Your Religion should not define “You”


When we meet someone for the first time, we do not want to be influenced by an overt display of religion on that person. We would like that person to come through on his own terms, on his own values, on his own approach towards the meeting, and on his own persona. We do not wish to be influenced either by the name of that person, his title at his employer, or his wealth. Neither do we wish to be influenced by that person’s religion.

Ofcourse, this is just a wishlist (!). Mostly we will be influenced, for sure. The most impact comes from a public display of religious symbols, dress or even demeanour.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, notwithstanding any positive or negative opinions or feelings that these might cause in the mind of the onlookers. It is perfectly fine to wear what you want and display what you want to display in a free society.

But that is not my point.

While it is the right of people to do what they want to do, so is the right of other people to form opinions which they cannot be forced to disclose. Perceptions matter in this world, as I can share from my worldly experiences. As I assess a new person that I meet, I invariably tend to formulate a composite picture of him or her in my mind, and try later to independently obtain feedback to validate or invalidate my perceptions.

Is this a wrong approach? Not at all. In fact, there is no other way. The alternative is to let myself be pre-disposed to positive or negative feedback on that person even before I actually meet him or her. I generally try to avoid such a pre-disposition, as it is not fair to the person. I have to formulate my own opinion on my own instead of letting myself to be influenced by someone else, who knows the person I am going to meet.

The simple point in this analysis is the simple derivation that I always subscribe to: you do not wish to be assessed by what you wear or what you profess to be your religion. Your religious beliefs should not impact the conversation that you are going to have with a new person. It works both ways.

I strongly believe that your religion should not define or enslave you, atleast when it comes to your public persona. You can of course challenge the unpalatable definition of yourself when it is accompanied by visible religious portrayal. However, if that is the case, then you need to project that the conversation, or a business proposal, or a specific action that is the outcome of the meeting is not dependent on the other party’s acknowledgement of your religious principles.

After all, every person has his own religion, or sometimes no religion to wear on his shoulders. All parties have to be clear that there could never be any kind of special treatment for any religion. There is also no special treatment to be accorded as a result of religious displays, nothing special can be expected.

In a nutshell, a person is defined by what others perceive based on how that person behaves, speaks and interacts. Since we can assume nothing, it would be better not to expect special treatment of any kind, apart from the usual respect that needs to be accorded.

People who have followed my blog know that I am neutral on religion, and consistently refuse to be influenced by religious practices. I have argued in several posts that I am on my own with my own thoughts and independence. I have my views and never leverage those views to cause harm to anyone or any institution.

I do not want to be defined by my own religion. I am born as a Hindu, but that does not mean that I would let just Hinduism define me. It is fine to be influenced positively by religion – as I had written recently, I have subscribed to both Hinduism and Christianity, though I disagree with a number of their tenets. I think for myself and I define myself. I try to directly influence every conversation that I have, either with a known friend or a newcomer to my circuit. Many foreigners that I meet up with do not even know that I am a Hindu as I do not discuss religion beyond my blog!

All in all, I do not want to influence anyone or win favours based on my religion or its purported superiority. I do not seek friendship based on association with a religion. I do not portray religious symbols on me and I avoid wearing traditional garb which might give away my religious inclination.

I am not suggesting that everyone follow what I am doing. I want my audience to know that neutrality in religious matters, especially in the context of our fractious world, is better appreciated by strangers. It lets us focus on the business matters on the table. It provides a positive, neutral environment. It allows growth of non-prejudiced partnerships and ecosystem.

That’s all. I am not against any religion or religious fervour, bit I am not going to judge an individual based on it. I create my own mental picture and assess for myself, removing aspects that would corrupt my perception.

I think it is only fair for everyone involved.

Have a great week ahead folks.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

31st March 2019

Wrong Expectations


This post might get me into trouble, I guess!

As my readers know well, I am a “liberal” in mindset, outlook and approach, but sometimes I have taken sides with conservatives when I feel the rational logic resides with them on a specific topic, though it has not been often. Everyone has a right to their own view, and everyone has a right to not support others’ views irrespective of the popularity or otherwise of such views.

I believe that liberal views promote an equitable society with a good balance, in general. However, I have always taken cognizance of the fact that conservatives have a certain hold on the richer, more well-to-do sections of the society which oftentimes get not only a seat at the table, but also get to make the rules of conformance in society. It is very true in a generally traditional, conservative and religious society.

Notwithstanding all the segmentation and fragmentation of societies the world over, there is one principle that I will never compromise on and that is, give equal opportunity to both sides (and to a third side, if that position exists!) so that arguments and counter-arguments can be heard and understood well. It is upto any individual to make his/her own conclusion, and it is also his or her prerogative to voice or not voice the same, in other words, you cannot force anyone publicly on a vote of conscience. This means tolerance and acceptance of contrarian views, though you may not agree with those views which could be anathema to your views. Tolerance and acceptance are not the same as acquiescence and agreement!

So, I read with interest the news coverage on U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s wife going back to work for a strict evangelical Catholic school in Virginia. I warned you, my readers, that this could get rather sensitive! Some mainstream newsmedia covered her decision to rejoin the school and teach there, due to the avowed principles of the school against the LGBTQ section of the society and its non-admittance rules against any member of that group. The school further states that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and so on and so forth.

Without going further into the individual person’s choice to be associated with such a school, notwithstanding the fact that she is the Second Lady of the U.S. Government as the wife of the Vice President, it is not up to any one else to pass judgement on her action or behaviour – simply because she has the individual right to do so and the freedom to follow her heart. There is no official government endorsement or support for her action.

Mike Pence condemned the attack on his wife’s decision to serve in the school and also the attack on “Christian education”. I am not sure what he meant and which media really attacked, but as a beneficiary of Christian education right from Kindergarten to High School, I can only say that without the dedication of Christian education system, many of us in India would not have succeeded in life, despite most of us belonging to the Hindu religion.

Coming back to this Virginia school, I totally and unequivocally disagree with their principles, but they exist in a free society and they have teachers and students enrolled. So, there is a section of society in the U.S. which agrees with those severe and incompatible restrictions, and endorses such a system of education. I can tell you however, that there is no such Christian school ever that existed in India!

Coming back to Mrs Pence’s decision, I respect her choice – both Mr and Mrs Pence are openly espousing the cause and rationale of Christian Evangelism, and there is nothing wrong with their position. They have an inalienable, constitutionally protected right to do so. We have to give equal importance to such positions which are not hidden from sight and are openly stated and defended. In this moralistic or religious clash, no one can claim to be right or wrong. Both sides could even be right!

My personal position, as I stated earlier in this post, is that I am not taking sides with any one philosophy, I am a liberalist with my own views on almost everything under the Sun, and I will not endorse any position if that is not compatible with rational logic. I am not a political person, neither am I a deeply religious person. I am not a Christian but appreciate the service that the Christian school system rendered for me. I try to learn about and appreciate other religions as a philosophical curiosity venture than anything else. I have more and enough blog posts on my blog site to justify what I am stating above!

In a nutshell, let us not have wrong expectations of people, however exalted or powerful they may be. It is not necessary to agree with their stated positions on any matter. We should have our own thoughts about anything which impacts global affairs. I thought that this purported attack by “media” organizations on Christian Evangelism and School system was something of relevance to dissect and understand. If such an attack has happened, that is also despicable because not all systems and people will toe a Supreme Court judgement – they make their own judgements which, if not illegal, should be tolerated in a free society. In effect, tolerance should work both ways, if you know what I mean. It cannot be unidirectional in terms of complete support to the affected part of society – what about taking a non-supportive, yet tolerant view of the incontrovertible fact that there are people who exist who espouse a totally contrarian view which they think is their right to believe in, espouse and endorse – publicly or privately. The response should not be violence, we have seen that such an unacceptable behaviour happens even in the U.S., and so often in third-world countries (I am deliberately not using the politically correct terminology of “developing countries” here!).

Have a great weekend, and more to come from me during the next day or so,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

19th January 2019

Where do you go from here?


You have reached a certain status in society after many years of hard work. People in your circle (your office, your industry and living location) generally know you as a person of certain level and standard, a certain benchmark that you have established for yourself. You are generally held in high esteem with a significant likelihood of being liked, or in the worst case, a person who is competent but difficult to work with due to your idiosyncrasies.

You now take a breather. Where do you go from here? Where do you see yourself a decade from now? Do you agree with the perceptions that people carry about you and your behaviour?

I was thinking about this subject matter today (a Sunday), before things get busy by tomorrow, the beginning of yet another new week in corporate life. Analyzing oneself is a tough thing to do, that’s why self-evaluation in performance management is a challenge to be tackled by each and every one, wherein you are forced to be honest with yourself. Strengths are easy to grasp and list out, whereas weaknesses deal a blow to your self esteem. It is a real difficult task to list and describe in some detail your weaknesses, following which you have to detail out an improvement plan designed to address and correct those weaknesses.

A complete and comprehensive self-analysis will lead one to figure out how to get ahead in the journey of life from where he or she finds himself / herself, towards a certain new destination. The GPS or Compass which is needed to guide oneself towards such a new destination is built in for all people, but typically we depend on external guidance.

External guidance is questionable, unless provided by a well trusted mentor. I believe that we should know how to get to a certain place when we possess the necessary competencies and the will to do so. In my own case, I have always depended on my own judgement to carry out the next step in my own life. I have taken some guidance in certain difficult transitions – like the one I did from India back to Singapore for my second stint (which I am on currently). I have never attached a permanency to my positions in life, as I have had several discontinuous disruptions along the way which have made me tougher in terms of my perspective on life. Once you consider that your life is always on a transition mode (I am not referring just to physical location changes), then that prepares you to accept changes of any type. You become sort of, immune to changes – whether for the better or worse.

A kind of hard discussion, right?

It always is when it comes to getting deep into where you are headed in life. Ultimately, you need to find a certain higher purpose in life. Not just the routine type of life which gets you out of bed on all weekdays rushing towards the same business challenges. What is indeed the purpose of one’s own life? This is a big puzzle for me. Why are we here on earth if as humans, we are destined for something bigger than the ordinary humdrum of a simple livelihood?

In a nutshell, I decode for myself that I should be destined for something more purposeful in life than the simplistic stuff that my current life is made up of – not that it is meaningless, but the “purpose” should be of a higher order calling. Does it mean we all should aim for becoming Buddhas? No, not really. May be there is some meaning in life that we have not discovered for ourselves.

I am spending some time today on this topic, but I have not reached my destination! My thought process is still volatile, and as the evening rolls on, my thoughts are declining without the facility to obtain a nice glass of wine. I hope my readers think too on this important topic of self-analysis and higher purpose in their lives.

Have a great week ahead, folks!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

13th January 2019

Singapore

The India Puzzle


April 2019 is fast approaching……..

India will complete 5 years of BJP Government rule in the next 3 months, under the stewardship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

While the jury is still out on whether the BJP Government delivered on its promises to the electorate (made in 2014), one thing is absolutely crystal clear: the image of India as a nation state has completely transformed in the eyes of the world.

I may or may not agree with policy decisions or actions/inactions of the Government. Every government has its own party driving its policies and actions. Every government has its own compulsions as well as prerogotives. Every government tries to do its best, yet falters occasionally. It could be because of ideological differences or internal squabbles. It happens in every government and every political party.

I am not here to condone any negative fallouts, of course. I believe that Mr Modi could have done better by not keeping his silence during occurrence of violent riots against minority communities. He is the PM for all citizens of India, not just for the Hindus. I agree that Mr Modi is a dynamic, energetic, passionate and committed leader, but in order to be a true world statesman, he needs to step beyond his own party shoes and demonstrate that he is a farsighted and noble leader of all Indian citizens. Some of his principles, such as digital banking for the unbanked millions, are truly world-class. In many ways, he is transforming India.

However, taking a nation as diverse as India on a journey of transformation, requires phenomenal drive towards inclusivity. Of course, we all agree that the Congress Party’s philosophy of dividing India based on minority vote banks is not ethical and is no longer tenable. Minority votes should never be leveraged to short change the majority’s interests.

This does not, however, mean that BJP can just pull along India simply based on their allegiance towards the majority Hindus. As I mentioned before, India is the most diverse nation on earth, and that diversity also comes from its majority – the Hindus are a diverse lot and they cannot be taken for granted. For example, I have my own liberal mindset, and cannot be compelled to follow a single Hindu philosophy or a guru who will guide me to enlightenment. I think for myself, and I believe that is not only my own strength and contribution to the overall society, it is also the way most educated Hindus think.

What does this mean?

It only means one thing: no political party can take the Hindu vote bank for granted. There is no such thing as a “Hindu vote bank”, which will only vote for the BJP, because it is a Hindu party.

Time and again, the Indian electorate, whether rural or urban, has proved that it cannot be taken for granted, and it has a mind of its own, in the true sense of democracy. And, let us not forget, India remains as the single largest functioning democracy in the world, and that is not going to be challenged anytime soon. It will make its own collective choices again in April 2019.

The key is the messaging. I think the Congress Party, much in disarray over the past 4 years, has finally found its mojo, and is gearing up to give a run for the money to the ruling BJP. It is happening and it is going to be a challenging race. BJP can no longer assume that it is simply going to get an absolute majority like it did in a major upset in 2014.

Coming back to the external global image of India, yes, that has been a major accomplishment of the Modi Government. No doubt about it. But, the domestic electorate does not care about that achievement. They are rather upset about the demonetization (which did not produce the expected result of unearthing the much ballyhooed black money), and the imposition of high GST tax rates on consumption. In many ways, the Indian electorate operates on local or national issues, and not on international issues. It is no different from what any other electorate, including the U.S. electorate, does.

So, what is the conclusion?

Where is India headed in its next phase of growth?

Is India going to replace its colonial aggressor as the world’s Fifth largest economy by end of 2019?

What is the right thing to do by the Indian electorate in the 2019 polls?

What is my own suggestion?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

India is an evolving, maturing country, economy and society. I believe it will continue to find its feet, irrespective of the options in front of it. It is an intelligent society. No policy prescription on international or national security matters is going to affect the mind of the electorate.

Think about it. On the other hand, the world itself has a stake in the outcome of the Indian elections, at least based on the fact that the global democracy as a form of government is now predicated on its success in India. India has now become a torch bearer of democracy, and the whole world is watching if it will also keep its 7 decades old commitment to secularism. Either BJP modifies its messaging, or the Congress does it as it has always done. BJP has more of a responsibility to consolidating its successes and steering the country in the right direction.

All the Best to Democracy!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

5th January 2018

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

 

 

 

 

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 Inherent Corruptibility of the Great Human Mind


It took me quite a while to think and frame the title of this blog post, though I know well what I am going to write about. I added the word “great” after more thought, as I concluded that notwithstanding the negative aspects of the mind, it is still the greatest invention of man (till Artificial Intelligence unseats it from the throne).

The idea for this post came from the introduction chapter of the book “We are the Change we seek – The Speeches of Barack Obama” edited by E.J. Dionne Jr., and Joy-Ann Reid. My wife passed this book to me for weekend reading, asking me not to waste time and instead read something substantive and meaningful (Disclosure: She likes Barack and Michelle, but I am ambivalent on Obama and fond of Michelle). There must be some pointed intention in her to make me read the works of this famous orator of a president.

I did read the introduction fully, and then meandered around the book, read Barack Obama’s farewell speech at Chicago, and so on. But one thing in the introduction chapter held on to me like a leach – it was the quote from a speech delivered by FDR (Franklin Roosevelt) at Thomas Jefferson’s home at the historic Monticello venue on July 4, 1936.

To quote FDR, “……….our nation’s founders had broken away from a system of peasantry, away from indentured servitude. They could build for themselves a new economic independence. Theirs were not the gods of things as they were, but the gods of things as they ought to be. And so, as Monticello itself so well proves, they used new means and new models to build new structures”. Unquote – the purpose of the past is to serve the present and future. History is about testing institutions against standards and adapting them, as FDR puts it, to “enlarge the freedom of the human mind and to destroy the bondage imposed on it by ignorance, poverty, and political and religious intolerance”.

I rarely quote from books or articles or newspapers. Most of what I write germinates from a single idea, a single inspiration. I then think about the idea and bring together the thoughts from a racing mind, in order to make a meaningful blog post.

However, in this case, I felt that I am rather highly influenced by the idea of FDR, and so wanted to give full credit to him, before I leverage his idea for my add-ons!

To dissect FDR’s idea, you need courage, yes, I mean courage and boldness of vision. Mahatma Gandhi had that courage, to break away from traditions, and release the collective power of the minds of millions of Indians. I may not agree with his collaboration with the British during the Second World War, but that does not take away an inch from the greatness of his mind, which was as astute and visionary as the founders who wrote the Constitution of the United States.

We are held back from progress when our minds are not completely free from the bondage that FDR is referring to in his Monticello speech. When we discriminate people by their race, religion, or colour, it means only one thing – that we have not yet forgotten slavery and the hard lessons of ethnic cleansing. This discrimination exists everywhere, in all societies, and more so in that beacon of human freedom, the United States.

The human mind is highly influencable and highly corruptible. I would argue that the human mind distances itself from morality when it is forced to encounter difficult choices in society. It is rather easy to follow countless others and take the beaten path – why take the risk and chart a new path like what Gandhi did? And, face unknown troubles? It requires big courage, self-sacrifice and a certain moral steeliness.

The societal demand for conformism is a drag on the independence of human thought and freedom of the mind. Society corrupts each and every member who has chosen to be part of that society. If the cult leader (taking an extreme example of conformism) orders his disciple or follower to commit a crime, it is more than likely that the crime will be executed just so that membership benefits continue and there are no repercussions from the cult. You see what I am suggesting? Society controls the freedom of the human mind.

Gandhi protested against the religious traditions of the early 20th Century, and went against established traditions followed by Hinduism. He was a rebel and a reformer, who wanted to transform the Indian society and unlock its long held shackles. He wanted independence from the British rule, no doubt, but first he wanted Indians to achieve independence of their minds.

Human mind, as I stated above, is corruptible, as it is not immoral to amass wealth in whatever way possible. If the mind takes that view, then any logical argument to wean it from its corruptible state would be pointless.

So, in a nutshell, the human mind is corruptible, highly influencable in a negative way, and is not reform oriented due to the necessity to confirm to society’s conventions. Reformers come along once in a while, and try to persuade the people on the critical importance of positive reforms in an egalitarian manner. Mostly they fail, as Obama did, but sometimes they succeed as Gandhi did.

So what do you think?

Is your mind already corrupted? Are you forced to conform to societal norms and demands?

Or, are you a reformer? Do you feel that the society is unfair and unjust? Do you think marginal folks do not get a chance to play a meaningful and impactful role in society? How do you knock off corruption from society?

What should we do together?

There is always time to think, and no time is more suited for thinking than a Sunday evening with a nice drink in the hand and thoughts in that corruptible great mind of yours.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

02 December 2018

Long Winding Road


As I sit down to write this post, I am influenced by the vast expanse of bluish-green water body surrounded by a green forest that looks at me everyday. It is a rarity in the concrete-dense Singapore that you get both a huge lake (reservoir) and a forest just in front of your building. I guess people will pine for such a view, though there are many seaview apartments in Singapore, or even ones overlooking a hill or greenery. But the combination of both water and greenery just outside all our windows and balcony mesmerizes me regularly, and throw in the beautiful sun setting in the evening into the water, and there you go, the poet in you will come out. In my case, I am no poet, so my blog post writer comes out!

My rumination today is about life – the long and winding road that we had crossed, and more such road ahead of us. I am thinking on what constituted my life and its long road till now – it has been a good journey, though there were plenty of surprises and some disappointments, like everyone else must have endured. I was shown the path to the main road by some very important people like my parents and one of my teachers in secondary school, and I followed that path. But once I hit the main road, I was in full control of it all by myself, with occasional guidance by some other important people who kept popping up along my “own road” – these are your guides and might include a variety of folks : your own family, your relatives, your classmates, your friends, your business colleagues, your bosses, your peers, your subordinates, your remote acquaintances, and so on and so forth. In my own road, I have been lucky to receive guidance and counsel from a few people who I cannot forget under any circumstances. There were detractors too, and I cannot forget them either.

But one thing I am clear in my head – it was just me who drove my own car along this long winding road. Nobdoy even taught me how to drive my own car! I figured out how to service my car, at what speed I should travel, who should be my car companion(s), and where to load up on petrol – if you see what I mean. Sometimes before my wedding, my car was empty, I was the sole occupant, and that is the time I gained my independence, individual thinking, acceptance of my own “self” as I was, and my own moral compass. I led my own life, and refused to be drawn into any kind of stereotype. Of course, I had the big challenge when someone understood where I came from just purely from my name: that is a tough one to crack as I was expected to behave and perform in a particular way, which I did not do most of the time.

If you do not fall into that behavioural pattern, then sometimes your “own road” could get longer, as you are outside the mainstream and too individualistic. I had this problem early on in my career and had to develop a response mechanism based on how well I did in my work. This carries on through your life, and your ability to steer clear and keep the head above generic conformity required to maintain a specific pattern actually increases and eventually makes you a deep thinker.

In my life, I had to change my “car” and take a “different road” once in a while, and that requires courage. The thing which requires a big courage is of course choosing your life companion. A wrong companion will derail your life for sure, but a good companion can make the journey a pleasant happy one while enhancing your ability to deal with steep curves on the life road. When I had to make a decision to move from Singapore to Mumbai in 2006, I depended a lot on my wife’s advice – it made the difficult shift a bit easier and allowed me to reach a level in my corporate life which I was looking for. You also add companions as you travel further – I mean your children. They will be your companions for quite a long while, but eventually will get down and choose their own set of car / road / life companion. They may proceed on an entirely different road, as is to be expected.

So, each one of us have our own vehicle, companion(s) and road. Sometimes our roads intersect and we happen to meet. Such meetings are essential especially when it involves an old friend, a classmate, a distant yet good-minded relative, or even your own children. You should ensure that such meetings continue to happen and cherish them for the memories they bring along as you continue your journey towards the end of the longish road.

Is there an end to your own longish winding road?

What do you think?

If you have lived your life well and have not committed any harm to others, there is actually no end to your road.

Am I blabbering? No. You are thinking death signifies the end of every individual’s road. Not true.

As a person loved by your own family and friends, as a human being who contributed in a positive sense to this world, as a life companion to your spouse, as a companion to your children, as a mentor to many colleagues in your professional life, your soul will linger on. For the soul, the road never ends, and it is permanently “marked” as your road with your name on it. Other people will remember you for many things, but most essentially for the good things you did.

So, your road goes on. On and on. Forever. And, your soul keeps travelling on it.

You just need imagination and a serious sense of purpose in your life to visualize what I am saying here, and I am sure you do. Think about it. Do good things to others. Contribute to the well being of all your “life companions”, and persuade them to follow their own conscience.

At the end of the day, it is our conscience and soul which matter to this world.

Your road never ends friend. Keep going, and Do good.

Have a wonderful week ahead,

Cheers

Vijay Srinivasan

21st October 2018

Value of Human Life


It is a shame to see how worthless your life can be, if you are born and living in a Third World country.

In this context, as you rightly guessed, I am going to mention Africa, India, Middle East, some Asian countries, and China. May be there are plenty others, but as examples the above will do.

If you are born in a Western country, you can more or less rest assured that your country will fight to save you if you are incarcerated in any other country. If you are in your own country, you can be sure that no one is just going to take away your rights and your own right to your own life that easily (of course, here I have to mention rather strongly about how easy it is to take away a life in the most developed country on the planet – I mean the U.S. where the proliferation of guns has led to anarchy in most down town areas of large cities and elsewhere as well – like Churches, pubs and most of all, schools). However, notwithstanding such occurrences, the Western nations protect their own citizens wherever they are living, in general, at least by representing the case in a foreign court of law, and persuading foreign governments in the cause of their citizens.

Contrast that with the absolutely indifferent attitudes that governments of Third World nations depict towards their own citizens, specifically those still living within the respective borders. Human Life is simply worthless, and can easily be sacrificed in thousands of situations, which in general, won’t be tolerated in Western nations.

Look at the casual manner in which a Saudi journalist was murdered and dismembered in his own country’s Consulate in Istanbul couple of weeks ago, because he did not toe the line of the Saudi ruler. Look at the way in which China arrested a leading, well-known actress and the President of Interpol on the pretext of tax evasion or corruption, without a public hearing. Look at the way India treats its journalists and TV channels. Look at how easy it was for a train driver to kill 60 people celebrating a festival with fire crackers in North India couple of days ago – where lies the responsibility and where is the accountability?

Middle East and Africa have a whole lot of human rights violations, and that includes Israel’s unacceptable actions against unarmed Palestinian civilians. I like Israel as a nation with incredible human talent, but the way it treats non-Jewish folks needs urgent remediation. It has to think about the larger human tragedy at its borders which is not going to disappear. The tribal nature of many Middle East and African countries is hampering their development and integration into the global society. Economic integration might happen, but social connectivity will be very hard if they do not mend their ways and approach towards the critical importance of human life, human talent, and human contributions, irrespective of cultural angles and long-held customs. You can see some of these same tribal culture in North India in several states.

Look at how Myanmar has treated its Rohingya ethnic Muslim minority (I have written about this very sad situation) and is now struggling to take them back from Bangladesh, which demonstrated incredible humanity by hosting the Rohingyas in temporary camps and provided them with food.

Look at how President Duterte of the Philippines has tried to eradicate the drug menace in his country by simply choosing the option of murdering the drug addicts, drug peddlers, and innocent bystanders by brute police force. No elected official is a god, and remember, he has killed more than 12,000 citizens in a short span of 30 months or so in a highly religious, Catholic country.

The international community is weak in its protestations and actions against most of the above atrocities. What can it do, when sovereign nations make unfathomable, illegal and non-humanitarian decisions? Not much, you may think.

There is of course, a lot the international community can do, with the support of the Western nations. However, if the U.S. does not show strong commitment towards firmly eradicating some of the more egregious actions, then the world will continue to discount the value of human life.

The right to life needs to be strongly enshrined and promoted irrespective of political or sovereign affiliations. What is the difference between one human life in a Third World country and another in a Western country? None, in my opinion. No dollar value can be ascribed to any human life.

Well, that might sound moralistic, but it is not. The idea that someone’s life is only worth USD 20,000 in India at the bottom ladder of society, whereas that same life is worth USD 300,000 in another country doing similar work with similar family situation, only cries for a better and more non-judgemental view of life on this planet.

Looks like the pen is not stopping – I can write another couple of pages, I guess. This is a topic which has come to my mind quite often, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you also start thinking seriously. If the famous MBA schools cannot address this generic problem of evaluating and assessing the value of human life, then do you think that the MBA students are getting a real education for running their own lives?

THINK!

Cheers

Vijay Srinivasan

20th October 2018

Soul Cleansing


Several friends of mine ask me “how can you be so nonchalant about the jokes that you forward, while keeping the head firmly on your shoulders”. Obviously, the jokes that they are referring to are not so clean, and come from a variety of WhatsApp groups that one is tied to for various reasons.

Well, I believe that one has to have multifarious interests on a variety of subject matters at any time. The human mind is complex and unbelievably complicated in its digestion of external stimuli and interpretation, often to its benefit. It does not digest just the good material or facts available, it gets bored, and it looks for some kind of adventure every day, and that is not at all surprising. The sensitivity of different folks towards different kinds of subject matter, however is predictable along normal lines of rationale that one has positioned them over many years of interaction.

Simply put, the mind is very fragile and complex, and has its own way of cleansing itself of unnecessary interruptions to its daily routine. The same applies to the human soul. I have written a few blog posts on the topic of “soul” in the past, but not referencing the same here due to laziness on a Sunday morning here in Singapore – looking at the lake and its beauty, rather than examining the laptop.

In any case, all of us need cleansing of one type or the other – especially when we are ageing. Ageing gracefully requires a reconciliation with our soul – kind of coming to terms with it so to say. If we do not think in spiritual terms (need not be related to a religion or god), we are missing a major part of our existence as a human being on this planet. This requires a huge amount of mental concentration and effort, and cannot be ignored. One day, the time will come to take an account with the soul, and it is better to develop a relationship with our own soul as early as possible.

Looks like an arcane subject? Looks tough? Looks funny?

Not at all.

I am particularly not spiritual, I have always been materialistic, I have not made any attempt to connect with my soul till a few years ago. So, I am writing this post with some kind of personal experience. I am sure there are many, many folks who have been spiritual all along their lives and have reached perfect harmony with their respective souls. I am, unfortunately, not one of those lucky folks.

However, it is never too late.

Look all around at the people that you are connected to, the people you are working with on a daily basis. Look at people that you know of, and people who were connected to you in the past. Think through the happenings related to each one of them. For example, if it comes to one specific impactful individual from my school or college times, I spend an hour thinking about him or her. Obviously that person has impacted people around him/her in a positive manner, and in a way that would help those people recall his/her contributions to your own life. This is not tough at all, you just need time and a bit of recollection.

Connecting with your own soul is somewhat similar to the above. Your soul is not an object waiting to be picked up, though you can imagine it that way if you wish. For me, it is an invisible, though entirely perceptible “object” residing within me which cannot be seen or touched. It can be “felt” however. It is like your mind. Can you see it or touch it?

Soul searching leads to a cleansing of thoughts and deeds. Remember, soul is not god. Soul is within you, and only you can “feel” it. Your wife or children cannot feel your soul. They have to search for their respective souls, which might have no relation to you.

When I listen to some very nice and poignant music, that is when I feel that I can search for my soul. The soul is elusive and difficult to talk to. It requires a medium of communication – you do not connect the headset and start talking with your soul! That medium could be music, and could be something else in others’ cases.

I want to point out in this context that I am not a “music” man – I do not have any kind of music collection, and till date have just got four music albums in my iPhone. I have not made efforts to expand the same or subscribe to Apple Music or Spotify, as countless others have done. This means that I have lacked the music medium to connect with my own self. But, of late I have developed an ability to “read” into music that I like ignoring the lyrics and try to touch the pulse of the singer. Can you try this exercise?

Eventually, you will be able to “touch” and “feel” your soul in an effortless manner. Your soul keeps watch on you. It knows that you are forwarding obscene WhatsApp jokes to many others in your network, for example. It knows your bad deeds, your bad behaviour. However, it also knows that, at heart, you are a good guy or a good girl. Cheating the soul is not possible. Only soul-less people murder or commit crimes – they have already killed their own souls.

Well, I can keep writing on this topic!

Have a wonderful weekend,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

19th August 2018