Belittling

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Each of us have a place in our society. Each of us has a role we play. We all try our best to live up to the expectations of our role. It is like every player in a football team has a specific role to play and they try their best to play their role to the best of their ability. Life is no different. Let us look at our daily life. We see people play different roles right through the day. It could be the newspaper boy who drops your morning paper. It could be the security guard, who guards your community premises. It could be your maid, your driver or even your cook. We cannot imagine our life to be complete without each of them playing their role.

Some of us have a tendency to belittle some roles in life. Even in the professional field, some people may consider their jobs more valuable than others. This is more of perception than reality. The best example are the fingers or toes in our arms. All the fingers have the same value although may play different functions in our daily chores. But, imagine the thumb thinking that she is superior to the little finger and makes us believe so. Then we realise the value of the little finger only when it is injured in an accident and we are unable to use it for doing our routine tasks.

It is like in the age old caste system in India. Some castes considered themselves upper castes and others were considered lower in the social strata. This is more of a mindset issue. In my view all human beings irrespective of their caste are equal in every possible way. They ability to add value to society depends on their knowledge, skill and attitude rather than caste. Modernisation has proved that caste has nothing to do with the growth of the human kind. But, traditionally people belonging to the upper castes did belittle the lower castes in society. This is a more psychological limitation of the upper castes in their mind rather than a reality based on scientific facts.

I sometimes wonder why do we belittle people around us. A child sometimes ends up even belittling his mother because she may not be as educated as the kid. The child believes that being more educated gives him the right to underestimate his mother. Time and experience teaches the child that education cannot make you superior to others. It could add value to your knowledge but cannot necessarily substitute experience or hone your attitude to life.

We see this behaviour within the precincts of the organisation too. People in particular positions think that they are superior to the people doing others jobs. It is like a white collared staff thinking that he is superior to the blue collared workman. The staff does not realise that he can never make the product a workman produces ever in his life even if he tries his best. This is not because he cannot ever but does not have the skills to do the same. It is true for all professions and all roles. We may be highly qualified from the best Universities but cannot compare ourselves with someone else, who has skills we do not have.

The truth is that societies also tend to value roles differently. Every society values some roles more than others. This could be due to historic reasons or due lack of adequate awareness of the different roles. But I do believe that evolved societies respect all roles with equal reverence. This is the true reflection for human development. This can be seen in developed societies where nobody is hesitant to share what they do since every role in the community is equally respected.

We need to learn to respect every role in life. There is no justification of belittling others and then justifying it. I would say that is human limitation to belittle others. It reflects more in our inability than ability to know others and their value in society. We need to learn to respect each and every person around us and their contributions to life. This is the only we learn and grow in life.

It may be belittling to dinosaurs to compare them with humans as in the photo above.

Let us start to respect everyone around us from today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Happiness Unlimited

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The choice to be happy or unhappy every day in our life is in our hands. It depends on how we exercise this choice. Every day of our life, we have choices to make and this determines if we are happy or otherwise. Every situation in life has two sides. It is like looking at the glass half empty or half full. If we look at life as a half full glass, it makes us happy every day. On the other hand, if we keep worrying about the half empty glass, then life is treacherous leave alone being unhappy.

How do we be happy at all times ? It may not be practical to be happy at all times of your life. But the day we realise that we have a choice in everything we do every day, we may live happily. If we succeed in any effort, we are bound to feel good. On the other hand failure of any type makes us sad. When we fail, we have a choice to sob or reflect and learn from our mistakes.

It is like after running 40 kilometres if we are not able to complete a full marathon of 42 kilometres, we have a choice to curse ourselves for not completing the last two kilometres or pat ourselves on the back for completing 40 kilometres successfully and preparing earnestly for the next marathon to be a winner. So, in every situation we can regret and feel sad or rejoice whatever we could achieve and resolve to attain higher goals in the future.

Life is no different. Every day, God gives us the ability to make a choice. We can get up in the morning and be grateful for all the wonderful things he has blessed us with. On the other hand, we also have the option to curse ourselves and feel bad as we are not as wealthy as our neighbours or our siblings. In every situation, the choice we make, makes us happy or unhappy.

Happiness in my view is a state of mind. It is an attitude to life. I have met people who earn just enough to meet their daily needs every day but are always happy and willing to help others in all ways they can. On the other hand, I have met senior managers in organisations who earn enough for their next birth too but are never happy with their salary or quality of life. The day we realise that we can buy material things through money but can never buy happiness from any shop, we may have changed our attitude to life.

I am a born optimist and luckily for me my spouse is equally a content. We have been happily married for more than three decades and have gone through all the ups and downs of life. We have been happy when our monthly salary was just enough to meet both our ends or today when we are blessed with enough for our future. We realised as in the photo above that living life as if tomorrow does not exist is one key to happiness. Another mutual learning is to ensure that our greed never exceeds our need. Our third mantra to happiness has been to live within our means. We have never lived on credit and have always tried to be be debt free throughout our life( except for house, car or medical emergency loans taken at some stages of life)

So, we have a choice to make. The date and time to make the choice is every day and every minute. If we wait for the auspicious day to be happy, it may never arrive. It is better to live every day as if today has been the best in your life. If something goes wrong, it is better to hope that tomorrow will be a better day rather than brooding over yesterday and spoiling our future.

Let us start now. Be happy forever.

S Ramesh Shankar

Joy of living

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I experience joy by enjoying the little things of life. I love the smell of the wet mud after the first rains. I love the song of nature when the birds are chirping during my morning walk. I love watching through the window when travelling on a long distance train. I love looking at the moon and wondering as to how it travels with me as I am zipping past it in a super fast train.

Life is celebration of the “Joy of little things” for me. My day begins with listening to birds and enjoying the music of nature. Then I enjoy the cartoon in the morning newspaper where the creator conveys a great message even without uttering a word through his caricatures. I admire the commitment of my maid and driver, who report for duty day in and day out without any excuses.

Each little thing in life adds joy to my life. The lyrics of a song fascinates me and make me glide in imagination. The sound of the sea waves in front of my house reminds me of the ups and downs of life. It makes me realise how the stones on the shore weather all the storm and still are ever willing to face the next wave. I admire the hard working fishermen who set to sail before dawn to end the day with no catch but yet try again the very next day.

The potter whom I met in a village taught me many lessons on contentment in life. You need not be rich to be happy in life. On the contrary, wealth can neither guarantee good health nor happiness in life. The village folk teach us to be in touch with nature and be grateful. We get greedy with the materialistic world and our greed invariably exceeds our needs and thus creates a lot of unnecessary frustration in our lives.

Watching the sun rise and the sunset gives me joy. I can spend hours watching the sun set and birds return to their nests. The art in the clouds during the twilight hour is to be seen to be believed. Every day is a new pattern and no designer or artist in the world can ever imagine it. I wonder how the stars twinkle in the night sky. It looks like a black carpet with diamonds sparkling on it.

I can spend a whole day watching children play in a park. I am amazed at the way they fight and then within minutes resolve their conflicts. They are willing to play and interact with other kids of different age groups. They do not look at caste, creed or social status while playing with each other. I wonder why human being lose all these wonderful qualities when we grow into an adult.

I love the mountains too. Trekking on a snow clad mountain can be breath taking, literally. However, when you reach the peak, you feel as if you are on the top of the Himalayas. The generosity of the people living in the hills melts your heart. They treat you as their guests in their homes when you go past their tenements. This phenomenon is rarely seen in urban communities.

Enjoying a swing in a hammock may be a small thing but gives joy to my spouse as in the photo above.

I also love to listen to music. I can spend hours together listening to jazz, ghazals or light instrumental music. Interestingly I write most of my blogs while I am in a flight listening to music using headphones. It transcends me to a different world and words flow through my keyboard like water gushing through the river. I sometimes wonder how these thoughts deep inside me find expression in words.

All these little things give joy to my life. How about you ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Intent versus Action

I was wondering what I need to reflect on for the new year. I was reminded of the famous saying that read – ” A slip between the cup and the lip”. In life, many a time, there is slip between what we intend and what are are actions portray.

Today we are in a state of flux. We are at the threshold of massive change. India is poised at the right inflection point and we have a lot to gain if we act fast and in the right direction. If sometimes our actions misfire, we need to reflect on our intent and change course so that we can move in the right direction always.

We need to reflect on this point as a country, as a state, as a community and more importantly as an individual. Many a time in life our intent may be noble but our actions may not be in sync with our intent. It is never too late to reflect on it and change course if our actions do not lead us to our goal.

It is as simple as driving a high end car on a freeway. You may be enjoying the drive and may be at good speed but if you realise that you have taken the wrong freeway, it may not lead you to your destination. So, in life, if we need to change course to realise our goals we should and not get stuck on anything we have zealously pursued.

Let me start as an individual. Most of us are adept at making new year resolutions. We aim at the moon and make sky high commitments to ourselves. However, we realise that most of our resolutions die even before the ink dries up on the paper on which we had written them. It may be a good idea to reflect and take one small thing at a time. For eg. this year, we could resolve that we will appreciate one person around us every day. This may bridge the gap between intent and action as it is simple and it will give us immense joy in doing it every day. Life is a journey and there would be commas and full stops midway. This does not mean the end of the road. It only means we need to start all over again.

As a community, we have a rich heritage and we need to learn from our culture. We have to live and let live. We need to be more tolerant and inclusive in our intent and actions. Today we see violence all over and this is not what our culture taught us. We always were proud of the quote – “Vasudeva Kutumbakam”- the world is one family. As individuals we have to realise our duties before we try to exercise our rights.

As a country, we need to focus on our basics. We still have a long way to go to ensure food, clothing and shelter for all. Our focus has to be on these fundamentals. The government has to collaborate with the public and all political parties to deliver this. Let us ensure that every individual has her or his basic human needs fulfilled. Today we are 129th on the Human development index in the world. We should be among the top ten in the next decade.

Political parties need to learn to work together to achieve this goal. We have attained a lot of milestones since independence. If all parties come together, there is nothing we cannot achieve as a nation. Sometimes, we may make mistakes and it is fine to accept and move on. Our actions should always lead us to our goal. If they don’t, we need to have the humility to accept the same and change tracks and move on.

We cannot afford to move backwards as a nation. No political party has a right to damage public property as a mark of protest. Violence has no place in a civilised society. If we have to protest against anything, let us do it in a legitimate way. Let us learn to debate without offending anyone or hurting someone’s feelings.

May be time to learn from Lord Krishna, the eternal coach as in the picture above.

People in governance have the responsibility to lead the nation. They need to take others along in this journey. People in the opposition have to realise their responsibilities too. Who governs today may be in opposition tomorrow and this cycle will always go on in a democracy. Let us lead this country to be amongst the most developed and the happiest in the world by learning to work together as individuals, communities and as a polity.

Proud to be an Indian now and always. Wish you and your near and dear ones the best of everything in the new year. I would urge you to resolve to appreciate one human being around you every day in the new year.

S Ramesh Shankar

31st December 2019.

How to kill boredom..

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It is natural to feel bored sometimes. It happens with all of us. It could happen at work, at home or even when you are travelling. When you go through such a phase, you feel as if the clock has stopped ticking. You feel life is not interesting any more and you also wonder how to kill your time ?. I have also gone through this experience many times in my life.

We all go through boredom and find our own innovative ways to kill it. Some of us enjoy reading a book. Others find joy in writing a blog or a poem. Some others may just like to gaze through the window and admire the beauty of nature. Some listen to music and others shake their leg when time stands still for them. I feel each of us is bestowed with some unique way of killing boredom.

Some of us find it difficult to deal with boredom, while others don’t. The key to find a way is the belief that we can. If we believe, we can, we will. If we believe, we cannot, we never will. Everything in life begins with the basic belief in oneself and one’s capabilities. Many of us tend to give up even before we try. It may be a good idea to try something and accept failure even if that thing does not click. This way we will surely find ways to kill boredom.

It is also important that what clicks for you may not excite someone else. I love to listen to music when bored. My son enjoys watching movies on TV and daughter enjoys writing articles. My wife keeps weaving her words through poetry when she wants to kill boredom. So each of us in the same family may find different ways to achieve the same goal. There is nothing right or wrong about anybody’s way.

It is also interesting to note that each of us also may find unique ways at different points of time in our own lives. Even that is fine. I enjoyed listening to music and going for walks when bored. Nowadays, I enjoy writing blogs and travelling. Tomorrow, I may watch birds and enjoy the music of nature. There is nothing wrong or right in any of these activities. Each of them is by choice and what gives me most joy at a particular point of time.

Life is no different. Even at work, we can always find ways and means to kill boredom. Some young colleagues have approached me as to how I am not bored working in my chosen field for almost four decades. I tell them that every morning when I get to work, I think of doing something different and creative at work. I challenge my thoughts and those of my colleagues. It may be a good idea to challenge ideas and ways of working of everyone around us and not challenge people. This ensures that you are not creating conflicts but finding ways and means to improve our way of working every day.

Even in our personal lives, a routine life of work-home-work makes it dull and dry. It may be good idea to explore what gives you joy and then try to do the same. I travel whenever I can and explore nature , art and culture around us. I sometimes try out new things and play with gadgets. God has given each of us enough mental capacities to challenge ourselves and learn from people around us. Learning is a journey and exciting always as there is not a destination you cannot reach.

A child can teach us as to how kill boredom without much efforts as in the photo above.

It is time to be adventurous to kill boredom. We need to take risks. We need to try out new things without worrying about failure. So what if we fail. After all the best sportspersons have not won Olympic medals without failing hundreds of times in their lives. The key is to keep trying out new things all the time. The path to fun in life is variety. The road to kill boredom is not well laid out all the time. It is up to us to explore and carve the path ourselves.

Time to begin is now.

S Ramesh Shankar

Connectedness

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We feel connected to people and things around us. This feeling of connectedness is to be experienced to be believed. I have met people during my travels whom I may not meet again in my life. I may not have spoken a word with them during my journey in a flight or train. We may have just spoken to each other through our eyes but the connections are strong.

This happens with both people and things. I have sometimes looked at a beautiful piece of art in someone’s home and got connected to it. It could be a statue of Buddha or a fountain and you feel as if there is some connection between you and the object. I have not found any rational in such connectedness. But the feelings and emotions within you are stirred and you feel strongly about it.

I was recently siting in an airport lounge and two people came to me and asked me if I was so and so. When I told them I was not that person, they could not believe it. They felt that they have met me somewhere and know me very well. Similar incidents have also happened with my spouse, who mostly travels with me in all my personal travels. Some people say that there are seven people in the world who look similar. This may also be just a belief and I have not found any scientific basis for the same.

I was in a yoga class in Lonavala and had a similar feeling of connectedness towards my teacher. When I told her she said she also experienced the same and I resembled one of her uncles. This may look strange but it is true. I am not sure if we start imagining someone known to us when we go through such experiences. It could be gut. It could be stored memories of past experiences. I am not bothered about the source of such feelings. I believe such feelings are beautiful and one has to experience them to appreciate them.

I was once in an alumni meet of my college mates in Pondicherry. I felt connected to a Buddha statue in brass. I went round and round and then after a bit of negotiations could not desist from buying the statute. It is still in my home and every time I see it I feel a sense of serenity. This feeling is shared by my spouse and my sister and her son. It is strange but it is true. Why do we need to justify all our feelings or behaviour ? It may be fun to just experience such feelings and enjoy it as it happens to you.

I once met a co traveller in Switzerland. Both of us were climbing the Jungfraw on a holiday. We had never met before nor have we met after that. But the way we connected with each other was amazing. It looked as if I knew her for ages and we were childhood friends. We felt secure in each other’s company and enjoyed our journey together. We have been connected on social media but not much exchange after that incident.

Every incident of this nature makes me believe that there is an emotional connection between us and the people and things around us. Some people attract us like magnets and encourage them to connect with them. There could be others who get attracted to others in a similar way. We get attached to things around us too and sometimes even feel like talking to them. I have seen people talking to statutes of God as if they they respond to human emotions.

Both me and my wife feel connected to nature. Amidst nature, we get immersed in thoughts and emotions as in the photo above.

Life is an exciting journey and every such incident adds mystery to our lives. I enjoy discovering the mysteries of life everyday. Every person I meet and interact give me an opportunity to learn and grow. Every incident of connecting with people and things makes me believe of the possibilities of life. We need to live on hope and belief. If we believe life is full of possibilities it becomes one.

Let us makes the best of life.

S Ramesh Shankar

Spaces

IMG_1649Each of us love our private space. At times, we like to be left alone. Nobody can define what is the right space we need at any time in our life. There are times in our lives, where we feel comfortable surrounded by friends or relatives. There are other times, when we want to be left all alone. Each of us define our space based on time and our personal needs. There is no right or wrong answer to define the space we need.

The interesting aspect of space is that sometimes we want people around us and at other times we do not want. This is true for individuals, communities, societies and nations. Every individual enjoys her or his personal space. Although, we cannot draw a circle and define our space, we tend to evolve it based on needs and moods. It could change with time, space and stage of our life and it is fine to be that way.

It is important to realise that while we enjoy our space, we need to respect the space of others too. We get irritated if someone intrudes into our space but are less concerned when we do the same. This is the lesson to learn in life. The territory of others is as valuable to them as it is to us. We realise the value of it only when our space is infringed by others. It may be useful to respect others’ s spaces without being reminded of the same.

Interestingly, this phenomenon is equally applicable across nations too. In a global conference, social scientists can interpret relationship between states by the distance they keep between them. It is important to realise that every sovereign country likes to protect its space. No country likes its space to be intruded by others. We can note that even in international boundaries, there is always a neutral zone between states. This is also to ensure that no country intrudes into the territory of others even by mistake.

Another dimension could be the space we occupy even in our offices. If we try to trespass into the space of our colleagues at work it is not appreciated. On the other hand, if we keep a distance from other team members they feel ignored . We need to strike the right balance between proximity and intrusion. The line is very thin and we may learn by experience. Different people and different organisations may view this differently.

Even in our neighbourhood, it is delicate balance to maintain the right distance. If we get too close to our neighbours, they may consider it as an intrusion. On the other hand, if we keep a safe distance, they may interpret it as aloofness on our part. What is the right distance to maintain is again not defined by laws of physics or sociology. It is learnt by experience and is also situational. In a crisis situation, neighbours would appreciate closeness and proximity. On the other hand, on some other occassion, they will prefer to be left alone.

Interestingly the concept of spaces could be experienced even within the family. What is right distance you need to maintain with your elders or with your children is difficult to define. If your ignore your parents, they will feel neglected. On the other hand, if you your start advising them every day on everything, they may feel suffocated. The same may be true for your children. When should you get close to them and when you should leave them alone to learn from their own deeds is a matter of judgement.

As in this photo, the distance between friends was not planned but happened as we sat across a table in a marriage reception. We all liked it and the conversations were cordial and friendly. I am not sure if this was caused by the space between us or in spite of the space. It may be just incidental and may not have any basis at all. Hence, it is not worth spending your life thinking and planning about spaces. But, it may be a good idea to learn from our mistakes.

Lets keep the right distance.

S Ramesh Shankar