Haifa and Akko


I made a rather quick visit to Haifa, the third largest city of Israel, some 90 KMs to the north of Tel Aviv. It is situated on a mountainous terrain, and is also a port city. Some views of the city as below:

The Bahai Temple in all its beauty:

I also visited the port city of AKKO (also known as ACRE). Pictures from that visit as below:

Vegetable and Fruit market:

Israel is an expensive country to live. I would think it is more expensive than Singapore though its national income per capita at around USD 38K in 2016 is smaller than that of Singapore which was around USD 52K in 2016. The New Shekels, the currency of Israel, runs like water when you are at a nice restaurant or shopping. Even the hotels at more than USD 250 per night are more expensive than those of Singapore for similar 5-Star brands. So, one would need lot of New Shekels (1 SGD = 2.7 New Shekels) when going to Israel. Unfortunately, Singapore and Tel Aviv are not connected directly by air, and so I had to fly to Bangkok and catch the EL AL airlines flight to Tel Aviv.

Israel is a safe country with lots to see. I would not mind taking my family to Israel on a historical tour (they all love history!). May be I need to find another air route and another airline probably.

Have a great week ahead,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

12th August 2018

Caesarea


When I visited Israel last week, I did not realize that I was going to visit a country with a very ancient history – I always thought that Israel is a modern country with cities and skyscrapers. It is not the case actually – most locations have some ancient historical background. The religious nature of the land of Israel is of course, well known. Many religions have existed for thousands of years in this region. The influence of Romans, Moghuls, Ottomans, Jews, and Crusaders are to be seen almost everywhere. I did not spend too long, just a couple of days going around so I cannot claim that I have seen most of the places or understood their significance. One thing is for sure – this is a country which should not be missed by itinerant travellers!

Some pictures from the ancient city of Caesarea which is located less than an hour from Tel Aviv on the way to Haifa. I am not recounting the history of this famous port city, but I am going to provide two web links which will be very useful in understanding the history and importance of Caesarea.

Caesarea Story from BRITANNICA

Tourist Israel site – useful one

A few views of the beautiful inlaid marble or mosaic work from a villa during Roman times as below –

Visit this ancient land and enjoy the sights of beautiful architecture built by rulers who lived in this same land a few thousand years ago!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

12th August 2018

Jerusalem Visit #2


More pics and story of Jerusalem…………an amazing city that’s a must for everyone to visit and experience…………..

Cemeteries that one sees first before entering Jerusalem……….they bury the dead and have been doing so for hundreds of years……….

A road in the Old City of Jerusalem……….it is surprising they allow cars in the narrow streets of the Old City

A building which has Hebrew, Arabic and English on the name board – it is actually a small church

A scroll of the Torah (written by hand on a leather parchment) – which is the first 5 books of the Bible.

A Synagogue in the Old City………….

 

The story of this Synagogue……….

The inside of the Synagogue – the first time I have ever been inside one………..

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation

A view of the Western Wall……..

Jews praying at the Western Wall

Jews praying at the Western Wall

Inside an enclosure at the Western Wall – old and young pray

Vijay posing at the plaque at the entrance to the Western Wall

No one can go near this place at the Western Wall – the stones are from 2,000 years ago

Inside the Walled area of the Moslem Quarter of the Old Jerusalem City

Another view of the Wall

The bridge which provides access to the Moslem Quarter

Another view

A partial view of the Al Aqsa Mosque and the hills at a distance

A view from the parapet opposite the wall

 

A view of the golden dome inside the Moslem Quarter

Jerusalem continues to amaze – it is the confluence of multiple large religions and religious followers, multiple cultures, multiple philosophies, and multiple intense histories. It is a great place to visit with a guide like what I did. There are so many places to visit in the Old City and outside the Old City, that it would be better to dedicate a minimum of 2 days. There is also the “Capitol” or the area where there are several government institutions such as the Knesset (the Parliament), the Central Bank, the Prime Minister’s residence, the National Library, the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls are kept, and so on……………..

Plan a visit!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

9th August 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jerusalem Visit #1


I visited Israel this week.

Here are some pics from my Jerusalem trip on the 6th August.

On the Highway from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The four Quarters dividing the Old City of Jerusalem: Christian, Armenian, Jewish and Moslem

Walking into the Old City of Jerusalem

A view of the Old City

The Temple Mount in the Moslem Quarter, fortified with solid gold by the King of Jordan

Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter

A beautiful view of the Jerusalem skyline

Armenian Church

Holy Sepulchre Church

Inside the Church

Inside the Church

 

The Room of the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples

Room of the Last Supper

Another view of the room of the Last Supper

David’s Tomb, a holy place for the Jews

Inside the Old City

2,000 year old columns

Complete Columns from 2,300 years ago

This is a painting of life in the Byzantine era, around 300 AD (300 years after Christ)

Entrance to the Holy Sepulchre Church where Jesus was entombed by the Romans after his Crucifixion

Devotees praying and kissing the slab in which Jesus was laid down after his Crucifixion

The Orthodox Russian or Armenian area of Cruxifixion

The Catholic area of Crucifixion (just adjoining the above orthodox area)

The dome above the area of Crucifixion

The tomb of Jesus

T

The tomb of Jesus

===================================================================

It was simply amazing feeling to visit Jerusalem. I cannot describe it adequately. Whatever be one’s religious belief or denomination, it gives a sense of agelessness to walk on the same ground in which so much of history has occurred. There is enough evidence in the Old City of Jerusalem to prove that the stones used and the architectural designs belonged to the age of over 2,000 ago. So much of history, so many conflicts, and so much of global attention………

I will publish more pics in the next installment.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

8th August 2018

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL

 

Jewish Comedians


Courtesy: Ravi, a relative

JEWISH COMEDIANS

Some of You may not remember the old-time Jewish comedians: Shecky Green, Red Buttons, Totie Fields, Milton Berle, Henny Youngman, and many others?

You may have only heard of them. But some of us miss their kind of humour.

Not a single swear word in their comic routines as shown below and you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy a good laugh.

* A car hit an elderly Jewish man. The paramedic says, “Are you comfortable? ” The man says, “I make a good living.”

* I just got back from a pleasure trip. I took my mother-in-law to the airport.

* I’ve been in love with the same woman for 49 years. If my wife finds out, she’ll kill me!

* Someone stole all my credit cards, but I won’t be reporting it. The thief spends less than my wife did.

* We always hold hands. If I let go, she shops.

* My wife and I went to a hotel where we got a waterbed. My wife calls it the Dead Sea.

* My wife and I revisited the hotel where we spent our wedding night. This time I was the one who stayed in the bathroom and cried.

* My Wife was at the beauty shop for two hours. That was only for the estimate. She got a mudpack and looked great for two days. Then the mud fell off.

* The Doctor gave a man six months to live. The man couldn’t pay his bill, so the doctor gave him another six months.

* The Doctor called Mrs. Cohen saying, “Mrs. Cohen, your check came back.” Mrs. Cohen replied, “So did my arthritis!”

* Doctor: “You’ll live to be 60!”
Patient: “I AM 60!”
Doctor: “See! What did I tell you?”

* A doctor held a stethoscope up to a man’s chest. The man asks, “Doc,how do I stand? ” The doctor says, “That’s what puzzles me!”

* Patient: “I have a ringing in my ears. ”
Doctor: “Don’t answer!”

* A drunk was in front of a judge. The judge says, “You’ve been brought here for drinking.” The drunk says, “Okay, let’s get started.”

* Why do Jewish divorces cost so much? They’re worth it.

* Why do Jewish men die before their wives? They want to.

* The Harvard School of Medicine did a study of why Jewish women like Chinese food so much. The study revealed that the reason for this is because Won Ton spelled backward is Not Now

* There is a big controversy on the Jewish view of when life begins. In Jewish tradition, the fetus is not considered viable until it graduates from law school.

Q : Why don’t Jewish mothers drink?
A : Alcohol interferes with their suffering.

* Q : Have you seen the newest Jewish-American-Princess horror movie?
A : It’s called, “Debbie Does Dishes.”

* Q : Why do Jewish mothers make great parole officers?
A : They never let anyone finish a sentence

* A man called his mother in Florida . “Mom, how are you?” Not too good,” said the mother. “I’ve been very weak” The son said, “Why are you so weak?” She said, “Because I haven’t eaten in 38 days. ”
The son said,”That’s terrible. Why haven’t you eaten in 38 days?” The mother answered, “Because, I didn’t want my mouth to be full in case you should call.”

* A Jewish man said that when he was growing up, they always had two choices for dinner – Take it or leave it.

* A Jewish boy comes home from school and tells his mother he has a part in the play. She asks, “What part is it?” The boy says, “I play the part of the Jewish husband.” The mother scowls and says, “Go back and tell the teacher you want a speaking part.”

Q : Where does a Jewish husband hide money from his wife?
A : Under the vacuum cleaner.

Q : How many Jewish mothers does it take to change a light bulb?
A : (Sigh) “Don’t bother. I’ll sit in the dark. I don’t want to be a nuisance to anybody.”

A Jewish mother gives her son a blue shirt and a brown shirt for his birthday. On the next visit, he wears the brown one. The mother says, “What’s the matter already? Didn’t you like the blue one?”

Did you hear about the bum who walked up to a Jewish mother on the street and said, “Lady I haven’t eaten in three days.” “Force yourself,” she replied.

Q : What’s the difference between a Rottweiler and a Jewish mother?
A : Eventually, the Rottweiler lets go.

Ha Ha Ha!

I am in Israel this week and thought it was appropriate to publish this post!!!

Have a good weekend,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

5th August 2018

Tel Aviv

Form and Protocol over Substance


There are several places in the world where form and protocol and symbolism are more critical and more important over content and substance.

Many Asian countries fall under this rule.

But the most important Asian country where the above rule is strictly applicable is none other than Japan.

Japan still is one of the most innovative countries in the world – no doubt about it, though the innovation is more on video games, automobile technology, bullet train technology, and manufacturing. There may be several other areas which I might be missing out here. However, slowly but surely, it is receding from startup innovation as the country is fast ageing. There is of course, SoftBank which continues to invest in many non-Japanese startups around the world. There are some creative startups in Japan itself, but increasingly we do not hear much about them.

One reason is the ageing population, the other reason is the culture – I am not ruling out many other potential reasons. The cultural impact is severe – to the extent that it dominates over everything else in a conversation. The cultural customs and the resulting inhibitions have ruled out the open, transparent, informal exchange of ideas and thoughts which is an essential ingredient of a startup culture.

Japan is so clean and spotless (more so than even Singapore) that peoples’ minds are trained to spot rubbish rather than see creativity. I do not believe that Japanese can tolerate chaos in their society, or suffer an indulgence towards foreign influences easily. The “openness” is rather severely limited. One other reason is their commitment to speaking almost exclusively in their mother tongue. While speaking in English is limited, it is not unusual – people do understand what a foreigner is asking for in general. However, a free English conversation is always a tough proposition when Japanese language is so much more natural for them to converse in. They also expect foreigners to learn and use Japanese language. All this limits the influence of foreign ideas. If this is the status of English, one can imagine what happens to other languages.

Of course, there are many characteristics of the Japanese society which merit our attention and appreciation. In that society, we can see the result of dedication, passion and commitment towards building an almost egalitarian livelihood for all people. It is also known for people helping each other in times of troubles or catastrophes, as evidenced in the recent floods or past earthquakes. The general standard of living is far better than most countries, and the infrastructure that has been built out in large cities like Tokyo is simply amazing, providing a benchmark to most other Asian cities.

On the negative side, Japan has a real challenge in containing its costs. Everything, almost everything is expensive compared to most other places. Why should a taxi ride for 10 KMs cost more than USD 30 is something I could never understand. Why should a simple meal cost more than USD 12? Why should a coffee cost more than USD 5? And, so on and so forth. Luxury items are priced horrendously high. Apartments are obscenely expensive even at just 350 SQFT space.

Coming back to the discussion on form and protocol, this is an essential part of the Japanese society and cannot be ignored by anyone. The politeness cannot be misconstrued for compliance or agreement. Almost every Japanese is polite and mostly quiet – yes, there is silence almost everywhere except on the roads. You are not supposed to speak in the elevators, or laugh. There is hardly any laughter sound to be heard. You also do not see kids running around in a super market or mall, at least I did not see. It is strange, but that is the way it is. Possibly Japanese parents frown on children making noise or playing around in public places.

It is very hard to imagine that it is the same Japanese society with its staid and polite culture that invaded many Asian countries and attacked Honolulu in the Second World War. There is obviously strong grit and determination in every Japanese which have played out well for them after the War in the reconstruction and rebuilding efforts, leading to one of the most successful industrial societies in human history. You can see the dominance of Japanese brands in every walk of consumption around the world, though these brands are under threat by the Mainland Chinese brands now.

In a nutshell, if you are a foreigner wanting to make a quick entry into the world of Japanese business, it would not be possible unless you first fully understand the critical importance of Japanese customs. If you are meeting a client during a social occasion, your glass (of wine or beer) should be held at a level lower than the clients’ glass. If you are meeting a few client executives in one meeting, the senior most client executive’s business card should always be kept on the top of the other executives’ business cards on top of your wallet which is also kept on the table. You have to bend almost at a right angle when concluding a meeting, and so on and so forth.

Welcome to Japan! Enjoy the Japanese culture, customs and behaviour. Of course, enjoy the fabulously pure Japanese food!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

3rd August 2018

 

 

Secular Life in Turmoil


I have written about secularism in the past.

Some of my previous blog posts are listed here:

Secularism under threat

The Debate on Secularism

Spirituality departing from the land of discovery

The rising intolerance

I am adding on to the above posts with some additional thoughts on a bright Sunday morning here in Singapore, as I gaze across the expanse of a water reservoir which is serene and calm. I am disturbed with the onset of these thoughts, so the calmness around me is surreal.

I believe no religion owns a country or a people, around the world. Religion is the creation of man and woman. For thousands of years, the religious faith of a group of people had provided to them a solid hold on their lives as well as guidance to lead their lives. Religions, unfortunately, had been the cause of wars between people and untold millions of deaths.

Religion is not a necessary prerequisite or condition for sustaining a faith on things which matter to you. It is nice to have a system of faith which is what a religion should provide to its followers. A religion cannot dictate what someone should do or should not do. Of course, these are my personal views (as always).

So, my point of view on secularism is rather simple – since no religion should own a sect of followers or people, no one religion can control a country. This surely and firmly applies to democracies (theocracies are not being discussed in this post as I have not understood their rationale for existence in this multi-religious, multi-ethnic, cosmopolitan world). This would mean that democracies should disown ALL religions, irrespective of the majority affiliation to any one religion.

What does this mean in practice? A Catholic country with majority of its people Catholics, cannot have Catholicism embodied in its constitution as the “state religion”, as long as it remains a secular democracy. The same applies to other religious denominations. Coming to the example of India, it is enshrined in the Constitution of India that India is a secular democracy, though over 85% of its population are Hindus who generally follow Hinduism as their religion. The founders of India did this with a clear purpose in mind – that India is a very diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-racial and multi-religious country even at the time of its Independence in 1947. A Hindu theocracy would have seriously impacted the emergence of a peaceful India as a nation-state.

Think about the wisdom of the founders and original thinkers of Indian Constitution. They were not ordinary folks, they were serious people who contributed to the formation of India. Were they wrong? Absolutely not.

The racism and the attendant violence that the U.S. witnesses every day is because the government and law enforcement are discriminating on colour of people and their ethnicity. European countries are having huge problems on absorbing new immigrants because their social integration into European societies has not been possible due to the differing customs and religious practices. India did not have many of these issues for several decades. In India, law enforcement did not shoot at people they do not like.

“Untouchables” – the class of people that Mahatma Gandhi tried hard to integrate into mainstream Indian society – are in a far better position today than at the beginning of the 20th Century. I would argue that they are in a better situation due to strong affirmative actions than the African-Americans in the U.S.

Given all this complexity in various large nations, the only solution is to maintain a religion-neutral, race-neutral, ethnicity-neutral, and colour-neutral system of governance and law enforcement. The argument that the majority religion is being neglected and more importance is being paid to minorities is not appropriate, as majority population can always elect a party that they want to run the government. Religious sects across a large country cannot easily integrate election voting, that is just a dream. Individual people vote according to their conscience mostly (at least the people who understand partisan politics which is dominant today everywhere in the world). Religion can never integrate a society, it can only disintegrate it.

So, in a nutshell, secularism is the only way forward for the world, at least for the democratic nations of the world. If a party or government is formed on theocratic principles, then that is doomed to fail in the medium term as the majority electorate would realize their folly in electing them in the first place. No religion can run a government, and no government can operate a people as though they are religious levers to be pulled up for convenience.

I am absolutely sure that many folks may not like what I am writing here, nevertheless I believe that it is very important to express one’s thoughts and discuss the same with folks who are interested in the global development of the world. Anger against a particular religion, majority people, or minority people is not going to solve any issue. Every one is equal in this world and secularism ensures that as far as religious faiths are concerned.

Have a wonderful weekend, and see you next weekend,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

29th July 2018

 

The Key to World Peace


There was a time when the rest of the world largely depended on the U.S. for maintaining world peace and order, almost expecting the U.S. to behave like a policeman for the world. That was not too long ago. At least the Western Allies depended heavily on the U.S., if not all of the rest of the world.

Even the opposition camp, comprising mostly of Russia and China, expected the U.S. to maintain the balance of power in the world. They did not want troubles in their neighbourhood. They also desired peace, as world peace helped world trade and economy. It was, and is a no-brainer. Businesses and business investments thrive when there is peace and tranquillity, and the prospects for free trade without tariffs and artificial barriers are bright.

All these expectations have been nullified by the President of the U.S. Donald Trump.

He has been an erratic president, the likes of whom the world has never seen. Fortunately for him, the U.S. economy has been doing well with a fantastic 4.1% growth in the second fiscal quarter of 2018. However, the world is suffering because of his random and erratic behaviour. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, the U.S. remains the main destination for exports and if U.S. imposes tariffs, it will cause huge problems for the exporting countries.

President Trump has still got 30 odd months to complete his first term. Yes, first term. He is most likely to win a second term of 4 years, given the disarray in the Democratic Party, and his ability to swing voters with non-fact based emotional persuasion and appeals.

So, there you go. President Trump may get emboldened to launch a war against Iran (not against North Korea with the rapproachement starting to yield some results). Israel is surely pushing him to consider a strong response to a potential oil blockade by Iran. There are many things that can go wrong, but the Middle East surely cannot afford another catastrophic war. And, Iran is not Iraq or Syria. They have a well-equipped army which will wage a war, and it is going to be very difficult for President Trump to cobble together a coalition of allies.

So, who is going to take over the maintenance of world order and peace?

Is it the U.K.? No, the Brits are entangled with their Brexit imbroglio.

Is it France? No, the French have many problems including immigration and serious crime.

Is it China? May be, but China’s position on world peace has not been articulated well except the usual platitudes we hear from their news agencies and media. Further, they are causing disturbances in South China Sea which could one day lead to a conflict with other claimants to the sea.

Is it Russia? Yes.

Don’t laugh.

Russia is well positioned to become the arbiter of world peace as it is fast realizing its power on the world stage. In the aftermath of the successful and much praised conduct of the FIFA 2018 Soccer Games in an impeccable manner, President Putin has regained much of his confidence which was probably somewhat lost after the Crimea acquisition and the Ukraine conflict, which were followed by sanctions. Further, Russia just launched some amazing weaponry which appear to seal its superiority for some time to come. President Putin has demonstrated his hold on President Trump during the Summit held at Helsinki on 23rd July. Countries are paying attention finally. Respect for Russia is on the rise.

If President Putin is able to convert this new-found respect and power into a strong diplomatic push, then the big countries of the world will have to work with Russia instead of imposing sanctions on it. China is already a close partner of Russia, and there goes 2 of the 5 U.N. Security Council veto-wielding members.

Russia is realizing that subterfuge is not the way to go forward in creating a framework for world peace. It has to work very closely with large countries such as China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Germany, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, etc., to align the thinking behind the strong necessity of maintaining world peace and not launching another destructive war which would be a catastrophic disaster for millions of people.

For the time being, the U.S. cannot be counted in any such new coalition, as it would be a logical dissenter to any such effort on the world stage. The U.S. has already walked out of the U.N. Human Rights Council earlier this month. The U.S. may even be stopping its financial contributions to the U.N. The U.S. Congress is very much against President Putin’s purported spying on U.S. Elections, and so on and so forth. Concrete evidence is yet to come by, let us wait and see.

So, in my opinion, Russia has a unique position in the world today to be able to influence peace and order around the world. It cannot walk away from its responsibilities, and leave the task to the ineffective U.N., or to the confused U.S.

President Putin has a golden chance to demonstrate that he is a statesman-par-excellence, not just a spy or trouble-maker or war monger or election meddler. All that may not matter if he can bring about stability to the world in which trade, economics, business and investment can flourish. He might even be able to influence President Trump directly(!).

Welcome to a potential new world order. As President Trump plays around with the world, let us see what President Putin can and will do……………

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

28th July 2018

Right Wingism


Once upon a time, I had a personal opinion that if the majority of the population belongs to one religion, caste, creed, colour, or ethnicity, then they would have to have a say in how a government is run and how minority populations have to behave under a majority dispensation. A kind of “right wing” orientation with an attitude of “my way or highway”………

But, luckily, I had that view only for about a year or so.

I was forced to change my view under the glaring reality of what could potentially go wrong under that scenario.

Examples of what could happen to a minority people under the force and pressure of a majority rule are everywhere to be seen. In China, we saw what could happen to the minority Muslim population in the western part of the country. In Russia, we saw what a majority dictatorship can do to minority people in the southern part of the country. In the U.S., which is a major democracy, we see human rights violations against the Black and Latino people and other minority population almost on a weekly basis now – whether they are legal or illegal immigrants.

But these countries never had the background, sophistication and diversity of India, which remains even today as the biggest and most impactful civilization ever. In thousands of years of successful and peaceful co-existence, many different religions have flourished in India, even Judaism! India continues to have Chinese speaking people in Kolkata (Calcutta); it has over 200 minority communities speaking their own languages, and existing peacefully along with the majority Hindus.

The beauty of Hinduism is its “pacifist” nature – a peaceful and non-dictatorial religion which recognizes the existence of other religions and philosophies, and is always open to assimilation of different ideologies while not giving up its core thoughts. Hinduism spawned Buddhism, and that has spread throughout South East and East Asia as well as China.

It is critical not to disturb the hallowed reputation of Hinduism under any majority rule. While it is not necessary to kowtow to the minorities or minority religions, equal treatment of citizens and their affiliations is absolutely necessary to sustain a peaceful co-existence, especially in a very diverse country with multiple minority groups. This also means respect for each other and each others’ religious practices.

The recent wave of immigrants to Europe has changed the debate, because most of these immigrants are from the Northern regions of Africa and Syria. European countries worry about the integration of these people into their mainstream, about potential crime, and other socio-political issues. India never bothered about such issues over the past hundreds of years, because it has always been open to foreign influences and cultures, as it is today, with foreigners eventually adjusting and integrating into society.

With the unique amalgam of various kinds of people in Indian society, one may wonder how the governance and societal systems work out in India. It may surprise people elsewhere that India has been able to manage such a huge diversity in a peaceful manner over the years, and remains as a beacon of hope for the world.

Hence, it is my view that nothing should disturb this very unique diversity of philosophies and peoples. Any government that is running India should recognize the critical importance of this diversity and ensure the safety of all its people irrespective of where they come from or what they profess. If such a complex country has survived millennia of foreign influences, then it can continue to survive with less turbulence than the other large countries. In the next decade or so, India will overtake China as the most populous country in the world with over 1.4B people, so the continued peaceful management of the country assumes critical proportions.

It should be every political party’s responsibility to support the above existence and management of the country. Every party should support the governing party’s mandate to enhance the well-being of all of its population without distinction. This would mean all parties sign up for a common cause to benefit all people. It might be wishful thinking, but a serious evaluation of the ground situation in the country could lead sober people at the helm of affairs in various parties to conclude that cooperation is a must to eliminate societal disturbances and any kind of violence.

There should be no pre-judged or predicated mindset to support only the minorities every time. Majorities also could be right. A tripartite system of Parliament – Executive – Judiciary in India is so mature that it should be able to handle the systemic disturbances without clash or conflicts, and reach peaceful and meaningful resolutions. There may be confusion elsewhere in more mature democracies on how to handle difficult scenarios, for example, gun violence against minority Blacks. India does not and should not have such situations, and even if such problems arise, the tripartite system of governance and justice should take timely decisions to alleviate problems.

I am not taking any extreme view or position on matters of governance and justice. It is for any country to figure out the issues and resolve problems which affect its people. However, I am confident on the resilience of the India story.

It is my sincere hope that India will find its way ultimately and reach its goal of economic upliftment for its people – moving confidently towards USD 5,000 GDP per capita (a USD 7T economy) and then on to USD 10,000 per capita (a USD 14T economy) by 2030 and 2040 respectively. That should be the focus and not on any kind of class conflict. Any and all governments should respect peoples’ wish to pull themselves out of poverty.

Hope this happens for India!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

22nd July 2018

 

 

The Bourgeois Class of India


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

Delhi, Mumbai and then Chennai now.

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

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

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

I do not think I am wrong in my assessment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

20th July 2018