Religious fanatics

I have lived and worked in different parts of India – east, west, central, north and south. Although I belong to south of India, I am an Indian at heart and have learnt to respect all religions, caste, creeds and nationalities with my upbringing in family and society.

One thing which I hate is the fanatics in every religion. It cuts across religions and these people make ordinary men and women lose respect for religions. Who is a religious fanatic ? In my view, any person who uses religion to fulfil his or her selfish personal goals is a fanatic. Such people misuse religion for their personal benefit. No religion in the world promotes hatred towards another religion. But it is these fanatics who make people believe it and create discord in society.

I am a Hindu by religion and I am proud of it.(  as in the photo above).  Hinduism does guide us to respect all religions and beliefs. In my view, all religions lead us to the same destination. The path adopted may be slightly different but we reach at the same goal. It is like the skill of a soccer player. Some may dribble the ball while others may use their brute power but ultimately all players want to hit the goal post.

The religious fanatics create misunderstanding and disbelief amongst their followers about other religions. In order to prove that their religion is superior to other religions, they may end up creating hate and violence in society. Sane people in society should isolate such deviants in society and ensure that they do not succeed in their actions.

I personally believe that all human beings want to live peacefully and co exist with others in a harmonious way. Every society promotes peace until such fanatics spread their venom. We need to be guarding against such evil men and women in every part of the world.

Even in India, since Independence our Constitution guarantees a secular democratic republic. It encourages each of us to follow any religion of our choice and respect all others. However, there are fanatics even here who create a deliberate doubt in the minds of their followers towards other religions. We need to boycott such people and condemn their actions.

As a Hindu, I have always believed in the peaceful co existence of all religions. It is like the dress we wear. Every part of India, the dress and fashion is different. It is possibly guided by the weather conditions and peoples likes and dislikes. Nobody is forced to dress the way others do in some other state of India. The same is true for religion. We can follow what our heart says and without any fear.

If the fanatics come in our way, we need to crush their actions and ensure that they never succeed in any of their evil designs for society. We need to promote men and women who respect all religions and beliefs. We need to ensure that every citizen of the world has the freedom to chose what they want to pursue and the liberty to change if they so desire at any point of their life but on their own volition without coercion or force.

Let all religions coexist peacefully and lead us to the same goal.

S Ramesh Shankar

22nd November 2019

Caring comes from within

I was watching a Kannada movie, where the heroine tells her hubby that he could have taken up a job offer to work abroad and that may have helped him to take care of his old mother and ailing uncle. The hero responds that caring is about taking your mother to the temple and spending quality time with your ailing uncle. It cannot be compensated by money. It really struck a chord with me.

Many of us may be thinking that we can provide anything to anyone with money. We do not realise that money cannot buy everything in life. Money cannot buy time for us. Money cannot get us happiness. Money cannot ensure good health for us.

Our parents sacrifice everything they can so that they give us the best of education and health. They hide their miseries to keep us happy. They ensure that we are not burdened by their life struggles and get bogged down in our education or our career.

So, when we are done with our education and our career, it is time for us to care for them. Interestingly many of us may think that if we provide enough financial support, we are fulfilling our duties towards our parents or elders. It may not be fully true. While money can buy material things in life, it can never substitute for emotions and care which the elderly long for.

The other day someone was narrating to me an incident of how his uncle repeats the same story again and again every time he meets him. He just listens to him and that gives him joy. We may not realise that we as kids may have asked our parents stupid questions or even repeated the same thing again and again till our curiosity was quenched. Our parents, teachers and elders never lost their patience to answer all our inquisitive questions. Today it is our turn. Paying back is the time we spend with the people we care.

Paying back cannot be done always with money. Expressing gratitude is not like repaying a bank loan. While a loan can be repaid and closed, expressing gratitude is timeless. The people who have helped us while we were walking up the mountain of our life may not wait for us when they are walking down their mountain of life.

Each of us will go through the same cycle of life. What we sow, we may reap in the future. If we are grateful to the people who helped us stand up in life without expecting anything in return, we may get support from unexpected quarters when we are slipping down the path of life. I have always believed that we need to be selfless in helping others and God will take care of us when we need it most.

Our ability to remember that relationships are not “transactional” is the key to life. Life is a zero sum game. Life is not always about repaying debts – financially or otherwise. Life is about unconditional gratitude to the people, who have made us what we are today. Life is about the realisation that what happens to someone today may happen to us in the future.

Life is about spreading joy in the life of others. If we can bring a smile to someone we care, we have made their day. This may not be possible always by spending money. It could be the time we spend their them. It could be by being there when they need us most. It could be doing something for them without their even knowing about it.

We need to remember that our parents did not do what they did for us expecting anything in return. The last thing they expect from us is money. The most important need is to realise that our needs go down as we age. We do not care for the material things in life. What we long for is quality of time, relationships, love and care.

As in the photo above, every time I spent quality time with my nonagenarian aunt, I have learnt more about life and living and understood the meaning of love and care. Her unconditional love and patience has always made me realise the value of sharing and giving without expecting anything in return.

Let us commit to look within. Life is cyclic and if we do not realise it today, it will make us realise when we are at the receiving end of life.

Time to realise is today.

S Ramesh Shankar

6th February 2022

It’s beautiful world to live in…

I hail from a lower middle class family and have seen the trials and tribulations of life. As I grew up in a government employee’s sole income , we did not have the luxuries of life at home. No TV, fridge or car at home and we had to sleep on mats and on the floor. This financial condition of our family did not deter our spirits nor prevented us from getting the best education possible and the values, which have always kept us happy and contented in life.

After my education, when I started my career in a public sector undertaking far away from my home town, my income was minimal but the opportunities to learn were unlimited. It laid the foundation for my career and also gave me the knowledge, skills and attitude to craft my own career .

I then moved to private sector after almost a decade and a half and each of the organisations I worked for took me to different parts of the country and the world. Each city taught me life lessons in plenty and each country I visited widened my perspective.

My family supported all my decisions in my life. This made my children live and study across different cities in the country. They never cribbed or sulked. On the contrary, I would say that every movement made them more adaptable to change. Today I am confident that they will survive and thrive in every situation they face in life, where ever they live and work.

Marriage as an institution that brought balance to my life. My spouse has been my life long partner sharing my joy and sorrow with equal measure. She has gone through all the tests of life along with me without winking an eye lid and has enabled me to achieve whatever little I could in my life. I owe to her for what I have accomplished in my life and career so far.

Family as an institution has been the foundation of my life. Learning the basic values from my parents, I moved on to set up my own nuclear family. Having lost both my parents at a very young age, it compelled me to take responsibilities and moulded me into a mature person to deal with life in all its dimensions.

My children have equally supported my growth and development in my career. I have experienced the dislocation in education and its impact on your academics on your education. They have sportingly moved from city to city along with us without any complaints or any drop in their performance. Hats off to both my daughter and my son.

God has been kind to me and my family throughout my life. I knew the value of money at a very early stage of life. After thirty eight years of corporate life, when I retired I can say that I am fully self reliant on my financial well being today. However, I have been happy right through my life. I have got all that I wanted in my life and may be it is time to give back in equal measure now.

I have always believed that this world is such a beautiful place to live. Why do many of us spend most of our time crying about what we do not have in this world ? On the other hand, will life not be happier and joyous for us if we celebrate all that we have in the world. Many of us are so privileged that we have a place to live in, good food to eat and a happy family supported by friends and relatives.

Life is beautiful like the neelakurunji flowers blooming once in twelve years in the Coorg hills as in the photo above.

I feel it is time to change our attitude to life and living. It is time to celebrate every day of our lives for all that we have and not regret for some things we may not have. It is time to realise how privileged we are as compared to millions of other people, who struggle to get two square meals a day.

If we celebrate life and live happily, we create a beautiful world around us and realise how wonderful the world is. The day to start celebrating life and the world is today and the time to start is now.

S Ramesh Shankar

3rd February 2020

Practise before you Preach

Most of us are born preachers. We love to give advice even before we are asked. This habit has been inherited from generations. I do not know whether it is in our genes or not but it is prevalent around the world in human beings.

One of the interesting insights I got from “Vidhurshastra”, a Hindu relic is “Never give advice to an adult, unless asked for”. I read it only a few years back and since then have tried my best to follow. Although, I must admit that I fail once in a while and go ahead giving free unsolicited advice.

I feel less annoyed at Preachers per se. The category of people who preach before they practise is the one I find amusing. I can narrate quite a few interesting anecdotes from my life where I have experienced this.

The first instance was I went for routine annual medical check up. I was found overweight by a few kgs for my age. The physician who examined me looked at my reports and enquired if I exercise everyday. I told her that I walk and do yoga every day. She said without blinking her eye that I need to exercise more to lose weight to maintain good health. She was technically right. But coming from a person who was atleast ten kgs overweight for her age was very amusing to me.

I have seen many parents advising their kids to refrain from smoking and drinking although they feel quite normal to smoke or drink daily in their lives. These preachers not only put off their followers but end up as hollow and nobody will be willing to listen to them. Their kids may have to listen to them till they grow into adolescents and then they would rebel as they see a wide gap between what they say and what they do.

I have seen social activists fighting for great social causes like anti dowry, domestic violence against women and treating servants humanly etc. However, if you peek into their own personal lives, we find they take dowry , consider domestic violence normal in their own homes and treat their servants inhumanly.

Children will always follow what you do rather than what you say. Its good to practise before you preach. If you wear a mask always, kids need not be told to do so. They will do it on their own as in the photo above.

This reminds of the next category of such phoney human beings. They are the so called religious leaders. They are present in almost all the religions. They preach abstinence and dignity of women and practise the other way. They exploit the emotional vulnerability of women and men and misuse their position of significance in society.

I do not want anyone to get me wrong. I am not against anyone giving advice to anyone. However, I feel it is unfair to give advise on anything unless we follow it before we give suggestions to others. If I do not follow something, I have no moral authority to give advise on the same to anyone – irrespective of whether someone seeks it or not.

My mantra in life is simple. Practise before you Preach.

 

S Ramesh Shankar

24th Jan 2020

Should we be active or remain calm ?`

I am sure most of us would have made multiple new year resolutions to lose weight and become fit. A friend interestingly told me that “mobility leads to physical fitness, and calmness leads to mental fitness”. I was awe struck by this sentence. I reflected on it and realised that there is so much insight in this sentence.

Life is a fine balance between being physically fit and mentally fit. If you need to be physically fit, you need to keep moving your body. You need to exercise and control your diet so that you are able to maintain your weight and maintain your physique.

On the other hand, if you want peace of mind and be mentally fit, you need to ensure that your mind does not wander and is calm at times. Our mind wanders faster than the speed of light and most of the time we are thinking and not listening to others. We respond before someone completes a sentence. All this leads to stress and thereby to many mental disorders like depression etc.

One may think if you are physically fit, you are healthy. It may not be true. Similarly, if you are mentally calm (since you have your mind under your control) does not necessarily make you healthy as you may be obese and may have poor physical fitness.

All of us go through ups and downs in life. We have high and low days. We have our successes and failures. On the other hand all of us want to be fit – both physically and mentally. While most of us resolve to improve our physical fitness, many of us are not able maintain to our mental fitness.

We tend to blame the environment, the work stresses, the climate change and all external factors for our state of being. We forget that both physical and mental fitness is well within our control. Nobody has prevented me to have a daily physical exercise routine. Nobody has asked me to take all the stress to my head and further pass it on to my colleagues and family members.

So, we need to ask the questions to ourselves. If we honestly do, we may find the answers too. What do I need to be physically fit every day ? How do I manage my mental wellness ? Am I the only guy or girl facing stress in life ?

Thus, if we are honest to ourselves and make up our mind to challenge ourselves every single day of our life, we will change. We need to move our bodies to be physically fit and keep our mind calm to be mentally fit.

If you silently admire the gushing water in a falls, you can experience calmness although water is in motion as in the photo above.

Let us choose an exercise or a game of our choice and be self disciplined to follow a regimen every single day of our lives. We need to commit to ourselves that we will not allow any stress in our lives to hamper our well being. We will neither allow stress to impact us nor will we pass it on to others in our network in the family or the organisation.

Life is after all a fine balance between action and calmness. Let’s try.

S Ramesh Shankar

9th July 2019

Does beauty lie in perfection ?

I have always wondered if beauty lies in perfection or otherwise ? I have seen that the truth may lie somewhere in between. I live in a home today which is built by a builder whose architects play around with the beauty in the imperfections of nature.

On the other hand, I used to live in a flat where the architects believed that beauty lies in perfection. In that flat everything will be perfect to the core and almost like a mirror image of each other.

While I admired both the houses and the builders, I always wondered whether beauty lies in perfection or imperfection ? This may be true in life too. I have always been a reasonably organised person in my personal and professional life.

All my things at home will be in its place and all things will have a place in my home. Similarly my office space will be reasonably organised so that you can retrieve anything in reasonable time.

I have met people in my life who aim for perfection as the means and the others who consider it an end. There are some who get highly disturbed even if a small pin is not kept in its rightful place. On the other hand, there are others who thrive in chaos.

Another good example could be our planning process. I love to travel to places. So, while I travel I plan reasonably well in advance, book my tickets, hotels etc. Even if I am travelling by car, I am clear on my route and the place where I plan to stay. However, it may be fun sometimes to tread on a journey where the destination or the route is unknown.

There are people who fear the unknown and there are others who fear the known. So the truth in life may lie in between the two extremes. A teacher who teaches you up to the last alphabet may do a good job but a teacher who enables you to explore the last alphabet may also kindle the curiosity in you.

I am not sure whether perfection adds to beauty or it destroys ? If we plan perfectly life is beautiful but imperfection makes life adventurous. So life is not black and white. It is grey most of the times. We need to learn to aim for perfection but should be willing to deal with imperfection and enjoy the journey instead of cribbing about it.

The beauty of the craft in the photo above may be in the imperfection more than the perfection.

If you buy a hand woven garment most manufacturers will tell you that no two garments will be similar. The hand craft of a weaver is reflected in the garment and hence each garment could be different but may be beautiful. On the other hand, machine made garments may all be perfect to design and no dissimilarities between two of them and this may make it boring.

So, we have to learn to live with imperfections to have a perfectly happy life.

S Ramesh Shankar

18th October 2019

Live in “Absolute” not in “Relativity”

I have always wondered – “What makes people happy ?”. After a lot of thought and reflection, I have evolved a simple hypothesis to be happy in life. Many of us spend our life time living everyday by comparing ourselves with people around us. It even starts in our childhood. Our parents tend to compare us with other children in academics and other activities and thereby rate our performance. Our teachers do the same and hence our society judges us by comparison only.

We grow up that way and tend to live life by comparison. We start with our student days and look at how have we done vis a vis our siblings or friends or relatives. We then worry why our career is slower than our friends and relatives. We lose our sleep if our neighbour gets a new car and we cannot afford one.

Life goes on this way. At work, life is no different. Our performance is assessed in relation to our peers. Even performance management systems are designed to assess performance in relative terms. So we end up as a point of reference in a bell curve. Some doing better than us and some worse.

In my view, the foundation of unhappiness is our living by comparisons. The day we realise that if we live in an “Absolute” way without comparing ourselves with anyone around us, life would be fun and we would discover the formula for joy. This may not be easy as it is ingrained in all of us to live in “relativity”. It starts with family, friends, relatives and society at large. Even countries do not prosper because they live and die with comparisons.

Let us look at why Bhutan is the happiest country in the world although they may not be the wealthiest. This is because the rulers as well the countrymen live in “absolute” terms. The people of Bhutan consider happiness as the means to the end as well the end in itself. They do not compare their GDP or wealth or development with other countries in any other way.

So, it is time for us to sit back and think about it. If we start living for ourselves and our happiness we will not worry about what others do or have. We will be happy with what we have and not die for what others have and we don’t. We need to be content with what we have. This does not mean we should not aspire for higher things in life. Of course we should but not because others have it but because we can work towards achieving it for ourselves.

Every parent should look at the innate talent of each child and let her or him prosper, grow and realise their potential. Every manager should look at each employee as a talent and provide the necessary environment for him or her to grow based on their potential and not their performance in relation to other colleagues.

I am convinced that if I live life on my own terms, there will be less and less reasons to be unhappy. I have tried to be content with what I have right from the day I started my career. With the active support of my partner and my kids, I have been happy most of the time in life. So, this hypothesis is not based on any management theory but personal belief and practise.

We can best learn from children of how to enjoy life in absolute rather than suffer in relativity by comparisons, as in the photo above.

You have a right to have a alternate opinion and I have a right to differ with you.

Let us exchange our views on this issue so that together we make everyone happier every day.

Together we can.

S Ramesh Shankar

10th August 2019

Life is more than an individual…

We sometimes fantasise that life is all about ourselves as an individual. This is truly a fantasy. The earlier we realise , the better it may be for our lives. Let us start from our personal lives including our family, friends and society.

Imagine how life would be without being part of a family. We may be born alone when we arrive at earth but there can be no life without being a member of a family and a community. It is rightly said that man is a social animal. We cannot imagine leading life all alone. We need siblings and friends all the time to enrich our lives.

This is the reality of life from childhood to senescence. Imagine a child growing up all alone with nobody around to play with. Imagine a youth without friends around her. Can we imagine a senior citizen living all alone at home and staring at the four walls ? Life would not only be boring but may be difficult to live through.

We need support from everyone around us in our family and social circle to grow up and succeed. We need guidance and direction from more experienced people than us. We need recognition and support when we slip along the way. We need someone to lift us up when our morale is at an all time low.

The situation is no different when we are at work. Some employees dream that the organisation exists only because of them. This is again a dream till they realise that they exist, learn and grow only because of the organisation. Organisation again is a social enterprise. It is not the building or the machines, which makes an organisation. It is the people working in them. No individual can succeed without enabling peers at work, a motivating manager and supportive customers and suppliers.

Even the best performing employees realise that they can never be successful without their team. How can one imagine of doing everything alone in life ? It is neither practical nor possible. The earlier we realise this reality in our career, the more successful we are likely to be.

Let us examine a football team. Even the best player in the world cannot score a goal unless he is supported by other forwards in the team. We see this in action. Many outstanding players lose out in the long run because in spite of great talent they fail to realise the value of team work.

Sometimes by looking at the mirror as in the photo above, we tend to believe that that life is all about ourselves till we come out and see the world.

Life is no different. As we have seen whether in the family, work, community or society, our success lies in our ability to grow beyond our individualism. We need to realise this early and learn the art of working in teams. It is the give and take in life, which will make us successful.

We need to realise that no individual is larger than the team she represents. If individuals excel in team work, they may be more successful than others. So, life is all about working in groups and enabling each other to succeed.

Let’s transcend from individual to team thinking today.

S Ramesh Shankar

16th November 2018

What you give, you get back…

What goes around, come around is a common saying. In my view, this is equally true in life. We have to remember that what we give to others, we get back in some form. If we share love and happiness, we get the same. If we spread hatred, it may come back to us in some form.

It is equally true in money and material things. If we are willing to share our material wealth with others in whatever little ways we can, we are blessed with more wealth. If we are able to help a friend, colleague or relative in distress, God helps you in more ways than one when you are in trouble.

I have seen this and experienced this in multiple ways in my life. Let me illustrate with a few examples. Whenever I have tried to help someone in distress in cash or kind, God has always returned me with caring support when I have been in despair.

I have also noticed that whenever I have faced a cash crunch, I have got some unexpected surprise inflows, which I did not think of at all. I feel this is because I may have done some good to someone without expecting anything in return when they were in trouble.

It is equally true for sharing our knowledge and skills. The more we share with others, the more we get from others in terms of their knowledge and skills and thus helping us grow everyday.

We could easily learn some good lessons on giving from a pet dog. You nurture and care for a dog and she will give her life for you. I had a Labrador at home. She was so caring that she will not eat anything unless my wife had finished her lunch or dinner. As humans, we can ape these noble qualities even from animals around us.

So, it is worthwhile to believe that in life, we get what we give to others. It could be in cash, kind or feelings. It may neither be directly correlated nor scientifically established by any logic. We have to believe in this destiny of life and it will hold true for us. There are some things in life which we have to do without any logic or reasoning and this is one of those actions.

If you do not believe in this theory, that may also be fine. It is your truth and cannot be equated to anyone else’s truth. You may have experienced life otherwise and that is your reality. However, it is worthwhile to challenge ourselves and our belief with the backing of others sometimes and it may work miracles.

I have been challenged by some younger people in my family and work teams who believe that this theory may not be valid today. Even in a sports field they believe that this is not true. I have an alternate view and still hold on to it. In my view even a sportsperson who is well behaved on the ground is respected more than others. You get back the same respect you give to others in life or on the sports field.

As in the picture above, you give milk to a stray cat which is hungry and someone may feed you some day when you are hungry.

Each of us have a right to hold our own view. I just want to share my experience in life and urge you to experiment and make your own judgement. I still believe we get back what we give to others in life.

Let us give and try.

S Ramesh Shankar

20th December 2018

You share more, you learn more…

I have been privileged in life in every way. I have learnt from everyone around me at home and at work. Every family member and friend has been generous in sharing their knowledge, skills and life lessons with me. Similarly at work, every colleague I have worked with or interacted with has been more than eager to share their learnings with me.

I have sometimes wondered as to why people conserve their knowledge. Some people believe that if they share their knowledge or skill, they may lose their competitive advantage or their worth in life. I think the other way around. The more you share, the more you learn.

Let us reflect on own lives from childhood. Every time we recite a nursery rhyme to a kid, we memorise the same and never forget it. Similarly, every time I have taught maths to my kids, I have improved my own numerical abilities. In my view, it is difficult to imagine that I will lose my identity if I share my knowledge or skills with others.

I have seen this attitude at the work place too. Many senior professionals try to conserve their knowledge and skills thinking that it increases their value in the organisation. It is the other way around. A leader who is ever willing to share knowledge or skills or builds positive attitude in others is the one sought after by the team members.

One interesting dimension to be kept in mind in organisations is that even if you share a policy or a process, it cannot be aped in terms of culture or execution the way you do it in your organisation. Culture evolves. It cannot be copied. So, there is no rhyme or reason not to share your best practises with the world.

We can see in sports that the best players are ever willing to share their skills with their juniors. They never feel threatened that their juniors will learn their skills and make them redundant. Life is no different. Nobody can copy your style or attitude in life. Knowledge and skills are to shared to be sharpened. Attitude is to be ingrained from within.

Organisations and societies spend years to evolve their cultures. It is not possible for another society or culture to easily cut, copy and paste them. Similarly, it is not possible for an organisation to copy a system or a process easily unless there is a culture as a base and a value system to support it. So, we need to realise that the more we share, the more we create learning opportunities for ourselves as individuals and organisations.

Every individual learns from others more than from oneself. So, it is imperative that even as individuals, the more we share, the more we learn. Learning by sharing has to be a way of life. It has to be an attitude to life. This ensures that we can never become obsolescent.

Even sharing kulfi as in the picture above with your friends can be a learning opportunity.

Let us learn to share always.

S Ramesh Shankar

18th December 2018