Ode to my most adorable aunt

Today I would like to dedicate this blog to my most adorable aunt Ms Jayalakshmi, who died at the age of 98 at Trivandrum. She was a human being par excellence. I have had the privilege of learning from her entire life.

Born to a humble lower middle class family in Trichy, she grew up in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka during her childhood. After marriage she settled in Salem, Tamil Nadu. She moved to Trivandrum with one of her sons after the demise of her spouse and decided to settle there for the rest of her life.

A person who taught us more by her silence than her words. An epitome of patience like her elder brother who was my father who was a reservoir of patience and kind heartedness himself.

She taught us invaluable lessons on life and living and I would like to summarise some key learnings from what I could assimilate over the years :

A. Live life with a smile always : She had gone through multiple crisis in life but I have never seen her cribbing about anything in life and her smile was ever present despite all the troubles in her life.

B. Compassion & kindness : In her lifetime, she may have dealt with many people who were unkind and unfair to her including friends and relatives but her compassion and kindness for the members of her family and all her relatives and friends was unparalleled.

C. Patience : Her patience was unlimited. I have never seen her frown or get angry at any instance or any person. Her ability to absorb the most difficult of life challenges with a smile was worth imitation.

D. Power of silence : Like my father she had this innate and enviable ability to communicate more through her silence than her words. Both the brother and sister taught invaluable lessons in life through their silence. They proved to all of us silence is more powerful than words and we often talk much more than we listen.

E. Listening : Her ability to listen to all generations was worth emulation. She had the ability to be affectionate and actively listened and acknowledged through her smiles and her eyes. This made us realise as to how important it is to listen than to speak.

F. Self dependant : I have seen her doing all her chores by herself almost till the age of ninety. She cooked her own food, washed her own clothes and even cleaned her own space. She never depended on anyone to take care of her even at old age.

G.Live for others : She sacrificed her life for the welfare of her family and relatives. She gave everything she could without expecting anything in return. A life dedicated to the well being of others is expression of love unconditionally and true service to God.

I can write a book on my aunt and what I could learn from her. But today, I want to pay my last respects to her by promising to myself that I will try my best to practise what she preached through her actions rather her words.

May her soul rest in peace. Om Shanti.

S Ramesh Shankar

10th September 2022

Choosing your life partner…

One of the most difficult decisions in life is choosing your life partner. It may look simple from a distance but grows complex as one experiences it. In traditional Indian families, the parents took the responsibility of finding partners for their children. This was based on horoscope matching and other family considerations. After all the astrological and horoscope matching process, some marriages clicked and others failed. This is when one realises that selecting a life partner is not that easy as it may appear.

Let us look at what makes it so challenging. We all grow up in our families and societies with certain value systems. While some of us, are privileged to experience different cultures and societies as we grow up, others may not be. This makes our adaptability to different cultures and personalities difficult.

If we look at the Indian system of choosing a partner for life – there are generally two types. In the traditional system, our parents put in the efforts on choosing a partner for us based on horoscope matching , astrological predictions and family compatibility as they see it. The other is when one partner meets the other in school, college or a the workplace and choose each other.

If I look back at my own life, I realise that neither the traditional match making by parents guarantees cent percent success nor the individual choosing their own partners ensures life long partnership for all. If this this the. case, we can neither say the traditional is better nor the modern is a recipe for success.

Then what could be the best way to choose a partner. I have all the questions in my mind and I am still searching for an answer. I would give my “Take 5” for building life partnerships. My life experiences teaches me that while choosing a partner some of the factors, which may help in moving in the right direction could be :

A. Mutual interests and compatibility : It is important for both partners to explore mutual interests and likes and dislikes. It is better to know what works and what does not before we venture out into a life long partnership with each other.

B. Family Values : While many may say that family values may or may not match. I personally vouch for similarity in value system as it helps in mutual compatibility. Family values is like the glue or culture in an organisation. It definitely helps to build relationships

C. Mutual respect : One of the most important factors which may help is mutual respect. Is is important to realise that the other partner is an equal partner in joy and sorrow in the future. We need to earn each other’s mutual respect through our actions and not our words. My true value is tested in challenging times and not in sharing joy.

D. Give and take : It is worthwhile to realise that we may not be able to find a partner in life, who is going to be hundred percent match in every aspect of life. Hence, our ability to adapt to each other is important. Our ability to give and take is critical for success in our partnership. First give and then take and not the other way around.

E. Financial independence & mutual trust : In today’s day and age, it is critical for both partners to be financially independent. It is equally important for establishing mutual trust through our speech and actions. Unflinching trust leads to trustful and life long partnerships.

My list may not be complete. It is neither a guarantor for success nor a recipe for failure. But, it may be worthwhile to try out these tips as I have failed many times and succeeded some times in my life partnership over the last three and half decades.

Time to try your luck when you are ready for it.

S Ramesh Shankar

15th Nov 2020


Living in denial …

Some of us spend our whole life, living in denial. We are not willing to accept life as it is. We want to believe that we can change our life dramatically overnight without much effort. I would call this “living in denial”

I am a born optimist and always believe that everyone of us can chart our own destiny. But to believe that we can change our future without much efforts is fertile imagination. We tend to compare ourselves with the successful people around us and wonder why we cannot be like them. We may envy celebrities in sports or the film industry after they become successful but do not know their struggles and the arduous journey they undertook in the process of their achieving glory.

We almost believe that if celebrities who may be less educated than us can achieve something in life, why we cannot. There is nothing fundamentally wrong in thinking that way. What we need to realise is their journey to stardom may not have been a cake walk . If someone has achieved something in life, it is after years of toil and sweat and many setbacks, which may not be visible to us after they have arrived in life.

We sometimes think that we are always at the receiving end of life. It may or may not be true and could be just a perception. We tend to believe this way as we compare ourselves with others in terms of what they have achieved in life and not in terms of what efforts they have put in to reach wherever they have reached.

Life becomes challenging only due to comparisons. There is nothing wrong to compare with the best and learn from them. But comparing with others to feel bad about what they have achieved is only going to demotivate us further. It is better to compete with oneself and do better than whatever we have done so far. We need to always remember that “Excellence is a journey and not a destination”

The concept of “living in denial” not only leads to disappointment and frustration in our own life but tends to impact all the people around us. It is better to live life in terms of possibilities rather challenges. Every challenge is a possibility and we can turn tables upside down with our efforts. It is upto us to sit back and crib or plunge forward and attain our goals.

The journey of life is not always smooth. What we need to remember is that this is an universal truth and not exclusively applicable to us. Every individual struggles in her/his own way. Some are visible to us and some others struggle in shadows unseen to us. This does not mean they faced no difficulties in achieving what they want to. It only means that we are not privy to what they have faced before they have succeeded.

We need to set our vison. Then set our goals and evolve our strategy. This has to be followed by consistent efforts day in and night out and celebrate each milestone we achieve towards our goal. Every setback could be a learning while every victory could enable us to celebrate our efforts. This way can only lead to successful accomplishment of our goals in life. I have not seen it otherwise in my life or my career.

As in the photo above, the trek to the top of the mountain may be tough. But even that can be achieved if we are willing to take the first step.

The time to reset and start is today. Let us do it now.

S Ramesh Shankar

9th November 2020

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


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