Enjoying Public Transport


I am still driving my socialist car as though it were a Porsche or at least like a BMW or Mercedes Benz. There is no harm in that because almost all cars on the road behave in the same way in a traffic-clogged city, irrespective of the specifications of the car – whether high-end sports car or mid-range socialist car, right?

In Singapore, most cars behave in a specific manner, due to very tough law enforcement mechanism and severe punishments meted out in a consistent way. So it does not matter what car you drive.

Of late, I have started using public transport systems which are of high quality in Singapore, as most of you know. Whenever there seems to be high parking charges imposed (especially in the CBD, or Central Business District area), I tend to reconsider my options, weighing convenience against cost effectiveness. Most times, convenience wins hands down, but there are days and occasions when using public transport makes eminent sense. For example, I use public bus to reach my gym on weekdays as the parking is expensive and bus costs less than one-third of the parking cost, whereas during weekends, driving is a better option as the parking cost is similar to the bus cost, and the car allows me to buy a few things and bring back to home. Driving into CBD during weekdays is definitely not a good idea as apart from the exorbitant parking rates, there is an ERP (Electronic Road Pricing) charge to enter the CBD which varies depending on the time of the day.

Recently, I used a combination of bus and MRT subway system, which facilitated reaching the heart of the CBD in less than 40 min at a low cost. Then I started wondering – why do people still want to stick to their cars instead of enjoying the air-conditioned travel comfort in public transport. Apart from the comfort and timeliness, the other thing is the lack of traffic congestion on the MRT except, of course, of the commuters themselves who clog the stations in big numbers right through the day, more so during the peak hours.

One thing that I really enjoyed is watching the commuters and their behaviour without being obtrusive. 90% of the folks were totally fixated on their smartphones, many watching TV serials or videos, others reading news, etc., There was hardly any conversations going on, except amongst school going children and teenagers who mostly giggled about something. I expected at least some love birds, but I hardly saw anyone. This experience told me that Singaporean public transport commuters do not use the “public” opportunity to seek out potential new partners or business associates. They appear to be living a solo life in their own respective glass bubble, with hardly any interaction with other strangers. In fact, I noticed some couples did not even engage in any talk, but once they settled in, almost immediately whipped out their respective smartphones and started doing their own thing.

I noticed that government education on public orderliness has percolated and embedded itself in the psyche of people so much, that they always form a neat queue on either side of the opening doors of the MRT coaches, and try not to get pushed in as happens in Hong Kong or Mumbai.

Well, what I can say is that you save enough money in a five day week to have more than couple of meals if you use public transport as compared to driving and parking your own car. Though I sometimes wish to give up my car for good, the convenience factor nags me – I have to walk only 5 minutes to the bus stop right outside my condo, but have to walk some 12 minutes to the nearest MRT station. I have to wait for the bus, or use the several bus apps to plan the departure from my home to sync with specific bus arrival. And so on, and so forth. I was thinking today that such precise timings and definitions would have hardly mattered in India, for example, but in a developed country, our sensitivity goes up! We become extremely time conscious and want to plan our journey to the very last minute!!

However, in a nutshell, I have started enjoying at least the little bit of public transport that I am using. I wish the bus driver when I board the bus, and mostly the drivers respond with a big smile, as it is very apparent that no commuter bothers about the driver. Drivers of public transport in Singapore are not used to greetings coming from passengers, it appears! Everytime I get into a taxi, I greet the driver with his name as the app shows his name, and almost everytime I get warmth back. For me it is not unusual way of operating, but for the driver it is an unusual experience, a pleasant one to be greeted from out of the blue. Many a time, a suitably warmed up driver is a better alternative as he or she engages in small talk afterward which is a good experience.

So, here I go – for my next ride using public transport, which for me involves a fair bit of sociology reading as well, apart from getting to my destination on time!

Cheers, and have a great week ahead folks,

Vijay Srinivasan

24th February 2019

The Ordinary vs. the Impactful


It is a beautiful morning in Singapore – bright, sunny but not yet hot. The Chinese New Year week is coming to an end – it is the “Year of the Pig”, and hopefully we can look forward to peace and prosperity, much more than wars, conflicts, and poverty. Well that is my wish at least, and I am sure most of the world’s citizens would want a year better than what has gone by.

I was thinking about the folks that we meet in our daily lives, and during networking or social occasions. I am not personally a shy person, I stretch out my hand and shake hands with any stranger that I meet in such situations. But whether you already know the person or he or she is a stranger, it strikes me odd that very few people even attempt to create an impact on you.

What I mean is not the attempt on either side to start a conversation or engage in a meaningful chat (even for a few minutes); it is the effort to positively impact the other person with your ideas or thoughts on how some global issue can be addressed. When I leave a conversation or a meeting, I would want to be “impacted” so that I do not forget the person’s profile/face, the topic, or the impact that person caused on me. Otherwise, I think it is a waste of time for both persons who are getting introduced.

I believe I get only one chance to influence another person. I have experienced the fact (as far as it concerns me) that if I fail in that endeavour, I do not get another chance even if I get to meet the same person again. I am sure you have come across such situations. This shows that people make up their minds about you in few seconds, rather too quick for comfort, but that is the way it is………you get only one opportunity to create a positive impression on the other person and you better not lose that opportunity.

Many a time I have met slackers who either do not have anything to say, or focus on someone else while chatting with you. Both actions are not going to go down well with me (I am sure it is the same with almost everyone else), as here I am trying to make a conversation and create an impact of my own on the “slacker”, irrespective of his pedigree or status, genuinely assuming that there is something that can be gained from each and every meeting, but the slacker couldn’t care less. Looking at what other folks are doing during an intimate conversation is stupid, to say the least. That is actually an insult, a lack of respect towards the other person (here it is me!) who is working hard to keep matters in focus and generate an influence. Gradually, I have learnt to identify slackers and either avoid conversations or just move on to someone else that I know with a greeting that would slice off my time with the slacker in an unobtrusive manner.

Then you encounter the silent spectators who are usually difficult to penetrate – these are the folks who observe everything, grasp most of what is going on, keep their thoughts to themselves, and open up only to others who know them very well. It could be a challenge to get introduced to them, so I use a mediator (a common friend) – I just ask this mediator who is this silent spectator, what does he do, can he make an introduction for me, et al. I am always surprised that these silent spectators turn out to be the most incisive, impactful people that I have met. Not the garrulous, back-slapping folks working their way through the crowd, trying to please everyone around.

I would divide the people that I meet into several buckets: the ordinary people (more than 60% fall into this category) who are mostly good guys or girls who carry on with their lives in the usual way, not feeling the urge to generate an influence or impact on other people that they meet: they just greet, talk some shop, and then move on. They do not make an attempt to find out more about the others that they meet. They probably do not want a job! Or, they are not interested to build new network of new friends. I cannot figure out their general disinterest even on matters which affect all of us. They don’t even want to talk about President Trump! They probably do not wish to take a stand on any matter.

The slackers are the folks that you do not wish to engage because of a variety of factors – basically they are not trustable, generally they are boasters, they do not have respect, their attention spans are very low. We gain nothing out of any interactions with slackers. Again, these folks show very little interest in you or on global matters that should be of concern to all of us. They are not well-read, they just tend to slack off and probably drink through the evening instead of seriously networking with anyone they come across. Slackers constitute probably 20% of the people that you would meet.

Then comes the silent spectators – you should pay attention to these people. They carry a lot of stuff in their heads and generally they have a much better grasp of worldly affairs and even your own network of friends. It takes time to break through to such folks however. May be couple of meetings with your strong pitch on your own credibility and then you are on your way to a long-lasting friendship. Mind you, they are difficult people with their own views on every matter under the sun, and sometimes they do not take kindly towards conflicting opinions. Silent spectators probably constitute less than 5 to 10% of the people sample that you would come across.

Then, finally there are people who wish to talk a lot and contribute to every topic that is being discussed. One can gain a lot by listening to such people – they come through not as garrulous interventionists but as engaging thought leaders who peddle their views in a non-aggressive manner to anyone they meet. They believe that every meeting, even a chance meeting, should be converted into a productive engagement – it does not matter who benefits; otherwise there is no purpose in any meeting. It might sound a bit harsh, but I know a number of folks who fall into this category – I would designate them as thought contributors, for the lack of a better terminology. They take a principled stand on every topic that they raise or respond to, and are not afraid of potential backlash demonstrating a sincerity which is unusual. I respect these contributors as it is a huge learning opportunity to talk to them. Of course, these people expect you to respond, so we need to have some material in our heads to engage and continue the conversation in a meaningful manner, otherwise they will lose interest and move on. They constitute probably less than 10% of the people sample that you would run into, but combined with silent spectators, they are the most impactful people that could seriously impact your world views. So, where would you choose to put your emphasis on? Most people you run into are ordinary people with no vision or even a mission statement that they wish to propagate in any people-to-people engagement. They do not have a plan. Obviously, I would not want to spend more than the time needed for greetings or courtesies, with these people. I would like to focus on the Silent Spectators and Thought Contributors, both of who could add value to me for my own improvement. Likewise, I would like to be a thought contributor in every engagement – I am not a silent spectator as almost everyone who knows me can attest to!

Well, I thought I would pen my ideas on this interesting topic this morning, and I am just completing this post – it has taken about 45 minutes or so. Some new thoughts finally!

Have a wonderful weekend folks, and contribute some new ideas!!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

09 February 2019

Listen to Your Silence


Today is the last day of 2018.

As we bid goodbye to a “mixed fortune” and rather troublesome year in more ways than one, I thought it would be best for me to take a couple of hours off from my schedule and write about something that has been brewing up there in my brain for the past couple of days.

This year I have chosen not to attend any New Year parties (or even Christmas parties) for personal reasons. While the option of more intellectual and social networking with friends and colleagues is rather enticing, sometimes I hit a roadblock and would rather not feign a celebratory feeling and communicate the same to others who might be truly celebrating. Not that I don’t wish to celebrate, but there is nothing (unlike in the past several years) this year that kind of pushes me to let my guard down and dance around. [Disclaimer: I do not really dance, that is a figurative phrase! My songs of the bathroom variety are more well known within my house and my family members do not appreciate my music sense and eloquence in renditioning songs which I myself put together from various languages!!].

Today, I wanted to focus on the topic of “listening to my silence”.

What happens if I position myself in a sphere of silence, forcing myself to think about silence itself as a matter of virtue?

As I look outside towards the clouds and then beneath it the large body of water, a sense of tranquillity sweeps over me (it helps that there is now no one sitting next to me as I write this post!) – a sense of calmness, of intense composure, a waveless mind – not even a drop of the pin or of a drop of water would dare destroy that sense of calm. There is no one else in this journey as I fly through the clouds and apparently even swim through the calm waters. What am I thinking here?

I am thinking my thoughts all alone in a deep silence – I am experiencing the “power of silence” so to say. I am not trying to reach out to any other soul, I am not seeing the TV, I am not even feeling my own fingers typing out these words as I am still looking at the clouds and their magnanimity. When you are alone with your own thoughts (on whatever be the matter), then there is a high probability that you will feel the “power of silence”.

This is what I try to practice on those rare occasions when I choose to go to a Hindu Temple (may be thrice a year or so). A temple, or a church, or a mosque, or a synagogue is a solemn place wherein you should try to keep your mind still [I have been to all these other places of worship as well]. There should be utter calmness of your mind, with no extraneous thoughts of any type. Surely not the ones from the illicit WhatsApp messages that have streamed into your phone that very same day. When you succeed to keep your mind still, you will experience silence, and then you will experience an insight. What is this insight?

Insight is your view of the universe when everything stands still, including yourself and your mind. When your mind and body are totally still, you will see what you cannot otherwise see or feel. This is no magic, this is simple and total commitment to silence which should take you towards an undiscovered journey during which you will experience rare insights about the universe, and then in that process, about your own self.

You do not need to offer prayers or perform rituals to achieve silence of the mind and the body. You do not need the sage advice of gurus or “god middlemen” to connect your being with the unknown. The man himself achieves the discovery on his own effort by stilling his mind towards total silence and insight. And, the temple / church / mosque provides just a venue for this purpose. It is not necessary to go to any such place for that matter. My own home balcony with the view of the cloud and the water body is just good enough and more productive for me as there are no extraneous disturbances of any kind whatsoever.

What is happening now? You are becoming more aware of yourself – in other words, instead of an ordinary existential being, you are becoming “self-aware” – not many people you have met in your life are “self-aware”. An awareness of self can be achieved by meditation or by silence which is similar – the power of such silence could be intimidating as you are actually embarking on an unknown journey to discover yourself, and you might not know yet what you are going to discover. An ability to dissect and completely analyze yourself arises only during a complete silence or meditation process. You may not like what you see in yourself, but then you become totally “self-aware”.

Is this making sense? If not, I can elaborate. I have often embarked on these silent trips, especially on occasions when I am forced to solve a personal problem. However, nowadays, I tend to do this silence journey more often for its revealing discoveries and benefits. Some of you might have tried it as I know that several friends of mine are meditation experts. However, to follow what I am explaining as above requires no expertise of any kind – it only requires focus and commitment, and a strong urge not to be disturbed by the usual human disturbances.

What are indeed the benefits of following this “silence regimen”?

Apart from self-discovery and self-awareness, you also achieve peace of mind and an ability to deal with issues and problems in a calmer manner. After all, everyone needs peace, isn’t it? The world lacks it, countries lack it, political leaders lack it and most people lack it. If you are able to achieve peace on your own, with your own self, isn’t it simply wonderful? Think about it for a minute in silence!

Remember, when you hit silence, you learn about your true self. You see truth in yourself. You do not see any more deceit. You replace any deceit with complete truth. You see your true purpose in life.

This is what this world lacks. It lacked it in 2018. I hope that 2019 will be vastly better. It is not simply a hope or a prayer. It is my expectation that I witnessed when I went totally silent – still and numb in the mind. Even my body became stiffer. After some time, you will feel relaxed. Try it!

All the very best for a successful and prosperous 2019 folks!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

31st December 2018

SINGAPORE

 

 

 

 

2018: What a Year can do to You?


In our apparently long journey of life, a year is a long time! Yes, one year indeed is longish, if only you choose to savour and enjoy every day of it. If the year is full of nonsense and frustrations both in personal life and global affairs, then you would rather expect the year to finish quickly and go away!

Of course, you can interpret any year in exactly the opposite way as well. Good years seem to fly away in a flash, and bad years seem to prolong.

Going by my first interpretation, you would like a good year to prolong wherein you can enjoy every moment of it to the fullest possible extent. Like all of us, I have had the good fortune of experiencing and going through several such years.

But what about 2018?

What do you think my answer is going to be? Take an informed guess. Answers will be different from different folks, to be sure. That applies to anything in life. The value and importance of what exactly one individual feels and experiences show that humans are different with varying perspectives on life.

For me, 2018 turned out to be not so great in terms of several dimensions, while it did produce its good moments as well. My views are coloured by external matters mostly, as I am a global affairs analyst and a consistent weekly blogger on a range of topics.

In my analysis of 2018, I felt that global citizens were impacted by happenings which they did not control or even anticipate. Unfortunately, large countries with big economies such as the U.S., the U.K., China, India, Saudi Arabia, Russia, France and Germany, dictate world affairs and how things shape up. Their actions impact this entire planet, and their lack of action where it is urgently needed could be even more devastating.

On the personal side of life, I wouldn’t put the blame on any specific year, as things which happen to our lives are, at least, partially controlled by us. Well, there is always the “luck” factor in life, but I discount that aspect. I also do not believe that people who ask for material favours from their respective gods, get those wishes granted or lead a better life. Similarly, thanking your god for a windfall in your life is also not an appropriate gesture. Humans should realize that their lives are just a temporary speck in the millennia of the universe. If they work hard, and get rewards due to their work, it is simply the result of their positive efforts. The best way to “visit” a god is to enter the temple without any desire or asks or thanks. You are just recognizing that there is a place available for you to keep your mind pure without any desires clouding your mind. That’s it and if you train your mind accordingly, you will experience peace. Removing the “self” is the most challenging thought one could have. You do not have to go to the extreme extent of renouncing all material possessions and desires, like what Buddha did!

So, if you take the personal and global impact of 2018 together, and apply an analysis for your own good, I will be surprised if more than half of the global citizens said that it is indeed a great year. Lots of institutional damages have happened to democratic frameworks. Lots of ordinary citizens are dead in unnecessary wars. Our own personal data has been stolen by state and non-state actors. I can list a thousand things, and you might not even know certain bad things happened. Why? Because generally humans are selfish and rather content with their immediate lives and neighbourhood. What happens a few thousand KMs away is generally not of immediate concern to most ordinary folks.

I only hope that 2019 will be a better year for the world. Going by the government shutdown in the U.S., the China-U.S. trade war, the Brexit chaos expected in the U.K. with its inevitable spillovers into most of Europe, the Venezualan exonomic crisis, the Syrian war, the killings of ordinary civilians in Yemen, et al, it may not appear so! However, humans revolve around hope. We all “hope” things will get better – but not before they get worse first???

Don’t know yet. I am not having my crystal ball with me right now (!). While just hope will never do the trick, we have to believe in human ingenuity and fairness.

Cheers to my audience, Have a Wonderful year-end, and a Great New Year in 2019!

From Singapore with Love,

Vijay Srinivasan

29th December 2018

Secular Experience Indonesia


I am currently on a family vacation in Yogyakarta (also called as Jogjakarta) in Central Java region of Indonesia. As my readers should be aware, Indonesia is a secular country though most of its citizens are Muslims; as a tourist guide put it to us, it is a moderate Islamic country with acceptance of other religions and full respect for those people who follow other religions. This is the result of a very long and rich history of tolerance, and also the fact that Indonesia was strongly influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism before it eventually adopted Islam. I am not a historian, neither am I a religious studies specialist, and I am writing all this based on my understanding and interactions with people who I meet when I travel.

This means that most Indonesians were Hindus and then Buddhists before they became Muslims. That explains their moderate views on religion, though most are practicing Muslims. Christianity has also has had some influence on Indonesians. Most Indonesians are soft-spoken and polite, with a deference to almost everyone and especially to foreigners.

At one point in time, Yogyakarta was the capital of Indonesia, and there is even a Presidential Palace here – we passed by it on our way to see the Royal Kraton Palace, or the Sultan’s abode. There is not much industrial activity in Yogyakarta, the economy seems to be centred around tourism and other service industries.

There are two key temple zones around Yogyakarta – one is the Prambanan Temple which is a very large Hindu temple, with individual temples dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. There are hundreds of other smaller temples in the Prambanan temple zone. It was damaged considerably during a big earthquake which occurred in 2006, with its epicentre at Yogyakarta. The main temple has been restored with significant effort after the earthquake. The architectural design of the temple complex has obviously been influenced heavily by Indian Hindu temple construction, but the ingenuity of Prambanan construction comes due to the interlocking stones which prevents them from sliding down in case of any disturbances. The stones were gathered from the rivers which carried volcanic ash from the nearby volcanoes. During the restoration, concrete has been poured to solidify the structure. Amazing indeed.

Some pictures from the Prambanan temple as below:

We also visited the world famous Borobudur Buddhist Temple. At both temples (Prambanan and Borobudur), there were hundreds of school children streaming in, because December has school holidays in Indonesia. There were not many foreigners, my guide told me that most Europeans visit in July and August, and further November to March is a rainy period. Luckily we were spared from the rains so far when we visited the two temples, though it drizzled this morning quite heavily for a short while.

Borobudur is all about Buddha. I have always been impressed about Buddhist philosophy, though I may not agree with Siddhartha for abandoning his wife Maya and their only child, when Siddhartha left his family to get into meditation. Though Buddhism has many variants itself, the ideas pertaining to samsara, karma and nirvana are easily articulated and understood. Some of the ideas are in the pictures below:

Pictures from Borobudur Temple as below:

Overall, the visit to these two temples has been enlightening and revealing: the historic influence of India on Indonesia and several other countries such as Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, etc., in South East Asia cannot be underestimated.

More coverage on my Indonesian vacation will follow, in the meanwhile, enjoy your weekend folks.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

15th December 2018

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

Networking Neurons


As we grow older, we tend to keep our wisdom to ourselves nowadays, unlike our predecessors who pushed us when we were young or even middle-aged with their pearls of advice and wisdom from their own lives.

As the modern age progresses super fast in the 21st Century, our post-50 generation is losing its relevance rapidly as we are bothered that we might be out of touch with modern realities of life on the planet. Our children sometimes communicate that sense to us when they think that our ideas are old-fashioned or our words of wisdom are totally out of place. That is not surprising, as our children are obviously much closer to experiencing the reality of the lives of their generation with their classmates, friends and colleagues.

However, I certainly believe that there is a lot of factual advice that can be gleaned from our lives and our minds, as we are not exactly “old generation”. We form the link from the 1950s/1960s to the 21st Century, and have experienced the marvels of technology and what it feels to be in a digital world. Our lifestyles have modernized and changed for the better.

Yes, we do not wish to nag our children and their friends with unsolicited advice for sure. I am sure they will find their own way, while “at least” looking at how we have built our lives and currently living our dreams.

This thought process leads me to an existential question: if we are not talking that much within our households about the lessons of life, and focusing more on the mundane things of day-to-day life, then how does our brain build up to the next level of complex thinking? If sophisticated and analytical thinking goes out from our daily life, then what happens to our brains? If our brain is not able to provide a consulting service to even the folks around us, do you think we can sell its capability to external parties easily?

The potential decay in brain power can only be arrested if you network with a variety of people outside your usual circuit. My job affords me that capacity in which I meet at least 5 to 10 strangers every week. The development of your brain to be in a position to network with strangers and extract their mental capacity into your own thought process is strategic to your existence. We should never let our brain to fend for itself – we are no longer in an individualistic society of the 20th or 19th/18th/17th centuries when an individually capable scientist or philosopher conceptualized a discovery on his/her own. Things have changed a lot over the past 6 decades or so – now teamwork leads to bigger and better discoveries or theories.

So, in a nutshell, my theory here (!) is that the neurons in our brains need to keep growing. And, at a fast rate. The neurons cannot just grow if you just read or write (like this blog!!!). You need to get out and meet strangers who are more likely to infuse the neuron growth that you want.

That now brings me to the essence of networking fundamentals. Most of us are shy when we walk into a room full of mostly unknown people (this happens to me a lot), or attend a big conference. We mostly tend to ourselves, keep looking at our big smartphone, acting busy, et al……….we generally refuse to voluntarily connect with someone we don’t know.

Imagine you walk into a group and introduce yourself to a group of, let us say, 3 people chatting with each other. You can see a hint of surprise, but quickly they smile, shake hands, and become willing to exchange business cards. Once you introduce yourself and what you do, they sound more interested. May be a potential business meeting could come out of it in the near future – it has happened to me many a time.

I cannot emphasize more the critical importance of networking to your business and more importantly, the development of neurons in your brain!

Sounds fascinating?

Network more and keep a diary of who you met on your calendar. Try to recall the faces of the persons you met after a week. Try to think of the meeting or conference or lunch you attended. Try to think of the topic you discussed with a particular person.

You will see quickly that this “brain food” of networking works, and you can train your brain to flourish on it. Daily nurturing is needed for the brain. It is like going to the “brain gym”, so to say!

As our brain cells in the hippocampus areas start to “network” and constantly form “associations” with things and people, you will discover you not only recall peoples’ faces but also their names and the places where you met them. You will be able to recall the name of the restaurant wherein a dinner party was hosted by a business partner, and who all attended from either side of the table. And so on, and so forth.

So, if your wisdom cannot be articulated in a family environment, so be it. Unleash your brain’s networking neurons on strangers that you meet. They will be impacted positively, and so will you be.

Try it today!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

14th October 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

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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

 

Stunning Infrastructure


I was in Shanghai earlier this week. I was visiting Shanghai after several years (I had been going to Beijing more often).

The Pudong Airport was big and clean, and the immigration and customs processing was fast, though they follow the Indian procedure of scanning every bag of every passenger which takes some time as compared to Singapore or even Kuala Lumpur. The other similarity with Indian airports was that there was a long line of placards held by hotel drivers to receive the arriving passengers, and this exists only in pockets at Singapore Changi Airport (and most other global airports).

I picked up some coffee at the Airport Starbucks upon clearing customs, and was surprised to note that the “baristas” at Starbucks understood my English and also had my choice of flat white coffee. As I knew already, China is the second biggest market for Starbucks worldwide, and one can see countless Starbucks outlets all over Beijing for instance.

I was a bit confused as I stepped out and looked for exiting the airport. Of course, my benchmark of Singapore does not always do good at most other airports, as the differences aimed at passenger convenience are often glaring.

The previous times I had taken a taxi from the Pudong International Airport. This time around, however, I decided to take the Maglev high speed train, though I had to anyway take a taxi to the hotel from the destination.

Though the Maglev has been running for more than 15 years, it is still a tourist sensation with a top speed of 430 KMPH. It makes the journey from the airport to its destination (Longyong Road) in just 8 minutes over a distance of 30 KMs. However, when I travelled, the Maglev train reached a maximum of 301 KMPH as displayed on the LED display in every carriage. I could not “feel” the speed but could see that fields and trees were whizzing by. There was no shake or any kind of inconvenience to passengers. It was very smooth, and before I realized, the train had arrived at its destination.

Taxi drivers in China generally do not communicate in English, and I am sure they do not understand spoken English. I always download the Chinese characters for my destination hotel (for example) and show it to the driver – I had to do this anyway at the Longyong Road taxi stand as there was no sign for special areas designated for picking up passengers by call taxis. In China, I use the DIDI app (Uber sold their rights to DIDI), which is as good as any with quick service, reasonable rates, and a unique facility of communicating with driver using English language messaging which will be read in Chinese by the driver (and his reply though keyed in Chinese will come to my app in English).

While inability to communicate to any taxi driver is surely an inconvenience, I would not place much emphasis on it as the DIDI app is wonderful and has worked for me effectively every time I had used it. The e-invoices are mailed to my email account, and there is an option to add tips to the driver if you are happy with his service.

Coming to the road traffic, I am happier comparing it to Indian cities or Bangkok, or Kuala Lumpur. While Shanghai roads are good with expressways dotting the city, the traffic is really bad at peak times, and as congested as you might have experienced in Bangalore or Mumbai or Bangkok. There are simply a huge number of vehicles plying the roads, and it is apparent that people have not been weaned away from cars though the subway system is superbly constructed and convenient to use. Since it takes significant time to travel by road from one part of the city to the other, or to the airport, or to the main railway station (Hongqiao Railway Station), one needs to plan the route and add extra 15 to 30 minutes to the journey time. After seeing the impact of traffic and witnessing some road accident on an expressway, I came to the conclusion that this is not something that can be fixed quickly in such a huge and densely packed city like Shanghai. The only solution is to use the subway.

I liked the Pudong area and wandered around near the main riverside area. There were thousands of tourists and city dwellers taking a stroll, and it did not appear to be a so-called “controlled” city of China, I could feel that it was more like Mumbai’s cosmopolitan culture with emphasis on networking, socializing, partying, dining, enjoying what the city gives, and of course, making business deals.

I saw the beautiful Fairmont Peace Hotel on the Bund, which is an iconic landmark in Shanghai (though I could not afford staying at this 80 years old hotel which has been wonderfully maintained). I walked through the hotel, and I should simply say I was astounded.

Finally, on the railway station infrastructure of China and specifically the one I saw in Shanghai, the Hongqiao Railway Station, I thought that China has perfected the art and science of building infrastructure for its 1.4B people from concept to execution times which are simply unbelievable. I came to the quick (and bad) conclusion that India will never be able to catch up with China on infrastructure – and I believe that even most Western countries won’t be able to catch up with China. It is amazing to witness what has been accomplished just in the past two decades (of course, money was never a problem for China, and manpower came in cheap as well). India specifically is very far behind, and the Indian Government should make it mandatory for Indian Ministers and top bureaucrats to attend China’s world-leading university programs on planning and execution. They just have to take a walk along any railway platform or walk outside the platform areas in the Hongqiao Station which is so spaced out with ability to accommodate thousands of travellers at any time. They even run a free mini-bus service from one end of the station to the other end – probably a little over a KM.

Even the processing of passengers is super efficient. If you have the ticket, you proceed to security check (yes they have like in airports!), or else you show the printout along with identification to collect the ticket. Then you just proceed to the respective gate, which opens only 15 minutes before the train departure time (they maintain accurate departure and arrival times, and all trains run like clockwork). Passengers are disciplined and queue up in front of the respective carriages (marked on the floor of the platform – no need to ask anyone), they get in upon arrival of the train, and within a few minutes the train departs. If you are late, sorry.

Simply amazing infrastructure with money very well spent – and which is being used by millions of people in an efficient manner. For people who want to travel by train in China, please note that First Class is actually one notch below Business Class. I did not know this till I saw the difference. Business Class section is separate, and it has only few seats (like, less than 10 in the train I took). First Class is like a good and well spaced out Premium Economy Class! I did not see the real Economy Class on the train. For a 200 KM high speed train (which ran at 260 KMPH), I was charged SGD 23 which I thought was quite reasonable.

So, am I embarrassed? No, but China’s achievements cannot be pushed under the carpet stating simply that they are a Communist country with hardly any democratic decision making. I simply do not agree with the foolish arguments from many Indians that India operates under different conditions so lack of achievements is totally justifiable. Another day, another blog post for us to thoroughly argue out on this fascinating topic!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

12th May 2018