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

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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

Violence in society

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Not a day passes today without a report of violence in some part of the world. Our newspapers, magazines and TV channels are brimming with headlines of violent incidents around the world. Why cannot we have peace around the world ? Why do we have rapists torturing innocent children ? Whey do we have school children wielding guns and killing innocent people ? Why do terrorists attack innocent citizens ?

Every violent incident is reported in newspaper headlines and debated on TV channes to give sadistic pleasure to some people. I am trying to understand the root cause of this behaviour in society. I cannot believe any religion in the world propagates or supports violence. I am not well read on religions of the world,not even of Hinduism to which I belong. But my limited knowledge teaches me that no religion teaches us to practise violence in any form.

After deep reflection, I have come to the conclusion that our family, education system and societal and political values are responsible for today’s tragic state of affairs. Let me try to delve on each of these three root causes and find answers of how each of us can contribute to change this situation for our future generations.

Let us first reflect on our family system. Family is the basic unit of society. Today the foundations of family as a social institution is threatened. This is true around the world. While we may justify our moving from joint families to nuclear families due to career aspirations or individual ambitions, this has led to breaking of family as an institution. The elders in the family played the role of mentor and guide for the younger members. Today we do not have mentors or guides within the family system. The inculcation of family values is fading in society.

If we move to schools, our education system is becoming more commercial than educational. The sole objective of most of the schools and colleges is to make money. They are less concerned about producing the future citizens of their country. Educational institutions have failed to maintain standards and inculcate values in their students. If at all students learn that earning money and that too at any cost is one of the prime objectives of individuals in society. Educational institutions need to partner with parents and society to inculcate the right values in the younger generations.

Political parties and social groups are perpetuating violence in some form or the other. While in power they do everything to suit their convenience at the cost of society. When out of power they obstruct the working of the government and support violence in every form so that government in power earns a bad name. This is further accentuated by the apathy of the citizens. We are willing to accept the violence and crime against innocent citizens by the rogues of society. These rogues do not have any religion or nationality. They are criminals and have no place in society. They continue to thrive because of political support from all shades of society. We cannot even call them animals as that would be an insult to animals. Animals are more faithful to humans than such unscrupulous elements in society.

While fire may symbolise violence in society, we need to find ways to put off the fire by our actions and use it only for prayers and peaceful purposes as in the photo above.

What can we do as citizens ? In my view, we can play the role of mentors to our children and younger members of our family to inculcate the right values. We can promote and support educational institution which produce great citizens for the future and boycott those which commercialise education. We can boycott politicians and political parities which supports rapists, murderers and corruption in public life. This can be done by our participating in every election and voting for honest citizen to be our representatives in legislatures and parliament. Every political party has honest members and we need to support and promote them.

It is time to wake up and take charge ? My 3 simple steps are just nascent ideas. What do you think ? What are your ideas ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Partnerships

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In my book, partnership is when two individuals or entities work together towards a common goal.  In real life you look at partnership with friends, family or your spouse.  The relationship is unconditional and the expectation of support is mutual.  The summation of two is more than the simple addition of  individuals.  Partnerships ensure that we complement and supplement each other in all our efforts.

Now if we look at partnerships at an entity level, it is the symbiosis of two organisations to leverage on each other strengths.  It could be with a business goal or even with a social objective.  Partnerships ensure that the entities are able to enable each other to succeed.  History is evidence to successful partnerships between companies in the corporate sector and other sectors.

In today’s world, we also see partnerships between two countries.  It could be technological partnership, social  or any other field of common interest.  When multiple countries join hands it may end up as multilateral colloboration among those countries.  The success of partnership depends on mutual respect for each other’s strength and ability to give as much as your receive.

Interestingly, partnerships at individual, company level or country level are based on similar principles.  The first principle of partnership is the choice of the partner.  If you have to fully thrive on the benefits of a partnership, you have to choose the right partner for setting up for success.  A simple example could be the choice of your partner in a team sport like tennis.  If you choose a partner who complements your strengths and manages your weakenesses, then you are sure to succeed.

The second principle of partnership is mutual trust.  No partnership in the world can succeed unless they trust each other unconditionally.  After you have selected your partner, you need to ensure that your trust unconditionally.  The moment one of the partners seeds mistrust, the partnership is doomed to fail.  History is witness to successful and failed partnerships in the corporate sector.  If we examine the reasons for success or failiure, trust would be a defining factor in all such cases.

The third principle of a great partnership is giving your best and enabling the other partner to succeed.  This is true at individual, organisational or country level.  The best of partnerships thrive when they give their best and enable each other to succeed.  We can examine this character in all successful partnerships.  We will find that the more you give, the more likely you will reap the benefit of the partnership.

Thus, partnerships thrive on choice, trust and giving.  It is equally true at individual, organisational or country level.  It may be worthwhile to mention that none of us as individuals can succeed in society without establishing partnerships.  If married, you thrive only when you are able to complement your spouse to succeed.  It is equally true in companies and nations.

It is time to partner .

S Ramesh Shankar

Taking for granted ?


Do we take people for granted ?  I assume we do.  It starts from the family and then extends to society and organisations too.  Let us start from the family. Do we take our parents for granted ?  Yes we do.  We almost assume that they are duty bound to take care of us and our needs for the rest of our lives.  We are not much bothered about them but if they do not support us when we need them we feel betrayed.  

The story is not very different with our spouses.  Whether we both are working spouses or not, it is a fact that we take each other for granted.  Let us assume that our spouse is not working in an organisation but a home maker.  We almost imagine that they do not have much work and no tensions at home.  If we  get what we want at home on time, we assume that it is their responsibility and hence take it for granted.

On the contrary, let us assume that both spouses are working.  Even in this situation, we do not balance home and office work.  We tend to take for granted that our wives will take care of our home as we are busy at work.  We do not even realise that our wives also have work pressures and balancing home and work is not easy.  Hence, taking your wife for granted is more true than not.

Now, let us move to the organisational sphere.  Do we take our team members, colleagues and bosses for granted ?  Yes, it is true that many of us are so self centred that we look at the world only from own prisms.  We are not much concerned as to how it impacts our team or even our peers.  We take them for granted.  Sometimes, we also take our bosses for granted and assume that they will cover up for us in any crisis.

Why is it that we take everyone in life for granted ?  I assume it is a psychological phenomenon.  Human beings tend to believe that the whole world exists to support them.  We assume our family members, colleagues at work and members of the community are duty bound to help us to be successful in life. When this belief becomes one sided, that is where we start taking people for granted.  

The moment we start believing that we have to give before we take help from others, this problem will perish.  We have to learn to respect everyone and not take anyone for granted in life.  There is nobody in life, who is obligated to you.  We are born alone and will die alone.  But, we need the support of everyone in life to be successful.  Help is always mutual and respect is earned rather than given.  Hence, taking people for granted could lead to more distress than happiness.

We should neither take people or things for granted.  It is like taking a turn while driving your car by looking only at one of your side view mirrors as shown in the photo above.  This is like the driver taking his skills for granted.

Let us learn to respect people from today.

S Ramesh Shankar