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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


I always wonder why some people do not realise how much they hurt others by their words and deeds. Today I heard of an incident where someone’s mother was admitted in a hospital and was recovering. One of her relatives who came in to see her mother instead of encouraging and consoling her, told her unabashedly that you are wasting your money on her treatment since your mother is not going to live long.

I was shocked and dismayed even to hear this incident. First of all this relative was not a doctor. Secondly, she was neither supporting this person financially nor emotionally to treat her mother. Then, I fail to understand what pleasure a person can get to make such unforgivable statements especially to a daughter attending on her mother in a hospital. You can hurt someone unknowingly and it is forgivable but if someone hurts you knowingly what do you do ?

I do understand all of us end up hurting people around us by our words or deeds some way . We may not realise it as and when it happens. However, we do regret when we realise it and seek forgiveness from the person we have hurt or from God for our cruel behaviour. In this instance, the relative was her aunt. It is beyond my imagination to even think of why people behave this way. I can understand how deeply hurt this person may have felt.

We are brought up by our parents and they sacrifice everything in life to give us comfort and joy in life. They never think twice before spending money on you for your betterment. As we grow up, our parents get old and sometimes they do fall sick and become immobile. It is at this time we need to think of how we can serve our parents. We can never in our life time repay the non financial debt of service our parents have rendered to us. In my view, it is a sin even to think of not treating them well.

In this case, the relative who made these scandalous statements was her mother’s sibling. Her mother had been like a mother to her since the age gap between them is quite a lot and her mother had died at a young age. So instead of being grateful to her and helping the family financially or otherwise to treat her mother, this person ends up making such regrettable statements. I will never recommend that we should even make such statements for our enemies if we are human beings.

All of us are materialistic in life and we accumulate wealth during our youth to take care of ourselves in our old age. We need to realise that serving our elders is a rare opportunity God provides to some of us in our life time. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity. We need to consider it our privilege and honour to serve our parents and take care of them when they need us most.

If we think spending money on our parents or elders hospitalisation is waste of money just because they are old and immobile today, we are inhuman in thought and action. We have to realise that all of us will grow old some day and imagine our children thinking the same way and leaving you in a hospital unattended because they think spending money on your treatment is not a wise thing to do.

Some of us realise our mistakes in our life time. It is possible that some of us never realise it in this life time. Hence, I understand why the Hindu religion says that human being has seven births. This may be because God gives us six more chances to repent for our errors in life. I pray to God that all of us treat our elders with respect and dignity. We treat them the way we want to be treated by our children in the future.

Hurt is like the the shedding of the leaves by the trees during autumn. When someone hurts you, you feel barren like the trees may feel when their leaves shrug off.

Let us learn to forgive such inhuman humans and pray to God that he will bestow them with wisdom in this life or the next.

S Ramesh Shankar

Emotional Dustbin

We may consider the dustbin as the least attractive place in the house or office as we end up throwing all that we do not want in life. However, we do not realize how valuable the dust bin is as it relentlessly accepts all our garbage we throw into it.  I was wondering how valuable the dustbin is in our life.  In life, you always want people around you, who are willing to listen to all your outpouring.  We may call them the emotional dustbin.

  I had a colleague of mine in one of the earlier organizations I worked who ( in the photo above) symbolised the emotional dustbin.  He was easily accessible and was always willing to listen to the feelings of everyone around him.  I have seen him from morning to night listening to people and enabling them to outpour their emotions.  This is not an easy task.  One may get emotionally discharged if we keep listening to others sorrow all the time.

  However, in life, we all need an emotional dustbin.  As we grow up, it is generally our parents and in most cases our mother or an elder sibling, who plays the role of the emotional dustbin.  We can pour our emotions on them endlessly.  They have the patience and perseverance to listen to us and tolerate our non sense too.  It is this ability of a person, which makes him or her adorable.

This is equally true for us as parents at home. As our kids grow up, our patience tends to diminish. While all of us wait for our child to speak the first word in the world, we want to shut up the child as he grows up. We cannot tolerate the continuous muttering of our child. Then adosclent children tend to test our patience. Their rebellious nature challenges our emotions and we refuse to give in. It is at this stage, our listening skills are put to test.  

In the organisational context, most people managers are not good at listening.  We need to realize that our team members are people with emotions.  Our ability to enable our colleagues to share their joy and sorrow with equal measure will help us grow as a leader.  We need to learn to be like the emotional dustbin.  In most situations, we may silence our colleagues by our inability to be good listeners.  

  As adults, we always get along better with people who are active listeners.  We like their company as we can share whatever we feel like.  We pick friends and colleagues at work or life, who are willing to invest their time in us.  We are impatient with people who are restless.  While we want to liberally share our feelings, we are not equally excited when others want to do the same with us.

  In the cycle of life, we all are emotional people.  Some of us hide our emotions and find it difficult to express them till we lose control.  While others look for people around them all the time so that they can freely express themselves.  It is true that all of us want to share with others many a time.  It is easier to share with others and make them listen to your feelings and emotions.  However, it is difficult the other way around.

  May be it is time to realize that the dustbin is invaluable and human being as an emotional dustbin in life is the most valuable in our lives.

  Is it time to emote ?

S Ramesh Shankar

No tears to cry…

All of us would have faced situations in life where we are drowned in grief and have no tears to cry.  It is these situations where you feel lonely but do not want to be disturbed.  You want to confront God as to why he has besieged you with such a crisis.  You are lonely but prefer solitude to a crowd.  You want to be left alone as reflection helps you deal with sadness.

I have myself been through situations like these in my life.  The first time after I lost both my parents in my early twenties I lost faith in God.  I stopped visiting temples and questioned the very existence of a spiritual power beyond human kind.  It has happened to me on a few other occasions later in my life too.  Every time, it makes you cry but without tears in your eyes.  Every time you look at the world with different eyes and console yourself only by comparing with people who are in more distressed situations than you.

Last week one such incident happened to me.  I called on a friend who is as gregarious and vivacious as human beings can be.  She is a person whose mere presence can energise you.  I have seen her brings smiles to the lives of many around her.  I have always seen her finding opportunities to help everyone around her in every possible way. I called her to enquire about her well being since she stays in another city.  She did not even pick up her phone.  I was worried.  I sent her a message and she replied that her mother is seriously unwell and her grand child is also not well.

I reflected on this incident and realised that even a person like her did not have tears in her eyes to cry.  When all the good deeds you do to others does not ensure your happiness, you wonder whether it was worthwhile to be good in life.  You wonder if helping others is necessary when God does not want to help you in a crisis.  This applies even to people like her who are selfless.

I have also seen colleagues and friends confronted with multiple crises at the same time.  One sometimes wonders why God is cruel to such people.  Even before they barely wriggle out of one crisis God presents them with a bigger challenge and this shatters their confidence in themselves.  It is during phases like these, we need to be around to help such people in distress.  We may not be able to relieve them of their stress.  But, our very presence and being around may instil faith in them that they are not alone to face this emergency in their life.

However, I am a born optimist and I realize that every night is followed by a day.  Everyday the sun sets to rise again.  Hence while our tears may dry up during a crisis , we need to keep our hopes alive.  We need to believe that we are capable of dealing with everything in life.  After all there is no dead end in our life.  There will always be a turn and we need to have the patience to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Let us pray to God so that he ensures that good people in life do not suffer this way.

It is better to cry with tears than without.

S Ramesh Shankar

Friends forever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let friendships last forever

S Ramesh Shankar

Broken Relationships..

Life is a web of relationships.  It starts with the family and then extends to school, college and organisations.  We meet friends, colleagues and well wishers everywhere.  Our life revolves around these relationships.  We gain from some and lose from others.  But then we learn to live with them and deal with them as it evolves.  Some help us move on in life while others teach us to slow down and change course.

Every relationship is unique.  It starts with your family.  Your parents and siblings are the first you connect with.  You get close to your mother or father.  You trust them blindly and consult them for everythinig in life.  Sometimes one of your siblings also becomes a friend and you are able to discuss all issues under the sun.  Then you get out of home to college and then to work.  Now, you develop friendships with colleagues.

This process of building relationships all around you is an integral part of your life.  One of these relationship blossoms and you tend to get closer by the day.  It becomes symbiotic and mutually rewarding.  When it happen between two sexes, you tend to get attracted to each other through mind, body and soul.  This blossoms into a partnership.  You tend to believe that you cannot live without each other.  It is gratifying when this relationship fructifies into a life long partnership through a marriage.

But sometimes life takes a different turn and the person you are closest to ditches you, leaves you and deserts you when you least expect that to happen.  Your life is shattered.  You question the meaning of life and no words of consolation can console you.  You believe that life is unfair to you.  It is only time, which can heal you and this experience is to be gone through to be believed.  It is painful to say the least.

But after you get over it, life becomes easier for you.  You tend to believe that you are made of steel.  No force on earth can melt you.  No hurt can destroy you.  You believe you can now live life on your own terms.  It is like the fire melting and moulding the steel into shape in a furnace.  Your life is now moulded  through tough experiences of the past to take up any challenge in the future.

You become reflective on life.  You tend to believe that everyone goes though ups and downs and it is up to us to take it in our stride and deal with it.  There are no full stops in life.  Life is full of commas and semicolons.  You need to take a deep breadth and if needed medidate a bit and move on.  It is easier said than done.  But life is like that.  How can we define life in all its colours to anyone ?  

We neither can imagine what will happen the next hour, next day or even the week ahead ?  So, why break our head.  Let us deal with life as it comes.  In a way, if you are destined to go through tough times at an early stage of your life, the better it is for you.  It makes you determined.  It toughesns you and you are ready to take on anything in life.  Like in the photo above, you pick up your strands to rebuild your life even if your partner deserts you when you least expected it to happen. You have to learn to deal with the waves of life on your own terms and then become a winner.

Let us lead life the way we want to rather then get bogged down by the obstacles on our way.  It is like the river flowing down the mountains.  It may take months or days to wade through rocks but the river never stops.

Lets learn to move on.

S Ramesh Shankar

Expectations Management

One of my colleagues enquired if I could write on “Expectations management”. I thought it was an interesting subject and hence readily agreed. Someone interestingly said that frustration is the gap between achievement and hope. We are continually trying to live up to the expectations of all the people around us. When we succeed, we are elated and when we don’t we feel dejected.

Today, expectations begin even before you are born. Our parents are expecting us to be a girl or a boy depending on their wish. If we fulfil their wish, they are delighted and if we do not, they are disappointed. So, we possibly need to learn to manage expectations even before we are born. Then once born, we grow up and when it time to get into a school, most parents wish you get admission in the best school. The competitive race of life begins here.

Then we are out of school and we have to manage expectations of parents, teachers, relatives, friends and even the community around us. Each of these people have different expectations from us. While every parent wants the child to pursue the best of education, every teacher wishes the child excel in her or his subject of choice. Relatives and friends are awaiting your success in academics to celebrate with you and your family. The community around you wants to take pride in your accomplishments.

Let us assume you are able to live up to the expectations of all of them. This may be easier said than done. You may want to be a doctor and your parents want you to be a engineer. Your relatives and friends feel you should pursue music as a career since you are good at it. So, meeting conflicting expectations and still pursuing what you want to do in life is a tough ask. You may delight some and upset some other well wishers in your life.

Now, you have finished your formal education and want to pursue your passion in life. You have graduated as a doctor and want to go to the villages to serve the most needy. Your parents are worried about living conditions. Your friends, relatives and neighbours are worried that you will not be available for them. The community around you is looking forward to benefit from your services. They are disappointed that you are moving away to serve in a village.

Apart from all of them around you, you sometimes are not able to live up to your own expectations. The champions in every walk of life set very high standards for themselves. They do not rest till they are able to surpass their own expectations every day of their lives. So, whatever your accomplishment in your life, you may feel you have a lot to achieve in the future. Excellence is a journey that never ends. It is like a train which has no destination.

Another dimension of expectation management is when you get married. Both spouses have expectations from each other. When we do not meet each others’ expectations, it results in avoidable conflict. There is no magic wand to balance expectations from each other. But two way communication, mutual respect, active listening and adapting to each other may help us bridge our expectations with each other.

With all these complexities of life, how do you meet the expectations of all the stake holders in your life. It depends on how we set our own expectations. While we may not be able to set expectations before we are born or even as a kid, it may be desirable to do it as we grow into an adult. We should calmly negotiate with the relevant stakeholders what to expect from us in every stage of life. We may not be able to live up to everyone’s expectations. But we are not bound to do so either. We should live up to our own expectations and have the courage to manage the rest.

Whether it is your friends as in the photo above or colleagues at work, relatives or family members, we need set and reset our expectations as per the needs of the environment.

We have to develop the ability to negotiate expectations. This may be with our parents, relatives, teachers, friends or even our colleagues at work. We have to be clear on what we want to do and then we need to pursue that with passion without hurting anyone around us. As we learn to be focussed and persuasive, we will realise that we can wade our way through the mesh of life and achieve what we want to.

Do you want to try ?

S Ramesh Shankar