Excerpt for 50 Shades of Life by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Author Bio

Shivananda (Shivoo) Koteshwar has over two decades of experience in the semiconductor industry in varying positions. He is currently with MediaTek as Director - Engineering, responsible for SOC implementation for wireless, home entertainment and networking products.

Shivoo is also an accomplished entrepreneur and angel investor in social networking, hospitality and agritech. Shivoo is the Founder Director of 4 Start-ups - Sparsha Learning, Your Philanthropy Story, Coastered Technologies and BelakooCoCreate.

Shivoo is a passionate teacher and a visiting faculty in leading colleges and schools in India. Shivoo serves as a Board of Studies member in Mount Carmel College, Indian Academy Degree College, BMS College of Engineering and Dr.MCET, Pollachi and served as an Advisory board member in MS Ramaiah School of Advanced Studies and Vyasa International School.

An alumnus of IIM, Bangalore, Shivoo has derived inspiration from real life stories all around him.

50 Shades of Life


Published by:

Nithya Enterprises,

52, G Street, Ulsoor,

Bangalore 560 008

Email : jayaram.nithyaent@gmail.com

First Edition Published in December, 2016

Second Edition Published in January, 2017

Copyright © ShivanandaKoteshwar 2016

This book is a work of fiction and, any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electrical, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

For binding mistakes or missing pages etc., the publishers' liability is limited to replacement, subject to availability.

All disputes are subject to Bangalore Jurisdiction only.

Typeset, Printed and bound by Nithya Enterprises, #52, G Street, Ulsoor, Bangalore 560008

Photo credits :Sneha Narayan, Accomplished

Bharatanatyam dancer, Choreographer &

Carnatic Classical Vocalist

Bharata Muni enunciated the nine Rasas in the Nātyasāstra, an ancient work of dramatic theory. Each rasa, according to Nātyasāstra, has a presiding deity and a specific colour.

The nine rasas are:

  1. Śṛungāram: Love, attractiveness. Presiding deity: Vishnu. Colour: light green

  1. Hāsyam : Laughter, mirth, comedy. Presiding deity: Pramata. Colour: white

  1. Raudram : Fury. Presiding deity: Rudra. Colour: red

  1. Kāruṇyam : Compassion, mercy. Presiding deity: Yama. Colour: grey

  1. Bībhatsam : Disgust, aversion. Presiding deity: Shiva. Colour: blue

  1. Bhayānakam : Horror, terror. Presiding deity: Kala Ratri. Colour: black

  1. Veeram : Heroic mood. Presiding deity: Indra. Colour: saffron

  1. Adbhutam : Wonder, amazement. Presiding deity: Brahma. Colour: yellow

  1. Śāntam : Peace or tranquility. Presiding deity: Vishnu. Colour: white

(Source : Wikipedia)


All of us exhibit one of the “navarasas” in our everyday life. Once I started to recognize this, I started looking around for stories which highlights our expressions and experiences around simple things in life …

Recently, when I visited the Chennakesavaa temple in Somnathapura Temple near Mysore, I saw a strange animal carved in uniformly across the 13th century Hoysala Architecture temple. It was a beast with the body of a wild hog, the legs of a lion, the tail of the peacock and the trunk of an elephant. When I asked the guide what was the motif, he mentioned, its “Makara” - an imaginary beast which symbolized a Hoysala Warrior.

“A true Hoysala warrior needs to have strong legs of a lion to hold the enemy firmly, a strong body of a wild hog which no weapon can easily kill, strength of an elephant; but all these qualities are waste, if he is not as beautiful as a tail of a peacock”

If the perfect body representation required 4 animals, how many different elements would be required to describe a human mind?

When I tried to answer this question, I started looking back at my life and my experiences and started writing down the incidents. This was the genesis of my first book - “50 Shades of Life.”

My other big influence to write this book was a story fromAfrica - UBUNTU. The story goes like this...

An Anthropologist placed a basket of sweets near a tree and made the African tribal children stand hundred meters away and announced that whoever reaches first would get all the sweets in the basket. When he said “ready steady go”, the children held each other's hand, ran together towards the tree, divided the sweets equally and ate it.

When the Anthropologist asked them why they did so, they answered “UBUNTU” which meant - “How can one be happy when others are sad?”

UBUNTU means “I AM because WE ARE”

UBUNTU is a quality that includes the essential human virtues - Compassion and Humanity. When we take time for ourselves from our busy schedule and take a look at the world around us, we realize, “I AM because WE ARE”. I have tried to reflect the same spirit, where I have written stories around my friends and my experiences. All the stories touch upon different emotions in each of us.

I would like to give a special shout of thanks to Anindita Amit Roy, DhruvChandavarkar, Shubha Shivalli, SakshiSatwani and NisargaRavindra for bringing my stories to life through their sketches.

Shivananda (Shivoo) Koteshwar


December, 2016


Table of Contents

1. A Beggar, A Student, A Child, A Son 12

2. Karma Strikes at a Traffic Signal? 16

3. Bad Touch vs. Unsafe Touch. I Want My Baby Safe! 19

4. My Fat Is Someone Else’s Nutrition 23

5. Bullying Involves Two Parties. Doer and Observer! 25

6. Building Trust Takes Time 33

7. The Writing on the Wall 36

8. The Rich Aspire For a Poor Lifestyle 39

9.How Can I Educate The Educated? 41

10. Technology to the Rescue 45

11. The 65+20+10+5 Equation of Life 48

12. What Changes The Heart Can Change The World! 50

13. ‘Rich’ Is Always Relative 55

14. A Devil inside a God 58

15. The Strange Connection between Guilt and Giving Back to the Society 61

16. Innocent Mind and a Helpless Father 64

17. Everyone Deserves a Break 69

18. My Mentor, Friend and Sounding Board. The One Who Always Thought Outside the Box 74

19. I Am a Social Butterfly With 4,000 Friends on Facebook But Few Real Friends 78

20. Humility Spreads Positive Energy 81

21. Suckers Deserve A Splat! 84

22. I am Rich But Hungry 86

23. A Love Story between Three Best Friends And A Girl 89

24. Successful Individual and a Fulfilling Life, but a Bad Father and Husband 96

25. Thinking On Your Feet 99

26. The Dark Side of Our So-Called Safe Society 103

27. You Get What You Deserve 107

28. IOT, the Next Big Thing! 111

29. Needs over Wants, Necessity over Luxury 115

30. Little Steps, Big Change 118

31. What’s In a Signature? 121

32. The Art of Hiring Good Teachers 123

33. The Inspiration Wall 126

34. Values over Money Pays More 129

35. Archie, A Rose Seller and a Sticker Dealer, But a Great Strategist in a Valentine’s Week 132

36. Selling the Empty Box 136

37. Small, But Big Enough To Make an Impact 139

38. Generational Diversity at the Workforce 142

39. Marijuana Addiction, an Innocent Child, Darwin D’ Souza And His Life Lesson 145

40. Fight Your Battles Instead Of Waiting for A Miracle 150

41. She is Mine... Only Mine 155

42. Hindi Phrases to Motivate Indian Entrepreneurs 157

43. A Slice of Cake and A Life Lesson 161

44. The Story of a True Entrepreneur 164

45. Finding a Win-Win In Tough Professional Spot 168

46. Hunger Has No Religion 171

47. We Should Get A Divorce! 174

48. Where Is Raam? 177

49. Green Thumb or a Green Tongue? 179

50. Coaster Collection as a Hobby 182

1. A Beggar, A Student, A Child, A Son

While I was sitting at a café, taking sips of my Americano, I noticed a boy aged around 10 years begging nearby. Some were shooing him away while others were telling him about the ill effects of begging. My eyes were locked on to his innocent face and small eyes. Suddenly, he looked up at me, and there was a strange connection between us over the next few seconds. He then approached me, but did not ask for money. We had an interesting conversation thereafter.

Shivoo: “What is your name?” Boy: “Raju.”

Shivoo: “Where are you from?”

He muttered the name of a village that I did not quite register. He suddenly became interested in this conversation

Shivoo: “Do you go to school?”

Raju: “Yes, I attend a government school.” Shivoo: “And, are you happy with the school?” Raju: “Yes, I love it.”

Shivoo: “Then, what are you doing here?”

Raju: “My parents have gone out of town for work, and they will be back only this weekend. So, I'm staying with my neighbor till then. They give me breakfast in the morning, and I have lunch at school. But I feel hungry by the time it is evening”.

Shivoo: “Why is that?”

Raju: “Because I play a lot after school and I end up feeling hungry. These last two days I have not been playing much, so I don't feel as hungry.”

Shivoo: “Did it reduce your hunger?”

Raju: “No, I feel bored and even more hungry because I am always thinking about food.”

Shivoo: “So, then, what did you do yesterday?”

Raju: “I slept early, hoping to eat breakfast when I get up.”

Shivoo: “Okay, do you want to eat panipuri?”

Raju: “Can you buy me a masala puri

After speaking with him for a bit, I left my laptop on the table and stood up to buy him masala puri. A chaat stall stood right next to the café. He ate heartily.

We then came back to the café. I offered him Rs.20/-

Raju: “I don't need the money right now. I'm full.”

Shivoo: “What will you do tomorrow?”

Raju: “I will come here and look for you.”

Shivoo: “I won't be here tomorrow, Raju.”

This upset Raju, and he was puzzled with my response. I did not want him to start begging again, so I told him a lie.

Shivoo: “You know something? Even I did not have anything to eat when I was your age. I survived by working and eating with whatever little money I earned.”

Suddenly, his eyes lit up. I never imagined his two small eyes could turn so bright. I could see the twinkle in his eyes. He was curious to know more about my story. So I went on.

Shivoo: “But, you know, I never missed school. I did very well in my studies and never neglected eating lunch because that was the only meal I got in the day. I never skipped playing with my friends and studying. If I felt hungry, I drank a glass of water and focused on my studies. I didn't realize I was hungry when I read books.”

Raju: “So if I study hard, can I also become like you?”

Shivoo: “Yes, of course, you can.”

Raju: “Will you buy me some books? I don't have anything other than what the school has given me. And I have studied them all already.”

Shivoo: “Why do you need more books?”

Raju: “So that tomorrow when I'm hungry, I can read those books.”

I then bought him lots of storybooks and an encyclopedia. I also gave him a big packet of biscuits, which would help him satiate his hunger until he reconnected with his parents again.

I had never actually faced such a difficulty in my life. I never knew what hunger felt like, but a lie from my side helped that child find a hero in me. Now, he will fight for things in life in the right way, and not take the easy way out, like begging. He now believes that concentrating on his studies at school can change his tomorrow. The plate of masala puri I bought him satisfied his hunger, but his real hunger was quenched by the knowledge that was rekindled in him. I just hope he retains that same level of brightness I saw in his eyes in the future.

I am sure he will think twice before begging now. I hope we all think at least once before giving away money to kids or shooing them away when they come to us while we are taking sips of our expensive Americano. Everybody needs a hero.

2. Karma Strikes at a Traffic Signal?

Like any other day, I left home for work at 6:30 am. Because it had rained heavily the previous night, the roads were clean and welcoming. I cruised through the KR Puram Bridge junction in Bengaluru at about 20 km/hr. For people who know anything at all about that junction, it's a heavenly feeling driving at 20 km/hr on that stretch.

To be successful in life one has to cross many bridges.........

KR Puram Bridge is surely one of them"

By the time I reached the Ring Road, I was greeted with a red light at the Soul Space Arena junction. Everyone around me zipped past me, clearly breaking the law. I decided to stop. Just then, one of the riders who were planning to jump the signal came to a halt next to me. In the next 30 seconds, vehicles in all the three lanes stopped at the signal.

A flashy Honda Civic stopped behind me and started honking. He not only wanted to jump the signal himself but was also expecting me to do the same so I could make way for him to race ahead.

I decided not to be bothered by the honking, as I had a long day at work ahead of me. I ignored him.

Suddenly, like a DJ at a shady bar, he became mad and started slamming his steering wheel as if he was spinning the disk. I looked at him with a smile and pointed to the red light. The timer at the traffic signal showed we had 40 more seconds to go.

He hated me more at this point. He started abusing me in our local language, Kannada. Staying patient, I got off my car, went up to him, and asked him if it was an emergency. I would have said sorry and moved out of his way if it was, but of course, it was not.

He rolled down his glass window, and I could hear him abusing me louder. In just 10 seconds, he managed to abuse me and all of my relatives, many of whom, I am sure, I still have not met.

Before he could even realize it, I quickly rushed for his car keys, took the bunch out, and threw it at least 50 meters away on to the adjacent service road. The keys fell in a puddle of storm water on the side of the road. The man really did not know how to react at what I had done.

Now, my “friendly” fellow driver was stranded in his car in the middle of the road without his keys. Everybody started honking at him, wondering why this man had stopped his car in the middle of the road.

Pardon my English for a second here, but the “honker became the honkee."

I am sure it was a small penalty to pay for hurtling abuses and non-compliance to traffic rules.

With that same smile, I came back to my car when the traffic light turned green, started it up, and continued with my drive to work. Without saying a word, I had ensured our man would never jump a signal or honk at a person who is following the rules again.

Having had a soul-transforming experience at the Soul Space junction, I am sure that, while waiting for the tow truck, our man would have been reminded of the famous verse from the Upanishads.

“Now as a man is like this or like that, according as he acts and according as he behaves, so will he be; a man of good acts will become good, a man of bad acts, bad; he becomes pure by pure deeds, bad by bad deeds;

And here they say that a person consists of desires, and as is his desire, so is his will; and as is his will, so is his deed; and whatever deed he does, that he will reap.”

-Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 7th Century BC

3. Bad Touch vs. Unsafe Touch. I Want My Baby Safe!

I had once gone to meet a friend of mine whom I had known for many years. When I entered his house, his daughter, who is in class eight, came running towards me. She jumped up on me and hugged me; she had not seen me for almost a year. Let us call her Pumpkin.

I have known Pumpkin since when she was a baby. She has seen her dad and me together through all of her formative years, the pre-teen and teenage years especially. For her, I was no different from her dad.

After patiently waiting for me to finish speaking with her dad and mom, Pumpkin invited me to her room. She showed me pictures of all her new friends, toys, books, the project report she had created for school, and her boyfriend's profile picture. So many things had happened in her life in just the last year that she felt like telling me everything at once.

We had a marathon conversation about her life. Then I asked her about what she did earlier.

Shivoo: “Why did you jump on me and hug me like that?”

Pumpkin: “Because I love you.”

Shivoo: “But you are a grown-up girl now, a young woman. You should not be doing that.”

Pumpkin: “Come on, uncle! Don't be old-fashioned. It is you – Shivoo uncle. I am like this with only a few of my dad's friends.”

If she had told me that she was like this only with me, I think I would have been okay. But the moment she said she was like this with a few of her dad's other friends too, I got worried.

Shivoo: “Pumpkin, do you love me a lot?”

Pumpkin: “Yes, of course, I do.”

Shivoo: “If I ask you to not do one thing, will you listen?”

Pumpkin: “Yes, except asking me to get on Facebook. That I can't.”

Shivoo: (Smile) “Agreed.”

Shivoo: “No more hugging anyone else the way you hugged me. Only make the hugging gesture and give them an air-kiss. Deal?”

Pumpkin: (Puzzled) “Why?”

Shivoo: “Have you heard about good touch and bad touch?”

Pumpkin: “Yes, Stacy ma'am has spoken about this at school.”

Shivoo: “Good. So whose touch is 'bad touch'?”

Pumpkin: “A stranger's!”

I realized just then that Stacy ma'am had not done justice on this matter to the kids at school. It is easy to avoid strangers, but kids get confused between good touch and bad touch because there are good uncles and bad uncles. What if a good uncle touches a child in a 'bad' way, or what if a bad touch feels good to a little child?

A positive and a negative together in the same sentence can be confusing for kids. They cannot place different emotions appropriately. And a confused kid is more vulnerable than an ignorant one. It is important, therefore, to educate them about safe and unsafe touch. I want my baby safe.

Shivoo: “Baby, it is not about good or bad here. It is about safe and unsafe. Unsafe is unsafe, whether it is with good uncles, bad uncles, or strangers.”

I taught her the Safe Body Rule. I explained to her the right way to say 'no', prepared her to respond to a "secret," asked her to speak up and tell her parents or me if something happened, and not to feel embarrassed or scared to talk about her body or about our reaction to such things.

I narrated to her a couple of stories to make her understand the safety aspect in her interactions with other people, how to take care of herself and her feelings, and how to talk to her parents about any experiences she has, good or bad.

The little girl felt empowered.

Pumpkin: “Now I understand it completely. I will tell all my friends about this. Thank you! Can I ask you one question?”

Shivoo: “Sure.”

Pumpkin: “Does it mean I can't jump on you, too?” Shivoo: “Yes, that includes me.”

At that moment, I knew. What was required of me was a constant engagement with my baby to keep her safe. One conversation was not going to make her understand it all.

She then ran out of the room and shared this discussion with her parents. The careless laugh on my friend's face disappeared as I joined her outside the room. He stood up, hugged me tightly, and said thank you.

I could see a tear drop at the corner of his eyes. It meant much more than a "Thank You."

I said, "Every parent requires a circle of protection around their kids. I am your circle. She is my angel. I want my baby safe."

4. My Fat Is Someone Else’s Nutrition

My friend Shruti is on a mission to lose 10 kilos in the next three months. Naturally, the menu has suddenly changed from delicious butter naan with paneer butter masala to bland rotis and colorless dal. The fruit salad with ice cream has been replaced with food more appropriate for rabbits, like leafy veggies and salads.

Shruti is struggling to find joy in the insipid-tasting healthy food she is eating these days and is forcing a smile on her face.

Yes, she has reduced 0.6 kilos in just three days of following a strict diet, but there is still a long way to go.

One day, she developed a craving for panipuri. So we both strolled down the road to a chaat center nearby. While the man at the store began preparing the dish, Shruti spotted a small ice cream store across the road.

The urge to eat fruit salad with ice cream overtook her commitment to lose 100 grams, which was her target for the day.

She sprinted across the road to the ice cream store and ordered a jumbo fruit salad. When it arrived, the bowl was filled with fruits, dry fruits, two scoops of rich ice cream, and a cherry on top that looked like a beautiful centerpiece.

Guilt kicked in when she started digging into the bowl. Soon, she picked out the nuts and threw them on the ground; the cream followed next and joined the nuts in the dirt. Then came the ice cream. She took her eyes off it and, just when she was about to throw it all down to the ground, a young boy approached her.

Boy: “Aunty, can you please put everything you throw in this plate?” Shruti: (Confused) “Why?”

Boy: (Innocently) “I am hungry. I have not had lunch. You do not have to give me money or buy me anything at this store. I will eat what you do not want to eat. Please do not throw it. Give it to me.”

Shruti: (Wet eyes) “I am sorry. Take this bowl.” Boy: “Thank you.”

Two other boys joined him, and he was happy to share the food he had just received with them. They disappeared into the small lane that passed adjacent to the store.

5. Bullying Involves Two Parties. Doer and Observer!

A new batch of kids started school just three weeks ago. There was an atmosphere of excitement, fear, confusion, and energy at the campus.

I took my regular morning walk of inspection during the break. It is amusing to hear the sound diminish in every class as I walk by. I only hope it is a sign of respect and not fear.

All the junior kids in the corridor had a smile on their face. Their greetings for the morning were always high-pitched and like a soothing raga, all of them clamoring for my attention.

The senior kids were different in how they greeted me. They wished to be treated like adults. And I do, but deep down in my heart, I know they are just overgrown kids wanting the same love that we give to primary school students.

After completing my rounds, I went back to my office. There, I started recollecting every face I saw in the school corridors. Of all the faces I could recall, my mind could not forget three faces in particular. These kids did not have the same smile that I expect to see a child wear early in the morning.

It bothered me. The only purpose of education for me, personally, is to make learning fun and spread the love for learning to every heart in my school. Since I did not see the smile I expected in them, I could not focuson the tasks that I had planned to do in the day

As I heard the bell go off for lunch, I ate my bowl of fruits and, after 15 minutes, asked my administrative staff to bring those three kids in for a chat.

The first of them, Poorna, was hesitant to enter my office chamber. So as soon as she came in, I told her we will go down to the playground. She showed a sign of relief. At first, she did not have a clue as to why I was taking her to the ground. But I could hear her thinking, “It's better than the director's room.”

At school, whenever I wished to speak to the kids, I took them out to the beautiful football ground in our campus. We would take a long walk around the ground. The whole campus knew that that was my alone time with the kids. A regular discussion would last for four rounds around the football ground.

With Poorna by my side, I asked her about the school, the teachers, the facilities, and so on. In the next 10 minutes, she became comfortable talking to me. When I asked if she had made any new friends at the school, her smile disappeared. I knew then that something was wrong.

Shivoo: “Tell me, is someone bothering you at school?” Poorna: (With hesitation) “Yes.”

Shivoo: “Why did you not tell me or your class teacher?”

Poorna: “I am new and I am afraid to talk to anyone.”

Shivoo: “Don't worry. It is perfectly fine. Tell me who is bothering you and in what way?”

Poorna: “Rohan.”

Shivoo: “Okay, what about Rohan?”

Poorna: “He teases me a lot, and yesterday, he made fun of my hair in front of everyone. Everybody laughed.”

Shivoo: “Why does that bother you?”

Poorna: “Because everybody at home also laughs at me. I thought school was my escape from home, and now school has become like home.” (Starts crying)

Shivoo: “Don't worry. I will handle this and make sure you will never have a problem at school. Trust me.”

Though Poorna did not know me, she looked into my eyes and acknowledged me.

Then, I sent her back to class.

During this time, Vishnu was waiting for me at my office. Five minutes into the discussion, it was the same name, "Rohan." Rohan had pushed and kicked Vishnu in the school bus. Though Vishnu could have fought back, he did not. He was embarrassed as everyone was there.

Third and last was Samved. He was a shy boy. After two rounds of a quiet walk around the ground, he opened up to me. I was expecting him to say, "Rohan." And he did. Rohan had made fun of his tiffin box and his English-speaking skills.

I came back to my office and looked at Rohan's admission record and the interview feedback. When I saw his photo, I clearly remembered my discussion with his parents.

Though his parents were affluent, the only request they had made was to help Rohan be more humble, helpful, and understand life in the right way. They had tried talking to him, but it had not helped. They were worried about his future.

In such a scenario, it is normal for a teacher to fall back on the proven technique of punishing or detaining the child. But I knew with my experience with different kids that no amount of punishment, scolding, or any form of negative reinforcement would work in this case.

So I called Rohan's parents and took their permission to drop their son home personally that evening. They knew something was wrong. But since they knew me well and trusted me, they didnot ask me any more questions

I sent a note to Rohan's class teacher that I would be picking Rohan up after class in the evening and dropping him home.

We had two problems. Rohan was bullying his classmates, which needed to be fixed. But I was also worried about the atmosphere in his class, which had to change. As an observer, if you are not protecting the victim or voicing out on the issue, you are indirectly supporting the act. I had to fix both the issues. I started with Rohan.

When the school bell rang the next day, I was waiting for Rohan in the parking lot. Since he was a confident, outgoing child, the fact that the director of the school was picking him up and dropping him home was not very intriguing. He sat with me in the car, and then we were off.

Rohan: “Sir, my house is on the other side.”

Shivoo: “I want to take you out some place before I drop you home. Is that okay?”

Rohan: “Cool.”

Shivoo: (Looking at him with a smile)

Rohan: “Sorry, sir!” I drove him past the small village situated near the school and stopped at a small house nearby. An old man was sitting outside the house.

Shivoo: “Where is Samved?”

Old man: “He has gone out to bring the cows back to the shed.”

Shivoo: “Did he eat anything after he came back from school?”

Old man: (Smiling) “Who eats in the evening? We have only one good meal at night.”

After a pause, he continued

Old man: “He might not come back so early. He attends a government school in the evening and teaches English to little kids. He is the most intelligent boy in our neighborhood. His parents died when he was little. He is the only support we have. He is a good boy and helps all the kids with their studies here.”

Shivoo: “Does he like the new school?”

Old man: “Yes, he is very happy to join your big school. He says teachers are great. He was very happy with his classmates, and he always says that he is found an opportunity to learn a lot more and teach everyone here better. Thank you for that!”

Suddenly, Rohan realized that we were talking about the same boy he teased in the morning for his inability to speak English fluently. Yes, he may not have been as good as him in English, but he was giving back everything he knew to kids around him. He was more useful to people around him than Rohan was.

All of a sudden, Rohan began to feel small before a boy who carried an old tiffin box and could not speak English properly . Rohan did not say a word.

We then got into the car and proceeded to our next destination. We reached a big bungalow in a span of few minutes. By then, the school bus had just arrived there, and we both saw Vishnu get off the bus. There were three of them waiting to receive him. One carried the bag, the other carried the lunch box, and the third person was ready with water and a bowl of fruits for him. Vishnu did not want them to carry his bags, but they insisted. He followed them into the house, and we went behind him.

He was very happy to see us. He immediately called his mother out, who was glad to meet us too. We drank juice at his house and, just when we were about to leave, Rohan saw Vishnu's dad. He was the same man whom Rohan's dad considered a role model and praised regularly for his humility and success.

Rohan: “Sir, when I hit Vishnu at school, he could have easily fought back. He is richer than I am. His dad is bigger than my dad. He is stronger than I am. Why didn't he?”

Shivoo: “Kiddo, it's not always about the money. When you come to school and wear this uniform, everybody is equal. What your background is, who your parents are, and what car you have at home does not matter. It is the right attitude and hunger for knowledge that should be brought to class.”

Rohan: “But why didn't he hit back?”

Shivoo: “He was never physically abused in life, so he did not know how to react when you kicked him.”

Rohan: “Sorry, sir.”

Shivoo: “You don't have to say "sorry" to me. Tomorrow, when you meet him at the school in the morning, tell that to him in front of everyone in the class. Asking for forgiveness in that way makes you a bigger and better person.”

Rohan acknowledged my request.

When we got into the car and started driving once again, I could see Rohan reflecting on everything he had seen since we left school. It was very different from his world. He was confused and had so many questions running through his mind

Our final stop was Poorna's house. When we entered her house, she was surprised to see me. Then, she saw Rohan, which surprised her even more and made her curious. She did not know why I had come to her house

Her parents were happy to see us. We sat there for a few minutes. During this time, Rohan saw Poorna's brothers bully Poorna and shout at her for small things. We could even hear her sob. I called Poorna aside but, before I could say anything, Rohan hugged her.

Rohan: “I promise you. From today, I will be your best friend, a brother, and a better human being. I will always be with you and support you with your dreams. Sorry for what I did at school.”

She hugged him tighter and said thank you.

We left Poorna's house and started driving back towards Rohan's house. He did not say a word during this time, but the silence hung heavily in the air and spoke volumes, more than what he could have expressed with words. I was convinced that he was changed. I dropped him home.

As he opened the gate, I saw his parents waiting for him at the door. He did not maintain his usual posture. He took a few steps towards his house and came back running towards me.

Rohan's dad: (From afar) “What happened, sir? Is everything okay?”

Shivoo: “It is better than okay. Don't worry. I wanted Rohan to see our new stadium being built, so we were delayed. Sorry about that.”

Rohan: “Thanks, sir! Without saying a word, you have taught me a lot. I will never forget this ride with you. Thank you.”

Shivoo: (Hugging Rohan) “You will be my best student when you graduate. I trust you completely. My blessings are with you always. Go now, change, and get busy playing outdoors.”

My next mission was to change the energy in the class and the attitude of every student towards bullying. I did not want a victim or a silent observer in my campus.

6. Building Trust Takes Time

I was speaking to my team member, Rajesh, the other day.

Rajesh: “I have 18 years of experience, and the average experience of my team is 14 years. We have successfully demonstrated many successes in the companies we worked at earlier. Why doesn't the headquarters trust us with critical projects?”

Shivoo: “Before I answer that question, let me ask you a different question. Imagine you have two cars at home. One is a Hyundai Santro, priced at Rs 4 lakh, and the other is a Benz S Class, costing Rs.80 lakh.”

Rajesh: “Where are you going with this?”

Shivoo: (Smiling) “If you get a driver with a successful track record of driving safely for 15 years and you decide to hire him, which car will you give him to drive?”

Rajesh: “My Santro, of course.” Shivoo: “Why?”

Rajesh: “He might have a perfect track record and plenty of experience. But, even if he has driven a Benz for the last 10 years, I still wouldn't trust him.”

Shivoo: “Why?”

Rajesh: “Because I want to watch him drive around for sometime before I give him the Benz.”

Shivoo: “Okay. Let us say that after six months of his driving and you keeping an eye on him, he becomes good enough. Will you give him the Benz then?”

Rajesh: “Yes, but only when I am in the car. At other times, he will have to use the other car.” Shivoo: “Then?”

Rajesh: “If he continues this way, and keeps doing a good job, I will eventually trust him and give him the Benz to drive.”

Shivoo: “Will you let him drive your 15-year-old daughter alone?” Rajesh: “NO!”

Shivoo: “If you trust him by now, why not?”

Rajesh: “I trust him with his ability to drive but not as a person.”

Shivoo: “If I put a camera in the car, will you trust him?” Rajesh: “Yes, I might.”

Shivoo: “So when will you trust him as a person and be comfortable with him driving your family members around by himself?”

Rajesh: “I might take more time to decide on that.”

Shivoo: “That is exactly what happens when a multinational company opens up a center in India. Initially, our strong record of accomplishment helps us get a job there. But to get the opportunity to do critical work, we need to prove ourselves by executing smaller tasks successfully. The way we manage and execute non-critical projects helps our counterparts in the company headquarters be more confident of our abilities. Only successful work helps build trust. And once the trust is built, critical work will start coming in. But it takes time.

Experience and a successful record of accomplishment will help you reduce the time required to build trust. Like how you will not send your daughter alone with your driver despite having developed a trust in his abilities, the headquarters will hold back from giving you IP (Intellectual Property).

Technology alone cannot solve this problem. It needs to be earned and, with the right process, technology, and people, and proper execution done in time, it can be earned.”

Rajesh: (Smiling) “You and your stories, Shivoo! I get what you are saying. Let me help you build trust with our counterparts in the headquarters team.”

Shivoo: “Thank you!”

7. The Writing on the Wall

In the midst of an apartment jungle in an urban neighborhood stood a small, rusty-looking house, which belonged to a good friend of mine. Ram was my lunch buddy at work. And although I had known him for over a year, this was the first time I was visiting his house. To describe him in simple words, Ram is a simple person with simple ideas and a great philosophy.

After a customary cup of tea at his house, we started listening to some music. He took out his old guitar and started humming some of the old 1980s tunes. Then, he introduced me to his daughter, Sara, who is a beautiful girl aged 12 years. My usual magic tricks, kiddo jokes and puzzles got her interested in me.

We started chatting with each other while Ram was busy on a work-related conference call. While talking to her, I heard my phone make the sound of an insect; it was an indication that someone had posted on my Facebook wall.

On receiving the notification, I opened up the app, which read that my friend had just bought a burger that did not taste as good as it had earlier.

I thought to myself, “What a waste of my time!” I turned off the notifications.

Sara: “What is it?”

Shivoo: “Facebook notifications. Nothing interesting!” Sara held my hand.

Sara: “Uncle, come, I will show you my wall, a much better wall!” I did not understand what she meant but followed her lead anyway. She stopped as we entered the living room. It had minimal furniture, and the bright white wall gave the illusion of spaciousness in that room. When I went up to the walls, I saw inscriptions on them. On closer inspection, I found that it was Sara's writing spread all across the walls.

The walls had stories about her early years, her school experiences, both good and bad, her fights with her parents, her travel blog describing everything from remote villages in India to some very exotic European cities. I was immersed in her stories and the way she had written them.

She even had a stepper to reach every corner of the wall. There was also a private wall, which her parents had promised not to read. By this time, I had become one of her favorite uncles, so

I had received a promotion. She allowed me to read her private wall. On it, she had written complaints about her dad and her mom but also unparalleled words of her love for them.

I lived her entire life through that wall.

Then, I noticed a pattern. The alphabets were getting smaller over the years. I asked her why.

Sara: “Uncle, because I have only limited wall space, unlike your Facebook wall. So I am careful these days to use the wall space wisely.”

Many parents come to me and ask me to teach their kids to value things they have. My friend had already accomplished this in such a simple way. I spoke to Ram.

Shivoo: “Why did you allow Sara to write on the walls like that?”

Ram: “I see parents shouting at their kids when they start writing on the wall. They don't realize how important it is to encourage their kids to express themselves on the best canvas they have – the walls inside the house. It will take me Rs 10,000 to repaint the wall, but what I have on these walls are priceless, and no color can match the myriad colors of life I experience when I read it.”

I smiled remembering the lifeless colorless walls at my house screaming for a story to be carried.

8. The Rich Aspire For a Poor Lifestyle

Many years ago I visited one of the best eco-friendly resorts in India, Dunes resort in Puducherry, along with my family.

There were several cottages in the resort built with reclaimed materials and furniture from colonial houses and palaces. Luckily, the huts were not fitted with bulky air-conditioning units and relied on natural breeze. Vehicles were not allowed inside the property, and the mode of commute inside the resort area was the bicycles that the resort managers provided you at the reception. We were all excited to enjoy the beauty of nature, and especially the eco-friendliness of the place.

My oldest son, who has always lived comfortably in the city with luxuries available to him at his whim and fancy, found the place very amusing. He asked me a question to which I still do not have an answer.

"When people are poor, they all want to have a roof made of cement, a stylish car or a bike, expensive shoes to wear at parties, and air conditioners to keep their homes cool. Then, why do people like us, who are sufficiently well to do and have all the money, want to live like poor people? Here we have no shoes, are living in huts with thatched roofs, enjoying the cool, natural breeze instead of the air from an air conditioner, riding bicycles, and living with livestock all around us.”

Do you have an answer to this question?

  1. How Can I Educate The Educated?

Karthik is Head of Corporate Social Responsibility in one of the leading multinational companies in Bengaluru. While working on one of his CSR drives, he was very disturbed to see the plight of a girl he saw at the site. He called the girl over, and a conversation ensued.

Karthik: “Do you go to school?”

Girl: “No.”

Karthik: “So you sell roses on the street and feed your parents and siblings?”

Girl: “Yes, but I really want to study, and I don't know how to do both things.”

Karthik: “Don't worry. Come and meet me at my once. I will ensure that we support your family and put you in a good school. We have scholarships that can help kids like you.”

Girl: (Smiling) “Thank you, sir.”

I was very happy with Karthik's gesture and felt proud to call him a friend.

Karthik asked me to take a photo of both he and the girl together. He then posted it on Facebook and tagged his CSR group on the post. Before we even finished drinking our coffee, there were a 100 likes and 50 comments on the post. Karthik's chest had expanded at least a couple more inches in pride on seeing the great response.

We soon left for Karthik's house. On getting there, we were welcomed by a 12-year-old girl who offered to carry my bag inside. I declined politely and gave her chocolates to eat. She happily accepted them and disappeared behind the expensive cars parked in the parking area.

Inside Karthik's house, his 10-year-old daughter was riding an expensive miniature toy car, with an equally young girl running behind her to ensure her safety.

I immediately asked Karthik who that little girl was.

Karthik: “She is our maid. She has been working with us for the last four years.”

Shivoo: “Does she go to school?”

Karthik: “No, she does not; she doesn't have anybody. So I adopted her when she was eight, and she has been working in my house ever since.”

Shivoo: “Don't you think you need to send her to school?”

Karthik: “I tried teaching her myself, but she doesn't even have primary education. It's tough for her to cope with her studies. Anyway, what will she do studying? It's better she helps us with housework.”

Shivoo: “Aren't you ashamed of yourself?”

Karthik: “I'm at least helping her. Without me, she doesn't have a house to go to or anybody to take care of her. You know what can happen to a little girl who doesn't have anybody to feed and protect her? It's easy to talk, but I'm better than you because I am giving her a life.

Yes, Karthik was certainly giving her a life, but not the life she deserved. I was surprised with my friend's response. The same person who wanted to help the child at the restaurant conveniently overlooked his responsibilities at home. I was saddened by his use of the word, 'adoption'. I realized Karthik was just like many of my friends and family.

As I was gearing up to call up my friend Swapna, who works for a group that aims to end child labor, to register a formal complaint, I had a series of questions running through my mind.

How can you have a child who was adopted (not legally) be treated like a maid?

How can you have a child who is as old as your own daughter, help your daughter with her chores?

How could he be okay with killing a child's dream?

How do I tell my Facebook friend that “liking” a good deed is not the same as "doing" the good deed? A helpful hand is better than a "thumbs up" emoticon!

Aren't we all exploiting kids in our "small" ways in the pretext of helping them?

Who gave us the right to take away the sparkle from those beautiful eyes and the laughter from their innocent faces?

With a heavy heart, I said to him,"How can I educate the educated?"

10. Technology to the Rescue

Boy: “Uncle, my school started yesterday. You have not bought me the books you promised me.”

Shivoo: (Recalling his face) “Sorry, I was traveling. Come, let us go buy them right now.”

He asked the owner of a store next to his panipuri stall to take care of it while he was away. The boy sat in my car and started talking about different things. Just then, I was reminded of the time we met a year ago.

While driving home from work, I was ravenously hungry because I had skipped lunch that day. I stopped at a chaat stall near my house and asked for a plate of panipuri.

The boy who was serving me at the stall had his textbooks right next to him. He was reading his notes while serving me. As a teacher, this intrigued me.

Shivoo: “What are you reading?” Shivoo : “Where is he now?”

Raju : “He is selling cigarettes in a store nearby.” Shivoo : “Where is your dad?”

Raju : “He is the paanwalaat that stall right next to the store where my brother sells cigarettes.”

I was impressed to see the whole family fending for each other within a 50-meter radius. I went to his dad and asked him why the kids were working when they should actually have been playing after school every day.

Raju's dad: “I do my best to take care of them. Even my sister's kids stay with me. With the money I make here, I cannot support them all. So my sons help me in the evening after school and earn enough money to support their cousins.”

Shivoo: “I am happy that you have taught them such great values.”

Raju's dad: “This is just survival for us. They need to understand the importance of education and the importance of developing skills that can help them get jobs. Both are equally important. I am not educated, but I want my kids to learn as much as they can.”

Shivoo: “Never say you are not educated. You are educated but not literate. You are better than most of the literates I know.”

I went back to Raju and promised him that I would take care of the books and stationery for both he and his cousins so they could be educated. He was happy to take me to the nearby store, where I bought him all that he asked for. I knew it was enough for the year for all four of the kids.

Then, I started my car.

Raju: “Uncle, next year, don't forget!”

Now, a year later, Raju and I are at the same store. I was cursing myself and wondering how I had forgotten about this. I bought him the year's books and stationery again and immediately made an entry in my Outlook calendar so that I did not need a reminder from Raju again the next year.

It is a shame, but I needed an online calendar to remind me of my duties

11. The 65+20+10+5 Equation of Life

I went to visit my friend's grandfather one summer. He is a well-accomplished farmer who does not know much about global markets, foreign investments, or multi-brand showrooms. All he knows well is about the rotation of crops, how to protect the crops from pests, and how to maximize the farm yield.

Once, after my friend was hired by a software company, we went to visit his grandfather. On arriving there, he quickly fell to his grandfather's feet and sought his blessings. His grandfather just caressed his head lightly with pride. Before we were about to leave, I spoke to his grandfather.

Shivoo: “Thatha, why don't you give him some advice?”

Grandfather: “You are the learned one. What can I say to you all? But, anyway, I will tell you what I think is good.

Son, when you get your first salary, and after you pay the income tax, invest 20 percent of the rest of your income in safe savings and 10 percent in risk savings. Keep 5 percent aside and donate it to a charity. Spend the remaining amount any way you wish. If you think that the remaining money, after saving and donating, is less, work harder and earn more, but always keep this equation of 65+20+10+5 in life. Not only will you get richer with time, you will also get richer in your heart and be more useful to society. Remember, you have two hands, one to help yourself and another to help others."

My friend and I were shocked at his grandfather's profound wisdom. It was now our turn to be proud of him for such great thinking, which came out in such simple words.

12. What Changes The Heart Can Change The World!

It was August 14. I was on my usual long drive back home through the Outer Ring Road, all set to wait at four traffic signals at least, and in K R Puram junction alone.

While waiting at one of these signals, I saw a young boy – I am guessing around 10 years old – carrying a board filled with Indian flag stickers, coat pins and the flags themselves. He caught my attention in the mad traffic and, as they are trained to not miss an easy target, came up to me and tapped on my car window.

As I rolled down the glass windows, I saw a bright, young face that was trying to sell me at least four different things he was carrying with him.

Shivoo: “How much is the flag?”

Boy: “It is 40 rupees.”

He knew he had enough time to negotiate the price, considering the time available at the traffic signal.

Shivoo: “Okay, I won't bargain with you. If you answer my question, I will buy 10 of these at the cost you tell me. No bargain!”

Boy: “Sure, please ask fast.”

Shivoo: “What is special tomorrow? Why is everybody buying the flags and pins?”

Boy: (Confused) “Actually, I do not know.”

He did not wait a second to start begging me to buy the flags again. Then, as he was about to leave,

Boy: “It is okay if you do not buy the flags, but please tell me why everyone is buying flags and pins today?”

Shivoo: “Just because you asked me the question, I will buy 10 of these at 40 rupees.”

Boy: (Smiling) “Thank you, sir.”

After I bought the 10 flags, I was about the roll up the window. I wanted to see how inquisitive he really is. He stopped me.

Boy: “You did not tell me the reason!”

Shivoo: “Tomorrow is Independence Day. So everybody is celebrating tomorrow.”

Boy: “What is so special about it? Which god do they pray? What sweets do they eat at home?”

As a child, I always associated every festival with a food. Though I did not know the significance of any festival, I always knew what would tickle my taste buds that day. I saw myself in him.

Shivoo: “Tomorrow is not a festival in the name of a god. It is the day India, our country, got independence from the British.

Boy: “So until then we were slaves?”

Shivoo: “I don't want to say slaves, but yes, they were ruling over us.”

Boy: “Same thing!”

Shivoo: (Slightly embarrassed) “That's why tomorrow is a holiday.”

Boy: “So you do not work tomorrow?”

Shivoo: “Yes. You should also talk to your boss and not work tomorrow.”

Boy: “I will surely tell him and take a holiday tomorrow.”

By then the light turned green, so I said bye to him and resumed driving towards my house. The exchange of words with him and the sight of his innocent face stayed on in my memory until I hit the next red light. This happens when we sympathize with another but not empathize.

The next day, I had urgent work at the office as my phone had issues downloading official emails. So I drove to work, downloaded the emails there, and started driving back home.

At the same traffic signal, I saw the boy again. I called him. He was happy to see me.

Boy: “You said you are not working today. How come you are working?”

Shivoo: (Smiling)“I was not working. I just went to the office to get something.”

Boy: (Smiling)“Same thing!”

Shivoo: “But how come you are working today? Shouldn't you have a holiday today?”

Boy: “I asked my boss, but he said no.”

Shivoo: “Why?”

Boy: “He told me India celebrates freedom from the British, not from fellow Indians. 'You are my slave and will remain one, so why would you celebrate?', he asked me.”

I did not have the right words to say to him or look into his eyes. I parked my car on the side. My friend Rama, who was sitting next to me, stepped out of the car.

Rama: “I assure you that I will take care of your studies if you want to study.”

Boy: “I want to, but what will I do about the money? I need to earn money and give it to my parents.”

Rama: “How much do you make in a month?” Boy: “3,000 rupees.”

Rama: “Take my number and ask your parents to call me. I will give you 3,000 rupees every month, which you can give to your parents and go to school. But under one condition…”

Boy: (Happy)“Any condition is fine with me.”

Rama: “You cannot miss school even a single day in a month. Only then will you get the money.”

Boy: (Elated)“I will not, sir. I will ask my mother to call you in the evening.”

Yes, the child's boss is right. It has been 69 years, and every year this day we wear new ethnic clothes, take selfies to post on Facebook, and cheer fellow Indians, but never even try to free the children stuck in the trap of child labor since our independence.

If I buy something from him, I am encouraging child labor. An alternative is to report to the police. But putting him in a shelter home when his parents are begging at the next signal? That is not freedom.

It requires each of us to think and work towards eradicating this malaise. A Twitter update comes to mind:

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