Ability to be honest

Well, as I sit here looking at my computer, I think of many topics to write about this evening. Most of the time, I would have chosen the topic in advance and then thinking about the content for the topic. However, many a time, I run out of topics and then have to think deeply enough to write about something meaningful to me and to my audience.

For today’s blog post, I chose the topic of honesty (and, by extension, integrity). In friendships and relationships that we build, the essential building block is honesty. The ability to be totally transparent and honest with friends is one of the key tenets in building a sustainable relationship. Sometimes, it might lead to a loss of friendship due to the brutal nature of input or feedback – though rarely, as the friends that you choose would be sturdy enough to receive your feedback, otherwise they just become casual acquaintances.

Personal integrity is key to any relationship – if I say that I will do something by a certain time, I will do everything possible to deliver on that commitment to a friend, having agreed to do so in the beginning. It is fundamental to the partnership between two individuals. As I test each building block of a relationship, I am looking for potential cracks and weaknesses. The ability to sustain for the long term is a must. The ability to be honest when things do not go right is also absolutely critical to move the relationship forward on a solid footing.

However, we always encounter friends and especially relatives who do not understand the basics of building a honest partnership based on total trust and integrity. They sometimes take things for granted. I never take things for granted in any relationship. I believe sincere and hard work is always needed to keep nurturing any relationship. The ability to share experiences and expectations without any kind of reservation is also an essential component of this relationship.

I constantly keep testing friendship equations to ensure that these are always “balanced”. If someone asks for a favour, I try to fulfil it if I can figure out a way; being totally transparent as to my strengths in fulfilling the request is very important as it is not mutually beneficial to build any false hopes. I try to restrict (as much as possible) my seeking any favours, as I do not wish to create an obligation for achieving balance in a slightly unequal equation problem. It is very critical to maintain equality in the partnerships; at the same time, I would extend my hand to support genuine requests which are made in the hope that I could fulfil the same.

In a nutshell, honesty and integrity are the cornerstones for building a successful partnership, though it might take a longer time. The idea is to build a sustainable growth based on mutual trust, belief and commitment to each other. It is not necessary that we have to see “eye to eye” on every single issue. In fact, we might differ on most issues, yet see congruity in building the partnership. For example, I might belong to a different political dispensation, a uniquely different social orientation, or a corporate profile not compatible with the “equation” that we are trying to establish. Nevertheless, we both see that we could jointly achieve certain things by working together closely, and we mutually decide to pursue the same. Paths might diverge but thoughts are aligned.

Honesty and integrity are hard to maintain, should we fall prey to the damning persuasion to be just “nice” to each other all the time. While being nice is important, it should not detract us from more critical conversations on matters which are close to our hearts. It is also important to call out positions not compatible with lack of integrity at an early stage, as gradual deterioration would lead to irreversible loss. It is very important to remember this fact.

Being open, communicative, completely transparent, and honest are key ways to lay a strong foundation to building a long term partnership with anyone, even with new unknown friends. And, surely that works even between two companies!

I would say that being honest has paid me dividends over the years, though there were couple of misses, which was fine. One cannot expect the best return all the time. I also know that even in those rare cases, the friends involved maintained respect for the interaction and for me, as they understood I was not hitting them in a personal way. I was attacking the issues involved in a straightforward manner, though they did not like the matter even being raised.

So that is my thesis on the need and ability to be honest all the time in all interactions. such an approach will pay off in the long term.


Vijay Srinivasan

11th February 2018


Two Oscars

Yes, I saw two Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning movies this weekend!

One was “The Shape of Water“, this year’s Oscar Winner for the Best Movie. Before I get into some comments, let me mention one thing – while this is a fabulously directed movie (Director: Guillermo del Toro) and wonderfully acted by Sally Hawkins as the lead actress who is mute, it is still a fable – a story which combines an extra-terrestrial alien with Cold War secret experimentation and a mute woman who falls in love with the alien (as apparently she has not found love in her life). In my considered opinion, this movie is more about the kind of “eternal” love we all aspire for in our own lives. The fact that it happens between a scaled, terrifying creature and a normal human being creates an aura of romance, love, empathy and passion.

I was surprised with the level of nudity in the movie given that it would always be a sure bet for the Oscars. There are several scenes which does not require much imagination on the part of the audience. Nevertheless, the director has weaved such scenes beautifully into the overall storyline, so that we do not feel at all odd watching these scenes. That skill does not come easily to most directors.

“The Shape of Water” is a beautifully directed fantasy story, trying hard to connect with the reality of this world (or the world of the Sixties). It is hard to believe that two janitors in a super-secret military research facility could kidnap a well-guarded “asset” (as they call the creature in the movie), spirit him away without making much of a noise, escaping in a ramshackle van when the military should be able to send fast cars to chase the van and retake the “asset” – but that does not happen! After this miserable loss of the “asset” the director of the facility goes on a wild goose chase trying to find clues for the disappearance, and accidentally discovers the potential whereabouts of the “asset” in the apartment of the mute. The tempo builds up nicely, and like most everyone watching the movie, I was disappointed when the director of the facility locates the creature and shoots him. But then, the creature possesses “god-like” powers and kills the director, and escapes with his love mate (Sally Hawkins).

Good story, in parts totally unbelievable, but a love story with touches of reality and as I said, directed by Guillermo del Toro in an amazing way, leading to the Oscar win in the recently concluded event.

The second movie is “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri“. I was wondering what kind of movie would elicit such a long name. Frances McDormand who is the lead actress in the movie won the Oscar Award for Best Actress in the recent 2018 Oscar ceremony. She delivers what I would call a stunning performance as the aggrieved mother of a brutally murdered daughter, who demands justice from the police department in the small town of Ebbing in Missouri. There was not a sagging moment in this drama of a movie, and my wife & I enjoyed Frances’ acting thoroughly. She brings to life the real feelings of how such a mother who has unjustly and brutally lost her daughter would feel all the time. Her grief is demonstrated throughout the movie in subtle and sometimes not so silent manner. I was thinking “what has America come to and why is it so violent” – for a country which is #1 in the world in most social, economic and military parameters, why it does not dawn that violence is not the way forward in ordinary peoples’ lives and why police have to be so brutal in smashing normal people, and why racism rears its head on most occasions in their lives. As the police chief writes in his letter to the angry police guy on his team, it is more important to develop a sense of calmness, because thought flows through calm and hate needs to be removed from oneself who is performing service to people.

Frances (I am using the real name of the actress) delivers an amazing stand-out performance in this movie, and impresses even the police chief against who she had put up the three billboards demanding justice for her daughter. Her rage against injustice is palpable and dominates the movie.

It is normal for Frances to possess rage and feel angry all the time because justice has been denied to her daughter in her mind. It is proportionate to her loss. But what about scores of people (which includes cops) always feeling angry against everyone and everything around them? Especially in America. This is not healthy at all. Such angry folks resort to violence, and the damage they cause is disproportionate. In fact, in most cases, these people do not deserve to be angry, and certainly are not entitled to rage.

Overall, this is a good movie, though the issue of race has clouded its acceptance. Without going into that aspect of the movie, I can only state that Frances’ acting prowess has not ceased to amaze me – she is probably the best fit for the character. Even with some good Pinot Noir, the image of the angry Frances and her machinations to get the police to act, remain fresh in my mind as I am ending what has been a wonderful Saturday of movie-watching – the Oscar types!

See both these movies, they both are great.


Vijay Srinivasan

10th February 2018

Weekend Movie Choices

To be honest, I did not see these three movies during one particular weekend.

I saw these movies over several days, but think it is good for me to suggest for your viewing if you are bored during this or the next weekend. Simply because I enjoyed all of these excellent movies, and believe you will also do so.

Let me start with an Indian movie featured on NetFlix recently – it is “Love per square foot” – I enjoyed every bit of this light romantic comedy. I could sync with the movie rather well, having lived in Mumbai for a little over six years. It is a city with some amazing people, comparable with any other global business city, but has a perennial shortage of living space. It is not at all surprising to witness young people trying to outwit the system in their quest for owning a few hundred square feet of space in Mumbai. Only Mumbai City in India can come up with the unique “business arrangement” of convenience when it comes to getting a space to live – just get married for the sake of convenience and then later throw the marriage to the winds. I always loved the laissez faire attitude of Mumbai, which is so very different from the politically-laced Delhi or the social constraints of the South (meaning Chennai specificially!). With loveable characters acting out almost what sounds like a real-life story, I got hooked from beginning to end (I have to thank the English Sub-titles so well done on NetFlix for my sheer enjoyment).

The second movie I would recommend is “The Bank Job”. This is a movie about a bank heist in London. It is always fascinating to see a movie on a well-planned bank robbery, but how about this movie where there was really no serious plan and no serious robber gang on the job? I liked the movie simply because I could not guess what was going to happen to the gang – are they going to be arrested by the London Police or by the MI5 who knew that the robbery was happening (!)? Or, are they going to be allowed to escape by the government? What is going to happen to the scandalous photos and some serious police evidence involving payoffs to senior police officers, which are found in the bank vault? Good suspense, and ultimately the unknown thing happens and for that, you got to see the movie of course. Quite enjoyable for a Sunday afternoon, with coffee of course. Too early for the wine to come out of the wine cooler.

The third movie that I would suggest is “Perfect Stranger”.  A psychological thriller, this movie gripped me again from beginning to end in a non-stop chase to find out what exactly is the thesis of the movie – who is the culprit, and what is going to happen at the end? It is always thrilling to see a movie with little ability to figure out what is the end game, though I had some suspicion at some point in the movie about the motives of the lead actress (Halle Berry does a great job). Though this movie did not receive positive reviews, I liked it – I chose to view this movie based on its strong story line rather than the film critics’ reviews, and I was not disappointed. There was some very good acting in the movie by the lead actors – Halle Berry, Bruce Willis, and Giovanni Ribisi………suspense is the key and you keep moving the chess pieces to figure out what is going on.

I enjoyed all the three movies. When I select movies to watch, I am careful to ensure that I would like the story line, followed by the actor lineup. I use several tools for fishing out such movies – obviously, there is no time to watch a lot of movies, and most are generally useless from the point of view of a strong story line, and story telling by the director. So, it does take time to identify the ones which will keep you engaged. NetFlix offers an excellent choice of movies and TV Shows, and again, the question is time availability. Even if we start seeing a movie, it is not possible to finish in one evening after coming back from office. So, the movie viewing is usually spread over two evenings, or one weekend. The family will complain if any one of us in the family spends too much time on the laptop seeing movies or spending time blogging about movies!

I would recommend the above movies to you. Enjoy them!


Vijay Srinivasan

3rd March 2018

Doing the right things for America

I have been ambivalent when it comes to judging President Donald Trump of the U.S.

In my initial observations (more than a year ago), I took his side, and even my family did not like my views. There were a number of friends who disagreed with me on this subject, especailly my point that “President Trump is the best thing that could have happened for America”. I tried to justify my orientation towards Trump but it did not carry weight.

Then, I became vexed with his constant shift in stance towards global foreign policy matters, and the constant barrage of almost stupid stuff that his people in the White House were spewing out on a daily basis. I started moving away from my earlier position in support of Trump, but then I had no one else to support as the Opposition Democratic Party was in a worse situation with no coherent strategy or leadership to counter Trump (they still continue to bask in President Obama’s legacy and their great idealism). So, here I am with no one to propagandize in the U.S. Politics (please take note that I am not a U.S. Citizen, however I feel that as a global citizen concerned about global affairs, I have not only an obligation but a right to express my views and debate with others who are equally concerned about the status of affairs in global policy matters, which should bother and concern all of us).

Of late, I am seeing a new Trump (though inconsistent in messaging and incompatible with his own team due to lack of coordination apparently) from the manner in which he is tackling (a) gun violence; (b) budget-related issues; (c) trade matters; and, (d) immigration.

Let us look at gun control issues, now raging in the U.S. due to the most recent mindless killing of 17 people in a high school in Florida. The gun lobby (read NRA – National Rifle Association) has come under severe pressure from the student and teacher community, and also from the general public. As I have written in my past blog posts, the U.S. is unique in allowing gun ownership in a rampant manner under the cover of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the U.S. which permits citizens to bear arms. I do not understand how this will be relevant in the 21st Century. Not only that, even a 18-year old can buy “assault rifles” which are used only in times of war by the military. What is the need for such high velocity, high magazine rifles in the hands of normal citizens, and more specifically, in the hands of a 18-year old?

President Trump has taken a tough stand, and is holding his ground against his own Republican Party and the NRA in a high-profile standoff. He is more credible in this effort than President Obama would ever have been. We have to of course, see what happens eventually in the gun legislation that needs to pass both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and I believe given that both Parties have avid gun owners amongst their ranks, it is unlikely to pass either legislative body. However, let us compliment President Trump for his principled stand, and his threats to sign executive orders banning “bump stocks” which converts an ordinary rifle into a high-discharge rifle.

On Budget issues, again President Trump has won where President Obama failed. The U.S. has to reduce Corporate Taxes to enhance its business competitiveness and bring trillions of dollars stashed away by big corporations in offshore locations. There are pros and cons, but it is critical to pass a Budget Reform Bill, and then may be they will keep tweaking it. This is a very important and significant legislative victory for President Trump and his Republican Party. The Democratic Party failed in its strategy to modify the bill, and finally let it pass without much of a fight.

On Trade matters, President Trump is finally taking action against countries which dump their goods below costs in the U.S. Yesterday, he imposed tariffs of 25% on Steel and 10% on Aluminium, and more are coming. While such tariffs will distort trade, anger important allies, and raise the cost for U.S. Manufacturers, nevertheless the action sends a very important message to the world that the U.S. will make its own decisions to suit its own government and people, rather than engage in endless persuasion. There is a strong message to China in this whole matter, though China is not one of the top 5 steel or aluminium exporters to the U.S. China should be aggressively rethinking its strategy as its “take no prisoners” kind of tactics will no longer work with the U.S.

Eventually, the trade matter will settle down and the stock markets though rocked will reach some equilibrium status. Nothing much to worry on that count. However, President Trump is sending decisive communications to all countries that he is his own man – not even a “party man of the GOP”, and he has innate thoughts on many global affairs that he thinks would require reckoning under his rule.

I will write separate blog post on the U.S. Immigration Policy changes.

Welcome to the new U.S.

Enjoy your weekend,


Vijay Srinivasan

3rd February 2018

The impotence of the global order

I return to one of my favourite topics after many months!

It took a serious struggle in the U.N. Security Council for the 15 members to agree to a humanitarian ceasefire for 30 days. What does that say about our global peacemaking council, and what does that say about armchair leaders in world capitals who dictate to their U.N. Ambassadors about how to vote for the Security Council resolution? After all, the 30 day truce was just for delivering food and medical aid to the suffering civilians who have been bombarded constantly.

It is OK for them that innocent civilians die every hour in Eastern Ghouta region near Damascus in Syria. While I am not fond of Nikki Haley’s vituperative outbursts every time she encounters Russia at the U.N. Security Council, I am now questioning the motives of Russia. It is collaborating with Syrian government in bombing the civilian areas in Eastern Ghouta, and apparently, the U.S. or allied forces cannot help the rebels holed up in this region as it will inevitably lead to a war with Russia. While I am also not supporting the misadventure of the U.S. in the Syrian struggle, I think wherever these two great nations have interfered, it has led to serious wars and bloodbaths such as in Afghanistan starting from the late Seventies. What do these countries gain? Of course, power and influence, the ability to maintain a naval or air base, and to counter each other in this global warfare. Unfortunately, the people who are dying are not the military forces of either side, but poor civilians long suffering under the brutal President Bashar al-Assad’s rule. President Bashar apparently likes to clean out his own countrymen along with the rebels fighting him. And, President Putin of Russia is his most ardent supporter.

For good measure, we have Turkey, Iran and Iraq also involved in this war in someway or the other. Turkey does not want the U.S. to collaborate with the Kurds who are helping in the fight against the ISIS in Syria. Iran seems to be having its own plans. In a nutshell, Syria is a total mess.

My suggestion would be to bring the entire country under the auspices of a U.N. Peacekeeping Force. This would require a hardcore negotiation with President Bashar, but Russia will stop any such initiative dead on its tracks, as it does not want any direct U.N. involvement. It suits Russia and the U.S. to directly get involved and oppose each other in a huge proxy battle with the Syrian civilians as the casualty. This is a total and abject failure of the U.N. system and the global leaders who are responsible to bring any genocide to a complete stop. Just because people live in a rebel-controlled area (they have always lived in the area) does not mean they are traitors to the Syrian government. This interpretation is totally wrong and completely objectionable. Where will these people go anyway in the face of continuous bombardment? Why should civilians suffer like this even in the 21st Century? The same is the case in Yemen, with Saudi Arabia bombarding the people there because it does not agree with the political situation in that country. Thousands of people are dead in the Yemen war.

There is no respite in the Middle East, which must be the most bombed region after the battles in the Second World War. The Western nations (the U.S., the U.K., France, Australia) have used all their latest ammunition in the Middle East wars over the past 17 years (and even before that in the Kuwait vs Iraq war). Russia is now trying out its latest gear in Syria to ensure all their equipment do indeed work, and also to demonstrate to Europe and to the U.S. that it has missiles and planes which can deliver big damage, so don’t mess with us………….

Unfortunately, the only global mechanism we have is the U.N. and its almost useless Security Council.

There is nothing much else that can be achieved if the big countries who hold veto power cannot see eye to eye. I also believe Nikki Haley should use her considerable negotiation tactics instead of just shouting at the Russians who simply ignore her. There is just no point – she needs to work with her allies to get Russia into backroom negotiations and offer sops to Russia like not enhancing the already stiff sanctions regime that has been imposed on Russia for its indiscretions in Ukraine and Crimea. One cannot keep punishing a global power continuously, and blaming it domestically for election interference all the time, while expecting cooperation on tough global war-like matters, like in Syria. What is the point? The manner in which Nikki Haley operates is inconsistent with her boss’s approach – and the boss is President Trump, who wants to “work with” Russia, of course.

So, in a nutshell, it all again goes back to super power rivalry. The U.S. diplomats may not like Russia or President Putin. The Western nations may not like them either. But, do they have a choice?

Absolutely not.

And, where is the other super power – I mean, China? Just behind Russia, all the time. You get not one veto, but two.

Negotiate in good faith and without the theatrics and drama.

And, achieve peace for all. Stop the bombing, and save the remaining people, all of them.

Stop the total failure of the U.N. system.


Vijay Srinivasan

25th February 2018


The Digital World

The “Digital World” is happening rather fast in our lives today.

In countries like Singapore (wherein I reside), the government actively and constantly encourages adoption of digital mechanisms in daily lives of citizens. Singapore probably is the most advanced digital economy in the world today. Almost all transactions are going cashless, and the transportation system just announced that they would not accept cash in stations, people would have to use electronic payment cards to use the bus and train systems. Very few people go to bank branches. I keep some 50 dollars in the wallet, and mostly there is no need to use it. I pay for lunches with a pre-paid card, and if there is no balance in the card, I can pay for lunch by tapping my Visa or Master card on the credit card terminal – there is nothing to sign (the danger is if someone gets hold of your credit card, they can not only eat all your lunches, but can also spend a lot of your money using the “pay by wave” mechanism, which does not need your signature or entry of your PIN into the terminal, like it is required in India). All corporate and even personal applications are moving to the cloud, which is more cost-efficient and available any time on demand – there is no need to start up any hardware. All cars on the road are going to be monitored via satellite sometime starting in 2019. Citizens have to make a compromise between safety/security/convenience and lack of some privacy.

Other countries are way behind, but it is only a question of rather short time when every one catches up as the digital movement is inevitable. I was (and still am) amazed at the rapid advances that India has made in several areas in the digital world – the one which personally impacted me was the Income Tax System, which has recently introduced an e-vault mechanism for added security. I submitted an online complaint using their grievance portal, and got a message that any documents to be uploaded have to be in PDF format, and multiple documents have to be Zipped together in one Zip file!

I wondered how many citizens would know how to use digital systems, especially in India. As the tax net widens to capture many people who have not paid income taxes in India till now, there should also be an education system which delivers the modus operandi of filing taxes electronically. How will a farmer who has never used a laptop going to understand and file taxes? Even folks in cities have trouble with various things such as digital signature needed to file taxes or rectification of tax data. So, the need for chartered accountants still continues to remain strong (in India).

In Singapore, I am not filing any taxes as there is a special “no tax filing” mechanism – the Income Tax Department gets the income details of each and every employee electronically, and computes the tax automatically. Only if you disagree with the computation, you have to log in and file a complaint. It is that simple. No need for digital signature or uploading documents – they have all documentation and my identity.

As we move aggressively into the digital world, it is critical to take the older generation along with us – no one should be left behind. This means investment in a support system which guides these folks as they are gently migrated to the digital world. For the folks who are already employed in the information technology industry, it should be rather easy. How about other industries, and how about people employed at the lower rungs of the corporate ladder? Here is where India needs to learn from Singapore – constant communication is the key.

In large countries like China and India, there is also the worry about workforce displacement due to the influx of digital technologies. Again, this is inevitable in all industries, not just in information technology industry. People have to constantly keep themselves updated with new technologies, and enhance their skill levels to compete with technology even while adopting it. There is always a place for skilled people in any industry, and so it is absolutely essential for each one of us to keep ourselves moving in sync with technology. We cannot be complacent, we cannot be slow, that is the reality of today’s life. In fact, we have to be ahead of robots – how? I don’t know, but we have to see how robots are entering our digital lives and identify areas wherein we can collaborate or leverage robots to achieve our corporate or personal goals.

Looks daunting? Yes, it is.

But human mind is innovative, it is complex, it can constantly come up with solutions to new problems and challenges.

I am sure in the digital world as well we will see the ingenuity of the human mind. The key thing is to identify opportunities in our own lives to leverage and benefit from the incessant adoption of new technologies – I am not talking just about apps on our iPhone or Android phone – there is much more going on around us. Look out, read up, skill up…………and enjoy the digital ride of our lives.


Vijay Srinivasan

24th February 2018


Atomic Blonde

This post is not just about one movie.

Whenever I travel, I get to see multiple movies. During my recent travels, I saw the following selection of movies on Singapore Airlines flights:

  • Atomic Blonde, starring Charlize Theron (one of my favourite actresses and James McAvoy)
  • American Made, starring Tom Cruise
  • American Assassin, starring Michael Keaton and Dylan O’Brien
  • Security, starring Antonio Banderas (one of my favourite actors) and Ben Kingsley
  • El Bar (The Bar), a Spanish movie starring Blanca Suarez

There were other movie that I wanted to see, but couldn’t for lack of time. I will surely see them in the near future.

In all the above movies, there is a sense of escapism – I do not think such movies are “real” in the experience of a commoner like me. However, these movies could have happened in real life in the Western world – the first three movies involve spy agencies such as MI6 of the U.K., and the CIA of the U.S. The 4th movie is an unbelievable one – just a few security guards who lack any weapons defend a helpless girl against a massive team armed to the teeth wanting to snatch the girl away, her only crime being a court witness in a trial against the armed gang. The last one is totally unbelievable – it is a story of a simple coffee bar in downtown Madrid which gets into trouble with security services due to the fact that couple of its patrons were carrying the Ebola virus – hey, come on. Totally incredulous, the remaining ordinary folks in the bar all kill each other in search of the anti-virus serum, and all action during the entire movie happens in that tiny bar and underneath in its cellar and sewer.

I admire the directors who venture to take such daring movies – I would be surprised if any of these movies were to become big box office successes, though all of these movies are interesting action movies. Adventure and thrill characterise all the movies, and some of the actors are outstanding – Charlize Theron, Tom Cruise, Michael Keaton, Antonio Banderas, et al.

I look at the very short synopsis of the movie in the KrisWorld magazine, look at the names of the actors, and check to see if there are English subtitles. Then I select the movies, and tackle them one by one. I see non-stop, right through the flight, so that I get to the finish of the last movie – if for some reason, I cannot do that, then I continue from the last movie onwards during the return flight.

Movies make me think on the sheer escapism of life. We like to see what we ourselves cannot or will not do in our own lives. It is simply because of the pleasure of imagination – I like to visualize myself as a CIA or MI6 Agent for instance, and parachute into action in a global city with all the resources of the State supporting me, and with the thrill of rapid fire action encompassing me. How about that? I am not going to drive a bike even at 80 KMPH anymore in real life! I have never touched a gun (except for the thrill shots in game machines in a video parlour), and it is likely to remain so for the rest of my life!!

So, here we are – we know there are spy agencies, and well-trained secuirty guards almost everywhere. But we do not see spy action or the Antonio Banderas action. As I walked back from the gym yesterday, I realized how much muscle buildup would be necessary to tackle any surprise attacker – I do not have even 40% of what would be required. We do not pay attention to gym workouts and do not focus on body exercise and development, so we do not stand a chance in fighting an usurper. I am happy the younger boys are getting military training, and I would think that the girls also should pick up similar training. It is essential pre-requisite for self defence.

Enjoy your weekend folks, we have one more day off due to the Chinese New Year long weekend!


Vijay Srinivasan

18th February 2018

The Culture of Materialism

The premise of this post has been to establish the link between materialistic greed of (certain) people and corruption and overall destruction of value for citizens who lead normal lives. I went for an event today, and this topic was discussed among a set of trusted friends who had very different views. As an author, I am supposed to state my views in a non-diluted manner, while accepting criticism or praise in equal measure, which is exactly what I am going to do now – I have not changed any of my views in this final version which is getting published this evening (Saturday evening in Singapore), though I did think about some of the alternate views expressed by friends today on this topic.

Here is my view in a few bullets (this is not the normal way I write, but I thought it would be good to highlight):

  • Countries which unabashedly focused on the material well-being of their citizens in the 1970s and 80s, paved the way for economic growth to be the dominant factor in their countries’ vision – examples would be South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore – the four “Tiger Economies” of Asia. This meant that citizens were led to believe on the economic vision of their leaders, in turn, leading to rapid growth over the past 3 to 4 decades, rapidly enhancing the GDP per capita of these nations, and focusing on generating material wealth for the citizens. This has already happened – Singapore now is the 4th richest country in the world in just one generation! There are pros and cons, but one cannot argue with the fact that economic progress has been clearly accomplished.
  • Countries which focused on political philosophies and social development in an Utopian manner did not progress fast due to the debilitating bureaucracies that these countries established, leading to slow progress and corruption as the main driver for faster movement of business. There are many examples of such nations, mostly democracies and some dictatorships, but I am not going to name them. Established mechanisms of corruption and nepotism led to stealing of wealth from ordinary citizens to line the pockets of politicians and bureaucrats, and the wealth generation was isolated in few family run businesses. Not surprising, however.
  • Over the past decade or so, these large countries have seen what the smaller countries have accomplished, and are trying to adopt some of the policies though in a much belated and haphazard manner. However, the institutionalized corruption continues irrespective of change in governments as the essence of bureaucracy has stayed the same. This implied focus on materialistic economic growth will take a very long time to trickle down to ordinary citizens, and will again benefit few individuals and families, as we are seeing. Tax payers’ money is being stolen brazenly to benefit these folks.
  • So, the derivation is that the focus on materialistic wealth generation is not going to work for larger countries since institutional changes and policy frameworks have not changed for the better. This would mean that corruption would accelerate and lead to larger financial scandals, while ordinary citizens would see probably a lower impact of routine corruption due to e-governance initiatives (the only major benefit, yet to be realized however).

In a nutshell, the culture of materialism will lead to skewed economic growth for larger countries, benefiting the same businessmen who benefited in the past. Lifting millions of people out of poverty towards a USD 5,000 income per capita is not a simple challenge – it cannot be compared with the easier task that the Tiger economies had with their singular focus on trade. So, there is going to be very hard time befalling on millions of honest working folks and farmers, who would be held subservient to the governments by paying more taxes and more fees to obtain banking, insurance, and other services.

This is indeed a sad situation. Expecting millions of ordinary folks to understand economic and digital principles is foolhardy, as the base of education and healthcare has not been laid out over the past many decades. When ordinary people see how the rich people fleece money in an illegal manner from the same banks and governmental institutions, what ideas would they get? When these powerfully connected and rich people escape without so much as an indictment, what message does that send to others? While a French revolution is not in the offing, ordinary people would have to take some kind of action within their control, right?

Fascinating, but also saddening. Think about the whole complex situation developing, and you will see that WhatsApp messages and Fake News do not tell the entire story. The deeply maligned people are going to scot free, and no one can do anything. This is the result of all our democracies and institutions in action. Even the U.S. is not spared, as you see in daily news, day in and day out.

The culture of materialism is destructive. It will lead to serious social divisions in society which cannot be fixed in one generation.

Think, probably with a drink like what I am doing now!


Vijay Srinivasan

17th February 2018


Newness is a 2017 Hollywood movie.

I selected this movie recently on Netflix for joint viewing with my wife.

May be a wrong choice, but then one gets to see the latest trends in Hollywood’s thinking on millennials. This movie, in a nutshell, is all about social media, unfettered social hookups via special apps and resultant dating, cavorting for physical pleasures, night club culture fascination, but also about how a young couple struggle together for intimacy in the midst of visceral fights and disappointments.

The movie reflects American culture today – especially amongst young folks who are not able to deal with the surprises that life throws at them, not very stable emotionally, and constantly seeking “newness” in experiences. If one hookup does not work out, so be it. Even if it has resulted in a strong physical attraction. Go on to the next one. Smoke and dance in nightclubs feverishly. Drink a lot of alcohol (the so-called “shots”). And, so on and so forth. It is all about the gist of Western culture which defines a free-wheeling drive in the spirit of men and women, not directed or influenced by parents or traditional supporters of emotional well-being. In fact these others would not even be aware of the alternate persona of young people that they are connected with. It is just the opposite variation of a traditional, family-oriented culture that was dominant in the 20th Century.

If relationships get damaged because of foolish and futile behaviour, so be it. How about mending the fractured relationship? No. Instead, go for another social hookup, in the hope that the newness of that new potential relationship (which always ends in dating and sex) would heal the rift of the previous relationship. In fact, relationships are completely dispensable.

It was funny when our heroine (Laia Costa) asks the hero (Nicholas Hoult) to be totally transparent with her, even after he protests on the basis of emotional damage he had incurred due to the untimely death by accident of his sister with who he was close, and due to the divorce that happened in his first ever marriage after a short 8 months. The Spanish heroine resembles so much of an Indian girlfriend who is perennially nosey and totally intrusive, and will not tolerate even minor indiscretions or secrets. It was again funny when she, after having obtained the oath of transparency from the boyfriend, proposes that it would be perfectly all right for each of them to continue dating others as long as they tell each other what they are upto. Absolutely amazing!

This all reveals the innate desires of young people to keep experimenting with newness – new people, new experiences, new adventures, irrespective of any moral value destruction in the process. However, at the end, they do not discover anything “new”. As the close friend of our hero (Matthew Gray Gubler) says “it is critical to keep working on the relationship, and not give up on each other”. Long-term hookups (to use the terminology of the movie), meaning “partnership-based marriages” are tough to sustain, and are prone to blowups similar to the ones which happen in this movie. We all know that it is tough to stay invested in wedded bliss forever, but then we stay committed though there are issues and challenges. It is a partnership that should not be broken despite strong differences, emotional fights, dislikes, and potential misbehaviour on either side. The new theme of life tends to ignore the valuable life lessons of a true partnership, and makes it fleeting – something which is like most other things in life – non-permanent. The couple in this movie try to hurt each others’ feelings almost constantly despite their very obvious physical attraction for each other; this is nothing but destructive progress towards an unintended separation, which occurs couple of times. Feelings can be hurt only when you do not care about your partner, like what our heroine tells her older partner (Danny Huston) towards the end of the movie. The director has done an excellent job portraying the emotional breakups and impact on the actors.

What about romance and falling in love “permanently” with someone? Does it not happen anymore? Does the young generation of tomorrow surrender their ability to fall in love to, after all, a dating app?

Come on.

This is not the way it was supposed to be. Technology cannot destroy love and romance, and cannot also induce moral destruction.

This is an interesting movie which deserves to be watched. It proves that human relationships are not eventually dictated by dating apps, but by real feelings for each other. Struggles and disappointments are common in life, and if younger folks haven’t yet realized it, then that is a shame. As our heroine says……”…..I am yet to start my life……” which only means that she has all along been experimenting with herself but now has arrived at a milestone when she is ready to start living her life seriously with just one serious partner. No more wild experimentation, but she acknowledges the fact that her partner is likely to spew some disappointments at her, and she should have the strength of character to deal with them.

New-age movie. You “might” just like it. See it.


Vijay Srinivasan

11th February 2018


Gini Coefficient

I am not going to explain what exactly is the Gini Coefficient or how it is computed for a country or society.

Suffice it to state that the Gini Coefficient is a good measure of income inequality – how wealth is distributed in a country. A perfectly income-equal country (where everyone earn the same amount of income) has a Gini Coefficient of 0, and a completely unequal wealth distribution leads to a Gini Coefficient of 1 (wherein one person has all the income, and the rest have none at all).

There is, of course, no country in the world with a Gini Coefficient of 0 or 1. The dispersion lies somewhere between these two figures, but the best “equal income” countries have a Gini Coefficient below 0.5. It is not practical to expect a figure better than that (like a 0.2 or 0.3) in a largely capitalistic world that we live in. Examples of such countries include South Korea, Canada, and many Western European countires. The Gini Coefficient has been deteriorating over the decades, as concentration of wealth in the hands of few people increases, as we have seen in many countries.

Governments are severely handicapped when it comes to tackling income inequality in their respective countries. Economic and taxation policies do not curtail the increase in the concentration of wealth. Many governments allow fixed capital formation in their countries with little tax impact, in order to attract investments and wealthy folks to their countries. As societies become prosperous in developed nations (in Asia that would include Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore), the desire for further wealth accumulation increases in an unfettered manner based on past successes. Real estate prices go up in an uncontrolled manner, leading to a societal segmentation which segregates society into multiple fragments, and engender a more unequal income to be the cause of undesirable thinking in the disadvantaged populace. An “entry” price is eventually established for each such segment of the society, and the wealthier sections of the society become distanced from the so-called proletariat, even in advanced countries. This kind of “pricing” manifests itself in multiple ways – more BMWs, Jaguars, Bentleys, Ferraris, Lamborghinis on the roads is a good example; the other example is the inherent price fixation in real estate for exclusive high-end zones which precludes consideration by even the “above-average” dual-income couples who aspire to move into a better accommodation in such zones. General cost of living increases, and economic fundamentals adjust to serve the needs of the well-heeled. Gradually, the segmentation sets in firmly, and several enclaves form to cater to the respective segments, leading to even more dispersion.

While many of us have heard about the Gini Coefficient not so frequently, it is a commonly used economic term which concerns global multilateral economic and financial institutions. The global concern about unequal wealth distribution and concentration of wealth in the hands of few oligarchs is well placed and requires urgent tackling. Socially progressive governments in countries such as Switzerland are actively and very seriously considering various policy actions in this regard.

The problem with the fast developing countries such as China and India is more acute as the embedded inefficiencies in these countries allow for faster wealth accumulation in fewer individuals due to nepotism and favouritism, and other factors. Wealth created by family-run conglomerates far exceeds that by public sector corporations (or largely state-owned enterprises, which are publicly listed in the bourses). While it is commendable that the private sector wealth creation and capital formation is driving the business in India, it is also responsible for increased income inequality in a country with 1.25B people.

There are no easy answers for solving this rather intractable problem, I will let you think about potential solutions. In the meanwhile, I am returning to my usual weekend glass or red wine, while thinking about the solutions. What can we all do to reduce such inequality? Such thinking is even more important and relevant in wealthier countries such as Singapore, wherein the folks who earn far below the per capita income are very disadvantaged to sustain themselves in a fast-moving, economically-driven society.

Have a good weekend folks, and please think.


Vijay Srinivasan

10th February 2018