The Bourgeois Class of India


I have been in 3 great cities of India this week.

Delhi, Mumbai and then Chennai now.

One thing I can say with confidence after this trip – the middle class of India is fast becoming the “upper middle class bourgeois” society.

What I mean by that is not a surprise. The middle class of India is growing wealthier by the day, and could soon become the second wealthiest emerging market group in the world, right after China.

And it is going to be of more than 300M people in size – this estimate could be wrong due to measures that differ from the rest of the world. However, it is an indisputable fact that this fast moving and growing middle class is establishing a new set of contours for the society, in which peoples’ attitudes are dominated by materialism, lack of spiritualism, contempt for the poor people and those at the fringes of the society who couldn’t make it, and of course, more materialism in whatever they aspire for.

I do not think I am wrong in my assessment.

I saw a variety of folks and things during my travels – modern men and women, young people who seem to dominate the corporate circles, the polish exhibited by 5 Star hotel staff, the prices of everyday common items, the approach of doctors to healthcare problems of society, the packed cinema halls even during weekday evenings, the footfalls in super rich looking malls, the luxury car brands which seem to have now arrived firmly on the Indian landscape, etc.,

I look for evidence via what people say and what people do. I am careful in spending – I get only what I need, not what I would want in my dreams (I do not dream by the way) to carry on with life, I focus on achieving simple things successfully in a daily routine, and I do not let others think that I am from a privileged background (I am not). I look for attitudinal changes – which are prevalent all over India in the metropolitan cities – which makes a society what it is. The new bourgeois class of India is super confident of itself. It commands a status in society that was previously the prerogative of the rich and famous. It is a high-spending, brand conscious class. It is not family oriented. It is selfish, it cries for attention, it is snobbish, and it is focused on exhibitionism.

I was staying at a nice hotel in Mumbai yesterday, and saw several young women walk into a secluded area of the hotel where smoking is permitted. I was in the adjoining restaurant from which I could see what was going on. While the camaraderie was evident  in the giggles amongst the women, it was not surprising they were all smoking, and continued to smoke after their first cigarette since their break time was not yet over. Personally I have never smoked, I do not like smoking, and I do not like to see young women smoking – they are too young to be spoiled into a habit from which they will never be able to recover. The bad influence of the West is clearly felt in such situations.

Well, from the dashing North to the cosmopolitan West and now to the so-called conservative South. I expected Chennai to stay where it has been all along in the conservative spectrum, but that appears to be slowly but firmly changing. I was in a big mall this afternoon shopping for some essentials. While waiting for an auto-rickshaw (yes I use it for short rides if you are wondering) at the mall entrance, I saw young couples (who were not evidently married) holding hands, and sometimes almost hugging each other. I did not see kissing. But this was a revelation – that this is happening in a society which has had tight contours all along, and looked down on other permissive societies up North and West. The other surprise was that nobody seemed to care (except me of course!) – everybody was doing their job and couldn’t care less about anyone else – another sign of the emerging bourgeois class.

Even while shopping, I noticed that shoppers generally went for the highest priced items in a particular category – for example suitcases. Shoppers wanted imported brands, and that too costing 50% more than the India made brands. And, so on and so forth. Surprising? No, not really.

The Indian society is changing. It is changing fast. I do not think I will be able to recognize it in about 10 years from now. It will become the “new” West. The confidence is contagious and I believe this aspect is good for India, if not anything else. You need confidence – a lot of it – to build out a nation on a new trajectory. I also noticed that people were not indulging in political small talk. Only the older ones were talking about politics. Again, that is a sign of times. No young person cares about anything or anyone else, except himself/herself and his/her desires. That is selfish and materialistic. But nothing can be done about it as it has become a #metookindofmovement.

As I travel around, I learn a lot of stuff about the places I visit and the people I see and meet. India is special as I was born and spent a long time there, and I thought I understood India well. I am wrong. I have to learn more by watching India move. And, it is moving very fast.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

20th July 2018

 

 

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London and Freedom of Speech


I do not agree with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, in his rather aggressive approach towards entertaining the visit of President Donald Trump of the U.S.

President Trump is a guest of the U.K. Government, whether the Mayor likes it or not. He has done everything in his power to deter the visit and make it very inhospitable for President Trump when he came calling last week.

London is amongst the top 3 cities of the world, along with Paris and New York, that is the most visited in the world. It is the financial and commercial capital of the U.K., and ranks either #2 or sometimes #1 in the finance circles as the most capitalistic city with a tremendous presence of the world’s top banking and financial institutions. It may, however, not continue to be in that exalted position for long with the onset of “Brexit”.

Never mind its position as a top city in the world; the least the city can do is to welcome any guest – and, in this case the leader of the U.S. with which the U.K. claims a rather “special” relationship. You may detest him, you may not like his anti-immigration stance, you may hate his vituperative outlook on Europe and its problems, but nevertheless you do not want to antagonize him. If there is a war with Russia, you need the U.S. to be on your side. It depends on whether the President likes you or not, unfortunately, given that he also does not like NATO.

Mayor Khan could have done better. He did the right thing by allowing the public to protest against President Trump, and let the blimp fly over central London as an insulting symbol of the President. But, in his official position as Mayor of London, he should have welcomed the President whether he likes him or not. The Mayor let his visceral hate of the President overtake his common sense. And, common sense is very critical in governance and law enforcement.

In life, it is not possible to only meet with people that you like, whether in social life, corporate life, or elsewhere. The maturity of a person is measured by his or her ability to transcend personal likes and dislikes, and connect with the “other” side of the equation in an equanimous manner. Irrational outbursts against a philosophy which is anathema to a person of power, influence and persuasion should be avoided by that person. After all, the world has multiple sides on any issue, and one cannot just argue forever that his or her side is always right. What about the 30% of the people who may disagree with the 51% majority in that case? Democratic processes as per law can and should be allowed in any democratic country to play out, but the governance mechanism cannot be held to account by majority view on any issue if it is not part of an electoral process. If that be the case, the judiciary of any country can be swayed by what appears to be a majority opinion (based on polls), and could make a judgement call which is not necessarily in conformity with the law.

The same case with Mayor Khan – he should have used his head more than his heart when it comes to policy making and receiving guests. As expected, President Trump shunned London and heavily criticized Mr Khan on crime statistics, which unfortunately for the mayor, appears to be true. London briefly overtook New York on murder statistics earlier this year. The increase in public attacks of innocent victims cannot be dismissed as the mayor did, blaming inadequate policing due to cuts in budget. That is a blatant excuse for non-performance and lack of governance. The Conservative Party has no guts to fight against Mr Khan due to his popularity, another misconceived capitulation.

In simplistic terms, Mayor Khan has failed in governing London successfully, and his escapism on governance does not go down well with the thinkers in the electorate. Mothers are afraid to send their children out into the city. Hospitals are overwhelmed with treating victims of attacks on the streets. Law enforcement is weak. The mayor should be having his hands full dealing with all these issues, rather than spending time criticizing President Trump.

I am not a big supporter of the president, but I believe it is important to welcome guests invited by your own government and show them around depicting the success story of your city, and dispel incorrect notions. It is as simple as that, rather than shunning the visitor who has wrong impression of you.

This post is not aimed at defaming Mayor Khan – only his inaction in welcoming the President of the U.S. It cannot just be his own “choice” – it is for all of London to welcome a guest.

So, at the end, President Trump did not spend any time in the city of London – he avoided it completely. That’s a slap in the face of London, and that’s not a good sign.

Can’t we have a mature discussion between two dissenting adults?

On the other hand, Mayor Khan was singled out by President Trump on terrorism, while there were many other cities in Europe and the U.S. itself which were under terrorist attack. May be there is something there which is irking the president – one would never know. It is not a secret that the president likes Boris Johnson, however!

Have a good week ahead, folks

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

15th July 2018

Ending Poverty Vs Military Spending


The world spent approximately USD 1.7T on military expenditures in 2017 as per data published by SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). A little over one-third was spent by the U.S., followed by China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and India among the top five military spenders in the world.

It has been estimated by SIPRI that just 10% of this expenditure is enough to end poverty around the world (more than 800M people are below the poverty line) in just 15 years, meeting the U.N. goal to end poverty and hunger by 2030.

Does the world need to spend around 2.2% of its GDP on military expenditures which does not have a measurable ROI apart from waging wars and killing people? Is it necessary to keep investing in military R&D and expansion of war machinery especially when the entire world is hungry for peace? Was there any tangible benefits reaped by mankind by conducting destructive wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen?

In other words, the world can reduce its military expenditure not just by 10%, but by half and still have a decent defense mechanism against enemies. If the world wants peace, where are the enemies anyway?

We are going to finish the second decade of the 21st Century in couple of years. It is a shame that there still are hungry people around the world. It is a big shame that many people still do not have a roof over their heads, or do not know where their next meal will come from. There are millions of children suffering from malnutrition due to lack of food and milk. Poor people exist even in developed countries as we can see them under bridges in many first world cities in the West – the homeless folks beyond even the fringes of the moving world economics and society.

The collective conscience of the world should be focused on solving this intractable problem of poverty and hunger, instead of focusing on increasing the possibility of conflicts and wars by spending more on military. Is there a ministry for resolving human hunger and ending poverty in the major countries around the world? We only see defense ministries who are drafting the next year’s budget with a potential 5 to 10% increase.

World leaders meeting in the U.N. should make a choice between ending poverty and increasing their military expenditures. Even if the regular annual increases are scrapped, enough money will be released to take specific actions in humanitarian relief. If the military budgets are cut by 10%, that would release USD 170B towards poverty alleviation. If this money could be targeted at helping poor children, that is going to create a healthy workforce for the future. Think about it.

It is highly irresponsible for countries to spend more than 2.5% of their GDP on defense expenditures, when the allocation for poverty alleviation projects is not even 0.5%. What are we talking here? What about allocation for education and healthcare? What about allocation for eliminating hunger? Why are governments not allocating enough of their budgets to address the needs of poor people?

For most of us in a secluded area of society, the impact of poverty and hopelessness and hunger hardly strikes home. We rarely ever think about these things. We are happy if the government reduces our tax burden, leaving more money in our hands to spend. So, how are we different from our own governments? Governments spend money on things that they prioritize, not what citizens wish for. Citizens of any country would want better quality of living, better transportation, better roads and infrastructure, better access to education and healthcare, less poverty and less hunger. Are governments providing for these things everywhere around the world?

Poor people do not worry about taxes or at other items of government expenditure. They are worried about getting through today and then tomorrow – day by day. Most of us are not looking at our lives with the same lens – we have been lucky and fortunate to get through life in an easier manner. Have you ever felt hunger with no access to any food at all? Never. That is not the case for poor and hungry children all around the world.

So, we as educated citizens of the world, need to push our own government to reduce military expenditure and redirect the released funds towards eliminating poverty and hunger from our societies. This is the most important thing that a government can do during its term of office. If it does everything else well, but not do this one thing, that would mean it is a heartless government which has wrecked its legacy.

We do not get many chances to address the problems of poor people. The focus is not on them. Let us try to bring it back towards the objectives outlined in this note. United Nations better take action immediately instead of just lecturing in its hallways.

Have a good weekend folks,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

14th July 2018

Blockers


Yet another movie that I elected to see on a flight.

I take quite a while to choose a movie to see, especially when there are hundreds available. This time around, I wanted to see a funny comedy kind of movie, and “Blockers” fit the bill.

I do not know or understand how Indian parents in the U.S. deal with the phenomenon of “prom night” when seniors graduate from their school, and go partying all night, often drinking alcohol, smoking drugs, and having sex with their pre-chosen mates. There is nothing like a “prom night” in India or Singapore, I have never heard of one.

“Blockers” is all about three parents who know each other from their daughters’ kindergarten to their senior high school graduation, and who wish to stop their respective daughters from having sex on their prom night. It is funny, it is comical, it is witty – whatever you want to call, but it is also a learning experience for both parents and daughters as they discover key aspects of life in the process.

The parents obviously get stressed out totally trying to figure out what their daughters are up to, and once they discover their plans, swing into action and that leads them into a wild goose ride all over town, with funny consequences. The movie is full of life – the American way of life – and revealing to a non-American how life could get thrilling in America!

I am not sure we need prom nights in our part of the world, wherein the entire objective seems to be focused on losing one’s virginity as a prelude to starting off adulthood, or college careers. It is no secret that most schools have widespread alcohol and drug use in the U.S. (and in most other countries). But “prom night” is designed to be a social coming of age occasion for boys and girls, with high-speed networking, drinking and drug use in a ball room setting with lots of dancing to invigorating music. While I am not going to judge morals here, the need for the focus on sex can be debated, and in that sense, I empathize with the plight of the three parents who come through as very close to their daughters, caring for them every minute, to the extent that they start annoying them.

Indian parents can sync with such feelings for sure (and most Asian parents do). It is an emotional grasp of feelings which are hard to describe – love, affection, the fear of letting go, the lack of recognition that the kids are no longer kids – they have almost become adults and can make their own decisions, et al. It is very challenging when that happens to us, and I enjoyed every moment of the movie when the parents have to deal with their own plight. The feeling of insecurity dawns on the parents – that they are no longer in control of the lives of their own daughters, and that upsets them seriously.

In the U.S., apparently it is not unusual to have sex at the age of 17 or 18 between consenting teens – happens all the time, and gets intensified as one gets into college. It is probably used as a “get to know” the guy or the girl before engaging in a lifelong relationship. I understand it is getting to be prevalent at least by early twenties in India, where the parents do not condone such behaviour. Again, I have no personal views on such “acts” of convenience while preparing for life. It is not an issue of moral judgement, it is a personal choice which every teen on the verge of adulthood needs to reckon with – at least in the U.S. social life context.

The eventual adjustments that the daughters in “Blockers” movie demonstrate touch your heart. They all come back to their respective parents, reconcile with them, and then leave for their respective universities of choice. Parents will remain worried, for sure. That is the nature of parents, nothing much can be done to reduce their anxiety when the kids go far away from them. However, they find solace in the fact that their daughters can make intelligent decisions for themselves, and work through the vagaries of life, and navigate their future, while staying connected amongst themselves and with their parents.

I liked the way the movie concluded. It was intimate, it was personal, it was touching. Parents are parents, and their position cannot be compromised. They will care for their kids, come what may. Mother remains a beacon of comfort and solace for her kids. Father remains a beacon of strength, though one of the strong fathers in the movie breaks down often!

“Blockers” is a good movie that one will enjoy just for the funny language and rapid action scenes which constantly keep shifting from one scene to the next. It is entertaining. It is revealing – about the trust between daughters and parents. It is more revealing about parents than anyone else.

Enjoy “Blockers”.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

14th July 2018

 

A Reckless Mind-Altering President


Democracy is a demon.

How else can we describe the current sorry state of affairs in the U.S., which in turn is causing consternation all around the world?

At the outset, it is difficult to challenge the “simpleton” logic employed by Donald Trump.

  • Is it wrong to make an attempt to control illegal immigration?
  • Is it wrong to separate young children from their parents who are illegal immigrants?
  • Is it wrong to challenge China for its trade policies which have caused a huge lopsided trade deficit with the U.S.?
  • Is it wrong to arm twist the European Union on defence spending for their own protection?
  • Is it wrong to select a conservative Supreme Court Justice who shares common opinions with the President?
  • Is it wrong to impose customs tariffs on imported goods which affect American industries and cause unemployment?
  • Is it wrong to attempt to control legal immigration and disallow spouses of temporary legal corporate employees from working?
  • Is it right for American manufacturers to shift production to low-cost countries like what Harley Davidson has done?
  • Is it wrong to attack the “fake” media when it has been proven that there are instances when the real media reported fake news?
  • Is it wrong to attack long-standing American allies on trade, immigration and defence spending?
  • Is it right to exit from the U.N. Human Rights Council?
  • Is it right to throw away an international agreement with Iran which was signed by the previous Presidential administration?
  • Is it right to schmooze with President Putin of Russia when there is significant evidence that Russia had interfered with American Presidential Elections in 2016?
  • And so on, and so forth………..

Prima facie, it appears that the President is doing all the things that he committed to do while campaigning for the President job, and it also appears that he is right to carry out his commitments to the American people who elected him President, right?

Right. That’s for him.

Right. That’s for the vocal electorate in Middle America who voted for him.

Right. That’s for the coterie of his cabinet members who are not allowed to have their own unique opinion which could be different from those of the President.

Wrong. That’s for the rest of us.

But does he care? Absolutely not.

President Trump is convinced that he is doing the “right” thing for America and the American people. It is his unshakeable belief.

What he does not understand, or does not wish to understand, is that the U.S. is currently the #1 Nation impacting global policies in all facets of human life. Almost. When the U.S. is in such a unique and vaunted position, it is absolutely necessary for it to take the global impact into consideration, notwithstanding the fact that it could sometimes appear to be a philanthropic action, or cause temporary negative impact on the U.S. itself. Unfortunately, no other nation has been able to rise to the level of the U.S. over the past 70 odd years or so. American Presidents cannot be reckless and clueless about rules governing international law, trade, immigration, security, and diplomacy.

While what President Trump does to his people is his own business, Americans are now sufficiently global in their thinking that they should see through if their leader is violating global compacts and policies. Fortunately for President Trump, the U.S. economy has been doing well, and unemployment rate is falling. But, this is a time-sensitive phenomenon, and it only takes a couple of months before things start to unravel, as his trade policies are sure to cause trouble.

Global diplomacy is not about just getting to know each other, shaking hands and indulging in small talk. There is a huge amount of work which goes in, preparing for a global summit meeting. President Trump is now realizing that fact with reference to North Korea.

President Trump indulges in propagating fake news himself at his election rallies. There is only one single truth on every matter, and factual inaccuracies are mounting in his talk at his rallies where wild crowds of supporters cheer him on. He goes back to the White House with increased drive to continue his policies. His twitter feed has become a series of utterances against his “enemies”.

Overall, here is a President who self-indulges himself, berates constantly against his opponents, derides the Special Counsel investigation on Russian interference in U.S. elections, stumbles on conflicts of interests, communicates his racist tendencies, and his bad views on women in general. When a global leader of stature meets President Trump, what do you think will be going on in the mind of that global leader?

It is not hard to guess.

So, President Trump needs to get back to the basics of governance which are probably taught in a U.S. university of repute such as Georgetown in Washington DC itself, or consult past Presidents who could provide him some serious counselling. He needs to kick out sycophants from his Cabinet. He needs to listen to some seasoned leaders such as Angela Merkel of Germany. He needs to understand that running the U.S. government and managing global affairs is totally unlike running a corporation. And, he needs to kill his twitter handle. His digital skills have ruined policy making.

In a nutshell, President Trump can recover from his governance lows by actively seeking counselling assistance. All of us need counselling or mentoring at some stage in our lives, and it is nothing to smirk or laugh about. So, here we are – President Trump will hopefully read this blog post of mine and adopt my sage advice rendered to him without any prejudice by a global citizen who thinks globally.

Have a great week ahead,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

8th July 2018

 

The Commuter


This is a full action-packed thriller movie enacted almost completely on a train in New York city which is headed to a faraway suburb. All the action happens on the train, and Liam Neeson is at his best trying to figure out the mystery, a role for which he is one of the best actors available. He has a heavy set, thinking face and you do not expect a fast movement from him. But he delivers some knock-out punches on the train and is also attacked vigorously by much younger men.

For an ordinary salesman on his regular commute home, and that too for a guy who has just lost his job with a mortgage to pay and family to cater to, it is all too much. One can witness the turmoil in his face when some lady offers him USD 25,000 for a seemingly innocuous job on the train. But his acceptance of that money puts him (and a number of his fellow passengers) at great peril; it also leads to the murder of a few folks on the train.

We have a saying – one bad thing leads to the next one, the same leg gets hit twice, etc., That’s what happens to our hero on the train after his sordid office experience that particular day when he got fired from his job, replaced by a woman with not much experience but at a far lower salary. His long experience did not count! And then comes the long ordeal on the train for which he was not at all prepared – no one can be, of course. A series of events on the train leads him to nowhere, and he is being challenged by the mysterious lady on the train who gave him the money to find someone on the train.

I was thinking – why couldn’t she find that person if she wanted to eliminate that person so badly? Why would she use Liam Neeson and in the process, also eliminate perfectly normal commuters? But it is the way the movie is scripted and directed – not much of a logic in the way it has been constructed.

This is not a movie that I would seek out and go see in a theatre. I saw the movie on my recent flight, selected it because it appeared to be an exciting thriller. However, I need to say that “The Commuter” is not a great movie with a great plot and direction. I saw it primarily for Liam Neeson’s acting, but he can’t do much if the plot is weak or has no logic, right?

While there is not much of a rationale in the manner in which the movie plays out, I liked the way Liam Neeson handles the pressure of his role – what if this were a true story which it very well could be? Then we would need a Liam Neeson who at the purported age of 60 in the movie (he is actually 65 now) could deal with enormous pressure without breaking, and execute his mental plan with agility though many a time he appears rather confused with the way things are turning out. There is not one dull moment in the flow of the movie directed by the famous Spanish Director Jaume Collet-Serra. I saw the movie non-stop, not even looking around the plane – all the time wondering what is going to happen. Where is this mysterious person who has some prohibited data so desired by his/her potential killers, that they would go to any extent to kill him/her even with all the collateral damage and a huge train accident. Why do they want him/her killed, and why can’t they find him/her by themselves if that person is on this specific train, etc.,

The movie shows every inch of a typical New York commuter train, and it is hard to miss anything as the director and the cameraman are indeed spending all their time in the train! They even show the undercarriage of the train as Liam Neeson had to hide, hanging down on the undercarriage almost touching the ground. There are unbelievable scenes like separating the carriage in which several people are held together from the racing train which has no driver as he has been eliminated. Liam Neeson proves that he was a cop before becoming an insurance salesman.

The worst surprise happens when Neeson’s own past police colleague turns out to be the perpetrator of the vicious crime on the train, but that is for you to see, right?

Have a wonderful weekend folks,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

7th July 2018

 

The magic of Low Carb Diet


I have been following a Low Carb Diet for the past few weeks and the results have started coming in. Of course, the impact is positive.

I tend to experiment often with various things, otherwise life gets too boring and staid with no extra results or impact over and above the normal. As we say in corporate life (and also at the gym), “no additional pain, no gain at all”. My gym instructor keeps saying that he wants me to go a little bit beyond what I could possibly take. I have been struggling with that concept at the gym – how could I lift more than my maximum limit? I then slowly realized over the past couple of months that my “maximum” has been set by me in my own mind, not by anyone else. I might struggle to cross more than 15 repetitions with a specific maximum weight, but it is an artificial limit about which my brain intervenes to inform me that I have either reached the maximum weight possible, or I have reached the maximum number of repetitions.

I am following a similar concept when it comes to dieting which in my case, is not for reducing weight, but for gaining control over my body parameters. I went through extensive health tests both in India and Singapore, and analyzed the comparative results, and identified parameters that I need to focus on (I did get some consultation with qualified doctors both in India and Singapore of course). In order to tackle these identified parameters, I chose special diet advice over the possibility of medication.

There are various online resources available today to craft your own diet plan. I did extensive research, studied testimonials, consulted university hospital articles and advice, talked to doctors, and then hit upon a specific online tool which has helped me devise a plan for my own special situation. I did not follow all the inputs from the tool, and other resources, but devised a plan which seems to be working. Of course, I will continue to make changes as I go along in this journey.

The one key thing in this plan is to reduce calorie consumption from an average daily of 1,600 calories to less than 1,000 calories (specific numbers are unimportant as long as you realize that you do not need 1,600 or more calories to live, and can comfortably reduce the same). This, in turn means that I have to reduce my carbohydrate (carb) consumption dramatically – so I pushed out rice, pasta, french fries, potato wedges, chapathis/naans, and the like almost completely out of my menu. I did keep some “parboiled” basmati rice in the menu as it is far better than the regular rice, but the quantity of consumption is far lower than what I was accustomed to in the past. May be just two cups of cooked rice should be enough.

The other key factor is protein. In my regular food in the past, protein consumption was low. I increased it to some 40% (from 10%) while watching certain health parameters at the same time. Egg Whites (two or three, throw the yolk away) with Cinnamon powder sprinkled on them have become a staple for me for almost every breakfast, along with almonds and an apple. I also focus on Milk, Greek Yoghurt (a lot), other plant nuts like Hazel Nuts, Walnuts, and Pistachios, Broccoli, and White Chicken. I also like Salmon and White Fish, which are excellent sources of good protein (as well as good fat).

The other almost funny factor is “good fat” – I have been avoiding fats for a long time. In the process of going to gym, I learnt that one should not avoid good fats, and not all fats are bad. I started researching on good fats, and now have arrived at a somewhat interesting list of avocados (hardly tried it before), feta cheese, more extra virgin olive oil, full fat / whole cream milk, plant nuts, etc., I have stopped having coffee with low fat milk, and have switched to full cream milk in less quantity.

For me, I think I have stuck upon something which is working out finally. One critical observation is that I do not feel hungry all the time anymore – I feel good and satiated after a minimal meal, and my runs to the refrigerator have reduced or almost gone. Which only means my cravings for something with high carbs in it have dropped off significantly.

While I cannot recommend any such meal to my audience, I can only say with confidence that the positive impact of a low carb diet is amazing to say the least, both in terms of healthcare parameters as well as in the mental make-up of how we perceive food as such. The downside is the caution that one has to exhibit to others about the food choices that one is constrained to follow at every meal. But that is one’s own choice. Let us not forget the fact that what goes in makes you at the end of the day.

I would suggest you look at resources such as the Diet Doctor online [Diet Doctor) and many other such high quality resources before making any changes to your diet plan. Of course, consultation with your doctor is necessary. Or else, you are happy with yourself and your food as you are, and do not need to make any changes at all!

Have a wonderful week ahead,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

1st July 2018

 

Set it up


This is a new Hollywood movie which was just released in June 2018. I was surprised I was able to see it on my Netflix account so soon, and discovered later that the movie was indeed released by Netflix itself. So, Netflix is in the movie business by itself, and could eventually give a run for the major brick-and-mortar movie studios which have dominated the movie business for so many decades. No wonder Netflix stock is skyrocketing – going up all the time.

As usual, I am not writing much about the movie itself or its actors themselves. My observations on this nice movie are manifold from a generic observer point of view. Don’t get me wrong, this is an enjoyable movie for a nice evening with your beau, sipping tea (sorry, no alcohol), and there are many Hollywood movies of this variety which is categorized as romantic comedy.

My first observation is about the new millennial work culture at the cost of building personal relationships, indulging in hobbies, or even doing what one wishes to do in their spare time – simply because there is just no spare time available in this culture which is all about getting ahead in career in the quickest time possible by doing things which pleases the boss all the time – basically at her or his beck and call, doing things which one would not do in ordinary course of life. This is just plain stupid – one has to build his or her own life in the way he or she likes it, and not be commandeered every minute by some reckless and heartless boss. The millennials  would lose their mind and heart and start following their bosses in their life as well, which would be a disaster.

The second observation is about the bosses themselves, who are expected to be professionals and not some jerks throwing things around their office, and insulting their workforce, especially their executive assistants. Apart from matters of the heart and sensitivity towards other human beings, the conclusion is that the bosses in this movie exhibit characteristics which are completely unacceptable in today’s modern digital economy. Bosses nowadays are becoming “facilitators” rather than aggressive commanders of their workforce army, which itself is increasingly becoming agile. So, how can a modern day boss in a New York office be portrayed as someone so reckless? The movie has a boss who insists that her assistant should go and get her dinner irrespective of the late hours – why should the assistant do what a delivery agency should be doing? Why should the other assistant (for the male boss) bring coffee for him every day? Or, juice!!!

The third observation is the mistaken (in my opinion) demonstration of how easy a typical young American falls in love right after the first date and then they immediately progress to the next stage. While it may be true in a sense (I don’t know myself what I am saying here!!!), I believe that people are a little more measured than shown in most movies in rushing towards the inevitable act. While school romances are common, after a few years people do become sober, and do not really trust their first instincts. They would examine more, check out the background of each other, see whether there are common interests (though the two bosses do not demonstrate any of these characteristics and still fall in love), and if they really want to enter into a casual relationship (the movie does show the scene in the assistant’s home when both are eating pizza and then the girl just goes away though the guy is inching towards a potential kiss – he doesn’t show his inclination though). I think this was one of the best scenes when two peoples’ collusion does not descend into a physical relationship though the situation and environment favours one. I liked the way the girl assistant moves on with her thoughts after the pizza dinner – and she also looks at the guy somewhat adoringly.

Fourth observation – this movie is all about “setting up” two people who would not have normally met, and also impacting their hook ups by making them say or do something which accentuates their desire for each other. This is called “cyrano” after the 19th Century play called “Cyrano de Bergerac”. It was the first time that I came across this special word which connotes setting up two people to do something, directed by somebody else who knows them both.

So, all in all, those are my generic observations. The movie itself is a good time-passer with pleasant happenings, zero violence, quick comedy situations, fast paced actions on an entirely social front, good direction, and good story line. My wife and I liked it, but we were not over-awed by the movie. I was surprised to see its good reception, however.

Enjoy your weekend with some good movie folks,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

30th June 2018

 

Jurassic Park in the Gold Class


Someone close to me gifted two “Gold Class” tickets which cost SGD 39 apiece (around USD 29), which is a big price to pay for seeing a movie – for comparison purpose, the standard movie ticket in Singapore costs SGD 13 or USD 9, so we are talking about a three-fold increase in price. I was wondering what to do with the tickets, as I am not an avid cinema theatre goer – if I go to cinema twice a year, that would be considered special! Finally, I thought it would be better to go and see what is this gold class all about for myself, and I asked my wife to join me. There were only four movies available in the gold class category, and three of them were useless, so I was forced to select “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” which I would not usually select, as I think the whole movie series is escapist and does not reflect reality. Except to see the dinosaurs of a foregone era in action via animation – we all know it is not real, and dinosaur eggs do not exist.

However, we finally landed in the gold class lounge, and were not surprised to see the special lounge facilities with plush sofas, magazines to browse through, personal butler service, and a variety of food to order from. There were not many viewers in the gold class at 10 AM on a Saturday morning, though slowly the theatre filled up to some 70% capacity. We enjoyed the luxury of the place of course, and ordered some coffee and snacks to be served 30 minutes after the movie started. I have never witnessed such facilities in a cinema theatre, though I have heard of the same. I have always thought “what a waste of money”. I could not just throw away the two tickets however.

We walked into the theatre and found our seats – very plush and as good as a first class airline seat, almost fully reclinable with fully stretchable horizontal leg/foot cushions. They even provided a blanket – well I don’t use blankets even in an airconditioned bedroom, and I felt it odd that people were covering themselves with blankets – may be several of them were planning to doze off in the comfort of the luxurious seats!

Our coffee and food arrived (there was a call button that we could press to get the butler to come and attend to our needs) after a reminder, and it was not bad, indicating that the theatre considers us as our regular patrons. There were several folks who ordered wine and beer (at 10:30 AM!), and enjoying the tipple. Almost everyone had ordered food.

Between us and the next seats, there was considerable distance, so people could chat without disturbing others. It was indeed a very good experience for both of us who have not seen anything like it yet, except the regular cinemas which are already pretty good with good seating in Singapore. The gold class signifies something more important in a rich society – that people aspire for exclusivity, and are willing to pay for it. But, if you ask me if I would go again to the gold class, my answer will of course be a categorical “no”, as I do not see value in it apart from the luxury quotient.

Hey, what about the movie itself?

Well, my one single sentence about the Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom movie is that the various dinosaurs, and especially the very intelligent raptor, have acted better than the human actors – they are a class apart, and hi-tech animation has delivered phenomenal results. There are many thrills, twists and turns in the movie, but these are to be expected. But the movie descends into what I would call utter nonsense when the bad guys capture these majestic animals, bring them to California, and try to auction them to super villains from around the world. Come on!

In the normal course of events, this movie would be missed out completely. But kids might like the fantastic animation and dinosaurs running around, trying to communicate with each other and with our hero in the movie. Adults would find this sequel some utter nonsense with no sense or direction. Notwithstanding the animation, the movie lacks a substantive story line which is somewhat believable, so that the path can suitably be laid out for the next one due in 2021. Unfortunately, it is not the case with this movie.

So, the only benefit of seeing a useless movie is the environment in which we saw it – and that is the beautiful gold class. While I am not suggesting you should go for this luxurious experience, if and when you choose to do so please ensure that the movie choice is absolutely right and melds with the environment in a way which makes the overall experience that much more memorable.

When we walked out of the gold class, we were wondering what happened to that experience.

Cheers, and have a good week ahead,

Vijay Srinivasan

24th June 2018

 

Soul of America


The U.S.A. is by far, the most preferred country for immigrants, beating the next 9 countries on the list of preferred countries for immigration as per a recent survey.

For decades, and even for more than couple of centuries, America has been welcoming new immigrants to its shores. Both immigrants and America have benefited from this continuous immigration from all over the world. America has become a multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-ethnic country, the closest example in Europe being the U.K. America has also been providing opportunities to create new wealth for all its people, and especially to talented immigrants, and examples of such cases abound and far too numerous to be captured in any article like this. America has become richer, diverse, more capable, and more dominant in the world due to immigration. Immigrants have gone on to win Nobel Prizes, more than 60% of PhD students in U.S. are foreigners, and more than 40% of students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) are foreigners as well. There is no doubt about these facts which have been validated by data from many surveys.

For America to take a strong stand on an anti-immigration political platform compounded by some serious heavy-handed law enforcement actions separating immigrant parents from their children in the most recent episode along the border with Mexico, is rather unusual and challenging its soul itself. The administration of President Trump has pushed the limits on putting a complete stop to all kinds of illegal immigration, with or without the support of its own Republican Party, and with or without the support of the U.S. Congress.

Let us for a moment go back to the soul and heart of America. Americans have always been welcoming immigrants, and have built a meritocracy based on peoples’ talents rather than on their skin colour or religion. This is the reason why America’s technological, political, social and military dominance is complete with no challengers in sight, though it can be argued that China and Russia are bent on challenging the U.S. hegemony of late. However, the U.S. is by far superior in all facets of human endeavour, and while there are pockets of dominance all around the world, the U.S. offers the most complete package to potential immigrants who, if they are talented and skilled, would be on par with the local U.S. citizens. Such adaptability and flexibility in building an equitable society has paid off for America in the long run, and is a model for countries like Singapore which is also focused on building a multi-skilled, competent and knowledge-based society.

Given this background, the vicious action of Attorney General Jeff Sessions in separating children as young as 2 years old from their parents can only be considered cruel and far beneath the status of a generous, accepting and welcoming society that is the U.S. It is no wonder that President Trump came under huge pressure from his own party to stop the family separation, and he did that with an executive order that he issued with far less clarity than it should have exhibited. Nevertheless, it was a step in the right direction.

As we say, it is a torture to carry the guilt on a society’s heart and soul – examples again demonstrate the power of guilt. In Australia, the governments in the past have separated aboriginal children from their native parents and transferred these children to white foster parents. A similar thing happened in Canada. Many countries have inflicted cruelty on children – especially in Europe and Africa.

The U.S. need not and should not acquire and carry that guilt on its heart and soul. It is despicable, and completely out of character for a nation like the U.S.

Illegal immigration should be reduced but handled with care and compassion. People flee their countries mostly on economic grounds or political persecution. The U.S. is the most advanced country which is equipped to handle such immigrants, and is also the most capable in absorbing select immigrants – only the U.S. Congress has to enact legislation codifying the criteria that can be applied to such immigration.

Most European countries are trying to stop immigration. It has been a hot-button issue for elections in several countries such as Germany, Austria, Hungary and France. There is no perfect solution, especially when there is no common denominator on big factors such as language or religion which affect social and cultural integration of the immigrants into the respective societies. Such issues are less divisive in the U.S. as it has become a well-accepted melting pot of people from all over the world, working with each other and depending on each others’ services.

So, at the end of the day, the U.S. remains as the most preferred nation for potential immigrants from all over the world – even from other developed countries!

It is critical for the Executive and U.S. Congress to sit together and resolve matters pertaining to immigration policy. It is very critical for the future progress of the U.S. and cannot be ignored. The continued success and technological progress of the U.S. are based on immigrants continuing to flow into the U.S., of course on a controlled basis.

Kudos to America for being the most generous nation on planet earth!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

23rd June 2018