Negotiating life

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We end up negotiating throughout our life. It seems to start in our childhood and never ends. We negotiate with our parents for time to play when we are supposed to study. We bargain with friends for borrowing a cricket bat or football. This extends to every aspect of our life at this stage. We end up negotiating with our teachers to submit our assignments late.

Life seems to lay the ground for negotiations. It begins at home and extends to friends, school and everyone around us. We learn to craft our strategies and win most of the time. We learn to live with failures too. Successes boost our morale and failed attempts makes us learn better.

As kids we learn to master the art of negotiating from our siblings and friends. This then extends to classmates at school and college too. The competitive world around us makes us want more than we need. It appears natural for us to demand more than we deserve in life from our parents and teachers.

As we grow up in life and get into a job or pursue our own dreams as an entrepreneur, our needs to negotiate increases. We tend to believe that negotiating life is more an art than a science. There is no logic to win a negotiation. In life most of our decisions are emotional and than we apply logic to justify them.

It is not very different in life. We tend to live life beyond our means. Our wants exceed our needs and thereby end up negotiating for everything in life. This may look natural and also essential to survive in an over zealous world. But the sooner we realise that we may be hampering valuable relationships, the better it may be for us.

I find negotiating quite normal in life as long as we are within our limits. Now, the question may be – who will define our limits. For me, it is like living your values in life. We do not need a written code of conduct or an external being to guide us. All of us are endowed with an inner voice, which guides us all the time.

As in the photo above, siblings end up negotiating for rewards in response to a favour done to each other in every day life.

We need to listen to our inner voice. This voice will always caution us when we are crossing our limits and which may hamper our relationship with others. It is at this time we need to reflect and learn. If we don’t then we end up negotiating with our parents, teachers and elders, whom we need to give more than we receive at all times.

Life has been a great learning journey on negotiations. I have made innumerable mistakes and burnt my fingers. But every time I learnt a lesson from a mistake, it has helped me take a step higher in my quest for improvement. It is normal to err but it is valuable to learn from our mistakes.

Let us learn to live life to its full.

S Ramesh Shankar

Water & Life

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Can we imagine life without water ? May be difficult. We could even say “Water is life”. Apart from quenching our thirst, water helps us in multiple ways every day in our life. Let us examine the use of water from morning to evening every day.

Most of us begin our day with a glass of water after we get out of bed. Then we brush our teeth with water. We have our morning coffee or tea by boiling water. We then use water for our ablutions and personal hygiene. We have a bath using water.

Then if we are proceeding to work, we may use water ways or power generated by hydro electric means to move to our workspace. The power used in our offices and homes will definitely have a portion of water powered electricity.

Nature around us at work and home depends on water for survival. The plants and animals depend on the rains for their survival. When it does not rain, they depend on ground water or stored water. It is not possible to think of life around us without water.

The lakes and oceans around us provide the balance to maintain the temperature around us. We also use water to cool our air conditioners or air coolers in offices and homes. Water provides us coffee and tea all day at work. It also quenches our thirst all day and maintains the body balance.

We use water to clean our cars and bikes. They also provide a medium for nutrients and food for aquatic animals like fishes. One cannot imagine life without water for living beings around us.

Most of the food we consume has water as an important ingredient in content or in formulation. One cannot imagine consuming any food where water does not contribute in some form or the other.

Water also acts as a medium of transport when we use boats and ships to move from one place to another within or between countries. Inland waterways are an important means of public transport in states and nations where lakes and back waters are common place.

Even when we fall sick, water is the most important ingredient to regain our balance in life. Water is injected in the form of liquid diet or medicines to cure our body of any infection. Even plain water helps in rehydration of the body when we get dehydrated.

I love beaches as you can see from the photo above. Water energies me when I am on a beach.

Today we have forgotten the value of water and how much it contributes to our lives every day. We waste water in many ways at homes, offices and factories. There are many cities in the world which may dry up in the near future. This may be a reality sooner than later in most urban cities unless we take preventive steps.

Let us realise the value of water and preserve it for our future generations.

S Ramesh Shankar

16th May 2018

Silent Service…

I was passing by my neighbour’s home when someone called me by name. I looked back and realised that it was not for me. So, I moved on. Later, my neighbour called me and apologised for the same. She said that she was teaching a student by name Ramesh online and coincidentally I Passed through at that time .

I told her that there was nothing to be apologetic as it was a strange coincidence. I enquired from her as to what she was teaching and she told me that she teaches special children in a school for the last 15 years. Her specialisation was teaching autistic children. I was touched.

Many a time in life we believe we are doing a great deal of service to society. It is only when you hear such stories, you are grounded . It makes you realise that how people have dedicated their lives to fulfilling the needs of society, especially the needy.

It is difficult for anyone to teach children. Imagine teaching children online and that too special children. My salutations to the teacher and the taught. It is indeed incredible dedication to a cause.

What I want to share here is not about my neighbour teaching autistic children but her silent selfless service. I know my neighbour for quite some time now. She has never spoken about her service to children.

What I have learnt in life is that the really dedicated people do what they do without making any song and dance of it. It is like we say the right hand should not know what the left hand is doing when you are donating. Similarly, the genuine service minded people serve society selflessly and silently.

In today’s world, we come across people, who do claim to do social service just to make it to national newspapers, social media or the TV channels. They also do it to cover up for all their misdeeds and believe God may forgive them in this way. It is a rarity to see silent people who serve society even without their neighbours knowing about it.

I should admit that I realised how little I do when compared to such people. It is people like her who inspire me in life. They are the real heroines and heroes for me in life. It is like the front line health workers today who are fighting the pandemic without bothering for their own safety.

Selfless service not only makes you a better human being. It makes you a role model for society and the next generations. It helps your own family members and friends to imbibe the right values. It gives you good health and limitless happiness, which money can never buy for you.

As in the photo above, such selfless servers of society do not want their own publicity. They always want to work behind the scenes

Let the world learn from such committed people all the time.

S Ramesh Shankar

16th August 2020.

Journey or destination – which is more important ?

A friend of mine sent me a cartoon, which depicted a tiny dragon sitting on the back of a Big Panda and the dragon asking the Panda – “Which is more important – the journey or the destination ? The tiny dragon replied – “The company”.

We spend our whole life working to reach an elusive destination. It could be a goal in our personal or work life. While it may be a good idea to have goals both at personal and work level so that we may evolve our strategy and plans to reach them, we sometimes forget to enjoy the journey.

On the other hand, there are some of us who keep enjoying the journey but forget about their destination. I have come across both types of people in my life. Rather even I have been both types at different phases of my life.

But this cartoon made me think differently. The answer of the dragon that “the company” neither the journey nor the destination is important set me thinking. I got a new perspective to life and thought it was worth sharing with everyone.

Many of us have chased destinations and some of us have enjoyed our journey. But the question to ask ourselves is “ have we enjoyed the company” along the journey. The answer may be yes, no or may be.

I assume most of us have taken our company for granted. Be it family or friends or colleagues we assume they exist for us. We have taken them for granted to say the least. Lets begin with our parents, siblings or friends. Then our colleagues at the work place, our neighbours and so on. We have so many people for company in our journey called life.

The question we need to ask ourselves is “how much are we enjoying their company and learning from them ?”. We consider it the duty of our parents and siblings to support us. Then we think our colleagues at work get paid for what they share with us. Our neighbours and friends are around because of their fate or their choice. So our life journey continues assuming the company exists and we have no time to enjoy this company and learn from them.

This is the insight and the learning from this cartoon for me today. We need to enjoy the company more than the journey and the destination. If we learn to enjoy the company and learn from all people around us , our life may be more enriched and fulfilling. We may have more people to to grateful to and learn from.

The day we realise that we need to worry less about the destination and the journey and enjoy our company more, life may look more enjoyable to us. Life is an enjoyable journey with surprises everyday. We meet so many wonderful people along the way. We also meet birds and animals and other living beings along the way. May be it is time to hit the pause button and reflect on this perspective of life.

As in the photo above, we may be focusing on the journey or the destination rather than enjoying the company we have in a long drive through a picturesque landscape.

Life is a journey. Let us learn to enjoy it every day rather than waiting for our ultimate destination.

S Ramesh Shankar

7th August 2020

Back to our roots ?

I sometimes wonder whether the time is ripe for us to get back to basics. We need to rediscover our roots and live again like our forefathers did. The current pandemic has made many of us reflective. It has helped us realise that health and happiness, money cannot buy. The richest of nations and the most advanced have suffered the most in this pandemic.

I would like to share my life journey and learning through time. In my childhood, we had limited resources but unlimited happiness. None of us generally fell sick amongst family and friends and we were content with what we had in life. I recall our home with no fridge, TV, washing machine, dishwasher, refrigerator or air conditioners but none of us complained. We had the joy of living together as a family, having dinner together and playing together.

Then as we grew up and went to college, we experienced the benefit of travelling by bus and train and saving money for our parents by whatever means we could. There was only one earning member in the family and all of us contributed our bit to conserve and contribute to everything happening around us.

While our first job gave us financial independence, it also taught us how to stand on our own feet. We considered it our duty to send back money to our parents and also take care of them. Expressing our gratitude to everyone who helped us stand up in life was a way of life. Today the pandemic reminded us about the value of family and friends. It has brought us back to ground zero.

In our career, we almost took our job for granted. Most of us did not believe that we will ever lose our job in our career. Life long careers in organisations was almost a given. Today, it is quite different. People neither want to work for an organisation for life nor organisations are willing to guarantee life long jobs. Jobs are changing and so are careers. This again is making us realise that life is beyond a job and a career.

If we look at our life in general, a lot has changed too. We were enamoured by the social media and the number of friends we have. However in a crisis like the current pandemic, we realise that the true caring people are your close family and a few reliable friends only. We need to realise that we have to save for the future and lay the foundation for the future of our family as well.

Conserving for the present and saving for the future was taught to us as we started our careers. Today we live for the present. We had started to believe that life is today. We need not worry about the tomorrow. Today the pandemic has suddenly woken us up again. We may not be sure of our job security and the future looms in front of us. So, we realise that we need to go back to saving today for a better tomorrow.

In every aspect of life, we are realising today that we need to get back to our roots. Our food, our living styles, conserving nature, being grateful or even our career or vocation. We need to learn to be self dependant and respect nature in every way.

As in the photo above, we need to reflect if we have the ability to admire the beauty of this flower and connect with nature as we did in the past.

Our life events are cyclic and it is possibly the time to reinvent ourselves and rediscover the fundamentals of life and living.

S Ramesh Shankar

23rd July 2020

How much is good enough ?

The results of the class X and class XII were declared by the central and state boards recently in India. The overall pass percentage was more than 90 % in most states and most children have excelled in their exams irrespective of tense moments due to the onset of the pandemic during the last phase of their exams.

One of my close relatives obtained 90% in her class X exams and I came to know that she was not very happy as she was expecting more. I was not surprised. Apart from academic excellence, she is a a natural artist and a devoted dancer. I was not surprised at her disappointment because the world is making children compete in every sphere of life. Luckily for her, her family is very supportive.

However the reality of today is that we live in a very competitive world. Everyday we want to compete with everyone around us. This child in spite of being so talented felt disappointed because some of her classmates had scored more than 90%. Imagine someone scoring 90% and feeling bad. If not for a supportive family, imagine the plight of this child or similar children in society today.

In my view, this is a wake up call for us. Do we live to live or do we live to die ? The current scenario amongst children and adults tell me that we are living to die early. We do not want live life every day and enjoy every moment. There is nothing wrong to be competitive. But competing for the sake of competing may be disastrous. We need to realise that life is multi-faceted. Every child is a talent and may have potential to do things which other children may not be able to.

As parents and elders we need to enable the child to realise her or his full potential in what they are capable of doing. Today most parents want their children to be successful professionals. The ability of parents and teachers to harness the hidden talent of a child is less seen. The day teachers and parents realise that every child is a gift of God and is talented, human potential will be fully harnessed. We need to enable every child to compete with themselves and make them realise that this is the path to excellence and not otherwise.

The situation is no different in colleges or even in organisations. Every leader has to realise that every employee is a talent. We need to assess what they their capabilities are and harness their full potential. If we put a square peg in a round hole, we may not get the best out of anyone. We tend to put creative people in analytical jobs and vice versa and then beat them up to realise their potential. This will only lead to fatigue and loss of talent in organisations.

As a society, we need to focus back on our children. It is not good enough to state that children are the future of a country and society. We need to enable them to succeed. The day every child is able to realise their strength and choose their field of interest to study will be the beginning of a new world. Then when they are able to work in a field of their own passion on their own volition without any societal pressures, we may have turned the corner

Families and societies have to learn to be tolerant and flexible. They need to challenge their own mindset and believe that potential is unlimited in every human being. This will lead us to a new world order where happiness will be the ultimate goal for everyone. Joy in what we learn or do and gratitude to everyone around us for enabling us to do the same will be our motto.

As in the photo above, we need to enable every child to realise their full potential and experience what they enjoy learning and doing.

Let us start today and create a brighter tomorrow.

S Ramesh Shankar

15th July 2020

Life need not be a “win or lose” always…

Many of us think of life as a race where one has to win and another lose . Is it necessary ? I am not sure. It may be a good idea to look at life as a game to play and enjoy the game. You may win some time, lose some time and even end up in a draw some time. We may also be prepared for a game to abandoned sometimes and you may have to share points with your opponent.

Life is a zero sum game. The day we realise it, the better for us. We need not live life as if we have to win a game always. We need to learn to play the game in a fair way and give it our best shot. If we win, we deserve it and if we lose, our opponent deserves to win. If there is a draw, both of us deserve to share the credit.

This phenomenon of win-lose spirit is seeped in societal values. We urge our children to be competitive always and look at winning at all levels. A child who does not learn to accept defeat cannot face life in its full fury. We need to learn to accept victory with humility and defeat with grace. This is best lesson for life.

Our education system is entrenched with systems to identify winners and losers only. It may be time to revamp this system so that we encourage students to learn and play the game in a fair manner. While winning or losing may be an outcome, it should not be our focus. We need to learn to play the game to the best of our ability and let victory or defeat go to the person who deserves it on that day at that time.

This attitude to life has been promoted within families too. We make our own children compete with each other. We promote competitiveness amongst our own children at home by saying that you are not as good as your sister or brother. This way we not only kill the spirit of learning but also promote rivalry and lack of mutual respect between siblings.

The work place is no different. Having spent almost four decades in the corporate world, one can understand that the workplace is a competitive world. But this does not mean that we create systems and processes where employees almost kill each other to be a winner. We need to enable employees to continually learn and give their best. Winning or losing has to be realised as an outcome of their efforts and not an end in itself.

The sports arena is also not different. We see players and teams competing with each other to win at any cost. Sometimes they are willing to violate rules, behave unacceptably as long as they win. This is not the spirit in which any game is to be played. The spirit of the game is not valued anymore. Victory by any means is recognised and promoted. This kills the spirit of the game and thereby gives birth to players who are like conspirators to enable victory at any cost.

We need to learn that life need not be a win-lose game. I would prefer life to be an enjoyable journey of learning, where wining and losing is part of the game. Playing the game in the true spirit has to be encouraged and rewarded. This will ensure that people learn to play in a fair way. We will realise that this leads to better behaviour of people, more happiness and better results as well.

As in the photo above, we need to make players learn to play the game fairly rather than only focus on winning all the time.

Let us learn to play the game of life.

S Ramesh Shankar

24th June 2020

Locked in because of the lockout

We always have a ready excuse in life for everything. When people ask me, why were you not able to complete a task, I may say there was a lockout and you know how you feel lonely and left out in such a situation.

We may blame the rains for coming in late to office or the sun for not going for a evening walk. It is possibly human to invent reasons for not doing something. But, if we dig deep, we will find, we do not have an excuse for anything.

It can be as simple as promise made to my kid to take her for a circus or as official as a commitment to send a presentation to a customer on a particular date. While we always find excuses to justify our behaviour but deep down in our hearts we know we have none.

While this may look simple, it is possibly one of the most difficult things to achieve in life. What I find interesting is that the simplest things in life are the most challenging. It may easier to fix a machine under breakdown than to change a simple habit of ours every day.

I learnt it the hard way to be punctual in life after I missed an important event in my school days. Since then, I have been punctual in all my personal and official engagements. What I find interesting is that late comers to work are never late to miss a train or a plane during vacations. This means that if we are passionate about something, we can make the change.

This is equally true in life. The lockout is beyond our control. It is possibly one of the best ways to prevent the unknown virus to spread. However, to keep our mind locked in and blame the lockout for that is not justifiable. I know people in life who will always find a reason for things going wrong for them. They are never happy. On the other hand, you find people, who are always happy irrespective of the fact that they may not have all the luxuries of life with them.

So the simple lesson to be learnt is that we need not feel locked in even in a lockout. We can find hundred and one ways of keeping ourselves engaged and innovating and thriving in this environment. I put my thinking cap on and got so many ideas to write about, which I never got during the normal days of the year so far. So, it is upto us to change any situation to our personal advantage.

If we believe the lockout has not only physically kept us indoors but also mentally, we have none to blame than ourselves. Our mental potential is unlimited. Irrespective of your field of interest or work, you could discover new things everyday even within the confines of your home. There is so much to learn, so much to observe, so much to read and reflect and so much to change.

The sooner we realise this phenomenon, the better it is for us as evolving human beings. If not, we get stuck like the snail in its shell. We may be putting our head in the sand like the Ostrich and thinking that the world has come to an end. We need to realise that we have sunk our head and the world around us is still alive and kicking.

As in the photo above, we innovated on the cap and the mask to have fun even during the lockdown.

Time to get up and awaken ourselves is now. Are we ready ?

S Ramesh Shankar

20th April 2020

Life is what you make out of it….

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I sometimes wonder as to why the street side vendor is happy and smiling always and on the other hand, wealthy businessmen spend sleepless nights. I am also surprised as to how some people are smiling and happy always while others crib all the time.

Life is what you make out it. In every situation in life, we have a choice. We can be happy or sad. We can give in or we can stand up. We can face a challenge head on and move on or cry for the rest of our lives. Life is full of challenges but it is upto us to decide how we are going to deal with it.

Nobody or no instance can make us happy or sad. It is upto us to choose what we want to do. Imagine, one has missed a promotion in your career. Of course all of us feel bad and we should feel so as we are all human. The choice before us is to feel bad for a day or two and then move on and bounce back in your career or crib for the rest of your life and backtrack in one’s career.

Every aspect of life always gives us a choice to make. A man on the street is content and never looks at the millionaires and cry. Some millionaires are looking at billionaires and crying every day. So choice is ours. Do we want to be content or do we want to be greedy for the rest of our lives. There is nothing wrong to be ambitious and desire to want things. But once we get all that we want for a healthy and happy life, are we happy or are we sad ? That is question we need to ask ourselves.

I can share an incident which happened to me just now. I completed the whole blog and there was crash in the iPad and everything got deleted. Now too I have a choice. Should I curse my bad luck and keep crying or should I say I get another opportunity to write again and may be newer thoughts come to my mind. I chose the latter and it made me happy again.

During these days of the lockdown, all of us are holed up in our homes. Some of us are cursing ourselves that we are not able to travel, play or entertain ourselves everyday. On the other hand, I see many of us are exploring our best creativity every day and express it in social media and other channels. My spouse and me decided that we will do house keeping all over our home and pursue our hobbies and believe me it was fun. We disposed off a lot of our junk and have identified things we can donate, which we do not need anymore. So, life is a choice every day. What we make out of it is in our hands not in anybody else’s hands or even God.

Nowadays, I get inspired by the stories I read. I am grateful to each one of them who are exemplifying their bravery and sacrificing their personal lives for the welfare of others. You hear a pregnant lady working on a Covid vaccine and delivering that first before taking care of her kid. You hear a poor farmer giving away all his produce to daily workers so that they survive and not go hungry. All these people also had a choice. They took the choice of making others happy rather than themselves since that gives them more happiness in their lives.

I get inspiration from the common people I meet every day. The bus conductor who is always smiling even when the students get rude and tend to misbehave. Or the traffic cop who uses dance forms in the middle of the road standing in pollution so that he can make his job entertaining and bring smile in the faces of the passer by.

In every situation of life, we have a choice. I have voted to remain happy all the time and try to make others happy. You can also make your choice.

As in the photo above, I also tried my hand at photography, which is one of my passions and hobbies.

What is the choice you have made today ?

S Ramesh Shankar

12th March 2020

Phoren returned ?

It is interesting how the world turns upside down within a few days or even hours. It was a great honour and matter of pride for people in India to tell that they have just returned from a foreign trip. They were proud when their children studied abroad or they themselves went on a holiday to a foreign land. They could proudly share it with friends and family with photographs and all details.

However, in the last few days since the Covid virus hit the world, it is the contrary. Nobody wants you to be near them if you have returned from a foreign country. Apart from the compulsory quarantine for a fortnight mandated by the health authorities, people are wary of phoren returned friends and relatives. It is no longer a fad. On the contrary, people are wary of disclosing that they have returned recently from a foreign trip.

I am not against anyone going anywhere to do anything. If a student excels in academics and wants to study in the best university in the world – she or he has a right to do so and should do the same. Similarly, if a professional or a business person gets an opportunity to thrive in a different country there is nothing wrong about the same. However, what intrigues me is that the people residing in these prosperous worlds want to return to India when there is a crisis. Inspite of having better medical and health care facilities, they believe India will care for them more than any other country in the world would. They want to acquire citizenship in these countries for their material prosperity but they still want a place in India’s heart for their emotional security.

The government of India with the help of our national airlines and also the defence forces repeatedly takes up difficult missions to rescue Indians from across the world whenever there is a crisis and they should continue to do so. However, I have only one appeal to these prosperous and successful Indians. While India and Indians will always have a space in our hearts for all of you, kindly do not forget India when we need you. We would urge you to remember India not only when you are in trouble but also when you doing well wherever you are.

I saw a picture today sent by someone on the social media. It shows thousands of successful Indians returning to India during the Covid crisis because they feel it is safer to be at home during this period. On the other hand, millions of migrant workers are left stranded in the metros because there is nobody to take care of them. They could not afford to take flights back home like the prosperous Indians could.

Gratitude is absolute. It can and never should be relative. I cannot and should not think of being grateful commensurate to the benefit I derive from a person, organisation or a nation. I have to be absolutely grateful to everyone who has helped me in this journey of life irrespective of the magnitude of their contribution. It is then I am truly grateful.

Similarly prosperous Indians around the world have to be grateful to their roots in India and the people who have contributed to their success. They should express their gratitude in monetary and non monetary terms whenever and wherever it is possible and not wait for someone to ask. It is like people living in metros should be grateful to the migrant workers from across the country for their daily services. We have to take care of them when they are in crisis and not only use them when we need them. Gratitude is a two way street. One never knows when we will be trouble and and we may need help.

It is like in the picture above. The foreign returnee is not sure whether she wants to show her face or not.

Let us commit to express our gratitude in deeds rather than words and expressions from today.

S Ramesh Shankar

29th March 2020