Terrorism 


We see innocent human beings – women, men and children of all religions, caste and communities being killed by a phenomenon called terrrorism.
While everyone condemns terrorism in all its forms, there are some countries and states, which directly or indirectly support it.

It is time for all countries of the world to unite and fight and eliminate terrorism. How can any human being kill other human beings in the name of religion or ideology and be proud of it ?

If a family loses a member, it is tragedy. It does not matter which religion, caste or community they belong. We have become apathetic to such incidents. It becomes statistic when reported till you are impacted personally by it.

Every day a human being from the defence forces or the para military forces is killed. This human being belongs to a family and if we put ourselves as a member of that family we can realize the extent of damage and the depth of grief of that family.

Politicians and members of the civil society organise protests more to gain media coverage and cheap publicity. They condemn killing of human beings of a particular religion or caste and make it a public issue. This then gets debated in TV channels as if these debates and protests can help the bereaved family get back their loved ones.

It is time to boycott people who protest for the sake of protest and for the sake of publicity. We need to condemn any killing anywhere in the world and fight unitedly against it.

In my view terrorism has no religion. It has no humanity. It has no principles and it has no morals. It has nothing to do with secularism or democracy. It is inhuman and let us not eulogise it.  

Let us together get to the root cause of terrorism and help our children and younger generations of the future to live in a peaceful world, where everyone loves each other irrespective of religion, caste, creed or nationality.

Terrorism leaves behind families homeless and headless like the remains of a dead honey bee comb(as in the photo above), which once was home to hundreds of bees.

Let us fight for humanity and condemn killing of every human being wherever and whenever it happens and pray for their families. Let us not be selective in criticism and project ourselves as the saviours of humanity, only when it suits us and helps us become TV stars by making arrogant and irresponsible statements to get cheap publicity.

Let us preserve and promote love and humanity in the world.

S Ramesh Shankar

Friends forever

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One is born with relatives but we make friends in life.  We do not have a choice to choose our family or relatives but we do have an option to choose friends and so we do.  My experience in life has taught me so far that relatives are generally less reliable than friends.  I do not want to generalise that all relatives are non dependable or all friends are dependable.  After all both relatives and friends are humans and they are bound to err like all of us.

I was born in a lower middle class family and my father was a central government employee.  While I was born in Trichy, Tamil Nadu, India, I have grown up in different parts of the country.    I have had the privilege of living in east, north, south and west of India.  Even as a child I have seen that family friends were more supportive than relatives.  The true test of reliability is not when you are doing well but when you are in distress.

I have experienced in many such occasions in life when I have gone through a bad patch.  Way back in the early eighties, I lost my mother and then within two years my father was on the death bed with a kidney failure.  It was  mostly friends who supported me financially and emotionally rather than relatives.  As I said earlier, there were some close relatives who helped me too but the selfless help came from friends.

Today I remembered these friends because I was in Bhubaneswar to attend the marriage of a friend’s daughter.  I started my career in a steel plant and grew up with a group of young friends from different states of India.  Although we belong to different states and speak different local languages, we have been together and in touch for more than three decades.  We have not met many times during the course of these thirty years but something somewhere strikes a chord between us even today.  We do not miss an opportunity to attend any marriage or other social functions in each others’ families.

As regards relatives, they are inherited in a way with your family.  They are with you and support you in ways they can.  However, as you grow up and separate they get into their own world.  If you do well in life , they still connect with you and seek your help too.  However, if you are in distress, many of them may forget you or feign ignorance in times of need.  As I stated earlier, it is not fair to state that all relatives are like that.  Some of them have been of great support to me in my life and I will ever be grateful to them.

I recently attended the alumni meetings of the graduation classmates and post graduation mates.  Both of them were nostalgic and we could relate to each other as if we had just passed out of college.  The bohenomy was symptomatic of our unconditional relationship.  We shared our joys and sorrows and when in need everyone was eager to help each other.

I would just like to emphasise that friends are forever and we need to nurture and cherish those relationships.  Relatives are inherited and we need to be in touch and keep a respectful relationship.  If they behave like friends, then we are lucky but  if they don’t we should never regret.  After all some friends also may behave in abnormal ways after being in touch with you for years.

As in the photo above, three of us are friends for almost four decades now.

Let friendships last forever

S Ramesh Shankar

Minimalist versus Maximalist ?

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In my definition, the minimalist fulfills his needs in life while the maximalist tries to fulfill greed.  Most of us grow up from middle class families and it is but natural to be aspirational.  I think there is nothing wrong with that.  We need to work hard and look to a brighter future in our career and life.  We tend to start accumulating material wealth and look for ways and means to fulfill our dreams.

As students, we mostly cannot afford to live our dreams as we do not want to burden our parents.  But, as we get into a job, we look for every occasion to save and realize our dreams.  It may sometimes not happen when we want it to happen but as and when it happens, it is a moment of joy.  I still cannot forget as to how I used to aspire to buy a world class music system of a particular brand and it took me almost 5 years to realize it.  I used to visit the show room of this brand on every occasion I could and admire the system from the window till the day I could afford it.

As our responsibilities increase, we try to balance our income and expenditure.  We do try to save and thereby look for fulfilling our life long wishes.  As long as one works honestly and hard, there is absolutely nothing wrong to dream for anything.  It is but human to have needs and as Maslow taught us long years ago that human needs are hierarchial.  It starts with physiological needs, then safety, social, esteem and finally self actualisation.  Interestingly our behaviour today validates Maslow’s theory on motivation.

We first try to fulfill our needs of food, shelter and clothing.  We then want to secure our family and safety.  We then look for love and belonging by being social, then need recognition to enhance esteem and finally we want to attain nirvana or self actualisation.  This could also be linked to different age groups and career stages.  In our twenties and thirties we are focussed on fulfilling physiological and safety needs.  In our forties, we are looking for social,  esteem and recognition.  After we enter our fiftees, we tend to move towards attaining self actualisation.

When we reach the stage of nirvana, we all want to be minimalist.  We want to give back to society more than we have got from it.  But this may be easier said than done.  Let us take a simple phenomenon like shopping.  If we enter a mall, we end up buying clothes or other accessories of our interest even though we may not need them.  This is inspite of the fact that we have enough clothes and accessories we need but we cannot resist the temptation of shopping.  I call this phenomenon as minimalist in thought and maximalist in action.

I have been no different.  I have gone through all the stages of fulfilling my needs as I have stated above.  Today, I am moving towards the stage of self actualisation.  However, as I said earlier, I am still tempted to buy things which I like although I may not need them or already have them.  For example, I recently bought a new camera since I love photography and this is the latest in terms of technology.  This is inspite of my having three other cameras in my possession.  

As in the photo above, we all want to eat less and maintain our health( like a minimalist) but end up gobbling away(like a maximalist) and impact our health adversely.

The only way I have learnt to get over this temptation is to give as much as I take.  So, I decided to give away two of my old cameras to people who will need them after I bought a new camera.  Similarly, I try to donate old clothes as many as I buy new ones to people who need them more than me.  This is no way the best way to be a minimalize but may be a less guilty way.

Life is a journey and we need to learn to live every day.

S Ramesh Shankar

Romantic Rains


We all eagerly await the monsoon after a dry and long summer.  It is indeed one of the most eagerly awaited events in our lives as it brings instant relief from the sweltering heat of the summer.  But much beyond the relief from the summer dryness, the monsoon brings joy and romance into our lives.  The trees look greener, the rivers are full and sea roars as if to keep us active all day.

The farmers await the first rains with bated breath since their  fortunes are tied to the rains.  A shortage of rains or a drought could mean disaster for their lives.  Hence, rains help us have adequate stock of food grains and vegetables right through the year.   The ground water is refuelled and this ensures adequate drinking water for all of us.  We do not realize how much the rains contribute to our daily lives.

Every aspect of our lives is impacted by the rains.  It starts with ensuring adequate harvest of food grains and vegetables.  Then it ensures that we have a perennial source of water for drinking, bathing, washing etc in our daily lives.  The rains also ensure that all our buildings, trees and surroundings are cleaned and washed every day for three months by God without any dry cleaning charges.

The romance of the rains kindles the artistic curiosity of poets and authors.  We have had innumerable movies made around the world, which are based on rains and monsoons.  The waterfalls in the mountains are a source of inspiration and admiration.  The misty clouds in the valleys create a mystic around you.  Rains can only benefit us all the way if we do not obstruct nature in all its natural forms.

The other side of rains faced by humans are disasters due to floods and landslides.  If I reflect back on this negative aspect of the rains, I would say we are mostly to blame for this situation.   We cut trees unabashedly while constructing concrete jungles around cities and towns.  We obstruct the natural flow of rivers and rivulets so as to fulfill human greed rather than need.  So, it is up to us to respect nature and benefit from it or ruin nature and face the wrath of it, as we do nowadays.

Rains also help in bringing out the child in us, which we have lost as we grow up in age.  We have forgotten to dance in the rains and share joy with others.  We have forgotten the fragrance of the wet mud after the first rains hit the soil.  We have nobody else to blame other than ourselves for this state of affairs.  Even the animals and birds protect the environment better than humans as they realize that by doing so they benefit more than they lose.

We have to ensure that our greed is less than our needs in life.  This balance may ensure that we protect nature and the environment around us.  We are keen to take away all the positives of nature without having the gratititude to give back to nature in equal measure.  The day we are content with fulfilment of our needs and not greed, we may be able to protect nature and benefit from it always.

Rains are God’s gift to mankind and we need to learn to do everything to protect our rivers, mountains and lakes so that nature gifts us with more marvels always and we do not deny our future generations of the miracles of nature, which we have enjoyed all through our lives.  Let us continue to enjoy hot chai(tea), pakodas ( Indian snack) and Bhutta ( corn) to celebrate the rains as we have always done.

Let the rains continue to add joy to our lives.

S Ramesh Shankar

Child in us


“Child is the father of man” or so goes the saying.  Most of us will recall that the best years of our lives were when we were kids.  We did what our heart wanted without worrying about what others thought about it.  As we grow up, we tend to live for others.  We act the way others want us to do.  We have lost the child in us and this is indeed very sad.

We find it difficult to laugh or cry every day when we feel like doing. Smile replaces laughter because we start believing that the world will laugh at us if we are too loud.  In situations where we feel like crying, we hide our emotions since we are conditioned to believe that adults do not cry.  If you cry, you are kid and have not grown up.  This leads to our conditioned behaviour.  It is almost like the air conditioned environment that we are used to in our offices and homes today and we have forgotten the heat of the summer, the gush of the rains or the chillness of the winter.

I sometimes wonder how beautiful life would be if we can continue to be our natural selves.  Imagine dancing in the rains and getting wet at the onset of monsoon.  It would be fun to sit on the sea shore and play with sea shells in the sand.  I remember enjoying raw cut mangoes on the beach with family and friends during vacations.  The joy of travelling by train with family on a long summer holiday appears a bygone era.

Who do we blame for losing the child in us ?  We can conveniently blame our education system.  We can blame our parents and elders for not allowing us to enjoy life as a kid and forcing us to behave like adults even before we grew into one.  But, I would blame myself more than anyone else.  Nothing stops me to sit and cry if I feel like doing so even today as an adult.  There is nothing which stops me at laughing at myself and jumping in joy.

We have become less adaptable to the environment around us.  We find it difficult to cope with situations of joy or sorrow and hence want to be behave like conditioned beings.  It is easier for us to hide our emotions than to express it.  We are guarded in our behaviour at home, work and in the community.  The day we learn to be our natural selves, we may be able to rejuvenate the child in us.

It is time to laugh and cry when we feel like.  It is time to express ourselves with everyone around us the way we feel like.  Let us rekindle the kid in us.  The best outcome of this change will be our ability to bounce back from the troughs in our life.  We will also be able to deal with crests with equanimity.  We can see children bounce back from sorrow even before we realise it.  We also see children sharing their joy with others and not riding on a sense of pride always.

It’s time to bring back the child in us as in the photo above.

The time to start is now and the day to start is today.  It does not matter how old or young you are.  Our physical age is just a number.  We need to live life as if a tomorrow does not exist.  We need to learn to enjoy life and share our joy with others.  There is no better way to do it than the way children do it.  It is time to learn and it is time to learn from the kids around us.

Let us regenerate the child in us from today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Lustrous Leaves

 

Trees  have always fascinated me with all their support to human life.  But I was wondering how leaves are supporting us by themselves.  Although every part of the tree is valuable, the leaves possibly play a pivotal role in our lives.  I can recall different types of leaves used for different purposes right from my childhood.  Each leaf has a unique benefit and our forefathers have helped us understand them better.

I recall my childhood days when on all festive occasions in the family we used to have food on a banana leaf.  It was considered auspicious and if I look back today it is also bio-degradable and hence not ruining our environment like plastic and thermocol  plates do today.  It is possible that the banana leaves also added some nutritional factors to the food.  The mango leaves are used in most Indian homes to decorate the house during festivals.  It is possible they have disinfectant qualities and may be other qualities good for the human beings.

We all have had neem leaves as medicine for many diseases in direct and indirect forms.  The fragrance of euqualaptus leaves can cure cold, cough and other respiratory issues.  We also have betel leave after a heavy and sumptuous meal.  We are told that apart from enriching us with calcium they are good for digestion.  I recall eating betel leaves with salt when I was a kid to cure myself of stomach aches.  We use the coriander and Curry leaves for cooking in Indian homes.  Spinach is a popular green leaf cooked as vegetable and high on vitamins.

Lemon grass is used to flavour food while cooking and so are the Bay leaves especially while making rice items.  Lettuce is a popular salad item in India and around the world.  Amongst vegetarians, using different types of leaves to add flavour to food is quite common.  Apart from adding flavour to food, they also provide us with a rich source of vitamins and other minerals essential to the body.

The leaves absorb carbon dioxide from the air and using the phenomenon of photosynthesis convert it into oxygen and release it back for the benefit of human beings.  Thus apart from providing food and flavours, they are also an important provider of oxygen for human existence on earth.  In today’s polluted cities, trees absorb a lot of air pollutants and helps reduce the toxins in the air.

Another fascinating story of the leaves is the vibrant colours they provide to the environment.  If you enter a forest, you will notice that leaves are not only in all shades of green but provide an array of colours and they also change with the seasons around the year.  They provide a good indication of the seasons with their shredding, regeneration and also changing of their colours.  The dried leaves are also a rich source of manure for the plants.

I have always been a great admirer of nature.  Today as I observed the leaves and reflected on how much they gift us with their abundance, I felt grateful to nature and its creations.  Even if we commit to do our little bit in the vicinity of our home and workspace to protect the trees and leaves around us, we will espouse our gratefulness to nature.

Let the leaves add greenery to our lives forever.

S Ramesh Shankar

Traditions versus Modernity


We all have inherited innumerable traditions from our families and societies.  They help us in life and living.  We need not rediscover the world as our forefathers have experienced most of it and left behind ways of dealing with life in most situations.  When we follow a ritual, we may call them tradition.  On the other hand, when we invent something new to deal with a new situation, we may call it modernity.

In life both traditions and modernity are equally important.  While traditions share lessons of the past, modernity helps us to break free from the past and deal with the future with an open mind.  I used to think that most of the traditions are redundant and may not answer the questions of life in the future.  I personally did not believe in many traditions and believed they were backward looking.

However, I recently went to my diabotologist to consult for my diabetes.  When he enquired about my food habits I explained how I had moved from traditional food to new oils and less calorie food products.  He smiled and advised me to revert to traditional food.  He explained as to how the human body adapts to the food based on weather and eating habits.  He further explained that oils and food items recommended by our grand parents are more healthy than what modern marketeers make us believe.  

This was indeed a revelation.  He explained the science behind traditions.  It appeared to make more sense.  After all traditions are also rooted in science and may be we do not believe in them because there was no marketing of traditions.  I am not for one recommending that all our traditions are noble.  However, it may be valuable to look at traditions with an objective mind.  We may challenge only those traditions which may have become irrelevant in modern life.

Another interesting example of traidition versus modernity is the science of “Vaastu”. I used to live in a beautiful green home in Bangalore till I moved to Mumbai.  My wife felt that that home was not vaastu compliant after staying there for three years.  I resisted from moving out of the house since we had moved in by choice and loved the environs.  However, when I was moving to Mumbai for change of my job in 2011 I agreed to sell that home and buy another similar green home.

Meanwhile I tried to study the science of “Vaastu” ( Indian traditional science of architecture).  I found it intriguing.  It explains the basics for the design of a house.  It explains as to why the kitchen should preferably be in the south east of the house.  This is because the maximum sunlight enters the house in this direction and hence it will be a natural prevention of pests and insects in the kitchen.  The master bedroom should be in the south west because it is the coolest place in the house and so on.

After having studied the basics of Vaastu, I can state that this tradition is worth emulating and following even today.  Every recommendation of Vaastu seems to rooted in science and although learnt through traditions is relevant to modern life.  No wonder one of the best insititutes of architecture in the country has recently decided to include the study of Vaastu as part of the curriculum.

As in the photo above, people of a southern state use cocunut oil for all their cooking as per tradition and still lead a healthy life without much impact on their cholesterol levels.

Let the traditions of the past help us redefine our life today.

S Ramesh Shankar