Life is full of “Choices”

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We all face ups and downs in life. We are happy about our decisions when things go well but feel disappointed when they things don’t go our way. This is natural. However, on reflection I feel that we always have choices in life and it is up to us to make a choice. Sometimes we may end up making a wrong choice and it ok to accept it as a reality. It is not fair to believe that there were no alternatives before us.

Let us recall any incident in life. I am reminded of the first car I bought in my career. It was a second hand car. In 1987, the company gave me a loan and I could not afford to buy a new car with that money and hence opted to buy a second hand car. This car I had bought after due consideration and review amongst the choices I had in front of me. Fortunately it turned out to be a good choice. I used the car for five years and sold it at a profit after that. Assuming it had been a bad choice, can I blame my employer to give me a limited loan or blame the seller for selling his car to me. I always had the option of buying a car or not buying a car. I could have bought a second hand or a new car. I could have bought some other brand too.

So, my learning in life is that in everything we do, we have choices. We always make our decision based on the best available information in front of us. Sometimes our choice may work out and at other times it may not. This does not mean we do not choices in life. We end up blaming the environment or at least try to externalise or blame the environment for the wrong choices we make. I think this is not fair. We have to own up the choices we make and take full responsibility for the choices we make.

I chose a junior in college and opted to marry her. After due consideration and with her unconditional consent, we decided to marry. Today it is 35 years since we are happily married. Today I can say it was the right choice since it has worked for me. Assuming it had not worked out for either of us, can we blame each other. Nobody forced us to marry. Neither our parents coerced us nor anyone else. We had a choice to marry or not to marry. How can we blame anyone for our decision to marry ?

I feel life is no different. We always have multiple choices in front of us. It is up to us to take our own time, evaluate all the options and then make the best choice in our best judgement at that point of time. We have take full responsibility for our choice and be willing face the consequences if it does not work for us. When it works, we are happy to own our decision and when it does not we want to blame someone else or the environment around us.

I recently met a college teacher who very nicely explained the concept of internal locus of control. He said in life we have to believe that everything is under our control and we are responsible for all our actions. In every situation, we have a choice to say yes or no. We also have a choice to say may be. We could decide then and there or take our time to decide. In every situation, we have to believe that our decision is ours. Everything is under our control and we can make things happen around us. This way life becomes a journey of possibilities. Otherwise, life appears as a road full of obstacles.

I also recently read a very nice suggestion. We all make a “To Do” list every day for our daily chores. Most of us end up either not beginning those tasks or finishing only half of them. It was suggested that instead of calling it the “To Do” list, if we call it “Possibilities” it changes the way we look at it. It infuses a positive energy and makes everything look possible. The chances of our accomplishing the majority of them looks brighter.

Even a diabetic has a choice to eat a tempting sapota/chiku or not. If he eats, he only needs to exercise a little more that day. Nothing more than that.

Let us believe that life is full of choices and we are in full control of it.

Let us begin today.

S Ramesh Shankar

I don’t get what I am searching for…

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Yesterday I was searching for sugar in the kitchen and I could not find it. Isn’t many things in life similar. We are in search of something and we never get it. Let us start from our childhood. Most of us may agree that we did not get the toys to play that we desired for. We may not have got selected to the course we wanted to study or the schools/college which we dreamt of.

This trend continues as we grow up in life. We, in our adolescence want the world in our pockets but end up disappointed. We then move to start our career. Many of us start our career in areas which we did not want to. If we are lucky to get the role of our dreams, we end up in a location which we hate. This factor may look like a never ending journey.

Then once in the job, we do not get nominated for projects we want to be part of. On the contrary, we may end up in doing projects which we never wanted to. I sometimes wondered why this happens to us in our lives. We get transferred to roles much against our wishes. We wonder if it happens only to us. We are disappointed to say the least and also get a feeling if we stop learning at such times.

This phenomenon happens in real life too. We search for peace and we end up in chaos. We want to work in a metro and end up with a posting in a remote village or town. We feel frustrated to say the least. We wonder why such a thing happens. In most cases, we end up cursing our luck. We tend to believe that it is our destiny and we cannot do much about it. We accept it and hope that it passes away sooner than later.

I could not sleep yesterday night since I could never find the sugar in the kitchen. I continued the search in the morning and found it in the fridge in a plastic container(photo above). Then I realised that may be I was assuming it to be at a particular place in a particular type of container and it wasn’t to be. Life is no different. This is what happens in our life too. We believe life is like that and we to have to accept it that way.

We have assumptions and mindsets. In our childhood, we take things for granted. We think we deserve everything we desire irrespective of whether we need it or our parents can afford it. ‘Then in adolescence, the psychology of our rebellious behaviour makes us unhappy at everything which does not happen for us the way we want it to happen. In work life, we believe that everyone around us is dutiful to make us happy. We are expected to get what we want to do and not what the organization wants us to do.

So, this is the real learning of my life. We have to believe that we can make the best of everything which happens to us in life, if we want to. If we don’t get the sugar in the kitchen, we can reduce the intake of calories for the day. If we did not get the toys to play in childhood, we could have spent more time in studies or other hobbies. We could learnt a new skill if we had all the time during our adolescence.

At work, every role gives us a opportunity to learn and grow. If we try to be the best in everything we are expected to do, we will excel and grow at all times. Life has its own way of teaching us lessons every day. I realised that my inability to find sugar in the kitchen while I was making coffee for a friend was one of the ways for me to realise that life is all about our mindset and our attitude.

If we are willing to challenge our mindset, then life has a lot to teach us. It is up to us to make the best of what happens to us. It is the way we look at life, which makes all the difference. If we solidify our mindset and are not adaptive to change, then we have nobody else to blame than ourselves. Let us give life a chance and learn every day through whatever happens to us.

S Ramesh Shankar

Violence has no place in a civilised society

Today we heard of the barbaric attack in the churches in Sri Lanka killing hundreds of innocent people and injuring many more. Today is Easter Sunday and how can any human living in a civilised world kill innocent people on a day when Christians around the world are celebrating their Easter Sunday.

I am a Hindu by birth but strongly believe that all religions of the world lead us to the same God. I am not well read in all religions of the world but India being home to all religions has taught us that we need to live harmoniously and support each other to succeed. No religion in the world supports violence in any form. No religion in the world encourages its followers to resort to violence and thereby kill innocent people.

I wonder even if the families of these terrorists will support such a cowardly act. How can one human being kill another human being who has done no harm to you and for no fault of theirs. This is an act of cowardice. It is inhuman and a crime against human kind.

Today we will have no words to console the family members and friends of those who were killed in this dastardly act. No financial compensation can bring back mothers, fathers, sisters or brothers of those who were killed. I cannot even imagine how a normal human being can indulge in such condemnable actions.

I lost my parents at a very young age and understand the impact on family members when they lose their near and dear ones. I am sure every terrorist has a family and realises the impact of his or her act on the family members of those, who have died. It is an act which no words in the world can condemn. The only way to condemn this act is for all countries of the world to unite, fight and eliminate terrorism as one nation. We need to kill the roots of terrorism from across the world.

No civilised society will support violence of any kind. No inequality in society can justify any act of terrorism or violence. All countries have to ensure that all inequities in societies are addressed in all possible ways. However no human being or groups have any right to address any cause by killing innocent people in any part of the world.

We should not wait for the United Nations to address this issue. We as citizens of the world have to collectively resolve that we will not support violence against human beings by anyone anywhere in the world. It is time for countries to resolve that they will not support such acts of barbarism. It is for all religions of the world to unite and condemn such action.

As in the photo above, Gautam Buddha has taught the world that we can win over anything in the world through peace. It is for us to learn to live peacefully always.

Time to stand up and speak in one voice of the world is today.

S Ramesh Shankar

21st April 2019

Everything happens for a reason…

I have always wondered if everything in life happens for a reason. I am not sure of it but increasingly tend to believe it. Let me share a few incidents in my life, which makes me believe so. One may call it providence, destiny or even coincidence. For me, it does not matter. What matters is that everything in life happens for a reason. I think it is nature’s way of balancing our life.

I could start from my childhood. I opted for science subjects in school because my parents wanted me to do so. Then I was advised to appear for engineering since that was the “in” thing to do in my childhood. I did not get admission in any engineering college. So, I was persuaded to do my graduation in science. After my graduation, I had the courage to convince my parents that I wanted to pursue my post graduation in human resources. So, in my view, my not getting admission in engineering was a blessing in disguise as otherwise, I may not have got the opportunity to study what I wanted in life.

Then I got a job in a leading automobile ancillary in Chennai, which is my hometown based on my summer internship in that company. However, within a week of joining I got an offer from a leading public sector undertaking and my father advised me to take up that offer as it was prestigious to join the public sector those days as compared to the private sector and my father had served the government service for more than three decades. This photo along with my colleagues was taken at Durg station within a few months of joining this company.

Today, if I look back it was possibly one of the best decisions in my life. It not only laid the foundation for my career but also shook me out of my comfort zone and made me brave enough to face the world. There has been no looking back since then in my career. I have lived and worked in the north, south, east, west and centre of India and this has made me an adaptive human being and so are my kids. They have moved around the country and can easily adapt to different cities, environment and other conditions of living.

My first posting was in an iron ore mine in the steel plant. It was a God forsaken place although naturally beautiful and surrounded by hills. I cursed my luck when I was posted there since I did not have a choice. It was the policy in the steel plant that all management trainees had to have the first posting in one of the three captive mines of the steel plant. I was lucky that I got posted to the largest of the three mines.

If I look back again, it was possibly the best way to start my career in human resources. We had multiple unions and were threatened by gheraos and strikes every other month. This helped me ground myself and learn the true value of fairness in work. It hardened me as a professional and today I can confidently say that I am game to face any tough situation because of my learning in those first three years of my career.

When I started my career with the steel plant I thought I would retire from there and settle down in my home town after my retirement. However, life took me to multiple cities and different states as I have changed jobs four times since then. Each change has been a new beginning and an opportunity to work in different environments and learn. I have had my own quota of ups and downs in my life and career but life has taught me with each incident.

Today when I look back at my career, I am grateful for all that happened in my life. I am thankful to all the managers, colleagues and team members, who had moulded me to what I am today. After all these experiences, I have started believing that everything in life does happen for a reason. It is up to us to make the best of the experience life offers to you. It is up to us to view the glass as half full or half empty.

As a born optimist, I have always seen life’s glass as half full. Hence, every incident has been a great learning experience. What is your experience ?

S Ramesh Shankar

A day in my life at Mumbai


My weekend begins like any other day at around 6 am with a cup of fresh brewed coffee. We pray to God and listen to devotional songs and infuse our home with the fragrance of incense sticks.

We then proceed for our daily walk in the park.  We are lucky to just cross our road and there is this beautiful green park along the Arabian Sea.  We go around the garden for about four rounds and use this opportunity to chat about all our family members and their well being.  We are greeted by the melodies of the birds and the soothing music of the sea waves. We also have interesting exchanges of men and women we meet in the park and have given them nick names to identify them.

On alternate weeks, we go for an Ayurvedic massage to tone up our body muscles and detoxify ourselves after a long working week behind us.  We go together for this too and have been doing so for more than a decade now.

We then return home and do our routine yoga for about half an hour.  This is followed by a simple vegetarian breakfast like idli or poha and reading the morning newspaper at leisure.  We exchange news items we have read and share common interests we have in the city or around the world.  Then it is time to attend to household chores.  It is interesting that the division of work between me and my spouse has been quite clear and consistent since the time we got married 33 years ago.  I take care of all the household chores outside the house like shopping for provisions, vegetables or repair of household goods etc.  My wife takes care of all issues at home.  Of course we are happy to help each other in case the need arises like the sudden leave of the house hold maid etc.  We have always respected each others’ likes and dislikes and hence supported accordingly.  For eg, my spouse does not enjoy driving and hence I drive always.  On the other hand, I do not enjoy cooking and hence she does it.  Of course, if there is a need we are willing to support each other in these chores as well.

On some days, we go for a day trip organised by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) or indulge in writing poetry or blogs as both of us have our own individual hobbies. A visit to a nature park is of common interest.  We love to admire birds, trees and animals and follow the experts of the BNHS quite regularly whenever time permits.  Alternatively, we indulge in writing as our passion dictates us.  We also help each other as editors and critiques of whatever we write.

It is also true that I love to go for a weekend trip whenever I can, to be with nature as in the photo above near Tarkarli, a beach resort near Goa.

We always prefer to have home made lunch consisting of rice, lentils, vegetables and yoghurt.  We watch the news or some car show on TV and then it is time for an afternoon nap.  It is followed by evening tea and snacks.  This is followed by some cleaning and clearing work at home and browsing through some magazines or books, which we may collected during the week before.

Then the evening begins by another stroll in the park to admire the sunset and get refreshed by nature.  We return home for our early supper.  This is followed generally by a music programme on TV or a sports match like cricket.

We watch the evening news at 9 pm and this is followed by some documentaries or business shows of relevance and then it is time to go to bed.  We love to listen to soothing ghazals or instrumental music at night as we go to sleep.

Our day ends at about 1030 pm and we end the day by thanking God and everyone else for a wonderful day.

S Ramesh Shankar

My second innings – “Era of gratitude”

I have been a big fan of cricket right from my childhood. I find a lot of similarities between the game of cricket and life. If my first innings was about my career, my second innings is about my giving back to society.

All of us aspire to achieve our career dreams and goals. We strive our best to get there. We may partly or wholly be successful but we try our best. We desire for all the material things in the world and fantasise to get them. We may again get all we dream of or at least most of them in our life.

If I call my first innings as the “Era of gratification”, I would say my second innings should be an ” Era of gratitude”. God has been kind to me. I have achieved almost all I dreamt of in my career. My family and friends have supported me to be happy in life most of the time. Now it is time for me to give back to society.

I have bought all the material things in life I have wished for. Today I hardly crave for something and regret that I do not have it in my life. So, it is time to give back. It is time to express my gratitude in actions and not only in words. I assume I can do it in many ways.

The first thing I plan to do is to write more and share my experiences of life and living. This may help the next generations to think and reflect. It may help the youngsters not to make the mistakes I did. It may help them take the right decisions.

All my net earnings from the sale of my books (Sights & Insights and Life and Living )will be donated to a charity, which works zealously in “eradicating preventable blindness amongst children”. This way I will share more, learn more and at the same time give a little back to society.

I am also starting an organisation by the name “Hrishti” ( Means joy in Sanskrit). I will use this organisation as a platform to coach and mentor. I will try to mentor and coach business and HR leaders and again use all my net earnings to promote the same cause.

I also plan to work with start ups and NGOs to share my experience and learnings so that they can learn from my insights at work and life. This may help new start ups and NGOs to scale up and succeed in their chosen fields. At least, they will not repeat the same mistakes I did in my career.

I also want to teach in business schools, engineering colleges and universities. This way I can share my learnings and also enable young students to be industry ready. The gap between industry and academics needs to be bridged and I think people like me have a role to play in it.

I can also be a consultant to organisations and share my experiences in areas of their need. I may be able to give back to society in more ways than one. It is upto me to explore all possible ways to do it. After all when I needed help or support, there were thousands of people amongst family, friends and organisations, who did that for me. Now it is my turn.

Lastly, I am blessed to have enough of what I need to live happily for the rest of myself and my family. Hence, I commit that everything I do will contribute to society’s larger good.

Time to start my second innings in life post my retirement is after 31st March 2019. You can follow me on http:\\srameshshankar.com or connect with me at srameshshankar@yahoo.com or srameshshankar@gmail.com post this date. My mobile number will also remain the same as of today. I will continue to post every Friday even in the future.

S. Ramesh Shankar

Nothing is permanent..


I recently came to know of two tragedies. In the first case, a mother lost her grown up son in a fatal accident. In the second, a daughter lost her father in a hospital bed. While the first was a young aspiring student preparing himself for the travails of life in a business school, the second was an aged father who had fought cancer and was healthy and self dependant at 85 till he fractured his leg by falling from his bed and succumbed to his post operative trauma.

If we look at both the incidents the affected people were shattered. A mother in the first case was heart broken to get up one day to know that her son is no more and has met with an accident in front of his college gate. In the second instance, the daughter had nursed her father in the hospital for a week and his fracture was operated successfully and within days of her proceeding to help her daughter in another city, her father breathed his last as he could not fight back from the post operative stress.

I can imagine the state of the mind of the mother and the daughter in both these cases. It would have been like a glass sculpture shattered into pieces. While condolences may pour in from around the world, no word can console you. No assurance can build back the belief in you. It is like you can never put together the shattered pieces of the beautiful glass sculpture even with the best adhesive in the world.

Time is the only healer and it takes time to realise it. I have personally gone through a few tragedies in my life and I have experienced this vacuum. It neither can be explained or can be consoled. It shatters your foundations. It makes you lose faith in yourself and even lose faith in God. No power on earth seems to have any impact on you. You are tempted to give up even before you given in.

Let us try to understand why this happens to all of us, who go through such tragedies. I remember someone told me that when you lose your father at a very young age, it is like someone pulling away the umbrella from your head during a thunderous downpour. It is something like that. Life is good and we are treading along. Suddenly a tragedy of this magnitude engulfs us and we are shattered. It comes like a Tsunami and leaves us homeless. We may not have lost our physical belongings but we become emotionless for some time.

We do not know the difference between laughing and crying. There are no tears left in our eyes. We want to be left alone and feel restless in a crowd. Family, friends and society are no longer a source of solace. We look at the sky with blank eyes and no emotions. Music is no longer soothing to our ears. Our life literally comes to a stand still. Days become longer and nights shorter. We do not want to see or meet anyone.

It takes weeks, months or even years to recover from such a shock. It took me more than year when my father died when I was 25. After a few years, I realised that time is the only healer. I recovered slowly but surely from the slipping ground below me. I started believing in myself and others after a while. I visited a temple after a year to assure God that I was now standing on my own feet.

This is the time one realises that “Nothing is permanent” in life. Neither joy nor sorrow. Everything is ephemeral. It will come and go. We need to have the courage and the patience to weather the storm. We should neither get carried away by the joys of life and float in the air, nor buried by the sorrows of life and sink into the earth below. We will realise that time is the best healer.

Life is like the weather today. Gloomy and rainy in the morning but bright and sunny in the evening. Nothing is permanent. Not even the weather on a single day. 

Let us believe in ourselves and our good deeds and leave the rest for time to heal.

S Ramesh Shankar