Ray of Hope


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

I believe in myself

In anything I do, the first step is to believe in myself.  A colleague commented on my previous blog and stated that while others may believe in you, you have first to believe in yourself.  He further shared an interesting quote – After failing to climb Mount Everest, the reply of a great man – “I will come again and conquer you because as a mountain you cannot grow, but as a human I can.”

In my view that is the spirit of a positive human being.  I fully agree with my colleague that belief in oneself is the first step to success in life.  I can share many life memories, where my self belief has indeed been the first step to success.  I passed out of college in 1981 and my father had  retired from service.  Being the eldest son in the family I had to start my career to support my family as by then my two elder sisters had got married and left our home.  In the eighties in India, getting a job was not that easy.  There were hardly any placements in college or campus recruitment. 

I was pursuing my post graduation in personnel management.  I had completed two stints of internships at two different industries.  I had done my best at both the companies but was not sure if I would get a job offer.  I was worried since being without a job at home was not a choice.  I had a responsibility to support my parents.  I had the self confidence that I will get an offer from somewhere.  I always tried my best and believed in myself at all times.  As soon as I finished my second internship, this company offered me a job within a week of my passing out of college.  

At another instance, I was working in a fast moving consumer goods company.  We had gone for a outbound along with the sales team.  There was an exercise wherein we were asked to climb a tree which was 50 feet high and jump to the ground, where a safety net was laid.  We had been given safety belts and there were expert trainers to take care of our safety.  Most of the team members refused to jump down except two of us.  Interestingly the two of us were the oldest members of the team.  We were 50 plus in age.  We believed in ourselves and also in our trainer and hence took the plunge and succeeded.  The other team members possibly did not trust themselves nor the coach and hence did not. 

In life, we may have many tough situations.  We may fail multiple times but the self belief should never get eroded.  The best examples are from the field of sports.  We see sports women and men lose multiple times but they never give up till they win.   I recently met a colleague from my company in a global conference.  She is an Olympic silver medalist in swimming.  She was narrating her own story.  She had lost a medal in the previous world championship and then practised for four years and won the silver in the next Olympics. She shared that she always believed that she could make it to the Olympic medal podium and hence never looked back.

Success in life is based on the foundation of self belief.  If we believe in ourselves, we will believe in others and we will never give up.  We may have crests  and troughs in life but our goal is clear and our self confidence is energising.  As in the photo above this young guy seems to brimming in self confidence.

Let the journey of a thousand miles begin with a small step and in my view the small step is to believe in yourself.

S Ramesh Shankar

True test of Partnership

Marriage is a noble institution. It brings two individuals to share the joy and sorrows of life together. In the ancient tradition, our parents looked at boys or girls for their kids and arranged the marriage. There was a lot of investment in horoscopes and astrologers to make matches between families.
In today’s era, most of the youngsters choose their own partners either in college or later in their work life. They spend enough time to know one another and then decide to tie the knot. Religion, caste, creed etc. which were the main criteria for marriages in the bygone era has given way today to mutual interests by the younger generation. It is compatibility, which is the sole criterion for the decision.  
I sometimes have wondered as to why some marriages work and others don’t. This question in my mind has shattered all hypotheses for successful marriages which experts have enunciated. I have seen successful marriages amongst arranged ones as well as love marriages. I have witnessed people from the same state, religion, caste and creed not getting along and on the other hand people as diverse as Kashmir and Kanyakumari have evolved as great partners in life.
If if look back at my marriage, which is 32 years young this year, I can possibly summarise some of my learnings of how to make a marriage work :
1. Adapt to each other’s strengths and weaknesses : If we can build on each other’s strengths rather than weaknesses, it helps.

2. Support your partner in a crisis : All of us go through our crests and troughs in a relationship. The true test of partnership in life is not tested when everything is hunky dory. It is when you are going through a low phase of life. Your partner can be a good listener, a silent supporter and a person who can help you bounce back.

3. Gratitude : I realise that many a time we forget all the good things God has bestowed on us when we go through a tough period. We curse the Almighty for giving us all the sorrow. It is not easy to reflect on this especially when you are at the receiving end. It is at this stage one of the partners can help the other to be grateful for all that they have in life . 

4. Resolving Conflicts: When we go through conflicts in life, many a time we find a escape route. Running away from a problem does not solve it. Our true test of character is when we face issues head on and are willing to give-in and create win win solutions.

5. Forgiveness & Ego : Most of the time I have noticed that our ego plays spoilsport. Each of us wants the other to take the lead and we are not willing to forgive, forget and move on. We tend to blame each other rather than enable the other. It is our ability to forgive, which raises our stature and bonds our relationship. 
I met my partner in college and we decided to marry each other. Our families were not readily supportive of our idea. But it is our resolve, trust in each other and honesty, which helped us convince our families. Since then, we have also seen a lot of ups and downs. It has been the support of each other, which has made our partnership work. We have had great times together, we have fought with each other and even not talked to each other for days but never given up. One of us took the lead to give in and listen to the other. This has been the foundation of our partnership.
If I may summarise, I would say it is unconditional love, trust and our ability to be there for one another, which makes partnerships work. We need each other’s support, when we face a crisis rather than good times only. I am sure each of us can find a way if we are willing to work together always.
S Ramesh Shankar