The “Wellbeing” National Budget


How do you measure the success of a nation state?

From 1930’s, the single most popular measure has been the GDP, or the Gross Domestic Product, which purports to measure the economic output of a country. It is widely used as an economic growth parameter, and a continuously growing country is supposed to create wealth for its citizens. This has generally been true, and the economically prosperous countries also have some of the highest per capita incomes in the world.

But do economic measures such as GDP and GNP truly reflect the state of “wellbeing” of a country’s citizens? Do these measures accurately portray poverty levels, education standards, homelessness, mental health and healthcare status of citizens? Does every citizen benefit from the national economic growth of his or her country? Do citizens feel happy, or constantly complain about rising costs which affect their daily livelihood? Do citizens think that enough of the national budget is being allocated for education, healthcare and eliminating the scourge of poverty? What is the extent of inequality in a developed country – is it low enough to be ignored? Do citizens feel safe and secure?

The simple and rather simplistic answer is a NO.

There are very few nations which focus on the above non-economic measures to ensure that their citizens are well taken care of. The Nordic countries such as Finland come to mind. Education is completely free, and kids get free lunch at school. We cannot dismiss the Finnish model as a “nanny” state, which it is not. Norway, Sweden, Denmark all have higher status as “happiness” producing countries in the minds of their citizens. Unfortunately, there is no Asian country in the top 10 happiest countries – Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong do not make the cut. Bhutan is a happy country, being the first in the world to have a Gross National Happiness index, but did not make it to the global top 10 ranking in the 2018 report. According to the World Happiness Report published by the United Nations, New Zealand comes in at the 8th place, which is already great.

Now, New Zealand has become the first country in the world to actually publish a “wellbeing” National Budget. The focus is on a set of “wellbeing” priorities which will be adopted by all the ministries. According to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the indomitable Jacinda Ardern, it is more critical to measure the health, satisfaction and safety of the citizens, than to just constantly fixate on GDP growth as a wellbeing measure.

I totally agree.

Though I cannot understand one thing: why do the Kiwis feel that their country is not a happy one? Why are they having one of the highest suicide rates in all of OECD (the league of economically developed Western countries)? Why is domestic violence so high in New Zealand, and yet the United Nations chose to place NZ in its 8th global rank on the world happiness report?

Nevertheless, this initiative to build the entire national budget around wellbeing of citizens is a fantastic one, a new concept, which will be closely watched by the rest of the developed world. NZ needs to ensure that it succeeds in implementation. Otherwise, it will be considered as a flash in the pan, with no measurable impact in creating a sense of well being and reducing levels of poverty and homelessness.

We have to wait and see the impact. In whichever manner we see it, the “wellbeing” budget is a novel concept focused on certain clear national people-centric priorities, which should, with effective implementation and followup, generate a significant sense of wellbeing in NZ citizens. My two cents is that PM Ardern has a new strategic thinking and should be commended for taking the risk to release such a budget to the scrutiny of the public and economic analysts.

All the best to her and her forward-thinking government.

Note: I visited NZ on a family vacation many years ago and came to the conclusion it is one of the best in the world, and my family has always wanted to return to NZ for a second vacation.

Cheers, and have a great weekend folks,

Vijay Srinivasan

15th June 2019

The pro-life argument


On this one thing of life and death, I am proud to be termed as a “conservative”.

I know that I am liberal (in U.S. terminology I am “left of centre” or left-wing liberal – which I do not agree with as I believe I am a centrist on most issues) in my views (both political and social), as opposed to right-wing conservative views. Being a liberal or a conservative comes from personal experiences and an understanding of what is good for the society as a whole, not just for oneself. It takes some analysis of the environment, politics, and society. It is not easy to “assume” a pole position because that is how the world sees your position. Irrespective of what the world thinks of you, you do have an absolute independent right to think what you want and position yourself in philosophical terms as a thinker in your own right. Who can challenge that?

So, let us now analyze one thing on which I side with the so-called conservatives. We do not have this kind of discussion in Singapore or India, but unfortunately the world gets influenced by what happens in the U.S. on most things. Though both India and Singapore are more conservative on social issues than the U.S., I have not seen such matters discussed in public or court of law, thereby prudently avoiding social disputes which could be rather disruptive.

However, in the so-called first-world great power of the U.S. there are many things being discussed which depicts a society in constant conflict with itself, such as racism against blacks, hatred towards immigrants, vindictiveness against people who hold opposing views, and amongst many such issues, abortion.

Abortion is an extremely sensitive topic in the U.S. My readers would be aware of the landmark Roe vs Wade judgement of 1973 by the Supreme Court of the U.S. I am not going to delve into it, except to say that ruling legalized abortion rights of women. If you have been following U.S. politics of late, you would have witnessed the U.S. Congress members questioning judicial appointees if they support the above judgement. In general (though not always), the Democrats support the abortion rights of women, and the Republicans do not support. President Trump has indicated that he is pro-life, which is another way of saying that once conceived, women lose the right to a legal abortion.

As I said earlier, we do not discuss abortion in our part of the world. However, I felt compelled to write about this topic as it applies to the U.S., as I read about “late-term” abortion laws enacted by some states in the U.S. I personally believe that once you hear and record the foetal (fetal) heartbeats, then any abortion amounts to taking the life of the foetus away from this world without its consent. I am not going to be liked by the abortion proponents in the U.S., as this subject matter is close to the heart of the left-wing liberals as opposed to the right-wing conservatives. I do not wish to colour this matter as a religious topic on which the Church, for example, would have a say. That is not the case (though the Catholic Church opposes abortion, to be sure). In my mind, what matters is the decision-making power of the individual woman who has conceived, and is staring at the possibility of abortion.

This is a hot topic in the U.S. as you can imagine, especially in the light of the change in the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court towards the addition of more conservative judges by President Trump over the past couple of years. Both Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavenaugh are ambiguous on the Roe vs Wade judgement which is acting as precedence for the Supreme Court – given a strong case, they could tilt the court towards an anti-abortion judgement. The liberals are mortally scared of that possibility.

Notwithstanding that possibility, my contention is simple: does a human have the right to take away the life of an unborn (or going to be born) human, once it is unambiguously proved that the would be new-born is having heartbeats, and breathing like any other human? do we misconstrue this issue as the “inviolable right of a woman over her body” rather than a life & death matter, which needs to be investigated further? This is not about legal precedence or religious opinion. It is about making the right decision when that decision involves a new life. How can we compartmentalize this issue as women’s constitutional right only? What about the rights of the unborn baby?

There are ongoing multiple challenges to Roe vs Wade in various state courts in the U.S., such as in Iowa, Kentucky, Ohio, Florida, etc., While these challenges would be vehemently opposed by organizations such as Planned Parenthood, American Civil Liberties Union, various womens’ and medical associations, the point is that this is not about securing or re-securing a constitutional right, this is not about liberals vs conservatives, and this is not about the Democrats vs the Republicans.

This issue is much larger.

I am not going to conclude on this matter here with my own prescription to solve the problem, I am just positioning the same in my own light, as I felt strongly about foetal heartbeats occurring in general six weeks into a pregnancy. So, now we are faced with a huge human challenge, which only humans can address and resolve. Not the politicians, not the courts, not any religion. May be Roe vs Wade will go unchallenged. May be women will continue to enjoy their constitutional right to aborting their foetuses anytime irrespective of the heartbeats. But one thing is for sure, Americans need more education on this topic than what has been offered to them in schools.

I know that abortion is a very sensitive topic – an extremely touchy subject to most women. I am not against their legal rights. I am just wondering if we have missed the pro-life argument posed by a heart-beating foetus, if it had a chance to present its case in a court of law?

Some critical thing to think about, right?

Of course, I welcome brickbats and strong retaliation from my women readers. As a generally neutral centrist, I welcome their feedback – positive or very negative, no problem with that. If I have to change my views, then there has to be an extremely strong rebuttal, for sure.

Cheers, and have a great week ahead, folks,

Vijay Srinivasan

3rd February 2019


The “all-screen” Addiction


I am not a TV watcher or movie goer.

I rarely go for movies (on the average once in six months) in a theatre, or watch soap operas. I occasionally see CNN or CNBC or BBC on the home TV, more because I like the anchor or the presenter rather than the content of the news. Most news that I consume is via iPhone apps anyway, so I am more or less current on global affairs anyway.

However, after the advent of NetFlix which I have subscribed to (on behalf of the family of course), there have been some change in my behavioural pattern. I liked a few of the original NetFlix serials and a few movies. Initially, I used to see once per week. Later, it became twice and thrice a week, as I could not resist the urge to know more about the next episode of a particular serial. While movies can be had in one sitting of mostly less than 2 hours, serials can drive you towards serious addiction, as multiple episodes would generally be available for viewing at one go – which means you can sit through some 3 to 4 episodes, each spanning some 45 minutes. And, you are never happy and “complete” as there are many more episodes of the same serial still pending for your viewing and ultimate pleasure.

I must have seen at least 10 serials over the past 6 months or so – some of these are not finished, still continuing and I have not completed the viewing though multiple unviewed episodes are available for my viewing. I have more or less stopped seeing NetFlix movies, as my general rating is not more than 3.0 out of 5.0 for most of the movies. But serials have been good and absorbing, though I felt that several of these were unnecessarily dragging on without closure – similar to the Tamil language TV serials in multiple TV channels in Tamil Nadu (and elsewhere in India).

I think, by now, I have developed an addiction for NetFlix serials. What this means is simple – if I have nothing else to do, I tend toward NetFlix viewing, there seems to be not much else to do. This is wrong, and this is how bad addictions start (all addictions are bad). I have to shake myself off NetFlix, but sometimes I feel that I am paying for it, so I have to at least see some – get some viewing on NetFlix as my “share” of the overall family viewing experience and cost amortization. This is an useless argument, as we all know. Like cigarette or drug use, it is hard to drop TV addiction once you start liking and enjoying it. We do nothing while seeing TV or NetFlix – we are dumbos avidly lapping up the dishes served on the screen. Is this a good thing? No, not at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if clinics/hospitals/ashrams start NetFlix de-addiction programs and charge people a bomb for it, as most folks are getting sucked into NetFlix – especially in countries like India where the pricing is very low. In many countries such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, etc., mobile data consumption has shot up in a huge manner due to video viewing on mobiles by people of all demographics, especially millennials.

I am also addicted to YouTube – I see Stephen Colbert and Seth Myers every morning (my time) on my iPhone, and also see other stand-up comedians like Russell Peters, Rowan Atkinson, Hasan Minhaj, et al………again, I could not resist this simple temptation – after all it is some 30 minutes during my early morning hours. But then, I have created a pattern now which I believe might turn out to be harmful in the long run. Looks like I cannot live without YouTube, NetFlix, WhatsApp, and so many other apps.

On top of all this going on (not just in my case, but for most people I know), my son subscribed to Amazon’s PrimeVideo at the ridiculous price of SGD 2.99 per month – that is INR 150 per month! Much lower than NetFlix price of SGD 13.98 per month. Apart from the equivalent of NetFlix, Amazon Prime has other benefits such as a 2-hour delivery of items ordered, etc., and a free-month of PrimeVideo. I dilly-dallied for some time, but eventually approved the subscription. This means that my addiction problems are now doubled instantaneously. I thought of chucking out NetFlix, but after using PrimeVideo I decided it would be better to keep NetFlix going – as I found it to be a far better option. I still managed to see two movies on PrimeVideo before calling it a day, though my family thinks it is a better option!

Now you see my problem? Dealing with this addiction is going to be a bigger challenge than the usual corporate issues or inter-personal matters. Addiction is slated to be the biggest challenge for most millennials, but I am no millennial. My experience proves that addiction can happen at any age or any time and anywhere. In fact, I pulled out my iPhone on a high-speed train in China recently, connected it to the train WiFi and started seeing NetFlix serials! Come on, not a good way to spend time – you should be doing emails or creating a business plan while on such a nice transportation system. I am thinking constantly of how to go back to pre-NetFlix days when I was not disturbed by the feasibility of such on-demand movies and serials. I think I should. What do you think? Are you having this addiction? How are you dealing with it? Do you think such an addiction is bad? How will our children view us when we are constantly engaged on viewing a movie or serial on a laptop or on mobile phone, or even on the home TV? Feels like those days when TV was dominant…………..and grabbed all the family time.

Let me come up with a de-addiction plan. In the meanwhile, here’s wishing you a wonderful week ahead, folks.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

17th February 2019


The Nature of Our Perilous Life


Life should be an enjoyable journey, full of challenges, accomplishments, successes, failures and joy. Of course, there will be pitfalls, sorrow, frustration and backstabbing. There will be downfalls, anger, negative feelings, and what not. Life is one long journey full of feelings, perspectives, lessons and teaching. Yes, I mean teaching the juniors who need learning and not cramming!

The best success one can have is his or her own first failure. I attended my son’s graduation ceremony yesterday at his school and the key note speaker mentioned this gem of a thought. As I think more about it, I am now convinced that my drive towards success in whatever I tried to do in my twenties and thirties was characterized by a burning ambition to make a mark for myself in my life endeavours. I did not realize that I should have learnt a lot from my mistakes and failures, rather than from my successes. For the record, I did not. Is that surprising? Should not be, as most of us are made of the same mould. There were very few brilliant minds in the community I grew up in, who would daringly commit a mistake to learn from it, as in his mind that would lead to new discoveries from which he could then build a sustainable success. Most of the people I knew back then were conformists, some of them were idealists, but hardly any entrepreneurs with a derring-do attitude.

As we grow older and spend our best years in a professional capacity, we have seen the immense growth of entrepreneurial spirit with many, many failures and few outstanding successes. If we trace the path of the daring entrepreneurs who fell into failures, invariably we see many of them succeeded at the end in a brilliant manner.

What does this derivation tells us? What do we learn from it?

Life can be and will be perilous in the challenges and dangers that it throws in our way. The idea should then not be to circumvent these impediments and hurdles, but to face these head on with our powerful brain head lights switched on. Learn to handle and overcome the hurdles. There will be suffering, there will be financial losses, friends may depart from your fold, new friends might join your venture believing in your spirit and vision, more challenges might come your way.

Do our children understand this phenomenon? We are more than happy if our children complete whatever education that they set out to do. We do not particularly challenge them, instead we only keep encouraging them to excel in education. We want them to get a good corporate job, preferably in a Western country, and then goad them to save money instead of spending their earnings. We want them to conform to our way of life that we think we have perfected over the years, in other words, we want them to become conformists in our mould. I never learnt that spending is better than saving, but it appears it is, in many ways especially during the early years of experimentation.

I am struggling with my thoughts here – I am not able to put down my thinking lucidly as I write this, because I might have missed the bus, and most of you would have missed your respective buses as well.

What I mean here is this – our children belong to the next generation, they are true citizens of the 21st Century, we are declining citizens of this century anyway. Has all our wisdom been transferred to our children? Hopefully not. Why do I say “hopefully”? Think about it. You do not wish to make your children perfect copies of yourself as total conformists. They are already fresh thinkers in a different mould, in a different phase of life. We should not be interfering, in the name of imparting value systems, religious conformance, ritualistic thinking, savings philosophy, conservative idealism when it comes to chucking your career and moving on, etc., etc., There are so many things flooding my mind, I am unable to keep pace with the old keyboard of my 6-year old Lenovo which I have refused to replace – again conformism in its utter insanity in display!

What do you folks think?

I would rather not indulge my children. I would want them to become independent thinkers in their own right. They should think for themselves, decide what to do with their life, choose their own life partner, execute their ambitions in the best way that they can without any parental interference. If they come to us for advice, of course we are going to provide advice, but not judgement. And our advice should lean on our life’s failures, not on its successes, because failures have more enduring lessons for life than do successes.

So, in conclusion, here are my two cents worth of Sunday evening advice: Life is perilous in its usual journey, it is our job to extract the best from life’s lessons while enjoying the journey all the same. Further, provide inputs from your life’s failures to your children should they ask for advice. Do not impart generic advice, as I always have done and continue to do – I am struggling to stop my blessings from my advisory podium directed to my children, as they ignore the useless components of such advisory blast. Just mouthing useless advice annoys the best friends and also your family members, and eventually they will arrive at the conclusion that you are useless in toto, which thought they are not going to reveal to you!

Hence time to change ourselves. No explicit guidance is required to be provided to our children to navigate their lives. They will figure that out for themselves. Learn to be a guide without constant interference and spirited interventions that I am trying myself to wean away from.

Have a great week ahead folks,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

18th November 2018

The inhibitions of society


Are you making an intelligent guess on what this topic could be about?

You would probably guess it right, I guess.

This post is about the historic, game-changing verdict by the Supreme Court of India on abolishing the British era Section 377 which penalized sexual acts between adults of the same gender. This was a much awaited verdict by the LGBT community.

I am not going into the moral dimensions of the issue or the verdict itself.

It is all about the society in which we live in. For a long long time, the society shunned and ostracized people belonging to the LGBT community, irrespective of any other factors. So the community kept to itself, and operated in secrecy to avoid facing the society and more importantly, the “moral” policing which occurred in many parts of India.

The main premise of the society (which happens to be largely conservative) was always that homosexuality and lesbianism were against the natural order of living. Many a time, there were religious links to the stand taken by the society – it was that God had ordained procreation to occur exclusively between man and woman, and any other form of sexual relationships were anti-religion and immoral. And so on, and so forth.

Society’s worry is about things which are unknown – which it does not understand, it does not know why a different union is required, etc., It is scared.

Obviously, as members of the same society, we had two compulsions: (a) that the society does not approve of such modes of cross-gender living together; and, (b) that non-conformance to the majority view (in excess of 99%) would put even sympathizers into grave difficulties while trying to pursue normal lives. These constructs would challenge any person even if he or she does not belong to the LGBT community, but sympathizes with their cause and right to live in any which way they prefer with any kind of sexual orientation. The society also worried about the impact of such orientation on children and teenagers of impressionable age groups.

If someone asks me straight about my support or lack of support for such societal restrictions, it would be difficult for me to respond. Obviously, I do not wish to take a stand, but that is also timid and smacks of conformance where none is called for. I cannot and do not differentiate against any such orientations if I encounter such people in my business life, as it does not matter to me. I have actually not encountered anyone belonging explicitly to the LGBT community and it is my strong presumption that they are no different from me or my other friends (the “Straight Ones”! – this will no longer be a politically correct expression!!). When there is no impact on business life or corporate situations, why should one bother about social life situations?

Introduction to such a community member in a social context or business networking context is surely not going to affect my view of that person – it should not. However, would I engage with such a person in a family get-together kind of situation – meaning would I invite him/her for a social get-together at my home?

I do not see why not. Of course, I would surely have a challenge if a same-sex couple turned up at my home or for a private function, as I have not experienced such a situation till today. How would I welcome the couple or introduce them as a couple to my family members and other friends?

I am sure I will figure a way out of such a challenge. The key thing is to invite them. Personally, it is a big challenge as I grapple with the acceptance myself. I have to convince myself that nature provides for a variation in sexual orientations amongst the citizens of the world, and there is nothing inherently wrong or immoral for two people of the same sex discovering joy in their union. I will not be able to understand such a union intimately, however, and I am not going to deny it or deny my lack of understanding. But I can appreciate.

I belong to the 99% majority I referred to above, though I am a “liberal” with open views (as you might have seen in this blog). I am a non-conformance specialist, as my opinions are usually contrarian to those of the majority, simply because I spend time thinking for myself on issues and do not just depend on others’ views or those propounded by a religion, sect, or government. When I think through issues, I discover facts or perspectives which are not truly reflected in the majority discussions. While I respect the society in which I live, I am not going to accept the majority view in matters of public importance. So, I usually look at the conclusions of the legal system, rather than at conclusions made by an elected government which could come under popular pressure. It is also true that many a time, an elected government does not bother about popular opinion and makes decisions which it thinks are appropriate or required for a meaningful resolution of the issue at hand. Hence, I cannot be blamed for running my own thought process and respecting myself for making decisions or conclusions, which I retain within myself, or publish on this blog. It does not mean that I do not respect the majority view, or the minority view, or the religious view, or the government view. But in the pecking order, my conclusions reign supreme at #1.

So, in conclusion, while I do not understand the physiological or biological mandate for same sex union, I do understand the preference and sexual orientation of one human being towards another that he or she likes or loves. That is perfectly fine, and should be fine with the larger society as well, though there will continue to be challenges as we saw in several court cases in the U.S. (recall the case of the bakery owner who refused to serve the same-sex couple). I am sure there will be similar challenges in India.

There should be no rationale to discriminate against the LGBT community members – any such discrimination should be prosecuted as per law in force. They have their own right to privacy and human rights in equal measure. As the Supreme Court of India said in its judgement “Morality cannot be martyred at the altar of social morality. Only constitutional morality exists in our country” – Dipak Misra, Chief Justice of India.

Hence, the only conclusion is to accept the LGBT community members as full-fledged members of the same society that we all live in, and not discriminate against them in any form, and slowly integrate them into the social context with open arms while educating our own family members to pursue an understanding reminiscent of the maturity that the human race has already attained.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

9th September 2018

Child Abuse


I have been influenced by various religious philosophies over the years, but the maximum influence has come about from two – Hinduism and Christianity.

I will not dwell on Hindu Philosophy in this post, and instead focus on the major influence that Christian Philosophy has had on my upbringing.

Like many compatriots from India, I was educated in Jesuit educational institutions in India, which I hold in high regard for the values that they imparted to the students (most of who were not Christians, but Hindus and other religious minorities) and the quality of education that they delivered. My parents, like many other parents, did not send me to “localized” Hindu-focused educational institutions, but rather decided that Jesuit schools were better choices for their academic standing and values that they taught.

This, by no means, demean other excellent localized schools run by various religious denominations in India. There have always been a wide variety of good schools all across India. I am referring to a time line and a place in which it was determined that Christian schools were a better bet.

I am taking time to explain the rationale, as the Hindu ideology is a dominant influence in today’s India, and there are a number of people who would, without deep thinking, jump on to the Hindu bandwagon to the detriment of established institutions belonging to other religious denominations. Such a tendency is detrimental to social development and should not be encouraged by the government of the day.

Given this background, I am pained by the reported abuse of children by Catholic Clergy in Pennsylvania and other places. Such things happen with other religions as well, but the scale of abuse in Pennsylvania wherein thousands of young children were sexually molested by Clergy who were looked upon as saviours is simply shocking. It took a long while for a Cardinal in Australia to be brought to justice recently, and there were significant abuses in Chile, if I recall correctly.

What is also shocking is that the Pope did not proactively condemn these abuses vehemently in the first place. He let the court system to take its due course in Pennsylvania, instead of sacking and excommunicating all Clergymen who were found to be involved in child abuse practices. And, the court was vigorous in its attack on the Church in Pennsylvania, pointedly hitting at the coverups by the Church in all the child abuse scandals, over a period of 70 years!

Catholics apparently are losing their faith in the Papacy and his determination to hold his own folks to account – especially in such a sensitive area as child abuse. The faith had been misplaced it appears!

I just listened to the live CNN broadcast of the Pope’s visit to Ireland, and the Prime Minister of Ireland, Leo Varadkar, referring to the hurt of children who were abused and the families which were broken by the practices of the Clergy in his welcome speech – he is a bold person, other PMs would not have dared to bring up the issue right in front of the Pope seated on the dais. Not only that, Leo Varadkar is openly gay in the majority Catholic nation of Ireland, which also has the distinction of legalizing abortion a few months ago.

Times have changed.

The Catholic Church needs to find its feet and carefully wade through the abuse scandal, and re-establish it credentials with specific actions – not just with words such as “we are sorry for what happened”, and “we feel the guilt” and “we will repent for such abominable sins”.

The irony is that the Church runs lots of schools for young children around the world. Hopefully, there are no more scandals involving young children at a very impressionable age, who will be forced to carry the sexual abuse trauma all through their lives. There is a huge press coverage on the Pennsylvania abuse scandal only if you care to look up on the web. It is sickening, to say the least.

This blog post is not about accusing the Catholic Religion or Church or the Christian Philosophy. The religion is above all such infractions and sins, it maintains its stature like the other religions of the world. My gripe is only about the hugely negative impact that the scandal would have on peoples’ faith, not just the Catholics, but also non-Catholics who have come to depend on the quality of the academics in Christian educational institutions run mostly by Clergymen and more importantly, on the value systems that were always imparted in these fine schools and colleges.

I hope the Church would take cognizance of such serious concerns, and address the same in an open transparent manner to reduce the anxiety of parents. Of course, the Church has to do a lot more to retain Catholics who have been departing the faith, but that is their core job of running the religion and they have to do what they believe is right. As far as I am concerned, I do not depend on any “middlemen or middle ground” for my faith – I am on my own, as I had written in several posts in the past.

Time to heal the victims, and hope the Pope will do his job on this count, and not delay justice in the future – he should not listen to his own Cardinals who could be wrongly advising him not to apologize, or not to take drastic actions. Now is the time to heal, repent and more importantly, take aggressive actions against erring Clergymen who have turned traitors to the faith which brought them up to where they are in the Church hierarchy with huge trust reposed in them by Catholics and parents.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

25th August 2018

Salt Mango Tree


I felt only shame after viewing this Malayalam movie “Salt Mango Tree” on NetFlix along with my wife.

While there are many positive things I can say about my birth country India, there are equally many bad things that exist even today in modern India. I feel very proud when I see global corporate CEOs from India (far outnumbering many other countries), over 100 satellites being placed successfully in orbit by one single rocket launch by the Indian Space Research Organization, the very optimistic young generation in the entire world which India has in abundance, and so on and so forth – it is a rather long list of achievements by India and Indians in a short span of just six decades.

However, the things which went wrong over these same six decades, and which continue to hamper the potential and growth of India still bother me a lot. These should bother all well-wishers of India. What I am referring to here are things like corruption, lack of guaranteed, affordable and accessible education for all, lack of universal healthcare for all citizens, lack of safety and security for women and even for very young girl children, and lack of world-class infrastructure and facilities all across the country including uninterrupted access to electrical power, potable water, proper roads, high speed internet, etc., etc., Though there have been some improvements in the past few years, what India needs cannot be met with incremental enhancements of existing infrastructure. India needs to do what a China has done in the past 30 years of relentless public investment in a non-bureaucratic manner with the sole intention of enhancing the livelihood of its people. Communist China has done a far better job than a democratic India, and I am not going to listen to the democratic nonsense that many armchair philosophers expound on the superiority of democracy. Everything in the corporate world is measured on budgeted outcomes, why not in government and governance?

The movie “Salt Mango Tree” describes one facet of India’s systemic failure in providing quality education for all children. Parents have to run around for getting admissions to prestigeous schools, and are totally stressed out in the process. They have to perform better than their children in school admission interviews. What about children of hawker stalls and poor people? How will they get admission in such schools if the criteria is based on how well the parents perform in interviews? How will they speak in English, let alone come well dressed and well groomed for such nonsensical interviews?

I was seriously embarrassed to see how the movie portrays the anguish of both the parents, who struggle to make a living and save money for their only boy. The movie strongly hints about the so-called “donation” which is nothing but a bribe which parents have to offer to schools. When parents give up on the due process in getting school admissions, they turn towards short cuts such as bribe, and this practice continues throughout the life cycle of their children, embedding and validating the need for systemic corruption. Why would anybody outside the Indian system believe that our quality of education is good and impeccable, on par with the developed countries? Making an incorrect comparison with the IITs and IIMs is wrong, as the folks who get into such schools do so entirely on merit, and they go on to change the greater world in many ways. They are focused on making wealth and very few dedicate their lives to fixing the systemic issues of governance in India (I personally know of only one such classmate).

I am not going to describe the movie here, but the message from the movie cannot be more impactful – to get quality education in India even at the primary level (starting at Kindergarten) today, parents have to prepare well, get trained, perform very well in school admission interviews, and be ready to offer donations. This is not the case in any one of the developed nations of the world. If India wishes to achieve the status of the top 5 countries of the world (not just based on GDP), it has to pay serious attention to education, healthcare, quality of living, public infrastructure, etc., and follow the model of either the Nordic countries or countries like Singapore, where public systems by government trump even the best quality of private systems (which are also available but at a tremendous cost). If India cannot invest at least 5% of its national budget on improving public Education and another 5% on public Healthcare, then the future generations will continue to suffer.

The focus outside India today has turned positive about India after a long dry spell of negative media coverage about the bad things happening in India. I have seen that over the past quarter century (most of which I have spent outside India), and it sometimes used to pain me. I am out of it now and immune to the negative coverage on India. I look for some positive news on India every day. The political news is not encouraging. As I wrote in a recent blog post, my experience in Bangalore traffic in the midst of visiting foreigners was not positive. The “East Asians” detest infrastructure problems as they have long been used to good infrastructure and environment. I make it a point not to bad-mouth India in any manner to them, and I try to keep my views to myself. I tend to talk about the positives and push the envelope for their next visit.

However, as I write here this evening, it pains me again to see that India has not changed in fundamental public services.

Looks like this will be the situation in our life time.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

29th April 2018