Living for others is a rule of “Nature”

I am a great admirer of nature. I believe we have so much to learn from nature. A friend sent me a small video on nature with a lot of life lessons and that video inspired this blog.

We can look all around us in nature and learn life lessons every day. Everything in nature is in a way living for others. The rivers run from the hills to the ocean providing water to everyone who needs it without asking anything in return for itself.

The trees provide shade for others while bearing the brunt of the heat of the sun themselves. We cannot imagine the trees asking for anything in return. Even in the monsoon, the trees are like nature’s umbrellas for us when it pours. The trees do not eat their own fruits nor do they consume their leaves. They share their fruits and leaves with humans and animals without any bias .

The flowers bloom in colourful ways to brighten the lives of all living beings around them. They spread their fragrance and allow bees to carry their pollen from one flower to the other without asking for any compensation.

The sun shines all days of the year for everyone. The moon is also around to help us wade through the night. Neither the sun nor the moon send us any monthly bills for their generously spreading light in our lives.

On the other hand, we as humans are living life selfishly day in and night out. We consume nature in all its forms and give trash and junk in return. We not only destroy nature in all its forms but regrettably are not concerned about our own future generations.

We may think we are happy if we live life full of material comforts. We may be happy temporarily. But true happiness is only when we make others happy. We realise that money cannot buy everything in life. It can definitely not buy health or happiness. Thus one of the best ways to lead a happier life is by making others happy.

Nature gives us opportunities to learn every single day in every possible way to make others happy. But we are so much engrossed in our own happiness that we are oblivious of making others happy. The day we wake up from this slumber, we may kindle our own conscience.

The most important lesson nature teaches us is that “change begins with me”. If we need to change the world, we need to first learn to change ourselves. Last month I learnt thirty one different ways of making life more sustainable every day.

It is like our gardener who designed this colourful art piece did not put her name on the photo nor wanted publicity for herself. Serving others is her nature too.

If each of us are willing to learn from nature, we possibly will give back to nature much more than what we take from nature. We will not only make ourselves happy but possibly make others happy too. Nature teaches us that making others happy because of us is the true meaning of happiness.

Let us learn from nature every day and in every possible way.

S Ramesh Shankar

5th August 2022

 

People & Places

I have lived across different parts of India. My father was a government servant and this gave me the opportunity to do so. Further, after my studies, I lived and worked in different states in the north, south, east, west, central and south of India.

I found every place fascinating and the people interesting. I have learnt life lessons from each of the places I have lived and from the people living there. Although, I was born in Trichy, Tamil Nadu, I did pursue my education in Kolkata, Jabalpur and Chennai. I started working in Chennai and then moved to Bhilai, Indore, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and my last stint was in Mumbai.

Each city is close to my heart and made me a better human being in many different ways. Let me start with Kolkata. A city rich in heritage and culture taught me patience and tolerance. It also made me realise the richness of Indian culture and how traditions can be sustained through active community participation.

Jabalpur is almost the city of the defence forces. We can see heavy defence equipment being manufactured here. This city taught me how our defence personnel sacrifice their lives for the nation and protect our national borders for all of us. I also learnt pure unadulterated spoken and written Hindi from this city and its inhabitants.

Chennai is in my home state. I learnt to lead a simple life from this city. I also learnt how education can make a man and external material success is not the ultimate in life. The people in this city also taught me to be rooted in family traditions and understand the multifaceted dimensions of my religion – Hinduism.

Bhilai taught me cosmopolitan living. This steel city is a mini India. I have met people from almost all states of India living and working together happily in this city. Nobody in this city is recognised by his religion, caste or state which they belong. They are only treated as human beings. This city inculcated the values of secularism and co-existence in a beautiful way.

Indore was my next destination. It taught me the tastes of India. The variety of food available in this place is unbelievable. Apart from food, the people in this place are vey helpful and enable you to settle well without you realising it. Today it is the cleanest city in India and has been awarded for being so for the third consecutive year.

I then moved to Delhi, the capital of India. Apart from beautiful wide roads and heritage like the Red Fort, Qutub Minar and the Humanyun’s tomb, it has brought people from all over the country and the world to live and work here. I learnt the meaning of risk taking in this city. Apart from being a planned city to a large extent, it has green well laid out parks almost in every community and has a lot to offer for visitors in terms art, craft and culture.

My next destination was Bangalore, which is the ultimate destination today, where I have settled post my retirement from active corporate life. I have always envied the weather in this city, which is pleasant almost throughout the year. It is greener than most other metropolises in India and can boast to be the Silicon Valley and hub for start ups too. I decided to settle here for the weather and wonderful flora and fauna in the city. Apart from the greenery, it has great world heritage cities within a 350 kms radium and possibly the largest forest cover in India.

My last destination before I hung up my boots from the corporate world was Mumbai. I loved this city for its spirt of living. I have not seen any other city welcoming immigrants from all walks of life with open arms. Further, every dream could be fulfilled for everyone if they were willing to put in their best and luck also favoured them. There are innumerable rags to riches story not because of family lineage here but because of the individual’s talent and the abundance of opportunities. This city taught me to bounce back from every low and believe that there is sun rise after every sun set.

So, having lived in every part of India and also travelled to almost all the continents of the world, I can say there cannot be a more beautiful and diverse country than India. Every city I lived gave me something to learn. It is time for me to give back to my country in my little ways.

S Ramesh Shankar

3rd February 2020

 

The sound of the river

Siruvani river

I came for a short break to Anaikatti on the outskirts of Coimbatore bordering Kerala. I did not realise that the resort I was booked was on the banks of the river Siruvani.

On reaching this place, I got a room facing the river. This is not only scenic but the gurgling sound of the flowing river soothes your mind, body and soul. You forget the material world around you and sink into the soulfulness of nature.

It is green all around you surrounded by coconut and arecanut trees. As you watch the river from your room, you feel a sense of calm. It flows steadily and without any catalyst. This made me think why we need a push all the time in our life.

A river can possibly teach us a lot of life lessons. First and foremost it goes around its business without any fuss. It flows through the hills, forests and plains and does not look at stones, girders or hills as obstacles on the way. It considers flowing through them as part of its journey to reach its destination.

The crystal clear water of the river signifies that we can be pure at heart even if we are surrounded by people we may not adore. Most of us throw all trash into the river as it flows by but the river purifies itself and flows clear along its way. It not only provides water for drinking, bathing and other ablutions, it also cools the environment around it as it passes through its way forward.

A river never stops on its way. Have we ever heard of a river, which stops mid way. Never. It surmounts all the obstacles on the way and moves forward all the time. We get immersed in life and get drowned and pulled down by obstacles. We wonder whom to blame for all the things going wrong in our lives.

A river shares its resources without expecting anything in return. It provides water for drinking, transport, washing and many other uses and does not expect us to pay back. On the other hand, we as humans expect more in return even for the smallest service we provide to others. It’s time to learn to be selfless from the rivers.

As the river flows down its path and merges into a bigger river or into the sea, it does not cling to its identity. It is willing to give up its name and fame as it merges into its final destination. We as humans are not willing to subsume our ego for the larger good of society. “I” is the centre of everything we do and we want to take credit even for things we may not have contributed much in life.

I was fascinated by the qualities of the river flowing in front of me. It taught me invaluable lessons of moving on without blaming obstacles on the way, sharing resources selflessly and working for the larger good of society by subsuming our egos.

It is time to reflect and learn from the rivers around us.

S Ramesh Shankar

5th March 2020

Inspired by nature

Today I got up in the morning listening to the chirping of birds. It was an apt reminder to me to be with nature. I live in a home which is surrounded by nature. Yet I have not yet realised the beauty of nature.

Then I fed the fish and found that although there are seven fishes in my aquarium they do not fight with each other when I put in their morning feed. They take their quota and peacefully leave it for the others to have their food. We need to learn to live and let live like the fish.

Then it was the street cat visiting us. As my wife fed her milk. She not only had it herself but shared with her sibling. The lesson learnt was that we need to share our resources with people around us. It is possible that we are bestowed with more resources than we need. It is time to share.

Everything in nature is inspiring. We can learn all our lessons in life just by quietly observing nature. The self sufficiency of trees or the kindness or the generosity of animals around us. Each of them have something to share and it is up to us to observe and learn.

I looked at the birds chirping and waking me up from my bed. Unlike the alarm jarring in my ears and my pouncing on it so that I can have a short snooze again, the birds inspired me to get up. It reminded me that my sleep was enough and it was time for me to enjoy the beauty of the morning and get on with the chores of the day.

Today with all the technology in the world assisting us in every walk of life, we are drifting away from nature. We can realise this from morning to night. Unlike the birds waking us up, today it is AI in the form of Alexa or google chrome that  wakes us up. Unlike the morning stroll in the forest or amongst the trees, today it is the tread mill where we aimlessly jog just to prove to ourselves that we are exercising.

Every aspect of life has become unnatural. I am a great fan of technology but instead of enabling us to be better human beings it has possibly made us lazier and less natural. This possibly has an impact on our behaviour as well.

Unlike the fish or the cats which were willing to share with others and were selfless, we are self centred most of the time. We are oblivious of our surroundings and our neighbours. In cities, we do not know most of our neighbours most of the time unless there is a crisis.

In my view all this is possibly because we have moved away from nature. It is time to get back to nature. It is time to live naturally. The movements to recycle things in life is a positive step. The segregation of organic and inorganic waste is also a good step. We need to reduce and possibly eliminate the inorganic waste in our lives. I remember as a child we recycled waste within our homes as all of it was organic.

Let us resolve to be in touch with nature and get inspired by it as my friend is seen in the photo above. Let us lead by example so that our future generations will lead a better quality of life.

S Ramesh Shankar

2nd June 2019

Learning from birds

Birds have always fascinated me. Apart from their melodious tweets, they impart a lot of important life lessons for us. I can spend a whole day admiring the birds in a garden or on the beach or a forest. The colours of the birds are spread across the spectrum of the rainbow. The singing of birds is always music to the ears.

Let me share my first lesson from the birds. They live the life like a gypsy. They neither have a permanent home nor they are bound to a particular place. They possibly live life in the best place which suits the weather and their bodies. They fly way to a new place when are not comfortable with their environs. They do not complain to anybody about their lives. They are ever willing to adapt themselves to the environment around them.

The second learning is that they are self dependant. They seem to do everything themselves. They fetch their own food, build their own nest and sing their own songs. They neither depend on others for anything in life nor blame others for their miseries in life. They seem to live life as if there is no tomorrow and what better lesson in building our attitude to life.

The next habit I admire in birds is their ability to plan their day and organise themselves. They get up at dawn with their songs, spend the day fetching their food and building their nests and end the day by getting back to their nest and sleeping before being told to do so. They are lucky that the ubiquitous mobile phones have not yet invaded their lives. They seem to be at peace with themselves at all times.

The art of communication is to be learnt from the birds. They sing their own melodies. They effectively communicate to their peers and family members without making any excess noise like we humans do. They do not disturb other birds while they are communicating to each other. Their language seems simple and effective.

I am also a fan of the cleanliness of birds. While they may pick up things from all around them, they put things in their place. If you visit their nest, you realise how painstakingly they have been designed. If you touch their nests, they do not like it and never return to that place for fear of being attacked by humans. They may not be trained in 5S or other Japanese techniques of housekeeping but teach us life lessons that everything has a place in life.

When they fly high in the sky, they seem to carry all other peers along. It is always fascinating to see a flock of birds flying in the sky. They carry everyone along and cooperate rather than compete with each other to reach their destination. The leader ensures that others are following them and they have a pattern of flying to ensure that they are not attacked and they are guarded from all sides.

I wonder why we do not spend enough time to learn our life lessons from the birds, animals and plants around us every day. Today I am lucky that I decided to reflect on the life lessons from the birds. This has made me think and introspect on life. It may help us to think of one animal, bird or plant around us every week and wonder what we could learn from them. This may be easier since we find it difficult to learn from other human beings around us.

Nature teaches us every day in every way.

S Ramesh Shankar

7th November 2018

Use & Throw

We have moved from a culture of “recycle & reuse” to “Use & throw”. I remember an interesting incident which happened a few years back. I was digging out my old coloured lights to light it for the festival of Diwali. Usually we use it for the festival and then dump it in some closet for the rest of the year.

We take it out just before the onset of the festival season and invariably find that a few bulbs are fused. The same thing happened to me. I picked up the light and went to an electrical shop to repair and replace the fused bulbs. The electrician was surprised to see me. He politely told me to dump the old bulb set and buy a new one.

I belong to an era, where we were brought up in the family and the community to “recycle and reuse” things. So based on my upbringing, I went to the shop to repair and reuse my colour lights. The shopkeeper gently smiled and said that the cost of repair may be more than the price of a new set of colour lights. I followed his advise,  left my old bulbs with him and bought a new set.

When I returned home I reflected on this issue. I realised that life has indeed changed. The way we look at life today is different from the past. If we considered recycling everything in life as the right thing to do, use and throw is the norm for everything in life today.

It struck me that this may be true in our relationships too. We were brought up to respect our parents and elders right through our life. We were trained to be grateful to people who help us at various stages of life, throughout our life time. But today, we tend to use our parents as providers of comfort and forget them as they grow old and may depend on us. We forget friends and relatives after we have benefited from their help and move on with our own lives.

Relationships have also transitioned from gratitude to usefulness. Gratitude symbolises renewing our relationship for our lifetime. Usefulness on the other hand fixes an expiry date for a relationship. We tend to “control+alt+del” or move on as soon as the usefulness of that relationship is over.

One may wonder if we are moving from “Selflessness” to “Selfishness” in life. It may be difficult to state whether it is right or wrong. After all today, we have mastered the art of justifying every action of ours. No value is absolute and sacrosanct any more. It is all relative and we find innovative reasons to justify our behaviour all the time, to everyone around us.

One more learning I got in life. Once when I was buying new clothes for my family for a festival someone suggested that every time I buy new clothes, I could consider donating an equal number of clothes ( in good condition) to those who need them more than me. This may again be an old fashioned belief but it does help others and is based on the philosophy of recycle and reuse.

Life comes a full circle. Today, use of plastic bags is being banned all over the world as it is polluting the environment around us, choking the drains and causing floods everywhere. We are urged to use cotton bags for our shopping and reuse them. I am happy with this change and I commit to do my bit in this direction.

We used to recycle a pair of shoes for at least two generations in the past whereas now it does not even survive one person for more than a few years as in the photo above.

Is it time to recycle and reuse everything in life ?

S Ramesh Shankar

21st July 2018

Tea under a Tree

One of the most fascinating things in my life is to drive on a highway. A highway gives you great insights on life and living. Apart from the fact that I enjoy driving, every sight around you gives you new perspectives.

The first thing which strikes me is the mesmerising skyline. Whether it is the early morning crimson sky or the blue evening one it is always breathtaking. I wonder how nature paints the colours in the sky. I am amazed at the shapes and sizes of the clouds.

The blue and green mountains along the highway make you realise how small you are and the need to be grounded always. Their mighty stature makes you realise the wonders of nature.

Then you pass through rivers and lakes and they are spots of beauty. Rivers remind you as to how much nature gives you as humans and how less ` we give back to nature. They also make you realise the value of water as a natural resource.

Another interesting aspect of the highway is the road side food. I love to stop by a road side cafe for a cup of tea or even the local cuisine for lunch. People along the highway are very courteous and customer centric. They are keen to treat you as their personal guest and make you smile always.

When you stand under a tree like in the photo above, you experience the rhythm of nature and the taste of tea is invigorating. It not only refreshes you for the drive further but also makes you realise that it is worth syncing with nature.

I also enjoy the quotes written behind trucks and buses. Some of them are very creative and remind you of the potential talent in our countryside. They give you simple lessons of life in a very innovative way.

The long winding roads teach you the best lessons of life. There are times when it looks as if the road will never end and at other times the traffic will never ease. But every time you do reach your destination with or without any hurdles.

We all have the capacity to deal with the hurdles along the highway. It is similar in life. As long as we believe in ourselves, there is no obstacle in life which we cannot overcome. Yes sometimes it may take longer than we believe. It is like sometimes our destination may take longer than we had estimated.

It is up to us to enjoy the drive on the highway or keep cribbing about the weather or the bad roads along the way. If we enjoy the drive, the journey is fun and if we don’t then it is a burden. Life is no different.

The weather may change along the way. The roads may be good or bad. The car may even break down. But it is up to us to make a choice. Either we can crib all the way or enjoy the uncertainties along the way. Every obstacle may be an opportunity to learn something new in life.

Life is like a highway and we need to enjoy the drive.

S Ramesh Shankar

2nd October 2018

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

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

Transgender is ?

Trans is webinar series

Who is a Transgender ? What does their world look like ? What are the challenges they face in society ? What is our world view of transgenders ? What can we do ? How can I make a difference ?. These are some of the questions which came to my mind when a friend asked me to join a webinar series called “Transis “

Today after attending 16 webinars I should confess that I realise how little I know of this genre called “transgenders”. Every webinar opened my eyes to their world. Every session I attended I realised how little we know about those sections of society who are disadvantaged in more ways than one.

I am neither competent to write on this topic nor will attempt to be an expert. But my ignorance inspired me to write about how little I know and what difference we can make as individuals in society. Most of us think, what can I do to transform society.

It is like that famous story of the star fish and the small kid on the sea shore. If each of us can throw back at least one star fish pushed to the sand by the waves, we can save the life of that star fish. Similarly if each of us can help understand one transgender person and enable them to integrate into the mainstream of society in whatever way we can make a positive difference to their lives.

I realised how difficult the world of a transgender is when I listened to their stories. A person is not born as a transgender by their choice. They are born into a family by nature’s ordain. Most families consider it a curse that a child of this nature is born into their family. So the challenge for this category of people starts from the day of their birth on this earth.

Imagine a child who is born into a family for no fault of theirs is discriminated and cursed for no fault of theirs. Many a time the child is thrown out of their home or discarded even before they become an adult. A child is born as a male in a female body or a female in a male body. They do not have a choice to live the way they want. Neither the family nor the community around them or the society at large supports them in any way.

I should admit that till today I thought that women, differently abled, minorities etc. were the disadvantaged sections of society. Today I realised that the transgender community have much bigger challenges to face not only to live but survive in a society, which has repeatedly failed to understand them and their issues. We have not only failed to understand them but also have not yet even imagined to create an eco system for their fair living.

If we take a peek into their world, we may realise that their challenges starts at their birth and possibly does not even end at their death. They are rejected by their own family leave alone the community around them. Societies and nations have not formulated adequate policies to enable them to lead a decent living. They find it difficult to get admission to educational institutions, employment opportunities almost do not exist and they do not even have a choice to live a life of dignity of their own choice like you and me.

I hope this blog has opened more eyes than one and each of us commit to change their world by impacting the life of one person at a time. Lets resolve to do whatever we can in our own personal capacity without waiting for the United Nations to write a charter for them.

Lets begin today.

S Ramesh Shankar

9th Oct 2020