My second innings – “Era of gratitude”

I have been a big fan of cricket right from my childhood. I find a lot of similarities between the game of cricket and life. If my first innings was about my career, my second innings is about my giving back to society.

All of us aspire to achieve our career dreams and goals. We strive our best to get there. We may partly or wholly be successful but we try our best. We desire for all the material things in the world and fantasise to get them. We may again get all we dream of or at least most of them in our life.

If I call my first innings as the “Era of gratification”, I would say my second innings should be an ” Era of gratitude”. God has been kind to me. I have achieved almost all I dreamt of in my career. My family and friends have supported me to be happy in life most of the time. Now it is time for me to give back to society.

I have bought all the material things in life I have wished for. Today I hardly crave for something and regret that I do not have it in my life. So, it is time to give back. It is time to express my gratitude in actions and not only in words. I assume I can do it in many ways.

The first thing I plan to do is to write more and share my experiences of life and living. This may help the next generations to think and reflect. It may help the youngsters not to make the mistakes I did. It may help them take the right decisions.

All my net earnings from the sale of my books (Sights & Insights and Life and Living )will be donated to a charity, which works zealously in “eradicating preventable blindness amongst children”. This way I will share more, learn more and at the same time give a little back to society.

I am also starting an organisation by the name “Hrishti” ( Means joy in Sanskrit). I will use this organisation as a platform to coach and mentor. I will try to mentor and coach business and HR leaders and again use all my net earnings to promote the same cause.

I also plan to work with start ups and NGOs to share my experience and learnings so that they can learn from my insights at work and life. This may help new start ups and NGOs to scale up and succeed in their chosen fields. At least, they will not repeat the same mistakes I did in my career.

I also want to teach in business schools, engineering colleges and universities. This way I can share my learnings and also enable young students to be industry ready. The gap between industry and academics needs to be bridged and I think people like me have a role to play in it.

I can also be a consultant to organisations and share my experiences in areas of their need. I may be able to give back to society in more ways than one. It is upto me to explore all possible ways to do it. After all when I needed help or support, there were thousands of people amongst family, friends and organisations, who did that for me. Now it is my turn.

Lastly, I am blessed to have enough of what I need to live happily for the rest of myself and my family. Hence, I commit that everything I do will contribute to society’s larger good.

Time to start my second innings in life post my retirement is after 31st March 2019. You can follow me on http:\\srameshshankar.com or connect with me at srameshshankar@yahoo.com or srameshshankar@gmail.com post this date. My mobile number will also remain the same as of today. I will continue to post every Friday even in the future.

S. Ramesh Shankar

Fights

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It is quite common to end up fighting with your siblings as a kid. We all have done it and the kids of tomorrow would do it. We feel it is fully justified when we did it but a bit immature when your neighbouring kids fight with each other. Fights could be over sharing a meal or even sillier an issue than that but it does happen. It’s fun to see children fight and then end up playing together as if nothing happened.

It is funny when adults fight. The most common occurrence is between spouses. All of us who are married would have experienced it umpteen times in our own lives. Most of the time when you look back on the issue on which you end up fighting, it is quite silly. But our ego does not allow us to give in. Each of us stand by our own stance and are not willing to compromise. Only time heals the issue or sometimes a mediator becomes necessary.

Another dimension of a fight is when teams on a play ground end up fighting with each other. Everyone agrees that sport is the best way to build comradeship but when two teams end up fighting on a play field, it is not sporty. It generally starts with an argument and sometimes ends up in a fist fight or even a riot on the field. Physical injuries apart from emotional distress are the only outcomes.

The worst dimension of a fight is when it happens between communities, societies or nations. It can be over sharing of waters of a common river flowing through them. It could be over boundaries and demarcation lines between them. It could be due to failed commitments. Whatever be the issue, it starts with a small flare up and then ends up almost like a battle or a war.

The interesting aspect in all types of fights is that “Ego” of individuals is the root cause. Kids do not like to give up their space and fight for their rights. Adults never want to compromise. They are willing to give up their values to protect their ego. Communities and nations fight with each other because of a ego conflict of their political leaders. Any fight could be nipped in the bud if we are willing to “let go” of our egos.

The best example is given by kids. While they end up fighting at the drop of a pin, they are also willing to forgive and forget at the shortest possible time. Adults as individuals have more inflated egos and hence take more time and efforts to give in. Teams suffer from clash of individual egos and team prestige. It takes time and effort from more than one individual in a team to resolve conflicts between them. Nations fight on prestige and false sense of supremacy. It takes months or even years to settle an international dispute between nations.

My learning is that fights may be inevitable. But, it may be a good idea to learn from children. While it may be normal to end up with a dispute, it may need a lot of guts to give up our ego. We need to give in and be willing to compromise and move on. There is no dispute on the earth, which cannot be resolved by sitting across the table and sorting out. We need to be willing to give up our egos as individuals, teams or communities.

Fights are quite common between spouses as seen in the photo above. We may not talk for days but need to learn to resolve it between us.

Another interesting learning can be from animals. I have never seen two animals fight and never give up. After the fight is over, they move on and are willing to live together again. The most common sight is that of street dogs. They may end up in a fight over food. But as soon as that is over, they end up playing with each other and move on in their life.

It is time to learn to give up our “Ego”

S Ramesh Shankar

Ways of nature

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Nature has its unique ways of surprising us every day. I would like to share a few natural phenomena in my life, which have always baffled me. I have been a student of science but have never understood any of these phenomenon and the root cause for them. It happens quite often and every time makes me believe that nature is beyond science and scientific theories.

The first phenomenon is what generically is called the biological clock. As a young student, I could never get up without the alarm clock ringing multiple times beside my bed. I even had to snooze it a few times before I actually got up. However nowadays, if I make up my mind to get up at a particular time in the morning since I have to catch up an early morning flight, I am woken up automatically a few minutes before I had planned to get up. I do keep the alarm as a precaution. But, nowadays I end up putting off the alarm before it takes off since I am already awake. I am told this is the biological clock although I have not yet understood the scientific basis for this.

The second phenomenon is referred to us “Telepathy”. Whenever you think of a close friend or relative, they either end up calling you immediately after that thought or at least text you. You are quite taken aback. When you narrate this phenomenon to them, they are not willing to believe you. In most cases, they tell that you may have dreamt about the same. This has happened to me many times in my life and I have no explanations.

The third phenomenon is that if you are honest and ethical in your life and work, you tend to get back anything you lose by accident. I have at least three experiences in my life where God has been kind to me and I have got back what I lost within minutes of the actual incident. The first incident was when I lost my wallet and Walkman in an auto at midnight at Jamshedpur in the early nineties. As soon as I realised I went back to the auto stand and could trace my auto and get back my valuables. The second instance I dropped my sling bag with my camera and calculator while I was riding a bike. This time again I got it back within half an hour as someone called my home number to inform me that they had found my bag. The third incident happened yesterday when I forgot my laptop bag with my iPad and headphones in the coffee shops of Chennai airport. Before I could call and check with anyone, I got a call from the police that they had found my bag at the coffee shop and I should return immediately and collect it. I think it pays to be honest and ethical in life and work always.

The fourth phenomenon is when you leave a place unplanned during a crisis. During the recent floods at Mumbai on 29th August 2017, I had not planned to go anywhere. However, at the last minute I was invited to inaugurate a HR conference at Manipal. That day Mumbai witnessed 310 mm of rainfall and the city was marooned. I returned the next day and city was already getting back to normalcy and there was sunshine in the evening. May be God took me away from Mumbai( the photo above) for a day to prevent me from any mishap on that fateful day.

Life is full of surprises. I am a born optimist and I have also seen that whenever I need some money urgently and did not have much in my bank account, I got some unexpected transfer to my account. It could be a dividend, which I did not expect at that time or someone returning some money they had taken during a crisis. It could be reward from my employer. God has ways of taking care of you when you need it most.

Although I am not recommending that we live life waiting for these unexpected things to happen to us. We need to slog it out and work hard to achieve our goals in life. I am only saying that if we lead a simple life, work hard and are honest in all our deeds to the best of our ability, then nature has its own ways of rewarding us. It is sometimes unbelievable but true.

Let every day be a new surprise for all of us.

S Ramesh Shankar

1st September 2017

Take nobody for granted…

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We take life and everybody around us for granted almost every day. It starts from the family to friends and even colleagues in the organisation, where we work. Let us start how this evolves from our childhood. As a child, we are respectful of our parents and others in the family and do not take anyone for granted. However, as we grow up as an adolescent, we tend to take our parents and family members for granted. We decide when we want to leave the house and when we want to return and expect our parents to wait for us endlessly for us to return.

We start justifying our erratic behaviour and interestingly demand services from our family members as if they were dying only to serve our needs. We do realise that this is not desirable behaviour when we grow up as adults and even regret our actions. This may be psychological in nature and may not be intentional. Our parents generally understand and tolerate our rebellious behaviour and at times try to counsel us too. We realise how much we took our parents and other family members for granted when we get into college or a job and leave the safe precincts of our home to live all alone.

Now, let us move to our friends. We almost take them for granted always. One may say friends are meant for that. I also thought so till I realised that it is not fair to think that way. After all even our best friends are human beings and have emotions and feelings. We need to respect them and empathise with them. Our friends stand by us at all times, even more than our relatives. Then, why should we take them for granted. We do realise sooner than later that we need to give them space and respect they deserve always.

If we move to the organisational front, the story is not very different. We take our colleagues( as in the photo above) for granted. We sometimes even take our suppliers and customers for granted. In the worst case scenario, we even take our manager for granted. We start believing that everybody is working for us and we deserve to be served by them. We do not realise that we also have obligations towards them and we should first give then expect anything from other stakeholders.

So, this is a vicious circle. Taking someone for granted is a natural state of evolution and all of us fall prey to it sometime or the other. We need to realise that as responsible human beings we have no business to take anyone for granted. Everyone has a right and has an equal measure of responsibility. This phenomenon possibly happens because we remember our rights diligently but forget our duties. Let us reflect how this impacts our behaviour in our daily life ?

As a child, we consider our parents’ duty to take care of us all the time but we do not realise that we have a responsibility to serve them in whatever way we can in return in every stage of our life. As a friend, we are happy when friends help us in distress but we forget them when we doing well in our lives and they may be in distress. At work, we seek guidance and support from everyone when we are under stress but we claim to be busy when others need our help.

This is my learning in life. We should not take anyone for granted in life. If we try to put ourselves in the shoes of others before we take anyone for granted we may realise their value in our life. It is time to wake up. It is time to be grateful to others rather than take them for granted.

It is time to change ourselves.

S Ramesh Shankar

28th August 2017

Nothing is permanent..


I recently came to know of two tragedies. In the first case, a mother lost her grown up son in a fatal accident. In the second, a daughter lost her father in a hospital bed. While the first was a young aspiring student preparing himself for the travails of life in a business school, the second was an aged father who had fought cancer and was healthy and self dependant at 85 till he fractured his leg by falling from his bed and succumbed to his post operative trauma.

If we look at both the incidents the affected people were shattered. A mother in the first case was heart broken to get up one day to know that her son is no more and has met with an accident in front of his college gate. In the second instance, the daughter had nursed her father in the hospital for a week and his fracture was operated successfully and within days of her proceeding to help her daughter in another city, her father breathed his last as he could not fight back from the post operative stress.

I can imagine the state of the mind of the mother and the daughter in both these cases. It would have been like a glass sculpture shattered into pieces. While condolences may pour in from around the world, no word can console you. No assurance can build back the belief in you. It is like you can never put together the shattered pieces of the beautiful glass sculpture even with the best adhesive in the world.

Time is the only healer and it takes time to realise it. I have personally gone through a few tragedies in my life and I have experienced this vacuum. It neither can be explained or can be consoled. It shatters your foundations. It makes you lose faith in yourself and even lose faith in God. No power on earth seems to have any impact on you. You are tempted to give up even before you given in.

Let us try to understand why this happens to all of us, who go through such tragedies. I remember someone told me that when you lose your father at a very young age, it is like someone pulling away the umbrella from your head during a thunderous downpour. It is something like that. Life is good and we are treading along. Suddenly a tragedy of this magnitude engulfs us and we are shattered. It comes like a Tsunami and leaves us homeless. We may not have lost our physical belongings but we become emotionless for some time.

We do not know the difference between laughing and crying. There are no tears left in our eyes. We want to be left alone and feel restless in a crowd. Family, friends and society are no longer a source of solace. We look at the sky with blank eyes and no emotions. Music is no longer soothing to our ears. Our life literally comes to a stand still. Days become longer and nights shorter. We do not want to see or meet anyone.

It takes weeks, months or even years to recover from such a shock. It took me more than year when my father died when I was 25. After a few years, I realised that time is the only healer. I recovered slowly but surely from the slipping ground below me. I started believing in myself and others after a while. I visited a temple after a year to assure God that I was now standing on my own feet.

This is the time one realises that “Nothing is permanent” in life. Neither joy nor sorrow. Everything is ephemeral. It will come and go. We need to have the courage and the patience to weather the storm. We should neither get carried away by the joys of life and float in the air, nor buried by the sorrows of life and sink into the earth below. We will realise that time is the best healer.

Life is like the weather today. Gloomy and rainy in the morning but bright and sunny in the evening. Nothing is permanent. Not even the weather on a single day. 

Let us believe in ourselves and our good deeds and leave the rest for time to heal.

S Ramesh Shankar

Ray of Hope

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There is always light at the end of a tunnel. You realise it every time you drive through a tunnel on a highway. However, it takes a lot of patience and perseverance to go through the darkness in the tunnel before you see the light. Life is no different. Every obstacle in life looks like a boulder in front of us. It overwhelms us and we get bogged down by its magnitude. It takes courage and patience to weather the storm and then look for the light at the end of the tunnel.

I have had many experiences in life, wherein I felt as if the world was coming to end and and I was in the midst of it. When you are going through a crisis in life or at work, you are bogged down by everything around you. You are drained out by the depth of the crisis you are facing. You try out all the options and still the you feel that the dark road in the tunnel is never ending. It is at this time you need to reflect and find a way.

I would like to look back at a few incidents in my personal and work life and share my learnings. I have been a born optimist in life. Hence, looking at life as art of possibilities has been my outlook. But, when you are confronted with a crisis then your optimism fades way giving way to pessimism. I recall the first instance in my personal life. I got an income tax notice for buying a timeshare property. I was shocked and perplexed. I have been a honest salaried tax payer for more than three decades now. But this incident happened way back in 1992.

I went to my tax advisor after spending a few sleepless nights as to “why me ?” . When he explained the process which the income tax department follows to track tax defaulters, I was relieved. He explained that they look at new car buyers at random and sometimes at property buyers and so on and then send them a notice to explain the source of income. When I had been an honest tax payer, I had nothing to worry. I had just to explain the source of my funds and how I have paid them. I had also paid all my instalments by cheques and hence there was nothing for me to explain. But spending a few nights with the notice at home was like a long ride in the tunnel.

The second time it was on the work front. I was made the prosecution nominee ( management representative) in a departmental enquiry against a corrupt union representative in one of my previous organisations. I was shocked. I received threats from this person including possible attacks on my family members. I was again worried as to why I was chosen for this unceremonious role. The enquiry was completed and I could help the management with my presentation skills in establishing the charges and ensuring the corrupt union representative was dismissed from service. Then my manager explained to me that I was selected because I was courageous and honest to face such a dishonest employee in an enquiry in a fair and brave way. But this enquiry took more than four months and it was an arduous journey.

The last incident was when I joined a new organization. I was confronted with a court case filed every month by the unions against the management on frivolous reasons. I was always used to maintaining harmonious and trust worthy relationship with the unions in all my previous assignments. When I took charge, I realised that there was a trust deficit between the management and the unions. It took me almost two years to rebuild that trust and thanks to a great team to work with and a responsive union we not only turned it around but today can proudly state that we have not had any court case filed against us in the last four years. But these two years were like a long dark tunnel ride.

Every situation looked dim at first sight. The more you grapple with it the more you are disappointed. When a problem gets complicated and you do not get adequate support, you tend to lose hope. It is at this juncture, we need to believe in ourselves and our credibility. We need to trust ourselves and hope that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. It is like the streak of sunlight always kindles hope on a otherwise cloudy day as in the photo above. This ray of hope re-ignites the optimism in us and helps us find a way.

Let us look for the ray of hope in life every day.

S Ramesh Shankar

Perseverance

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One of the qualities all of us wish we had would be “Perseverance”. I have not come across many people in my life time, who are perseverant in the pursuit of their goals in life. An unflinching belief in yourself and a dogged pursuit of your goal is what you aspire for. But it is just an illusion for most of us. This is one quality, which I learnt from my father in law, who left on his heavenly abode on 20th August 2017.

A self made man from a poor middle class family. After losing his father at a young age, he got into the government service. He rose from the lowest levels to retire from service after more than three decades as a Chief Accounts officer. His passion for mathematics was visible. But, what I really admired about him is his passion to learn new things in life all the time.

I have seen many incidents in his life, which speak volumes of his learning attitude and his passion to persevere. He lived along with his spouse and till the age of eighty five and was fully self dependant. He neither depended on his kids financially nor otherwise. He lived in his self built house, cooked his own food and maintained everything around him with his own hands.

A master of mathematics and a voracious reader. His command over English was admirable. He would discuss and debate on all issues and always had a point of view. He would never be satisfied with any response unless he verified it himself and was convinced. At the age of eighty two, he took to writing a book. He wrote the manuscript in his own hand and then requested my wife to edit it and contribute to complete the same and publish it.

Another interesting attribute I have learnt from him is his meticulous maintenance of records and documents for everything. The accountant in him was embedded in his blood. But the systematic maintenance of household records is indeed worth emulation. Luckily for me my wife has learnt this quality from him. He would maintain the receipt and history of every asset in his house and neatly maintained and easily retrievable.

He was a well read and a pious person. He had deep knowledge of the scriptures and all the Hindu rituals. While he followed all religious practices, he never imposed his views on others. He was always open to be challenged and was willing to accept alternate view points on any issue. He had in depth knowledge of Hindu rituals and could easily challenge the priests on festive occasions if they took a short cut.

If a person can pursue his post graduation at the young age of 75 in order to fulfil one of his unfulfilled goals in life, it is worth adulation. I have not seen many people in my life time, who have persevered with such dreams and pursued it till success much after retiring from service as well. He was a man of letters. Well read in religion, current affairs and even medicine, where he could end up challenging doctors on a wrong prescription.

I recently visited him with my spouse on a courtesy call. While I was leaving his house, he asked me to explain – “What digitalisation means ? “. Honestly, I was stunned and had no answers. I told him that I will research and revert to him with an answer. I did tell him that it could mean applying technology to make human life better. But, I did go back and did a lot of research to understand the concept of digitalisation. But, unfortunately, he is not alive today for me to share with him.

I can only state that he was a perfectionist in the true sense of the word. A man, who would pursue till he got what he wanted. Of course at times it could be termed nagging and you may get irritated by his perseverance. After all , none of us are born only with virtues. But, the positives in him far outweighed his improvement areas. I salute him for his stature and am grateful to have learnt something from my interactions with him.

May his soul rest in peace.

S Ramesh Shankar

20th August 2017