The mystery

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Life and death – both seem mysteries to me. One may or may not believe in God or a super power but has to believe that life and death are not easy to understand even today. Nobody can predict who will be born in which family and neither anyone can predict who will die when.

Life itself is a mystery for me. It unfolds every day like a plant growing from the seed. We are born into a family and lead life in different ways as we grow up. We cannot be sure where we will study, work, marry or settle in life.

One may call it destiny while others call it fate. Life has its unique ways of taking us to places where we never believed we will go. It also has its unique ways to help us stay grounded when we start floating in the air.

While astrologers may predict your future based on horoscope and astrological signs, it is still a mystery, which unfolds at its own pace. While some of the predictions may come true, others may take you by surprise.

None of us can be sure where we will be born and what type of life we will lead. We know of kids born in homes of millionaires leading a pauper’s life and vice versa. While I believe we determine our destiny by our hard work and deeds, it is still an unpredictable journey and mystery to that extent.

If we look at death, it is equally mysterious. The only definite thing of life is that both birth and death happens to everyone. Anyone who is born has to die some day. But, we can neither predict life nor death for anyone. It is an elusive mystery for mankind.

None of us can predict who will die when. Neither age nor health could really determine death. I know of people who have suffered life threatening diseases and even doctors had predicted a short life for them but lived for decades beyond those predictions. On the other hand, healthy people living a decent life suddenly die as if they have finished their journey in a hurry.

Apart from birth and death, we face many other mysteries in life. We meet people whom we would have never imagined. We visit places, which we only dreamt of. We may even end up marrying someone, whom we never intended.

Life is fun when it is a mystery. Some of us are stunned by the mystery of life while others may enjoy the unknown journey. In my view, it is worth exploring life as it happens to us. Let the mystery resolve as it evolves. The more unpredictable life is the more adventurous it is likely to be. Life would be boring if we are aware of the what is in store for us in the future.

What the two parrots are talking (as in the photo above) will always be a mystery !

I am not a big fan of mystery movies but enjoy life as it comes. I am game for any adventure in life and am willing to take the risks. Let us take every day as it comes and enjoy the unknown as it unfolds in front of us.

Let life be an unknown mystery.

S Ramesh Shankar

Appearances may be deceptive

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The other day I met a family in the lounge of an airport. It was a man, his spouse and two kids. The man was wearing a religious mark on his forehead and looked very spiritual. But as soon as we entered the lounge, this person started consuming alcohol and other beverages like the other mortals around him.

I have nothing against his consuming alcohol or any other beverage. Ultimately, it is his personal choice and preference and nobody is entitled to comment on it. But, what caught my eye is that the appearance of a person may be deceptive at times.

This man looked very spiritual and one believes that a person of this type may not consume alcohol. This could either be our mindset or underlying my hypothesis that appearances may be deceptive.

I met another family in a restaurant. They looked from the lower economic strata of society but were doling out money to everyone. Sometimes physical appearance can be misleading and you form opinions about people, which may not reflect reality.

I have met people of different hues in life and generally noticed that appearances are indeed sometimes deceptive. A person may look calm and serene in appearance but may be short tempered and hotty in his disposition.

The interesting aspect to understand as to why this happens as we grow up in life. As a kid, all of us are spontaneous and our appearance will be symptomatic of our moods. One can easily make up the emotions of a kid with the appearance on her face. On the other hand, as we grow up we possibly try to camouflage our emotions and try to hide reality from the world.

This could be because we are conditioned to behave in a particular way in a particular situation. Any dissonance is considered deviant. This then gets reinforced in our psyche and then becomes a way of life. We start believing that we have to smile at the world even if we are in distress.

Of course it may be true that some people are more dramatic than others. They are good in their histrionic skills and hence can act different from what they are feeling inside. This may be more natural for some than others. My belief is that is difficult to have an internal state of emotions and express something else on the face. But that is the life which appears around us.

While it may be true that all of us try to hide our emotions sometimes, it may be desirable to express ourselves as we feel. This may be easier than done. However, the more we are able to practise, the lesser dissonance we may have in life.

As in the photo, Niagara Falls may look cool on a cloudy day. But it may not be safe to try and swim under the falls even when it is calm. Appearance can be deceptive.

Personal credibility in life is all about predictability. If our face cannot predict our emotions, then others may consider us less reliable. Hence, it is fair to state that face is an index of the mind. The more we are predictable the better for us and for all the people around us.

Let our appearance reflect the reality within us.

S Ramesh Shankar

Everyone is different…

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I have always believed that every human being is different and we need to respect it. We either tend to expect a replica of ourselves in others or want them to do what we think is success as defined by us in life.

This starts from childhood. As parents, we want every child to excel in academics. Further, we want the child to excel in subjects which we think is good for them. We tend to believe and reinforce that if the child does not excel in academia, the child is doomed in life.

This further gets accentuated in our academic institutions. Children opt for subjects more out of parental or peer pressure and may not be really enjoying studying them. When they do not do well, teachers tend to believe that the student to be unfit in their class. If every student is equally brilliant in every subject or activity in the class then the role of parents and teachers may become redundant.

Why do we tend to put everyone in a spot ? We do not realise that sometimes we end up putting round objects in a square hole and vice versa. For eg, a child good in sports could be encouraged to excel in sports rather than cram science or maths. Similarly a talented artist could be enabled to display and develop their histrionic skills rather than memorise history.

After home and school, this tendency spreads to the organisation sphere. A manager tends to expect the same performance level from every team member. On the other hand, a leader recognises that every individual is unique and is bestowed with different talents. So, while a manger treats everyone with the same wand, a leader brings out the best in every individual by them giving differential opportunities to excel.

The tendency to typecast people starts at home, spreads to educational institutions, organisations and finally to society. We find it difficult to accept people with alternate talents. If someone in our neighbourhood does not want to enter an academic institution for scholastic studies but wants to thrive on their innate talent we tend to brand them as an outlier in society.

It is time to wake up. It is time to recognise that all of us are different. Each of us are born with innate talent to do different things. It is the ability of our parents, teachers and managers to bring out the best in us. If someone is not able to tap in the talent in us, it reflects more in their inability than our ability.

Each of us have the potential to get an Oscar in the Dolby theatre (as in the photo above). We need to discover the field in which we have the potential and work hard to earn an Oscar in that field.

I have met parents, teachers and managers who do this very effectively. They do not treat every individual alike. They recognise that each of us is a talent and need to be given the space and opportunity to excel in our own way. They are not judgemental and are willing to take the risk with us as individuals. We need to practise the same with our children and colleagues at work.

It is time to realise that everyone is unique and will be that way. We need to bring out the best in everyone through our actions.

S Ramesh Shankar

8th July 2018

Frustration ?

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The other day someone told me that he is very frustrated at work. I was reminded of a very important learning early in life which someone shared with me. It defined as Frustration = Achievement – Hope . I thought it was a very powerful equation for life.

We get frustrated when either our achievements are low or our hope is too high. So mathematically speaking, one can get over frustration by either enhancing their achievements or lowering their hope. But, one does realise that life is not all mathematical.

Hence life’s issues cannot always be solved by adjusting variables in an equation. One lesson is for sure that we need to take control of what is happening to our lives. If our achievements are low, we need kick our own backs to find ways and means of improving our performance. On the other hand, if our clouds of hope are unrealistic, we need to tone them down to make them realistic.

Let us delve both on achievements and hope. Lets begin with hope. Hope is our mental creation. An imagination of what is possible in the future for us. We create our hopes and aspirations based on self belief, our own capabilities and what we see around us.

While most of the time, we may have a realistic self assessment of our own capacities , we may get swayed away by what we see around us. For eg. we belong to a lower middle class family and hope to have a car of our own. It is not an unreasonable dream. But we need to prioritise what is important for us in life. It could be kids’ education, a home to live in, a child’s marriage and so on. In such conditions, one needs to recast their aspirations to make them more realistic and postpone the dream of a car.

In real life this is what happens to most of us. We keep dreaming without any foundations and then when we land on Mother Earth with a thud, we feel bad about the consequences. On the other hand, if we keep reviewing and recasting our dreams and make them realistic from time time, this situation is less likely to happen.

Now, lets move to achievements. We all want to be the best. We look at film stars, sports persons or other celebrities and wish we could be like them. We do not realise that many of them have come up in life the hard way. Their life is visible to us only when they make it to the top. Very few of us are born with a silver spoon.

Most successful people in life have made it with sweat and tears. We do not see their toil in their formative years nor do we share their tears. What we see and feel jealous about is their prosperity. We may not realise that this has come to them after many years of toil.

As in the photo above, we may admire the geometrical beauty of the spider’s web after it is completed but do not see how many times it is damaged for various reasons before the spider does it all over again. A lesson from nature on how to manage our frustration and never give up till we achieve our goal.

During challenges like the pandemic, our frustration tolerance levels will be tested to the hilt. But it is the strong willed who will get over it with aplomb.

It may be time to introspect and ask oneself – Do I need to enhance my achievements or balance my hope ? The answers are within ourselves. We need not externalise the issues. We have a tendency to blame the world, our education system , workplace, bosses or even our family or friends for our non performance. This may not be the reality. We need to hit the reality buttons in life and then life may dramatically change for the better for us.

Time to reset.

S Ramesh Shankar

30th August 2020

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 be 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