer” or “they have lost a near and dear one” or they “have lost their job” through stickers on their face or their back.

We seem to be living in a world without emotions. We seem to be living for ourselves than for anyone else around us. Lets reflect on how we behave with our family, friends or colleagues at work.

When we get back from work we are busy with out laptops or mobiles and believe that the organisation does not exist without us. This false belief continues possibly till the day we lose our job or retire from work. It could be a false self image of ourselves. In this process, we do not have the time to wish our spouse or encourage our kids in their academics, sports or cultural activities. How can we justify this ever ?

If we move to the work place, the situation is no different. We believe our colleagues are machines, which are paid to work and give their best. We demand more than they can deliver and losing our cool with them is a matter of right for us. We are neither aware of the problems they are facing in their personal world nor do we have the time or the inclination to get to know them. We live and work in a heartless organisation and believe our colleagues are like robots, who work for us.

How about our friends ? In this era of social media, we believe if we get hundreds of likes for our posts on social media, our day is made. We get depressed when nobody reacts for a few seconds for every post we make on the social media. Our friends are virtual and emotions are expressed only in emoticons. We do not remember the birthdays or anniversaries of close friends and do not have the time to visit them.

This post from my friend really triggered my thoughts. It churned my emotions. I wanted to challenge myself and everyone around me to change. To change for the better. It is time to realise how valuable it is to spend time with your family. It is worthwhile to empathise with your colleagues at work and know them as human beings with emotions. We need to find the time to meet friends and share our time.

We can see a tram in front of us on the road as in the photo above, but if there is no sign -“Do not cross the road” , we may be tempted to do so.

We need to remember that human beings are social. We do not need invisible stickers on their face or their back for us to behave like fellow human beings. We need sense the emotions in others and be human.

Let us start now.

S Ramesh Shankar

The flame

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A flame ignites our imagination. I have always wondered what does “fire” consist of. I have not found an answer as yet. I was a student of chemistry but still could not understand it. One thing I have understood is that fire generates light and heat.

A flame could mean different things for different people and in different contexts. Lets start with a teenager or an young adult. A flame could mean a person of the opposite sex, who ignites the passion in this person.

A villager may look at a flame as a source of fuel to cook food or keep himself warm during winters. It could also be significant from a religious perspective too. The flame in the forest could mean loss of life or livelihood.

The flame is a symbol of religious significance for a Hindu. A flame is burnt every day by the Hindus at homes and in temples to worship God. It is also used in religious ceremonies to offer our salutations to God. A flame is God in shapeless form.

When a building or a factory is in flames it is destructive. It can lead to loss of lives, property and livelihood. But a spark neglected may light the flame. This could be a good lesson in life. Are we neglecting sparks in our lives, which may lead to flames and ultimately destroy our lives and livelihood.

A flame is also a symbol of God in churches and other religious institutions. This symbolises that all religions lead us to the same destination. In my view, various religions are different paths leading us to the same God. We may call God by different names but the end is the same.

One of the interesting aspects of the flame is that it has no bias. It provides light to everyone with equal measure. If you tamper with it, it may burn you without any discrimination. It does not discriminate between the haves and have nots. One lesson the flame teaches us is to be unbiased in all our dealings in life.

Another interesting dimension of a flame is that it gives heat and light without expecting anything in return. This is a good quality to imbibe. It may be worthwhile to attempt giving to others without expecting anything in return. It is like the saying that the left hand should not know what the right hand is giving.

In the darkness of night, a flame can be the only source of light when electric power may also fail. It is interesting that man made sources of power and light are not always dependable but flame is. This shows that nature is beyond human imagination and we need to protect and preserve nature.

There is also a flame within us. We may call it our spirit or our soul. It keeps us ignited and always on our toes. It helps us to distinguish between the right and the wrong provided we are willing to listen to this internal flame.

Let the flame be lighted within us always.

S Ramesh Shankar

The mystery

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Life and death – both seem mysteries to me. One may or may not believe in God or a super power but has to believe that life and death are not easy to understand even today. Nobody can predict who will be born in which family and neither anyone can predict who will die when.

Life itself is a mystery for me. It unfolds every day like a plant growing from the seed. We are born into a family and lead life in different ways as we grow up. We cannot be sure where we will study, work, marry or settle in life.

One may call it destiny while others call it fate. Life has its unique ways of taking us to places where we never believed we will go. It also has its unique ways to help us stay grounded when we start floating in the air.

While astrologers may predict your future based on horoscope and astrological signs, it is still a mystery, which unfolds at its own pace. While some of the predictions may come true, others may take you by surprise.

None of us can be sure where we will be born and what type of life we will lead. We know of kids born in homes of millionaires leading a pauper’s life and vice versa. While I believe we determine our destiny by our hard work and deeds, it is still an unpredictable journey and mystery to that extent.

If we look at death, it is equally mysterious. The only definite thing of life is that both birth and death happens to everyone. Anyone who is born has to die some day. But, we can neither predict life nor death for anyone. It is an elusive mystery for mankind.

None of us can predict who will die when. Neither age nor health could really determine death. I know of people who have suffered life threatening diseases and even doctors had predicted a short life for them but lived for decades beyond those predictions. On the other hand, healthy people living a decent life suddenly die as if they have finished their journey in a hurry.

Apart from birth and death, we face many other mysteries in life. We meet people whom we would have never imagined. We visit places, which we only dreamt of. We may even end up marrying someone, whom we never intended.

Life is fun when it is a mystery. Some of us are stunned by the mystery of life while others may enjoy the unknown journey. In my view, it is worth exploring life as it happens to us. Let the mystery resolve as it evolves. The more unpredictable life is the more adventurous it is likely to be. Life would be boring if we are aware of the what is in store for us in the future.

What the two parrots are talking (as in the photo above) will always be a mystery !

I am not a big fan of mystery movies but enjoy life as it comes. I am game for any adventure in life and am willing to take the risks. Let us take every day as it comes and enjoy the unknown as it unfolds in front of us.

Let life be an unknown mystery.

S Ramesh Shankar

The touch…

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A touch can mean many things to many people. The mother’s touch can mean a world to a child. A father’s pat could mean recognition for others. A partner’s touch could kindle romance between couples. An opponents touch could be a fowl in a soccer field.

So the same touch could mean different things to different people in different contexts. Today kids in school are taught about “good touch” and ” bad touch”. This is because it is necessary to recognise the intent of the touch. As an adult, we are able to make our judgement in most cases but kids get misled by inappropriate touches.

In some contexts, a touch is very effective to soothe a person. For example when a person is bereaved of a close friend, relative or even a pet a warm hug can help console a person. On the other hand, when a person wants to be left alone, a touch could intrude into their privacy.

We need to understand the culture and values of the people around us to use touch appropriately in our dealing with them. While one can be liberal with family members and friends as we understand them and they do the same. But when we use touch as a means of communication or conveying our feelings with others we need to understand how they perceive it in a particular context before we use it.

Even within the family, we need to understand how touch is perceived by people around us. While a warm hug is considered appropriate in some families, it may not be so in others. Even shaking hands between men and women is appropriate in some cultures and not in others.

A child’s touch is always comforting to a mother as in the photo above.

Even in cultures, where touch is considered appropriate while communicating with others, there may be individuals who are not comfortable with touch. Hence, it is important to use touch only after we understand the other person well and their culture.

Touch is also used as therapy to cure some illnesses. A massage is a common use of touch especially in Ayurveda for curing many types of illnesses. However, it is used only by trained therapists who know to use them appropriately with the right kind of pressure on the body. If inappropriately used, it could lead to more problems than solutions.

Even animals love touch as an expression of emotions. Dogs feel loved and cared when they are touched. However, if we end up touching a poisonous snake, we may end up being bitten. It is important to realise that we need to know how the animal will react to our touch before we touch them.

Humans are no different. While one person may feel loved and cared, the other person may feel hurt by the same touch. Hence it is critical to understand people and cultures before touching anyone around us.

Let us learn to touch appropriately.

S Ramesh Shankar

16th May 2018

Me & You

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Life is an interaction between individuals. We tend to generalise things and blame institutions around us for our state of affairs. Lets start with our family. A family is a social institution of well knit members . A family is not a physical house or our material belongings.

But it is unfortunate that many families end up in courts over property rights or to claim share of their wealth. They do not realise that family is the network of human relationships. It has to be enjoyed through love and sharing only. No amount of wealth can bring joy and happiness to family members if we are reluctant to share joy with each other.

Similarly, an organisation is not a physical building, factory or a set of computers. An organisation is a network of people working in it. It is the quality and richness of their relationships, which determines the culture of that organisation. Factories may come and go, buildings could be rented or leased but it is the people working there who make all the difference to the effectiveness of the organisation. The sooner we realise it as leaders the better the chances of success of the organisation.

It is equally true for a nation. The world’s wealthiest nation is the not the happiest country in the world. If money could buy everything in life, then the wealthiest nations should have been the happiest. It is not so because happiness is an index of our quality of relationships.

Interestingly most of us as individuals focus more on ourselves than on others. We want to acquire material wealth in all possible forms and at the shortest possible time. As we do this, we may not be bothered much about our relationships around us. We forget to nurture even our family relationships.

This nature continues and we are least bothered about the people around us. We start believing that our wealth can get us everything and anything in life. It is only when a crisis( like the current pandemic) hits us, do we realise the value of relationships and other people in our lives. If God forbid, we fall sick and get hospitalised, we look for friends and relatives to nurture us.

This brings us to the basic need to value life and relationships in life. The focus has to move from “ME” to “WE”. While it is human to accumulate wealth and focus on self, the sooner we realise the existence of other human beings around us and value them, the better it is for us.

Human interactions are always between two individuals and not with a statute or an inanimate object as in the photo above.

This reflection may help families, societies and even nations to prosper. The reason could be that the focus is on building relationships and spreading happiness rather than competing with each other to accumulate more wealth and at many times at the cost of other families, societies or nations.

Life comes a full circle. The realisation that happiness in life is based on the quality of our relationships rather than our wealth will make us reflect. This reflection may help us change course and improve the quality of our lives.

Our new year resolution can be – ” How many people can I make happier every day in the new year ?”

Lets reflect today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Appearances may be deceptive

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The other day I met a family in the lounge of an airport. It was a man, his spouse and two kids. The man was wearing a religious mark on his forehead and looked very spiritual. But as soon as we entered the lounge, this person started consuming alcohol and other beverages like the other mortals around him.

I have nothing against his consuming alcohol or any other beverage. Ultimately, it is his personal choice and preference and nobody is entitled to comment on it. But, what caught my eye is that the appearance of a person may be deceptive at times.

This man looked very spiritual and one believes that a person of this type may not consume alcohol. This could either be our mindset or underlying my hypothesis that appearances may be deceptive.

I met another family in a restaurant. They looked from the lower economic strata of society but were doling out money to everyone. Sometimes physical appearance can be misleading and you form opinions about people, which may not reflect reality.

I have met people of different hues in life and generally noticed that appearances are indeed sometimes deceptive. A person may look calm and serene in appearance but may be short tempered and hotty in his disposition.

The interesting aspect to understand as to why this happens as we grow up in life. As a kid, all of us are spontaneous and our appearance will be symptomatic of our moods. One can easily make up the emotions of a kid with the appearance on her face. On the other hand, as we grow up we possibly try to camouflage our emotions and try to hide reality from the world.

This could be because we are conditioned to behave in a particular way in a particular situation. Any dissonance is considered deviant. This then gets reinforced in our psyche and then becomes a way of life. We start believing that we have to smile at the world even if we are in distress.

Of course it may be true that some people are more dramatic than others. They are good in their histrionic skills and hence can act different from what they are feeling inside. This may be more natural for some than others. My belief is that is difficult to have an internal state of emotions and express something else on the face. But that is the life which appears around us.

While it may be true that all of us try to hide our emotions sometimes, it may be desirable to express ourselves as we feel. This may be easier than done. However, the more we are able to practise, the lesser dissonance we may have in life.

As in the photo, Niagara Falls may look cool on a cloudy day. But it may not be safe to try and swim under the falls even when it is calm. Appearance can be deceptive.

Personal credibility in life is all about predictability. If our face cannot predict our emotions, then others may consider us less reliable. Hence, it is fair to state that face is an index of the mind. The more we are predictable the better for us and for all the people around us.

Let our appearance reflect the reality within us.

S Ramesh Shankar