Seasons of life


In most parts of the world we have summer, monsoon and winter around the year. Each part of the year signifies something for us. Let us start with summer.  The heat of the summer reminds us of the power of the sun. It helps us gain enough of vitamin D for the rest of the year and also ensures that nature takes care of the excess of water everywhere. It is a also a season of holidays for kids in some parts of the world and time for family vacations.

Then we eagerly await the onset of the monsoon. We get allergic to the heat of the sun and end up with allergies and heat rashes. We pray for early onset of the monsoon and await the forecast of the meteorologist. As the first rains arrive, the smell of the wet mud makes us feel nostalgic and we look forward to a good monsoon. However, cities get paralysed with floods and choking of drains and traffic jams. We then wait for the monsoon to be over and await the winter months.

Winter is mild or strong depending on which part of the world you live in. Either way, the temperatures are pleasant till it starts freezing and the Sun disappears forever. Then we get depressed and feel the absence of the Sun and the warmth. We also have cold waves in different parts of the world and people dying due to very low temperatures and inadequate protection from the chill.

Our life is no different. We have summer, rains and winter in our life too. When we are studying it looks like the long summer with a lot of heat of exams and evaluations. We look forward for a break and it ends sooner than it begins and we have another long academic session. A series of examinations, evaluations and tests is always testing us during this period.

Our youth is like the rains. While it is romantic and full of energy, it does pose us a lot of challenges. We need to get into a job or career and then decide to marry and settle in life. In all these, we face a lot of storms and traffic jams in the form of not getting a desired job or missing a promotion. Then not being able to marry a girl or boy of our choice and then eagerly waiting for a kid. By the time all this is done, the rains of life are over and we tend to lead to adulthood and the winter of our life begins.

As we set into late adulthood and have peaked in our career, we tend to become philosophical. It is like the winter of our life. Our health is impacted in some ways and we feel depressed when our family and friends do not have enough time for us.  No wonder we call it the winter blues.

When summer fades away and the clouds arrive on the horizon, it is the onset of the monsoon.  Life is also like that many a time. While the rains are romantic part of life, it could get flooded with challenges and we have to learn to face it and become a winner.

Thus the cycle of life is of summer, rains and winter. If we decide to enjoy every stage of our life, it is fun. After all, all of us go through it and it is the way life is.
Let us learn to enjoy all seasons of life.

S Ramesh Shankar

There is a time for everything in life …


We sometimes wonder why something never happens when we plan for it but happens when we least expect it.  I believe there is a time for everything in life.  One may call it destiny while others may term it luck.  It is true that things happen when they are supposed to happen and not necessarily when we want them to happen.  Even if we look at nature, it may rain on a hot and sultry summer day and there may be no rain on a cloudy monsoon evening.

Life is is no different.  We all have dreams and desires in life.  We want things to happen the way we yearn for it.  But, it does not always work that way.  If we look at our personal lives, we may have multiple examples of how things did not go the way we had envisaged.  It could be the education we wanted to pursue or the boy or girl we wanted to marry.  Life has its own way of opening itself for us and the way we adapt to it makes us a winner rather than a loser.

I am an avid traveller.  I sometimes love to take off in my car with my family with no destination in mind.  Life in a way is like that.  We may plan for something and something else may happen.  So, it may be the best thing to plan for anything and be ready for the opposite to happen.  The earlier we realize it in life, the better it is for us.  It is so much fun to explore your destination after you hit the road rather than meticulously plan for it and change it based on some road block on the way.

If we reflect on our career, the story may not be very different.  We have to plan for our career and work meticulously to achieve our dreams.  I am not for a minute recommending that destiny will determine your career.  What I am putting forth is that sometimes even in our career, there may be a turning point, which we may not have anticipated.  Rather than cribbing and crying over it, it may be helpful to accept it as a reality and make the best out of this turn.

While it may be easier to state that we need to accept the unanticipated turns in our life as destiny or luck, it may be very hard to digest it as a reality and deal with it.  What are the alternatives before us when something does not go the way we want it.  We can cry over it and feel depressed or take it in our stride and move on. I am recommending the latter approach, which makes you stronger to deal with any conditions in your life.

Even if your look at your family situation, life is not different.  Your kids may strive hard for admission in the best universities and may not get it.  But one fine day, they may get an offer from their dream organisation which they themselves may not believe to be true.  That is the fate of destiny.  While most of us feel low, when things do not go our way, we may not be equally grateful, when things go our way and we least expected it.

Like in the photo above, we least expected snow in April in Munich.  But as it was freezing, it was time to enjoy it rather than crib about it.

I would say that we need to strike a balance in life.  While we should continue to strive hard and plan for our future, we should take luck or destiny as it crosses us in life rather than wait for it.  It is like having your meal in a restaurant on the highway as it comes rather than look for a dream hotel, which may never be spotted till you reach your destination.

Life is full of surprises . Let us enjoy it.

S Ramesh Shankar

Being in the moment…


In life most of the time, we either worry about the past or brood about the future.  We hardly live and enjoy the present.   Why do we fail to be in the present and enjoy every moment ?  This appears a very simple question but most of us have experienced this in our lives and have no answers. If you ask someone when they would be content and happy, they look at something which they hope to happen in the future.  

We can experience this in every stage of our lives.  A student will say that she is looking forward to complete her education and get into employment.  A young professional who has started his career will say he wants to double his income in three years and that may make him happy.  Someone else may say marriage will bring happiness.  For the married, a child is expected to bring joy in their lives.  If you have kids, their education and success in life is expected to give you contentment.   As your children get married, you await the arrival of your grand kids to bring happiness in life.  This is the cycle of the unending quest for happiness in life.

I have always wondered as to why we fail to enjoy today.  We glorify the past or our petrified about the future.  The past is history and we all know that.  We cannot re write history.  The future is mystery and even the astrologers or futurologist cannot predict it accurately.  Then why not live in the present.  One possible hypothesis is that happiness is always relative.  We compare ourselves to the past or to the future and hence this state of flux.

The other theory to explain this could be our belief of fate.  We believe we are destined to be happy or unhappy in life.  If we succeed in life, we say its luck and if we fail we claim it is fate.  Even if we have worked hard and given our best we refuse to enjoy the present.  This fatalistic attitude to life in infused in us.  In my view, while luck and fate may exist, it is we who can make a difference to live happily in life.

I have come across people who are always happy.  The single most factor which makes them happy is that they live in the present.  They are aware of the past and forget it.  They are not clear about the future but do not lose their sleep over it.  They do their best, work hard and enjoy each day as if tomorrow does not exist.  Imagine accumulating wealth all through your life and hoping that you will enjoy it later in your life.  That tomorrow may never come and you may not live to enjoy it and regret not doing so.  So, why not enjoy it today.

I am not saying that we should not learn from the mistakes of the past and be proactive not to repeat them in the future.  I am only saying that we need to learn to live each day as it comes and enjoy every moment in front of us as we experience it.  No two human beings are similar and no two experiences repeat themselves.  We have to give our best at all times and deal with life as it comes.  Like in the photo above, the beauty of nature is there all around us to enjoy every moment of our life every day.

Let us learn to live life each day as it comes.  Let us look at all the positives around us and enjoy today and believe that yesterday is over and tomorrow is yet to come.

S Ramesh Shankar

Crossroads in Life


There comes a stage in life when you feel that you are living on the edge.  You are in a dilemma to say the least.  It is a stage in life, where you feel you want to move on, stay put or take a step back.  You weigh in all the options and then are still stuck to where you are.  It is almost like you are standing on a soil full of quick sand.  It is a terrible situation to be in, but it is true that most of us go through this in our lives.

If we look back at our personal lives, such situations haunt us.  The first such dilemma I faced in life was when my father was seriously ill with a critical illness and was in the ICU.  He had a renal failure and the doctors told me that he has to be on dialysis every week.   It would cost me quite a bit and that amount was almost what my monthly earnings were at that stage of my life.  The doctors asked me as the eldest son whether I would like to go ahead and put him on dialysis or let him die the natural way.  I was shocked and did not know what step to take.  I had no other sources of income and no other person to support me financially.  I took the plunge that I will go ahead with the dialysis knowling well that I cannot afford it and it may be a painful experience for him as well.   The only reason for this decision is that my heart told me that I should do everything to save my father as I could never ever repay what he had done for me and the rest of our family.

If I move to the work situation, the defining moment was in 1995.  I was working in a public sector undertaking, where I had started my career in 1981.  I had done well all through my career and was promoted almost every three years.  Of course, there were ups and downs during these 14 years.  I got promoted in 1995 and then I decided to resign and pursue my career in the private sector.  At that time, this was considered a high risk decision.  Everyone of my age preferred the government service and next the public sector as the best place to work in.  My seniors advised me against it.  My family members were supportive of my decision.  My friends were curious.  I was not sure whether to take the plunge or not.  I decided to move on and have no regrets of what I did.

I am sure each one of us would have gone through such dilemmas in our lives.  It could be life defining moments or life threatening ones.  Each of us weigh all the options before us and take the best decision.  Sometimes we may be proved right and other times we may be proved wrong.  It is after a period of time, people will pass the judgement and tell you how right you were or how wrong you were.  It is our ability to take both of theses situations in our stride and move on, which may make us successful in life.  We have to take a decision, own it up and move on. We ourselves will not know whether it is right or wrong. As long as we’re are sure that it is the best option before us with all the information at our end, we should just go ahead.

 One needs to listen to everyone, seek the advice of elders and the experts and then own up whatever one thinks is in the best interest of everyone.  It may work out or it may not. It does not matter.  After all life is also like a lottery.  When it clicks, you hit a bonanza and when it does not, you learn to cope with it.  As in the photo above, you sometimes do not know whether the river is taking a right or a left turn.  You realise it only after you have taken the turn and reached your destination.

Let us learn to move on in life.

S Ramesh Shankar

Reality bytes

Today I went with my wife for a tour to Dharavi in Mumbai. This is one of the largest slums in Asia. There are almost a million people living in an area of less than two square kilometres. A home is less than ten square feet and on an average houses five adults. It is indeed an eye opener. You need to visit the place to believe it. We went through an organization, which organises these tours and partly gives back its profit to support the people and children living in Dharavi.

The first part of the tour is the commercial area. In this part, thousands of men and women are working in different types of industries. The first sight of old car bumpers getting shredded and recycled as plastic beads to be moulded into chairs and other plastic durables. Then we pass through suitcase makers, the leather soles for shoes, leather bags, bakery and food items being made for consumption within themselves as well as for sale around town.

You realise how difficult are the working conditions. In dark room with minimum light people inhale dust and paint flakes as they shred material waste to generate the raw material for plastic remoulding durables. People from the remote parts of the country are working day and night leaving their families behind just to earn a livelihood. We realise how privileged we are even to be born in middle class families. Our parents take care of our education, provide us a place to stay and a decent standard of living.

Then you move to the residential area. We see people from different states of India and following different religions living peacefully together. It is here you realise that wealth may not help you buy happiness. You see children, adolescents and adults enjoying each other’s company and helping each other in their daily chores. You see happiness writ on their smiles and this makes you realise that it is not materiality which can bring you happiness in life.

You also see schools – run by government, NGOs and private organisations. While the government and other organisations are tying their best to improve the quality of their lives, the problem is mammoth. One good thing I noticed is that I did not see children working in the commercial areas although this cannot be totally ruled out.

Some of my reflections and learnings after today’s tour are –

A. We need to be grateful to God and our parents/elders for all the comforts we enjoy in life and never realise their value

B. We realise that happiness is not directly correlated to the wealth we possess. Rather happiness is a state of mind and attitude to life.

C. We also need to realise that we need to give back to society more than we get as are indeed much more privileged than millions of people around us.

As in the photo a( courtesy – Reality tours & travels)above, children sitting in a cart within the slum seem happier than many of us. We realise how privileged we are in life.

What do you think ? Is it time to reflect ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Technology & me

Technology & me

I always wonder if technology rules me or I rule technology.  When I was young, I did not have to think much on this subject.  But, as I grew older, technology seems to have taken over my life. While I am a great fan of technology, I sometimes wonder if technology helps me or harms me in my every day life.  Let us take the simple example of the mobile phone.  There is research around the world that the mobile is never more than three feet away from a human being at any point of the day or night.  This means that we depend more on the mobile than the mobile depends on us.

I think all of us have immensely benefited from technology.  I grew up when we had not seen the advent of computers.  We did not even have the television in our homes.  So, the journey from living in an era of no mobiles, TV or computers to an age where the world is fully digitised has been an exciting one. I remember the early days in my career when I had to travel more than ten kilometres to make a long distance call after waiting for my turn in a long queue.  It used to take hours of waiting in long queues and we paid through our nose for talking to our parents for just a few minutes using long distance telephone calls.

Today technology touches  us in every aspect of our life.  If we refelect on it, from the time we get up from bed till we sleep, technology supports us in many ways.  We are woken up by the alarm on our mobile phones and do not need the sound of birds or the classic alarm clock with us.  Then, we do not need to read the newspapers to know what has happened around the world.  We are connected to the world through our mobile apps and we get alerted of news events around the world within minutes of its occurrence.

If we extend to the work place, computers have changed the way we work.  The work place is no more sacrosanct.  Work moves along with you wherever you are in the world.  The ubiquitous mobile phone helps you as an office assistant with calendar reminders, emails, clock, fitness tracker and many more useful aids.  We are connected with the world on the internet and decisions are taken on issues by people sitting in different parts of the world seamlessly.  All this has been possible only due to the advent of technology.

Hence, in spite of all these benefits, why do we feel that technology is managing us rather than we managing it.  It may be because of our greedy nature.  It may be because we have become over dependant on technology.  I remember that we used to have  the landline numbers of most of our family and friends in our memory.  Today thanks to the mobile phone we do not even remember the numbers of our close family members.  Some may argue that this is convenience and hence we need not remember any phone numbers any more.  I agree.  But, there seems to be a side effect and we need to worry about that.

The side effect of technology overwhelming us is that we are losing our humanness.  We do not remember the birthdays of our family, friends or colleagues.  We do not have the time to visit a dear one in a hospital.  We have no time to play with our kids in the park.  We have no time to admire and enjoy nature.  We are more content by the number of likes to a post on social media. We get depressed if nobody comments on our post for a few minutes.

Like in the photo above while bluetooth headphones can be a great technology to listen to music, it may sometimes make you inattentive to people around you.

I believe technology is a great enabler for us.  But, may be it is time to touch people and use technology.  We are ending up using people and touching technology.  Technology does not have emotions but people have.  Let us resolve to share our feelings with our near and dear rather than use technology to do so.

Today is the most auspicious day to begin. Lets just do it.

S Ramesh Shankar

Mirror


I wonder many times as to how my behaviour with others will impact me.  I have seen in my life and career that many people get away with rude behaviour.  Sometimes people in power and authority think that have a right to behave rudely.  This happens both at home, work environment and society. Let us try to explore why this happens and what is the impact. 

At home, as I grow into an adult and become successful in my career, I tend to believe that I can boss around in the house.  I tend to take my family members for granted and sometimes even my parents.  This further makes me short tempered and unpredictable.  In some families, irrespective of both husband and wife working, there is a sense of superiority in either of us.  We are intolerant to the success of the other person and live in a make believe world. We do not realise how our behaviour as adults impacts the psychology of our own children.

If we move to the work place, the situation is not very different.  As we grow in the organisational hierarchy, we tend to believe we become demi God.  We treat our colleagues with disdain rather than human beings.  We tend to show not enough respect to people down the hierarchy.  It can result in simple courtesies not being extended to our colleagues.  It could be like not wishing back to our colleagues, when they wish us.  It could also mean not listening to junior colleagues or dictating our way through key decisions.

This tendency reflects in societal behaviours too.  People in positions of power whether in organisations, politics or other institutions tend to get egoistic.  They take everyone around them for granted.  Pride and ego dominates their behaviour.  They get away with this sort of antics as long as they are in power.  The moment they lose power, they become cowards and they do not realise how much they have hurt people till they get hurt themselves.

In all these situations, what is common is that power and behaviour seems to be directly correlated.  As power seeps into the human body, our behaviour tends to get from bad to worse.  So, it is up to us to realise this change and keep ourselves grounded and humble.  You may get respected as long as you wield power.  But, it is critical to remember that people respect your position rather than yourself.  In real life,  people respect those with character and humility.  Your words are more important than your deeds.    

All these situations signify that as parents, leaders or citizens our behaviour impacts our future generations.  Our words and actions determine our character.  Our character determine our actions.  Our actions trigger changes in society.  It is up to us to behave in a way we want our future generations to do.  Our behaviour reflects and impacts the behaviour of the younger generation.  It is like our images are reflected in the mirror every time we peep into it.

Let us behave the way we want others to do with us every day.

S Ramesh Shankar