(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
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.
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
alumnus of IIM, Bangalore, Shivoo has derived inspiration from real
life stories all around him.
Shades of Life
G Street, Ulsoor,
Edition Published in December, 2016
Edition Published in January, 2017
© ShivanandaKoteshwar 2016
book is a work of fiction and, any resemblance to actual persons,
living or dead, is purely coincidental
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.
binding mistakes or missing pages etc., the publishers' liability is
limited to replacement, subject to availability.
disputes are subject to Bangalore Jurisdiction only.
Printed and bound by Nithya Enterprises, #52, G Street, Ulsoor,
credits :Sneha Narayan, Accomplished
dancer, Choreographer &
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.
nine rasas are:
Love, attractiveness. Presiding deity: Vishnu. Colour: light green
: Laughter, mirth, comedy. Presiding deity: Pramata. Colour: white
: Fury. Presiding deity: Rudra. Colour: red
: Compassion, mercy. Presiding deity: Yama. Colour: grey
: Disgust, aversion. Presiding deity: Shiva. Colour: blue
: Horror, terror. Presiding deity: Kala Ratri. Colour: black
: Heroic mood. Presiding deity: Indra. Colour: saffron
: Wonder, amazement. Presiding deity: Brahma. Colour: yellow
: Peace or tranquility. Presiding deity: Vishnu. Colour: white
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
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 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”
perfect body representation required 4 animals, how many different
elements would be required to describe a human mind?
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.”
big influence to write this book was a story fromAfrica - UBUNTU. The
story goes like this...
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.
Anthropologist asked them why they did so, they answered “UBUNTU”
which meant - “How can one be happy when others are sad?”
means “I AM because WE ARE”
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.
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.
Table of Contents
A Beggar, A Student, A Child, A Son 12
Karma Strikes at a Traffic Signal? 16
Bad Touch vs. Unsafe Touch. I Want My Baby Safe! 19
My Fat Is Someone Else’s Nutrition 23
Bullying Involves Two Parties. Doer and Observer! 25
Building Trust Takes Time 33
The Writing on the Wall 36
The Rich Aspire For a Poor Lifestyle 39
Can I Educate The Educated? 41
Technology to the Rescue 45
The 65+20+10+5 Equation of Life 48
What Changes The Heart Can Change The World! 50
‘Rich’ Is Always Relative 55
A Devil inside a God 58
The Strange Connection between Guilt and Giving Back to the
Innocent Mind and a Helpless Father 64
Everyone Deserves a Break 69
My Mentor, Friend and Sounding Board. The One Who Always Thought
Outside the Box 74
I Am a Social Butterfly With 4,000 Friends on Facebook But Few Real
Humility Spreads Positive Energy 81
Suckers Deserve A Splat! 84
I am Rich But Hungry 86
A Love Story between Three Best Friends And A Girl 89
Successful Individual and a Fulfilling Life, but a Bad Father and
Thinking On Your Feet 99
The Dark Side of Our So-Called Safe Society 103
You Get What You Deserve 107
IOT, the Next Big Thing! 111
Needs over Wants, Necessity over Luxury 115
Little Steps, Big Change 118
What’s In a Signature? 121
The Art of Hiring Good Teachers 123
The Inspiration Wall 126
Values over Money Pays More 129
Archie, A Rose Seller and a Sticker Dealer, But a Great Strategist
in a Valentine’s Week 132
Selling the Empty Box 136
Small, But Big Enough To Make an Impact 139
Generational Diversity at the Workforce 142
Marijuana Addiction, an Innocent Child, Darwin D’ Souza And His
Life Lesson 145
Fight Your Battles Instead Of Waiting for A Miracle 150
She is Mine... Only Mine 155
Hindi Phrases to Motivate Indian Entrepreneurs 157
A Slice of Cake and A Life Lesson 161
The Story of a True Entrepreneur 164
Finding a Win-Win In Tough Professional Spot 168
Hunger Has No Religion 171
We Should Get A Divorce! 174
Where Is Raam? 177
Green Thumb or a Green Tongue? 179
Coaster Collection as a Hobby 182
1. A Beggar, A Student, A Child, A
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.
“What is your name?” Boy: “Raju.”
“Where are you from?”
muttered the name of a village that I did not quite register. He
suddenly became interested in this conversation
“Do you go to school?”
“Yes, I attend a government school.” Shivoo: “And, are you
happy with the school?” Raju: “Yes, I love it.”
“Then, what are you doing here?”
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”.
“Why is that?”
“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
“Did it reduce your hunger?”
I feel bored and even more hungry because I am always thinking about
“So, then, what did you do yesterday?”
slept early, hoping to eat breakfast when I get up.”
“Okay, do you want to eat panipuri?”
you buy me a masala puri”
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.
came back to the café. I offered him Rs.20/-
don't need the money right now. I'm full.”
“What will you do tomorrow?”
will come here and look for you.”
won't be here tomorrow, Raju.”
Raju, and he was puzzled with my response. I did not want him to
start begging again, so I told him a lie.
“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
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.
“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.”
if I study hard, can I also become like you?”
“Yes, of course, you can.”
“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.”
“Why do you need more books?”
that tomorrow when I'm hungry, I can read those books.”
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.
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
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.
be successful in life one has to cross many bridges.........
Puram Bridge is surely one of them"
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
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.
not to be bothered by the honking, as I had a long day at work ahead
of me. I ignored him.
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.
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.
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.
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
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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
“Why did you jump on me and hug me like that?”
“Because I love you.”
“But you are a grown-up girl now, a young woman. You should not be
“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.
“Pumpkin, do you love me a lot?”
“Yes, of course, I do.”
“If I ask you to not do one thing, will you listen?”
“Yes, except asking me to get on Facebook. That I can't.”
“No more hugging anyone else the way you hugged me. Only make the
hugging gesture and give them an air-kiss. Deal?”
“Have you heard about good touch and bad touch?”
“Yes, Stacy ma'am has spoken about this at school.”
“Good. So whose touch is 'bad touch'?”
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?
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.
“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,
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
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.
girl felt empowered.
“Now I understand it completely. I will tell all my friends about
this. Thank you! Can I ask you one question?”
“Does it mean I can't jump on you, too?” Shivoo: “Yes, 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.
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.
see a tear drop at the corner of his eyes. It meant much more than a
"Every parent requires a circle of protection around their kids.
I am your circle. She is my angel. I want my
4. My Fat Is Someone Else’s
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.
struggling to find joy in the insipid-tasting healthy food she is
eating these days and is forcing a smile on her face.
has reduced 0.6 kilos in just three days of following a strict diet,
but there is still a long way to go.
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
to eat fruit salad with ice cream overtook her commitment to lose 100
grams, which was her target for the day.
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.
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.
“Aunty, can you please put everything you throw in this plate?”
Shruti: (Confused) “Why?”
(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.”
(Wet eyes) “I am sorry. Take this bowl.” Boy: “Thank you.”
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
“Tell me, is someone bothering you at school?” Poorna: (With
“Why did you not tell me or your class teacher?”
am new and I am afraid to talk to anyone.”
“Don't worry. It is perfectly fine. Tell me who is bothering you
and in what way?”
“Okay, what about Rohan?”
“He teases me a lot, and yesterday, he made fun of my hair in front
of everyone. Everybody laughed.”
“Why does that bother you?”
“Because everybody at home also laughs at me. I thought school was
my escape from home, and now school has become like home.” (Starts
“Don't worry. I will handle this and make sure you will never have
a problem at school. Trust me.”
Poorna did not know me, she looked into my eyes and acknowledged me.
sent her back to class.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
“Sir, my house is on the other side.”
want to take you out some place before I drop you home. Is that
(Looking at him with a smile)
“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.
“Where is Samved?”
“He has gone out to bring the cows back to the shed.”
“Did he eat anything after he came back from school?”
(Smiling) “Who eats in the evening? We have only one good meal at
pause, he continued
“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.”
“Does he like the new school?”
“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!”
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
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.
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.
“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?”
“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.”
“But why didn't he hit back?”
“He was never physically abused in life, so he did not know how to
react when you kicked him.”
“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.”
acknowledged my request.
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
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
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.
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.”
him tighter and said thank you.
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.
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.
dad: (From afar) “What happened, sir? Is everything okay?”
“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.”
“Thanks, sir! Without saying a word, you have taught me a lot. I
will never forget this ride with you. Thank you.”
(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.”
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
speaking to my team member, Rajesh, the other day.
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?”
“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
“Where are you going with this?”
(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?”
“My Santro, of course.” Shivoo: “Why?”
“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.”
“Because I want to watch him drive around for sometime before I
give him the Benz.”
“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
“Yes, but only when I am in the car. At other times, he will have
to use the other car.” Shivoo: “Then?”
“If he continues this way, and keeps doing a good job, I will
eventually trust him and give him the Benz to drive.”
“Will you let him drive your 15-year-old daughter alone?” Rajesh:
“If you trust him by now, why not?”
trust him with his ability to drive but not as a person.”
“If I put a camera in the car, will you trust him?” Rajesh: “Yes,
“So when will you trust him as a person and be comfortable with him
driving your family members around by himself?”
might take more time to decide on that.”
“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
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
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.”
(Smiling) “You and your stories, Shivoo! I get what you are saying.
Let me help you build trust with our counterparts in the headquarters
7. The Writing on the Wall
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
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.
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.
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
to myself, “What a waste of my time!” I turned off the
“What is it?”
“Facebook notifications. Nothing interesting!” Sara held my hand.
“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
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
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
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.
her entire life through that wall.
noticed a pattern. The alphabets were getting smaller over the years.
I asked her why.
“Uncle, because I have only limited wall space, unlike your
Facebook wall. So I am careful these days to use the wall space
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.
“Why did you allow Sara to write on the walls like that?”
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.”
remembering the lifeless colorless walls at my house screaming for a
story to be carried.
8. The Rich Aspire For a Poor
ago I visited one of the best eco-friendly resorts in India, Dunes
resort in Puducherry, along with my family.
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
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.
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.”
have an answer to this question?
How Can I Educate The Educated?
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.
“Do you go to school?”
“So you sell roses on the street and feed your parents and
“Yes, but I really want to study, and I don't know how to do both
“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.”
(Smiling) “Thank you, sir.”
I was very
happy with Karthik's gesture and felt proud to call him a friend.
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.
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.
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.
immediately asked Karthik who that little girl was.
“She is our maid. She has been working with us for the last four
“Does she go to school?”
“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.”
“Don't you think you need to send her to school?”
“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.”
“Aren't you ashamed of yourself?”
“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.
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.
you have a child who was adopted (not legally) be treated like a
you have a child who is as old as your own daughter, help your
daughter with her chores?
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!
all exploiting kids in our "small" ways in the pretext of
us the right to take away the sparkle from those beautiful eyes and
the laughter from their innocent faces?
heavy heart, I said to him,"How can I
educate the educated?"
10. Technology to the Rescue
“Uncle, my school started yesterday. You have not bought me the
books you promised me.”
(Recalling his face) “Sorry, I was traveling. Come, let us go buy
them right now.”
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.
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.
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
“What are you reading?” Shivoo : “Where is he now?”
Raju : “He
is selling cigarettes in a store nearby.” Shivoo : “Where is your
Raju : “He
is the paanwalaat that
stall right next to the store where my brother sells cigarettes.”
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
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.”
am happy that you have taught them such great values.”
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.”
“Never say you are not educated. You are educated but not literate.
You are better than most of the literates I know.”
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
started my car.
“Uncle, next year, don't forget!”
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.
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
“Thatha, why don't you give him some advice?”
“You are the learned one. What can I say to you all? But, anyway, I
will tell you what I think is good.
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."
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!
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.
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.
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
“How much is the flag?”
is 40 rupees.”
He knew he
had enough time to negotiate the price, considering the time
available at the traffic signal.
“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!”
“Sure, please ask fast.”
“What is special tomorrow? Why is everybody buying the flags and
(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,
is okay if you do not buy the flags, but please tell me why everyone
is buying flags and pins today?”
“Just because you asked me the question, I will buy 10 of these at
(Smiling) “Thank you, sir.”
bought the 10 flags, I was about the roll up the window. I wanted to
see how inquisitive he really is. He stopped me.
did not tell me the reason!”
“Tomorrow is Independence Day. So everybody is celebrating
is so special about it? Which god do they pray? What sweets do they
eat at home?”
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.
“Tomorrow is not a festival in the name of a god. It is the day
India, our country, got independence from the British.
until then we were slaves?”
don't want to say slaves, but yes, they were ruling over us.”
(Slightly embarrassed) “That's why tomorrow is a holiday.”
you do not work tomorrow?”
“Yes. You should also talk to your boss and not work tomorrow.”
will surely tell him and take a holiday tomorrow.”
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.
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.
same traffic signal, I saw the boy again. I called him. He was happy
to see me.
said you are not working today. How come you are working?”
(Smiling)“I was not working. I just went to the office to get
“But how come you are working today? Shouldn't you have a holiday
asked my boss, but he said no.”
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.
assure you that I will take care of your studies if you want to
want to, but what will I do about the money? I need to earn money and
give it to my parents.”
much do you make in a month?” Boy: “3,000 rupees.”
“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…”
(Happy)“Any condition is fine with me.”
cannot miss school even a single day in a month. Only then will you
get the money.”
(Elated)“I will not, sir. I will ask my mother to call you in 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.
requires each of us to think and work towards eradicating this
malaise. A Twitter update comes to mind: