Sleeplessness

Yesterday was one of those rare days in my life when I could not sleep. I had gone on a tour to Germany and when I returned I had a bad cold and cough because of extreme change of weather conditions. Although this has not been new to me but I do not know why I could not sleep. I have travelled to Germany multiple times and have never missed a whole night sleep. But today was different.

I do not even remember as to when I last spent a sleepless night. Yes in the past on a few occasions, when I have travelled to places where there is a huge time zone difference it does take the human body to adjust and adapt. But four and a half hours time difference is not that difficult to adjust or adapt after a day’s rest. I do not know why nor do I want to know.

But this sleeplessness has helped me to further kindle my writing spirit. In a matter of less than an hour, I wrote four blogs. The thoughts started flowing like water in an open tap, There was no traffic on the road and no noise in the environs. It is dawn now and I can only hear the sound of the Rooster in the background. I realize that it may be sometimes wonderful to sleep in the day and enjoy the night this way.

However, on a serious note of reflection, I realised today how privileged I am. I have never complained of sleeplessness in my life. I have been an honest tax paying citizen and have lived my family and society values to the best of my ability all through my life. But today I realised how important sleep is for the health of a human being. If the body is not able to rest, it may not be energised the next day. It may be like a engine running twenty four hours and three hundred and sixty five days a year without any stop. The engine is likely to break down so will the human being without 8 hours of sleep every day.

I realised that there millions of people around the world who may not be sleeping every day this way. Of course some of the highly creative people like music composers, scientists etc sometimes work day or night when their calling comes. It is not sleep which is their way to relax but the work they do and their calling is not determined by the working hours of ordinary human kind like many of us.

Similarly, there are millions of people around the world who cannot sleep because they do not have a shelter above their head or food in their stomach. How privileged I am in comparison to these people. I did realise today after just one day of sleep deprivation. I may sleep during the day tomorrow as it is a weekend but everyone around the world does not have that privilege.

Another learning for me is to be grateful for what I am and what I have in life rather than what I am not and I do not have. There can never be day in my life where all my dreams will be realised. This does not mean I stop dreaming. But gratitude lays the foundation for humility in life. It also helps us balance need and greed. The day we realise we are grounded.

It is almost 5 am now. It is either time for my morning coffee or a quick nap.

What do you think I will do ?

S Ramesh Shankar

18th Nov 2017

Second Innings

In cricket, there are two innings in a test match. Similarly in life there are two innings. The first innings is when you pursue your education, then get into your career or vocation and reach the pinnacle of your life and career. Then the second innings begins. This is time you retire from work and settle down in life with your family. In the first innings, we try to take everything we can from society. In the second innings, it is time to give back.

Organisations in most countries determine the retirement age in advance and sign a contract with the employee. On the other hand, if you are practising a vocation or business, you decide on your own retirement age. In my view, it does not matter. All of us need to retire some day so that we can give way to the younger generation. If there are only eleven playing members in a soccer team, then the senior players need to retire so that young potential players will get a chance. Life is not different.

It is better to retire and quit, when people ask “why are you leaving? “, rather than “why are you not leaving?”. There is a time and place for everything in life. It is important for all of us to prepare ourselves for every phase of life. I know of many people who are so busy with their work that they do not have the time for their family, vacations or even for planning for their own future. They live and die at work every day as if there is no tomorrow.

We all need to realize that life has two innings. In the first, you learn and take from society and in the second, we share and give back to society in all ways we can. We need to plan for the second innings in life. There can be no prescription for anyone or anything in life. However, I have seen people who plan everything meticulously and are looking forward to their retirement so that they can give back. On the other hand, there are others who think that there is no life without work and hence dread the thought of the second innings.

One always wonders what would one do when you retire from life. This is a fair question. While you are working you believe you never have the time to pursue your hobbies. You also tend to think that you are so busy that you cannot pursue an exercise regimen every day as your routine. After all work and no exercise, you wonder where is the time for your spouse or your kids. You have not visited your friends or relatives for ages on the pretext of being a work-a-horse.

Now as soon as you are about to retire the same questions haunt you. You start wondering that you will have all the time in the world and have no work to do. You need not exercise now although you have the time since it is no more relevant for your future. Your kids have left home and your relatives and friends do not have the time to host you now. This may be harsh reality of the future. However one needs to plan for it.

The first myth is that work is within the precincts of an organization in a defined role. The second myth is that maintaining good health is an option. The third myth is that your family, friends and relatives will wait for you for the rest of their lives. The day we break these myths in our minds we will make a difference to our lives and to the lives of our near and dear.

My father in law in the photo above was a good example of meticulous planning and preparation for his second innings. He pursued his hobbies of reading, writing and serving the community around him in all possible ways.

Work beyond retirement could be pursuing hobbies, social service, teaching students, reading, writing, travelling or any other way of giving back to society. Maintaining good health is a life long regimen and does not end with retirement. Our indebtedness to family and friends is a life long expression of gratitude.

Let us begin today.

S Ramesh Shankar

When you feel something is good, everything is good…


I am a born optimist and have always considered life as full of possibilities and opportunities. Interestingly I have noticed that if you think positive, then everything around you looks positive for you. On the other hand, if you crib for everything in life, nothing seems to work for you. I do not know if this has any scientific basis or not but I believe that life evolves for us the way we believe in it.

I can share many incidents in my life where I have been caught up in difficult situations but have always found a way out because I believed there is a way out. Life revolves around what you believe in. If you think it is good, everything around you looks good. On the other hand, if you believe life is a curse, nothing seems positive around you. One may call this your attitude to life and I believe it is true and it works for me.

My daughter finished her graduation in journalism and wanted to pursue her post graduation in mass communication. I was hoping that she will get admission to the best school of mass communication for the same. She not only got admission but did pursue her studies in the same school and came out with flying colours and further got a dream job from her campus placements.

I moved to Bangalore from Delhi after I changed my job. My son had passed out his tenth class and was to admitted to a new school for his further education. I tried many schools but I believed he will make it and get admission near my house. He not only got admission on merit in one of the best schools near my house but also passed out from that school and further pursued his graduation in business management as he had dreamt.

There have been days in my life at work, where I have felt bored and almost wanted to quit. But I did believe that something good is likely to happen to me and I have been nominated for a new project, which has been a turning point in my career. Every change in the trajectory of my career has happened because I believed in myself and also pursued my dreams through hard work and determination.

My wife has always been around to help someone in need. She will be the first person to offer her services to anyone in need. I have seen her rushing to my daughter for help or to my parents or my in laws. This helping attitude of hers ensures that we are never in trouble. In my entire career and life, I have never faced a situation, where I have felt lonely or not cared for. I believe this is because of the positive service attitude of my wife.

I have seen my eldest sister stay in multiple cities. She has always been blessed with good neighbourhood and good servants at home to help her. Of course, she is a noble human being and hence may be blessed with such benefits because of her goodness. But I also believe that she always thinks good about others and hence all people around her appear to be good.

It is this belief, which makes all the difference in our lives. If we believe something good will happen, it will happen. If we think people around us are good, they turn out to be good. If we are courteous and generous with others, everyone is helpful to you and so on. Life always gives you what you deserve. It also gives you back the way you look at life.

If you are willing to admire nature, then you get immersed in the lap of nature as in the photo above.

If we think positive, life is positive. Let us believe everything which happens around us is good, and it will turn out to be good.

Let us try it.

S Ramesh Shankar

Accepting defeat with grace…

We witnessed elections in the world’s largest democracy over the last two months. It was characterised by political debates, accusations, allegations and counter allegations as one can expect from such an event.

I admire the Election Commission of India for meticulously planning and organising a fair and largely peaceful election in a seamless manner. We were possibly the first country in the world to adopt electronic voting machines. We can be proud of this accomplishment, which many developed nations have not been able to adopt so far.

However, what we see as an aftermath of such a massive exercise is blame game. Political parities find faults with the election commission. They also blame the electronic voting machines for their losses. Today a political leader even went to the extent of blaming foreign forces for their defeat.

I am amazed at such reactions. One life lesson is to accept a “win” with humility and a “loss” with grace. After all the public at large comprises of citizens like you and me. We are well educated and make our judgement based on ground realities. We elect parties or leaders for their credence and not for any other reason.

We need to educate our political class to adapt to the technological changes impacting them. Today is it is electronic voting machines. Tomorrow it could be artificial intelligence or the blockchain, which may play a role in elections. What surprises me is that the so called educated politicians, who are professionally qualified like lawyers, management graduates, engineers, doctors etc are the first to criticise this way when they lose or their party faces defeat in the hustings.

My learning in life is to accept defeat with “grace” as much as treat victory with “humility”. This is what we can learn from all the best sportspersons in the world. A sportsperson glowing with arrogance after a victory fades into history. On the other hand, the humble sportsperson, who bows out with grace even in defeat is always the winner in our minds.

Politicians need to learn this lesson in life. We should not end up blaming our constitutional bodies and institutions for narrow political gains. After all, the citizens in modern India want better roads, clean drinking water, good health facilities and world class infrastructure. We want jobs for all who need it and health and happiness for the common man. We envision India as the best and the happiest country in the world.

It is time for political parities and politicians to rise above narrow archaic beliefs and work for the larger good of the nation. Let parliament work for 100% of the days, pass all needed legislations. Let the honest citizens be rewarded and the crooks in society be booked.

It is time for us to make India the best democracy in the world apart from being the largest. The government and the opposition needs to work hand in hand like the twin lilies in the photo above.

Let us learn to accept defeat with grace and victory with humility.

S Ramesh Shankar

26th May 2019

Why is common sense uncommon ?

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I have never understood as to why common sense is uncommon ? The first incident which taught me this was when I was in college. My college was next to a suburban railway station. There was a subway being constructed at the level crossing near the college. One side of the road to the subway was being dug in a broader way than the other side. Both the sides did not seem aligned. As a student, I was bewildered. However, I thought the civil and design engineers were more knowledgable than me and hence may be I did not understand.

However, after the construction was almost completed on the subway, they realised that this was indeed a grave error. There were two different contractors working on either side of the railway line and may be they never had a joint meeting and hence they designed and constructed subways on either side, which were not aligned. They did not realise it till it was almost completed although to a common man like me it was quite visible.

Such incidents happen almost every day in our lives. There are some things, which are very obvious but we do not realise it until someone points it out to us. It is like standing under a shower and turning on the hot water tap without realising that we need to first mix the hot and cold water to the right temperature before walking under the shower. Isn’t it obvious to us that hot water will burn our skin but still many of us end up doing just that.

Another every day incident which baffles me is our reluctance to wear helmets or safety belts while we ride bikes or drive cars. All of us are aware that the maximum deaths happen on the road due to accidents. We are equally educated that helmets and safety belts can help us prevent fatal accidents. We undergo training and even make written commitments to wear them. But when we take out our bike or car, we end up not wearing them stating that with so much traffic and such slow speeds, nothing can happen to us.

The most common thing I see nowadays is people crossing the road speaking on their mobile phones. I have nothing against people speaking on mobile phones or chatting on apps. But what baffles me is why people do not realise that crossing a road speaking on the mobile phone could be fatal. Isn’t it common sense that while you are speaking on the phone or chatting on it, your attention cannot be on the traffic and you may not hear the horn and hence it may just take a fraction of a second to meet with an accident.

I realise that I cannot blame the world for my uncommon sense. I have to take responsibility for applying my common sense and not make it uncommon. I need to commit to myself that I will question myself every time I realise that I am not exhibiting it. If I promise myself that I will wear a helmet or safety belt every time I drive, I should stick to it whether the world is watching me or I am all alone.

As in the photo above, why we do not use safety devices when we are expected to do so for our own safety.

The only way of making common sense common is self discipline. I cannot blame the world for an accident if I cross the road while I am speaking on a mobile phone. The earlier we realise this basic tenet the better it is for ourselves. It is up to us to use our common sense. If we don’t, we have to blame ourselves and not the world around us.

Let me begin today.

S Ramesh Shankar

I am the past, you are the future…

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One of the best lessons I have learnt in life is that the more your share, the more you learn. It starts from our childhood. As a elder sibling in the family, we have to learn to share with our younger siblings and be willing to learn from them. Then you grow into an adult and have a lot to share with younger ones around you. You get into a job and work in a team to share and learn.

As you get married, you learn from each other all the time. Then as you have kids, it is time to give back again. This is the time I realised that the best attitude to share and give back to the next generation is to believe that ” I am the past, you are the future..”. If we live our life with this attitude, we will always be willing to share more, learn more and give back more. We have to realise that we create the future of our choice.

I have to believe what happened in my life is history. I may have succeeded or made mistakes. But the future is with the next generation. Hence, if I believe that I am the past and the next generation is the future, I will happily share my knowledge and skills without expecting anything in return. Many of us conserve our knowledge, skills or experience thinking that if you share you erode your value.

I would argue that it is the other way around. The more you share, the more you learn and grow. I have respected all the people who have shared with me in life and career. I have seen them grow and become more knowledgable and respected in society. On the other hand, people who have conserved knowledge or experience are neither respected nor do they blossom in life.

There is a reason for me to believe that our attitude to life and living should be – ” I am the past, you are the future..”. If we believe, we have experiences of the past, we have a responsibility to share with the next generation as they are the future. If we share our failures and successes, the chances are they will not have to go through the same issues in their lives. If we do not believe in this, the next generation will do the same mistakes we did in our life and their learning curve will be longer than ours.

In corporate life, we always believe that the lessons we learn from our failures are much more valuable even than our successes. Life is no different. We should have the courage not only to accept our failures but the willingness to share what we learnt from them so that the future generations benefit from it. If all of us conserve our knowledge, skills and experiences and take them to our graves, we neither benefit from it nor does the future generations.

This is true in every aspect of life. We need to share and learn in a continual way. We need to believe that the more we share, the more we learn in life. We need to believe that we are the past and the next generation is the future. We are responsible for the past but we also have a responsibility to create a brighter future for the next generation.

We have a responsibility of developing the future generation as in the photo above.

Let us live life king size. Let us learn to give back to others more than we have got in life. I can share that this could be a wonderful way to be happy and grateful in life. We have neither inherited knowledge nor can we take it to heaven. It is this realisation, which will make us give back in abundance. Let us learn every day of our life and let go all that we have learnt to others so that they benefit as much as we did.

The day to start is today and the time is now.

S Ramesh Shankar

Never judge anyone..

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It is easy for us to judge others. We end up judging people all around us every day. I am no different and have been guilty of this phenomenon in my life. However, I did realise through some incidents in my life that it is not fair to judge others without knowing the background or the context. What we see may not be the whole. We generally end up seeing only the part of the circumstances and end up judging.

I recently heard of an incident about a doctor, who was late to the operation theatre. The parents of the kid who was seriously injured were waiting outside the intensive care unit waiting for the doctor. As the doctor arrived, the parents were agitated that he was delayed and their son may not survive because of his delay. The doctor apologised for the delay and went ahead with the operation. After completing the operation, the doctor assured the parents that the kid will survive and left the hospital in a hurry.

After the doctor left the hospital in a hurry, when the agitated parents enquired as to why the doctor was in a hurry, the nurse explained that the doctor’s son had died in an accident in the morning. He rushed to the hospital from the grave yard because of the emergency. Now, he is rushing back to the graveyard to complete the cremation of his son. On hearing this, the parents fainted and felt miserable in judging the doctor without knowing the full story.

Life is similar. We end up judging others without knowing the full story. It happens every day in our lives. If our child is late from school, we scold the kid even without enquiring the reasons for the delay. After we have passed the judgement, we neither have the time nor the patience to listen to the child’s true story. When such an incident repeats itself, the child stops telling us the truth because she believes it is of no use as anyway she will be scolded by her parents.

This happens in the work place too. If an employee is regularly late to work, we assume that the person is indisciplined and pass a judgement even without asking or listening to the employee. We tend to brand such employees and then such employees lose their self confidence. They get branded for no fault of theirs. They lose interest in work and sometimes even in life. On listening to them, we may realise that they are going through a very serious crisis in their personal lives and they need our emotional support the most.

We also take our friends and relatives for granted. If a friend does not wish us on our birthday, we end up thinking that he has betrayed us and even forgotten our birthday. We make our judgement on one single incident without taking the pain to find out why it happened. In today’s world the mobile phone and its messaging systems has also led to a lot of misunderstandings and judgements.

We need to wake up and realise that we shape not only our destiny but also those of our near and dear ones. We not only have a responsibility to be happy in life but also contribute to the happiness of others around us. How can we make others happy if we misjudge them every other day ? Can we resolve to ourselves that we will not judge anyone without getting the full picture ?

Let us promise to ourselves that we will put ourselves in the other person’s position and listen them before coming to any conclusions. This will ensure that we are empathetic. This will reduce misunderstanding and help us cement our relationships. It is time to become non-judgemental. Although easier said than done, it is time to realise the perils of judging others.

We generally think all policeman are corrupt. In this case, this person proved otherwise by being honest through his deeds.

May be time to look at the mirror before judging others !

S Ramesh Shankar