Guru

DSC_0134
“Guru” is the Sanskrit term for teacher.  All of us have great respect for teachers and have multiple experiences where teachers have displayed their selfless behaviour in abundance.  I met a teacher cum principal about two decades back and she transformed the image of teachers in my mind.  I was working at Indore in a private organisation and was transferred to Delhi.  As all parents do, I went from one school to another seeking admission for my kids after I arrived in Delhi.

The Delhi school conducted an admission test for my kids and after a series of interviews admitted both my children.  In this process, I was interviewed along with my wife as parents before the admission process was finalised.  However, the real virtues of a teacher was experienced by me when my child turned truant. One day I was called by the principal stating that my child was regularly bunking classes and getting into the swimming pool or to the playground during school hours.

I reached the school along with my wife.  I was told about the misconducts of my child.  I immediately apologised to the principal on behalf of my child and told her to take appropriate action as deemed fit.  I told her that I was fine even if my child was suspended for a few day, as he had defaulted multiple times even after being counselled by his teachers.  The principal’s reply was my biggest lesson in life.

She told me that she need not seek my permission to suspend my child.  That was the easiest decision for her and I was not summoned to take that decision.  She told us, that as parents we had a duty to partner with the teacher to reform our child.  She did not want to suspend but counsel the child in our presence and we ( teachers and parents) work together to help the child correct his behaviour.

There was another occasion when I was transferred from Delhi to Chennai.  My daughter was in the final year of school.  I was worried because when my father was transferred in my final year of school, years ago, my academic performance was impacted due to this transfer.  I did not want the same thing to happen to my daughter.  When I went to the school to enquire about this issue and seek the advise of the same principal, she immediately advised me to leave my daughter in her custody to complete her school education.

I had not known the principal and was stunned by this response.  She calmly said that she had two kids and was staying within the school premises.  It was easy for my daughter to stay with her and complete her final year of schooling.  This advise was not only selfless but unbelievable from someone whom you did not even know well .  The rest is history.  My daughter indeed stayed with her and did well in her academics and today is a successful carreerist in a public sector undertaking.

Subsequently, I have met a few other teachers and each time I have been impressed by their nobleness.  They always think in the best interests of the child.  They are unbiased and highly patient.  They want parents as partners to the progress of the child.  They treat every child as if they were their own. They are always willing to give to each and every child equal space and love. They never expect anything in return.

As in the photo above, this principal( in the white saree) is not only a life long family friend today but also a role model for all teachers in society. I salute her.

My salutations to all teachers today on the occasion of Guru Purnima.

S Ramesh Shankar

Language is not a barrier for kids


Language bridges people from across the world. It helps us to communicate with each other.  We can share ideas, solve problems and help each other succeed because of language.  But sometimes we believe language becomes a barrier between people and even communities and states.  Why does this happen ?  There is no logic to explain this nor reasons to justify it.

Let us look at children.  Have you ever seen children not mingling with each other because they cannot speak a common language.  I have never seen that.  On the contrary, I have even recently experienced my grandson and my nephew’s son play with each although they do not speak any language in common.  Children have a way to communicate with each other without any language.  Language is never a barrier for kids to share and enjoy together.  Why should it be for the elders ?

We have an opportunity to learn from children.  As elders, we make language a barrier between us. We feel it breaks down communication and will easily blame communication as a barrier.  How do children overcome this barrier ?  How do they communicate even without knowing the language of each other ?  I am reminded of a story, which happened in India a few decades back.  A french anthropoligist was visiting India to study in some part of rural India.  He neither knew english nor Hindi.  He was also not familiar with the local regional languages of that part of India.  When asked how he would do his research without knowing the local language, he responded that he would visit the villages and behave like children and then the villagers would respond.  This will help him study their behaviour.

Thus we need to realise that language can be an enabler for better communication.  It should not be a barrier to deal with each other.  It is also interesting to note that more than 70% of our communication is done non verbally.  Hence, how can we blame language as a barrier, which in any case only accounts to that balance 30% of communication between human beings.

It is fascinating to see children talk to each other without knowing each others’ language.  They are not only able to communicate with each other but even able to coordinate with each other seamlessly.  If you see them play a game together, you will see this in action.  What prevents the elders to not do the same? As we grow older in life, our ego becomes the barrrier between human beings and not the language.

We tend in live in own world and refuse to adapt ourselves to others as the situation demands.  Children are adaptive by nature.  They are always willing to give more than they take from others.  They listen more attentively.  This makes them communicate with each other bettter without blaming language or other factors as barriers.

It is time to reflect, un learn and re-learn this adaptive nature from kids.  Their ability to adapt is admirable.

It is time for change.  What do you say ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Sights and Insights https://www.amazon.in/dp/B072MGWCYR/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_XMMxzbH5PSM3E

The ‘Aha” moment


All of us go through various experiences in life.  Each moment is a unique one in life.  However, there are some moments, which we may call as ‘Aha’ moments,  when you suddenly feel that you have arrived in life or something special has happened to you.  These moments may be small events in life but have a lasting impact on you throughout your life.

Let me try to illustrate through some real life experiences.  I was vacationing near the western ghats of south India during summer of this year and suddenly I took out my IPad and started writing a blog.  It was a moment of revelation.  A moment to cherish – as words started flowing as if water was flowing through the river bed down the valley.  It was natural and unplanned.  But the joy within me was unique.  I shared this experience with my spouse and since then started writing a blog every week without fail.  This was indeed a “Aha” moment in my life.

Another interesting incident, which happened in my life was when I joined my current employer.  I had till then lived in Kolkota and worked in Delhi and Chennai.  After moving to Bangalore in 2005, I never dreamt of moving out of that city to work.  But, suddenly in 2011, I got an offer from my present employer and moved to Mumbai.  This was an “aha” moment since I always felt like living and experiencing this dream city in my life.

My wife had passed out of college and was working as a counsellor before we got married.  After we had our second child, I encouraged her to write the National Eligibility test (NET) to become a teacher in college.  She reluctantly agreed and gave the exam.  When she cleared it at the first attempt, it was a ‘Aha” moment for her.  She had lost touch with academics but even without much preparations, she cleared in the first attempt and hence was overjoyed. 

My daughter always had a desire to study mass communication.  When she completed her graduation in journalism from Delhi University, she started to apply for many colleges to pursue her masters in mass communication. Suddenly, one day she got a call from the most prestigious institute for mass communication in India and this indeed was a “aha” moment for her.  Her joy was boundless.

My son was always a automobile enthusiast from childhood.  He dreamt about cars and bikes even during childhood.  As he grew up, this hobby became a passion.  Then he went for his higher studies in marketing.  On return, he was applying for jobs and out of the blue, he got an opportunity to work for one of the most coveted brands in the world car industry.  This was a “aha” moment in his life since he got to live his passion every day.

All of us have our “aha” moments in life.  It is up to us to enjoy the moment and share the joy with others.

S Ramesh shankar

The gregarious neighbour


In life, one is blessed to have a wonderful neighbour.  I have had this privilege on a few occasions as I have cris-crossed the nation as part of my career.  In life, you neither can choose your parents nor your colleagues at work.  Similarly, you do not have the privilege of choosing your neighbour.  It was by chance that I bought a flat and moved in.  The neighbour moved in as a tenant. 

We hardly knew each other and generally met only in the lift while going up or down to work or on an outing.  We exchanged smiles and greetings and that was the only introduction.  My wife, me and my kids were very touched by their warmth and helpfulness.  They were a young couple with three kids.  Both husband and wife were always welcoming and greeted you with smiles.

In my less than two years of being their neighbour, I have never seen them in conflict with anyone in our society nor create any ruckus.  They were a sporting couple and always willing to help others.  I always used to silently admire them.  One day they invited us home for a cup of tea.  We realised that we were from different states and different age groups but there was something in common between us.

I admired their friendliness and we shared our feelings with them when we met them.  Interestingly enough they reciprocated our feelings.  I realised that in life, if you need good neighbours, you have to be good.  If you expect others to smile, you need to smile.  If you are helpful, others are more than keen to help you.  Age, caste, creed, religion or nationality does not matter at all.

I moved out of that flat to move to my newly built home in another part of the city.  But, we continued to be friends exchanging calls, messages and greetings through phone and social media.  Occasionally we met for lunch or dinner.  But, even if we did not meet, we had great rapport and respect for each other.  We evolved as friends for life and nurtured our relationship.

Today, if I look back, we stay in two different cities and lead our own busy lives.  But, we still are in touch with each other. We still look for opportunities to talk to each other and wish each other.  We celebrate the successes of each other and are more than willing to share any sorrow between us.  Once a friend, always a friend. I think one is blessed in life to have such neighbours.

I recently was chatting with her and it occurred to me that this family is a great source of inspiration for us.  They taught us to live life happily and share your joy with others.  Both husband and wife partnered to nurture our friendship and sustain it.  They enabled each other to pursue their passion in life and always sported a smile all the time.

I wish and pray to God to bless all of us with such neighbour in life.  

What do you say ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Flying birds


I have always been fascinated at the way birds fly high in the sky. I used to envy them and think how lucky they are.  One day I was wondering what the birds would be thinking of us as human beings on earth.  While I envied the birds for flying fearlessly, they may be envying us for enjoying ourselves walking around on the ground.  We believe the birds have all the freedom in the world and they do not need to stay at a permanent place.

On the other hand, the birds may wonder how lucky human beings are that have a permanent place to stay.  Birds have to keep flying endlessly till they are tired and have to find a place every day to rest at night.  They have to earn their food by flying around trees or other places and may be lucky some day and not on other days. We are so lucky we have a home to stay and get food served on our plates every day.

This phenomenon teaches us an important lesson in life.  We tend to compare ourselves with others and feel jealous.  Further, we think others do not suffer as much as we do.  We feel we are always face the most difficult situations while other rejoice.  We never realise that others may be in similar situations like us or may be even worse than us.  It is like me envying the birds in the sky till I wondered one day what the birds would think of me.

Life is a journey and has its ups and downs.  All of us have days of joy and moments of sorrow.  It may be worthwhile to admire others and learn from their goodness.  It may not be worth the while to envy others and die out of comparison.  If we need to compare anyone, it could be ourselves.  We can always be grateful to God for all the joyous moments he gave us when we face some miseries.

It is the attitude of self reflections and learning, which may make us better human beings.  Each living being is created by God and have their own pluses and minuses.  It is up to us to look at the positive of others and learn from them.  Jealousy can only make us move backward in life.  It is worthwhile to fly high in the sky like the birds and dream big.  It may be useful to leave the bad moments of one’s life behind like the birds leave their nest behind when they migrate.

It is up to us to be free and enjoy life like the flying birds.  If we learn from them, we benefit.  If we compare ourselves with them and feel bad, we lose.  Let us learn to learn not only from other human beings around us but from birds and animals, which have enough to teach us.

Today can be a new beginning.

S Ramesh Shankar

Groundedness


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 https://www.amazon.in/dp/B072MGWCYR/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_FoyozbTGCBJ05

 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