Blankness


I am not sure if this is a correct word in English.  But I am not worried about that as long as I am able to express what I feel.  There are some days when you are alone and feel that you are in a state of flux.  It is a feeling of emptiness and you think as if there is no meaning in life.  You also feel that there is neither a beginning nor an end to anything you do in life.  Is this a feeling some of us feel some time or the other in our life.  What do we do when this happens ?

The first good news is that we are not alone.  Many of us go through this in our life time.  Not once but may be many times. There is nothing to feel sad or disappointed.  It is like while undertaking a long road trip, you sometimes end up on a road, which is a dead end.  Neither your map works nor anything else.  Over and above there may be no sign of life anywhere around you.  The mobile network may not work too and then you wonder what to do.

If we end up in such a situation, what do we do ?  We do not abandon the car at that point and wonder what to do.  We reflect and contemplate.  Sometimes, we may retract our route and drive from where we came till we find a turn or a person to guide us.  Life is no different.  We have to pause and take a break some times.  It will look as if there is emptiness and we are in a state of vacuum.  It is ok to feel this way.  Just take a deep breath and may be a break and you may be able to restart life all over again.

I am reminded of the problems most of us face while using computers.  When the screen hangs and no key makes any impact, what do we do.  We either switch off and on the computer or press “Control+Alt+del”.  It is the same thing we have to do in our lives.  When we reach a dead end, we have to take a break.  We have to reboot ourselves and start all over again.  There is nothing right or wrong about such instances.  Interestingly many of us face such situations more often than not today in our lives.

This may happen in our career too.  We may feel we have reached a dead end and there may appear no light at the end of the tunnel.  There is no need to panic.  We need to introspect.  Are we equipped to deal with changing directions in our career.? Are we skilled to deal with the changing business environment?   Are we the best in whatever we do so that nobody can bypass us ?  If the the answer is yes to one or all of the above, we know what do do.

In case, we are still groping to find the answer, it may still never be too late.   If we cannot find the answer ourselves, we can ask our colleagues, seniors, family, friends or well wishers.  After all in life, we may have all the questions and it is human not to have all the answers.  If we did, we may not believe in that spiritual power, whom we may call God or by any other name.  Like in the photo above, if you are in a hot air balloon with a boat in the midst of the sea and do not know which side to row, what do you do ?

I am a born optimist.  I believe every question has to have an answer.  If we do not the know the same, it does not mean the answer does not exist.  We need to have the humility first to accept that we do not know the answer to our question in life and then the courage to ask the right person to help us.   Life is complex but the way to deal with it is simple.  When in doubt, ask ?

Is it possible ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Broken Relationships..


Life is a web of relationships.  It starts with the family and then extends to school, college and organisations.  We meet friends, colleagues and well wishers everywhere.  Our life revolves around these relationships.  We gain from some and lose from others.  But then we learn to live with them and deal with them as it evolves.  Some help us move on in life while others teach us to slow down and change course.

Every relationship is unique.  It starts with your family.  Your parents and siblings are the first you connect with.  You get close to your mother or father.  You trust them blindly and consult them for everythinig in life.  Sometimes one of your siblings also becomes a friend and you are able to discuss all issues under the sun.  Then you get out of home to college and then to work.  Now, you develop friendships with colleagues.

This process of building relationships all around you is an integral part of your life.  One of these relationship blossoms and you tend to get closer by the day.  It becomes symbiotic and mutually rewarding.  When it happen between two sexes, you tend to get attracted to each other through mind, body and soul.  This blossoms into a partnership.  You tend to believe that you cannot live without each other.  It is gratifying when this relationship fructifies into a life long partnership through a marriage.

But sometimes life takes a different turn and the person you are closest to ditches you, leaves you and deserts you when you least expect that to happen.  Your life is shattered.  You question the meaning of life and no words of consolation can console you.  You believe that life is unfair to you.  It is only time, which can heal you and this experience is to be gone through to be believed.  It is painful to say the least.

But after you get over it, life becomes easier for you.  You tend to believe that you are made of steel.  No force on earth can melt you.  No hurt can destroy you.  You believe you can now live life on your own terms.  It is like the fire melting and moulding the steel into shape in a furnace.  Your life is now moulded  through tough experiences of the past to take up any challenge in the future.

You become reflective on life.  You tend to believe that everyone goes though ups and downs and it is up to us to take it in our stride and deal with it.  There are no full stops in life.  Life is full of commas and semicolons.  You need to take a deep breadth and if needed medidate a bit and move on.  It is easier said than done.  But life is like that.  How can we define life in all its colours to anyone ?  

We neither can imagine what will happen the next hour, next day or even the week ahead ?  So, why break our head.  Let us deal with life as it comes.  In a way, if you are destined to go through tough times at an early stage of your life, the better it is for you.  It makes you determined.  It toughesns you and you are ready to take on anything in life.  Like in the photo above, you pick up your strands to rebuild your life even if your partner deserts you when you least expected it to happen. You have to learn to deal with the waves of life on your own terms and then become a winner.

Let us lead life the way we want to rather then get bogged down by the obstacles on our way.  It is like the river flowing down the mountains.  It may take months or days to wade through rocks but the river never stops.

Lets learn to move on.

S Ramesh Shankar

Being in the moment…


In life most of the time, we either worry about the past or brood about the future.  We hardly live and enjoy the present.   Why do we fail to be in the present and enjoy every moment ?  This appears a very simple question but most of us have experienced this in our lives and have no answers. If you ask someone when they would be content and happy, they look at something which they hope to happen in the future.  

We can experience this in every stage of our lives.  A student will say that she is looking forward to complete her education and get into employment.  A young professional who has started his career will say he wants to double his income in three years and that may make him happy.  Someone else may say marriage will bring happiness.  For the married, a child is expected to bring joy in their lives.  If you have kids, their education and success in life is expected to give you contentment.   As your children get married, you await the arrival of your grand kids to bring happiness in life.  This is the cycle of the unending quest for happiness in life.

I have always wondered as to why we fail to enjoy today.  We glorify the past or our petrified about the future.  The past is history and we all know that.  We cannot re write history.  The future is mystery and even the astrologers or futurologist cannot predict it accurately.  Then why not live in the present.  One possible hypothesis is that happiness is always relative.  We compare ourselves to the past or to the future and hence this state of flux.

The other theory to explain this could be our belief of fate.  We believe we are destined to be happy or unhappy in life.  If we succeed in life, we say its luck and if we fail we claim it is fate.  Even if we have worked hard and given our best we refuse to enjoy the present.  This fatalistic attitude to life in infused in us.  In my view, while luck and fate may exist, it is we who can make a difference to live happily in life.

I have come across people who are always happy.  The single most factor which makes them happy is that they live in the present.  They are aware of the past and forget it.  They are not clear about the future but do not lose their sleep over it.  They do their best, work hard and enjoy each day as if tomorrow does not exist.  Imagine accumulating wealth all through your life and hoping that you will enjoy it later in your life.  That tomorrow may never come and you may not live to enjoy it and regret not doing so.  So, why not enjoy it today.

I am not saying that we should not learn from the mistakes of the past and be proactive not to repeat them in the future.  I am only saying that we need to learn to live each day as it comes and enjoy every moment in front of us as we experience it.  No two human beings are similar and no two experiences repeat themselves.  We have to give our best at all times and deal with life as it comes.  Like in the photo above, the beauty of nature is there all around us to enjoy every moment of our life every day.

Let us learn to live life each day as it comes.  Let us look at all the positives around us and enjoy today and believe that yesterday is over and tomorrow is yet to come.

S Ramesh Shankar

Crossroads in Life


There comes a stage in life when you feel that you are living on the edge.  You are in a dilemma to say the least.  It is a stage in life, where you feel you want to move on, stay put or take a step back.  You weigh in all the options and then are still stuck to where you are.  It is almost like you are standing on a soil full of quick sand.  It is a terrible situation to be in, but it is true that most of us go through this in our lives.

If we look back at our personal lives, such situations haunt us.  The first such dilemma I faced in life was when my father was seriously ill with a critical illness and was in the ICU.  He had a renal failure and the doctors told me that he has to be on dialysis every week.   It would cost me quite a bit and that amount was almost what my monthly earnings were at that stage of my life.  The doctors asked me as the eldest son whether I would like to go ahead and put him on dialysis or let him die the natural way.  I was shocked and did not know what step to take.  I had no other sources of income and no other person to support me financially.  I took the plunge that I will go ahead with the dialysis knowling well that I cannot afford it and it may be a painful experience for him as well.   The only reason for this decision is that my heart told me that I should do everything to save my father as I could never ever repay what he had done for me and the rest of our family.

If I move to the work situation, the defining moment was in 1995.  I was working in a public sector undertaking, where I had started my career in 1981.  I had done well all through my career and was promoted almost every three years.  Of course, there were ups and downs during these 14 years.  I got promoted in 1995 and then I decided to resign and pursue my career in the private sector.  At that time, this was considered a high risk decision.  Everyone of my age preferred the government service and next the public sector as the best place to work in.  My seniors advised me against it.  My family members were supportive of my decision.  My friends were curious.  I was not sure whether to take the plunge or not.  I decided to move on and have no regrets of what I did.

I am sure each one of us would have gone through such dilemmas in our lives.  It could be life defining moments or life threatening ones.  Each of us weigh all the options before us and take the best decision.  Sometimes we may be proved right and other times we may be proved wrong.  It is after a period of time, people will pass the judgement and tell you how right you were or how wrong you were.  It is our ability to take both of theses situations in our stride and move on, which may make us successful in life.  We have to take a decision, own it up and move on. We ourselves will not know whether it is right or wrong. As long as we’re are sure that it is the best option before us with all the information at our end, we should just go ahead.

 One needs to listen to everyone, seek the advice of elders and the experts and then own up whatever one thinks is in the best interest of everyone.  It may work out or it may not. It does not matter.  After all life is also like a lottery.  When it clicks, you hit a bonanza and when it does not, you learn to cope with it.  As in the photo above, you sometimes do not know whether the river is taking a right or a left turn.  You realise it only after you have taken the turn and reached your destination.

Let us learn to move on in life.

S Ramesh Shankar

Safety vis a vis Speed


I have always been fascinated by driving.  I love driving on the highways along with family and friends for a long road trip any day.  A long drive along the country side teaches you many things in life, which no class could do.  It helps you in advance planning.  It enables you to deal with any type of unforeseen circumstances.  It also makes you adapt to eating what you get on the way rather than what you desire.

Even in my youthful days when I first owned a second had fiat car, I used to love to drive fast.   All the kids in our family or friends circle used to jump on to my car only because they loved my speed. It was indeed thrilling.  The cars were not technologically advanced nor the roads were great.  There were hardly any safety features and hence the maximum speed on a highway could be 60 to 80 kms per hour.

I continued this driving style for many years in my life and was quite proud of the same.  I did take whatever safety precautions were necessary and possible.  I used to plan and ensure driving especially on the highways only from sun rise to sun set.  I normally did not drive more than 400 to 500 kms in a day as it gets tiring beyond that.  Today the cars are more advanced and the roads are excellent.  You are tempted to drive faster and keen to enjoy the thrill of speeding.

This attribute of mine continued for decades.   I can be honest to state that it was only about 5 years back that I realised that speed thrills but kills too.  As long as the road is empty and good, you can drive fast.  But it is important to wear your seat belts and keep the car under control.  On the highway, you never know how the others are going to drive.  Further, there could be traffic from the wrong side of the road like a tractor or a two wheeler.  This could further get unsafe with pedestrians or animals crossing the road at odd places.

Now after spending decades enjoying the thrill of driving in the city and on the highways, I realise that speed thrills but kills.  It takes the same time to reach your destination if you drive at high speed or at reasonable and safe speed.  If you drive at high speed, you enjoy that moment but then have to slow down the moment you see a pedestrian or a vehicle on the opposite side and this not only slows down your car but also damages the brake pads and other parts of the car.

It is better to care for safety than speed.  As long as you are safe and can drive at reasonable speeds, it is not only enjoyable for you but you reach your destination safely and in the same time period. Thus this may be a life lesson for me.   I continue to enjoy my driving as a hobby and have a car, which has all the basic features of safety.  We ensure that we are wearing the seat belts always in the front and the rear seat and are at reasonable speeds, wherein the car is in full control and safe.

In conclusion, I would say it is safety with speed which is thrilling and not speed alone.  We not only have to care for our own safety but all the people on the road.  It is true that all over the world the maximum accidents happen on the road.  Unfortunately, it is the highest number in our country.  So, let us resolve today to be safe always and still enjoy speed.

Safety first, speed next.

S Ramesh Shankar
January 2017

Expectations Management

One of my colleagues enquired if I could write on “Expectations management”. I thought it was an interesting subject and hence readily agreed. Someone interestingly said that frustration is the gap between achievement and hope. We are continually trying to live up to the expectations of all the people around us. When we succeed, we are elated and when we don’t we feel dejected.

Today, expectations begin even before you are born. Our parents are expecting us to be a girl or a boy depending on their wish. If we fulfil their wish, they are delighted and if we do not, they are disappointed. So, we possibly need to learn to manage expectations even before we are born. Then once born, we grow up and when it time to get into a school, most parents wish you get admission in the best school. The competitive race of life begins here.

Then we are out of school and we have to manage expectations of parents, teachers, relatives, friends and even the community around us. Each of these people have different expectations from us. While every parent wants the child to pursue the best of education, every teacher wishes the child excel in her or his subject of choice. Relatives and friends are awaiting your success in academics to celebrate with you and your family. The community around you wants to take pride in your accomplishments.

Let us assume you are able to live up to the expectations of all of them. This may be easier said than done. You may want to be a doctor and your parents want you to be a engineer. Your relatives and friends feel you should pursue music as a career since you are good at it. So, meeting conflicting expectations and still pursuing what you want to do in life is a tough ask. You may delight some and upset some other well wishers in your life.

Now, you have finished your formal education and want to pursue your passion in life. You have graduated as a doctor and want to go to the villages to serve the most needy. Your parents are worried about living conditions. Your friends, relatives and neighbours are worried that you will not be available for them. The community around you is looking forward to benefit from your services. They are disappointed that you are moving away to serve in a village.

Apart from all of them around you, you sometimes are not able to live up to your own expectations. The champions in every walk of life set very high standards for themselves. They do not rest till they are able to surpass their own expectations every day of their lives. So, whatever your accomplishment in your life, you may feel you have a lot to achieve in the future. Excellence is a journey that never ends. It is like a train which has no destination.

Another dimension of expectation management is when you get married. Both spouses have expectations from each other. When we do not meet each others’ expectations, it results in avoidable conflict. There is no magic wand to balance expectations from each other. But two way communication, mutual respect, active listening and adapting to each other may help us bridge our expectations with each other.

With all these complexities of life, how do you meet the expectations of all the stake holders in your life. It depends on how we set our own expectations. While we may not be able to set expectations before we are born or even as a kid, it may be desirable to do it as we grow into an adult. We should calmly negotiate with the relevant stakeholders what to expect from us in every stage of life. We may not be able to live up to everyone’s expectations. But we are not bound to do so either. We should live up to our own expectations and have the courage to manage the rest.

Whether it is your friends as in the photo above or colleagues at work, relatives or family members, we need set and reset our expectations as per the needs of the environment.

We have to develop the ability to negotiate expectations. This may be with our parents, relatives, teachers, friends or even our colleagues at work. We have to be clear on what we want to do and then we need to pursue that with passion without hurting anyone around us. As we learn to be focussed and persuasive, we will realise that we can wade our way through the mesh of life and achieve what we want to.

Do you want to try ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Violence in society

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Not a day passes today without a report of violence in some part of the world. Our newspapers, magazines and TV channels are brimming with headlines of violent incidents around the world. Why cannot we have peace around the world ? Why do we have rapists torturing innocent children ? Whey do we have school children wielding guns and killing innocent people ? Why do terrorists attack innocent citizens ?

Every violent incident is reported in newspaper headlines and debated on TV channes to give sadistic pleasure to some people. I am trying to understand the root cause of this behaviour in society. I cannot believe any religion in the world propagates or supports violence. I am not well read on religions of the world,not even of Hinduism to which I belong. But my limited knowledge teaches me that no religion teaches us to practise violence in any form.

After deep reflection, I have come to the conclusion that our family, education system and societal and political values are responsible for today’s tragic state of affairs. Let me try to delve on each of these three root causes and find answers of how each of us can contribute to change this situation for our future generations.

Let us first reflect on our family system. Family is the basic unit of society. Today the foundations of family as a social institution is threatened. This is true around the world. While we may justify our moving from joint families to nuclear families due to career aspirations or individual ambitions, this has led to breaking of family as an institution. The elders in the family played the role of mentor and guide for the younger members. Today we do not have mentors or guides within the family system. The inculcation of family values is fading in society.

If we move to schools, our education system is becoming more commercial than educational. The sole objective of most of the schools and colleges is to make money. They are less concerned about producing the future citizens of their country. Educational institutions have failed to maintain standards and inculcate values in their students. If at all students learn that earning money and that too at any cost is one of the prime objectives of individuals in society. Educational institutions need to partner with parents and society to inculcate the right values in the younger generations.

Political parties and social groups are perpetuating violence in some form or the other. While in power they do everything to suit their convenience at the cost of society. When out of power they obstruct the working of the government and support violence in every form so that government in power earns a bad name. This is further accentuated by the apathy of the citizens. We are willing to accept the violence and crime against innocent citizens by the rogues of society. These rogues do not have any religion or nationality. They are criminals and have no place in society. They continue to thrive because of political support from all shades of society. We cannot even call them animals as that would be an insult to animals. Animals are more faithful to humans than such unscrupulous elements in society.

While fire may symbolise violence in society, we need to find ways to put off the fire by our actions and use it only for prayers and peaceful purposes as in the photo above.

What can we do as citizens ? In my view, we can play the role of mentors to our children and younger members of our family to inculcate the right values. We can promote and support educational institution which produce great citizens for the future and boycott those which commercialise education. We can boycott politicians and political parities which supports rapists, murderers and corruption in public life. This can be done by our participating in every election and voting for honest citizen to be our representatives in legislatures and parliament. Every political party has honest members and we need to support and promote them.

It is time to wake up and take charge ? My 3 simple steps are just nascent ideas. What do you think ? What are your ideas ?

S Ramesh Shankar