Anything natural is generally good…

IMG_0131I have always been an admirer of nature. I have admired nature in all its forms. I love the hills, mountains, rivers, deserts and the sea. I love trees, forests, animals and birds. Of course, I like human beings and love to observe how they behave with all forms of nature. I have wondered as to how we have progressively tried to destroy nature in the name of growth and development.

I am a diabetic and had switched over to sunflower oil and other so called healthy diet based on what I read and believed from people around me. I then met a leading diabatologist in Mumbai. He advised me to go back to my roots. He simply stated that I should follow the diet patterns my family has been following over centuries. For eg. He advised me to switch back to TIL oil from sunflower oil. He said nature has a way of adapting the body to suit the health of human beings. If you belong to a particular region, you should follow the food habits of that region.

This was a revelation for me. I started believing that “Anything natural is good”. It is not only true but experience of mine substantiates this belief. While technology and science has helped us develop wonderful things, I still realize that there is no substitute for similar things found in nature. It is like no perfume on earth can invigorate me more than fresh jasmine flowers in my garden.

I am yet to see a painting more beautiful than the skyline every evening during sunset. There is no building in the world which is more intricate than a bee hive or an ant hill if you dig deep into how they are constructed. Similarly I am yet to experience the joy of being in the midst of a dense forest , in the city centre of the best cities of the world. I do not know why but nature engulfs you. It embraces you and makes you feel special.

As human beings instead of learning from nature, we have tried our best to destroy it. A simple example is the use of plastic. While plastic is a great discovery and it has benefited us in multiple ways, it is unnatural and hence harmful in many ways too. It has choked drains, killed kids, and has been the root cause of many catostrophies because of human misuse.

If we look at the contra of my hypothesis, I believe everything unnatural is harmful to human beings. While artificial sweeteners and flavours can quench our taste buds they are ultimately harmful to human consumption. It may be more beneficial to have juices from fresh fruits rather than carbonated drinks. The marketeers of these carbonated drinks may have made us believe how prestigious it is to consume them.

It could be neem leaves or its extract to brush your teeth and compare it to the multiple chemicals used in our toothpastes every day. It could a cup of fresh milk in the morning as compared to diet drink today, which has no nutrients. We were eating fresh fruits as part of our breakfast. Today we take artificially flavoured cereals, which may lose their original nutrient value because of the unnatural ingredients.

Jack fruit as in the photo above is considered the king of all fruits and has multiple benefits. Almost every part of the fruit and tree is useful to human beings.

It is time to wake up. It is time to bounce back. We need to get back to nature. We need to protect our trees and animals. We need to protect the earth and may be other planets from all the pollution and waste we are dumping on them. We need to realize that nature gives us everything we want for a sustainable living and further keeps us happy. Instead of giving back in equal measure, we have ended up destroying nature.

Time to wake up and get natural.

S Ramesh Shankar

Create Passion not Tension

d25cc881-520c-4a13-83ed-54bfdaed1bed

Employees around us complain of stress and tension. Some of it is self inflicted but most of it is imposed by their managers or leaders. Why do leaders create tension ? I have never understood this phenomenon. It could be due to genuine inability to keep their stress to themselves or their lack of self confidence. It could also reflect on their inability as a leader. Some leaders also believe that they can get the best output from their team if they create tension. The contrary may be true in reality.

What should managers do to get the best from their team members ? Managers should create a vision and then infuse passion in their team. The vision will give direction to their team and the passion will take them towards their common vision. So, managers need to realise that they can get the best from their team if they create passion, not tension.

What happens when you create tension for your team ? First and foremost, nobody wants to work for you in the long term. Second, your team will lose their self confidence and will falter at every turn of a project. They will dread failure and will run away from your team at the first possible opportunity. Nobody enjoys stress and that too from his or her manager.

Stress leads to tension and this in turn leads to negativity in the team. The environment drains the energy of the team and everyone ends up finding fault with each other. Most of the deadlines are not met. There is no positive vibes in the team. The attrition in such teams will be the highest. Most of the team members will look for opportunities outside and will ditch the time at the first possible instance.

On the other hand, what happens to teams, where leaders create passion. It’s fun to work in such teams. The leader generally raises the bar. They create a very enviable vision along with the team. The team is party to the co-creation of the vision. This ensures that every team member is passionate about how they can contribute to attaining that collective vision.

Positivity is the second name of such teams. Everyone around wants to join such teams. They are willing to sacrifice from short term benefits to work in such teams. Money, time or resources are never a constraint in such teams. We typically see this in start ups. The promoter or a leader shares a brilliant idea. Then they work with the team to visualise the future together. Once this is done, there is nothing which can stop the team members give their best to achieve the team’s success.

I am not one stating that it is absolutely not necessary to set stretched targets to your team. In times of crisis, an atmosphere of urgency is needed to deliver results. Army commanders at the front line command by inspiration. Their commitment is leadership by example. They do not put their foot soldiers in front and stay behind. Similarly, good leaders will lead from the front. Even when they create a sense of urgency, their team members are keen to contribute their best and do not reel under tension.

As in the photo above, if someone is passionate about cycling, they will do it every day and not consider it a tension to maintain their health.

All of us are or would be team leaders in the future. It is important to remember that stress and tension creates negative energy. Passion and vision creates positivity. As managers and leaders we have to create a positive culture infused with fun at the workplace. This may be easier said than done. But once we are able to create this environment, we need not bother. The team gallops even when we want them to walk. If we struggle to do it by ourselves, we can learn from the best leaders around us.

Let us try to live our passion every day.

S Ramesh Shankar

It’s good to cry too…

It is generally believed that men do not cry. It is mindset that if you cry, you are not a man. This gets reinforced by many life incidents. My father was a very soft spoken person and never cried. I have never seen him raise his voice or get angry at anyone. I had also never seen him cry. So, I also believed this belief that men don’t cry. Then, when my mother died and I was lighting her funeral pyre, I saw tears roll down my father’s eyes. I realised that crying is normal to humans.

It is a fact that all of us have emotions. Some of us express it, while others may not. My father never expressed his sadness and thereby his sorrow with others. He could neither be seen jumping around when he was overjoyed nor sulking in sorrow with tears rolling down his cheek. He preferred to keep his emotions to himself. My father has been a role model for me in my life. I always wish that I learnt to be half as patient as he was always.

Today, we try to inculcate in children not to laugh or cry aloud. It is ingrained in them as if it is bad manners. In my view, we should encourage our children to express their emotions openly. The more we laugh and cry in this world, the more we will be in balance. We will learn to share our joy and sorrow with others. We will learn to let go and also share the emotions with others.

It may be true that I have inherited this quality from my father. I have also cried only a few times in my life. But, I realised that every time I let the emotions pour out of me in the form of tear, I feel relieved. Recently my brother in law died and when his son was lighting his funeral pyre, he burst into tears. My nephew is a young lad in his early thirties and could not bear the loss of his father at such a young age. The priest halted the funeral and advised the young boy to cry aloud and let his emotions come out.

We need to learn to emote. We grow up being told not to laugh or cry. The conservative society labels young men and women who cry as not brave enough. In my view, this is not right. It is good to cry and laugh. It helps you to release your pent up emotions and let go. It may also help you to forget and forgive people if you are willing to let go off your emotions.

I was hurt by an uncle of mine during my young adulthood, when he declined to help me when I was in distress, while treating my ailing father on his death bed. I was very upset and deeply hurt by this incident. I almost stopped talking to this relative. Years passed by and while I was narrating this incident during a training programme, I burst into tears. I could not control my pent up emotions. After I regained my balance, I was willing to forgive this relative and even spoke to him later.

Emotions are an integral part of our being. We need to let it be and let it go as and when it is necessary. We may get overjoyed and we should jump in joy and share our joy with others. We may be overwhelmed with sorrow, when multiple incidents occur one after the other and we lose control. We need to share this sadness with others and cry aloud so that we can vent out our feelings.

In my view, laughing and crying should be an integral part of our living. We should laugh and cry every other day as we breath every day. It is good to laugh and equally sound to cry. Let us not be guided by age old mindsets that “Men don’t cry”. It is human to cry and we need to realise that we all are human beings. We all cry at birth and make others cry when we die. Let us also learn to cry in between birth and death.

Lets learn to cry.

S Ramesh Shankar

Social distress

What is the root cause of stress in society today ?

My hypothesis is the disintegration of “family” as a social institution. In India, family was the foundation of the social structure in society. It was the strongest of social institutions and mostly extended beyond the nuclear family into a joint family. Apart from brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts staying together, the neighbourhood also provided a natural extension to the concept of family.

Modernism and technological evolution has provided more wealth and convenience to human kind. However, it has also led to large scale migration of families from villages to cities and towns in search of better career opportunities. This has led to disintegration of family as an institution. The breaking of the joint family means that the kids of today do not have a social cover of the family and the extended family any more.

This gets further complicated by dual income families. This means both the spouses work and the kids are brought up in crèches and with home nurses or maids. This is inevitable in a city landscape and this means that the growing child depends more on the social support of these individuals than family members. Both parents need to work to maintain a sustainable living in an ever increasing competitive environment around us.

This leads to parents ability to spend less time with their children and thereby provide the necessary social and psychological support. This is then substituted by mobile phones, tablets and the television for support. This in turn leads to avoidable and sometimes undesirable influences on the minds of the children. Children get addicted to watching movies and playing games as they are not used to dirtying their hands in sand in a park any more or playing with other kids.

Many children enter a pre-school even before they are three years old as parents want to shift the daily care to a pre school as they neither have the time nor the patience to invest in them any more. This could be genuinely due to lack of time or for convenience. Either way, the children grow up in pre-school much before they deserve to be there. This leads to peer learning and habits, which may not be desirable or ordained by their parents in the normal course.

These kids growing up as millennials join organisation as employees. They are more sensitive for their age and depend on social media for all their socio-psychological support as the family has disintegrated and friends are virtual and not real any more. This leads to anxiety and stress which in turn leads to smoking, drinking or drugs when they are not able to cope with the same.

Thus “Social Distress” is a phenomenon evolving in society today. It is a complex phenomenon emanating from breaking of family as an institution and then the disappearance of real friends in society. It is time to realise that mobile phone and social media cannot be a real substitute for social and psychological support in real life. It is time to realize that technology should lead to better quality of human life and not the other way around.

The bees always remain in a well knit family. If they are disturbed as in the photo above, they are in social distress.

It is time for us to strengthen relationships all around us. It is time to spend more time in the family with our children. It is time to socially engage with family and friends in the real world. Social stress can be tackled in the real world only by strengthening the quality of all our relationships.

Time to wake ups is today.

S Ramesh Shankar

No tears to cry…

Life is a journey filled with joy and sorrow. We go through days filled with joy and want to share with family and friends. However, there are other days when we are drowned in sorrow and have nobody to share with. In life in general, most people will be willing to share your joy but avoid you when you are doomed in distress. It is at this time you get to test your true family members and friends.

I have personally gone through many years in my life when it appears that the sun does not rise at all. It looks gloomy and cloudy and you have no tears left to cry. All your tears have dried up and you fail to see light at the end of the tunnel. The road in the tunnel seems endless and full of twists and turns. When someone tries to console you, you get more irritated than relieved.

It is at such times one needs to reflect. It takes time and patience to look within and reflect. Your true family and friends are beside you and provide the psychological support for you to get over this crisis. During these times, listening to your own inner voice and reflecting on it is more soothing than listening to others. However, we also need to remember that there are many people around us who are also drowned in an ocean of sadness as compared to us.

I have also met some people in my life who have gone through one crisis after another. I have no words to console them. I am aware that their tears have dried up. Only time and reflection can help them get over this phase of life. It is a tedious and arduous journey. Most of the time one has to travel alone in this journey. The secret is to live on hope. While easier said than done, I have found no better alternative so far.

What can we do when we meet people in our life, who are in such situations. Most of the time, we may not have answers to their soul searching questions. But, we can be a good listener. They also know that we may be helpless. But our physical presence and psychological support gives them hope. It is hope, which helps them limp back to normalcy. There can be no life without hope and we need to rekindle that hope in them.

It is in such weak emotional moments, the “Godmen &God women” of various religions exploit our social vacuum. They exploit our emotional weaknesses and most of them make us believe that they have super powers to help us get out of this situation. We need to guard against such men and women. They are enemies of God in human form in my view. We need to believe in ourselves and our near and dear ones, who are by our side during these times.

While I am a born optimist, it is difficult to infuse optimism in people, who are in deep distress. No words can console them. No stories can inspire hope in them. No cloth can wipe their tears since their tears have dried up by now. The one sure way of supporting them is by being with them and listening to them silently. It may be helpful to share their emotions at this hour of crisis to the best of our ability.

When you have no tears left to cry, life looks as if you are standing in front of a hill like in the photo above and it may take years to climb to the top and go over to the other side.

We also need to let them be alone during this time. Self reflection helps a lot. Our ability to be grateful and also realising that there are millions around us in more distress enables us to gain composure. We need to let them cry when they want to and lead life at their own pace. We can only embrace them with the psychological blanket of emotions.

We need to believe that tomorrow will be better than today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Emotions versus Emoticons

Bangalore 8-9-june2007 038

Man is a social being and hence needs the company of other beings at most times of his life. Another dimension of life is the emotions we go through at different stages of life. It could be joy, sadness, anger or irritation. Every emotion is stirred by a stimulus and then it impacts your life and moods. Most of us enter the world crying and leave this planet without any emotions.

Every emotion stirs our being and we want to know why it happened. When we are happy, we are keen to share the joy with others. The spirit of sharing makes us more happy. Even in moments of sadness, we want to share our sorrow. It is said in most religions that you should never miss a funeral if you come to know of some close friend or relative’s death. This is because this will be the last mortal journey and you can express your grief to that person.

On the other hand, on the birth of a kid to a relative or a friend, you will always have a second chance to wish them in the future if you miss the first day of birth due to any reasons. Interestingly, our religions and rituals do teach us a lot of basic humanness provided we are willing to learn from them. We generally tend to consider these rituals and either ignore them or disregard them.

Today, technology is increasingly making us emotion less. I am the first to adopt technology in every aspect of my life. I use the social media and all possible apps to ease my life. They are indeed very useful and makes my life easy and enjoyable. However, I do realize that wishing a friend or relative in person on their birthday cannot be replaced by millions of posts on social media. There is no substitute for the personal touch.

I realised this lately in my life. It’s always a good idea to use social media and emails to communicate with family and friends. It is indeed very efficient. However, if you want to touch someone’s life, you need to visit them, give them a hug or at least pick up the phone and speak to them. Virtual messages and emoticons cannot be filled with emotions. Our voice and physical presence are capable of sharing our emotions.

I am used to instantly recognising my colleagues at work. I feel good doing it publicly and as soon as the incident happens. I recently started writing appreciation letters in my own handwriting and when some of colleagues said that they framed and preserved these letters for their life time, I realised the value of personalisation and its impact on their emotions.

I would urge people from all generations to continue to adapt to the digital world to make themselves more efficient. However, I would further urge everyone to keep their emotional connect intact. The virtual world is untouchable. It is emotion less even with a million emoticons. The real world is a world of feelings. The emotions expressed by us to others and others to us, touches us.

Children and animals best express emotions without any inhibitions. We can learn to be spontaneous from them.

We need to learn to laugh and cry every day. We need to be like the child unadulterated in expressing our emotions. We need to be willing to be generous in sharing joy with others and make them happier every day. Every emotion expressed and shared helps us to be healthy and wise. An emotion less person is lonely and depressed. Even the animals are touched by emotions. So, why cant we as humans learn from them.

Let us start today.

S Ramesh Shankar.

Loneliness

I have always wondered as to why people feel lonely in today’s world. I have met people in different age groups and in different classes of society who are lonely. One may have thousands of friends in the social media but still feels lonely. My insight is that technology and social media can help you improve your reach and efficiency but it can never give you solace or share emotions with you.

This could be the reason for the loneliness of people. Today people travel around the world and are able to earn wealth to their heart’s content. But they do not have people around them with whom they can laugh or cry. They can share their joy around the world with their online friends within seconds. But virtual sharing does not touch the emotions in their body. They cannot share their tears of joy or sorrow with anyone.

I remember an incident where a young colleague working with me in a multinational company wanted to work in a foreign country. I tried my best and then sent him on a delegation to New Zealand from India. He was excited and profusely thanked me for this opportunity. He was very happy to land at this beautiful country of milk and mountains. He was enthralled with the natural beauty of this country.

I was happy that he got an opportunity and he was enjoying his experience. But within two weeks he called me that he wanted to return to India. I was worried as to what went wrong. I enquired about his health and welfare. He said everything was ok. When probed a bit further he said that he felt lonely in this country. He drove for miles on the road and did not find anyone around. He could only see a few herds of sheep and cattle at a distance. He had nobody to share his joy or loneliness.

This made me realize that man is a social being. He needs to have people around him to be happy. If you are bought up in place where you meet thousands of people on the road even on the highway when are you driving you get used to this scenario. When you end up in a foreign land where you hardly meet people on the road, you are anxious and lonely. This may lead to anxiety and depression in your life.

Today people are busy on their mobile phones finding friends and relationships. They neither have the time nor the skills to meet people face to face and build relationships. They do not have many people around them to share their emotions. Joint families have broken down into nuclear families. Children are not encouraged to play in the park and make friends. They are busy on tablets, mobiles or televisions playing games and making friends. No wonder human beings are getting lonelier by the day.

The only difference I can see between human beings and animals is that we have emotions and we can express ourselves. We are capable of sharing our joy and sorrow with others. However, when we deny ourselves of this privilege we end up as lonely beings only fiddling with our mobile phones. We feel awkward to talk to co-passengers in a plane, train or bus. We are busy watching a movie, listening to music or playing games in our own electronic devices.

As in the photo above, you may feel lonely in a crowd or even in a heritage monument surrounded by pillars.

It is time to wake up to this reality. It is time to learn from our fore fathers. It is time to realise that we are a social being. It is time to share our feelings and emotions with others. It is time to use technology to enable our efficiency and share our feelings and emotions with others to be socially alive and happy in life.

Is it time to wake up ?

S Ramesh Shankar