What I say is Right


I cannot be challenged. I am always right. If you dare to challenge me, then you must be deranged. Who the hell are you, anyway? What I utter is gospel, and it is always right. Everything else is false, or as they say now, fake news.

So, do you agree that I am always right, or even better, I can only be right always.

Obviously not.

This is the current mind orientation of conservative, right-wing parties who decry any initiative by the left parties. This is the status of what I call “elected” dictatorship. Many a time, people making up the electorate make a bad choice and end up with a conservative party running their government. But then, they find themselves in a quandary, as the extreme right-wing becomes the mainstream right-wing. They are always right, and everyone else, including the stupid voters who voted for them and their ideology, are always wrong or stupid. Everyone who did not vote for them, of course, is an anti-national.

Sounds eerily familiar? Such things are not unusual in democratic sounding dictatorships such as Russia or Turkey or Egypt. Forget about other countries which are autocratic without a shred of democracy whatsoever. Whatever the leaders of these countries say, that would be considered as the “real” stuff, even if it is simply fake news.

The deterioration of large democracies such as the U.S. is a case in point. President Trump has standardized his own version of all fake news, supported by his own “state“ TV channel, which is Rupert Murdoch’s FOX News. Trump has single-handedly led the destruction of democratic institutions in the U.S. Unfortunately, many other countries take their cue from the U.S., and their moralistic following of what is emerging as an American dictatorship is very dangerous to the world. This is going to cause serious damage to democracy as a form of government all around the world.

In Asia, democracy is not that old, and to that extent, it continues to be fragile. When developed nations such as the U.S., France and the U.K. could demonstrate dictatorial streaks in their democratically elected leaders, then Asian countries cannot be told to follow a principled approach to true democratic form of government, right? The U.S. has long since lost its moral perch preaching to the world on the virtues of democracy, freedom and human rights anyway.

Given this kind of emerging situation in world affairs, it is not surprising to see attempts to curtail civil rights of citizens. Any tendency to raise even academic thoughts about such limits to freedoms enshrined in the constitution can lead to a potential backlash from the powers that be. Any questioning about the issues affecting the country could be construed as treason and anti-national, and going by the latest “outburst” from Trump, he has asked his lawyers to sue the leaders of the House of Representatives: how does that sound to a dictator or an autocrat – sweet music, right?

Well, all of us are in danger if we could simply be arrested for engendering questions in our minds. Sounds like Communism is coming back? Should we get prepared? Should we abandon all thoughts on pertinent issues affecting this world? Should we just keep quiet and avoid all public discourse or even friendly conversations?

May be. I don’t know.

My suggestion would be to keep going in the same manner that you would in the normal course of your life, instead of trying to limit your thoughts as per the imposition by the great powers ruling this world.

Everything has a life cycle. The deeply embedded principles that one has followed through his or her life cannot be sacrificed at the altar of elected dictatorships. One should have the conviction to follow his or her head and heart, and leave everything else behind. I believe it is not necessary to eat only the chef’s food, when you can learn how to cook and make your own food – the food that you really like!

Have a great week ahead,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

13th October 2019

Pin-prick Sensitivity


I used to be instantaneously irritated about snide, unjustified, unwarranted remarks by others in business and personal matters over the years. It was a struggle for me to mitigate my deep-rooted sensitivity and annoyance, as my wife repeatedly pointed out this specific deficiency of my approach to worldly affairs. I used to think after any such incident as to why I reacted the way I did. Analysis always helps, but does not lead to an immediate solution.

I always thought that people who come into public office by choice should not be like me in this aspect – they should have a stronger resistance to criticisms and a thicker skin to ignore others who express unwanted and unnecessary opinions. After all, public servants are serving the public and therefore, should not be concerned if any member of the public raises objections on any of their policies or executions, right? There always exists a genuine right of response to any kind of critique.

However, there are nations who do not buy into this logic. Public servants, like anyone else in society, can afford to have a high level of sensitivity and could seek immediate redressal. In today’s world of social media proliferation, it is very easy to annoy anyone without even due cause or reason. Social media provides a sense of anonymity to those who know the techniques of manipulation. There are others who do not care about anonymity and feel free to express their thoughts without any fear or favour.

I am not a public servant, I prefer to remain as a private citizen. So, there is no need for me to confirm to any mandate on subjecting myself to any kind of public criticism on my policies or modus operandi. However, I should have a total personal right to respond to any critique of, for example, my writings on my personal Blog. I have exercised this right of response many a time, in a calm and justifiable manner. No problem with that.

My issue is my sometimes irrational reaction to what I hear from “connected” others. I have always desisted from commenting on others’ actions, except when such actions are detrimental to the public good. I have often disagreed with others’ policy prescriptions in a vigorous manner, expressing my contrarian views on this Blog. But when someone makes an irrational and unwarranted personal remark, it has always upset me.

However, after much introspection and self-training, combined with serious self-control, I have managed to either ignore or reflect on others’ critiques of me or my actions. This effort has calmed me down and my blood pressure cooperates with such calm demeanour. All in all, I think it is a good mental progress on my part to control and dampen my “pin-prick” sensitivity quotient substantially.

I would suggest that you try out such a mechanism if you are a victim of others’ criticisms. Please observe that folks who are free thinkers, free-expressors and free writers get into troubles always, and I am no exception. I have slowly reduced the subscriber base of my Blog, killed some of the WhatsApp groups that I used to forward my blog posts to on a weekly basis, and in a manner avoided publicity. Why? Because the world is not a free world and it is not a tolerant place anyway. Think about it – how many people that you know of who have the guts to raise critical issues of importance to society and defend the almost indefensible, against a majority view? Not many – I know for sure.

The ability to continuously and consistently question our existence and our pre-conceived limits has driven the progress of scientific thinking and mankind. Do we step away from that process? Do we non-objectively deify our leaders, like how we deified famous actors and singers?

Think, think and think………………..it is not impossible to find answers.

Have a great weekend,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

12th October 2019

The Family Man


“The Family Man” is an Amazon Prime Original action-drama-thriller series which has caught the attention of Indian audiences everywhere. Only Season 1 comprising of 10 episodes is available, and I agree with many reviewers that it is unusually nail-biting in the sense it drives one to continuously keep going from one episode to the next. While I rarely waste time on movies, I have taken a recent liking to short serials, especially of the thriller action types. So I was attracted to “The Family Man” when my son made a strong positive referral on it as one of the best spy serials he had ever seen. With that kind of referral, it was difficult to deny myself the pleasure of viewing a fast action drama.

I was not disappointed, though I kept my expectations low (as usual), with a firm determination to kill it off if the first episode was not up to the mark. “The Family Man” is a well-conceived and well-directed serial worth watching, especially in the current context of the explosive situation in Kashmir and the previous terrorist strikes endured by India such as the 26/11 in Mumbai. The special skills developed by India over the past couple of decades in counter terrorism plays out in this serial, though on a low key. For intelligence operations, India has always depended on human connections rather than the latest gadgetry like in the West where technology is the first choice for intelligence agencies. It does not work that way in India however, and we see many instances in this serial about how Indian intelligence agencies uncover plots with very limited resources, though there are also examples of how they miss clues and lose out against superior arms used by terrorists. The serial also makes light of field agents who should be well prepared for urban warfare rather than being depicted as a bunch of guys who are ill-prepared to tackle the modern terrorist plots hatched by well-funded anti-India intelligence agencies on Indian soil. Some of the terrorist escapes in the serial are laughable even by traditional police standards. However, you tend to forget all that as the story not only focuses on impending terrorist attacks but also on family matters of serious consequences.

Manoj Bajpayee is the main actor who wins accolades for the ease with which he depicts the intense life of an intelligence agent as well as the constantly troubled family man who is having difficulties in his marital and social life. His disturbed face hides lots of secrets and he struggles with his life as any common man would do in a large Indian metro city (in this case, it is Mumbai). And, he constantly lies, not an uncommon characteristic of a troubled Indian husband with a whole set of problems to contend with!

Without going into the details of the serial as such, it reminds any viewer of the potential of destruction that could be caused by determined terrorists who are already “present” in India – I am referring here to the “sleeper cells” – folks who are already resident in India for several years, waiting for orders to come at any time from overseas. This happens in the serial as a backup plan needs to be executed by a resident terrorist who is a college student. If you have only imagined things of this sort as stuff which cannot happen, then you are in the wrong. Such things are entirely possible in any country, and it is easier in India due to the population density and the impossibility to track each and everyone. Mass surveillance of the type used in China is yet to arrive in India, but that is essentially what our star agency is doing in this serial as a special intelligence arm. “Privacy is a myth, just like democracy” says one of the agents in the serial, which is very true. Governments are scared about the challenges they face in safeguarding public security. Even with all the talent and technology available, when human intelligence goes wrong, then the whole operation is jeopardised.

“The Family Man” is not a perfect portrayal of how Indian intelligence agencies operate in the real world. It has shortcomings as any movie or serial will have. Nevertheless, it is an engaging action drama involving a realistic family man in a large city like Mumbai who is also an ace agent working for the government against multiple terrorist threats. We do not expect or foresee our star agent coming home to face mundane issues involving his family, we rarely see such things in a Western spy drama. In the Indian context, however, things are normal when it comes to a struggling family scenario, irrespective of whatever job the man of the house has outside home. He has to come back to the real reality show!

I enjoyed seeing the 10 episodes and now awaiting the arrival of Season 2…..the last episode of Season 1 left the viewers in deep anxiety as a Bhopal chemical blast kind of situation has been left unattended in Delhi and no one knows how it would be discovered and the problem fixed in double quick time to avoid a catastrophe. One thing you would always remember – terrorists do not have a heart or any emotions while executing their deed against humanity, though the perpetrator of the impending chemical attack tries to rush back to the chemical plant to diffuse the attack as his mother pleads with him on national TV to get back to her……….some human element plays out……….but unfortunately he is murdered by his co-conspirator who does not want the attack to be undone.

Finally, a good Indian spy action drama of a different kind………kudos to the director(s) and the actors, especially Manoj Bajpayee.

Have a good week ahead folks,

Vijay Srinivasan

6th October 2019

The Chaotic Mind


Wherever I refer to “Indian” in this post, I mean those large number of folks living in India as residents, not those of us who are non-residents visiting India occasionally.

Given that context, you are already correctly guessing the focus of this post!

When everything around you appears to be in chaotic motion, then you are most likely to be in a urban metro city of India. Of course, there are many such cities in the world which are apparently chaotic. There are, however, couple of key differences, or should I say “differentiators” if you look at India.

These are as follows: in all the chaos around you, there is a rhythm and an order in the daily life. Further, there is a force caused by the chaos, which pushes ordinary people to be more creative.

Do you agree with me?

Let me explain my points: things go on as ordained or as planned in the Indian daily life, albeit there might be delays in execution. People do not despair or give up. I keep complaining about the state of disrepair in almost everything around me – I complain about the cleanliness in the apartment corridors leading up to the lift, the plumbing which always gives trouble, the cable TV guy who is dishonest in his pricing, the lack of punctuality in almost everyone (everyone, including the house maid, is almost always late in arriving for work), the useless lift which still uses sliding gates, the disrespect of others in civic matters – like keeping the lift doors open for eternity, the total disregard for safety again in almost everything and by everyone – my complaints list will be endless. I always notice that no one else complains about any of these things – they suffer everything in silence and have come to accept things as they are, which in turn, induces a sense of calmness. This is the situation, at least inside my apartment complex. Things go on, and everyone seems to be focused on their daily routine with complete disregard to disruptions. I thought such an attitude is difficult to possess, especially given the situation on most such matters I mentioned above, and on the roads of India, which are the epitome of chaos. I understood Brownian motion only upon witnessing the very disorganized and indisciplined driving on Indian roads. While I have driven in India in the past, I have of late decided that it may not be prudent to venture into driving anymore. Better forget it!

The second point I mentioned was about the invisible chaos-driven force which compels people to develop and tune their sense of creativity to solve problems caused by chaos. This ability to innovate with very limited resources is the reason why Indians have succeeded in launching space missions (under the earlier sanctions regime of the U.S.) and developing nuclear weapons (again under stiff sanctions). Even in ordinary life, I have seen people innovate – like when rain water is captured in their apartments for a variety of purposes. There are many examples both in personal and industrial arenas for application of creativity.

Such creative mind development is also responsible for the success of Indians in their overseas missions – be it academics, work or research.

So, in a sense, disorganized minds are better for developing a calm approach to life and to develop a life imbued with creativity. Looks like an outlandish derivation, but think about it. What I have observed during my not infrequent visits to India bears evidence to what I have portrayed in this post. My visits to other countries shows an orderliness in almost everything, punctuality, totally organized roads, predictable citizen behaviour, et al. This does not mean that these other countries are not having creative people. For instance, how do I explain the fact that Japan is still one of the most creative countries in the world, though it is antithesis of India in almost every aspect of society and infrastructure?

I am still disorganized in mind but not so much in my behaviour. I try to organize my actions as thoroughly as possible as I am living in a well-organized country (Singapore). But my mind still works the “Indian” way – in a chaotic manner and I struggle to rein it in. Sometimes I succeed (surprise, surprise), but many a time I don’t.

Something to exercise your mind, I guess!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

5th October 2019

The decline of Western Civilization


There is so much positive about the impact of the Western Civilization on this world which has dominated for over three hundred years of this planet’s history. It brought us the immense benefits of the industrial revolution, among many other things which benefited mankind. It instilled in us the concepts of liberty, justice, equality and freedom of thought. It brought us the unique philosophy of democracy. And so on and so forth. The benefits are too many to be even listed out or counted.

However, there are many negatives as well. Western imperialism driven by the U.K. has destroyed ancient civilizations and moved riches from those invaded countries to the U.K. Cultures have been decimated. Millions of people were forced into poverty and millions died as a result of foreign (Western) invasion. Both the World Wars were waged in the Western hemisphere. Capitalism was invented in the West as a counter to the Communist way of socialism. While capitalism was, in itself, not a bad concept, capitalistic greed was harmful to most of the non-participants, the poor folks of any society. Capitalism is on the decline now as we have witnessed the backlash against it by the millennial generation. I personally do not think they will win against the huge force of capitalism, however! I believe the impact of capitalism will significantly drop as time goes on and the next generation takes over with their newer ideas.

The ancient civilisations are on the rise now: the Chinese, Indian and other Asian civilisations are gathering speed, both economically and socially. While the “soft” influences of the Western civilisation continue in large measure and the attraction of Western countries as a destination of poor immigrants continues unabated, the power of the Asian civilisations is building up with a mix of nationalistic fervour, faster economic growth, more opportunities, social cohesion, and a dominating influence of arts and culture. I was not surprised to meet more young folks who wish to remain in their respective countries (in Asia) or return from overseas (Western countries) to partake in economic growth and opportunities.

Another factor going against the Western civilisation is the shrinking birth rate in the Western countries and the continuous emphasis on individualism as against a societal cohesion. The individualistic streak was of great importance when the Western countries were growing fast and individuals made the biggest contributions to growth. However, with the new millennial generation, the focus has shifted to teamwork, collaboration and joint contributions. China offers an excellent example wherein these facets are hard at work in the society and the workplace. I have personally witnessed how the intense collaboration works in a large Chinese multinational corporation, so I can state with some exposure and experience that the young folks of China are committed to joint exploration of the opportunities in front of them with a big eye on the future.

The rise of the Asian civilisations is not a bad thing for the sustenance of the Western civilisation. They could be mutually complementary. We now know that the European civilisation is vastly different from the North American civilisation. Europeans seem to believe in the good mix of capitalism and socialism, and the reduction of inequality in society. They seem to be addressing poverty and homelessness in a concerted manner. The American civilisation, however, is fixated on individual wealth generation and individual creativity, to the detriment of the larger society as such.

As we witness the slow decline of the Western civilisation, we also see that the West is not immune from bad ideas such as corruption and sleaze. Over the years, we have been led to believe such things exist only in Africa and Asia. Laws such as the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the U.K. Anti-Bribery Law mean that apparently these countries do not have domestic corruption – nothing can be farther from the truth. Buying expensive tickets to sports events for clients is a clear example of a prevalent corrupt practice in the U.S. The difference is that some of these Western countries have very effective regulators going after such corrupt practices and sometimes winning in court against corporations. In Asian context, there are not many such examples.

Politics is another area of comparison. Nexus between politics and business exist as much in the West as it does in Asia. If American businesses can influence a party candidate by campaign contributions (though these are publicly disclosed) or buy dinner seats at a campaign event, the impact is the same as a corrupt practice with a corrupt intent. Public disclosure does not make such a practice less corrupt, as the intent is to influence a public policy. So, I would like to understand why Asian countries are considered more corrupt, though by no means I would endorse any country which has serious issues with corrupt practices anywhere in the world.

All in all, the West is going to face the spectre of a declining influence in the world. Some countries such as the U.S. have enormous power to forcibly influence actions by lesser nations, but that is only on the foreign policy and defence matters. Asia is going to face the challenge of sustaining a rising influence, not just with domestic audiences but globally. The image of Asian countries in the global context is very critical to enhance this impact going forward.

The Indian example is a case in point. The image of India has risen over the past few years in the eyes of the world, due to the very proactive stance taken by the Prime Minister of India Mr Modi, who has consistently placed a higher value on building the image. This aspect of foreign policy is very important as it has moved India up on the index of nations who have the maximum soft influence on the world, and lessens attention on the negative aspects.

Well, something to think about. Have a great week ahead folks,

Vijay Srinivasan

29th September 2019

Commendable Howdy Performance


You would rarely see a blog post from me praising a political leader, as I often tend to read the deficiencies in a political system in an intense manner rather than the positives. Positives, I consider, are a given in any democratically elected government (though I know it is not always a given or a true thing), so I never felt the need to praise the positives (I now think I should do). Deficiencies can kill a democracy or at least derail it if allowed to persist, and so I have focused on the same.

By any means or measure, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had an outstanding week in the U.S. There was no other political leader visiting New York for the U.N. General Assembly who made a far-reaching impact as Mr Modi. This is true and this truth needs to be acknowledged. No previous Indian leader created such an impact in such a short while. Further, the world is now viewing India as an emerging superpower which cannot be messed with and which is now drawing the attention and focus from world’s leading nations (Pakistan surely got that message loud and clear). China and the U.K. could not make much impact (the Prime Minister of the U.K. Boris Johnson had to rush back to London in the aftermath of the adverse ruling from the U.K. Supreme Court), and the President of China did not attend (I think he missed a golden opportunity).

I am not giving the list of Prime Minister Modi’s appointments in the U.S. here! Suffice to say that starting from the huge rally in Houston in which President Trump participated and ending with his address at the General Assembly, Mr Modi had an outstanding week replete with his great performance, camaraderie, friendship with world leaders, and interactions with business leaders of the U.S. In contrast, Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan did not receive the same attention though he was wildly touting the possibility of a bloodbath in Kashmir once India lifts the existing curfew restrictions and a potential genocide by Indian armed forces in Kashmir. He even repeated his ridiculous assertion that a nuclear war is not beyond his stupid imagination. He rued India’s pull amongst the most powerful nations as due to its market of 1.3B people.

By ignoring Pakistan and the Kashmir issue completely, Mr Modi scored a strong positive in his address to the U.N. General Assembly. He focused on development, growth, market potential, climate change issues and his vision for the future of India and the world. It was a totally different kind of pitch compared to any other world leader’s address. President Trump’s address was lacklustre – he was uncharacteristically down as the U.S. House Speaker launched an impeachment investigation against him around the same time. None of the other European or Asian leaders made a strong impact.

My view is that Prime Minister Modi is fast emerging as a statesman amongst the group of world leaders who matter the most. He has established a very strong relationship with President Trump to such an extent that Trump felt it was necessary for him to travel to Houston to join Mr Modi for what was essentially a political rally organised by Indian Americans. It rather became a joint rally for both leaders. Trump realised that it is a great opportunity for him to woo the Indian American electorate which mostly voted against him in the last U.S. Presidential election.

I have not, and may not, agree with all of Mr Modi’s policies. I know my views are irrelevant in the larger context, however I enjoy making an analysis of policy decisions and writing about my derivations based on the same. It does not mean that I am anti anybody, or anti government. One need not be a pro-Modi person in order to be a pro-India person. One need not be a pro-BJP person in order to be a pro-India person. And, one need not be an anti-Kashmir person in order to be a pro-India person. I would recognise an outstanding performance and an immense contribution to India, irrespective of who delivers the same. In the current circumstances, there is no peer to Prime Minister Modi in the Indian political scene – he has created an image of India which is par excellence on the global stage, and such a stature is required for India to rise up quickly in the ranks of the world’s leading nations to the top 5.

This does not mean that India is absolutely out of the woods on most major issues confronting the country. Those issues continue and the jury is out on how the current BJP Government under Mr Modi is going to tackle the challenges of India. India needs to grow in excess of 8% GDP growth rate in order to lift the next 300M people out of poverty within the next 5 years. Such a growth rate is also needed to reach Mr Modi’s personal target of US$ 5T GDP size by 2024. The challenges are many and endless, but it will be the economic performance of the government which will ultimately count. There are quarters now which are dismissing the growth focus, but I believe they are absolutely wrong. India needs rapid growth for finding employment for 1M people coming into its workforce every month! Yes, every month!! Unemployment currently is at the highest level measured over the past 4 decades, so it is not a joke.

Well, the task is cut out, and if there is one single person who can pull it off, no doubt it is going to be Mr Modi. I would like to wish him all the very best in this indomitable endeavour. Hope missteps will be judiciously avoided in the journey.

Have a great weekend, folks,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

28th September 2019

Unlocking your mind


Our mind, as we all know, has tremendous potential. It has the ability to invent new things, to analyze situations, to think through the consequences of one’s actions, to map out future scenarios, and so on and so forth. Good examples abound all around us and before our times – such as great inventors of scientific innovations which have benefitted all of mankind. The mind also has the uncanny ability to cause harm and destruction – it is not all “pure” and “good”, as we know from our own experiences and from seeing what harm can be unleashed by cruel minds on an unsuspecting world (example would be Hitler’s mind plotting the extermination of all Jews).

Whichever way you look at it, the option of doing things in a mundane manner is not the right and only one to exercise. While we continue to do things everyday in the very usual manner, we will fall behind the curve if we do not at least attempt to derive even 10% of our own mind’s potential. Every human is capable of doing so, but most people do not even make an attempt, because they never thought about the idea, or think that they are already smart, competent and capable, so they ask: “what is there that needs to be done more with their minds”?

They are absolutely wrong. Nothing new will ever come into play and affect mankind if everyone thinks that they are already operating at their respective peak potential of their brains.

The ability to tap our mind lies in securing a total calmness in the midst of the daily chaos which surrounds us. It is not just the ability to think through a solution for a domestic or business problem on hand. It is different. You are working on your mind to create a new problem which does not exist, and using its power to solve it for your own good or the public good. Or, it could be an existing problem which has defied solutions. The mind has a great ability to see far into the future in a sea of calmness in which you should imagine that you are swimming. You could achieve this sceanario when you meditate with full consciousness. You are not flying off somewhere else, you are firmly rooted in your conscious state of mind, but your mind is totally calm and serene. Does not sound feasible? It is absolutely possible to achieve this state of mind.

I have tried and it is difficult. I can achieve calmness of mind on a long walk around a water body with nobody around. I need the water body, a reservoir in Singapore terminology, and thats why I have chosen to live near one over the past several years. The water body calms one’s senses, and in my opinion, is better than living near the sea side, facing the rolling waves. The second important aspect is that there should be a pathway around this water body on which you can calmly spend an hour every day. On the other side of the water body, there should be trees or greenery with thick shrubs. All these contribute to a serene state of mind and reduces the impact of the surrounding world and its chaos. And I do this walk around the water body starting very early in the morning when the daylight has not broken – you see the stars or the moon on a dark grey sky which adds to the mental serenity.

Does all these kinds of stuff really help, as compared to intense prayers or deep meditation? I think it does, but I am not qualified enough to make a rightful comparison. One needs to figure out such stuff for oneself, in one’s own way, I guess!

Did I unlock my mind’s potential, even to the extent of 10%? Not yet. Long way to go, but I am firmly on my way. Are you?

Have a wonderful week ahead folks,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

23rd September 2019

Camp: Chennai