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

Ray of Hope

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There is always light at the end of a tunnel. You realise it every time you drive through a tunnel on a highway. However, it takes a lot of patience and perseverance to go through the darkness in the tunnel before you see the light. Life is no different. Every obstacle in life looks like a boulder in front of us. It overwhelms us and we get bogged down by its magnitude. It takes courage and patience to weather the storm and then look for the light at the end of the tunnel.

I have had many experiences in life, wherein I felt as if the world was coming to end and and I was in the midst of it. When you are going through a crisis in life or at work, you are bogged down by everything around you. You are drained out by the depth of the crisis you are facing. You try out all the options and still the you feel that the dark road in the tunnel is never ending. It is at this time you need to reflect and find a way.

I would like to look back at a few incidents in my personal and work life and share my learnings. I have been a born optimist in life. Hence, looking at life as art of possibilities has been my outlook. But, when you are confronted with a crisis then your optimism fades way giving way to pessimism. I recall the first instance in my personal life. I got an income tax notice for buying a timeshare property. I was shocked and perplexed. I have been a honest salaried tax payer for more than three decades now. But this incident happened way back in 1992.

I went to my tax advisor after spending a few sleepless nights as to “why me ?” . When he explained the process which the income tax department follows to track tax defaulters, I was relieved. He explained that they look at new car buyers at random and sometimes at property buyers and so on and then send them a notice to explain the source of income. When I had been an honest tax payer, I had nothing to worry. I had just to explain the source of my funds and how I have paid them. I had also paid all my instalments by cheques and hence there was nothing for me to explain. But spending a few nights with the notice at home was like a long ride in the tunnel.

The second time it was on the work front. I was made the prosecution nominee ( management representative) in a departmental enquiry against a corrupt union representative in one of my previous organisations. I was shocked. I received threats from this person including possible attacks on my family members. I was again worried as to why I was chosen for this unceremonious role. The enquiry was completed and I could help the management with my presentation skills in establishing the charges and ensuring the corrupt union representative was dismissed from service. Then my manager explained to me that I was selected because I was courageous and honest to face such a dishonest employee in an enquiry in a fair and brave way. But this enquiry took more than four months and it was an arduous journey.

The last incident was when I joined a new organization. I was confronted with a court case filed every month by the unions against the management on frivolous reasons. I was always used to maintaining harmonious and trust worthy relationship with the unions in all my previous assignments. When I took charge, I realised that there was a trust deficit between the management and the unions. It took me almost two years to rebuild that trust and thanks to a great team to work with and a responsive union we not only turned it around but today can proudly state that we have not had any court case filed against us in the last four years. But these two years were like a long dark tunnel ride.

Every situation looked dim at first sight. The more you grapple with it the more you are disappointed. When a problem gets complicated and you do not get adequate support, you tend to lose hope. It is at this juncture, we need to believe in ourselves and our credibility. We need to trust ourselves and hope that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. It is like the streak of sunlight always kindles hope on a otherwise cloudy day as in the photo above. This ray of hope re-ignites the optimism in us and helps us find a way.

Let us look for the ray of hope in life every day.

S Ramesh Shankar

Never too late to resolve…

Another New year dawns on us. We wonder what new year resolution to make. I am no different. I sometimes wonder if it is too late in my life to make a resolution. But on reflection, I realised that it is never too late to resolve.

If we look back at our lives, we have so many imperfections embedded in us. We are not yet perfect in anything. Hence, the opportunities to makes resolutions to change and improve is endless.

Let me start with simple things in life. Am I good at making up my bed after I get up. I leave it to someone else to do it for me. So, may be the first resolution can be that I make my own bed everyday.

Then the next question to ask is “Can I make own coffee or tea ? If the answer is no, it is time to learn to do it yourself. So, the second resolution can be to make your own coffee or tea and may be make it for your partner or family members also.

Do we do some exercise every morning ? It could be a walk, a jog, cycling or playing any game. If the answer is no, which is most likely for most of us, that can be the third resolution. I commit to walk or do yoga every day.

Then we look for someone to help us with our clothes and office accessories. This could be our fourth resolution and we could learn to organise ourselves well so that we do not need someone’s assistance to pick our clothes or other office paraphernalia.

Most of us ride a bike or drive a car to work every day. We then blame the world for the increasing pollution around us. Our fifth resolution can be to take the public transport to work at least once in a week and there by contribute our bit to reducing pollution in the world.

Do we wish everyone with a smile at work ? We enter the workplace and find it difficult to wish the security guard. We do not think it is important to wish everyone around us at work and shake hands with them before we start our day. This could be the sixth resolution that we will start the day by wishing everyone around us with a smile.

At work, do we delegate things we can easily do ourselves ? If the answer is yes, then it is time to change. Delegation is a good management practise. However, we can do somethings ourselves, which when delegated may delay action and is not necessary. This could be our seventh resolution.

One thing which amuses me is that people do not return calls made to them. Yes, all of us are busy all day and night and we may not be in a position to pick up calls many a time. However, courtesy demands that we call back everyone who called us. It could be a junior colleague, family, friend or the CEO it does not matter. This could be our eighth resolution.

Our ninth resolution could be get back home on time. While working hard is a good idea, it does not add to productivity by sitting late at work every day. This neither improves our performance at work nor makes our family happy.

The tenth resolution may be to make at least one of the above nine resolutions and ensure we follow it through the year. My belief is that if we commit to do at least one thing and make it happen, it will be great.

Let me wish you, your family and friends a wonderful new year. So, here are my Ten Commandments to myself for the new year. I was reflecting on them sitting in front of the Buddha in my garden.

What are yours ?

S Ramesh Shankar

1st January 2019

The last journey


I had gone for my morning walk today as I do everyday.  I go to a beautiful park opposite to my house and it is along the Arabian Sea.  The greenery of the park and the sound of the morning waves from the sea apart from the chirping birds make my day fresh and wonderful.  So, today was no exception to this great start to my day.  However, as I was making my final round I witnessed an unusual incident.

I saw a dog pulling a dead crow, which had died on the sea shore and pulling it to a grass lawn to have it as her morning breakfast.  What was astonishing was to see a cluster of crows in the sky ,following the dog screaming and announcing the death of the crow.  While the dog was least impacted by the shrieking of the crows above her, it really moved me as to how the crows were mourning for the last journey of one of their siblings.  They seem to be hurt that it died on the sea shore and had become fodder for the dog.

While this may be a stray incident, it stirred the emotions in me.  I have always been told from my childhood that it is ok if you do not visit a friend or a relative on the good news of the birth of a child in their family.  This is because you could always do so sometime in the future.  But, if you come to know the sad demise of a friend or relative and if you are in town, you should never miss the last journey of the person who has died.  This is because you will never be able to see that person again and it will his last journey on earth till the graveyard.

I am not sure how many of us realize this as human beings.  We are so caught up with our daily chores that we hardly have the time for our family or friends to share their joy or sorrow.  We neither have the time nor the inclination to visit anyone.  The herd of crows reminded me of how even birds and animals are more human than us.  They gathered together and mourned the death of another crow and screamed down to the dog to spare the dead crow alone.  Why cannot we as human beings learn from birds and animals if we are not able to learn it ourselves ?

The lesson for me today was that we need to find time for our beloved ones.  It could be to celebrate together a joyous occasion.  It could be to mourn the death of a near or dear one.  Especially in the latter case, life does not give us a second chance.  If we as human beings  think we are superior to animals and birds our behaviour has to prove it.  The crows made me realize that may be we still have a long way to go.

It is time to wake up.  It is time to find time for others.  How long will we justify our lack of etiquette to lack of time ?  How long will we run the rat race ? .  We may  realize that there is nobody to run the race with us anymore and then it may be too late.  It is time to realize and wake up now.  Let us resolve to ourselves that even if we do not have time to share joy, let us ensure that we will be around to share the sorrow of others always.

If crows can show humanity, I have not doubt, humans also can.  It is only our ability to reflect and resolve.  It is our ability to prioritise and act on our resolve.  If we think we can, we will.  The time to start is today.

Let us just do it.

S Ramesh Shankar

Terrorism 


We see innocent human beings – women, men and children of all religions, caste and communities being killed by a phenomenon called terrrorism.
While everyone condemns terrorism in all its forms, there are some countries and states, which directly or indirectly support it.

It is time for all countries of the world to unite and fight and eliminate terrorism. How can any human being kill other human beings in the name of religion or ideology and be proud of it ?

If a family loses a member, it is tragedy. It does not matter which religion, caste or community they belong. We have become apathetic to such incidents. It becomes statistic when reported till you are impacted personally by it.

Every day a human being from the defence forces or the para military forces is killed. This human being belongs to a family and if we put ourselves as a member of that family we can realize the extent of damage and the depth of grief of that family.

Politicians and members of the civil society organise protests more to gain media coverage and cheap publicity. They condemn killing of human beings of a particular religion or caste and make it a public issue. This then gets debated in TV channels as if these debates and protests can help the bereaved family get back their loved ones.

It is time to boycott people who protest for the sake of protest and for the sake of publicity. We need to condemn any killing anywhere in the world and fight unitedly against it.

In my view terrorism has no religion. It has no humanity. It has no principles and it has no morals. It has nothing to do with secularism or democracy. It is inhuman and let us not eulogise it.  

Let us together get to the root cause of terrorism and help our children and younger generations of the future to live in a peaceful world, where everyone loves each other irrespective of religion, caste, creed or nationality.

Terrorism leaves behind families homeless and headless like the remains of a dead honey bee comb(as in the photo above), which once was home to hundreds of bees.

Let us fight for humanity and condemn killing of every human being wherever and whenever it happens and pray for their families. Let us not be selective in criticism and project ourselves as the saviours of humanity, only when it suits us and helps us become TV stars by making arrogant and irresponsible statements to get cheap publicity.

Let us preserve and promote love and humanity in the world.

S Ramesh Shankar

The Indescribale…


There are many things in life, which can never be described.  How do we describe the beauty of nature ?  How do we explain the colours of the sky during a sunset ?  What shades of green can be explained in an ever green forest ?  There are such and similiar situations, where words cannot explain a scene.  I would call them the indescribable moments of life.

I have experienced many moments in life, which are indescribable.  The first and foremost in my mind is the spectacle of nature from morning to night.  Every day when I get up and look at the sunrise and the cloud formation, it is a new picture and changes every second.  There have been days when my wife or me have seen a beautiful skyline at dawn and called upon our partner to have a look and it has disappeared or changed within seconds. 

Life is no different.  We go through ups and downs in life and every moment is precious.  There are moments of joy, when words cannot express our feelings.  We may not be able to share our joy with others or express it ourselves.  It may be an inner feeling of happiness and contentment, which is to be experienced to be believed.  It happens to me in moments of solitude.  It could be a lonely temple or a monastery in a forest.  There is no human being or animal around you but you feel one with nature and this moment can never be described or shared with anyone at that moment.

The situation is similar when we are sad.  It could be a day when you are remembering your parents, who left you on earth decades back.  You recall life’s greatest lesson taught by them and feel their vacuum in your life.  This feeling of inertness cannot be expressed to anyone in words or emotions.  You cry to yourself and sometimes even without shedding a tear from your eyes.  No force on earth can console you during these moments and your tears appear to dry up even before they roll down your eyes.

At work too you have moments, which are not describable to any one.  You feel you are competent to deal with a situation and take on a project based on your likes.  But as you go through the project there are days of despair when you feel helpless and lonely.  You do not feel like sharing this feeling or emotion with anyone around you lest you are misunderstood by anyone.

Even within your family and home, there are moments when you do not want to share your emotions with anyone lest you hurt them.  You may have had a bad day at work but you believe your family members should not bear the burden of your work pressures and hence you hide your feelings.  These moments are equally difficult to describe for anyone who is going through them in reality.

So life has moments of joy and sorrow.  We find it easy to describe some of these moments.  However, there are other moments when words cannot express what we go through.  We neither can share through words nor through emotions what we actually go through.  It is these moments we need to learn to deal with ourselves so that we spring back to balance life our own way.

How can we describe the formation of the clouds and the colour of the skyline during a beautiful sunset on any day as in the photo above ?

Let us learn to live with life the way it is rather than the way we want it to be always.

S Ramesh Shankar

Dilemmas in Life

At every stage of life, we are faced with dilemmas, which are difficult to resolve. I faced one such dilemma in my life today. I was not sure what is the right answer. If I had said yes, I may have been fair to the person and if I said no, I may have been fair to the organization. So either way it may not be the right answer.

One is faced with such dilemmas in every stage of our life. It may start with our studies. Which course should I take and why ? Firstly, we are not sure and then if we seek counsel, we are further confused. We may get contradictory advise from different persons. . Everyone may have your best interest in mind but how do we say yes to one and no to another.

The next major dilemma one faces in life is that of choosing a job. While you qualify for something, you may end up with an offer of employment in some other field. While you want to choose one, your well wishers advise you for something else. Choosing one can please one and displease another.

Another common dilemma is the decision on marriage. Everyone has an opinion on when one should marry and with whom. If your parents are keen for you to marry and you are not ready, it may be a dilemma. On the other hand, if you are keen and your parents want you to wait for a while, you are still in the same situation. What do you do next ?

Yet another common dilemma is a decision to change jobs. You may have considered all options and possibilities but you may end up more confused than before. While your spouse has a view, your parents have the opposite view and your kids have a third opinion. It is not easy to come out of such a web.

Honestly, I do not have a magic pill to resolve dilemmas in life. But, as I reflect I realise one good way to resolve them is to have authentic conversations with all concerned and share the reasons for your choice honestly and either convince them or convince yourself to change a decision.

This may be easier said than done. It may be easier to convince oneself than to convince others. You have to try it to believe it. In my view, convincing oneself to change a decision is as difficult as to convince others. But, this is one way to ensure that you are listening to everyone and taking the best decision in the circumstances you are in.

As in the photo above, you may be reflecting what to do without knowing how to do it in any situation .

Another interesting thing is that all decisions are contextual. Hence whatever you decide is the best in the circumstances you took it in. If it works out, it is great, if it does not, one should not regret it. One could not have taken a better decision at that point of time in your life.

Life is full of dilemmas and hence it is better to face it head on rather than duck.

Try it.


S Ramesh Shankar