Europe under continuous attack


Europe needs and deserves a firm leadership against terrorist attacks which try to disrupt peaceful co-existence of the 28 countries in the European Union (EU).

Like any other association of nations, the very purpose Europe came together is for trade, employment and joint defense (against U.S.S.R. in the Sixties and Seventies). Similarities in cultural backgrounds help in all such associations, though a common religion plays a much less role. Europe has always been willing to take in immigrants from non-European countries, though various countries in the EU have their own restrictions. Some of them are very liberal, some of them are quite restrictive. Germany is an example of a generous nation, well-to-do people, who have accepted immigrants as long as these folks can adapt to the local culture and learn to speak the German language. The history of Europe is laden with wars and refugees, and crimes against humanity, so it is not surprising that the Europeans are more open than others to war refugees.

However, we will soon find out if Europeans remain tolerant to the vagaries of the refugee influx, especially from Syria and certain other Middle Eastern countries. France is a case in point. Paris has been diligently attacked by terrorists who do not like the French way of living. While it is easy to cast aspersions on a particular religion for these incidents (including the one last week), the French people will do well to recall that their freedom did not come easily – they had to fight for it every inch of the way in the Second World War with the help of the Allied Forces. They had to fight against Nazi occupation – they were refugees in their own country. It is critical to take stern actions today to defend French freedom, no doubt about it. However, it is rather easy to swing to the far right and attack the whole philosophy of Europe and the EU. What positive stuff can come out of it? Why would France try to isolate itself from the rest of Europe?

Colonial powers such as France and the U.K. cannot escape their histoy. If there are millions of Muslims in France, that is the result of French invasion and occupation of North African countries several decades ago, may be a century ago. Clear-headed, rational thinking is called for when a government is dealing with all kinds of its citizens – they do not always come with the same colour, race, ethnicity or religion.

Nevertheless, Europe faces tough times ahead. Elections are a way for the far right to assert their extremist philosophies and gain governance after a long wait. That did not work in Austria and Denmark, and is unlikely to work in France. Germany, in my opinion, will remain centrist for quite some time, unless jobs disappear and crimes increase as a result of uncontrolled immigration.

The solution is to give law enforcement more powers as they are called to face and deal with militant elements of societies. Governments have to make it absolutely clear that cultures and philosophies would not be trampled upon in the name of giving big space to immigrants. Everyone has to live together peacefully, and the message has to go out loud and clear that if immigrants are not happy to adapt and accommodate, they should be free to return to where they came from. This message is critical and needs to be delivered by all types of political parties or governments. immigrants remain as guests of the welcoming host nations till they earn the right to become permanent residents or citizens and start a new way of life. Why should they want to replicate the lives that they lived in their respective repressive countries?

Europe remains a beacon of an elitist kind of democracy that other democratic nations can only aspire to become. It should not be split radically into segments which then cannot work together in the European Union. That would be disastrous for the future of this world.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

23rd April 2017

Advertisements

Gurus not exempt from Law


Spiritual Gurus have long been a bane of many religions around the world.

Their (largely) negative impact has been felt severely in India for a very long time.

Some gurus have positive impact overall. One of them is Jaggi Vasudev, the other is Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who runs the famous Art of Living (AOL) Foundation. There are thousands of others, but my simple view has always been that there is no need for an intermediary between God and I, or God and anyone else for that matter. Unfortunately, Hinduism, one of the most enduring religions of the world with over 800M followers, encourages the adoption of gurus to facilitate a communication with God. I do not agree with such a philosophy, though there are other major religions which follow similar philosophies, putting man over man. Humans look for a guide to help them navigate the world, and it is not at all a surprise that a Pope arises to guide Catholics, for example. The plethora of gurus in India does not follow any systematic approach, they crop up anywhere and everywhere where the gullible would fall at their feet and worship them. There are thousands of “magical” episodes when these human gurus have generated simply impossible manoeuvres which continue to fascinate their followers.

However, none of these “humans” are above the law of the land.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, his Art of Living Foundation, and his spokesman accuse the government and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for giving permission to conduct the World Culture Festival in March 2016, which has completely destroyed the river bed of the Yamuna River which most Hindus consider as a holy river. Sri Sri is a charismatic guru, who is close to powerful politicians and the wealthy folks of India, and so it would be interesting if the expert committee’s findings would indeed find their way to justice in the current dispute between the government/NGT and Sri Sri/AOL. I don’t think it was appropriate for Sri Sri to accuse the NGT and the government for having granted permission to him for conducting the Festival.

Where is accountability and humility on the part of the famed Sri Sri?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his AOL are not exempt from the law of the land, and have to abide by the rules and regulations. Being close to God does not exempt him from the rule of law. It would be interesting to see how his ardent followers react to the findings of the expert committee.

It is clear that spiritual gurus cannot run a government, a court or the environment. They should focus on God, not make Hinduism a circus philosophy. It is always good to hear some of the lectures of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, but the wisdom of his speeches does not make him God. He is after all, an ordinary man, like all of us. If he commits a mistake, he has to pay for it. There cannot be an excuse. If a fine is levied (as it has been), then his organization has to pay it. Damage done to the Yamuna riverbed will take 10 years to fix, as per the expert committee. Who caused the damage? Not the government, nor the NGT. They merely granted permission, may be misguided, may be under some sort of pressure. But Art of Living Foundation and Sri Sri are entirely responsible for what happened. Who can contest this assertion?

Again unfortunately, most of us are emotional, and wish to kick folks who do not conform to whatever is the general trend of belief or philosophy, in this case of Sri Sri. If there is a variation to that thinking, then the people who think differently would be termed as traitors to the cause. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

Time to think on environment, time to think about Yamuna River, which has recently been designated as a “legal person” by the courts of India.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar should apologize, desist from repeating such extravaganza, and indeed pay the INR 5 Crores fine. We should all respect the law.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

22nd April 2017

The Korean Crisis


North Korea has long been a problem child of the world.

Now, it has also become very dangerous consequent to its acquisition of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology. Its vociferous claims that it will destroy the U.S., Japan and South Korea, have not gone unnoticed, and are increasingly being taken seriously while in the past such claims have been dismissed all too easily.

Any war on the Korean Peninsula is sure to kill thousands, if not millions of people, and devastate Asian economies. South Korea is a major global manufacturer, critical to the world’s supply chain in several key industries. Japan is not far from the Korean Peninsula, and there is bound to be huge impact on the Japanese economy as a result of any Korean conflict. And what about China which shares a border with Korea? Any war would have huge repercussions on China as a whole.

Is a war inevitable? It appears so if one reads/sees the world media. The war “noise” is increasing on a daily basis, both from the U.S. and North Korea. It is a fact that all Asian countries are dreading the prospect of an imminent war. It does not appear that President Donald Trump really cares about the impact of a Korean war on Asian countries and the global economy as such. Being unpredictable has been a success symbol for him, and he is more than a match in this aspect as compared to Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). Looks like in Trump, Kim Jong-un has found a tough, unpredictable, and surprising foe.

Notwithstanding all of the above, war is never inevitable. War, of course, should be avoided at all costs. War is really not an option in today’s modern, peaceful world. Sounds fancy, isn’t it?

It does, but I still believe that a genuine attempt has to be made, without any pre-conditions attached, to make peace with North Korea. This can only be made if all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council jointly agree on a peace pursuit, and appoint an emissary to negotiate peace terms with North Korea. In return for a permanent suspension of all nuclear and ballistic missile testing, North Korea should receive monitored humanitarian assistance, equal treatment as a full member of the United Nations, trade benefits, removal of all sanctions, and recognition as a state on an equal footing with South Korea in all matters. All war games on either side will be suspended permanently. The Korean Armistice will be converted into a full peace treaty between North and South Koreas.

Looks impossible, right? But I believe not enough has been done on good faith from both sides for a very long time. It is critical to gain trust, and that is not possible when there are ballistic missile tests on one side, and war games on the other side of the 38th Parallel which divides the two Koreas. Sabre-rattling is not a good idea in a scenario of heightened tensions.

While the above positive situation could come about eventually, it is unlikely in the current context of who blinks first. I am afraid that President Trump might pull the trigger if the North explodes a nuclear device, and attack the test location with Tomahawk missiles like what he did with Syria recently. If that happens, then all bets are off. War will break out as Kim Jong-un will not accept the insult and the attack on his country, and will order his forces to attack the South with all its might. An all-out war on the Korean Peninsula will destroy most Asian economies and kill thousands of civilians, and could bring Japan and China into the war.

Such a situation is definitely not good for Asia and not good for the world.

Sober counsel needs to urgently prevail on both sides, and South Korea needs to aggressively push the U.S. not to launch pre-emptive strikes against North Korea. Japan needs to be more sober as well, not wanting to create an unnecessary war in its proximity. And, the U.S. needs to listen to its close allies and not make decisions on its own.

War mongering should stop urgently. Asia is now clearly on the brink of war, just as Middle East has always been.

Think! and, Think Again!! Peoples’ lives matter.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

16th April 2017

 

Religions and Future Generations


My views on the unnecessary importance that we ascribe to religions in our lives and the extraordinary negative impact that the segregation of people is having on societies around the world are well established via this blog communication in the past. I have written about the destruction caused by religions over the centuries and how religions divide, rather than unite us.

While nothing much has changed in our societies with regard to the treatment of religions and the impact that the religions have on societies, it is now widely accepted that multiple religions with differing philosophies have succeeded in dividing people, and polarize their views about what is right and what is wrong. Strong indoctrination of religious principles which are not subject to debate and discussion, has further fomented these divisions. Only a few religions are pacific, the rest push for indoctrination of principles, adoption of basic tenets, and followership of the “cult” to the exclusion of all others.

Added to the above religious divisions forged by major religions, the caste system perpetrated in India (for example) has further deeply polarized the society. While the caste system in itself is deplorable, the adoption of non-economic criteria in stratifying a country’s population into haves and have-nots has worsened the deep divisions in society, and has led to the departure of meritocracy from running of the society and the country. India was accordingly set back by several decades when compared to caste-less societies such as Japan or China, which are much more homogeneous in population demographics and treatment of citizens.

We argue vigorously oftentimes that equal treatment should be meted out to equal votes from citizens. Such is not always the case even in developed countries. There are very few examples wherein countries do not even differentiate based on gender – these are the Nordic countries which have reached a very advanced state of development, not found even in the wealthiest and more developed nations such as the U.S., U.K., or Germany. The treatment that citizens usually receive in countries such as India is dependent on religion, caste, race, colour or gender. We tend to ignore such treatment from society in the hope that economic advancement will eventually obliterate such divisive tactics. I am not so sure.

While we have felt the acute impact of religious and caste divides in our current generation, somehow we have been able to navigate our way through not just one system, but multiple systems, during our lifetime. This may be because of the early experiences that many of us have had in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties, which had made most of us rather matured for our time. The ability to navigate the world in an equitable and non-offensive manner, while keeping our heads firmly on our shoulders, has been a key characteristic of our generation who are now in our fifties.

But, what about the next generation and the one after it?

My worry is that the next generation who are in their teens and twenties are not yet experienced the way we were – probably they will never get our experience because they have grown up mostly outside India. The conditions are vastly different and meritocracy is the norm rather than the exception, and societies have matured rather aggressively towards equal and equitable treatment in a conscious way. This did not happen overnight of course, but took several decades of enlightened governance with the interests of citizens at heart.

However, as we move towards our twilight years, we need to be concerned about how our future generations will shape up and react to the world at large when it comes to the articifical divisions caused by religions. I always believed that we should set an active example, by following our own religion in a light manner (not with a lot of religiosity) without too many rituals which segregate us even from our own people (meaning other Indians in my case), and have an inquisitive mind on any subject matter thrown in front of us as an “accomplished” fact or a done deal. I wrote recently about thinking, and it is an extremely critical concept. If we do not think for ourselves and the world, then we would be doing what our ancestors had been doing over centuries without questioning their larger impact. If I am not considered as very religious, that is by my own design. I do not wish to be “special” in any category that divides me from others. I go to temples, but I also visit churches and mosques occasionally. We should look not for conformity, but for unity in what unites us all. I have communicated my thoughts to my family members, and sometimes to my close friends. I have not always received a positive sync, but I thought there indeed was a sense of appreciation on my thinking for myself. I do not of course, wish to indoctrinate anyone!

Coming to the conclusion, it is my earnest submission that people should look for similarities while maintaining their individuality. Non-conformance to a tenet or philosophy does not mean any kind of insult is proferred. Every individual has a right to his or her own thinking. It is most important to shape the thinking of future generations accordingly.

Let us all think! It is the most important thing to do today!!

Cheers, and Have a great weekend,

Vijay Srinivasan

15th April 2017

Chateau St. Jean Merlot 2013


Chateau St. Jean is not located in France. It is a piece of France located in Sonoma, California.

Chateau St. Jean has a long history of winemaking, and it was not surprising to see an excellent quality Merlot wine from them, though I have not heard about the winery previously.

Merlot is a dark blue-coloured grape variety which produces inky, purple-coloured wines which are fleshy and fruity. I pick up Merlot wines when I am tired of the stronger Cabernet Sauvignon wine types, and want to have a red wine with full-body impact while delivering the fruitiness associated with plum and blackberry. I also like the slight acidity of Merlot.

Chateau St. Jean Merlot 2013 was very good (for a moment I forgot it was from California – no slight here, but I felt it was an Australian or Chilean varietal). Its fruitiness combined with its long finish delivers an outstanding result, which would urge folks like me to pursue more of the same! The beautiful texture and the velvetiness of the wine amazed me. I pinched myself to feel the wine, praising my selection from ordinary wine shelves where the Australian, New Zealand, French and Chilean competition was rather severe.

I have always found Merlots to be easy to drink, and this one was not an exception. Easy on the palate, sweeter than Cabernet Sauvignon, and a bit more complex to decipher. And, the finish is always smooth with a Merlot.

I would recommend Chateau St. Jean Merlot anytime. While food pairing is suggested usually for Merlot, I enjoyed it on its own. Just let the wine breathe for some 15 minutes, and you are ready to go with the right kind of red wine glass – you can see the stickiness of this wine on the walls of the wine glass as you swirl the wine.

Please drink responsibly, and do not drink and drive. I know this advice is difficult to follow, but you should follow the rule for your own safety.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

9th April 2017

Chemical Attack


The Syrian armed forces and government crossed many red lines last week when they attacked a rebel-held provincial town with chemical weapons. I agree with the almost immediate response taken by Donald Trump, retaliating against the airbase which launched the attack planes and almost completely destroying it with Tomahawk missiles from some 1,000 miles away. The U.S. blew away the airbase while President Trump was having his talks and dinner with the visiting Chinese President Xi, giving yet another strong message about the invincibility and decisiveness of American control of airspace around war zones.

More than anything else, President Assad of Syria has been a cruel dictator, officially killing over 400,000 of his own citizens and sending away millions of Syrians as refugees to other countries, mainly to Europe. How can he justify mass killings of Syrians – families, women and children – whether they are held hostage by the rebels fighting his government or not. And, how can Russia justify any more support to President Assad?

President Obama missed a wonderful opportunity to eliminate President Assad way back in 2013, when the red line was crossed on chemical weapons deployment by Syrian armed forces. Most of the middle eastern countries, especially Saudi Arabia, were aghast that the U.S. would pardon off such a cruel dictator and not strike him militarily. That was a terrible mistake by Obama, and he would regret it forever.

Look at what happened – Russia supported Syrian Government, and strengthened its armed forces, which went on to decimate the rebel forces. The allied forces were more focused on ISIS, not on the continuous attacks carried out by Syrian armed forces against the rebels. Russia pounded both the rebels and the ISIS. At the end, the U.S. and allies ended up strengthening a dictator that they all along detested and wanted him gone.

President Putin of Russia should now sit up and think carefully about Russian support for President Assad. If he had not wanted the U.S. to attack the airbase, he could have told the Americans that he would protect the airbase with his S-400 missiles, or could have easily warned the Americans that Russian forces are at the airbase which therefore should not be attacked. He did not apparently take any action, and thereby corroborated the necessity of the U.S. missile attack, though Putin later said that the attacks were wrong.

Where is the world headed? We have a weak United Nations, and an ineffective UN Security Council, where the Permanent Ambassadors from the Big 5 nations talk tough but fail to reach consensus on any major issue of global interest, almost fighting with each other. How can the world trust these folks?

In any case, the chemical attack on poor people by Syrian government forces is unconscionable and unpardonable, and should be condemned whole-heartedly by the world. There are many quiet nations which keep their own counsel, but they will come to regret their inactions sometime or the other.

Just take time to see the pictures from the chemical attack. Horrible, horrible. On this one thing, I totally and fully agree with President Trump and his quick military action. How he will carry through further needs to be seen, but sometimes gut feel does produce results. President Assad should now know how an American attack feels, and how helpless he would be if President Trump chooses to attack his palace. What will the Russians do then?

It is critical for world leaders to condemn this reckless and horrible chemical attack on innocent civilians. President Assad needs to take total responsibility – he cannot lay the blame at the doorsteps of rebels. All chemical weapons were shipped out of Syria by Russia as per the agreement reached with President Obama, but apparently that does not seem to be the case.

At the end of the day, the world revolves on perception, and Syrian Government has done nothing to dispel any suspicion or perception about its hand in the attacks. And Russia is increasingly being viewed as a co-conspirator. This is not good for Russia.

Hopefully, rationale will prevail now, and President Assad will stop using chemical weapons like the deadly Sarin nerve gas. However, further actions must be taken against the Syrian government by world community. Russia should watch out as it also needs world support despite it being a super power.

Let us not kill our own people, or any people. The world needs peace for economic prosperity and growth.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

8th April 2017

 

The more we think……..


People like to talk with others, whether they know these others or not. If I run into a challenge in a large place which is unknown to me previously, my natural tendency would be to seek out someone from the milling crowd around me who I think has the propensity to respond to my query. I choose the right kind of person, and voila, I get my answer. Sometimes, I choose the clueless guy, who either says he does not know the answer, or points me in the wrong direction. I then need to make a judgement call whether to follow his advice, or ask someone else, provided I develop a suspicion on his response.

We of course, like to talk with people that we do know. There is much less resistance, or reluctance, in starting a conversation with these folks. The assumption here is that they do tolerate you, they know the pitfalls of having the conversation with you, they know that it could lead to a debate, or even to a new problem. It depends on their acceptance of you as an individual with a history of interactions with them, and their current level of tolerance to discuss a topic which could create an issue or a problem. Of course, initiation of a conversation also depends on your comfort level to discuss difficult topics, as your assumption is that there might be a good quality of discussion and a potential outcome which will then help you.

But, what about thoughts? Thinking through any problem, or challenge, or a topic of interest, is one of the most difficult endeavours one could undertake. Your ability to think through the genesis of the problem statement, identify a solution approach, mentally argue on the pros and cons of your proposed approach, and predicting how others would approach the problem given all the evidence in front of you, are all intriguing puzzle pieces. I spend a lot of time thinking about several things on any one day – for example, today I thought about the endurance of distance runners while I was walking early in the morning in the MacRitchie reservoir park, trying to understand how the bio-mechanics of a runner contrasts with mine (I do not run or jog) by observing the guys who were running in front of me. While I was walking back home (after a walk which took me two hours and 13,000 steps), I thought about the perennial fight between the Palestinians and Israelis, and how that problem could be resolved to the satisfaction of both parties – I thought through the options and determined that there is indeed a “bloodless” way which could guarantee Israel’s security and safety, while providing for the establishment of the State of Palestine. I compared that huge challenge with the India – Pakistan fight over Kashmir (which is unlikely to be resolved during our lifetime), and identified issues which are different between the two struggles. Then I thought about the interesting discussion I had with some close friends on Richard Dawkins and Bruce Lipton. On that matter, my view was that it is absolutely essential to understand the position and logic of all parties who could contest a central hypothesis. I have to be able to put myself into someone’s shoes and argue the case for that someone, which helps me to refine my case, logic and rationale against that someone’s position.

And so on, and so forth……….

The more we think, the less we talk nonsense. The more we think, the more logical we become. The more we think, the better we become tolerant and accepting. The more we think, the less isolated we become – though this might sound surprising. Once we think a lot about any particular topic, our mind chases us to validate our position or conclusion, either via secondary research, or by talking to people we know. It is a bit risky talking to people we do not know on weighty topics which could lead to trouble, unless we are a renowned professor who can give a lecture on the matter without inflaming passions!

I strongly believe that the more we think and exercise our grey matter without looking at a book or the internet, the stronger we become in cogent thought formulation, analysis, identification of problems, probable approach to resolution, and determination of potential outcomes. The process positions us on a strong base from which we can argue our case, and persuade people as to the logic of our position. Our life experiences shape us and shape our thinking, and this cannot be denied.

It is not at all necessary to conform to others’ thoughts if you are not convinced. People mistakenly think that they need to conform or agree on the resolution approach propagated by someone else, before you can get into the inner circle of friends and influencers. This is a wrong way of looking at things. People appreciate if one has a view that one explains with passion and then sticks to that view while taking feedback and inputs from others. It is very critical to have an opinion, a view or an analysis of a subject matter of interest to you. Or else, you just read about it in the media, see it on the TV getting debated by erudite people, or hear another view from someone you know, and then you don’t have a view or opinion of your own!

Opinions and views are rarely popular. I have two kinds of approaches when it comes to thinking and then amplifying my views to others who would have the patience to listen. One is original thought process which I come up with (quite often) based on my random readings and very random inner voices, and the other is taking up a contrarian view to what I think people around me are expected to coalesce upon. This second approach has produced some rather interesting results, as I have to develop my thinking to a higher level which could then facilitate a vocal defence of my contrarian view.

In a nutshell, we are given the power and the faculties to think. We should use this power to the fullest. This power would make us a complete human being, with the potential ability and thinking to change the world.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

2nd April 2017

Hiking Shoes


Well, for a change, let me take my mind off weightier topics and move towards what could be a rather mundane affair.

What could be more ordinary than shopping for a pair of shoes?

I did not realize that it could be rather tough to select a pair of hiking shoes. It may be easy in the U.S. to identify a brand based on feedback from friends or reviews from other users, and then drive down towards an outlet mall and pick up the shoes. Probably at a price which is not too different from the online price, but surely at a good discount from the mall prices.

How about Singapore? It is not that easy, based on my own experience.

First, let me come to the identification of personal needs. Since I am kind of hiking almost every weekend in one of the nature parks around the city-state, I felt that my regular walking shoes need to be replaced with a waterproof, tough-looking pair of shoes with strong grip, as it rains in Singapore often and the ground can be wet with slippery leaves lying all over. Further, the gravel on the hiking path is always a bit dangerous, with my own experience of slipping down in wet conditions, and able to upset my balance even in dry conditions. These set of needs is not very different from those of the average hiker in Singapore. Nothing special, and nothing out of the ordinary, though I use special feet inserts in my shoes for better cushioning and balance.

Then came the determination of the brands of hiking shoes based on an internet search of the best ones with user reviews to go by in the selection process. It was not easy to make the list, and so I also consulted with couple of colleagues in the office who are known to be walkers or hikers. I got a couple of brands that way. At the end of this process, I had four brands listed out for me to go and try out:

  1. MERRELL
  2. COLUMBIA
  3. SALOMON
  4. VASQUE

First, I tried the famous mecca of hiking shoe shoppers in Singapore – the Queenstown Shopping Centre, which resembles (in a minor way) the Sim Lim Tower which is famous for electronics. I went around a few floors, and visited some 8 shops or so. There is a lot to be learnt from the sales techniques (both positive and abnoxiously negative) of the salesmen in shoe shopping stores. In one shop which had almost all the brands (though small in size), I was looking around and then asked for Vasque shoes (I knew it was at the upper end of the price range). The salesman looked at me for a second, and asked me what is my budget. I told him that I would like to get a good pair of waterproof hiking shoes at SGD 150 maximum (INR 6,800, or USD 110 approximately). He smiled and said that Vasque will not suit my budget, neither will Columbia or Salomon. He suggested that I stick with Merrell since it is a mid-range brand with prices some 30% lower than these other brands. He waved me off, quickly determining that I was not going to buy anything, and then moved on to the next customer. He did not offer the Merrell shoes (which he had on display) and convince me to buy one of the same – I was inclined to do so. When I walked out of that store, I told my wife that this was the way shops lose business from a potential customer, who had an urgent need to be fulfilled and the shop did have a suitable range of products, but the salesman put me off. And, we were shopping for two pairs – one for me and another for my wife!

In another shop, which had a similar selection (except for Vasque), I had a positive experience. The salesman attended to my needs, by asking relevant questions and did not focus on my budget or specific brand prices. He pulled out couple of Merrell shoes on display and showed the same to me. He answered my queries patiently. He even offered to bring my size from another shop as he did not have my size available. I liked the guy, and was seriously contemplating concluding the purchase with that salesman. However, I did not as I decided that my evaluation of shoes so far did not prepare me adequately for a “technical” conversation on the characteristics of the shoes which mapped appropriately to my own personal needs.

So, I went back and did more study. I decided to go for Merrell shoes with Vibram sole and Gore-tex waterproof seal, and ankle protection. I also liked one particular pattern of the sole which I felt will provide solid grasp while hiking, and decided to get it.

Someone told me that Mustafa Shopping Centre has Merrell brand and so I went, but did not get my choice or my size. Though I should admit that their prices were some 10% cheaper than those offered at the Queenstown Shopping Centre.

Today, I went to Vivo City and looked up a number of stores. Finally, I chanced upon Royal Sporting House show room which had an exclusive Merrell show case (no other shoe store seems to be having a similar one, though World Of Sports had some limited Merrell choices). Both my wife and I bought Merrell shoes and the shopping experience was very pleasant. There was total focus from two salesmen on meeting our needs, and they were prepared to bring out a series of shoes of various sizes to fit our feet. They were patient and courteous. Further, there was a 25% discount if you bought two pairs, so it turned out to be a good deal with net prices being lower than that of Queenstown Shopping Centre and even Mustafa. And, I was within my stated budget per pair!

We are gong to try these new pairs of Merrell hiking shoes at the Upper Seletar Reservoir tomorrow (which is a Sunday), and I will share my experience of using these shoes in hiking conditions.

Overall, my buying experience proved that it might be better to purchase these kind of shoes and hiking or sports accessories in the U.S., not just because of lower prices (which will be the case), but also because of the quick access anywhere (Merrell is an American brand) and the variety of brands available at one go. In smaller countries, the experiences are limited.

Enjoy your walking, running and hiking.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

1st April 2017