“Sayli”Sportsmanship

Sayli Kamble

I was watching a music reality show on TV. The best singer in my perception was singing and while delivering one of the best ghazals of all time faltered and forgot his lines. One of his co participants, who is his competitor vying for the same title, sang the line and encouraged him to complete the song. I salute this girl Sayli and her parents for inculcating such a wonderful value in their child.

Sayili is a young girl from the Chunnabati area of Mumbai. Her father is a ambulance driver and mother a home maker. Their only child is competing along with others in this contest. When a competitor of yours, who is a favourite to win the title falters, it can be music to your ears. Most of us as competitors would have rejoiced at such an instance. But here is a girl in her early twenties competing fiercely but demonstrated humanity in action. This is true sportsman spirit in any game.

The game of life is no different. We may compete with our classmates in class in academics or sports. We may not win always but we have a chance to win their hearts through our actions. Imagine helping the captain of the opposition team on the field when he is injured. Imagine taking a neighbour to the hospital when he is in distress even though he has harmed you more than helped you in normal times.

Each one of us would have gone through different moments in life when we would have been betrayed by a friend , relative or neighbour. We may never feel like forgiving them leave alone help them in trying times of theirs. But just think of the impact you can make on another human being if you can be good to them even though you lose more than you gain in that process.

Today I was touched by this incident. I had tears in my eyes when I saw it live on TV. The Benefactor was equally magnanimous. After his performance when Sayili approached him, he hugged her in gratitude and so he did with all other co participants.

We can learn such beautiful life lessons from such incidents in real life. It is the behaviours like these, which can win hearts of other human beings. Neither money nor fame can win you accolades as much as such acts of service without any expectations. I should confess that many of us including me may not have the generosity to help a competitor in real life, when he is in distress.

I would say this is God in human form. It is like the millions of common women and men who helped millions of other people in distress during this pandemic. I was reading about a middle class housewife who was in distress and was desperate to get admitted to a hospital. A taxi driver whom she hired to reach the nearest hospital went from one hospital to another and ultimately got her admitted and saved her life. He did not even leave his mobile number with her since he served human kind without any expectations in return.

I see God in human form in such acts of humanity.

I salute Sayili and her kind of young girls and boys today. Proud to live in a country, where such values are being inculcated by parents in their children.

Salute to Sayili and her wonderful parents.

S Ramesh Shankar

18th July 2021

Everything cannot be valued in money terms…

Everything in life cannot be valued in money terms. I remember way back in 1987 I was buying a second hand car. My friends and well wishers cautioned me that it was not a good return on investment. It may be true in financial terms especially when interest rates were in double digits. But buying a car or a house is a quasi emotional and quasi logical decision.

Similarly in 2008 I was selling a flat in Gurgoan and my well wishers cautioned me that it was not the right time to sell. The markets were down and I could wait for some more time for getting a better yield. This also may be true. But my decision to buy or sell or a flat is also a quasi logical one.

In life, there are many decisions we take by emotion and then apply logic to justify it. I prefer to go that way. If you love something in life, one should go ahead and do it. If you are guided by return on investment or logic, life may be become worthless. I love photography and videography. I may have bought a dozen cameras in my life. This definitely cannot justify financial or logical reasoning. But the joy it gives me, no money can.

I remember in 2011, I ended up buying a car of my choice. It was an expensive one and many of my well wishers were not supportive of my decision. They may be right logically but my decision was quasi emotional. I love driving and wanted to enjoy life driving a car of my choice. Money saved in a bank or mutual fund can never give me this joy.

I am not for one recommending that we should end up squandering money on worthless things in life. I am only saying that sometimes we decide based on gut and this is fine. After all life is full of emotions. If something in life gives us joy, we should go for it without thinking too much about it.

The moment we try to apply logic and reasoning to everything in life, we may stop enjoying life. Imagine someone working out a return on investment before buying a pet dog. Can you value the love a dog bestows on you as a human being ? We have to remember that everything in life cannot be monetised.

I have lived my life in my own terms. One important learning of course has been to enjoy life without being indebted. We should not end up buying a luxury car or home if we cannot afford to buy it at a particular stage of life. It is better to wait for the right time and buy it rather than trying to enjoy life on borrowed money.

I remember there were many things I yearned to have but could not afford. So, I waited till the day I could afford to buy. One cannot justify buying things stating life is to enjoy if if it goes beyond your means at that point. Yes, we need to enjoy life within our means. We need not justify to anyone what we are buying as long as we can live within our means and love having it.

As in the photo above, the joy of having lemon juice in a road side shop and having a heart to heart chat with the vendor has to be experienced to be believed.

Let us learn to enjoy life our own way.

S Ramesh Shankar

9th September 2018

Let us spread “Positivity”

The world is witnessing one of the worst tragedies ever seen in recent memory. This virus has spread to every nook and corner of the world and destroyed countries, communities and families.

While our scientists and medical fraternity are working day and night to save lives, they are limited by resources and limited knowledge of this deadly and evolving virus.

It is at such times, we as individuals, families, communities or nations need to spread hope and positivity. We need to remember that positivity is infectious and if we are able to spread it faster than the virus, the despair of people suffering can be minimised.

While we cannot compensate a family, who has lost a loved one, we can pray for them to withstand this tragedy in their lives. We can share stories of innumerable good samaritans working around the world to save lives.

Every day I read a positive story, my belief in humanity soars. I know of young volunteers helping individuals and families getting beds, ambulances, medicines etc. I read of actors driving ambulances to save lives. Today I read of bikers using their motorcycles as mobile ambulances to take patients to hospitals.

While we may have every right to criticise governments and those in administration for the lack of infrastructure or timely support, it may be more helpful at the current juncture to provide a lending hand to the already crumbling support systems.

The tragedy has spread far and wide. It has made life dark for many. In this situation, we have a choice – we can either light a candle in their lives or light a fire. It may be more appropriate to light a candle and kindle hope rather than fume despair.

We as individuals can support our own family or friends. We can volunteer in our community and spread positivity. This is enough. If each of us can take care of our family, friends and community, we may have done our bit.

It is time for us to salute them. It is time for us to be grateful for whatever they are doing within the limited resources available to them. Let us fight this virus together and wait for things to normalise before we fix the blame as to who is wrong and why.

We need to remember that the medical fraternity, the healthcare workers, the sanitary staff, municipal authorises and the bureaucrats running the administration, the ambulance drivers, the crematorium staff and innumerable others are working 24×7 only for us.

I would appeal to politicians also to sink their partisan differences and work as one team supporting and enabling each other to succeed. Let the experts and bureaucrats work independently and we need to ensure their success.

I would appeal to the media – both print and TV to share positive news first. I am not for one recommending that we need to hide facts or suppress news. Let the headlines be of heroines and heroes, who are saving lives of common men and women every day. Let the other news be on the back pages.

Last but not the least, I appeal to every individual to take responsibility for themselves. Let us spread positivity and hope among our family members, community and society.

Let us use social media responsibly and share news of hope, service and bravery. Let us appreciate the small deeds of unknown women and men around the world working round the clock to save lives in a global crisis like this.

As in the photo, it is time to light the lamp and spread hope.

I commit to spread positivity in every possible way. Will you please join me ?

S Ramesh Shankar

11th May 2021

Feel the hunger…

The other day I was playing badminton with a neighbour and he said he was a bit tired and wanted to stop after two games. I wondered what had happened to him as he normally had a good stamina. On inquiry, he informed that he had fasted the previous evening and hence was tired.

He further clarified that he was not fasting for any religious reasons. When further asked for the reasons, he hesitatingly said that he was periodically feeding children in an ashram and hence was fasting on that day. What really struck me is the reason for his fasting. He said he started fasting on every Thursday when the Ashram owner told him that it was not enough to feed the kids but may be good “To feel the hunger” by fasting once a week.

“Feeling the hunger” was a powerful statement and it got stuck in my mind. “Empathy” is not only a word in english but an experiential learning for everyone. Like they say, you need to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to experience what they feel in any situation.

At every stage of our life, we find people sympathising with us but rarely you come across people who empathise with you. The difference between sympathy and empathy is the phenomenon of “feeling the hunger”

As a child when you miss out a rank in the class by a few marks or lose a match for the school there will be many who sympathise with you but rarely some who can empathise. The ability to silently put yourself in the other person’s position is easier said than done.

As you grow into an adolescence and want to rebel at everything in life, everyone around you is critical as they tend to look at it only as a deviant behaviour. However, if one can experience what an adolescent goes through the story would be different. You may lend a listening ear or comfort the person that it is natural to rebel.

Then even as adults you find it irritating when someone gives you advise which they don’t follow. It may be easier to advice others than to lead by example. Leaders in organisations are not respected because they lack empathy.

Today’s generation is not looking for sympathy at all. They are touched by an empathetic leader. In times of crisis nobody looks for advice from the ivory tower. People expect leaders to be on the ground, smell the earth and work along.

Leadership is all about “ feeling the hunger”. It is all about empathy. We need to evolve our ability to put ourselves in other person’s position and experience life as they do. Once we are able to do that, our approach to life and living would be different.

As in the photo above, even while we cut a cake to celebrate a birthday, this neighbour skipped the cake to feel the hunger since it was a Thursday.

A simple off the cuff remark when someone said you need “to feel the hunger” made me think how much I still need to learn on this front. Learning is a life long journey and we possibly learn more as we listen more.

Let our learning blossom forever.

S Ramesh Shankar

16th August 2020

If we can, we should…

I have always wondered as to why we don’t do what we should. It could be a simple routine of a morning walk or a more a bit more complex as completing a project on time at work. Either way, we always spend more time in finding excuses for our non performance than putting in efforts to ensure our performance.

Interestingly I have noted that this trait in us continues with us from childhood to old age. As a kid, we invent excuses for not doing our home work or for skipping school or college. We become more innovative as we grow into adolescence and take our parents and friends for a ride. We enjoy discovering excuses at this stage of our lives.

Then we we grow as adults and we start working and this trait is not left behind. We always have the traffic congestion for our late coming to office or even the internet breakdown for delay in execution of any work related project. On the other hand, we never miss a flight because of traffic when we go on a holiday or miss a movie online because the net breaks down.

So life gives us all the opportunities to excel in whatever we want to do. We find the silliest of reasons to give up on chances, which come our way without our even asking for it. So, what does this do to us and to others. We miss steps in our career growth and lose our personal credibility. Others lose their respect for us as individuals in the family and colleagues at work.

Now, let us look at what happens if we do what we can. This may appear simple but may be one of the most difficult things to accomplish in life. I find people not keeping their word to their kids to take them for a movie. Imagine you meet people who will always keep their word. I have met many of them in my life – both at work and in my personal life.

First, you have high respect for such people because once they commit, they deliver. Secondly, they infuse this positive energy in others. If you work for a leader who is always on time and always delivers on all her commitments, you tend to become like them. This is natural. If my parents were courteous to everyone around, I learn to be that way. Similarly if my manager does what he can, then I do whatever I can too.

Even in our personal lives we love people who keep their word and deliver. When our parents always get us what they have promised, we respect them. On the other hand, we have scant regard for friends or relatives who always forget what they can do and find reasons for their non delivery.

Interestingly this phenomenon is universal. It is not linked to state, country, religion, ethnicity, culture or language. Having worked in multinational organisations, I have experienced it across the globe. So the choice is simple. If we are determined to do we what should, we can.

Even in the current Covid times, they are asking us to do 3 simple things. Wearing a mask , keeping a metre distance and washing our hands. We can and we should if we want to prevent the virus attacking us.

As in the photo above, if we can relax, we should. Gautam Buddha teaches us relaxation is possible at all times.

Life could be different from today if we make this small change.

Lets give it a try.

S Ramesh Shankar

14th June 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

The journey is as important as the destination

Today our scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation almost made a landing on the moon after valiant efforts. The mission may have partly failed to land on the moon although the orbiter is encircling the moon and will give invaluable data to our scientists to explore further.

While the nation was watching the entire episode through the night on national television channels there was a sigh of despair amongst the mission team when the object failed to land on the moon. It was kind of the Prime minister of the country to watch this live and then go and address all the scientists the next morning to keep their spirits high.

One of the statements made by the prime minister of India was “The journey is as important as the destination”. It was a great insight for me personally. Many a time in our lives when we fail, we tend to focus on the failure which is the destination and forget the learnings through the journey.

Our wonderful space scientists would have worked for decades to achieve this impossible mission. They would have learnt a lot of valuable lessons through this journey. Hence, it is important for us to celebrate the journey as much as the destination.

It is true for scientists, sportspersons and even the common women and men like us. We need to enjoy our journeys as much as keeping the focus on our destination. It is like someone undertaking a trip to a beautiful hill station and keeping their eyes closed through the journey in a train waiting for the hill station to arrive. Imagine what all beautiful sceneries one would missed if one were to do that.

If we take any company in the world and even the most successful ones, they would never have achieved success unless they enjoyed their journey and celebrated all along their way to success. It is important to remember for every successful product in the market, there would be hundreds of products which would have failed and never hit the market before.

Life is no different. We need to keep our focus on our life goals. However, it is important to learn throughout the journey of life and celebrate each milestone on the way. If we do not do that, we may stop learning and that can be our biggest failure.

Another important lesson learnt today from the ISRO experience is the role of a leader. The leader should be with the team more during failure than during success. It is the inspiration of the leader during failures that makes a team succeed again and again.

Our best wishes to our Indian Space Research Organisation scientists and every Indian is proud of their accomplishments today. We are one of those pioneers in space research in the world only because of them. Let us salute them. I dedicate this blog to my brother in law was a scientist with ISRO for four decades.

S Ramesh Shankar

7th September 2019

Accepting defeat with grace…

We witnessed elections in the world’s largest democracy over the last two months. It was characterised by political debates, accusations, allegations and counter allegations as one can expect from such an event.

I admire the Election Commission of India for meticulously planning and organising a fair and largely peaceful election in a seamless manner. We were possibly the first country in the world to adopt electronic voting machines. We can be proud of this accomplishment, which many developed nations have not been able to adopt so far.

However, what we see as an aftermath of such a massive exercise is blame game. Political parities find faults with the election commission. They also blame the electronic voting machines for their losses. Today a political leader even went to the extent of blaming foreign forces for their defeat.

I am amazed at such reactions. One life lesson is to accept a “win” with humility and a “loss” with grace. After all the public at large comprises of citizens like you and me. We are well educated and make our judgement based on ground realities. We elect parties or leaders for their credence and not for any other reason.

We need to educate our political class to adapt to the technological changes impacting them. Today is it is electronic voting machines. Tomorrow it could be artificial intelligence or the blockchain, which may play a role in elections. What surprises me is that the so called educated politicians, who are professionally qualified like lawyers, management graduates, engineers, doctors etc are the first to criticise this way when they lose or their party faces defeat in the hustings.

My learning in life is to accept defeat with “grace” as much as treat victory with “humility”. This is what we can learn from all the best sportspersons in the world. A sportsperson glowing with arrogance after a victory fades into history. On the other hand, the humble sportsperson, who bows out with grace even in defeat is always the winner in our minds.

Politicians need to learn this lesson in life. We should not end up blaming our constitutional bodies and institutions for narrow political gains. After all, the citizens in modern India want better roads, clean drinking water, good health facilities and world class infrastructure. We want jobs for all who need it and health and happiness for the common man. We envision India as the best and the happiest country in the world.

It is time for political parities and politicians to rise above narrow archaic beliefs and work for the larger good of the nation. Let parliament work for 100% of the days, pass all needed legislations. Let the honest citizens be rewarded and the crooks in society be booked.

It is time for us to make India the best democracy in the world apart from being the largest. The government and the opposition needs to work hand in hand like the twin lilies in the photo above.

Let us learn to accept defeat with grace and victory with humility.

S Ramesh Shankar

26th May 2019

Learning “Motherhood” on Mothers’ day

I am not a great fan of “Mothers day”, “Father’s Day” etc, which are celebrated off late around the world. In my view, it is more a marketing gimmick for selling more products and promoting brands. Having said that, the second Sunday of every year is celebrated as “International Mothers’ day”. I would rather learn motherhood from the wonderful mothers around me rather than promote a marketing gimmick.

What can we learn from our mothers ? I would list five qualities, which I have learnt and admired from the mothers I have interacted in my life. There could be many more and these are my significant five. You could share your valuable five and this way we could learn from each other.

The first quality which a mother exudes is “Patience”. I have hardly seen a mother who does not put in extra efforts to display her patience. Right from feeding an infant or dealing with the antics of a child or bracing with the rebellion of an adolescent, a mother teaches us precious lessons on patience.

Perseverance is the second quality I have learnt from mothers. A mother never gives up. They don’t give up on anything. They are willing to convince anyone for getting their things done. They will follow up with anyone and everyone for the sake of their kids at school or otherwise.

The third quality one can adore in mothers is their “Selflessness”. In today’s world, most of us are so self centred that we forget many a time that there is a world around us. A mother on the other hand is serving others all the time and in this process,most of the time, forgets that she has her own world to live in. She lives for others all the time.

Loyalty is best learnt from mothers. They are loyal to their parents, their in laws, their children , sisters, brothers and their friends. While men may also be loyal, the unconditional loyalty of mothers’ is to experienced to be believed. It is to be believed to be learnt from our mothers.

The fifth quality I admire in mothers is their “unconditional love”. We all express our love and expect the same from others as human beings. However, mothers tend to love unconditionally. I cannot visualise a mother loving someone conditionally. This gives them the power of letting go when the love is not reciprocated in equal measure. This is when most of us find it difficult and feel hurt in our lives.

As I said earlier, a mother is an epitome of humanness. She is endowed with limitless qualities but I thought let me share my best five and request you to comment and share yours so that together we learn from one another.

As in the photo above, a mother appreciates her kid as much as she would do to other kids around her.

Our best tribute to mothers would be to imbibe at least one of these attributes from our mothers and live it every day of our life.

S Ramesh Shankar

12th May 2019

A visionary teacher

Today I heard of the sudden demise of our beloved Director of Madras School of Social Work – Prof KN George. He was a teacher with a difference. I learnt a lot of life lessons from this teacher who was a visionary par excellence. He always thought ahead of his times and set the direction for everyone to follow.

During my two years in college, he managed the college with a difference. I learnt the following lessons from his life :

A. Visionary : One needs to be a visionary in whatever field of work you are in. He was a man with a vision and a mission to accomplish it. I remember the transformation of the Madras School of Social work from an antique old two storied building to an excellent modern building with facilities ahead of its times.

B Stature : If one could learn one aspect of life from this teacher was the way he maintained his stature. Apart from being a well respected educationist, he could speak on par with highest civil servants, corporate CEOs or even the politicians. This was by his stature and personality and not by his position alone.

C Spotting of talent : Although he personally did not take many classes he knew every student in the college and could easily spot talent. He used to go out of the way to identify the talent and provide opportunities for realising the potential of the individual to the fullest. I have personally experienced it and seen it in many of my classmates.

D Dignity of office : He led by example and maintained the dignity of his office right through his tenure. This gave him the courage to deal with tough situations and he dealt with them respectfully.

E Eager to help : Although many students were scared of approaching him since he used to scold at first instance, I know of many of us, who have benefited from his unconditional help. He could help people get jobs with a phone call. He could facilitate students getting married if there were any obstacles on the way. He was always around to help.

F. Networking : He taught us through his actions the art of networking and getting things done. He had a connect in every field of life. He could talk to politicians, civil servants, film personalities or even corporate honchos with ease and always find a solution to a problem.

G. Social conscience : A man who always thought about the good of society. I have personally experienced on many occasions where he thought creatively to solve social problems. I was sent for field work to the Commissioner of Police office in Chennai in 1980 to set up a missing childrens’ bureau since it was an age of no computer or IT and tracing missing children was a big social issue.

Like all of us he had his own limitations. After all he was human like all of us. Today is a day to learn from all his virtues and live them for the rest of our lives. Let us resolve to learn at least one great quality from this passionate teacher of ours.

My salutations to Prof KN George – ex Director, Madras School of Social Work.

S Ramesh Shankar