Take nobody for granted…

IMG_5945

We take life and everybody around us for granted almost every day. It starts from the family to friends and even colleagues in the organisation, where we work. Let us start how this evolves from our childhood. As a child, we are respectful of our parents and others in the family and do not take anyone for granted. However, as we grow up as an adolescent, we tend to take our parents and family members for granted. We decide when we want to leave the house and when we want to return and expect our parents to wait for us endlessly for us to return.

We start justifying our erratic behaviour and interestingly demand services from our family members as if they were dying only to serve our needs. We do realise that this is not desirable behaviour when we grow up as adults and even regret our actions. This may be psychological in nature and may not be intentional. Our parents generally understand and tolerate our rebellious behaviour and at times try to counsel us too. We realise how much we took our parents and other family members for granted when we get into college or a job and leave the safe precincts of our home to live all alone.

Now, let us move to our friends. We almost take them for granted always. One may say friends are meant for that. I also thought so till I realised that it is not fair to think that way. After all even our best friends are human beings and have emotions and feelings. We need to respect them and empathise with them. Our friends stand by us at all times, even more than our relatives. Then, why should we take them for granted. We do realise sooner than later that we need to give them space and respect they deserve always.

If we move to the organisational front, the story is not very different. We take our colleagues( as in the photo above) for granted. We sometimes even take our suppliers and customers for granted. In the worst case scenario, we even take our manager for granted. We start believing that everybody is working for us and we deserve to be served by them. We do not realise that we also have obligations towards them and we should first give then expect anything from other stakeholders.

So, this is a vicious circle. Taking someone for granted is a natural state of evolution and all of us fall prey to it sometime or the other. We need to realise that as responsible human beings we have no business to take anyone for granted. Everyone has a right and has an equal measure of responsibility. This phenomenon possibly happens because we remember our rights diligently but forget our duties. Let us reflect how this impacts our behaviour in our daily life ?

As a child, we consider our parents’ duty to take care of us all the time but we do not realise that we have a responsibility to serve them in whatever way we can in return in every stage of our life. As a friend, we are happy when friends help us in distress but we forget them when we doing well in our lives and they may be in distress. At work, we seek guidance and support from everyone when we are under stress but we claim to be busy when others need our help.

This is my learning in life. We should not take anyone for granted in life. If we try to put ourselves in the shoes of others before we take anyone for granted we may realise their value in our life. It is time to wake up. It is time to be grateful to others rather than take them for granted.

It is time to change ourselves.

S Ramesh Shankar

28th August 2017

Nothing is permanent..


I recently came to know of two tragedies. In the first case, a mother lost her grown up son in a fatal accident. In the second, a daughter lost her father in a hospital bed. While the first was a young aspiring student preparing himself for the travails of life in a business school, the second was an aged father who had fought cancer and was healthy and self dependant at 85 till he fractured his leg by falling from his bed and succumbed to his post operative trauma.

If we look at both the incidents the affected people were shattered. A mother in the first case was heart broken to get up one day to know that her son is no more and has met with an accident in front of his college gate. In the second instance, the daughter had nursed her father in the hospital for a week and his fracture was operated successfully and within days of her proceeding to help her daughter in another city, her father breathed his last as he could not fight back from the post operative stress.

I can imagine the state of the mind of the mother and the daughter in both these cases. It would have been like a glass sculpture shattered into pieces. While condolences may pour in from around the world, no word can console you. No assurance can build back the belief in you. It is like you can never put together the shattered pieces of the beautiful glass sculpture even with the best adhesive in the world.

Time is the only healer and it takes time to realise it. I have personally gone through a few tragedies in my life and I have experienced this vacuum. It neither can be explained or can be consoled. It shatters your foundations. It makes you lose faith in yourself and even lose faith in God. No power on earth seems to have any impact on you. You are tempted to give up even before you given in.

Let us try to understand why this happens to all of us, who go through such tragedies. I remember someone told me that when you lose your father at a very young age, it is like someone pulling away the umbrella from your head during a thunderous downpour. It is something like that. Life is good and we are treading along. Suddenly a tragedy of this magnitude engulfs us and we are shattered. It comes like a Tsunami and leaves us homeless. We may not have lost our physical belongings but we become emotionless for some time.

We do not know the difference between laughing and crying. There are no tears left in our eyes. We want to be left alone and feel restless in a crowd. Family, friends and society are no longer a source of solace. We look at the sky with blank eyes and no emotions. Music is no longer soothing to our ears. Our life literally comes to a stand still. Days become longer and nights shorter. We do not want to see or meet anyone.

It takes weeks, months or even years to recover from such a shock. It took me more than year when my father died when I was 25. After a few years, I realised that time is the only healer. I recovered slowly but surely from the slipping ground below me. I started believing in myself and others after a while. I visited a temple after a year to assure God that I was now standing on my own feet.

This is the time one realises that “Nothing is permanent” in life. Neither joy nor sorrow. Everything is ephemeral. It will come and go. We need to have the courage and the patience to weather the storm. We should neither get carried away by the joys of life and float in the air, nor buried by the sorrows of life and sink into the earth below. We will realise that time is the best healer.

Life is like the weather today. Gloomy and rainy in the morning but bright and sunny in the evening. Nothing is permanent. Not even the weather on a single day. 

Let us believe in ourselves and our good deeds and leave the rest for time to heal.

S Ramesh Shankar

Ray of Hope

IMG_0424

There is always light at the end of a tunnel. You realise it every time you drive through a tunnel on a highway. However, it takes a lot of patience and perseverance to go through the darkness in the tunnel before you see the light. Life is no different. Every obstacle in life looks like a boulder in front of us. It overwhelms us and we get bogged down by its magnitude. It takes courage and patience to weather the storm and then look for the light at the end of the tunnel.

I have had many experiences in life, wherein I felt as if the world was coming to end and and I was in the midst of it. When you are going through a crisis in life or at work, you are bogged down by everything around you. You are drained out by the depth of the crisis you are facing. You try out all the options and still the you feel that the dark road in the tunnel is never ending. It is at this time you need to reflect and find a way.

I would like to look back at a few incidents in my personal and work life and share my learnings. I have been a born optimist in life. Hence, looking at life as art of possibilities has been my outlook. But, when you are confronted with a crisis then your optimism fades way giving way to pessimism. I recall the first instance in my personal life. I got an income tax notice for buying a timeshare property. I was shocked and perplexed. I have been a honest salaried tax payer for more than three decades now. But this incident happened way back in 1992.

I went to my tax advisor after spending a few sleepless nights as to “why me ?” . When he explained the process which the income tax department follows to track tax defaulters, I was relieved. He explained that they look at new car buyers at random and sometimes at property buyers and so on and then send them a notice to explain the source of income. When I had been an honest tax payer, I had nothing to worry. I had just to explain the source of my funds and how I have paid them. I had also paid all my instalments by cheques and hence there was nothing for me to explain. But spending a few nights with the notice at home was like a long ride in the tunnel.

The second time it was on the work front. I was made the prosecution nominee ( management representative) in a departmental enquiry against a corrupt union representative in one of my previous organisations. I was shocked. I received threats from this person including possible attacks on my family members. I was again worried as to why I was chosen for this unceremonious role. The enquiry was completed and I could help the management with my presentation skills in establishing the charges and ensuring the corrupt union representative was dismissed from service. Then my manager explained to me that I was selected because I was courageous and honest to face such a dishonest employee in an enquiry in a fair and brave way. But this enquiry took more than four months and it was an arduous journey.

The last incident was when I joined a new organization. I was confronted with a court case filed every month by the unions against the management on frivolous reasons. I was always used to maintaining harmonious and trust worthy relationship with the unions in all my previous assignments. When I took charge, I realised that there was a trust deficit between the management and the unions. It took me almost two years to rebuild that trust and thanks to a great team to work with and a responsive union we not only turned it around but today can proudly state that we have not had any court case filed against us in the last four years. But these two years were like a long dark tunnel ride.

Every situation looked dim at first sight. The more you grapple with it the more you are disappointed. When a problem gets complicated and you do not get adequate support, you tend to lose hope. It is at this juncture, we need to believe in ourselves and our credibility. We need to trust ourselves and hope that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. It is like the streak of sunlight always kindles hope on a otherwise cloudy day as in the photo above. This ray of hope re-ignites the optimism in us and helps us find a way.

Let us look for the ray of hope in life every day.

S Ramesh Shankar

The Indescribale…


There are many things in life, which can never be described.  How do we describe the beauty of nature ?  How do we explain the colours of the sky during a sunset ?  What shades of green can be explained in an ever green forest ?  There are such and similiar situations, where words cannot explain a scene.  I would call them the indescribable moments of life.

I have experienced many moments in life, which are indescribable.  The first and foremost in my mind is the spectacle of nature from morning to night.  Every day when I get up and look at the sunrise and the cloud formation, it is a new picture and changes every second.  There have been days when my wife or me have seen a beautiful skyline at dawn and called upon our partner to have a look and it has disappeared or changed within seconds. 

Life is no different.  We go through ups and downs in life and every moment is precious.  There are moments of joy, when words cannot express our feelings.  We may not be able to share our joy with others or express it ourselves.  It may be an inner feeling of happiness and contentment, which is to be experienced to be believed.  It happens to me in moments of solitude.  It could be a lonely temple or a monastery in a forest.  There is no human being or animal around you but you feel one with nature and this moment can never be described or shared with anyone at that moment.

The situation is similar when we are sad.  It could be a day when you are remembering your parents, who left you on earth decades back.  You recall life’s greatest lesson taught by them and feel their vacuum in your life.  This feeling of inertness cannot be expressed to anyone in words or emotions.  You cry to yourself and sometimes even without shedding a tear from your eyes.  No force on earth can console you during these moments and your tears appear to dry up even before they roll down your eyes.

At work too you have moments, which are not describable to any one.  You feel you are competent to deal with a situation and take on a project based on your likes.  But as you go through the project there are days of despair when you feel helpless and lonely.  You do not feel like sharing this feeling or emotion with anyone around you lest you are misunderstood by anyone.

Even within your family and home, there are moments when you do not want to share your emotions with anyone lest you hurt them.  You may have had a bad day at work but you believe your family members should not bear the burden of your work pressures and hence you hide your feelings.  These moments are equally difficult to describe for anyone who is going through them in reality.

So life has moments of joy and sorrow.  We find it easy to describe some of these moments.  However, there are other moments when words cannot express what we go through.  We neither can share through words nor through emotions what we actually go through.  It is these moments we need to learn to deal with ourselves so that we spring back to balance life our own way.

How can we describe the formation of the clouds and the colour of the skyline during a beautiful sunset on any day as in the photo above ?

Let us learn to live with life the way it is rather than the way we want it to be always.

S Ramesh Shankar

Dilemmas in Life

At every stage of life, we are faced with dilemmas, which are difficult to resolve. I faced one such dilemma in my life today. I was not sure what is the right answer. If I had said yes, I may have been fair to the person and if I said no, I may have been fair to the organization. So either way it may not be the right answer.

One is faced with such dilemmas in every stage of our life. It may start with our studies. Which course should I take and why ? Firstly, we are not sure and then if we seek counsel, we are further confused. We may get contradictory advise from different persons. . Everyone may have your best interest in mind but how do we say yes to one and no to another.

The next major dilemma one faces in life is that of choosing a job. While you qualify for something, you may end up with an offer of employment in some other field. While you want to choose one, your well wishers advise you for something else. Choosing one can please one and displease another.

Another common dilemma is the decision on marriage. Everyone has an opinion on when one should marry and with whom. If your parents are keen for you to marry and you are not ready, it may be a dilemma. On the other hand, if you are keen and your parents want you to wait for a while, you are still in the same situation. What do you do next ?

Yet another common dilemma is a decision to change jobs. You may have considered all options and possibilities but you may end up more confused than before. While your spouse has a view, your parents have the opposite view and your kids have a third opinion. It is not easy to come out of such a web.

Honestly, I do not have a magic pill to resolve dilemmas in life. But, as I reflect I realise one good way to resolve them is to have authentic conversations with all concerned and share the reasons for your choice honestly and either convince them or convince yourself to change a decision.

This may be easier said than done. It may be easier to convince oneself than to convince others. You have to try it to believe it. In my view, convincing oneself to change a decision is as difficult as to convince others. But, this is one way to ensure that you are listening to everyone and taking the best decision in the circumstances you are in.

As in the photo above, you may be reflecting what to do without knowing how to do it in any situation .

Another interesting thing is that all decisions are contextual. Hence whatever you decide is the best in the circumstances you took it in. If it works out, it is great, if it does not, one should not regret it. One could not have taken a better decision at that point of time in your life.

Life is full of dilemmas and hence it is better to face it head on rather than duck.

Try it.


S Ramesh Shankar

Everyone has a bad day…


I was watching a reality music show on television for kids.  In my view, the best participant did not do well that day.  I felt it was ok.  After all, everyone has a bad day and so did this young boy.  It was a good lesson to learn.  Even the best have a bad day.  The only difference between the best and the rest is that they learn and bounce back fast.  We as normal mortals take our time to spring back to normal.

If we look back, it is true in every walk of life.  The best in the class may not top the class every single time and may slip once in a while.  The best in a game of soccer may not score every single time they play the game.  The best batsman in cricket may not score a century every time she or he walks into a match.  So, it is in life.  We may not have the best of time, all the time.  This does not mean, we do not give our best and put our best foot forward all the time.

The best sportsman always put in their best effort.  They are not rattled even if they don’t win a game or score a goal in a match.  They are willing to realise their mistakes and learn from them.  On the other hand, many of us tend to give up even before the game is over.  It is like the spectators in a match.  If their favourite team does badly in the first half, many of them leave the ground even before the match is over.  On the other hand, the players do not give up till the last whistle is blown.

I have seen in real life that champions never give up.  Whether it is in academics, sports or even at work, the best never rest.  They may fail once in a while.  After all, they are also human like all of us.  But their resilience is worth emulating.  They spring back many a time even before the match is over.  That is why many a time it is said in sports that form may be temporary but class is permanent.

Let us try to understand this from the prism of work.  The best performers may fail in a project.  But they are keen to learn from their mistakes and then excel in their very next project.  Many of us tend to get depressed and down and out after we fail in an assignment.  It takes courage to accept defeat and learn from it.  It is better to learn gracefully from defeat than to jump in arrogance after a victory.

It is interesting to note that failures teach you better lessons than success.  It is up to us to look back and reflect on our failures with an intent to learn from it.  We want to bury the past and race towards the future.  The lessons of the past may help us lay the foundation for the future.  It is up to us to learn from it and assimilate them in our life. If we do not learn from our past mistakes, the future errors may be graver and harder to correct.

Life gives us enough chances to err and learn.  It is up to us to realise that it is fine to fail once a while and learn from it.  In today’s competitive world, many of us including our parents, family and friends find it difficult to encourage us to experiment and fail.  The best leaders give you the space to try out new things.  They are not worrried about failure as they realise that these are the stepping stones to success.

As in the photo above, the best sculptors possibly fail a few times before they produce a thing of beauty for all of us to admire.

Let us look back to move forward.

S Ramesh Shankar

Seasons of life


In most parts of the world we have summer, monsoon and winter around the year. Each part of the year signifies something for us. Let us start with summer.  The heat of the summer reminds us of the power of the sun. It helps us gain enough of vitamin D for the rest of the year and also ensures that nature takes care of the excess of water everywhere. It is a also a season of holidays for kids in some parts of the world and time for family vacations.

Then we eagerly await the onset of the monsoon. We get allergic to the heat of the sun and end up with allergies and heat rashes. We pray for early onset of the monsoon and await the forecast of the meteorologist. As the first rains arrive, the smell of the wet mud makes us feel nostalgic and we look forward to a good monsoon. However, cities get paralysed with floods and choking of drains and traffic jams. We then wait for the monsoon to be over and await the winter months.

Winter is mild or strong depending on which part of the world you live in. Either way, the temperatures are pleasant till it starts freezing and the Sun disappears forever. Then we get depressed and feel the absence of the Sun and the warmth. We also have cold waves in different parts of the world and people dying due to very low temperatures and inadequate protection from the chill.

Our life is no different. We have summer, rains and winter in our life too. When we are studying it looks like the long summer with a lot of heat of exams and evaluations. We look forward for a break and it ends sooner than it begins and we have another long academic session. A series of examinations, evaluations and tests is always testing us during this period.

Our youth is like the rains. While it is romantic and full of energy, it does pose us a lot of challenges. We need to get into a job or career and then decide to marry and settle in life. In all these, we face a lot of storms and traffic jams in the form of not getting a desired job or missing a promotion. Then not being able to marry a girl or boy of our choice and then eagerly waiting for a kid. By the time all this is done, the rains of life are over and we tend to lead to adulthood and the winter of our life begins.

As we set into late adulthood and have peaked in our career, we tend to become philosophical. It is like the winter of our life. Our health is impacted in some ways and we feel depressed when our family and friends do not have enough time for us.  No wonder we call it the winter blues.

When summer fades away and the clouds arrive on the horizon, it is the onset of the monsoon.  Life is also like that many a time. While the rains are romantic part of life, it could get flooded with challenges and we have to learn to face it and become a winner.

Thus the cycle of life is of summer, rains and winter. If we decide to enjoy every stage of our life, it is fun. After all, all of us go through it and it is the way life is.
Let us learn to enjoy all seasons of life.

S Ramesh Shankar