Feel the hunger…

The other day I was playing badminton with a neighbour and he said he was a bit tired and wanted to stop after two games. I wondered what had happened to him as he normally had a good stamina. On inquiry, he informed that he had fasted the previous evening and hence was tired.

He further clarified that he was not fasting for any religious reasons. When further asked for the reasons, he hesitatingly said that he was periodically feeding children in an ashram and hence was fasting on that day. What really struck me is the reason for his fasting. He said he started fasting on every Thursday when the Ashram owner told him that it was not enough to feed the kids but may be good “To feel the hunger” by fasting once a week.

“Feeling the hunger” was a powerful statement and it got stuck in my mind. “Empathy” is not only a word in english but an experiential learning for everyone. Like they say, you need to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to experience what they feel in any situation.

At every stage of our life, we find people sympathising with us but rarely you come across people who empathise with you. The difference between sympathy and empathy is the phenomenon of “feeling the hunger”

As a child when you miss out a rank in the class by a few marks or lose a match for the school there will be many who sympathise with you but rarely some who can empathise. The ability to silently put yourself in the other person’s position is easier said than done.

As you grow into an adolescence and want to rebel at everything in life, everyone around you is critical as they tend to look at it only as a deviant behaviour. However, if one can experience what an adolescent goes through the story would be different. You may lend a listening ear or comfort the person that it is natural to rebel.

Then even as adults you find it irritating when someone gives you advise which they don’t follow. It may be easier to advice others than to lead by example. Leaders in organisations are not respected because they lack empathy.

Today’s generation is not looking for sympathy at all. They are touched by an empathetic leader. In times of crisis nobody looks for advice from the ivory tower. People expect leaders to be on the ground, smell the earth and work along.

Leadership is all about “ feeling the hunger”. It is all about empathy. We need to evolve our ability to put ourselves in other person’s position and experience life as they do. Once we are able to do that, our approach to life and living would be different.

As in the photo above, even while we cut a cake to celebrate a birthday, this neighbour skipped the cake to feel the hunger since it was a Thursday.

A simple off the cuff remark when someone said you need “to feel the hunger” made me think how much I still need to learn on this front. Learning is a life long journey and we possibly learn more as we listen more.

Let our learning blossom forever.

S Ramesh Shankar

16th August 2020

Are all relationships commercial?

In my experience, relationships are the bedrock of life. We can get anything done or not done in life because of a good relationship or the lack of one as the case may be. This is true in our personal lives and work lives. If there is one quality which each one of us have to develop right through our life is “How to be build life long relationships ?”.

Some people differentiate between personal relationships and work relationships. However, in my book all relationships are sacrosanct and are no different. Relationships are based on trust and mutual respect. They are developed through our efforts, actions and personal credibility. They need to be nurtured to become strong and sustainable ones.

One question which may lurk in our minds as to why we need relationships if we are capable of handling our own affairs. We need relationships because we are living in a inter dependant world. No country however mighty it may be can think of surviving and sustaining by themselves. We all depend on each other to succeed. This is equally true in our lives. None of us however brilliant or capable we are can achieve everything in life all alone. We need to depend and collaborate with others to succeed in life.

After spending many years in the corporate world, I can vouch for the value of relationships in every sphere of life. I have seen many brilliant employees who are intellectually smart and have great pedigrees to be proud of but fail in their careers primarily because they are not a team player and cannot sustain relationships at the workplace.

This aspect is equally true in our personal lives. If we recall the people we admire in life, we may recollect the names of people whom we enjoy interacting with and learning from. We may not recollect the most intelligent teacher of our lives but the most friendly one. We may remember colleagues who cared for you and not your best performers. Similarly you remember neighbours who were around for you whether you needed them or not and not others.

Today we find a deterioration in relationships. In my view, this is primarily because we have tended to use people and love things. While being materialistic per se may not be a bad thing but if we love our things and use people, relationships can never be built. We have started believing that we can buy relationships and have started putting a value to every relationship possibly in monetary terms. In other words , we have started behaving as if all relationships are commercial ? In my book, this can be the last nail in our our coffins.

We need to realise that everything in life is possible only by building, nurturing and sustaining great relationships. If we do not understand this basic theorem of life, we may lose more than we may win. Even the victories may not be sustainable in the long run. The day we realise that relationships can make or break our lives, we may have turned the corner.

As in the photo above, all relationships are not commercial and the earlier we realise the better for us to enjoy life to the full.

Lets learn to build sustainable relationships from today.

S Ramesh Shankar

23rd July 2020

Listening to the unsaid …

We are living in a world where nobody has time for anybody. We live, eat and sleep as if we have to catch a train or flight all the time. We behave almost as if we are about to miss our train or flight and hence do not have time for anyone around us.

I remember my childhood days when all of us in the family waited for each other to have dinner together and then listening to the evening news together on radio. Nowadays every member of the family is busy onto to themselves and do not even have the time to talk to each other. In many cases spouses are not even staying in the same home in the same city. Children also are studying in boarding schools far away from their homes and hence family get togethers every day is a rarity.

Let us look at neighbourhood and friends. Having lived in large metropolises like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore, I can say confidently that most of us do not even know our immediate neighbours. We are so busy with our own career and lives that we do not have time for anyone else in our lives leave alone our neighbours. This makes our homes as houses with just a shelter to spend the night for most of us.

Over and above all this, the workplace is increasingly becoming virtual. Relationships in social media are virtual and there is no emotion attached to it. This makes the world a lonely place to live in. Children do not know whom to share their concerns with. Apart from busy parents, even neighbourhood aunts and uncles are not around to listen to them. At the workplace, the competitive world has made us more self centred and we care more for ourselves than others.

Under these circumstances where does the child go ? How can children express their anguish and to whom ? Even adolescents and young adults find it difficult to express themselves. Friends in social media are measured by the likes they post on them rather than their genuine love and concern for you. The best test is when you are not well – physically or mentally – how many of your friends show concern and lend a listening ear.

It is here I would say that it is increasingly important to listen to what is being said and more to what is NOT. We generally are not sensitive to children, adolescents or adults expressing their feelings to anyone. Anyone who shares their emotions are laughed at. This makes them introverts and they say more in actions and deeds than words.

Like an artist may express emotions through their art or a singer through his music. A writer may express through their literature. We need to worry about how common men and women can express themselves. We need to learn the art of listening to the unsaid. It may be easy to comprehend what is being said but many a time a lot remains unsaid and this is where we miss their emotions.

I remember parents asking why you are sad today. Or a friend sitting along with you in silence to comfort you. A teacher enquiring about a child from their expressed emotions rather than words. A neighbour visiting you for no reasons but just to make a statement that they are around for you all the time.

As in the photo above, we need to sense what is being expressed through her expression even if she does not say anything. In these days of the pandemic and the consequent lockdown, people are feeling more lonely than ever before. A listening ear will be of great support.

We need to rekindle our conscience. We need to learn to laugh and cry. We need to listen to what is not being said in words but expressed otherwise.

Let us learn to talk less and listen more.

S Ramesh Shankar

16th June 2020

This too shall pass…

This too shall pass

I found a lot people around me amongst family and friends who were restless during the recent lockdown in most countries. They were uncomfortable to sit at home and refrain from their normal activities of the day. This brought in a feeling of anxiety and insecurity amongst them.

I do agree that this period of the pandemic is a challenge to everyone of us. It is impacting individuals, families, societies and nations at large. While individuals are feeling lonely, families and societies are getting disenchanted. Of course, nations are facing the economic challenges as a fallout of the pandemic and the consequent lockout.

The question before everyone is – “When will this be over ? When will life normalise for everyone ? Nobody knows the answer – not even the public health specialist as this virus is new to everyone. Everyone is trying their best to cope with it. The individuals, families and societies are putting up a brave face and dealing with this unknown challenge.

One thing I am sure of. This too shall pass. Having lived in the coastal part of a state, which faced cyclones every year during the monsoon, I can say with experience that nobody could predict a cyclone accurately. Although I must admit that the predictions of cyclones and storms have improved over the years, it is still an act of God. Nature’s fury is still unpredictable.

Today the forecast of natural disasters are much better and so is the preparedness of the state. A good example is the state of Orissa, which faces atleast one cyclone every year. It affects the coastal belt, where the poorest sections of society have to face the brunt. However, in the last few years, we have seen that the government of Orissa has prepared very well, evacuated the target populations and prevented many human disasters. So, even though it is God sent, human beings have been able to plan and prevent catastrophes consistently.

We need to believe that this too shall pass. After all, all of us as individuals and collectively as a society have misused Nature and may be it is just a gentle reminder to us from Nature to mend our ways. God realises that the citizens of the world have suffered enough due to this pandemic and hence will find ways and means to end it soon either through a vaccine or through herd immunity.

We need to believe in ourselves and commit to ourself both as individuals and communities that we will respect nature much better than we did in the past. We need to believe that this too shall pass and life will be normal again.

Life is a cycle and the good days will follow soon.

S Ramesh Shankar

30th May 2020

The silence of the new workplace

New office

Man is a social animal. We realise it today more than anytime in our lives in the past. We are humans and we need to be socially connected to survive and grow. Loneliness can be killing and it can be the worst punishment for any person at home or at work.

If we recall all the days we are staying alone at home, we realise how difficult it is when we get back home from work. We cannot speak to the TV, laptop or the fridge. We yearn for people to be around us. It is then we realise the value of our family members, who are there for us all the time and surround us with warmth and good emotions, unconditionally without expecting anything in return.

Now, as we enter the new workplace after the lockdown, we realise that there are less people around at work. Further, they seem to be avoiding each other and hardly speak to one another. The scare of the virus is taking away our natural urge to interact with each other. What should we do in such a scary environ ?

We could have meetings around a table maintaining the physical distance, covering our faces with masks, sanitising our hands and still talking to each other. While we need to take all necessary precautions to prevent the virus from infecting us and we infecting others, we need not stop talking to people around us. If not anything else, we can smile at one another.

Here I would like to share a real life story to emphasise that if our intent is good and we want to help others no virus can attack us ever. One of my close friends is an orthopaedic surgeon. He was detected with cancer some years back and the oncologists had predicted that even after the best treatment he may not survive for long. This doctor apart from serving his patients volunteers his time training students, professionals and others on “how to live life ethically ?”. He has survived his cancer for many years now and has defied all predictions by his treating oncologists.

I am not for one saying that we can neglect the virus or the cancer, which may endanger our lives. I am only professing that if we continue to take precautions, we can still continue to relate to people and interact with them. If we cannot walk across to everyone at work, nothing prevents us from picking up the phone and enquiring someone’s well being. If our intent is good and we are there to help our customers, suppliers or employees or society at large, no virus can touch us. Our body will produce nature immunes to deal with any virus including Covid.

Having said that, a virus or cancer can attack any of us irrespective of all our precautions and good intentions. In that case, we have to go for treatment and deal with it like any other disease.

I would say the new workplace provides us a great opportunity to build on our strengths and get over our weaknesses. Our strength is relationships and we need to continue to thrive on it to get things done. Our limitation is our productivity as we tend to waste a lot of time in gossip or unnecessary interactions. This is a welcome change to get over those weaknesses and improve our productivity to compete with the best in the world.

A new office meeting room may look like the photo above. That may be the new normal and we need to adapt to it

I personally feel that if we build on our relationships and create the most productive workplace in the world, no country in the world will be able to compete with us.

Opportunity is knocking at our doors today. Let us grab it with both our hands.

S Ramesh Shankar

Time to be human again…

The world is hit by a virus. The best of technology and human power is not able to combat this deadly virus. Human lives are being lost every day in thousands around the world due the impact of this virus. What lessons we can learn from this human catastrophe.

I decided that every day I will reflect on one limitation of myself and explore how I can change for the better in the future. Today, I will focus on the innumerable human beings who serve us from morning to night. Do we treat them as humans on equal footing like us or do we still continue to live in our glass houses ?

The outbreak of this virus taught us a lesson that social distancing is applicable for everyone. This virus does not discriminate based on nationality, caste, religion or state you belong to. It randomly impacts people who violate the guidance given by the medical professionals and the government authorities.

On the other hand, we as human continue to discriminate based on caste, religion, social status and nationality. Today let me go through a day in our lives and help us reflect on how many people impact our lives positively sacrificing their own welfare for the societal good.

Our day starts with the morning newspaper boy. He may be working beyond his education hours to earn that extra buck to support his family. We say let us stop the newspaper boy because he may spread the virus. Then the milkman. Imagine the milkman stopping supplies as he is worried about spread of the virus. Our day will begin on a sour note.

We stopped the maids, drivers and Gardners in our community when the lockdown began yesterday. There was a big hue and cry. The members felt that they could not survive without maids for a day. They wanted the maids to sanitise a million times a day but were least concerned about the maids getting impacted by the same virus. We have become so self centred that we want all services possible under the sun but we are least concerned about the health and welfare of maids, drivers and Gardners. As if, they are not human beings like any of us.

We want the sanitary workers to visit us everyday to collect the wet waste. We cannot find an organic way to compost the waste for a few days in a garden or even a pot inside the house. We may get impacted by wet waste inside the house but the sanitary workers are fully immune to all such infections.

Our lives are incomplete without cooks. How can we imagine cooking our own food or cutting our own vegetables ? How does it impact us if cooks are travelling in crowded buses and trains to help us out in our homes. After all it is their duty to serve us and not ours to care for them.

The list can go on. We have our security guards in our campuses who are working 24 x 7. We have municipal employees serving us. We have the utility employees, the police and most important the medical and health workers working round the clock to keep us safe and healthy. What are we doing in return ? In some communities, we are ostracising medical personnel and airlines staff as if they are coming back home only to spread the virus to us. We do not realise that they are putting their lives on the line to serve us day and night.

We as humans have to learn to be grateful to other human beings every day of our lives. No job is menial. No human is high or low. Everyone contributes to the happiness of mankind. We realise only when we pick up the brooms as to how difficult it is to clean the garden in front of our homes. If we put the wet waste in compost bins, we realise how much these workers sacrifice to keep our environs clean.

It is time to look within and change. Let us commit to treat every human being around us as human beings and respect whatever they do and be grateful to them.

S Ramesh Shankar

25th March 2020

Happiness Unlimited


The choice to be happy or unhappy every day in our life is in our hands. It depends on how we exercise this choice. Every day of our life, we have choices to make and this determines if we are happy or otherwise. Every situation in life has two sides. It is like looking at the glass half empty or half full. If we look at life as a half full glass, it makes us happy every day. On the other hand, if we keep worrying about the half empty glass, then life is treacherous leave alone being unhappy.

How do we be happy at all times ? It may not be practical to be happy at all times of your life. But the day we realise that we have a choice in everything we do every day, we may live happily. If we succeed in any effort, we are bound to feel good. On the other hand failure of any type makes us sad. When we fail, we have a choice to sob or reflect and learn from our mistakes.

It is like after running 40 kilometres if we are not able to complete a full marathon of 42 kilometres, we have a choice to curse ourselves for not completing the last two kilometres or pat ourselves on the back for completing 40 kilometres successfully and preparing earnestly for the next marathon to be a winner. So, in every situation we can regret and feel sad or rejoice whatever we could achieve and resolve to attain higher goals in the future.

Life is no different. Every day, God gives us the ability to make a choice. We can get up in the morning and be grateful for all the wonderful things he has blessed us with. On the other hand, we also have the option to curse ourselves and feel bad as we are not as wealthy as our neighbours or our siblings. In every situation, the choice we make, makes us happy or unhappy.

Happiness in my view is a state of mind. It is an attitude to life. I have met people who earn just enough to meet their daily needs every day but are always happy and willing to help others in all ways they can. On the other hand, I have met senior managers in organisations who earn enough for their next birth too but are never happy with their salary or quality of life. The day we realise that we can buy material things through money but can never buy happiness from any shop, we may have changed our attitude to life.

I am a born optimist and luckily for me my spouse is equally a content. We have been happily married for more than three decades and have gone through all the ups and downs of life. We have been happy when our monthly salary was just enough to meet both our ends or today when we are blessed with enough for our future. We realised as in the photo above that living life as if tomorrow does not exist is one key to happiness. Another mutual learning is to ensure that our greed never exceeds our need. Our third mantra to happiness has been to live within our means. We have never lived on credit and have always tried to be be debt free throughout our life( except for house, car or medical emergency loans taken at some stages of life)

So, we have a choice to make. The date and time to make the choice is every day and every minute. If we wait for the auspicious day to be happy, it may never arrive. It is better to live every day as if today has been the best in your life. If something goes wrong, it is better to hope that tomorrow will be a better day rather than brooding over yesterday and spoiling our future.

Let us start now. Be happy forever.

S Ramesh Shankar



We feel connected to people and things around us. This feeling of connectedness is to be experienced to be believed. I have met people during my travels whom I may not meet again in my life. I may not have spoken a word with them during my journey in a flight or train. We may have just spoken to each other through our eyes but the connections are strong.

This happens with both people and things. I have sometimes looked at a beautiful piece of art in someone’s home and got connected to it. It could be a statue of Buddha or a fountain and you feel as if there is some connection between you and the object. I have not found any rational in such connectedness. But the feelings and emotions within you are stirred and you feel strongly about it.

I was recently siting in an airport lounge and two people came to me and asked me if I was so and so. When I told them I was not that person, they could not believe it. They felt that they have met me somewhere and know me very well. Similar incidents have also happened with my spouse, who mostly travels with me in all my personal travels. Some people say that there are seven people in the world who look similar. This may also be just a belief and I have not found any scientific basis for the same.

I was in a yoga class in Lonavala and had a similar feeling of connectedness towards my teacher. When I told her she said she also experienced the same and I resembled one of her uncles. This may look strange but it is true. I am not sure if we start imagining someone known to us when we go through such experiences. It could be gut. It could be stored memories of past experiences. I am not bothered about the source of such feelings. I believe such feelings are beautiful and one has to experience them to appreciate them.

I was once in an alumni meet of my college mates in Pondicherry. I felt connected to a Buddha statue in brass. I went round and round and then after a bit of negotiations could not desist from buying the statute. It is still in my home and every time I see it I feel a sense of serenity. This feeling is shared by my spouse and my sister and her son. It is strange but it is true. Why do we need to justify all our feelings or behaviour ? It may be fun to just experience such feelings and enjoy it as it happens to you.

I once met a co traveller in Switzerland. Both of us were climbing the Jungfraw on a holiday. We had never met before nor have we met after that. But the way we connected with each other was amazing. It looked as if I knew her for ages and we were childhood friends. We felt secure in each other’s company and enjoyed our journey together. We have been connected on social media but not much exchange after that incident.

Every incident of this nature makes me believe that there is an emotional connection between us and the people and things around us. Some people attract us like magnets and encourage them to connect with them. There could be others who get attracted to others in a similar way. We get attached to things around us too and sometimes even feel like talking to them. I have seen people talking to statutes of God as if they they respond to human emotions.

Both me and my wife feel connected to nature. Amidst nature, we get immersed in thoughts and emotions as in the photo above.

Life is an exciting journey and every such incident adds mystery to our lives. I enjoy discovering the mysteries of life everyday. Every person I meet and interact give me an opportunity to learn and grow. Every incident of connecting with people and things makes me believe of the possibilities of life. We need to live on hope and belief. If we believe life is full of possibilities it becomes one.

Let us makes the best of life.

S Ramesh Shankar

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


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