Technology & me

Technology & me

I always wonder if technology rules me or I rule technology.  When I was young, I did not have to think much on this subject.  But, as I grew older, technology seems to have taken over my life. While I am a great fan of technology, I sometimes wonder if technology helps me or harms me in my every day life.  Let us take the simple example of the mobile phone.  There is research around the world that the mobile is never more than three feet away from a human being at any point of the day or night.  This means that we depend more on the mobile than the mobile depends on us.

I think all of us have immensely benefited from technology.  I grew up when we had not seen the advent of computers.  We did not even have the television in our homes.  So, the journey from living in an era of no mobiles, TV or computers to an age where the world is fully digitised has been an exciting one. I remember the early days in my career when I had to travel more than ten kilometres to make a long distance call after waiting for my turn in a long queue.  It used to take hours of waiting in long queues and we paid through our nose for talking to our parents for just a few minutes using long distance telephone calls.

Today technology touches  us in every aspect of our life.  If we refelect on it, from the time we get up from bed till we sleep, technology supports us in many ways.  We are woken up by the alarm on our mobile phones and do not need the sound of birds or the classic alarm clock with us.  Then, we do not need to read the newspapers to know what has happened around the world.  We are connected to the world through our mobile apps and we get alerted of news events around the world within minutes of its occurrence.

If we extend to the work place, computers have changed the way we work.  The work place is no more sacrosanct.  Work moves along with you wherever you are in the world.  The ubiquitous mobile phone helps you as an office assistant with calendar reminders, emails, clock, fitness tracker and many more useful aids.  We are connected with the world on the internet and decisions are taken on issues by people sitting in different parts of the world seamlessly.  All this has been possible only due to the advent of technology.

Hence, in spite of all these benefits, why do we feel that technology is managing us rather than we managing it.  It may be because of our greedy nature.  It may be because we have become over dependant on technology.  I remember that we used to have  the landline numbers of most of our family and friends in our memory.  Today thanks to the mobile phone we do not even remember the numbers of our close family members.  Some may argue that this is convenience and hence we need not remember any phone numbers any more.  I agree.  But, there seems to be a side effect and we need to worry about that.

The side effect of technology overwhelming us is that we are losing our humanness.  We do not remember the birthdays of our family, friends or colleagues.  We do not have the time to visit a dear one in a hospital.  We have no time to play with our kids in the park.  We have no time to admire and enjoy nature.  We are more content by the number of likes to a post on social media. We get depressed if nobody comments on our post for a few minutes.

Like in the photo above while bluetooth headphones can be a great technology to listen to music, it may sometimes make you inattentive to people around you.

I believe technology is a great enabler for us.  But, may be it is time to touch people and use technology.  We are ending up using people and touching technology.  Technology does not have emotions but people have.  Let us resolve to share our feelings with our near and dear rather than use technology to do so.

Today is the most auspicious day to begin. Lets just do it.

S Ramesh Shankar

Experience speaks..


In today’s world, some people ask – is experience valued ?  It may not be an easy answer to this simple question.  I am reminded of an incident almost thirty two years back.  My father was admitted with renal failure in the ICU of a hospital in Chennai.  The cardiologist, who used to examine my father examined him for two minutes,look at his pulse, checked his bp and would charge consultation fee of Rs. 100 per visit.  My monthly income at that time was around Rs 2000 .  This meant the consultation fee would be more than my monthly income every month.  I used to curse him for fleecing  a poor helpless soul like me.  My father recovered and was discharged.  I thanked God and returned home with my father.

Then after three weeks one day my father almost got choked in his throat while having his dinner.  I panicked and called in the same doctor on phone since it looked it were the last moments of my father alive that day.  However, the same doctor patiently advised me to lay my father on a bed and raise his legs with pillows.  He said that he will be fine and then I could bring him back to the hospital.  I did that and he miraculously became ok.  He later told me that his bp had gone down and raising his legs ensured flow of blood to the brain and he regained consciousness for me to get the breather to take him back to the hospital.  This incident taught me how valuable experience is in life. The same doctor I considered as a life saver of my dad and almost God sent.

In today’s work place, many employees feel threatnened the moment they cross fifty years of age.  Some employers also feel people over fifty may not be very useful and work on voluntary exit schemes to optimise this category of the workforce.  However, neither of these are necessary if we plan the right way.  It is true that as we grow old, our competencies may become redundant.  It is upto us to keep ourselves updated and upskilled.  If we do that and we are the best in whatever job we do, no employer will even dream of losing us.  On the contrary, if we live in the past and want to drive the car using the rear view mirror only rather then the windscreen in front of us, we may become obsolete sooner than we think.

So, the reality is that experience has to speak for itself.  It is like the doctor who was in his fifties then taught me how valuable experience is to save lives even on the phone.  Experienced managers can be great mentors and coaches.  One generation has to hand over the baton to the next.  It is upto us to be the beacon of light in the organisation rather than the dimming candle light.

Organisations gain from the wealth of the experience of her employees.  No organization can survive with material assets or cash in the bank.  It is the capabilities of employees which is invaluable.  It is the experience of the seniors which becomes the competitive edge in the market place.  However, if the seniors live in the past and are not in tune with the times than the future will not take them along.

It is like in the picture above, you should be willing to walk the ramp along with the younger generation if you are in tune with them.

Do you think experience speaks ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Anything in excess is unhealthy ?

Anything in excess is unhealthy ?

I have lived in India throughout my life. We have a temperate climate throughout the year.  It is mostly sunny and temperatures range in the mid thirties centigrade in most parts of the country.  We have got used to it and have acclimatised ourselves to this weather.  One interesting thing I have noticed is that our eating habits and even our clothing patterns are determined by the weather of the place we live in.  This is nature’s way of helping us to adapt to the vagaries of the weather.

Many of us tend to complain when it is very hot during summer.  We pray to God to keep the Sun away for a few days.  On the other hand when it rains in the monsoon, we eagerly look forward to the rains.  The environs are green and we enjoy it for some time.  But as the rains persist and our daily life gets paralysed, we pray to God to keep the rains away.  Three months of rains and cloudy and murky days make us depressed and we want the Sun to come out again.

It is an interesting cycle of life.  We hate the Sun when it is hot and hate the rain when the Sun does not come out.  We look forward to the winters to have some fun.  But when the temperature dips below zero degrees centrigade in some places we again regret.  So, heat, rain or cold is not tolerable, when in excess.  This implies that anything in excess is not good for life.   The earlier we realise it the better it is for us.

If we look at our eating habits also this axiom would be true.  We may like sweets and may enjoy eating them.  But if we have excess of sweets, it may be harmful for our health and at a later stage we may end up with diabetes.  This is also true for any of our habits and hobbies.  Walking is good for health.  But at the same if we over stress ourselves by going for endless walks every day we may harm our health more than benefit from it.

This means anything in life in excess may not be good for us.  We need to strike the right balance for everything.  It does not matter if it is food, hobbies or work.  We have to strike a balance between work and home.  If we over strain ourselves at work, our relationships at home could get impacted.  If we do not work hard and are content in spending more time at home and less focus on our work, our career could get impacted.

Even in life, we need to ensure that we do not go overboard on anything. This means that good life is all about balancing and optimising resources.  Excess of anything may be harmful.  We wish our kids to put on weight when they are babies.  But over weight and obese children may never be the healthiest.  It is up to us to draw the line for everything and know when we are crossing it.

In the photo above, the sun was welcome after a long long monsoon in Mumbai.

Life gives us enough opportunities and resources.  It is up to to manage it well.

S Ramesh Shankar

Mirror


I wonder many times as to how my behaviour with others will impact me.  I have seen in my life and career that many people get away with rude behaviour.  Sometimes people in power and authority think that have a right to behave rudely.  This happens both at home, work environment and society. Let us try to explore why this happens and what is the impact. 

At home, as I grow into an adult and become successful in my career, I tend to believe that I can boss around in the house.  I tend to take my family members for granted and sometimes even my parents.  This further makes me short tempered and unpredictable.  In some families, irrespective of both husband and wife working, there is a sense of superiority in either of us.  We are intolerant to the success of the other person and live in a make believe world. We do not realise how our behaviour as adults impacts the psychology of our own children.

If we move to the work place, the situation is not very different.  As we grow in the organisational hierarchy, we tend to believe we become demi God.  We treat our colleagues with disdain rather than human beings.  We tend to show not enough respect to people down the hierarchy.  It can result in simple courtesies not being extended to our colleagues.  It could be like not wishing back to our colleagues, when they wish us.  It could also mean not listening to junior colleagues or dictating our way through key decisions.

This tendency reflects in societal behaviours too.  People in positions of power whether in organisations, politics or other institutions tend to get egoistic.  They take everyone around them for granted.  Pride and ego dominates their behaviour.  They get away with this sort of antics as long as they are in power.  The moment they lose power, they become cowards and they do not realise how much they have hurt people till they get hurt themselves.

In all these situations, what is common is that power and behaviour seems to be directly correlated.  As power seeps into the human body, our behaviour tends to get from bad to worse.  So, it is up to us to realise this change and keep ourselves grounded and humble.  You may get respected as long as you wield power.  But, it is critical to remember that people respect your position rather than yourself.  In real life,  people respect those with character and humility.  Your words are more important than your deeds.    

All these situations signify that as parents, leaders or citizens our behaviour impacts our future generations.  Our words and actions determine our character.  Our character determine our actions.  Our actions trigger changes in society.  It is up to us to behave in a way we want our future generations to do.  Our behaviour reflects and impacts the behaviour of the younger generation.  It is like our images are reflected in the mirror every time we peep into it.

Let us behave the way we want others to do with us every day.

S Ramesh Shankar

Competition or Co-optition ?


We live in a competitive world.  The competitive spirit starts from our childhood.  Our parents tend to compare us with other kids in the same school.  Many a time, we are told why our peformance in academics cannot be like our neighbour’s daughter or son.  We are asked why we cant compete in sports like our friend’s kid and so on.  Not a single day in school or college goes without our performance being compared with someone else.   Why this competition ?  We are not born in this world with our neighbour’s son or daughter nor will we die with our friend’s children.  Then, why do we do compete and make our life miserable every day.

If we move beyond children, even adults tend to compare themselves in everything.  If a neighbour buys a new TV, it creates enough ripples within our home.  If a friend buys a car or house, we want to outbeat them in size and value of house and car.  Our value is based on the size of our house and car and not on the size of our heart.  We want to possess more wealth than our siblings and our friends.  We do not compete in giving back more.  We are not willing to learn from the best habits of our neighbours.

Why this competitive spirits seeps in our life ?  I may not have an answer but have many questions to ask myself and my readers ?  Why do our parents want us to always compete with our siblings and our neighbours and friends ?  Why do we want to possess more wealth than our neighbours and friends even though we may not need all of them in our life time ?  Why are we willing to sometimes sacrifice our personal values to outbeat our colleagues at work ? 

Many a time we justify our animal spirit of competitiveness by claiming that there are limited resources in this world and we have to be ahead of others in grabbing them.  In my view, there are unlimited resources in the world for us to be successful.  It is the limitation in our thinking, which makes us competitive.  We limit our thinking and that reflects in our behaviour.

The workplace behaviour is more competitive.  We die at the workplace virtually competing with everyone around us.  Our spirit is not to learn and grow but to compete and die in our careers.  While, it may be a good idea to be the best in whatever you do, it should not be at the cost of other colleagues at work.  It may be a good idea to compete with oneself in whatever we do in life.  We could be the best by being the best in work and in our behaviour.  

There is enough in this world for all of us.  Co-optition may be a better word.  We can work along with our competitors for jointly creating a better world.  Similarly, we can work with our colleagues to do our job better and learn from one another.  We can also learn from our siblings and support each other to succeed.  We learn more by sharing with one another rather than keeping knowledge to ourselves.

If at all there is an urge to compete, let us compete in working to create a happier world.  Let us compete to live together as a bonded family.  Let us compete with other countries to foster peace in the world.  Let us compete to eliminate pollution in the world.  Let countries compete to eradicate poverty in the world.  Cooptition may replace competition from our dictionaries.

In the photo above, friends are singing together to create a chorus rather than competing with each other to  outbeat each other.

Let us learn to live along with each other and create a world of our choice for our future generations.

S Ramesh Shankar

Excuses for everything


Almost every day begins and ends with excuses for most of us.  Let us start from the morning.  We refuse to get up from bed, when woken up by someone.  We blame the weather or the exhausting day at work on the previous day.  Then once we get up, we have an excuse not to go for the walk or the jog.  It’s raining – how can one go for a walk ?  Then we get late to work and when the boss enquires we have the common excuse of traffic congestion on the way.

Now that we are at work, do the excuses stop.  I do not think so.  When a customer calls us enquiring about a delayed delivery, we put the blame on manufacturing or some other department and explain in details how it is beyond our control.  When the customer asks as to why we did not call up and inform her, we have a box full of excuses.  We had the board meeting and two new product launches and how when we tried a few times, the customers’ phone was not reachable.

Let’s assume the day at work begins and ends with excuses.  Now, let’s move on to the gym.  As we reach the gym and our instructor enquires the reasons for our poor attendance, we have a long list of reasons.  We blame the weather, the boss, the spouse and of course the traffic is always a ready made excuse for almost everything in life.

What is interesting is that when we are late at work, we blame the traffic but when we have to go on a holiday, we are always on time to the airport never miss a flight.  We do not know how we invent excuses for things we do not enjoy but do not need excuses for things we do.

Now, let’s check at home.  We have a long list of excuses to return late from work.  Again the boss is handy and followed by heavy workload, customer visits, official dinner and so on.  We also have excuses to tell our spouse of how busy we were at work and as to why we could not call up home to inform.

We always have excuses to give our kids when they want us to take them out for a movie or to the park.  We promise to take them the following week and that week never arrives.  We have a host of excuses to postpone it multiple times till the children stop asking us or forget about their request.  

After we return home, we again have good excuses to tell our spouse as to why we could not pay electricity bills or water bills.  We have reasons to miss the doctor’s appointment.  We sometimes even forget our kids birthday party and have excuses to justify that.

It is like we may have an excuse for not wearing the seat belt in the back seat of a car as in the picture above ? We may say that nothing would happen in the back seat and nobody wears it anyway and hence why should I ?

Is life full of excuses ?  May be if we want it that way.  However, if we decide to take charge of ourselves, may be life would be different.  We have reasons to be happier.  We may not need excuses to justify our existence at home or work.  Life may be happier and cosier.

Let’s try it from today.

S Ramesh Shankar

The sunset


The sunset has always been a source of joy for me.  Like Keats said, ” A thing of beauty is joy forever”.  Watching a sun set and taking photos has been a source of inspiration for me always.  If you ask me, I do not know why ?.  Scientists tell us that it is safer to watch a setting sun than a rising one because of the infra red and other harmful rays.  I watch the setting sun as it is a source of beauty and happiness for me.

As the sun sets in the horizon, we have the multicolour formation of the clouds.  No artist in the world can paint it.  No designer can visualise it.  It is the creation of nature and the gift of God. What amazes me more is that every day is a new design.  A new formation.  A new spread of colours.  The combination of colours is electrifying.  It soothes your mind and quenches your heart with emotions.

The setting sun signifies many things to me.  It declares the end of the day and the beginning of the night.  It means that life has both days and night.  While it may be easier to work in the day but much more difficult in the night.  The sun set prepares us for the difficulties of the night.  It cautions us to prepare for the more challenging phase of life.

I am lucky to travel to different parts of the world as part of my work.  Although I do not travel very often but every visit to a new place teaches me some thing.  The last time I was in Germany I was talking about sun sets with someone.  They told me how lucky we are that we have the sun for most part of the year in India.  As Indians we consider bright sun light as signifying higher temperatures and coupled with humidity, it definitely makes it a tougher day to bear.  But imagine life without much sun light.  If you live in countries, where the appearance of the sun is rare, you know what I mean.

The sun is not only a source of energy.  It brightens our life.  It balances nature. It helps us maintain our moods.  I recently experienced the absence of the sun for almost a week during the recent monsoon and I realised how much I missed it. I appreciate the reasons for depression and mood swings in the countries, where the appearance of the sun is a luxury.

The sunset may mark the end of the day.  But it also gives us hope that although we may have to spend a cold night but the rising sun the next day will give us hope and warmth back.  We miss something when we do not have enough of it.  In countries where the appearance of the sun is a phenomenon, its highly valued.  But in nations like India, where there is abundance of sunlight, we value it less till the day we miss it.

I am amazed by nature and everything around us. It is a great source of joy and happiness.  The sun, the moon, the earth, the tree, the sea, the mountains and so on.  If we sit back and reflect, we realise that we are privileged to learn so much from all of them.  Each of them is a mystery and a source of inspiration.  If at all we are willing to keep our eyes and ears open all the time, learning can never end.

The sun sets today to rise again tomorrow.  Let us also resolve to bounce back in life if at all we go through a bad patch in life like the sun does every day for us.

S Ramesh Shankar