Think before you ink

Our ability to think before we ink may help us determine our future.  This may be the true barometer of a democracy as much a measure of our true success in life.  Let us first examine this hypothesis on what is a true democracy in society at large.  A nation, where every citizen can at free will express herself or himself without any repercussions or consequences is the foundation of a true democracy.    A country where the vote of every citizen is equal and valuable in determining its future is the crux of a democratic state.

I am lucky to be born in India, the world’s largest democracy and thriving for the last 60 years and counting.  We are multi cultural, truly secular and thrive on democratic values.  We may not be the most prosperous country in the world in money terms but we are the wealthiest in the world in emotional and spiritual power.  This has been possible only because every citizen of India determines our future.  Our constitution makers have ensured that every citizen contributes to the making of India.

The vote of the citizen in India is equal irrespective of whether you are rich or poor and whether you are educated or illiterate.  We are the first country in the world to have 100% electronic voting machines almost a decade back and we proud of our democratic credentials.  While the election commission of India, which is a constitutional body plays the role of an independent watchdog to protect and promote the rights of its citizens, it is each of one of us as independent citizens, who have contributed to this success by thinking before we ink in every election.

Now, if we move to the individual, the significance of thinking before we write something is equally important in our lives.  While everyone does appreciate the value of communications in life, it may be forgiven if we use inappropriate language verbally and seek forgiveness as soon as we realise it or someone points it out to us.  It may be erased from memory and easily forgotten too.  However, what is written down stays engraved in stone and lives in memory for eternity.

We need to think before we ink.  This may be easier said than done. In an era of emails and mobile communications, there is more communication through written forms of emails and chats rather than speech.  This makes it all the more necessary for us to think before we write.  We need to choose every word with caution and imagine the impact of the words we choose on the recipient of our communication.

We need to realise that it is easier to speak than to write.  The more we think before we ink, the better may be our expression and the more its impact.  It is we, who determine how others perceive us.  It is we as citizens determine the future of our country. The kid in the photo above seems to be thinking intensely before he puts his thoughts on the iPad.

Let us think.

S Ramesh Shankar
January 2017

Past versus Future

If we signify the “Past”, our children epitomise the “Future”. Our generation is history but the future generation is a mystery. I have always wondered as to why we study so much of history and not much about the future.  We have to realise that our past generations have contributed to our success and happiness in life. It is our duty to invest our best for the benefit of the future generations.

Let us look at the family as an institution.  How much of our time are we investing in our children ?  How do we contribute to the success of the future ? Many of us believe that investing in academics and ensuring our kids get good scholastic education will insure their future.  I am afraid we may be wrong. The future will thrive on the values and beliefs we inculcate in the next generation.

If we move to the work place, the situation is not very different.  We believe that if we hone the skills of the younger generation, we have done our duties. It is important to remember that future of human kind is an optimal combination of ‘Skill ‘& ‘Will’.  While “skills”can be trained, “will”has to be internalised.  We cannot expect that the younger people will listen to what we say.  They may follow what we do.

It is in this context, it is important for us to lead by example.  We have to as parents, teachers and leaders be clear what will shape the world of the future.  We have to continue to invest in new skills but is equally important and may be more relevant to inculcate the will.  It is also very important to realise that while skill can be be developed over the years, will gets deeply embedded in the mind and may be difficult to change.

The values of the past may not be a passport for the future.  Just as the skills of the past may not create a future of our choice.  Thus it is critical to review and reshape the future by investing time and effort into it.  We cannot inculcate values by investing money.  We can train people on skills by spending money.  But, it is virtually impossible to inculcate the right values by spending money on our future generations.

The success of the future generations lies in the investment of our time today. We cannot expect miracles in the future without establishing the foundations of values required for its sustainability.  The future will become present even before we realise it.  It is important for us to realise the impact we can make today for creating a future, which all of us will be proud of.

Just as in the photo above, the future generation will follow what they see of the past as measures of success.

Let us invest today for a tomorrow we feel proud of.

S Ramesh Shankar

Heart or Mind ?

One is always in a dilemma whether one should listen to your heart or to your mind.  Heart rules your mind or mind rules your heart.  All of us go through this in our every day life.  While logic is analysed by the mind, the feelings and emotions are gauged by the heart.  Let us look at different life situations and  review as to what guides our decisions – mind or heart .

Our academic inputs guide us to gather data, analyse them and look at alternatives before you take a decision.  This means that we are taught to be guided by our intellect.  However, in real life what happens ?  If we are to buy clothes for ourselves for a festival, what do we do ?  Do we look at our resources – say money and the time available and then look at options of where to buy and what to buy and then go ahead and buy clothes.  I am not sure.  Most of us will go to a nearby market of our choice and buy clothes which make us feel better.   

Let us take another example.  If we have to buy a car, what do we do ?  We do first define our needs.  Then, we explore the options and  examine our financial capacity.  We go to a dealer and choose a car based on all this analysis.  However, as we reach the dealership, we may end up choosing a car and a colour, which our heart dictates although it may be a bit beyond our original plan and budget. We may end up changing our decision at the last minute.

Now, let us look at our choosing our life partner.  What do we do ?  There could be two options.  One is that we are choosing our own partner and then inform our parents about it.  Alternatively, our parents choose our partner and we finally agree to it.  In either case, do we gather data, analyse options and then finally choose our partner.  I am not sure.  I think in most cases, the heart rules the mind.

There comes the interesting debate of whether heart rules the mind or vice versa.  I recently read an article that all our decisions are made by gut and then we apply logic to justify it.  This may be true.  But, according to scientists it is also true that we gather data all through our life and it is stored in our brains.  So, when we claim that we take most of our decisions by our gut, these are decisions taken by us using the data stored in the brain of ours.  Our mind analyses the data in seconds and passes it on to our heart to guide our decisions.

Like in the picture above, your heart may want you to drench your feet in the water and mind may say no because of high tides ?  What will you do ?

So, for me, it is always by the gut.  How about you ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Silence is golden

Silence is golden or so goes the saying.  Is it really as valuable as gold ?  Why is silence considered golden ?.  Most of us find it easy to talk rather than not.  We speak more than we listen.  We answer before we are asked a question.  We are comfortable with noise but become lonely in silence.

Talking comes naturally to us.  We grow up being encouraged to talk at home, school and even at work.  We are told be to an extrovert and be gregarious.  We are trained to talk more than to listen.  If we are an introvert, we are told we may not be successful in life.  If a kid is shy and quiet, parents get worried.  Teachers want children to express themselves in more ways than one.

Then, why is silence important and valuable.  The behavioural scientists tell us that more than 70% of our behaviour is non verbal.  This means that expressions and actions speak more than our words.  We need to learn the power of silence and use it effectively in all walks of life.  It is true that many a time silence speaks more than words.

I recall many experiences in my life where silence speaks louder than words.  I remember an incident of my childhood.  My father was a man of few words.  He hardly used to speak at home or at work and always very patient.  Once his office driver told me that he was scared of my father.  I was surprised.  I asked him as how he could be afraid of my dad as he hardly spoke.  He replied that he was not sure what my father had in his mind since most of the time he hardly spoke.  His silence was not easily understood as we could not interpret what he did not tell us.

I remember another incident where my mom used to punish me for my mistakes in life by not talking to me for a few days. The silence at home between me and my mom was deafening.  It was difficult and harsher as a punishment than even a cane on the back.

If you visit a temple, mosque, church or monastery, the silence of the place makes you feel the power of God.  I love to visit religious places which are secluded and lonely.  The sound of the bell in a temple reverberates and echoes in your heart a million times in the silence of the environs.  The solitude of the temple as seen in the picture above makes you connect with God.  

As we grow in life, we realize the value of silence.  Yes, silence does speak more than a thousand words.  We need to learn to listen to the meaning of silence in life.  We have to use the power of silence to manage life situations and enjoy the beauty of silence in life everyday.

S Ramesh Shankar

 Living within means

All of us dream to grow and prosper in life.  This is a natural human phenomenon.  It is fair to be ambitious and aim for the moon or even beyond.  We need to set our vision high, evolve our strategy, determine our actions and take the first steps.  Hard work, perseverance with a little bit of luck will definitely take us towards our goal.  We may not achieve what we want in the time frame we set ourselves.  But sooner than later we will accomplish our mission if we never give up.

Let us look back at our own lives.  We start as students in school and then college.  Apart from studying and giving our best in academics, we also strive to excel in sports and cultural activities.   No wonder our parents, friends and relatives are impressed.  Our parents try to give us pocket money for our sundry expenses.  It is here where our ability to balance income and expenditure begins. Living within our means is the first lesson in our lives as a student.

We then finish our studies and get into an employment or business vocation.  We dream to climb the corporate ladder at the shortest possible time.  If our parents reached the peak of their career in three decades, we want to  achieve the same in three years.  I admire this spirit in the youth today.  It is indeed filled with optimism and an appetite to take risks, which my generation did not even dream of.

However, there is one small point to be kept in mind.  There is no short cut to success in life.  Even if we look at the world’s best sportspersons, their successes and accomplishments are visible to us.  We do not see the millions of hours of hard work they put in or the number of failures they face before they succeed in their sport. It is this ability to be focussed and the “never say die” spirit, which accelerates our road to success.

As we reach our first milestone, we tend to believe that we have achieved our goal post.  We want to celebrate even before the ink has dried on our first offer letter.  While there may be nothing wrong in partying on the first night after our first offer, we need to remember that our long and strenuous journey to accomplish our mission has just begun.  It is at this stage we need to learn to become thrifty.  We may be tempted to live beyond our means.  We may be lucky to be brought up in a upper middle class family with all comforts.  It is our ability to realize the world is different now and all the comforts in life have to be earned by us through our own earnings is critical.

We end up competing with friends who come from rich family heritage and want to live a dream life  even before we have earned it.  It is at this stage, we need to get grounded and remind ourselves that life has just begun for us.  We have just run the first few kilometres of our life marathon.  We need to learn to save money every month to build the future of our choice.  It is like the marathon runners conserve their energy in the first few kilometres so as to put in their best foot forward in the last lap of the race.

Life is a journey and it has many facets. My learning in life is that if we can master the art of living within our means, we will always be happy.  Our expenditure should always be  less than our income.  We should never get into the credit trap.  We need to learn to enjoy life within our means.  After all happiness cannot be bought only by money.  Rather, I would say that money buys the least of happiness in life.

As in the photo above, Sikhism teaches you to be grounded, treat everyone as equal and live within your means.

Let us learn to live within our means from today.  After all, it is never too late to begin.

S Ramesh Shankar


I would define “Groundedness” as our ability to keep our feet on the ground at all times  even after we may have accomplished something in life. This is not easy but worthwhile to try.  Most of us strive hard to accomplish success in life.  We study hard, play hard and work hard for success.  The moment we accomplish something in academics, sports or work we believe we have arrived.

It is true that we deserve to celebrate our success.  It is not fair to say that one does not enjoy the fruits of hard work.  If you have put in your best and accomplished something in life, you deserve to celebrate it.  You are entitled to share the good news with your family and friends.  However, it is important to realise that what ever one accomplishes is life is not absolute.  You have achieved something in relation to someone else.  It is worthwhile to remember that we have millions of others in the world, who may have done better than us in the same field.

It is natural to compete with others when we are young and strive to be the best.  But it is equally important to compete with oneself.  We have to remember that whatever we have accomplished in work or life is not the ultimate.  Let us assume that one has broken a world record.  But there is always an opportunity to break one’s own record.  The best never ever rest.  It is critical to remember that the best do not fly in the air but are always grounded.

If you look at the work place, the situation is not different.  One does not respect people who brag about their position or power.  We do not admire people who beat their chests to share what they have achieved at work.  We salute people who give their best at work but always credit others for their success.  They ensure that they are always grounded.  They are fully aware that they have to work harder and smarter to excel at work.  

Human beings are not respected for the weath they accumulate or possess in life.  They are respected for their humility and simplicity.  The people who have their feet on the ground are the people who accomplish more than the people who fly in the air.  It is important to be a realist at all times.  It is great to dream and work hard to accomplish your dream.  But it is vital to be grounded to move on after you achieve your first goal.

If you look back at history, the greatest people on earth are the humblest.  They do not carry their titles on their shoulders.  They do not wear medals on their chests.  They do not rest after accomplishing their highs in life.  They share their success with others and most importantly keep their feet always on the ground.  It is easy to stray and let your feet off the ground.  The chances of slippage are higher than the chances of success in the future.

You could dream sky high but have to have your feet on the ground.  As the photo above illustrates that the tree has grown tall but has its root on the ground.

Let us learn to be grounded always.

S Ramesh Shankar

Sights and Insights

 Sangati ( good company)

Do we get influenced by the company we are in ?  May be  or may be not.   We grow up in the family and imbibe the values of our family.  Our parents and siblings become our role models in life.  We learn the good and bad things from them.  We also imbibe the habits  of our family as we grow up.  Then as get into adolescence, we do get influenced by our friends.  Our friends influence us more than our family. 

Our friends mean more to us than our family at this stage of our life.  We study together, play together and sometimes even like to sleep together. In this process, we learn and adopt the good and the bad habits from each other.  We work hard and attend tution classes together.  We also end up smoking and drinking together.  We want to live life on our own terms.  We tend to defy our parents and do not like to be advised on anything in life.

As we grow up as adults, we take control of our life.  We leave our parental homes in search of a dream career.  We live independently and now it is our colleagues at work and friends in life, who make all the difference.  We spend more time at work and with friends.  We learn from them and share our learnings with them too.  At this stage of life, we are influenced by our boss and colleagues at work.  Further, our friends also evolve as our advisors.

Then many of us get married and our spouse becomes an integral part of our life.  We listen to each other more than anyone else in our life.  We share the good and bad news with each other.  We balance each others lives.  We lead our life as partners.  There are times of conflict, where we may fight with each other and even dislike each other’s intereference.  But, that is part and parcel of the institution of marriage.

Now, in all these stages of life, how does good company ( sangati ) make a difference at all.  It is true that our character and deeds are determined by the company we keep in life.  During our school and college days, we learn from our classmates and hence if we spend time with people who are smarter than us, we evolve smarter in life.  Similarly in college, our habits are moulded by the company we keep.  We excel in sports, arts or academics based on the influence of our friends.

On the other hand, it is also true that many of our bad habits are contributed to a great extent by the company we keep.  We end up making smoking or drinking as a habit with the influence of our peers.  Of course, we cannot blame our friends alone for any habit we develop in life.  However, it is true that our company has a huge impact in our life at this stage.

So, we learn as we grow old that yes the company we keep determines our life behaviours and habits.  Some of us realise earlier than others.  But all of us learn along the way and try to change whenever necessary.  It is up to us to decide whom we want to spend our life with.

In the photo above, the company of your colleagues makes you share happy moments of your life.  It is this spirit of fellowship, which energises you to participate and win in life.

Even the famous Hindu scripture “Bhajagovindam” states, that “The company of the good weans one away from false attachments; from non-attachment comes freedom from delusion, when the delusion ends, the mind becomes unwavering and steady and from an unwavering and steady mind comes Jeevat Mukti (liberation even in this life).”

Our company in life is our choice.

S Ramesh Shankar