Surviving a crisis in life

There are some moments in life which drown you in a sea of grief. Losing a near and dear is irrevocable. It feels as if the sun has set in your life and will never rise again. You also feel as if the moon will not light the night sky. You feel lonely but want to be left alone. No words of comfort can console you. You have no tears to cry in your eyes

I have gone through such moments in my life. I lost my mother at 23 and my father at 25. It was in quick succession and I had just started my career at 22. Fortunately my sisters were married and settled and I had to only take care of my younger brother. But still the question, which haunts you at such moments is – “Why me “?

You have led an honest life. You have been good to everyone around you – family, friends and relatives. You loved your near and dear one the most and God has snatched him/her away from you. You not only wonder why but also wonder why only you. These are normal feelings and anyone facing this situation will go through. No words of consolation soothes you. You get no answers from God or anyone around you. It’s only time, which heals you and not the words, conversations or people around you at this time of grief.

Your world is lonely. The gush of the wind is not heard by you. The song of the birds do not lighten your somber mood. The sound of the waves in the sea reverberate your hurt feelings. You lose faith in yourself and in God. You may stop visiting temples, churches or mosques irrespective of whichever religion you follow.

It is only time, which may heal you. It is at this juncture, you need to believe in yourself. You need to be a supportive partner to your family. Together, you need to weather this storm. You need to take courage from poor people, who live in small hutments near the sea. They face the wrath of the rains every year. The thunderstorms blow away their houses, their belongings and sometimes even their near and dear ones. They may be fisherfolk and fishing is their only source of income. So , they come back to the sea to start their life afresh.

Our life may not be very different. We may face one crisis after another. We may lose faith in ourselves and in others. We may also lose belief in God. But as time heals our wounds, we need to limp back to stand up and live life all over again. We need to look for people around us, who may have lost much more than what we have. We need to seek blessings and express our gratitude to God – to bless us for all that we have and give us the courage to bounce back. During such crisis, we need to be thankful to the people around us, who stood like the boulders on the ocean front, which faces the wrath of the sea waves every year to protect us from damage and destruction.

We need to believe that the sun does rise next morning after every sunset. Even the moon resurfaces after a no moon day. We do get rewarded for our efforts. We have to be thankful that we did our best and sometimes a crisis in life is inevitable – may be not in our hands and it could be nature’s way of helping us keep our feet on the ground.

Our life ahead is an opportunity. We need to learn to bounce back. Let time heal your scars and I am sure you will find ways to bring joy to others. You may get an opportunity to take care of other people like your own. You could think of all the good memories with your near and dear one and all the joy he/she brought into your life. It is sweet memories of our lives, which keeps us going in good and bad times.

The clouds do settle down and the blue beautiful sky returns after some time. We need to wait patiently for the blue sky to return in our lives as in the photo above. There is nothing permanent in life.

Selfless service and gratitude to those who stood by your side during your crisis are useful ways to bounce back in life. Wish you all the best.

 

S Ramesh Shankar

4th Sep 2021

PS : Dedicated to everyone who has lost someone close to their heart in their lives.

 

 

 

  

Diversity in friendship

One of the most fascinating things in India is its rich culture, heritage and diversity. I was blessed to be born in a family where my father was in central government service. We got transferred almost every 3 to 4 years and thereby transgressed the length and breadth of our beautiful motherland.

I was born in Trichy. I grew up in Kolkota, Jabalpur and Chennai. Then I have worked in Bhilai, Indore, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and now Mumbai. Every part of the country has taught me something. The place, the culture, the people and the traditions have fascinated me.

What has fascinated me most is the diversity in the friends I have in life today ? I have friends from the north, east, west, centre and south of the country. I have friends from various religions – Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhist and et all. The beauty of India is its imbedded diversity.

After having worked in a corporate for many years, I find it interesting when many multinational organisations take diversity as a priority. India is blessed with diversity as an integral part of the nation. I have seen this physically and in spirit when I started my career in a public sector undertaking in central India.

We had people from almost all states of India and representing all religions, castes and communities. We all worked as employees living and working together. There was never a sense of discrimination or divisiveness. This may be equally true for all central government offices.

The concept of India is the essence of diversity. It is ingrained in the psyche of all Indians. We live in 29 different states. Each state has its own language and culture. But we all merge into one when it comes to India. Sports is a great reminder of of our diverse culture.

If you take any team sport, you will find people from all states and all religions. Although there is no reservation for team selection but it is evident that the best performers in that sport come from different parts of the country.

The diversity of friends have made me whom I am today. They have honed my skills and made me respect and learn from everyone around me. They have made me realise that meritocracy cuts across states and religions.

We are able to appreciate the food choices and festivals celebrated across the country. This has been possible because of the diversity of friends and colleagues I have lived and worked with throughout my life.

It has made me realise that in a way diversity is an attitude of the mind. The way we treat people around us. The way we respect differences. The willingness to be challenged by anyone or everyone around you. When you have people in your team who come from varied backgrounds including state, language or religion, they bring with them a wealth of diverse experience.

As in the photo above, diversity in unity is embedded in the Indian ethos.

I am grateful to God for blessing me with a set of diverse friends. They have moulded me into who I am today. I would be grateful to them throughout my life. They have shaped my career. They have made me a sensitive human being.

Let diversity shape us always.

S Ramesh Shankar

11th October 2018

Be the change you want to see…

Mahatma Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see..”. The time has come today.

Everyone in my organisation today was waiting for the big announcement by our global CEO. Every employee was wondering what is likely to be announced and how it will impact her or him.

An organisation is a network of people. It is not buildings, factories or fixed or movable assets. It is the people working in them. So, if there is a change, it will impact the people more than any other asset. While we can rebuild a factory, office or any other asset, it is much more difficult to sustain the motivation of our team members during a change process. This is where we as leaders have a role to play.

The market place is changing more rapidly than we can anticipate. We are also transforming as an organisation. However, the speed of change is accelerating faster than the change itself and hence organisations have to anticipate this speed and be prepared for it.

We all should be happy that the board of our organisation has been proactive to anticipate this change and deal with it well ahead of times. We can be sure that the organisation change will benefit all stakeholders and especially our customers. We, as employees have to strengthen this process by being part of the change rather than worrying about it.

What can we do about this change happening around us ? First of all listen, be calm and welcome this change. Secondly, lets be the change agent. We need to lead our teams to a better tomorrow. We need to communicate effectively, listen to their concerns if any and address them empathetically.

The board of our company seems to be burning the midnight oil to prepare for this change. We need to trust their capabilities and their ability to steer this change. We need to prepare ourselves to adapt to this change and be the winning team.

A very detailed communication plan is being put in place and every employee will be touched through this plan. They are anticipating the likely impact on individuals, businesses and the organisation as a whole and are getting prepared to deal with it. As a fair employer, our enterprise will take care to deal with all issues with equanimity and fairness.

Apart from trusting the leaders in the organisation, we need to trust ourselves. We have to believe in our capabilities. For instance, we may have represented our country in the recently concluded world soccer championship. So, we may be among the best 15 football players in our country. But tomorrow, the selection may be for a continent – representing more than one country. We need to be the best among the best to be in that team.

The organisation of tomorrow will mean adapting to the radical changes of the business environment. We need to be ready to radically change. Our roles may change, our business may get redefined but our values and ethics will remain the same. Our customers will not change and hence we need to prepare ourselves to continuously and seamlessly deliver value to our customers.

Last but not the least, we need to be calm. There is no change in life which will not impact us in some way. Every change has to be dealt with calmness. If we are the best in whatever we do, there is nothing for us to worry about. If we are willing to adapt ourselves to the organisation of tomorrow, we have nothing to fear.

Our calmness will determine our success. We all strive for rapid change but when it impacts us , we may not be fully ready to face it. It is time to challenge ourselves. The best way to anticipate this change is to be a catalyst to the change process. A belief in our leaders and ourselves will help us deal with it.

Let us change for the better.

S Ramesh Shankar

30th July 2018

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

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

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

Position & Possession

IMG_5850

Is our life ruled by position or possession only ?  Lets explore. We can examine this hypothesis from three different lenses and the answer seems to be similar.  Let us first examine it from the lens of the family.  We may be born in a middle class family in a small village.  Our status in the society where we are born is determined by the position held by our family members in the society around us.  In the olden days, your caste determined your status in society.  After all caste is also a social position class.

Now if we look within the family social structure, the story is not very different.  The power structure is determined by the position you hold in the family tree.  An elder in the family whether parents or grandparents can never be wrong as compared to their children in any situation.  At least this is the way we are brought up.  I respect elders in the family but there is a possibility that in some situations our children may be right and we may be wrong.  But, we generally will be in a denial mode unless we are magnanimous in our attitude.

We can then move to the lens of organisation.  The hierarchy determines the power structure in organisations.  The higher you are in the hierarchy the less you can be wrong in any situation.  Thus position determines power and thereby influences all decisions in the organisation.  The situation is no different if you examine this from the lens of society.  The public figures who hold positions of power determine the direction the society has to move and those who are powerless are less influential in society.

Now, lets examine as to why we are possessive by nature.  We all are born into this world with no possessions and when we leave this world we can carry no possessions.  But in between these two events in our life, we spend most of our time accullumating possessions.  As a kid, we want all the games and gadgets in the family or in the circle of friends we have.  Then as an individual as we grow up, we want to maximise our material wealth at any cost most of the times.  We do not have time to sit and listen to our family or friends in distress.

If we move to the organisational context, the situation is similar.  Most organisations work at maximising shareholders’ wealth at any cost.  They want to increase profits at the cost of society if needed.  Very few organisations look at what they can give back to society unless the governments statutorily compel them to do so.  This again proves that as individuals and organisations we are possessive by nature and we want to maximise at the cost of society in most situations.

I sometimes wonder ” why we are crazy after positions or possessions in life ?”. Is it a physical or psychological need ?  I am not sure.  But, I do realize that the root cause of conflicts in family , organisations and society is the craving for positions or possessions in their life time.  This is amply clear if we introspect or objectively look at organisations and societies around us.  As in the photo above, the position we hold and the assets we possess may give us a sense of power.  It is up to us to ensure that we remain grounded always with our feet firmly on the ground.

It is time to reflect. There is nothing wrong to yearn for a position or assimilate possessions in life.  But, as long as we are able to restrict them to fulfil our needs rather than greed, it is fine.  We also need to learn to give back to society.  The day we have this realisation, we wake up and feel actualised in life.  It is never too late to make this distinction.

Let us try to start today

S Ramesh Shankar