The gregarious neighbour


In life, one is blessed to have a wonderful neighbour.  I have had this privilege on a few occasions as I have cris-crossed the nation as part of my career.  In life, you neither can choose your parents nor your colleagues at work.  Similarly, you do not have the privilege of choosing your neighbour.  It was by chance that I bought a flat and moved in.  The neighbour moved in as a tenant. 

We hardly knew each other and generally met only in the lift while going up or down to work or on an outing.  We exchanged smiles and greetings and that was the only introduction.  My wife, me and my kids were very touched by their warmth and helpfulness.  They were a young couple with three kids.  Both husband and wife were always welcoming and greeted you with smiles.

In my less than two years of being their neighbour, I have never seen them in conflict with anyone in our society nor create any ruckus.  They were a sporting couple and always willing to help others.  I always used to silently admire them.  One day they invited us home for a cup of tea.  We realised that we were from different states and different age groups but there was something in common between us.

I admired their friendliness and we shared our feelings with them when we met them.  Interestingly enough they reciprocated our feelings.  I realised that in life, if you need good neighbours, you have to be good.  If you expect others to smile, you need to smile.  If you are helpful, others are more than keen to help you.  Age, caste, creed, religion or nationality does not matter at all.

I moved out of that flat to move to my newly built home in another part of the city.  But, we continued to be friends exchanging calls, messages and greetings through phone and social media.  Occasionally we met for lunch or dinner.  But, even if we did not meet, we had great rapport and respect for each other.  We evolved as friends for life and nurtured our relationship.

Today, if I look back, we stay in two different cities and lead our own busy lives.  But, we still are in touch with each other. We still look for opportunities to talk to each other and wish each other.  We celebrate the successes of each other and are more than willing to share any sorrow between us.  Once a friend, always a friend. I think one is blessed in life to have such neighbours.

I recently was chatting with her and it occurred to me that this family is a great source of inspiration for us.  They taught us to live life happily and share your joy with others.  Both husband and wife partnered to nurture our friendship and sustain it.  They enabled each other to pursue their passion in life and always sported a smile all the time.

I wish and pray to God to bless all of us with such neighbour in life.  

What do you say ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Flying birds


I have always been fascinated at the way birds fly high in the sky. I used to envy them and think how lucky they are.  One day I was wondering what the birds would be thinking of us as human beings on earth.  While I envied the birds for flying fearlessly, they may be envying us for enjoying ourselves walking around on the ground.  We believe the birds have all the freedom in the world and they do not need to stay at a permanent place.

On the other hand, the birds may wonder how lucky human beings are that have a permanent place to stay.  Birds have to keep flying endlessly till they are tired and have to find a place every day to rest at night.  They have to earn their food by flying around trees or other places and may be lucky some day and not on other days. We are so lucky we have a home to stay and get food served on our plates every day.

This phenomenon teaches us an important lesson in life.  We tend to compare ourselves with others and feel jealous.  Further, we think others do not suffer as much as we do.  We feel we are always face the most difficult situations while other rejoice.  We never realise that others may be in similar situations like us or may be even worse than us.  It is like me envying the birds in the sky till I wondered one day what the birds would think of me.

Life is a journey and has its ups and downs.  All of us have days of joy and moments of sorrow.  It may be worthwhile to admire others and learn from their goodness.  It may not be worth the while to envy others and die out of comparison.  If we need to compare anyone, it could be ourselves.  We can always be grateful to God for all the joyous moments he gave us when we face some miseries.

It is the attitude of self reflections and learning, which may make us better human beings.  Each living being is created by God and have their own pluses and minuses.  It is up to us to look at the positive of others and learn from them.  Jealousy can only make us move backward in life.  It is worthwhile to fly high in the sky like the birds and dream big.  It may be useful to leave the bad moments of one’s life behind like the birds leave their nest behind when they migrate.

It is up to us to be free and enjoy life like the flying birds.  If we learn from them, we benefit.  If we compare ourselves with them and feel bad, we lose.  Let us learn to learn not only from other human beings around us but from birds and animals, which have enough to teach us.

Today can be a new beginning.

S Ramesh Shankar

Groundedness


I would define “Groundedness” as our ability to keep our feet on the ground at all times  even after we may have accomplished something in life. This is not easy but worthwhile to try.  Most of us strive hard to accomplish success in life.  We study hard, play hard and work hard for success.  The moment we accomplish something in academics, sports or work we believe we have arrived.

It is true that we deserve to celebrate our success.  It is not fair to say that one does not enjoy the fruits of hard work.  If you have put in your best and accomplished something in life, you deserve to celebrate it.  You are entitled to share the good news with your family and friends.  However, it is important to realise that what ever one accomplishes is life is not absolute.  You have achieved something in relation to someone else.  It is worthwhile to remember that we have millions of others in the world, who may have done better than us in the same field.

It is natural to compete with others when we are young and strive to be the best.  But it is equally important to compete with oneself.  We have to remember that whatever we have accomplished in work or life is not the ultimate.  Let us assume that one has broken a world record.  But there is always an opportunity to break one’s own record.  The best never ever rest.  It is critical to remember that the best do not fly in the air but are always grounded.

If you look at the work place, the situation is not different.  One does not respect people who brag about their position or power.  We do not admire people who beat their chests to share what they have achieved at work.  We salute people who give their best at work but always credit others for their success.  They ensure that they are always grounded.  They are fully aware that they have to work harder and smarter to excel at work.  

Human beings are not respected for the weath they accumulate or possess in life.  They are respected for their humility and simplicity.  The people who have their feet on the ground are the people who accomplish more than the people who fly in the air.  It is important to be a realist at all times.  It is great to dream and work hard to accomplish your dream.  But it is vital to be grounded to move on after you achieve your first goal.

If you look back at history, the greatest people on earth are the humblest.  They do not carry their titles on their shoulders.  They do not wear medals on their chests.  They do not rest after accomplishing their highs in life.  They share their success with others and most importantly keep their feet always on the ground.  It is easy to stray and let your feet off the ground.  The chances of slippage are higher than the chances of success in the future.

You could dream sky high but have to have your feet on the ground.  As the photo above illustrates that the tree has grown tall but has its root on the ground.

Let us learn to be grounded always.

S Ramesh Shankar

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 Sangati ( good company)


Do we get influenced by the company we are in ?  May be  or may be not.   We grow up in the family and imbibe the values of our family.  Our parents and siblings become our role models in life.  We learn the good and bad things from them.  We also imbibe the habits  of our family as we grow up.  Then as get into adolescence, we do get influenced by our friends.  Our friends influence us more than our family. 

Our friends mean more to us than our family at this stage of our life.  We study together, play together and sometimes even like to sleep together. In this process, we learn and adopt the good and the bad habits from each other.  We work hard and attend tution classes together.  We also end up smoking and drinking together.  We want to live life on our own terms.  We tend to defy our parents and do not like to be advised on anything in life.

As we grow up as adults, we take control of our life.  We leave our parental homes in search of a dream career.  We live independently and now it is our colleagues at work and friends in life, who make all the difference.  We spend more time at work and with friends.  We learn from them and share our learnings with them too.  At this stage of life, we are influenced by our boss and colleagues at work.  Further, our friends also evolve as our advisors.

Then many of us get married and our spouse becomes an integral part of our life.  We listen to each other more than anyone else in our life.  We share the good and bad news with each other.  We balance each others lives.  We lead our life as partners.  There are times of conflict, where we may fight with each other and even dislike each other’s intereference.  But, that is part and parcel of the institution of marriage.

Now, in all these stages of life, how does good company ( sangati ) make a difference at all.  It is true that our character and deeds are determined by the company we keep in life.  During our school and college days, we learn from our classmates and hence if we spend time with people who are smarter than us, we evolve smarter in life.  Similarly in college, our habits are moulded by the company we keep.  We excel in sports, arts or academics based on the influence of our friends.

On the other hand, it is also true that many of our bad habits are contributed to a great extent by the company we keep.  We end up making smoking or drinking as a habit with the influence of our peers.  Of course, we cannot blame our friends alone for any habit we develop in life.  However, it is true that our company has a huge impact in our life at this stage.

So, we learn as we grow old that yes the company we keep determines our life behaviours and habits.  Some of us realise earlier than others.  But all of us learn along the way and try to change whenever necessary.  It is up to us to decide whom we want to spend our life with.

In the photo above, the company of your colleagues makes you share happy moments of your life.  It is this spirit of fellowship, which energises you to participate and win in life.

Even the famous Hindu scripture “Bhajagovindam” states, that “The company of the good weans one away from false attachments; from non-attachment comes freedom from delusion, when the delusion ends, the mind becomes unwavering and steady and from an unwavering and steady mind comes Jeevat Mukti (liberation even in this life).”

Our company in life is our choice.

S Ramesh Shankar

You are not alone..


We are born alone in this world and we may leave Mother earth all alone when we die.  But, in life, we are never alone in anything we do.  When we go through ups and downs of life, many a time we feel that we are all alone. We do not feel that way when we are happy.  But, when we are going through a crisis, we get a feeling that God has been unkind to us.  Why me ?,  is a question we ask God  often in such situations.  

It is equally true that we do not ask God for explanations when she showers us with joyous moments.  I believe I deserved a promotion or I bought a house through my dint  of hard work.  However, when I am not considered for a plum role in the organisation or my promotion is denied, I always wonder why God is unkind to me.  It is in these very situations, we need to realise that we are not alone.

God always balances the good and the bad news for us.  It is possibly when we become too arrogant and forget to be grateful to someone in life that God gives us misery to get us back to mother earth and be grounded.  It may be worthwhile to reflect that all of us go through good and bad moments.  When we go through bad moments, it may be useful to think of millions of people, whose situation is worse than us.  However, it is human for us to compare only those, who are better than us.

Life has its cyclical ways.  We all have been blessed with pleasant surprises in life.  We are blessed with a healthy child or get married to a person of our choice.  We do not express our gratitude to God but consider it our dedication to life.  When something goes wrong somewhere for us, we suddenly get more spiritual and religious.  We may not have visited temples, churches or mosques for years together.  But, suddenly we become a frequent visitor to pay our respects to God.

I have learnt that life is happier when we are ready to embrace the good and the bad with equal reverence.  The day we realise that we are better off than the thousands around us, whose life is more difficult than us, we will learn to be grateful to God.  This principle is equally applicable at work and in our personal life.  If we lead a life of contentment, God will always take care of us.  If we lead a life of greed, God can never satisfy our needs.

So, it is up to us to learn to accept life as it comes.  We have to remember the good ness in others and be grateful to God and other people in life, who have made us what we are today.  Neither the good nor the bad lasts forever.  It is up to us to balance both and be ready to manage both in life.  After all, like the weather round the years, life has its own winter, summer and rains.  We need to adapt to manage all the seasons.

Just like in the photo above, there will be some people ahead of you and some behind you facing similar situations as you are facing today.

Lets live a life of gratitude and we will be ready to face life as it comes to us every day.

 S Ramesh Shankar

Every employee is a brand ambassador


Someone nicely said that ” if you take take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers”. This is true in letter and spirit. We launched an organization development intervention two years back to bring “customer centricity” in our organisation.  We were keen to keep the customer at the centre of everything we do.  While we had many key aspects of this intervention, evolving a “Customer first culture”was one of our major priorities.

It may be easy to measure customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction.  However, we were wondering as to how do we define ” Customer first culture”.  We did workshops across the organization and invited employees who were customer facing and also those who were customer supporting.  This helped us define what “Customer first culture” could mean for any organization.  

Interestingly, employees told us that “Attitude, Empathy & Commitment” were the three key cornerstones of creating a customer first culture.  Then we decided that we need to train our employees to understand what customers felt about us, inculcate the right attitude , build empathy and instill commitment in whatever their role is in the organization.

We trained most of our employees – direct, indirect and even third party employees and contract employees working with us.  At this stage, we realised that the real success of creating a customer first culture would be to make every employee a brand ambassador of the company.  Every action of every employee every day can either promote the culture of customer first or become a impediment in evolving this culture.

Interestingly employees gave us a lot of ideas to evolve this culture.  We realised that we need to share success stories and learn from the mistakes our employees did every day.  We shared all the success stories and evolved rewards and recognition for great customer orientation displayed by employees in different parts of the organization.  This propelled this movement and helped us promote the right envirorment for evolving the desirable culture.

So, almost every employee in the organization was trained. Customer facing employees, customer supporting employees, employees in support functions, our workmen in the shop floor and also the security staff, pantry staff, receptionist et all.  This ensured that every employee kept the customer at the centre of everything she or he did in the organization.  Every employee realised that every action every day was critical for evolving this culture.

This gradually became a way of life.  Our security staff were courteous to every visitor coming to our organization.  Our pantry staff were caring and conscious of our guests.  Our workmen were prompt in responding to customer complaints on the shop floor.  Our support function staff were responsive and proactive.  Our sales and service personnel realised the benefit of having a positive attitude, being empathetic and keeping their commitments to customers every day.

This has not only resulted in more than doubling our customer satisfaction index but has helped the organization grow multi fold in business and profits.

We learnt by making every employee our brand ambassador.

S Ramesh Shankar

Dreams Unlimited

Is it a good idea to dream ?


I think so.  After all, life is full of possiblities.  It is up to us to dream, dedicate our efforts and be disciplined to realize those dreams in our life time.  One interesting facet of life is that anyone can dream.  You need not be rich or poor, educated or uneducated, man or woman, living in a developed world or a developing world.  The only condition has to be the ability to dream and dream big in life.

I also realize that the journey from dreams to reality are similar for all.  The best thing I have experienced in life is the ability of a poor person to dream big and then zealously work towards fulfilling the dream.  One of my colleagues was working with a group of young girls in an orphanage.  She was helping these girls to plan for their career.  She  was inspired by the dreams narrated by these young kids in their school.  One of them wanted to be a pilot while the other a police commissioner.  What this teaches us is that dreams can be unlimited and unhindered.  However, the journey to convert dreams to reality is arduous and tough.

I have seen young school children from the lowest strata of society dream big and accomplish their dreams through hard work and discipline in their life time.  I have also seen rich kids ruin their life with no dreams or desires and burning their inherited wealth till they reach a point of no return.  It is up to us to dream big and then work towards it.

This is equally true in our work life.  Many of us start our career at a lower level in the organisation and with meagre salaries.  We bury our dreams like the ostrich in the sand.  The world moves on and we are left behind.  On the other hand, you hear great inspiring stories of how employees joining as a workmen in a manufacturing organisation end up becoming the CEO of the same organisation by sheer dedication, discipline and dogged pursuit of their dreams.

If we reflect in our personal life, the story is not very different.  We all start our career or business and have limited earnings.  We dream big and want to be wealthy and wise.  Some of us may work towards our dreams and make them a reality.  While others may continue to dream without any focused efforts.  Thus dreaming in life is the first step.  It is like setting a vision and mission for an organisation.  The next step is to work towards making that dream a reality.  It could mean adding qualifications, skills and expertise.  It could mean moving around the country or the world.  It could mean taking risks in life.  It could mean thinking of the impossible and working towards making it possible.

So, life is like a dream and it is up to us to make it a reality. The picture of marine drive above in Mumbai at night is like a dream come true.

What do you think ?

S Ramesh Shankar