Drop Everything and Take a Walk (or a Ride)


This post is in continuation of my earlier post of 19th November 2017 – here it is The Simple Things and Pleasures of Life.

Sometimes (nowadays, oftentimes), it is very helpful to drop whatever you are doing and take a walk around (may be within the house, otherwise people might forget that you exist, or you are at home now, or just that it would be good to interact in a physical sense with others rather than messaging the person in the next room). Whatever you are doing at this moment is very important to you, but may not be relevant to anyone else. The importance that you assign to anything you do/are doing tends to be very high, and you assign lower importance and lower priority to what others do, even at your own home, and surely with others outside. This is nothing but male chavinistic thinking, however.

Giving up something (even a temporary giving up) is tough for a possessive character like me. I always had and continue to have a slightly superior complex about my being – my skills, capabilities, intellectual capacity, talent, outlook, analytical prowess, literary knowledge, temperamental stability, and what not. Coming “down” to terms with others is tough. When I form a “profile” of someone I have come in contact with, my “analytical” box advises me on whether I should engage further deeply, or just keep superficial contact, or drop the contact completely. So, as we grow older, we tend to get incredibly complex on all matters, even the simple ones.

If we drop what we are doing and take a walk, we can learn something from others we come in contact with. This is the case at home, and also outside. Observation skills increase substantially when we take a casual walk around. During my weekend intensive walks, I see a lot of things on the way, and subconsciously these things are recorded in the brain to sort through later. Learning and imbibing and grasping things all the time are also critical activities as one ages – such things keep the brain very active while you are also exercising your body by walking or jogging.

While getting out of one’s shell is absolutely an important activity (I do this at least 10 times a day, given that I tend to spend a lot of time with my iPhone and Laptop), which will be recognized by your folks at home. Your wife who has so far termed you an “anti-social” might give you a smile if you invade the kitchen or the living room frequently, though she thinks that you are a complete waste of time when it comes to helping her around the house. Your kids might wonder what happened – why is dad knocking on my door. Well, all this might look nothing out of the ordinary, but we must consciously attempt to do all these things consistently. I used to play a random game of table tennis with my son or my wife sometimes, and I miss those days. Now, you go and ask them to come and play some game, they are going to demur.

It is also important to have an exploratory spirit, like when I persuaded my wife to accompany me in driving 25 KMs for a cup of rose latte (I have written about that experience). It is just that we are trying to get more “face” time with the people who matter in our life – not that rose latte is the most important drink that you are going to have. Identifying places, experiences or restaurants on your own and throwing a surprise around the house, or to your close friends, is a very enjoyable and important activity which endears you to the people around you. It does not just reflect your knowledge of the place, it shows a certain propensity on your part to take the trouble of researching on what could be the best experience that you could genuinely discover and offer to your family or friends. It will not go unrecognized.

Given the complexity of an otherwise simple life, it only goes to show how important simple things can be as we navigate our lives. No big gifts, no expensive stuff, no five star dinners, but simple gestures such as the above go a long way in instilling a certain respect, a certain love, and a certain affection, and these are exactly what you look for as you grow older and wiser. Now you realize all this requires efforts on your part, and it is the most valuable investment you will ever make in your life. The investments in simple pleasures of life are indeed the most valuable, with the highest rates of return.

Yesterday, I dropped my daughter at her boxing class, and decided to press the accelerator towards the Woodlands Causeway. It was a good ride from Orchard Road all the way up north (I did not see the Odometer of the car, but my guess is that it would have easily been a 30 KM ride at the minimum). There was not much traffic, and I switched on my favourite radio station (92.4 FM) and drove at a constant 90 KMPH while listening to some Beethoven classic which Andrew Lim plays on 92.4 FM channel. On the way back, I switched the music to my iPhone song collection and played The Carpenters. It was an amazing musical experience, and I loved every minute, and I think my car also liked it as it does not get to drive this much distance on any given day. I think my car’s mileage apparently improved!

I did my morning walk today 6:27 AM to 8:27 AM (exactly 120 minutes) and did 12,300 steps, and I did this at the MacRitchie Reservoir. I saw hundreds of people after 7:30 AM. I saw many folks who were more than 60 years old doing the tough trail walk. I said good morning to almost everyone who crossed my path, except when I was looking down to avoid slipping from the wet soil/leaves. It was a pleasurable experience (I did this yesterday as well), and these are simple things in life which make you more human and less book-centric, and less phone-centric.

I can go on and on, however the essential learning is to step away from whatever you are doing, mingle with your family members, and do this several times a day. Also, smile and wish at people when you go out, as even the “reserved” people of Singapore return the greeting (90% of the time), though they receive the greeting only around one-third of the time from strangers as I witnessed during my walks.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend by walking around. And, smile please.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

26th November 2017

Humans Losing out to Technology


There are countless ways in which advanced technologies have helped mankind over the years. The current (and future, for sure) rapid pace of technological development, will, no doubt, continue to render advanced capabilities to people, businesses and governments like what we could not have imagined even yesterday.

Technology is almost on a free roll now – nobody can stop its non-stop progress and achievements, and it is the way it should be. The challenge now is adoption and ongoing utilization of technologies – let us not forget the actual fact on the ground that over 3B (yes, billion) people in this planet do not have access to the internet (most of them do not have access to electricity or clean water or sanitation either). There is a lot of work to do before we get everyone in the world connected.

In the meanwhile, the military applications of technology are proceeding at a faster pace, as the world’s super powers race against each other to get the upper hand, which will never be used as there will be no global war between or amongst the super powers due to the possibility of total annihilation of this world as we know it today.

In this context, I was horrified to view the video of the huge destructive impact of tiny drones launched in a warfare situation, put up on social media by Stuart Russell, a University of California Berkeley Computer Science Professor.

Take a look at Future of Life Institute Autonomous Weapons Ban and

Slaughterbots Video CNN article and YouTube video

QUOTE

Professor Russell says “Trained as a team, [the drones] can penetrate buildings, cars, trains, all while having the capacity to evade any countermeasure. They cannot be stopped,”.

He noted that “a $25 million order” can now buy a swarm of such tiny “slaughterbots” that could kill half a city.

Professor Russell said that although A.I.’s “potential to benefit humanity is enormous, even in defense,” allowing the widespread use of machines that “choose to kill humans will be devastating to our security and freedom.”

UNQUOTE

These tiny mini-drones which have destructive military uses are now called “autonomous slaughterbots” and are unleashed in a “drone swarm” from the underbelly of a bomber plane. These are now rightfully characterized as “weapons of mass destruction” as a small band of military men can essentially bring a country to its knees by launching a slaughterbot attack which will raze an entire city to the ground and kill millions of people at one go – more effective than a nuclear weapon which is much more expensive to build, maintain and use. In today’s world, even a kid knows what a drone is, but do we really understand how nations can get completely out of control with this technology which is like a powerful machine gun or multi-barrelled missile launcher, the only difference being that the slaughterbots can come in thousands to obliterate an entire battlefield or a city.

There is no current counter-attack mechanism against an attack by slaughterbots. Even more worrying is the fact that the “attacked” cannot easily figure out who is the “attacker”, or where they are located. How do you attack someone who you do not know, or whose location cannot be determined. So, we are now in faceless military attacks, and all that it takes is one small band of rogue folks who know this technology. Let us not forget that both “good” and “bad” guys now have drones, and also that the “good” guys could be indiscriminate in their plans and attacks sometimes.

So, the world is getting to be a deadlier place than it ever was in its history. Drones can target individulas anywhere in the world, and are being enhanced to penetrate any kind of structure to reach to the designated target. Further, drone swarms “act” like a swarm, in the sense that they will coordinate their attack plan with each other, leading to a scalability that does not exist today. We are essentially looking at the collective brain power of a slaughterbot drone swarm, which could be as deadly as a nuclear weapon without incurring all the risks of a war.

Welcome to the slaughterbot era, friends. It is critical that we protest against such weapons of mass destruction, these are much worse than land mines.

Cheers (and No Cheers!),

Vijay Srinivasan

26th November 2017

 

Wild South


After writing on a rather heavy topic, I decided to taste some wine!

Here it is – “Wild South Sauvignon Blanc 2016” from Wild South Vineyards, Marlborough, New Zealand.

Excellent white wine at an affordable price (discounted) of SGD 20 (INR 940 and USD 15). I am sure this wine is going to cost much cheaper in New Zealand. I just saw a website where this wine is available at SGD 18!

There is no need to order expensive wines as higher price does not always translate to a better wine. Most of the time I have seen that restaurants offer similar wines at prices higher than SGD 60 which is ridiculously high. I am increasingly coming around to the view that it is better to carry my own wine bottles to restaurants and incur a small corkage fee (most restaurants in the mid range now allow this practice).

I strongly believe that we should not pay an unnecessarily high price for wines in restaurants – my limit is twice the retail price and I stop at that. Nothing more!

Take a look at Wild South Wines website, and especially at the Tasting Notes for this wine Tasting Notes should you wish to learn more about this specific wine.

Marlborough wines have never ceased to amaze me with their complexity and sophistication as a leading new world wine producing region from New Zealand, so far away that we rarely ever think of them. However, when choosing a sauvignon blanc at dinner time, I have always been partial towards Marlborough wines. They are great wines and should be enjoyed young.

This is a fresh and dry wine with heavy citrus and green apple influence which makes it come alive with a strong hint of acidity which tickles your palate. Excellent drinking wine with fruity aftertaste, and you keep going back for the next glass. Its light body makes one underestimate its sophistication, though it only has a light to medium finish.

It is still available at NTUC Fairprice Supermarket, and today being Sunday, it is time to go grocery shopping, right?

I would strongly recommend this wine for easy drinking. However, as usual, I would like to strongly suggest that you avoid too much of any alcohol, and do not drive after drinking. Think of not only yourself, but all those folks walking on the road.

Have a great weekend, whatever is left of it anyway!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

19th November 2017

The Simple Things and Pleasures of Life


Which we missed, and keep missing even now……….

The only simple things and pleasures of life that I have known in my early years of life happened well before I turned 17. In fact, most of those simple things which I relish in my memories even today happened when I was less than 12 years old.

While we can attribute the recognition and enjoyment of “simple” things and pleasures to our innocence, there is no reason why those kinds of simple things could not have continued all through our lives. “Simple” pleasures keep coming up throughout life, as when you hold your first baby in hand and he or she smiles at you. I will touch upon these things in this post, but first let me elaborate on what I mean by “Simple” stuff.

As we take baby steps into our complex life story, there are instances which we would like to keep repeating or we would like to happen every day – for instance, form a small group of close-knit friends in primary school, while all the time fighting with them; play “kabbadi” every day in school, win some games but lose some without any rancour or disappointment, looking forward to settling the scores next day; laugh and run around the class room chasing a friend who has “stolen” a pencil from you; laugh out loud (LOL) when a friend gets the rap from the teacher for none of his mistake; celebrate Deepavali with neighbours’ kids by launching competitive rockets or flower pots; eat a lot of sweets and steal some of them while others are not looking; go to Bata shop with parents to buy shoes for school and push them for what you like; run away from home for playing games when your mom shouts at you for having something to drink or eat; travel in overnight train to a “distant” place on a vacation; drink a “cool” drink (it was mostly Fanta those days) which was really cold and feel really good after the last drop, wanting some more of it; learn to run very fast so that your brother or sister cannot catch you, while you are running with some new gift or stuff that they also want to look at; sing loudly while having a cold bath; and what not…………………so on and so forth.

However, once you finish primary school (those days it was the 5th Grade), you realize you are going into a bigger school which was called the “high” school. You are still wearing half-pants and white shirt, but suddenly a new responsibility comes on you, and your parents start applying more than the normal pressure on your academic performance. They talk about passing out of high school, going to college, achieving their ambitions for you to become a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer. Now, life takes a turn.

You still play games, sports, run around a lot, eat a lot, keep looking for new things, etc., but slowly the speed of everything that has been very active in life drops and settles on your desk with an old lamp throwing light on things you have to do at school tomorrow. Your mind clouds a bit, you are surely a bit confused, your being still wants to do everything you have been doing till date, but attaining the age of 11 and moving into high school changes many things. You are soon rushing into the 8th Grade, then to the 11th Grade, and then passing out as a young guy into college. Of course, we all did naughty things between the ages of 14 and 17, converting our relative innocence about life into something more complex and somewhat mysterious.

Slowly, the “simple pleasures” of life take on a different meaning for us. It is now more self-centred. In my case, it was different because I lost my father when I turned 17, and so the complexity of life took a major toll on how my views of the world, and my views of “simple pleasures” turned out to be – it has happened to many of us, though it is a much younger age in which to face the challenges, the corruption, the ugliness, and the insincerity of life. For the rest of us, however, life had continued normally which I would call a blessing for an uninterrupted enjoyment of the simple pleasures till the next tipping point arrives in life.

What was a bit unusual in my case (don’t know about other classmates of mine – they might have ben faced with similar issues) was that I faced a series of financial and social troubles which continued from the age of 17 till I turned 29. And, I had to tackle each and every issue on my own at a relatively young age, with no support from anyone. That experience made me a tougher person, who formed an opinion on everything at my own will and pleasure. My ability to receive input and feedback from other external constituents dropped significantly. I started to think that I can solve all my problems myself, nobody really helped me till now, and so why bother. A blessing in some disguise, right?

Nothing wrong, as long as the above attitude is combined with hard work and resulting performance, which was the case in my life. I had no time for seeking out religious blessings and spirituality. I was rushing through the act of building the edifice of my life, and ensuring my siblings were all well settled in life. I was rushing through my own marriage. I was rushing through everything in my life at that time anyway.

The result? I missed out on attainment of spirituality. I do not need to be religious or ritual-bound in order to see that there is a greater spirit which guides our lives. It is very critical, in my opinion, to reach the stage of equanimity and spirituality before you turn 30 in the “Sea of Life”, or else you only keep dreaming about it.

Now I am in my late fifties, and I have rarely thought about spirituality except in occasional group talks, while continuing to discharge my duties and responsibilities in life. Do I miss anything? Yes, of course, I miss many important things and one of those key things is “spirituality” and the identification of the spirit which exists within me. I am probably not recognizing the power of the spirit or its healing capacity. I am doing things which my spirit would never approve of. I continue to be “cocky” about my sense of confidence and my ability to navigate the “Sea of Life” without faith on a higher spirit.

This is why it is very crucial to recognize the role of spirit in one’s life while one is relatively young, as any learning during those young days carry on in a sustained manner, undeleted by the passage of time. I also think such a faith would allow one to deal with very difficult health challenges such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s as the spirit should be having a way to guide our soul into “conscience” and make us see the “light” within ourselves.

As I stated before in this post, the “simple pleasures” keep occurring in our lives as we course through life, especially when our children arrive in our lives and inject a new sense of optimism, hope and confidence. Then we see them growing and attaining goals which we thought were very difficult for us! Life goes on and yields a stream of simple pleasures which need to be relished every day.

So, in a nutshell, we need to enjoy every moment of our life, like what we used to do when we were in primary school. If that can be done with the accompaniment of a spiritual guidance, so much more better for us. If not, that’s also fine as long as we are in a equanimous composition in the mental state.

I hope I am able to explain this in a better way. Don’t miss the spirit and its guidance if you can, early in life.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

19th November 2017

The Zookeeper’s Wife


I continue to have a fascination for the Second World War and its stories. I might have seen many war movies over the years, and especially like the ones which show the miseries of war, the sufferings of the people, the utter insanity of war, and the cruelty displayed by the average man in all his barbaric manner when he belongs to the winning side (not always though).

In my recent flight, I chose to see The Zookeeper’s Wife after I read the brief description of the movie – nothing much, but enough to kindle my interest. I browsed through a lot of movie briefs on the screen, but eventually came back to this one because it was set in wartime Poland, which was probably the most bombarded and affected country in the Second World War and also in its aftermath.

I am not going to recount a summary of the movie here in this post. In a nutshell, the movie is about the Director of the Warsaw Zoo and his wife (Jan and Antonina Zabinski), who managed to save 300 Jews from sure death during the German occupation of Poland from 1939 onwards. It tells their story of warmth, kindness, compassion towards the Jews, whose Ghetto was under attack by the German soldiers and eventually burnt down. It also shows the cruelty and barbarism of Nazi German soldiers, who were anyway under orders to murder Jews.

Imagine if Germans had discovered the fact that Jan and Antonina were hiding hundreds of Jews in their zoo. They would have been executed without mercy for an act of human kindness – an act of saving other people from the cruelty of Germans, and also an act of saving them from torture and death (which was impending as the Germans rounded up the Jews in the Ghetto and packed them off to the concentration camps – it was heart-breaking to see the small kids as young as 5 years old pleading to be taken off the train and saved). It is still sometimes difficult to believe that such cruelty existed in this world (unfortunately in continues to exist in several nations as we know for sure now).

While the story revolves around Antonina, the real hero of the story is Dr Jan Zabinski, the Director of the Warsaw Zoo. He displayed a strong sense of humanity and justice (remember this is a true story) towards the Jews. He secretly participated in the Polish underground, and was always working against the occupying German forces. Jan said “My deeds were and are a consequence of a certain psychological composition, a result of a progressive-humanistic upbringing, which I received at home as well as in Kreczmar High School. Many times I wished to analyze the causes for dislike for Jews and I could not find any, besides artificially formed ones.”

As a lover of animals and believing that every living creature was important, Antonina played an indispensable role in saving hundreds of Jewish lives. “I looked at them with despair,” she said. “Their appearance and the way they spoke left no illusions. … I felt an overwhelming sense of shame for my own helplessness and fear.”

[The quotes above from Dr Jan and Antonina Zabinski are from Biography.com – please see Zookeeper’s Wife True Story].

Out of the 300 people the Zabinskis saved, only two died during the war; all the others remarkably found refuge and safe passage elsewhere.

In 1968 the state of Israel honored the Zabinskis with the title “Righteous Among the Nations,” a recognition that was given to all those brave citizens who helped save Jews during the Holocaust.

I liked the movie though it was not a big commercial success. I understand that the Polish people liked the movie. In my opinion, the movie shows that human kindness and civility have a big role to play even in today’s highly commercialized world. During the Second World War, the situation was vastly different from today, especially in the countries occupied by Germans who were on a mission to eliminate Jews. Poland was hugely affected. We cannot forget the fact that Adolf Hitler managed to murder 6M innocent Jews in Europe, and movies such as these show the small, yet critical kindness that was required on a humanitarian basis to save people of any kind. After all, what is the difference between one human and another? The brutality of Germans has been depicted in some savagery in this movie, though much less than in some of the other movies.

Let us not forget that human kindness, compassion and civility form the crux of human life on this planet. And, powerful nations cannot keep silent in the face of ethnic cleansing, brutality and murder of innocent civilians, irrespective of their race, religion, colour or ethnicity. I have written about other such instances (the expulsion of Rohingyas of Myanmar is a strong example, and the Syrian War – both are going on currently).

As highly educated and well-to-do people, we owe it to this world to do the right thing instead of keeping quiet in the face of atrocities unleashed on civilians by brutal dictatorships. We should push our own governments and multilateral agencies to act to save people.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

12th November 2017

The Gas Chamber


I was in Delhi for just 30 hours this week Thursday to Friday.

My wife had warned me to cancel the trip and return home from Mumbai, but I had to go to Delhi for official work. She instructed me to stay at the hotel and apply eye drops every couple of hours (as I had recently gone through an eye surgery).

While I was in Mumbai earlier this week, I saw frightening news on pollution levels in Delhi. The pollution index crossed 700 which is considered absolutely unsafe for everyone, and I saw a doctor stating that Delhi might have to consider a public evacuation of its inhabitants. Delhi overtook Beijing to become the most highly polluted city in the world.

So, I was surprised to see many foreigners (mostly Westerners and Japanese) happily going out of the airport premises without a protective mask. Only one in ten people were wearing a mask, some were closing their mouths and noses with their handkerchiefs. I had my office colleagues with me, and it was embarrassing to witness the situation in the capital city of the country in front of them. We could not see the buildings on the other side of the highway, it was that bad. A thick smog has shrouded all of Delhi, and the government had closed all schools for the week, and was even trying to close all offices.

I did not venture out except for dinner time, and also kept applying the eye drops though I could feel some irritation in the eyes. It surprised me that there were so many folks walking on the roads as though nothing has changed. It amazes me how Indians continue to treat even an emergency situation with utter nonchalance. I saw that the security guards and other staff in the hotel were not wearing any protective masks, and there I saw the failure of the hotel management in protecting its own employees. The idea seems to be “so what” – if we lose a few staff, Delhi can always provide more people to fill the jobs at the lowest levels – utter disregard for the health and safety of staff members.

It continues to be a public health emergency situation in Delhi. And, as usual, the politicians on all sides were hitting at others and laying the blame elsewhere, and I could not see any actions being taken to address the situation on a war footing. While the root causes will take time to fix, it is imperative that the government spends its time, efforts and resources on removing the smog, for example, by spraying water all over the city from helicopters. India has the resources, but lacks the sense of emergency and purpose, and also political will to take drastic measures. Till the time that India starts to really care about population healthcare and human development, situations like these will go with the government of the day taking half-baked and half-hearted measures. India has one of the highest economic growth rates in the world, but that hardly matters when people are seriously affected like in this situation.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Particulate Matter (PM) is the most critical pollutant affecting most people. Please carefully read the fact sheet that the WHO has provided at its website – I am linking it here Ambient (outdoor) air quality and health. The mean figures for PM10 (for particulate matter with diameter of 10 Microns or less) are: 20 for annual and 50 for 24-hour mean. With Delhi’s figure crossing 700, you can imagine the health problems that are going to be caused due to this smog hanging over Delhi. This means that there are billions and billions of these 10 Micron (or less) diameter particles which are floating around in Delhi at this moment, and these are being inhaled by Delhi’s citizens every second – with the underprivileged people in the streets affected the most. There are labourers and children who sleep on the roads in Delhi. The richer folks can afford expensive air purifiers, but the poor cannot. These instances continue in India with no redressal.

Who can we blame?

Is it the current government or the past government(s)? Is it the bureaucracy?

Well, it does not matter. One day people are going to die on the streets of Delhi. And, tourists and businesses will start to shun the city. Unless the government takes expeditious action now, and also stops this phenomenon repeating itself at the start of the winter season every year.

Delhi can now be called a gas chamber, one which needs to be cleansed and allowed to breathe.

Let us pray for the inhabitants of Delhi and not for its politicians.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

11th November 2017

Make the Best of the Rest


I was having a chat with one of my close personal and family friends yesterday. It was a casual chat, but as always it turned into a deep discussion on several matters which have always been close to my heart, and I am sure, to his heart as well.

While we meandered around issues and challenges of mutual interest, we finally landed on the most important and critical issue that should dominate every discussion that people over 50 years of age are having, and that is, how to make the best out of the rest of our lives.

Yes, it is something that we should not shy away from. Discussing potential death timeline, and how to deal with it in advance, and understanding how others would deal with your death, is something that is direly needed. We do not discuss such matters. Period. Don’t you agree? It is considered inauspicious to even think of such things.

While discussing death could be seriously challenging, what about discussing about how to make things better for others while we are all on the firm and unchangeable path to our respective deaths? In a nutshell, how to make the best out of the rest of our lives? How can the rest of our lives be useful to not only the people closest to us, but also to people in the society we live in?

While my friend and I discussed this matter briefly, it was clear in our minds that this was something that is going to dominate our thoughts and actions in the coming months and years. Again, let us think about our legacy. Who will remember us, year after year, outside of our very close relatives and family friends? Is there someone out in the open world who would recognize your contributions to the society that you had lived in before you passed away – someone not related to you, someone not your friend? You do not have to be famous or a big philanthropist to have that kind of recall.

As we plough through our conscience, our entire life till now, our close family members and friends, it becomes very clear that there are very few people outside our circle who have been impacted by your presence in this world (let us say over 50 years, could go on to a 100 years!).

Did we ask the right questions to figure out who needs our help? Did we consciously feel that we could have been of service to those in need? Did we do public service? Did we mentor people who are not related to us or not friends of us? Did we donate to charity every year? Did we give out time to people who would have benefited? Did we even ask our own close personal and family friends if they need any assistance?

Very few people do these things. Just touch your heart and respond. We want to have a drink and relax, or we want to attend parties and network, or we go for movies. We worry about our financial position all the time. We worry about the condition of our car, yes, we “feel” for our car, or our apartment. We worry about tons of mundane things. But we do not worry about how to make the best use of our time to help others in need.

Money and material things dominate our conversations, even those within our own family network. There is no spirituality in almost everything we do. We should not confuse religious affiliation or temple visits or prayers or rituals with spirituality. This is a common mistake we all make. You attain spiritual well-being when the Super Power (not the U.S.) determines that you are (a) devoid of material desires; and (b) you have rendered help to several poor folks who would vouch for your generosity, kindness, time and assistance. It is not going to be based on how many times a month you visited temples or prayed for your own material success.

I think if you are reading this blog post, you are going to probably ring me. You would want to discuss more. Yes, I think there is a lot more to this topic than what I have written thus far. Let us discuss. I strongly believe our times are limited, and we have to contribute urgently. No one can predict how long we are going to live. Why bother about the lifespan if you can focus on things which help others? Not that it would assure a place in heaven, but that is the best thing that you can do.

Think about it, and let us talk soon!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

5th November 2017

 

 

Life is all about sharing


We see lot of wealth around when we live in developed countries.

For instance, in Singapore, we see lots of very expensive cars on the roads. For the uninitiated readers, Singapore is the most expensive place to buy a car. Period. But then, we see lots of BMWs, Mercedez, Maseratis, Porsches, some Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and big SUVs on any major road, speeding past. Such cars cost a lot of money, and some of these cars could cost as much as an apartment.

Of course, one sees a lot of cars in the U.S. and other major developed nations such as Germany. However, relative to median per capita income, Singapore still continues to have the most expensive cars on the road, despite strong discouragement from the government in terms of taxes on cars (foreigners always get shocked when they find out that a piece of paper called the certificate of entitlement to drive a car costs as much as a car). Further, housing prices are rising in Singapore again, putting condominiums out of the reach of the average buyer (a typical freehold or even leasehold apartment of 1,300 Sq Ft area could cost as much as SGD 1.8M and upwards). Forget houses, which could cost upwards of SGD 3M.

Well, the point of mentioning all this stuff is that developed countries are moving fast forward in per capita incomes and cost of living. The poorer folks get marginalized in almost all developed countries. As we now know for sure, Capitalism holds sway in all developed nations, there are very few countries which are socialistic and still well developed (like the Nordic countries).

Governments make attempts to be inclusive. For example, the Singapore government raised the income tax rate a few years ago to provide more funding for social programs. Other governments also try to do similar things. At the end of the day, people who are left behind by capitalism are exactly the people who need help from the government. Unfortunately, the richer people do not encounter poverty in most countries, and do not feel the compulsion to help their compatriots benefit from the spoils of capitalism. In the U.S., we hear the usual refrain that the poor folks do not work hard enough to uplift themselves out of their poverty. It is all their fault, and what could others do that possibly they cannot do themselves?

It is ridiculous to expect all people to be at the forefront of an economic surge. The U.S. is a USD 19T economy with 320M people. However, 46% of U.S. households live from paycheck to paycheck. There are millions of Americans who are technically “poor”.

So, now I come to the key issue of this blog post. Life is all about sharing and donating to the less fortunate folks around us (or even in other countries). I only talked about developed countries, can you imagine the status of the less developed or developing countries – vastly worse, as we can ourselves see. What can the most fortunate people do to this world? Make even more money (as many or most of them are doing anyway), or share their wealth in a coordinated manner with the less fortunate?

The argument here is clear. If rich people are making more money, it is because there are people who make the goods or deliver the services which make the rich people richer by the day. If the government (like in the U.S. currently) cuts the taxes via a major tax reform, what does that mean? It reduces the tax on corporations and richer individuals in a bigger proportion, and increases the value of their equities on the stock market, making them richer. Does it do the same to middle class households or the poorer sections of society? The jury is out, and let us see what happens.

In a nutshell, if you do not share a single dollar or rupee with poor folks, there is something seriously wrong in the way you look at your own life. No one is going to forcibly take that dollar or rupee from you, but you will have to answer your own conscience when folks are suffering and sometimes dying on the streets. Share your wealth, like what Mark Zuckerburg or Bill Gates is trying to do. You will depart this world with a better “feeling” and a sanguine conscience.

It will help this world.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

4th November 2017