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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

Everyone of us have an expiry date…

Today I read in the morning newspapers that a senior bureaucrat in the government is retiring at the end of this month and neither is keen on an extension nor an alternate role in government. I salute this bureaucrat. All of us have to realise that we have an expiry date. Unless we give way, we cannot give opportunities for others to excel and prosper in all fields.

I have seen this phenomenon quite prevalent in corporates. The senior managers starting from the CEO think that they are indispensable and never want to let go. We all have to realise that there is a pre determined expiry date for all of us. It is like a medicine when manufactured has a pre printed expiry date. Life is no different.

When we are born on earth, God has already decided our date of death. Similarly when a food item is produced the expiry date is printed on the packaging itself. We need to realise that in our careers too this is applicable. We all have to come and go. We may be excellent in whatever we do but we need to give way at the right time for the next generation to take over.

This is equally true in sports. We find many senior sportspersons reluctant to hang their boots even when their talent is fading. They want to live in the past glory and do not give space for the younger talent to prosper. It is better to realise that we need to give way when people ask – ” Why now ? ” rather than “Why not now ?’.

Even in the family, we need to realise when our role expires and we need to give way to the next generation. We should not hang on to power as if nobody else can do better than us. We may be surprised that the next generation may do better than us. They are smarter, more energetic and may work differently.

This is equally true in our political system. Our political leaders never want to retire. I recently read about a veteran politician changing political affiliation just to get a parliamentary seat. It is true that our political system does not specify an age of retirement. However, all political parties should decide that everyone should retire and give way to others at a particular age.

It is more about our inability to accept the reality of age and cling on to our positions and roles. We have seen this in organisations, sports and politics that the gen next always surprises us positively.

All of us have a responsibility of giving way and letting go. We need to realise that everyone has a start date and an end date. While we can continue to excel in whatever we are doing, we need to give way when the time comes to retire. We should not find ways and means to delay this decision. This will harm the organisation more than we can imagine.

I have always believed that when working in an organisation I was aware the day I joined as to when I need to hang my boots and enjoy life as in the photo above.

Life is fair to everyone. We all need to realise that there is a beginning and end to everything in life. We can do everything to begin well, work hard and excel in whatever we do. But the day when we feel we have reached our peak, we should learn to give way.

Let us learn to give way always.

S Ramesh Shankar

18th November 2018

How to love and enjoy your work ?

One of the oft repeated questions to me by employees is – “ How do you still enjoy your work after working for so many years ? . Most employees are complaining about work, their bosses, the organisation or the environment around and wonder how can one enjoy work in such a scenario.

Some times employees change roles and have new bosses and new environments. At other times, they even change their organisation and move to another location but still the crib continues. So, I was wondering if it is worth reflecting on this subject – “How to love and enjoy your work ?

The first realisation in this journey of work is that we are the only one who can change our attitude to work. If we decide that we have the best job on earth, nobody else can stake that claim. On the other hand, if we are to find reasons why we are not loving what we do or enjoying our work, we need nobody else to give us the reasons. The day we realise and internalise this basic truth, it may be easier to answer this question to oneself.

The next step is to ask – “ What is preventing us from loving our job or enjoying our work ? Let us look at the possible answers and try to dive deep inside us to find the answers for ourselves. First challenge could be a demotivating boss. Now, the question to ask is whether we have the option or authority to change our boss. If the answer is no, which is the case in almost every situation, we need to find how do we enjoy work irrespective of our boss.

If we look within and ask ourselves – “What do we enjoy doing at work ? , we may be able to find the answer. Then, the next question to ask is “What is preventing us to do that ?. We may suddenly realise that our boss is nowhere in the picture. It is either our own lack of initiative or efforts, which may be coming in the way.

Another reason which people say is they do not have great colleagues at work to learn and grow. The day we realise that we are also colleagues for someone else and they may be thinking the same about us, this feeling will disappear. We need to lead by example and influence others to change in a positive way to make the environment vibrant around us.

Yet another reason which people say is that – “We do not have enough freedom at work ? The day one realises that empowerment is not given but taken, this may also change. Nobody on earth can prevent us from innovating, trying out new things and if we succeed taking credit for it and if we fail owning up responsibility to learn and move on.

Another common reason is the organisation culture. Culture is not building, computers or physical infrastructure. It is the people, values and the way we treat each other. If we feel the culture is not conducive , we also have a responsibility to influence and change the culture. History teaches us that a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King single handedly could influence a nation – then why cannot we influence the culture within our own organisation if we want to. To make it simple, we can start with our own team.

If you do what you love, then you will love what you do as in the photo above.

The lessons I learnt in my long corporate career is that if I want to love and enjoy my work, nobody can prevent me to do so, except myself. I need to take charge, empower myself, try out new things and create a fun work place, where everyone enjoys along with me and thrives to experiment and learn every day. Have we all not seen one team member who is always having fun in any team with any boss and in any organisation. It is time to become that team member today.

Let us start today.

S Ramesh Shankar

10th June 2021

Insecurity of the boss

One of my colleagues at work is a prolific writer. He writes articles regularly and also publishes in magazines and newspapers. He is proficient in professional areas as well as fiction. One day he called me to inform that I will not see his articles in newspapers or in the public domain anymore. I was surprised and enquired as to why he suddenly lost interest.

He called me back to tell that his boss has asked him to stop publishing articles in the public domain like newspapers, magazines etc. I asked him the reasons for the same and he had no answers. He said his boss feels that a lot of his time is spent in writing articles and thereby he is not able to contribute much within the organisation.

I had advised one of my colleagues who worked with me to utilise every opportunity to represent the organisation and present papers and participate in discussions in academic and professional circles. I was surprised that one day she called me to state that her current boss has started questioning her participation in these events on the basis of time spent (even if most of them were on weekends) and also on their impact to the business.. I wondered why and when asked for the reasons her explanations were not very convincing.

This led me to the insight that many managers are insecure of their own team members. As parents, all of us want our children to excel in whatever they pursue. We want them to do better than us both in their career and in life. Then how is it different for a manager or a leader. Many leaders are wary of their own team members. If my boss calls one of my subordinates directly and interacts with her, I am worried.

Similarly many managers themselves want to make all presentations in leadership team meetings and do not want to give opportunities to their team members. They may justify this by stating that they cannot take the risk of failure or afford any goof up in front of senior leaders. I beg to differ. If we cannot take risks with our own team members, with whom will we take ?

Imagine a senior cricketer thinking that if he coaches a budding youngster and the junior excels, he may lose his place in the team. A true leader will always want his team members to do better than himself. One of the primary responsibilities of a leader is to develop their own team members. If leaders feel that projecting their team to the outside world will expose their weakness, they are only fooling themselves.

On the contrary, the best of leaders I have seen and worked with in my career have always promoted and facilitated their juniors with potential to try and even fail. After all, none of us can excel unless we get an opportunity to fail, learn and improve. As a leader, I should use every opportunity to promote my team members. The more I promote my team, the more I am respected as a leader. We can give all the credit if they succeed and own responsibility if at all they fail.

I recall one of the quotes of the legendary JRD Tata. Once when many leaders from the TATA group left and became CEOs of other companies, somebody asked him if TATA is producing leaders for other companies. JRD replied that he is happy that TATAs are producing CEOs for the country. This is leadership in action.

The more I am worried about displaying the talent of my team members in public domain, the more insecure I am as a leader. Further, really talented people will be wary of working in my team. The earlier a leaders learns about this insight, the better it is for his or her own career.

We need to remember that our security builds security of our team members. The more insecure we are, the more insecure our team members feel and behave. The more we expose our team members to the world outside, the more we get recognised as a leader. A true leader should be almost invisible and work only in the background.

The insecure boss is like the king of the past, who never left his seat for the fear that someone else may occupy it if he leaves it even for a few hours.

Every leader needs to realise that their own insecurity is their weakness rather than the weakness of their team members. The earlier they realise it, the better they will grow as a leader.

Let us learn to develop ourselves by developing our team by giving them all possible opportunities to learn and grow both within and outside the organisation.

Lets try from today.

S Ramesh Shankar

15th May 2021

The “know all” managers…

I sometimes wonder how little I know about anything in life. I attended a Carnatic music recital and learnt how little I know about music. I have attended a nature camp and realised my limited knowledge about plants, animals or birds. But I sometimes wonder how some managers seem to know everything in life.

I would call them the “Know all managers”. They may belong to a functional area before they become the leader of a team or the head of a business. The moment they become a general manager they tend to think they know it all. They seem to sometimes think that they know more than the experts in their field.

I admire the managers who are versatile and know it all. But I sometimes wonder if that is a good trait or bad. I am not sure. I believe that even if we lead a team, we may not be the expert in all fields. The day I realise that as a leader my role is to get the best knowledge, expertise and support from my team, I may be more effective.

The know all leaders think that they know everything. Further, they think that there is no need to listen to everyone’s view. They make up their minds even before they listen to everybody’s views. They prefer to talk more than listen. They make up their mind and take decisions based on their own perceptions.

I may call this phenomenon the arrogance of the mind. The day I think I know it all, my learning ends and my decline begins. My mental faculties are closed. I do not listen to people around me. My eyes are blinded and I do not see the wisdom of others. The really knowledgable people are generally humble and introverted. As a leader they may need to be encouraged to share their knowledge.

As a know all leader, if I silence my team, I will be a loser not my team. Most managers of this type think that if they listen more they may not be effective. In my view, the opposite is true. A leader who listens to her or his team is more respected than others. A leader who listens to others gains more than loses in terms of knowledge, skill or attitude.

The know all leaders may appear effective in the short terms but lose out in the long term. First, they are not willing to get the best out of their teams. Second they do not get the best counsel from the experts in their team. By not listening to their colleagues and not allowing them to speak, they silence the wisdom in the group. They may appear to be decisive but this is because they like to listen only to their voice and their views. This may result in a fast decision but not necessarily the best.

One quality which is fading in leaders today is humility. In my learning, humility is the foundation for sustainable leadership. We need to realise that even life time experience cannot teach us everything in life. The best teachers and leaders I have met in life are always keen to learn from everyone around them. Their humility bowls you over. Their humility makes you realise your limited knowledge or skills. They inspire you to be a life long learner.

It is like some nurses after working for a few years start believing that they know more than the doctors just because they have experienced a variety of patients in their career.

This makes it imperative for all managers to realise that they have to be life long learners. A manager who learns from everyone around him evolves into an inspiring leader. In my view, the difference between a manager and leader is our ability to inspire others. Our inspiration is not by our superiority of knowledge or skills but our humility to learn from everyone.

Let us learn to be life long learners.

S Ramesh Shankar

7th November 2018

Surviving a crisis in life

There are some moments in life which drown you in a sea of grief. Losing a near and dear is irrevocable. It feels as if the sun has set in your life and will never rise again. You also feel as if the moon will not light the night sky. You feel lonely but want to be left alone. No words of comfort can console you. You have no tears to cry in your eyes

I have gone through such moments in my life. I lost my mother at 23 and my father at 25. It was in quick succession and I had just started my career at 22. Fortunately my sisters were married and settled and I had to only take care of my younger brother. But still the question, which haunts you at such moments is – “Why me “?

You have led an honest life. You have been good to everyone around you – family, friends and relatives. You loved your near and dear one the most and God has snatched him/her away from you. You not only wonder why but also wonder why only you. These are normal feelings and anyone facing this situation will go through. No words of consolation soothes you. You get no answers from God or anyone around you. It’s only time, which heals you and not the words, conversations or people around you at this time of grief.

Your world is lonely. The gush of the wind is not heard by you. The song of the birds do not lighten your somber mood. The sound of the waves in the sea reverberate your hurt feelings. You lose faith in yourself and in God. You may stop visiting temples, churches or mosques irrespective of whichever religion you follow.

It is only time, which may heal you. It is at this juncture, you need to believe in yourself. You need to be a supportive partner to your family. Together, you need to weather this storm. You need to take courage from poor people, who live in small hutments near the sea. They face the wrath of the rains every year. The thunderstorms blow away their houses, their belongings and sometimes even their near and dear ones. They may be fisherfolk and fishing is their only source of income. So , they come back to the sea to start their life afresh.

Our life may not be very different. We may face one crisis after another. We may lose faith in ourselves and in others. We may also lose belief in God. But as time heals our wounds, we need to limp back to stand up and live life all over again. We need to look for people around us, who may have lost much more than what we have. We need to seek blessings and express our gratitude to God – to bless us for all that we have and give us the courage to bounce back. During such crisis, we need to be thankful to the people around us, who stood like the boulders on the ocean front, which faces the wrath of the sea waves every year to protect us from damage and destruction.

We need to believe that the sun does rise next morning after every sunset. Even the moon resurfaces after a no moon day. We do get rewarded for our efforts. We have to be thankful that we did our best and sometimes a crisis in life is inevitable – may be not in our hands and it could be nature’s way of helping us keep our feet on the ground.

Our life ahead is an opportunity. We need to learn to bounce back. Let time heal your scars and I am sure you will find ways to bring joy to others. You may get an opportunity to take care of other people like your own. You could think of all the good memories with your near and dear one and all the joy he/she brought into your life. It is sweet memories of our lives, which keeps us going in good and bad times.

The clouds do settle down and the blue beautiful sky returns after some time. We need to wait patiently for the blue sky to return in our lives as in the photo above. There is nothing permanent in life.

Selfless service and gratitude to those who stood by your side during your crisis are useful ways to bounce back in life. Wish you all the best.

 

S Ramesh Shankar

4th Sep 2021

PS : Dedicated to everyone who has lost someone close to their heart in their lives.

 

 

 

  

Monday moods ?

I have been asked multiple times by managers as to how to know if their team members are fully engaged at the workplace. The answer is simple for me. Ask your employees if they are excited to come to work on a Monday morning. If the answer is yes, you have created an enviable work place. If the answer is no, you can ask them what they would like at the workplace so that they feel enthused and look forward to a Monday morning to come to work.

This may be true for kids as much it is for adults. I remember even twenty years back when my kids were in primary school, they were restless on Sundays since they were looking forward to go back to school on a Monday morning . When I asked them why, the answer was invariably that they enjoyed the company of their friends and the freedom and encouragement of their teachers.

I find it intriguing that managers find it difficult to unravel this simple truth. It could be because I have always been privileged to work with great teams and wonderful managers. I always eagerly looked forward to a Monday morning to get back to work. My work environment was always energising. It was not because of the physical comforts of the office. It was rather the emotional environment of the team with energy infused by my manager and other colleagues at the workplace.

I find most managers and leaders not even communicating with their team members. They find it difficult to walk around and have some fun with their colleagues. Even wishing back looks like a burden to them when their team members greet them in the morning. We do not lose any of our power or prestige by wishing people back when they greet us. Even the security guard at the office entrance is a human being and feels good when you politely wish him or her back in the morning.

Another interesting dimension is that managers are not able to understand that every individual in their team is unique. Some like public recognition while others may like it private. Some are more sensitive than others. We need to spend time with each of our team members to understand what energises them and accordingly mould our leadership style.

We also need to learn to break traditions. Why not have a party on a Monday morning at work rather than always on a weekend ? We need to spend time to create excitement at work for each member of our team. Every individual wants to excel and may do so if we provide the right impetus for them to do so. We cannot cut, copy and paste ways of dealing with people on everyone in our team. It is like every child at home is different, so it is at work. Everyone is a talent and may need to be harnessed to excel.

One of the simplest ways to communicate with your team is to share joy and sorrow. How often are we willing to share our lunch and spend time with them ? Are we at the hospital if a colleague falls sick ? Do we support a colleague to get over a crisis by being an emotional anchor ? These are small and simple ways of earning respect from our team members. It is neither too difficult to start nor to sustain.

Last but not the least is our fairness and authenticity with our colleagues at work. Do all our team members experience us as transparent and genuine leaders ? Authenticity has to be experienced through our actions every day. We cannot pretend to be so. It has to come naturally through our behaviour and actions.

Let us learn to lead by example.

S Ramesh Shankar

1st November 2018

Inhale the present & Exhale the past

I was attending a yoga camp for a week at Lonavala. I met a co participant wearing a t shirt which read ” Inhale the present & Exhale the past”. I was very touched by this quote. It was indeed insightful.

We spend almost our entire life time either worrying about our past or wondering about our future. In this process we forget to enjoy the present. I am not sure why we spend so much time thinking about the past.

The past is history and the future is a mystery. All of us know that but still we are keen to look back or gaze forward rather than enjoy today. I have always believed in living life in the present. This may be easier said than done. All of us including myself drift into the past or worry about our future.

However, if we consciously try to live in the present, life is indeed fun. Every day and every moment is a discovery of life. Every day you learn new things and meet new people. It is like the colours of the sky. Have we ever seen the same cloud formation of sky colours every day ?

Life is no different. Nature teaches us in many ways to live life in the present. Children around us teach us every day to live in the moment. But as we grow into adults we forget the lessons of our childhood. We think wondering about the past or gleaming into the future is our sign of maturity.

Even if we look at the animals around us we may learn good lessons. The birds sing different tunes every morning. They do not seem to be worrying about the past nor the future. They seem to be flying in the sky as if today is the best day of their lives. We do not know their mind but at least their external behaviour urges us to enjoy every moment as if tomorrow does not exist.

One more reason why we should live in the present is that life changes in moments. A terrorist attack, a cloud burst or an an accident may bring our life to a tragic end within moments. Why not enjoy every moment as if today is the last day in our lives. Life would be fun and enjoyable that way.

We need to realise that we can neither re write our past nor predict our future. What we can possibly enjoy is the present. So, it is better to focus all our energies in enjoying today rather than brooding over yesterday or reflecting over tomorrow.

Life is fun when live in the present. Every moment brings new energy and new thoughts to our minds. Every new person we meet brings new perspectives into our lives. Every new experience teaches us lessons every day. Every day is a discovery of life and it is enjoyable that way.

As the kids in the photo show us how to live in the present.

Let us resolve today that we will inhale the present and exhale the past. I would go one step further. Apart from inhaling the present and exhaling the past, we should also not breathe into the future. We need to live in the present always.

Let’s learn to live in the present in every way.

S Ramesh Shankar

18th October 2018

Learning from birds

Birds have always fascinated me. Apart from their melodious tweets, they impart a lot of important life lessons for us. I can spend a whole day admiring the birds in a garden or on the beach or a forest. The colours of the birds are spread across the spectrum of the rainbow. The singing of birds is always music to the ears.

Let me share my first lesson from the birds. They live the life like a gypsy. They neither have a permanent home nor they are bound to a particular place. They possibly live life in the best place which suits the weather and their bodies. They fly way to a new place when are not comfortable with their environs. They do not complain to anybody about their lives. They are ever willing to adapt themselves to the environment around them.

The second learning is that they are self dependant. They seem to do everything themselves. They fetch their own food, build their own nest and sing their own songs. They neither depend on others for anything in life nor blame others for their miseries in life. They seem to live life as if there is no tomorrow and what better lesson in building our attitude to life.

The next habit I admire in birds is their ability to plan their day and organise themselves. They get up at dawn with their songs, spend the day fetching their food and building their nests and end the day by getting back to their nest and sleeping before being told to do so. They are lucky that the ubiquitous mobile phones have not yet invaded their lives. They seem to be at peace with themselves at all times.

The art of communication is to be learnt from the birds. They sing their own melodies. They effectively communicate to their peers and family members without making any excess noise like we humans do. They do not disturb other birds while they are communicating to each other. Their language seems simple and effective.

I am also a fan of the cleanliness of birds. While they may pick up things from all around them, they put things in their place. If you visit their nest, you realise how painstakingly they have been designed. If you touch their nests, they do not like it and never return to that place for fear of being attacked by humans. They may not be trained in 5S or other Japanese techniques of housekeeping but teach us life lessons that everything has a place in life.

When they fly high in the sky, they seem to carry all other peers along. It is always fascinating to see a flock of birds flying in the sky. They carry everyone along and cooperate rather than compete with each other to reach their destination. The leader ensures that others are following them and they have a pattern of flying to ensure that they are not attacked and they are guarded from all sides.

I wonder why we do not spend enough time to learn our life lessons from the birds, animals and plants around us every day. Today I am lucky that I decided to reflect on the life lessons from the birds. This has made me think and introspect on life. It may help us to think of one animal, bird or plant around us every week and wonder what we could learn from them. This may be easier since we find it difficult to learn from other human beings around us.

Nature teaches us every day in every way.

S Ramesh Shankar

7th November 2018

Outside is green and inside serene…

If you are surrounded by green all round you and it is serene inside, then what can you complain about in life ? I was enjoying the greenery of the environs around my home and serenity inside. Nature has its unique ways of cooling your senses and I felt it that way today.

This led me to think and reflect more on life and living. I realised that if we live a life of being “green” in every aspect of our lives and being “content” with what we have, will it not be wonderful. I realised it would be but wondered why is it so difficult.

If we have to lead a green life, we need to be sustainable in every action of ours. We should give back to environment a little more than what we take from nature. This would seem a tough challenge. Imagine the paper, water, fuel, power and other valuable resources we waste every day. We kill trees, ensuring drying up of rivers, power cuts and degradation of nature by use of fossil fuels in every way.

Imagine a life where we could have our own well for water needs, generate our own power using the sun, recycle and reuse resources thus creating no waste, how would life be. There would be no pollution. There would be no climate change and no shortage of water, power or any other resources needed by human kind. We will leave behind more for our future generations than we have inherited from our fore fathers.

Similarly I was wondering how life would be if all of us were content with what we have. Contentment is a state of mind more than a balance between wants and needs. When want exceeds needs, it becomes greed. This is possibly again easier said than practised.

Why do we get greedy even when most of our needs to live a happy life is fulfilled ? This may be because we live a life of comparisons. We accumulate wealth more for establishing or proving our status in society as compared to others than what we need to be happy. The day we live for our own happiness, we may live a life of contentment.

I may appear philosophical in my hypothesis. But, to be honest this is what most of us spend our life doing. We want to buy a second bigger car because our neighbour has one. We want to buy a second house since that’s a style statement we may want to make in social circles. We use more than one phone because we want to be seen with latest phone in the market as that it determines our social worth.

None of the above are impacting our daily needs in life. We can live only in one house. We can drive only one car at a time. We cannot improve our communication with others by having more than one mobile phone. By the time we realise that we are chasing an illusion, our health is impacted and we do not have the time to enjoy life anymore. So, the cycle continues.

One can experience both the green and the serene in the photo above.

It is time to pause and reflect. It is time to sit back and take stock. It is time to fulfil our needs and not our greed. It is time to live a sustainable life. Let us learn to contribute to the greenery around us by giving back to life more than we take from it. It is time to change our attitude to life and living.

Time to change is now.

S Ramesh Shankar

16th September 2018

Darkness to light …

 

 

Every festival teaches us some life lessons. I was wondering what the Festival of Lights can teach us. First we need to understand that it is celebrated across India by the name “Deepavali” but it has different folk lores. In the south of India and parts of west and east of India it is celebrated for the killing of demons called Narkasur & Mahisasur by the Gods. On the other hand in most of north India, it is celebrated as the return of Lord Rama from the forest after serving a 14 year deportation term.

Either way it is celebrated with the bursting of crackers , creative expression of design forms on the entrance of homes called rangoli and lighting of lamps to decorate homes. In the south of India it is celebrated at dawn and in the north it is celebrated at dusk. Either way the decorative lamps and the bursting of fire crackers transforms the environment from darkness to light.

Diwali or Deepavali as it is called is the Festival of Lights, colourful rangolis and bursting of crackers. It signifies the victory of good over evil and the return of a popular king to his people. While most of the traditions of the past continue with festive fervour, the lessons of this wonderful festival is forgotten in some way.

In my view one of the best learnings one can carry from the Festival of Lights is cleaning your home and your mind. Every household spends a lot of time in cleaning their home, painting them and decorating them much before the festival arrives. It may also be a good time to clean our minds of the unwanted memories stored in them. While we may be superficially cleaning our homes today, it is a great opportunity to make our environs more hygienic and our minds clearer and more peaceful.

Another important lesson one can learn from this festival is to enlighten ourselves and bring light into the life of others. This is an opportunity to transform ourselves. We can sit back and reflect on our own lives. We can bring fresh thinking into our minds and let our inner selves to get more illuminated. This festival also gives us an opportunity to bring light into the lives of other human beings by being of some help to them. In a way, we can illuminate the life of others through our deeds.

The third and the most important significance of this festival is to drive away evil thoughts from our mind. The bursting of crackers today may be polluting the environment due to the chemicals used in them. But, the spirit of this practise was more to drive away the demons and welcome the good in us. While we have fervently continued to burst crackers, we have forgotten the purpose of it and the spirit of this ritual.

We tend to remember the physical part of the rituals and practise them. We conveniently forget the spirit and purpose of these rituals. It may be time to reawaken ourselves. It may be the right time to kindle our spirits. We need to enlighten ourselves by living the rituals in letter and spirit.

It is time to clean our environment as much as our minds. It is time to think afresh and forget all the bad memories of the past. It is an opportunity to forgive the people who have hurt us and befriend them again. The joy of forgiveness is to be experienced to be believed. This way we can enlighten ourselves as much as bring light into the life of others around us.

Time to enlighten ourselves is today.

S Ramesh Shankar

7th November 2018