Wrong Expectations


This post might get me into trouble, I guess!

As my readers know well, I am a “liberal” in mindset, outlook and approach, but sometimes I have taken sides with conservatives when I feel the rational logic resides with them on a specific topic, though it has not been often. Everyone has a right to their own view, and everyone has a right to not support others’ views irrespective of the popularity or otherwise of such views.

I believe that liberal views promote an equitable society with a good balance, in general. However, I have always taken cognizance of the fact that conservatives have a certain hold on the richer, more well-to-do sections of the society which oftentimes get not only a seat at the table, but also get to make the rules of conformance in society. It is very true in a generally traditional, conservative and religious society.

Notwithstanding all the segmentation and fragmentation of societies the world over, there is one principle that I will never compromise on and that is, give equal opportunity to both sides (and to a third side, if that position exists!) so that arguments and counter-arguments can be heard and understood well. It is upto any individual to make his/her own conclusion, and it is also his or her prerogative to voice or not voice the same, in other words, you cannot force anyone publicly on a vote of conscience. This means tolerance and acceptance of contrarian views, though you may not agree with those views which could be anathema to your views. Tolerance and acceptance are not the same as acquiescence and agreement!

So, I read with interest the news coverage on U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s wife going back to work for a strict evangelical Catholic school in Virginia. I warned you, my readers, that this could get rather sensitive! Some mainstream newsmedia covered her decision to rejoin the school and teach there, due to the avowed principles of the school against the LGBTQ section of the society and its non-admittance rules against any member of that group. The school further states that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and so on and so forth.

Without going further into the individual person’s choice to be associated with such a school, notwithstanding the fact that she is the Second Lady of the U.S. Government as the wife of the Vice President, it is not up to any one else to pass judgement on her action or behaviour – simply because she has the individual right to do so and the freedom to follow her heart. There is no official government endorsement or support for her action.

Mike Pence condemned the attack on his wife’s decision to serve in the school and also the attack on “Christian education”. I am not sure what he meant and which media really attacked, but as a beneficiary of Christian education right from Kindergarten to High School, I can only say that without the dedication of Christian education system, many of us in India would not have succeeded in life, despite most of us belonging to the Hindu religion.

Coming back to this Virginia school, I totally and unequivocally disagree with their principles, but they exist in a free society and they have teachers and students enrolled. So, there is a section of society in the U.S. which agrees with those severe and incompatible restrictions, and endorses such a system of education. I can tell you however, that there is no such Christian school ever that existed in India!

Coming back to Mrs Pence’s decision, I respect her choice – both Mr and Mrs Pence are openly espousing the cause and rationale of Christian Evangelism, and there is nothing wrong with their position. They have an inalienable, constitutionally protected right to do so. We have to give equal importance to such positions which are not hidden from sight and are openly stated and defended. In this moralistic or religious clash, no one can claim to be right or wrong. Both sides could even be right!

My personal position, as I stated earlier in this post, is that I am not taking sides with any one philosophy, I am a liberalist with my own views on almost everything under the Sun, and I will not endorse any position if that is not compatible with rational logic. I am not a political person, neither am I a deeply religious person. I am not a Christian but appreciate the service that the Christian school system rendered for me. I try to learn about and appreciate other religions as a philosophical curiosity venture than anything else. I have more and enough blog posts on my blog site to justify what I am stating above!

In a nutshell, let us not have wrong expectations of people, however exalted or powerful they may be. It is not necessary to agree with their stated positions on any matter. We should have our own thoughts about anything which impacts global affairs. I thought that this purported attack by “media” organizations on Christian Evangelism and School system was something of relevance to dissect and understand. If such an attack has happened, that is also despicable because not all systems and people will toe a Supreme Court judgement – they make their own judgements which, if not illegal, should be tolerated in a free society. In effect, tolerance should work both ways, if you know what I mean. It cannot be unidirectional in terms of complete support to the affected part of society – what about taking a non-supportive, yet tolerant view of the incontrovertible fact that there are people who exist who espouse a totally contrarian view which they think is their right to believe in, espouse and endorse – publicly or privately. The response should not be violence, we have seen that such an unacceptable behaviour happens even in the U.S., and so often in third-world countries (I am deliberately not using the politically correct terminology of “developing countries” here!).

Have a great weekend, and more to come from me during the next day or so,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

19th January 2019

Where do you go from here?


You have reached a certain status in society after many years of hard work. People in your circle (your office, your industry and living location) generally know you as a person of certain level and standard, a certain benchmark that you have established for yourself. You are generally held in high esteem with a significant likelihood of being liked, or in the worst case, a person who is competent but difficult to work with due to your idiosyncrasies.

You now take a breather. Where do you go from here? Where do you see yourself a decade from now? Do you agree with the perceptions that people carry about you and your behaviour?

I was thinking about this subject matter today (a Sunday), before things get busy by tomorrow, the beginning of yet another new week in corporate life. Analyzing oneself is a tough thing to do, that’s why self-evaluation in performance management is a challenge to be tackled by each and every one, wherein you are forced to be honest with yourself. Strengths are easy to grasp and list out, whereas weaknesses deal a blow to your self esteem. It is a real difficult task to list and describe in some detail your weaknesses, following which you have to detail out an improvement plan designed to address and correct those weaknesses.

A complete and comprehensive self-analysis will lead one to figure out how to get ahead in the journey of life from where he or she finds himself / herself, towards a certain new destination. The GPS or Compass which is needed to guide oneself towards such a new destination is built in for all people, but typically we depend on external guidance.

External guidance is questionable, unless provided by a well trusted mentor. I believe that we should know how to get to a certain place when we possess the necessary competencies and the will to do so. In my own case, I have always depended on my own judgement to carry out the next step in my own life. I have taken some guidance in certain difficult transitions – like the one I did from India back to Singapore for my second stint (which I am on currently). I have never attached a permanency to my positions in life, as I have had several discontinuous disruptions along the way which have made me tougher in terms of my perspective on life. Once you consider that your life is always on a transition mode (I am not referring just to physical location changes), then that prepares you to accept changes of any type. You become sort of, immune to changes – whether for the better or worse.

A kind of hard discussion, right?

It always is when it comes to getting deep into where you are headed in life. Ultimately, you need to find a certain higher purpose in life. Not just the routine type of life which gets you out of bed on all weekdays rushing towards the same business challenges. What is indeed the purpose of one’s own life? This is a big puzzle for me. Why are we here on earth if as humans, we are destined for something bigger than the ordinary humdrum of a simple livelihood?

In a nutshell, I decode for myself that I should be destined for something more purposeful in life than the simplistic stuff that my current life is made up of – not that it is meaningless, but the “purpose” should be of a higher order calling. Does it mean we all should aim for becoming Buddhas? No, not really. May be there is some meaning in life that we have not discovered for ourselves.

I am spending some time today on this topic, but I have not reached my destination! My thought process is still volatile, and as the evening rolls on, my thoughts are declining without the facility to obtain a nice glass of wine. I hope my readers think too on this important topic of self-analysis and higher purpose in their lives.

Have a great week ahead, folks!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

13th January 2019

Singapore

The Necessity of Socialistic Capitalism


Capitalism has long been established as the most efficient way of generating wealth by effectively leveraging a variety of inputs such as capital, labour and other resources in producing something of value for mankind’s consumption. This is my understanding of the success of Capitalism as an economic practicality which has long superceded other forms of economic theories. Countries which have tried pure Socialism or pure Communal Economics (such as Communism) have long since failed in generating wealth for the countries and its people who pursued such economic philosophies.

Note: I am not an economist and my MBA has generally been useless in producing new thoughts in me – whatever I have conceptualized has been based mostly on simple common sense and some maths, and I have been more interested in a variety of topics, the articulation of which needs some level of mastery of the English language, which is where I am still focused on. If you find wrong economic principles, please send me a comment or email and I will make a correction after validating your point.

However, it is an acknowledged fact that Capitalism has had many flaws which have resulted in skewed distribution of wealth. In fact, wealth in a Capitalistic society such as the U.S. is largely concentrated in a fraction of its people – the GDP per Capita or per Capita Income is a wrong measure as it averages the inefficient distribution of wealth. It is a fact that social equity has not been achieved in any Capitalistic society, and it is not unusual to see large numbers of homeless people even in generally wealthy cities such as New York and San Francisco. There is nothing inherently wrong or immoral in the Capitalistic ways of economics. Combined with the manner in which the fundamental building blocks of society is constructed, Capitalism aids in making the rich folks richer as they get access to more business opportunities and more doors open for them than for the middle class or the poorer sections of society. Further, people who have been fortunate in securing high levels of education, obtain a disproportionate advantage over others in aiming for and securing significantly higher income and wealth. Social networks are skewed in favour of alumni networks or economic networks, so it is easy for the graduate of an elite institution in the U.S. to secure admittance to an elite club of alumni who are already in powerful positions in large corporations or banks, or founders of startups which go on to create wealth.

Where does that leave an average person in a Capitalistic Economy?

Where does that leave a relatively poorer person in such an economy?It is a known fact that Capitalism generates wealth and it also ensures that folks who are left behind are in no position to compete well in an equitable manner. I would like to be challenged here. I am one of those from an elite Indian management school who did not have the advantage of economic advancement before my time in that school, but secured a significant leeway once I passed out of that school. My classmates and I had a disproportionate advantage over others not from elite institutions of repute who received multiple placement offers from global companies.

Coming to think of it, while it is not something which went through my mind while doing my MBA, the fact that ivy league students possess undue advantages over even others who are from lesser reputed schools is well established, and this advantage then percolates up into the economic ladder of the society. I have seen many examples of such progression.

How do we bring social equity into a Capitalistic society? Bernie Sanders, the U.S. Democratic politician and a potential Presidential Candidate, is a proponent of social equity. His popularity even amongst teenagers was tremendous, as young people are waking up to the reality of social disparities which had made the U.S. rank low in economic equity (I am not getting into Gini Coefficient!).

In my mind, I think the only way to get there is to follow the “reservation” system – provide unequal access to education for the economically disadvantaged folks. Eliminate access to people who will automatically get access because they are big donors to educational institutions. Average and poor people need to get access to higher education to upgrade themselves – they might need lots of economic and social support and that has to be provided by the government. This is not a “subsidy” – this is “equal access which will now be termed as unequal access”. Once the proper set of conducive factors are in place, then the disadvantaged students will be able to compete with students who have had an “unequal” access in the past because they came either from wealthy families or were able to invest in better preparing for higher education via tuition, etc., which the poor people cannot afford.

Once education is handled properly, then the economy will reset itself with a broader perspective instead of largely being driven by economic greed alone; by principles which suitably combine Capitalism with Socialistic philosophy which should benefit the society at large in an equitable manner. Unless we tackle education in a fundamental way, society and economic philosophy cannot be reformed, and things will continue as before with no reforms and no changes which will benefit all.

It might feel strange that I am advocating “reservation” (the topic of reservation is a very sensitive one in India and is also practiced in other countries such as Malaysia – India has just passed the first reservation bill for the economically poorer section of the society without looking at their caste or religion, though the previous reservations based on social backwardness still exist on the statute), but it is worth considering given the economic neglect perpetuated by the Capitalistic ways of economic wealth building. Think about it deeply, and you will discover that it makes sense not just in a developing country such as India, but even in developed economies grappling with social and economic inequities.

Well, I think this is a rather heavy topic for weekend ruminations!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

12th January 2019

Singapore


How to keep and feel young


Probably, there is a grammatical error in the title, I think so. However, it is an interesting and relevant topic I guess. There is lot of material on the web and several books which explain the possibilities and promises of aging gracefully. It is always good to learn what others are doing, and try to adopt some of the tried and tested techniques. As always, I thought it would be appropriate to share one’s own experiences arising from personal experimentation.

The #1 approach towards keeping oneself young is to work with youngsters. I always find that they are brimming with new ideas and new things to do. Slowly and very gradually they morph into mature people wherein caution steps in, but before that point in time we can leverage their idea factory. Just by talking to a teenager, I believe we can achieve “freshness” of mind and thinking, because we do not think along the same lines as they do. Youngsters today are adaptable and innovative, with no constraints to their thinking. This means they have no baggage of any sort, and are not coloured by other adults’ thinking or approach towards a life or business problem. Our mind starts to race and work much faster than it normally does, while working with youngsters, and this is all goodness for our own self-development and improvement in thought and operational behaviour.

The #2 approach towards keeping oneself young is to follow an exercise regimen. Again, let me share from my own personal experience. I was doing exercises incorrectly and in my own random fashion, and that too not regularly. This would mean that I might pass one whole week without doing any exercise at the gym, or I might work out just once a week. My wife observed my randomness, inconsistencies, and loss of muscle strength, and enrolled me compulsorily into a physical training program at a local gym. I protested, but she was firm, pointing out all my foibles and lack of consistent commitment. She also (much to my dislike I should say) pointed out that I am getting older and I am looking old already. I thought I have kept myself rather well, and do not look my age, but she strongly differed. So I started a tough exercise regimen under a rather tough trainer, and after one year of hard work (2 sessions per week), I can state that my wife was right (as she always is). I started gathering some muscle strength.

The #3 approach towards keeping oneself young is to adopt a diet regimen in the strictest manner possible, and reduce the intake of alcohol. Easier said than done. Now I am almost into my 8th month of low-carb dieting program which I devised for myself (not a keto diet). I do not eat rice, naan, or much of any high-carb foods. I do not touch sugar, though I am weak on my knees when it comes to dark bitter chocolate which I allow myself once in a while and I cherish those moments (!). I have written about my diet program in one of my earlier posts. I am eating more of egg whites, kale salad, vegetables, green fruits, millet and proteins. I located pumpernickel and whole rye bread varieties from Germany which are available at very decent prices in Singapore. I eat lots of plant nuts every day.

The #4 approach towards keeping oneself young is to go after social networking – both of the personal friendship variety as well as company friends variety. We need friends – nothing can bring back our youth and school / college days irrespective of whatever wealth one has, but old school friends can recreate the magic of our school days. When we have a strong network or networks of close friends from the past, our brains work hard in recreating the neural network to support the memories and expansion of our friends’ networks. And, this in turn, keeps us away from mental atrophy and dreadful diseases such as Alzheimer’s. More we feel young by experiencing the old friendships, the more we are rejuvenating our brain cells, and the more we become younger.

The #5 approach towards keeping oneself young is to follow one’s passion for something – anything will do. In my case, it is blogging, and you see the result of the same here! I also love selecting and drinking good wine, but I have reduced the intake of alcohol considerably, keeping in line with my dieting program. When I write (like this blog piece), I find that my creative juice is spurting in full spring, and my English keeps improving (though several readers have complained that my posts are full of grammatical errors), and my ideas are flowing non-stop (till I finish writing the piece). Once that translation of passion into something concrete happens (it happens twice per weekend for me as my readers know), then there is adrenalin release and a sense of consummation. I enjoy that feeling and savour the same twice every weekend.

The #6 approach towards keeping oneself young is to read a lot of unconnected materials. I personally read all kinds of random stuff on my iPhone and laptop (whenever I can). I have so many news apps on my phone that I have lost track. I also have consolidator apps which puts stuff together for me based on my areas of interest. The advent of really powerful smartphones has changed our lives, and surely it has enhanced my knowledge. When I read materials on every conceivable topic, in a seemingly random manner, I tend to forget the same after a few hours or a couple of days, and that is normal. However, when I start writing on a specific topic, my brain automatically searches my own mind on the topic, much like a Google search, so that if I had come across certain relevant information about the topic I am writing about, it comes to me in a flash. This essentially means I am using my brain as a database or a data warehouse wherein the links happen with disconnected data elements based on a search request. Such actions keep the neural network strong and very much active, constantly working on something, which is what you need to remain mentally young and sharp.

The #7 approach towards keeping oneself young is to nurture your already strong family relationships, and potentially form new relationships with people that you meet and tend to like. This means that you spend more time (not less time!) with your wife and children, and with your parents / parents-in-law / siblings and others who are closely related to you. The more you spend time sharing your thoughts and experiences in a manner that could benefit the others, specifically the youngsters in the family, the more you will gain a “sense of purpose” as you age. Your purposeful life will appear to be more productive and more fruitful. Others in your family circles will respect you more and seek your guidance and mentorship. It is easy to be discarded as a loud mouth who keeps repeating the same old things which do not matter anymore in life – I was in this category (sometimes, I still am!). However, it is critical to become adaptable with an assessment of current and future priorities and challenges of family members, and provide useful advice which they might not easily get from elsewhere. Our experience should play a strong role here with empathy and a beneficial mind set which will be of significant use to others. Make yourself useful to others with a strong sense of purpose!!! Old friends from yesteryears, and new friends that you have made on the way, contribute towards enhancing your mental and social wellbeing. Invest in your friendships and see the difference! Everyone needs emotional support and a sense of purpose, right?

The #8 approach towards keeping oneself young well into old age, is to keep working. Working on anything in which you are obviously competent, keeps you going with a strong sense of purpose and achievement. Your business and social contacts remain strongly connected to you if you continue working – they do not see the difference or feel your advancing age. And, you will feel energized every day with new vigour and commitment to pursue your work. This is the best which can happen to anyone – keep working as long as you physically can. You are mentally strong anyway, if you are following all my above suggestions! You will never feel retired, you will see that others actually need your services, and this acknowledgement from others who know you well will be a huge morale booster for your age-defying young mind!!!

I can go on and on, but the idea is not to reach #10 in my list. It is for you to think more and add to my list above. I am sure all of you would have your own valuable ideas on how to age gracefully and keep yourself young all the time – both in mind and body. Please share your ideas with me, by commenting on this blog post.

Have a wonderful week ahead folks,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

6th January 2019

The India Puzzle


April 2019 is fast approaching……..

India will complete 5 years of BJP Government rule in the next 3 months, under the stewardship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

While the jury is still out on whether the BJP Government delivered on its promises to the electorate (made in 2014), one thing is absolutely crystal clear: the image of India as a nation state has completely transformed in the eyes of the world.

I may or may not agree with policy decisions or actions/inactions of the Government. Every government has its own party driving its policies and actions. Every government has its own compulsions as well as prerogotives. Every government tries to do its best, yet falters occasionally. It could be because of ideological differences or internal squabbles. It happens in every government and every political party.

I am not here to condone any negative fallouts, of course. I believe that Mr Modi could have done better by not keeping his silence during occurrence of violent riots against minority communities. He is the PM for all citizens of India, not just for the Hindus. I agree that Mr Modi is a dynamic, energetic, passionate and committed leader, but in order to be a true world statesman, he needs to step beyond his own party shoes and demonstrate that he is a farsighted and noble leader of all Indian citizens. Some of his principles, such as digital banking for the unbanked millions, are truly world-class. In many ways, he is transforming India.

However, taking a nation as diverse as India on a journey of transformation, requires phenomenal drive towards inclusivity. Of course, we all agree that the Congress Party’s philosophy of dividing India based on minority vote banks is not ethical and is no longer tenable. Minority votes should never be leveraged to short change the majority’s interests.

This does not, however, mean that BJP can just pull along India simply based on their allegiance towards the majority Hindus. As I mentioned before, India is the most diverse nation on earth, and that diversity also comes from its majority – the Hindus are a diverse lot and they cannot be taken for granted. For example, I have my own liberal mindset, and cannot be compelled to follow a single Hindu philosophy or a guru who will guide me to enlightenment. I think for myself, and I believe that is not only my own strength and contribution to the overall society, it is also the way most educated Hindus think.

What does this mean?

It only means one thing: no political party can take the Hindu vote bank for granted. There is no such thing as a “Hindu vote bank”, which will only vote for the BJP, because it is a Hindu party.

Time and again, the Indian electorate, whether rural or urban, has proved that it cannot be taken for granted, and it has a mind of its own, in the true sense of democracy. And, let us not forget, India remains as the single largest functioning democracy in the world, and that is not going to be challenged anytime soon. It will make its own collective choices again in April 2019.

The key is the messaging. I think the Congress Party, much in disarray over the past 4 years, has finally found its mojo, and is gearing up to give a run for the money to the ruling BJP. It is happening and it is going to be a challenging race. BJP can no longer assume that it is simply going to get an absolute majority like it did in a major upset in 2014.

Coming back to the external global image of India, yes, that has been a major accomplishment of the Modi Government. No doubt about it. But, the domestic electorate does not care about that achievement. They are rather upset about the demonetization (which did not produce the expected result of unearthing the much ballyhooed black money), and the imposition of high GST tax rates on consumption. In many ways, the Indian electorate operates on local or national issues, and not on international issues. It is no different from what any other electorate, including the U.S. electorate, does.

So, what is the conclusion?

Where is India headed in its next phase of growth?

Is India going to replace its colonial aggressor as the world’s Fifth largest economy by end of 2019?

What is the right thing to do by the Indian electorate in the 2019 polls?

What is my own suggestion?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

India is an evolving, maturing country, economy and society. I believe it will continue to find its feet, irrespective of the options in front of it. It is an intelligent society. No policy prescription on international or national security matters is going to affect the mind of the electorate.

Think about it. On the other hand, the world itself has a stake in the outcome of the Indian elections, at least based on the fact that the global democracy as a form of government is now predicated on its success in India. India has now become a torch bearer of democracy, and the whole world is watching if it will also keep its 7 decades old commitment to secularism. Either BJP modifies its messaging, or the Congress does it as it has always done. BJP has more of a responsibility to consolidating its successes and steering the country in the right direction.

All the Best to Democracy!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

5th January 2018

Listen to Your Silence


Today is the last day of 2018.

As we bid goodbye to a “mixed fortune” and rather troublesome year in more ways than one, I thought it would be best for me to take a couple of hours off from my schedule and write about something that has been brewing up there in my brain for the past couple of days.

This year I have chosen not to attend any New Year parties (or even Christmas parties) for personal reasons. While the option of more intellectual and social networking with friends and colleagues is rather enticing, sometimes I hit a roadblock and would rather not feign a celebratory feeling and communicate the same to others who might be truly celebrating. Not that I don’t wish to celebrate, but there is nothing (unlike in the past several years) this year that kind of pushes me to let my guard down and dance around. [Disclaimer: I do not really dance, that is a figurative phrase! My songs of the bathroom variety are more well known within my house and my family members do not appreciate my music sense and eloquence in renditioning songs which I myself put together from various languages!!].

Today, I wanted to focus on the topic of “listening to my silence”.

What happens if I position myself in a sphere of silence, forcing myself to think about silence itself as a matter of virtue?

As I look outside towards the clouds and then beneath it the large body of water, a sense of tranquillity sweeps over me (it helps that there is now no one sitting next to me as I write this post!) – a sense of calmness, of intense composure, a waveless mind – not even a drop of the pin or of a drop of water would dare destroy that sense of calm. There is no one else in this journey as I fly through the clouds and apparently even swim through the calm waters. What am I thinking here?

I am thinking my thoughts all alone in a deep silence – I am experiencing the “power of silence” so to say. I am not trying to reach out to any other soul, I am not seeing the TV, I am not even feeling my own fingers typing out these words as I am still looking at the clouds and their magnanimity. When you are alone with your own thoughts (on whatever be the matter), then there is a high probability that you will feel the “power of silence”.

This is what I try to practice on those rare occasions when I choose to go to a Hindu Temple (may be thrice a year or so). A temple, or a church, or a mosque, or a synagogue is a solemn place wherein you should try to keep your mind still [I have been to all these other places of worship as well]. There should be utter calmness of your mind, with no extraneous thoughts of any type. Surely not the ones from the illicit WhatsApp messages that have streamed into your phone that very same day. When you succeed to keep your mind still, you will experience silence, and then you will experience an insight. What is this insight?

Insight is your view of the universe when everything stands still, including yourself and your mind. When your mind and body are totally still, you will see what you cannot otherwise see or feel. This is no magic, this is simple and total commitment to silence which should take you towards an undiscovered journey during which you will experience rare insights about the universe, and then in that process, about your own self.

You do not need to offer prayers or perform rituals to achieve silence of the mind and the body. You do not need the sage advice of gurus or “god middlemen” to connect your being with the unknown. The man himself achieves the discovery on his own effort by stilling his mind towards total silence and insight. And, the temple / church / mosque provides just a venue for this purpose. It is not necessary to go to any such place for that matter. My own home balcony with the view of the cloud and the water body is just good enough and more productive for me as there are no extraneous disturbances of any kind whatsoever.

What is happening now? You are becoming more aware of yourself – in other words, instead of an ordinary existential being, you are becoming “self-aware” – not many people you have met in your life are “self-aware”. An awareness of self can be achieved by meditation or by silence which is similar – the power of such silence could be intimidating as you are actually embarking on an unknown journey to discover yourself, and you might not know yet what you are going to discover. An ability to dissect and completely analyze yourself arises only during a complete silence or meditation process. You may not like what you see in yourself, but then you become totally “self-aware”.

Is this making sense? If not, I can elaborate. I have often embarked on these silent trips, especially on occasions when I am forced to solve a personal problem. However, nowadays, I tend to do this silence journey more often for its revealing discoveries and benefits. Some of you might have tried it as I know that several friends of mine are meditation experts. However, to follow what I am explaining as above requires no expertise of any kind – it only requires focus and commitment, and a strong urge not to be disturbed by the usual human disturbances.

What are indeed the benefits of following this “silence regimen”?

Apart from self-discovery and self-awareness, you also achieve peace of mind and an ability to deal with issues and problems in a calmer manner. After all, everyone needs peace, isn’t it? The world lacks it, countries lack it, political leaders lack it and most people lack it. If you are able to achieve peace on your own, with your own self, isn’t it simply wonderful? Think about it for a minute in silence!

Remember, when you hit silence, you learn about your true self. You see truth in yourself. You do not see any more deceit. You replace any deceit with complete truth. You see your true purpose in life.

This is what this world lacks. It lacked it in 2018. I hope that 2019 will be vastly better. It is not simply a hope or a prayer. It is my expectation that I witnessed when I went totally silent – still and numb in the mind. Even my body became stiffer. After some time, you will feel relaxed. Try it!

All the very best for a successful and prosperous 2019 folks!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

31st December 2018

SINGAPORE

 

 

 

 

2018: What a Year can do to You?


In our apparently long journey of life, a year is a long time! Yes, one year indeed is longish, if only you choose to savour and enjoy every day of it. If the year is full of nonsense and frustrations both in personal life and global affairs, then you would rather expect the year to finish quickly and go away!

Of course, you can interpret any year in exactly the opposite way as well. Good years seem to fly away in a flash, and bad years seem to prolong.

Going by my first interpretation, you would like a good year to prolong wherein you can enjoy every moment of it to the fullest possible extent. Like all of us, I have had the good fortune of experiencing and going through several such years.

But what about 2018?

What do you think my answer is going to be? Take an informed guess. Answers will be different from different folks, to be sure. That applies to anything in life. The value and importance of what exactly one individual feels and experiences show that humans are different with varying perspectives on life.

For me, 2018 turned out to be not so great in terms of several dimensions, while it did produce its good moments as well. My views are coloured by external matters mostly, as I am a global affairs analyst and a consistent weekly blogger on a range of topics.

In my analysis of 2018, I felt that global citizens were impacted by happenings which they did not control or even anticipate. Unfortunately, large countries with big economies such as the U.S., the U.K., China, India, Saudi Arabia, Russia, France and Germany, dictate world affairs and how things shape up. Their actions impact this entire planet, and their lack of action where it is urgently needed could be even more devastating.

On the personal side of life, I wouldn’t put the blame on any specific year, as things which happen to our lives are, at least, partially controlled by us. Well, there is always the “luck” factor in life, but I discount that aspect. I also do not believe that people who ask for material favours from their respective gods, get those wishes granted or lead a better life. Similarly, thanking your god for a windfall in your life is also not an appropriate gesture. Humans should realize that their lives are just a temporary speck in the millennia of the universe. If they work hard, and get rewards due to their work, it is simply the result of their positive efforts. The best way to “visit” a god is to enter the temple without any desire or asks or thanks. You are just recognizing that there is a place available for you to keep your mind pure without any desires clouding your mind. That’s it and if you train your mind accordingly, you will experience peace. Removing the “self” is the most challenging thought one could have. You do not have to go to the extreme extent of renouncing all material possessions and desires, like what Buddha did!

So, if you take the personal and global impact of 2018 together, and apply an analysis for your own good, I will be surprised if more than half of the global citizens said that it is indeed a great year. Lots of institutional damages have happened to democratic frameworks. Lots of ordinary citizens are dead in unnecessary wars. Our own personal data has been stolen by state and non-state actors. I can list a thousand things, and you might not even know certain bad things happened. Why? Because generally humans are selfish and rather content with their immediate lives and neighbourhood. What happens a few thousand KMs away is generally not of immediate concern to most ordinary folks.

I only hope that 2019 will be a better year for the world. Going by the government shutdown in the U.S., the China-U.S. trade war, the Brexit chaos expected in the U.K. with its inevitable spillovers into most of Europe, the Venezualan exonomic crisis, the Syrian war, the killings of ordinary civilians in Yemen, et al, it may not appear so! However, humans revolve around hope. We all “hope” things will get better – but not before they get worse first???

Don’t know yet. I am not having my crystal ball with me right now (!). While just hope will never do the trick, we have to believe in human ingenuity and fairness.

Cheers to my audience, Have a Wonderful year-end, and a Great New Year in 2019!

From Singapore with Love,

Vijay Srinivasan

29th December 2018

Shoot the Piano Player: Andhadhun


Well, let me get to my movie rating quickly. Andhadhun is a good movie, no doubt about it. It is a murder mystery, and has several murders in it. Sriram Raghavan is a good director given to multiple twists and turns, and keeps the audience guessing as to which way the movie is taking, and throws in a totally unexpected surprise towards the end, and all of that.

While I would give the first half of the movie a 4.5 rating (on a scale of 5), the second half of the movie gets no more than a 3.0. Overall, I would have to give a rating of, let me say, 3.8 – actually, my wife may not agree to this rating, she thought the movie flagged and meandered in the second half, so probably she would give it a 3.5.

“Andhadhun” is a well-directed movie, Mr. Raghavan does a great job. To decipher the movie’s logic, you need to be in his shoes and see what he sees through his characters. It will be challenging, let me assure you, as you are likely to miss certain cues and clues as your mind is racing fast forward to solve the mystery which has been presented to you – and you are acting like a Sherlock Holmes in unraveling the mystery.

While I knew or felt that the piano player would survive all the attempts to murder him by several players, I could not have forecasted the multiple twists that he would be put through before he finally survived! That play by the director was outstanding, in terms of eliminating all the other “bad” characters in an unsuspecting manner towards the end of the movie. However, the movie has an “open” ending, our piano player hero does not choose to connect ultimately with the heroine who has had a crush on him but deserts him when she found out about his false infidelity, perpetrated by the main antagonist who murdered her own husband. So what is the real ending? Our hero kicks the coke can on the street!

It is an unusual plot, and I was not surprised to learn that the director has given credit to a French movie called L’Accordeur (Piano Tuner). French mystery movies are my favourites, and I have seen plenty of them in the past. Concepts such as a twisted murder mystery plagued by suspicions and more murders are best handled by French directors with their dollops of creativity and expert direction.

While I would not reveal the plot details of the movie in this post, suffice it to state that “what you see is not what you get”. You must understand that our piano player hero plays his first role not as a real blind man, but as a simulated blind guy – which means he can actually see what he sees, like all of us. In the next role, the main antagonist blinds him willfully for real, so this time our piano player really becomes blind. His reaction when he finds out that he has totally lost his eyesight is a priceless enactment of his real feelings, as compared to the previous simulations as a pseudo blind guy. It is funny how the audience learns about his fake blindness via the tracking of a small boy who lives in the same housing block as our hero, who becomes suspicious and even goes to the extent of tying his smartphone on a long stick to film the “real” normal hero who is performing the daily chores like a normal person would do!

My view of Bollywood movies still remains the same – “not much substance” in most of the movies coming out. But, Andhadhun is a refreshing change – once in a long while, we do get some real good movies, but let us not forget that these are adaptations of Western movies and their directorial impact. While it is fine to adapt, the fact is that the concept has already been tried and tested out, and our Bollywood director is adapting the storyline to his tastes. I don’t know if I am wrong on this count. I am, however, looking for truly original concepts and storylines like what we sometimes get from Malayalam or Bengali movies with lot of thought about a social mechanism and impact of real-life humanity on a movie’s story.

Nothing wrong with Andhadhun, except for the flailing second half which could have been speeded up, instead of engaging in unnecessary dialogues. The director had total control in the first half of the movie with a crisp plot and amazing execution. He could have carried it through to the second half instead of the convoluted plot which becomes confusing – though it might be deliberate.

You can see Andhadhun on NetFlix now, which is what I did.

Cheers, and have a great week ahead folks,

Vijay Srinivasan

23rd December 2018

How to deal with an Idiot


Nowadays, it has become a routine yet demanding task.

Good, hard working, well meaning folks have to deal with several idiots, sometimes on the same day.

Idiots come in a variety of forms.

Unfortunately, idiots are sometimes very powerful. And, that puts most of us in a rather awkward position. When I say “us”, I mean the “proletariat” or the common man on the street. The general population of any country falls under this definition. In developed countries, most of the common population are at the median level of income – the folks that you see on the roads and in the subway stations rushing to work. This translates to a set of people who are at or above average intelligence level.

When there are many such people on the ground, one thing they consistently try to avoid is dealing with idiots. Idiots occur in all places – our workplaces, shops and restaurants, bus or subway rides, supermarkets, government offices, private offices, clinics, and what not. We know how to deal with most occurrences of idiots in our lives, though new types of idiots challenge us to think more and develop strategies to deal with them.

But what do we do when the idiot sits in the White House of the U.S. Government as President of the U.S. ? The most powerful elected office in the world ?

That is emerging as the crux of the existential problem that people around the world (not just the Americans) are facing today.

On the 8th of November 2018, Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) was at 26,191 at close of trading. On the 21st December 2018, the DJIA was at 22,439 at close of trading. In less than 6 weeks, Donald Trump’s confusing twitter messages and erratic actions have resulted in most of this loss of market value. During the same period, the tech-heavy NASDAQ index dropped from 7,530 to 6,333. In a nutshell, the DJIA dropped by 3,752 points or 14.3% and NASDAQ dropped by 1,197 points or 15.9%, wiping off well over two  trillion dollars of investor wealth (I am not able to compute the drop in terms of market value accurately). Please see CNN Coverage on Stock Market – Dow’s Worst Week since 2008

Donald Trump boasted that the stock market had performed outstandingly well under his tenure, but he has been responsible for its destruction over a short period of time between November and December 2018. Further, his erratic behaviour has been the reason for the fluctuations in the market over the past over 6 months as well.

Apart from investor losses, there are many things to fret about the idiotic behavioural characteristics of Donald Trump. I cannot list all of his misdeeds here in this post, but suffice to say that my audience is well educated and well read to have followed his idiosyncratic logic and actions over the past many months. The latest shocker is his abrupt pulling out of U.S. troops from war-torn Syria and also from Afghanistan. Trump has lost most of his experienced cabinet members, the latest being General Jim Mattis, the Defence Secretary, who could not take it any more. Please read his resignation letter to get the full import of his resignation – Jim Mattis Resignation Letter in full

And so on and so forth……….the Donald Trump saga plays on in Washington, much to the detriment of U.S. itself – the most affected folks are the U.S. citizens and the U.S. allies; and the U.S. economy is getting damaged due to Trump’s battle with China (on this point, I agree with Trump’s aggressive manoeuvering against China). The Mueller investigation is producing more indictments and more accusations against Trump, and Trump is increasingly getting nervous. And, to cap it all, the mid-term elections in the U.S. delivered the House of Representatives to the Democrats, so it is going to present a bed of thorns to Trump by stopping most of his executive decisions and investigating his tax returns, and what not. Of course, the U.S. Senate is going to be controlled by the Republicans, but they need the support of Democrats to hit the magic number of 60 votes in the Senate to pass big legislation such as the spending bills (Republicans have only 54 seats).

Though I live in Singapore, and have nothing to do with the U.S. Politics, unfortunately I need to know almost everything that is going on, as stupid actions of a sitting President of the U.S. damages the entire world – again rather unfortunately. Nothing much can be done by remote observers, except to write a blog post and actively discuss such stupid actions in social networking sessions. Most news media publish controlled content as no one wants to offend the U.S. – so fake news is becoming the norm on the other side of Trump as well, if you could decipher what I mean!

Though I supported Donald Trump when he was elected President of the U.S. after Barack Obama (I have published couple of posts on his election), over the past 18 months or so, I have become disenchanted with Trump. He needs adult guidance, and people like Jim Mattis provided that guidance to him. But he despises good folks with serious advice, as he has repeatedly demonstrated via the Cabinet exits which have continued non stop. This shows that Trump is not a good “manager” of people and resources. He makes very random statements and commitments (without a shred of advanced thinking) to solicit the support of his strong conservative base; but as the mid-term elections demonstrated, he has lost significant support amongst women and minority voters, both of which he has alienated constantly.

The bad deeds of Donald Trump are countless to list. But I am most concerned about his idiotic and erratic behaviour, which urgently requires the sane and sober counsel of senior Republican politicians. He is not going to get that advice, as now almost everyone knows that honest advice providers are going to be short lived in his administration.

How to deal with the most powerful idiot in the world is the question of the day. If we can resolve this question, the world can get on with its future business. May be Trump requires advice from Singapore Government, as he would not follow any advice from America’s long standing allies in Europe (like Angela Merkel). Or, should we hope for his impeachment on impeachable grounds soon?

Cheers, and have a great Pre-Xmas Weekend,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

22nd December 2018

 

The Only Bulwark Left Now


Have you guessed what I am going to write about?

I guess not.

Right now I am travelling in a car somewhere outside Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Since I am in the front seat next to the driver, the rest of the family members at the back of the car do not get to see what I am doing. It appears to them that I am, as usual, browsing the web, whereas I have finished all of that and decided it is time to contribute my thoughts to my august audience, like I do every weekend.

Coming back to my idea of the topic for this blog post, it is about how Germany, rather surprisingly, is now best positioned as the only remaining bulwark against the encroachment of authoritarianism in the Western nations – as exemplified by Donald Trump in the U.S., Theresa May to a certain extent in the U.K., and even Emmanuel Macron in France – all right wing, my way or high way kind of characters. Japan is ruled by another right wing nationalist, Shinzo Abe, but it is too far away from the epicentre of the Western community which spans between the Americas and Europe. Russia is anyway ruled by an autocrat – Vladimir Putin, but is economically not as strong as Germany. I am not comparing military might here, but more of moral leadership for the distraught world.

My choice of Germany is questionable, of course, like every other choice that one can make or suggest. After all, how can Germany be a moral leader of the world, after its nauseating criminal history which spawned the Second World War and eliminated 6 million Jews from the face of this earth? How can it claim moral superiority of the Western world even? Have people forgotten about the past history which demonstrates the bottom of human depravity? Can we even imagine today that people like Adolf Hitler walked around Germany and caused so much destruction?

Well, in the current context, Germany has at least demonstrated that it has an enlightened leader in Angela Merkel (though she will no longer continue as Chancellor for the next term), who has effectively provided political and social leadership to the European Union countries. Europeans look to Merkel for key decisions and clues on how she is thinking about tackling the big issues facing Europe. She took an egalitarian view of the immigration challenge, and made the right decisions while the other European countries shunned the immigrants, notwithstanding the fact that they had invaded and occupied many of the countries from which these immigrants were coming. It cannot only work one way, folks.

Germany has always been a manufacturing powerhouse. It has invested heavily in manufacturing facilities around the world. While the U.S. has always been the preferred partner for several things (especially military purchases, higher education, high tech industries, Hollywood movies, etc.,), for many other precision industries Germany and Japan were the preferred choices for a long time.

You may stop me now and ask me about China. Yes, China is a huge economic powerhouse with a huge manufacturing base. However, it lacks the “soft power” that U.S., Germany or Japan can bring to bear. China can also be very difficult to deal with, though that position seems to be unravelling in its trade dispute with the U.S. I don’t believe China is ready to assume the mantle of a global player with moral leadership – it has to demonstrate new skills that are needed for this purpose.

What about India? In my considered opinion, India lost its way long time ago in the name of democracy which never worked for its long suffering people. India used to be a world leader in trade and export of spiritual and religious influences quite a few centuries ago, but no longer. When people think of India today outside of India, they think of the teaming population, pollution, unceasing corruption, and lack of infrastructure. India is not ready – yet.

Coming back to Germany, I believe that it should take a stronger stand in world affairs, without any guilt feelings from 7 decades ago. Germany has all its strengths intact, is a key leader of tbe NATO alliance, is the main leader of the EU, is strong in almost all aspects of governance, and can therefore be the bulwark that I am talking about.

Germany will never again have a dictator. Any nation which learns hard from its mistakes, atones for its sins and national guilt, takes effective measures to completely avoid dictatorahip and authoritarianism via institutional safeguards and appropriate checks and balances, supports other countries, etc., is ready to take on a bigger role. Let us not forget that the biggest and most powerful “liberator” is sliding backwards in its measure of moral rectitude and righteousness, and the world (atleast the Western world) desperately needs a new leadership devoid of innuendos, empty promises, fake news, executive lies, abandonment of international treaties, military misadventures, constant theatrics, breaking of partnerships with allies, walking out of longstanding military blocs and trade deals, and what not.

Can Germany replace the U.S. atleast for the interim? Can Germany provide moral leadership so badly needed? Can Germany take a firm stand on many issues afflicting the world today?

Well, I believe so but then I do not see widespread discussion on Germany assuming the leadership status. So it is only my analysis, I am not sure that if Merkel is thinking along the same lines.

Again, it is my intent to provoke a meaningful discussion on such critical matters of global importance. We as global citizens need to speak out, write as in my case, discuss amongst ourselves, and influence our lawmakers and media.

Think about it folks.

Have a wonderful week ahead,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

16th December 2018