Reality bytes

Today I went with my wife for a tour to Dharavi in Mumbai. This is one of the largest slums in Asia. There are almost a million people living in an area of less than two square kilometres. A home is less than ten square feet and on an average houses five adults. It is indeed an eye opener. You need to visit the place to believe it. We went through an organization, which organises these tours and partly gives back its profit to support the people and children living in Dharavi.

The first part of the tour is the commercial area. In this part, thousands of men and women are working in different types of industries. The first sight of old car bumpers getting shredded and recycled as plastic beads to be moulded into chairs and other plastic durables. Then we pass through suitcase makers, the leather soles for shoes, leather bags, bakery and food items being made for consumption within themselves as well as for sale around town.

You realise how difficult are the working conditions. In dark room with minimum light people inhale dust and paint flakes as they shred material waste to generate the raw material for plastic remoulding durables. People from the remote parts of the country are working day and night leaving their families behind just to earn a livelihood. We realise how privileged we are even to be born in middle class families. Our parents take care of our education, provide us a place to stay and a decent standard of living.

Then you move to the residential area. We see people from different states of India and following different religions living peacefully together. It is here you realise that wealth may not help you buy happiness. You see children, adolescents and adults enjoying each other’s company and helping each other in their daily chores. You see happiness writ on their smiles and this makes you realise that it is not materiality which can bring you happiness in life.

You also see schools – run by government, NGOs and private organisations. While the government and other organisations are tying their best to improve the quality of their lives, the problem is mammoth. One good thing I noticed is that I did not see children working in the commercial areas although this cannot be totally ruled out.

Some of my reflections and learnings after today’s tour are –

A. We need to be grateful to God and our parents/elders for all the comforts we enjoy in life and never realise their value

B. We realise that happiness is not directly correlated to the wealth we possess. Rather happiness is a state of mind and attitude to life.

C. We also need to realise that we need to give back to society more than we get as are indeed much more privileged than millions of people around us.

As in the photo a( courtesy – Reality tours & travels)above, children sitting in a cart within the slum seem happier than many of us. We realise how privileged we are in life.

What do you think ? Is it time to reflect ?

S Ramesh Shankar


The definition of success can be different for everyone.  It also depends on the stage of our life and our career.  It could be simply stated as achieving what we want in life.  As a kid, we mostly feel that we are successful if we achieve our scholastic goals in school or college.  We also are happy if achieve our goals in sports or cultural activities.

Most parents also define success for their children as acamedic accomplishments. This definition of success changes as we grow in life.  The moment we get through our acadmic part of our life and stand on our own feet, we redefine success .   At this stage, we tend to define success by our material wealth and accumulations in life. We would like to be the richest and the wealthiest amongst our peers.

As the career stabilises, promotions are also a measure of success.  Then we yearn for recognition and status in society.  We also grow in the family and respect is a way to defining success.  Our happiness gradually moves from self to others’ success.  At home, the accomplishments of our kids make us feel successful.  At work, the performance of our team members make us feel proud.

After we pass through this stage of our life, we realise that it is time for us to give back to society.  We redefine success in life now.  We believe that our contributions to the success of other family members and friends makes us happier.  At work, we would like our team to excel.  We also want to give back to others what we have learnt from our elders and seniors.

We now are no longer looking for more material wealth but mental peace and happiness.  Our spiritually gets redefined and we reach a stage of self actualisation.  At this stage of life, we start working on how we can support others and make them successful.  We are no longer in a rat race being competitive with others.  Our concept of success is more within us than without.

The interesting aspect of the evolving definition of success in life is linked to our life stages.  Some of us grow faster than others.  It is important to remember that we are human and hence we need to adapt ourselves to the meaning of success in life as we grow up.  It is equally essential to respect the definition of success of others in our life as they may be at different stages and may have different needs to fulfil.

Running for a marathon like in the photo above could be measure of success for some and not for others.  It is quite fine to be that way.

Let us learn to enjoy our successes in life as we define it.

S Ramesh Shankar

You are not alone..

We are born alone in this world and we may leave Mother earth all alone when we die.  But, in life, we are never alone in anything we do.  When we go through ups and downs of life, many a time we feel that we are all alone. We do not feel that way when we are happy.  But, when we are going through a crisis, we get a feeling that God has been unkind to us.  Why me ?,  is a question we ask God  often in such situations.  

It is equally true that we do not ask God for explanations when she showers us with joyous moments.  I believe I deserved a promotion or I bought a house through my dint  of hard work.  However, when I am not considered for a plum role in the organisation or my promotion is denied, I always wonder why God is unkind to me.  It is in these very situations, we need to realise that we are not alone.

God always balances the good and the bad news for us.  It is possibly when we become too arrogant and forget to be grateful to someone in life that God gives us misery to get us back to mother earth and be grounded.  It may be worthwhile to reflect that all of us go through good and bad moments.  When we go through bad moments, it may be useful to think of millions of people, whose situation is worse than us.  However, it is human for us to compare only those, who are better than us.

Life has its cyclical ways.  We all have been blessed with pleasant surprises in life.  We are blessed with a healthy child or get married to a person of our choice.  We do not express our gratitude to God but consider it our dedication to life.  When something goes wrong somewhere for us, we suddenly get more spiritual and religious.  We may not have visited temples, churches or mosques for years together.  But, suddenly we become a frequent visitor to pay our respects to God.

I have learnt that life is happier when we are ready to embrace the good and the bad with equal reverence.  The day we realise that we are better off than the thousands around us, whose life is more difficult than us, we will learn to be grateful to God.  This principle is equally applicable at work and in our personal life.  If we lead a life of contentment, God will always take care of us.  If we lead a life of greed, God can never satisfy our needs.

So, it is up to us to learn to accept life as it comes.  We have to remember the good ness in others and be grateful to God and other people in life, who have made us what we are today.  Neither the good nor the bad lasts forever.  It is up to us to balance both and be ready to manage both in life.  After all, like the weather round the years, life has its own winter, summer and rains.  We need to adapt to manage all the seasons.

Just like in the photo above, there will be some people ahead of you and some behind you facing similar situations as you are facing today.

Lets live a life of gratitude and we will be ready to face life as it comes to us every day.

 S Ramesh Shankar

Joy of little things 

All of us enjoy little things in life.  It is these small things in life, which gives us joy.   The source of joy is personal to each of us.  Some of us feel nice getting up at dawn and feeling the pure air and fragrance of nature.  For others, your best time may be at midnight when the world sleeps but you are at peace with yourself.  Each of us have our own likes and dislikes.  It is up to us to discover the little things in life, which gives us joy .  We then need to find time to enjoy those little things, which gives us happiness.

Let me start with myself.  I love going on long drives with my family and friends.  I do not miss a single occasion, when I can make it.  I have sometimes even started a journey without deciding on my destination.  It gives me joy to enjoy the journey rather than worry about the destination.

Similarly, my wife likes to garden.  She likes to look at each flower and plant and enjoy the smell and taste of nature.  She can spend hours together in the garden.  The tranquility of nature gives her joy.  She is a poet and hence nature may be giving her inspiration to write creatively. She can spend hours admiring the lily in our garden as in the picture above and even write a poem on it.

My daughter is a voracious reader and writer.  She loves to admire everything around her and can express in words, which can capture your imagination.  She can write about simple things in life and make your feel special by reading her prose.  Expressing herself in words is her passion and this gives her joy.

My son loves to make other people happy.  He loves to laugh at himself and others and always create a lively atmosphere wherever he is.  It does not matter if it is a family group or a work group, the joy of enjoying the moment gives him more joy.   He can enliven the most serious atmosphere with his presence and his laughter.

There are some, who enjoy the silence of nature.  While others may feel comfortable in the chaos of the urban landscape.  Each of us finds joy in something in life.  Many a time we are not sure what gives us joy.  As we discover the sources of joy, we tend to re-invent ourselves.

I believe each of us is unique.  We have our own way of finding joy around us.  We neither should ape others nor be worried about what others think of our likes and dislikes.  It is up to us to decide on what gives us happiness in life. It is then our prerogative to pursue it relentlessly without worrying about the world around us.  We have to only ensure that what gives us joy is not a source of sadness for others in life.

It is time to discover our own little things, which gives us joy in life and enjoy it.

S Ramesh Shankar

Born to be “Happy”

We all are born in life with equal measure of joy and sorrow. All of us go through life with all its ups and downs. While some choose to be happy others are sad. I some times find even when people go through similar events in life, some drown themselves in sadness, while others bounce back even before the event is over.

It may be fair to say that God gives us joy and sorrow in equal measure. God also bestows us with the things we want in life as per our needs. But some are happy while others are sad under similar conditions. If we try to understand this better, we realize that the environment is the same and the benefits similar to different individuals. But some choose to be happy, while others unhappy because God always fulfills our needs and not our greed.

In my view, life always has choices. We can choose to be happy if we want to and unhappy if we choose to. One factor which may help us to choose happiness in life is contentment. If we are content with what we have, we may be happy always. On the contrary, if we are greedy to want more all the time, we may never be happy because there is always be a gap between what we have and what we want in life.

I have always admired people who are happy in life.  While some may wonder if they are over optimistic and not realistic in life. In my view, it is not over optimism. It is one’s ability to bounce back. Even the happy go lucky people face tough and sad situations in life. It is their ability to take it in their stride and bounce back much before others sense their sadness.

Let us take some simple examples from life. If one loses a match, the choice for the players is to sink in sorrow and brood hours over why they lost. On the contrary, we see sportspersons, who take it in their stride and look at lessons learnt and bounce back even before we realize that they lost the match.

A child can easily teach us of how to be happy in life.  Even when a child is injured either physically or emotionally, they spring back even before we realize it.  It is this ability of a child we forget as we grow into adults.  We refuse to let go and hence take time to revive ourselves.   We just need to kindle the child in us under trying circumstances.  

All of us would have also met people in our lives who look happy at all times. It is not that they do not have their share of miseries in life. It is their ability to absorb, adapt and recotiate.  They realize that others in the world also face similar miseries and possibly their miseries are less grave than others. They choose to be happy and forget their miseries at the earliest. It is this quality, which we need to imbibe from them. We do not need to go around the world to search for them. They may be present amongst our own family, friends or colleagues in the workplace.

As in the photo above, I learnt this attribute from my wife. 

Let us choose to be happy and spread happiness around us always.

S Ramesh Shankar

Something good in everybody

There is something good in everybody around us.  We spend most of our time finding faults with others.  It is easier to find fault than to find the goodness in others.  Let us try to change the way we look at others.  If we spend a little time everyday to observe and admire one good quality in someone in our life, our life may be different.  We may not only learn that good quality and we can try to imbibe it but also make the other person happier that day.

While many of us are comfortable in sharing what we don’t like in others easily, we find it difficult to praise people in front of them.  Next , we are not very keen to look at the positives of others.  This could be a cultural issue.  But, after all each of us have a responsibility to change the culture of the organisation.  After all, we have known many brilliant individuals, who have changed the way society thinks on a particular subject.  We can become one of them if we start thinking this way.

We could put a black nail on a white wall and ask people around us what do they see on the wall.  Most people will point out the black nail and not see the beautiful white wall all around the nail.  Similarly, in real life, we all see the negatives of others easily and do not notice the positives of the same people.  May be it is time to rewind the clock and see others from a positive prism.

I have tried a small experiment in some of my training programmes.  This is not something I invented but I learnt from late Kathy Dannemiller, one of the inventors of large scale interactive processes way back in 1995. You could end a training programme by asking each participant to observe, note down one positive quality about his/her neighbour in the class during the course of that training .  Then, they could look at the eyes of his/her neighbour and share the positive quality they have observed in them.  You can see the joy in their eyes.

The power of positivity in life is endless.  You have to experience the appreciation to believe this.  If each of us try to recall when was the last time, someone appreciated something positive in us, it may be a long time since it happened.  On the other hand, if you want to recall when someone criticised you, you may recall immediately.  It is in our psyche to look at the gaps and holes in others always.

Let us resolve to ourself that we will meet every family member every day and share one positive quality we like in them that day.  Similarly, we can do with our office colleagues.  I can assure you that life will be very different. It will be full of energy and possibilities.  We will always have options for everything in life and there will be hordes of people around us, who will be keen to contribute to our success.

Like in the photo above, we met the senior union representatives of our global parent in Germany during their recent visit to India and had so much to learn from them within a week’s interaction with them.

Can we promise to admire the positivity in others from today ?  

S Ramesh Shankar

  Wealth = Health + Happiness


What comes first in life – wealth, health or happiness. This is an eternal question one may ask oneself. In my books, Wealth = Health + Happiness.

All of us start our career or business and aspire to be wealthy. We work hard and try everything under our command to make money. I think this is natural and universal. However, as we progress in life, we find some people are happy while others are not.

While there could be many reasons for happiness or unhappiness in life, one of the most important factors could be good health for yourself and your family.

While wealth can buy material benefits in life, it cannot buy health or happiness. This is the premise of my axiom that wealth is ultimately the summation of how healthy and happy you are in life.

Let us first try to understand how do we maintain good health. All of us dream to have good health but are reluctant to put in the efforts needed for the same. It could simple things like a daily exercise routine or the food we consume every day. Many of us find it difficult to work out a daily routine of exercising. I was no exception till about 20 years back when I was diagnosed with diabetes. Although, it was hereditary, the doctors clearly told me that the only way I could maintain good health is by exercising and diet control.

I started reluctantly walking every day. But, I would give it a miss on the slightest pretext. Then, one day my spouse reminded me that I walk for my health and not to make other people happy. This insight was a turning point in my life and since then I almost have walked every day at least 3 to 4 kilometres.

In my learning, it is a question of self discipline. We need to decide on an activity, which we enjoy doing and do it diligently without supervision or any expectations in return. It is the only way to make it a habit.

A similar rule is applicable to your diet. I am lucky to be a vegetarian by choice. Further, I do not smoke or drink. But even then, I have to ensure that I have my food on time and also regulate the calories I intake. If I go overboard, I have nobody to blame for my health.

Now, let us move to happiness. I have written in an earlier blog that in my view “Happiness = attitude in life “. I stand by that belief even today. You have to decide to be happy and you will be happy in life always. Neither money nor material wealth can give you happiness as a guarantee. You may have wealth and still not be happy. So, it is a state of the mind, which determines your happiness.

If we add up the two – Health + Happiness = Wealth. I believe if you are healthy and happy, there can be no force on earth, which can make you sad. This substantiates my belief that wealth may not necessarily lead to happiness but the contra is true.

Let us resolve to be healthy and happy in life from today. After all , the choice is with us always.

S Ramesh Shankar


Uncertainties of Life

I was travelling back from Seoul to Mumbai after an official meeting last week. I was waiting in the lounge for my next flight for Mumbai.  When I opened my phone, I got a message that our employees’ union president had died.  He was a progressive union leader and a thought leader.  He was physically fit and used to run marathons every year.  He recently retired from our company after working for 40 years.  A rare feat for any employee.  He goes for a morning jog, then gets admitted to a hospital and is declared dead.  Life is so uncertain – you have to experience it to believe it.

If we look back at our own lives, it is no different.  We begin the day with some plans and end the day with something else.  Many a time, we have to manage the change without necessarily creating it.  Such is life.  We have to accept it and move on.  While it is easy to reflect on it,  it is very tough to face it.  Imagine being in the family of my union president.  He was a wonderful human being and physically and mentally fit.  I met him last week and we discussed on how we can further strengthen management and union relationships.  Such was the vision of the man.  Then one fine day after a morning jog, he collapses in a hospital bed.  How can one digest it ? Its unthinkable in anyone’s life.

However, such is uncertainty of life today.  I was reading an article on the flight of a very successful professional in the USA.  He was the envy of all his colleagues.  He had done excellently in his career and had a great family and enviable wealth. One fine day he gets up and gets the news that he has lost his job.  Can we think this was a bad dream ?  It is not so.  It is the reality of his life , that day.  Whether one likes it or not, one has to accept it and move on.

It happens in professional life and it happens in sport and in our personal lives too. We had a captain of our national hockey team.  He is prolific player and a great backbone of our team.  He had some personal issues and lost his captaincy one fine day.  One does not know if the personal issues led to his loss of captaincy but the fact that a successful player loses his recognition at the pinnacle of his career shows how uncertain life is.  An olympic aspirant was dropped from the national team when she had gone home to pack her bags for the trip.

The photo above was Uday Mahale, the president of our union, who was running marathons every year.  But after his morning jog, he collapsed on the jogging track and was declared dear on arrival in the hospital.  Such is the uncertainty of life.

Most of us postpone to live life to the fullest.  We think we can do that in the future.  We think today is not the right time to be happy.  We have a lot of responsibilities in life so our celebrations can wait.  We need to realise that tomorrow is today and today is now.  Lets try to live each day as if a tomorrow does not exist.  Lets try to do all the good we can today without waiting for that elusive tomorrow.  If we postpone for tomorrow what we can accomplish today, we can never be sure if we can make it.  We need to learn to live life as if it exists only for today.

The best time to live life to its fullest is now.

What do you think ?

S Ramesh Shankar