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

The fragility of human life


When I take a long walk (around 90 minutes) in the morning, I tend to do one of three things – either I walk in total silence focusing exclusively on the terrain ahead, or listen to my old-time favourite songs (almost always Abba or Carpenters or Lionel Ritchie or Michael Jackson, or sometimes Norah Jones), or engage in some serious thoughts with good clarity of mind in a very calm environment (there are very few people walking or jogging at the time I usually go in the morning).

I have always found that thinking hard is tough when I am stationary, or just at home doing mundane things. When I am on a solo walk, I tend to be able to think more vigorously. While there are strong positives for thinking in a calm manner while walking a long distance, there are also some downsides. For example, when the mind flies into the future (or into the past occasionally), I tend to be less careful on the terrain ahead, and have fallen down a few times because I failed to “see” some obstacle on the path (there are many stones before I reach the wood-tiled pathway around a lake that I usually go to). I realized that it is not a good idea to keep falling down and hurting myself (especially on the knees) at my age, so have improved my caution while walking which reduces the intensity of thinking somewhat. The other challenge usually is the speed at which some runners tend to overtake me on a narrow path, forcing me to move to the extreme edges of the pathway which could push me into the lake if I am not careful.

This post is however not about my walking per se. It is more about thinking. I always felt that I should have devoted more of my time in my life to thinking hard about every choice open in front of me, or to every issue in my life crying for my attention and resolution. I spent far less time on thinking, or took the easy short-cut of personal advisors, or fell back on just my previous experience.

I still take advice from others close to me, but I spend more times thinking about all issues and come back home with a clarity which is difficult to beat. The result is that I am able to engage with my family members in a calmer manner, and others in a more effective way. As I walk more, I think more. The latest issue surrounding my thought process is the fragility of human life.

We see death and destruction all around the world when ideologies clash and countries end up fighting unnecessary wars or engage in unwarranted conflicts. A beautiful life which existed yesterday with lot of hopes for its future, is suddenly gone today. The ability of man to pluck another life out of this world has only grown tremendously over the years, and that man continues his life without remorse under the guise of morality, the necessity of a “good” war over evil people, or the essential nature of law enforcement – I am sure there are hundreds of reasons that a man can devise for taking the life of another human being for which he needs to answer in his own after-life – such offenses cannot be hidden or explained away under the guise of moral explanations that a government or religion can provide to the man who is plucking the life away. There is no real serious explanation that can be offered for shooting a suspect twenty times all over his body, especially on his head and chest. There is no rationale for bombing a country with cluster or chemical weapons. There is absolutely no possible reason for trying out one country’s latest weaponry on a country which cannot defend itself against such attacks.

So, what could be the reasons why bad things continue to happen all around us establishing the total fragility of human life, which should have always had a “precious” status in humanity?

While no explanations could be acceptable, the lack of fierce responses from religious guardians is absolutely stunning. When defenceless countries and people are bombed, where is the question of religions taking sides with the perpetrators? Where is the neutrality of religious intervention to stop or deter such devious things from happening?

As I think more and more on such topics, it is not unusual for me to get depressed on our inability to stop or vote against such things – there is no possibility that poeple could question or challenge a conflict or a war, unless there is a direct referendum on the most serious matters affecting this planet as a whole. However, that is unlikely.

Our own lives are so fragile, that we are not in a position to devise suitable advance responses to what is happening to our own bodies as we age. Any amount of preparation or planning is not going to help when the inevitable thing eventually occurs in our lives. We go on steering our lives taking some precautions as and when we feel necessary, but one day the fragility of our own lives will be exposed in a natural manner.

So how do we get ready for such a 100% clear possibility at an unknown date?

Try to think of whatever you had ever wanted to do, but could not do or achieve. Create a “bucket” list of such things. Spend more and more time with your family members. Do some charity. Do not expect any returns, and do not think that you will get to heaven or hell. None of that sort might exist. At the end of the day, what matters is whether you have helped people around you, stood for some good cause, made your family members successful in their respective lives, and garnered respect and admiration from friends and relatives for your ability to successfully steer your life and contribute to society in a manner that you could. Forget about emulating other successful people, or investors, or businessmen. It does not matter.

Well, more in future posts on this topic.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

6th May 2018

Enjoy the “Smallness” of Life


The more I think of it, the more I do – I am referring here to the small, silly things in life that we usually do not focus upon, given our general reluctance to indulge in rather “small” things and what I call as things which appear, prima facie, to be inconsequential. It is funny that we struggle to achieve the “big” things in life (at least what we think are big), and in the process, fail to enjoy what life offers to us. After achieving, or sometimes not achieving, the “big” thing, we set the goal of the next “big” or even “bigger” thing that we should definitely go after in life. And, so the life goes on.

In the process, we forget how to relish, how to enjoy the nice little things that life offers. We do not take the time (as we did many years ago) to enjoy reading the newspaper with a cup of steaming hot cup of coffee, and commenting on certain unsavoury news items to whoever is nearby, most often to our spouses. We would rather hurriedly look at the news headlines of the newspaper, decide it is meaningless quickly, and jump into the smartphone app of the most common news websites, and start browsing while walking, or doing something else. We do not take the time to talk to our own children in a leisurely manner (not just “how you are doing” and “what is happening in school”, and “how did you do in last week’s tests”, etc.,). We do not indulge in excavating the inner selves of people in our own family, while we are prepared to do it to our office colleagues, partners, and clients. We do not even spend time talking to our spouse – he or she might have clues about how to plan or execute certain things, better than we do (they usually are). We do not indulge in “small talk” with our friends who have known us for several decades in some instances. We tend to be formal, and “official”, in terms of communicating our body language to these “receivers” of antenna signals – converting what is essentially a personal relationship to a professional or formal talk.

Why is this happening? What are the reasons for such behavioural tendencies? Who do we not take people around us, those close to us, seriously, and spend more quality time with them?

The reasons are not difficult to find. In most situations, we are stressed out in our own lives (I mean in the simple execution of simple lives); in other situations, we are distracted. In very few circumstances, people find incompatibility, though it is rare after spending few decades in building a partnership with your spouse, or nourishing a friendship with your close friend. However, it is not totally unusual. Our own friends may sometimes desert us causing big pain in our hearts. It has happened to me. After all, everyone has a choice in life to follow a certain path in collaboration with certain others – the immediate ones are the family and close friends. It is understandable that very close friends move away to distant countries and lose touch with us eventually, but it is rather unusual when someone close to you completely drops you and stops responding to you, though apparently you have done nothing wrong. That causes severe pain.

I have come to realise that in life, small things matter a lot more than the big things such as financial gains, material possessions, type of car, et al. When someone connects with you genuinely, sincerely, and in a devoted manner, then life brightens. It may not necessarily for mutual gain of any sort, but rather to seek a true “connection” for lifelong companionship. It is not easy to secure that kind of connection. I have been fortunate to connect with a number of my school and college mates, and few of my ex-colleagues, and maintain those connections on a regular basis. As we all know, for sustenance, relationships have to be nurtured regularly, consistently, and with genuine affection.

In a brand-conscious, status-conscious, and wealthy society, it is often difficult to maintain a life focused on enjoying the small pleasures of life. I remember when I was buying my most recent car, one of my senior colleagues told me that I should go in for Audi, even a second-hand one, as it conveys that you are at a senior level in an organization, and secondly is compatible with the societal expectations. Given the socialist I am, I chose a Nissan which is almost faceless, though I could have gone in for the Audi. Apart from my social ideology, I also realized that in a small city one would need a car only if it is really needed for the family. And all cars take you from point A to point B on almost the same route, under the same road conditions, in similar comfort. So, why bother about more expensive toys?

Another person asked me if I tailor my shirts – I said no. Most of my shirts cost SGD 29, sometimes SGD 39, but I did not tell him that. It is rather puerile that people indulge in such talk, or evaluate you by the shoes you are wearing.

In any case, life is made up of a series of small things which need to be examined and enjoyed. It always is – unless you want to shake up things in a rather big way, affecting people around you. Nothing wrong with that, life can be pursued in many different ways for sure, but do not ignore small things as taking a walk to the nearest coffee shop with your spouse, or going to buy groceries, or fruits and vegetables, or assisting your children to purchase a good non-fiction book and combining that with a nice chocolate cake. In a nutshell, life is small and forgettable for most folks, however we can make it unforgettable by focusing on the small yet important things in our lives. Go for it!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

21st January 2018

Go with Personal Goals and Priorities


Many of us keep making compromises on a continuous, ongoing basis without realizing the impact those compromises of “adjustments” have on ourselves. While adjusting to others’ whims, fancies and demands is fine, there is a choice to be made when it comes to deciding what is best for you and the best effective usage of your time and skills. And, many of us do not face the choice by avoiding the decision, or make the decision which favours others.

Sounds complex?

Let me clarify a bit more – as we navigate the course of our lives through its ups and downs, we end up catering to other peoples’ wishes and ignore our own goals and priorities in life. This happens when we are fixated on others (and that include your own immediate family members), worried that if we do not help out instantaneously, they will not make it. Others also would include friends, extended family, office colleagues, acquaintances, etc., It is important to understand what others want, analyze whether you can be of assistance in a particular situation, extend the necessary help (financial, moral, physical support) as needed, and do all this without any expectation of any kind of return for oneself.

However, if we continue doing this “assistance” to others on a running basis, it is possible that we will miss focusing on our own needs and priorities. One thing I always tell my friends is that there is an acute need to invest in ourselves, and I have seen less than 2% of my circle of friends investing in themselves. This is not any selfish motive playing out in our life – it is establishing your own goals and priorities clearly by writing these down (these goals and priorities undergo changes almost every year), and identifying methods to achieve the same. If these can be achieved while also helping every individual who needs your assistance, then that is fantastic – but that is never the case in reality.

So, here comes the challenge – how do you turn down simple requests for help from your son or daughter, or from your uncle or aunt, or even from your wife or mother? Not every one, even in your own household, understand your goals and priorities (though that is probably because you have not taken the trouble of communicating to them for whatever personal reasons). That would mean a simple thing – they look at you, see you relatively “free”, and ask you to do something. In all probability, you would help as that is most peoples’ nature. A similar kind of thing plays out when you are asked to help out an office colleague, or when an old friend seeks your help from out of the blue.

I was personally “driven” by myself for most of my life, but I also offered to help where I can. However, I do not wish to be “driven” by others to the detriment of not achieving what I have set out to do on a particular day, week or month, in pursuit of my goals and priorities. It took me a long while in life to say “NO” to others, simply because I wanted to help. I always tried to say “YES”, and sometimes I messed up in the execution of the committed activity, due mostly to conflicting priorities. Others who seek your support do not understand what you want to do. They probably think you have a lot of time, or a variety of skills, or significant resources to help solve their problems.

I am not running away from making a commitment, but I am very clear now that the FIRST priority in life is my own priorities and their achievement in the timeframe I had set out for the same. Clarity in mind helps, and eventually translates to clarity in action. This is not selfish behaviour. Everyone should have a written down list of key goals and priorities in their respective lives, and should stand up to execute the same as personally committed to oneself.

Is there anything wrong with that approach?

No, none to my mind.

One should have the personal conviction to carry out one’s responsibilities and achieve his/her goals and priorities. The priorities could include an ordered sequence of things or actions that could apply to others in your life, so that is all good. I see “conviction” lacking in most people I come across, and also I see lack of “investment” in oneself – this is not wearing high end suits or watches or shoes, but to constantly upskill oneself in the pursuit that one wants to pursue. It might require training, networking, attending workshops, online programs, and what not. But in this case, you are not working on a deal or anyone else, you are working on yourself which is very challenging, given that most of us have a rather high opinion of ourselves.

So, in a nutshell, I would summarize as follows:

  • draw up a list of goals and priorities for 2018, and revise it atleast every quarter
  • identify which goal will be the most important to achieve – the one that would please you the most
  • take actions to achieve the prioritized goal in the timeframe which you have envisaged
  • track your progress every week
  • “invest” on yourself
  • explain the above to your spouse as there should be no misunderstanding when you say a “NO” to a request for help
  • check always to see if you can assist others when they seek help, but keep in mind that your first commitment is to your priorities in life

I have tried to capture what I have been thinking for a while. Hope this helps my audience in some way. I would encourage you all to think for yourself before putting any plan into action – it is critical to understand fully the challenges and implications for yourself. “Success” is accomplished when you achieve your set goals in the timeframe you have decided. All the Best,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

16th December 2017

Make the Best of the Rest


I was having a chat with one of my close personal and family friends yesterday. It was a casual chat, but as always it turned into a deep discussion on several matters which have always been close to my heart, and I am sure, to his heart as well.

While we meandered around issues and challenges of mutual interest, we finally landed on the most important and critical issue that should dominate every discussion that people over 50 years of age are having, and that is, how to make the best out of the rest of our lives.

Yes, it is something that we should not shy away from. Discussing potential death timeline, and how to deal with it in advance, and understanding how others would deal with your death, is something that is direly needed. We do not discuss such matters. Period. Don’t you agree? It is considered inauspicious to even think of such things.

While discussing death could be seriously challenging, what about discussing about how to make things better for others while we are all on the firm and unchangeable path to our respective deaths? In a nutshell, how to make the best out of the rest of our lives? How can the rest of our lives be useful to not only the people closest to us, but also to people in the society we live in?

While my friend and I discussed this matter briefly, it was clear in our minds that this was something that is going to dominate our thoughts and actions in the coming months and years. Again, let us think about our legacy. Who will remember us, year after year, outside of our very close relatives and family friends? Is there someone out in the open world who would recognize your contributions to the society that you had lived in before you passed away – someone not related to you, someone not your friend? You do not have to be famous or a big philanthropist to have that kind of recall.

As we plough through our conscience, our entire life till now, our close family members and friends, it becomes very clear that there are very few people outside our circle who have been impacted by your presence in this world (let us say over 50 years, could go on to a 100 years!).

Did we ask the right questions to figure out who needs our help? Did we consciously feel that we could have been of service to those in need? Did we do public service? Did we mentor people who are not related to us or not friends of us? Did we donate to charity every year? Did we give out time to people who would have benefited? Did we even ask our own close personal and family friends if they need any assistance?

Very few people do these things. Just touch your heart and respond. We want to have a drink and relax, or we want to attend parties and network, or we go for movies. We worry about our financial position all the time. We worry about the condition of our car, yes, we “feel” for our car, or our apartment. We worry about tons of mundane things. But we do not worry about how to make the best use of our time to help others in need.

Money and material things dominate our conversations, even those within our own family network. There is no spirituality in almost everything we do. We should not confuse religious affiliation or temple visits or prayers or rituals with spirituality. This is a common mistake we all make. You attain spiritual well-being when the Super Power (not the U.S.) determines that you are (a) devoid of material desires; and (b) you have rendered help to several poor folks who would vouch for your generosity, kindness, time and assistance. It is not going to be based on how many times a month you visited temples or prayed for your own material success.

I think if you are reading this blog post, you are going to probably ring me. You would want to discuss more. Yes, I think there is a lot more to this topic than what I have written thus far. Let us discuss. I strongly believe our times are limited, and we have to contribute urgently. No one can predict how long we are going to live. Why bother about the lifespan if you can focus on things which help others? Not that it would assure a place in heaven, but that is the best thing that you can do.

Think about it, and let us talk soon!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

5th November 2017

 

 

Our Life is not Religious anymore


What kind of topic is that?

I have been thinking of what to write this weekend in my Blog, and I was deluged with a number of potential topics. In fact, there were so many topics, I just could not decide during the course of today on the specific topic which would be of interest to me. Yes, to me. After all, my Blog exists for the pure purpose of satisfying my writing and literary skills, and nothing else/nobody else. If others read my Blog, that is fine, but that is not a pre-requisite for the existence of my Blog. I love writing and writing on a wide variety of topics which interest me. I am constantly on the prowl for issues which are of importance to me, and by extension, to other people! I am sure my readers see the relevance. It is not my intention or desire to conform to prevailing norms or practices. It is my desire to think and think deep and well, for my own benefit.

When I started my life, I was very religious and prayed everyday. My mom taught me that it is important to pray to God everyday, and especially to the Elephant God (Ganesha as we call Him in Hinduism) as He is the greatest remover of obstacles in one’s life.

So, I was religious for almost three decades. It was good, as I had some “hold” on the Hindu faith and God(s) in general, though I was not a big temple visitor, or follower of religious rituals. I believed in the power of one God and its influence for the good of mankind. I never asked God to grant me anything. In that sense, I was a man without “material” wishes. I knew that what I need for life has to come through my own hard work, and not because God decided to give me something by granting my wishes.

Since I was on my own from the age of 17 (my father died at that age of mine), I built my life on my own. People around me used to say that God always helped me, and at that time I believed in a power bigger than mine guiding my actions. I used to go to the temple near my house every week (and sometimes twice a week), and thought that it was the most appropriate thing to do. Since I had many critical responsibilities at a young age, it kind of helped me to think about God sometimes. I did very well in my studies, and in fulfilling my family responsibilities, by my sheer hard work and personal commitment and drive. I declined to marry a rich girl as I thought such a marriage would be incompatible with my socialist views and adherence to a frugal philosophy in my life (several close friends of mine know about my life and behaviour during those formative years). I went against my mom’s wishes, and told her that I was not ready for a huge marriage commitment, based purely on economic betterment.

So, life went on, and slowly but surely I discovered myself.

It is very important for each one of us to “discover” ourselves.

I began to visualize my own contributions to my own life and to the lives of my siblings and immediate family circle. I understood that nothing would have happened had it not been for my vision and hard work. Yes, it was very very hard work at a very very young age. I sacrificed many things, which I would not have done if my father had been alive.

Slowly, I stepped away from blind faith.

Slowly, I stepped away from following others.

Slowly, I stepped away from the thought that God provided guidance and help.

Slowly, I became an agnostic.

I began to question everything in life.

I kept my views private. Only my wife knew about my thought processes. However, she remained and continues to remain a devout religious person, despite the influence of my own wandering ideological thoughts and philosophy.

She always respects me for who I am. She never challenged me. She only pointed out what I was leaving on the table. Yes, of course, I was leaving several things on the table. My significant connections to a private circle of relatives. My strong connections to a religious community. My double standards when it came to very close relations, from who I have to partially hide my views (like my own mom, uncles, etc.,). However, I knew how to keep my private views away from table top discussions, it was never my intention to offend anyone for their own beliefs or faiths.

So, it has gone on for the past 15 years or so…………….I am still strongly beholden to my own religious views. I think that religions have divided rather than unified mankind. I believe (I think it is true) that religious wars have killed millions of people around the world. I think religions provoke unnecessary tensions, wars and passions. I think we can do well without all this stuff, and direct our collective energies towards the betterment of humankind.

Some folks I know think that I am idealistic. I am not pragmatic. I am not a model human. I am not a person that falls in line. I could be a trouble monger. I am not a human being that understands how other humans work. And, so on and so forth.

The issue, of course, has always been the same – people have been endowed with enormous brain power. Why are they not using it for improving the livelihood of poor people? Why are they spending so much money on religions, temples, and faiths? Why are they allowing religions to be misunderstood and crucified by gurus who are no messengers of God? Why are they allowing rape, killings and house burnings of non-conforming folks (like in the latest example of Rohingya Muslims who are being driven out of Myanmar by practicing Buddhists, Buddhism being the most pacific religion of all)? Why are injustice and inequity not being called out by religious followers? Why is there a deafening silence from “good” folks?

Well, my conclusion has been the same for the past 15 years. That is, God is a Socialist and never a Capitalist or a Communist. He wants us to help the poor. He wants us to share our wealth and savings. If He exists, He would insist that we cause no harm to others. He would emphasize the importance of Love and Peace.

I am not going to follow any religion because I was born into one, or because I was directed into another, or I was forced into one. Man and Woman have the power to think, conceptualize, contribute and improve the society. That effort is not going to happen because God asked us to do that. It happens because WE want to do that. We look out for one another. We realize the importance of LIFE. We conclude that all lives are equal and same.

So, my life is no longer religious. My life is going to be human. Just going to temples is not going to absolve us of our irresponsibility and collective darkness. The LIGHT is within us. It is up to us to discover and light it.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

21st October 2017

Wisdom – knowledge, experience or age?


What is “wisdom”?

There is a simple definition – without any attribution, I think that wisdom is one’s ability to reach intelligent conclusions on any problem statement, with a combination of judgement, insight, experience and knowledge that one has accumulated over the years. Of course, there should be ample common sense, a keen understanding of the issues on hand, an analytical mind, et al.

However, wisdom is not just knowledge only. Neither is it just experience. And, I don’t believe that wisdom accrues based on age – meaning it is not necessarily true that wisdom is directly proportional to just age. The older one is, the wiser he becomes – this is not true, while it may be true in exceptional individuals who combine other factors to become a sort of sage with head filled with abundant wisdom.

It is also not true that young people are waiting to gain wisdom. There have been thousands of stories of young individuals who are far wiser for their age, and have even built companies at a rather tender age, and running their business with financial and technical acumen, not seen even in much older folks.

So, wisdom has a qualitative edge to it which is sometimes inherent in the individual. Experience does add significant value to people, and helps to generate an insight into problem resolution. Knowledge is important, but much less important than experience and judgement. We find older folks (like me for instance) are more judgemental (not a good thing), more critical (not a bad thing), and less wise when it comes to seeing new things in a new light, or even existing things in a new light. Being judgemental is not a good thing, but having a good judgement is a good thing. Hope you understand the difference. Being negative does not add to one’s wisdom either. We can be critical, but cannot be negative.

Increasingly, we find that young folks between the ages of 10 and 30 are playing in the world with wisdom that did not exist in us when we were their age. So, we need to understand that the context, ecosystem, and social development have progressed in an exponential manner just in the last two decades, which has produced wisdom in many young people.

Why did this not increase wisdom in the older people?

Interesting question. My answer may not satisfy the older folks, however.

As we age, we set our minds on things which we believe are unchangeable. What are these things? Integrity, Honesty, Affection, Commitment, Focus, Dedication, Determination, Achievement-orientation, and a lot of ego. We think and believe that in essence, we are innately good people, and we can do nothing wrong. At least, nothing wrong that could affect other people. Nothing wrong in the moral, spiritual, religious, or intellectual spheres.

In other words, we get fixated on things which are important and critical to us.

We also do not update ourselves to stay in sync with the fast evolving human ecosystem, and we dismiss most of it as not relevant to achieving what we had achieved in our working lives. We continue to live in our own space, not really accepting what our children are doing while they are growing up. This means that mentally and intellectually, we stay disconnected, though we yearn for a complete sync.

It does not take more than 30 seconds to put your right hand on your heart and feel if what I am saying is true or complete hogwash.

I truly believe that though I have kept myself technologically updated, in my mind I am still the same old guy from wherever I came from. Nothing much has changed in my mind, though I do certain things not compatible with my heritage like eating non-vegetarian foods and sending ugly WhatsApp messages, etc., We all have to make an inventory of things that have changed in ourselves from the time we started going to primary school.

When I am still the same old guy, how am I going to change myself? Can I ever change? Can I challenge myself? What should I do to generate “new” wisdom in myself?

I have not finished. I am just at the ground floor of this rather interesting and challenging topic. This blog post came about because I met one of my mentors (who really thinks I am a rebel in most things I do) this evening, and he suggested that I should start analyzing the subject of wisdom vs. age……….that set me thinking.

Wine has been banned at home for some 10 days, so my brain is a bit challenged to think more at the end of my Saturday. However, don’t you guys think this is a good and relevant topic for all of us?

Let us exchange notes and discuss.

Have a great weekend.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

23rd September 2017

Gain Control of Yourself


This blog post is one of my self-help advice posts, which I sometimes write out after significant experimentation with myself. May not work for all, but I believe that it is important and critical to share one’s own experiences, positive or negative, in trying to shape one’s life. Simply because the sharing will potentially help someone with positive benefits of positive experiences, or dissuade one from pursuing similar tactics if the experiences related are negative.

Well, I hear some grunt nearby – can’t I write simpler English please and why do I have to resort to compound sentences to convey something which could easily have been explained in simpler terms?

Well, my dear, you know what, I relish in writing such complex and complicated English precisely because it allows me to torture my readers. Why do you read the same?

Just ignore the above two paragraphs!

Now how do we get control of ourselves?

What are the mechanisms that we can follow?

Or, indeed can we ever get control of our thoughts or even actions?

Difficult questions, I agree.

But then, as intellectually driven species with our infinite capacity to think, there is always a different way to look at anything – any complex matter, with an understanding which could vastly differ from traditional views or understanding.

Do you agree? You may or may not.

However, I believe that any big learning comes from looking inside oneself. Of course, some part of our learning comes from external sources, for sure. But, if we do not learn from our behaviour and our mistakes, then that would be the biggest mistake that we can commit in our life. It is all right to read philosophical books and listen to the occasional books on how to lead your lives in a more productive yet peaceful manner. There are any number of mythological, parental, spiritual and friendly influences in our lives that demonstrate how to plan and lead our lives on this planet. And, of course, there are examples of friends who are apparently leading successful yet controlled lives, are they not?

So, what is my prescription to the apparent lack of control most of us experience in our lives all the time? There is this seeming lack of a solid grasp when things happen to you without any forewarning, the tendency to blame oneself for what are not controllable factors, the feeling that everything is slipping away………….

What does one do?

Well, first it is critical to gain focus on yourself – who are you, what have you accomplished in life, what are the things that are yet to be done, who are the people very close to you, what are the things in life that you hold dear to you, and most importantly, what are you doing at this moment. Are you creating or adding value, or are you frittering away preciosu time that we all have before we realize there is no further time available? Are people around you feeling the strongly positive impact of your presence and advice? Are you proactively seeking out and helping people around you? Have you given at least one hour of your time, on a weekly basis, to help disadvantaged or poor people? Look at yourself, look at what you are doing, imagine what better things you can do in this life, and think while keeping your eyes completely closed. If you find it difficult to gain focus, I would suggest that you first try a breathing exercise, focus on your own breath while keeping your eyes closed. Inhale to four counts, hold the breath and slowly exhale to the same number of counts. I am not a yoga teacher, so you would have to figure out how to control your breath and focus on it. Once you gain some focus traction, use that ability to think of things which I explained earlier in this paragraph in a calm environment. Make a list of things you can do, which you haven’t yet accomplished.

It is not that difficult if you think about it. Just give it a honest try.

I can assure you of the benefits of such hard thinking – you would discover a new “you”, who can deliver much more to this planet than has been the case thus far (bad English, I guess!!!).

You are now well on the way to “gaining” control of yourself. There is no self help book required. You are an intelligent human being, that’s all you should care about. You are able to focus and you are able to think. Then you are able to make a “to do” list and execute for your own benefit.

There will be a huge change in yourself, and your family members and friends will see that you are a “transformed” individual with a far greater potential than they imagined, or you yourself had imagined. Now, you are ready to unleash the potential that you have gnerated in yourself – for your benefit and for the benefit of this world. It is not difficult, it is not complex, it is not complicated, it is rather simple.

This is what I do. This is what I believe in. We do not need gurus or books. What we need is an attitude, an inclination, a propensity to rediscover oneself and do good for others.

Think about this message. Let me know if this does not work for you. I will be very surprised. Have a good week.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

31st January 2017

 

When is one Happy?


More than anything else which matters, it has always intrigued mankind when it comes to a state of happiness – when is a man or woman truly happy? What makes one happy? How long that state of happiness lasts? What results from a state of happiness? Why are most people around you look morose or forlorn? Why are people not generally smiling?

We often read that the happiest people on earth is from one of its poorest countries – viz., Bhutan. How come Bhutanese are the happiest people on earth when they simply cannot afford many of the material possessions that we take for granted in the more developed countries? Is there any mystery to their happiness?

Well, it turns out that they live a peaceful, calm, and nice life in the Himalayas surrounded by some of the most gorgeous sceneries in the world – more than 60% of Bhutan is still in wilderness, untouched and amazingly beautiful. Bhutanese are Buddhists which means that their religion is a peaceful influence in their lives. Buddhism teaches them non-violence and peace – which the world lacks today almost everywhere else. Buddhists believe in performing good deeds in this life, so that they can be reborn in a better life. The Bhutan government actually measures its citizens’ GNH or Gross National Happiness index! They are so serious about ensuring happiness!!

Have you seen a country like that? We are surrounded by concrete everywhere we live, we face pollution, we have struggles and war, we have violence, we have countries at loggerheads, we have racial and colour issues around the world, we have religious issues all over the world, and what not. Is it a surprise at all that most people are unhappy, or the GNH is far lower than that of Bhutan?

While it is difficult to underestimate the influence of material possessions on most of us (why not get a BMW or Mercedes instead of Toyota or Nissan for example), it is critical to realize that people tend to be happier when they can have social cohesion, freedom of thought and expression, psychological and physical well-being, good quality of education for the children, non-violence, and good governance. There are many such factors which go into the measurement of GNH, not the least of which is how people feel about their overall quality of life. I think GNH is a very important measure for all of us to understand, imbibe and communicate. Contentment and being happy about what one has are important aspects towards achieving happiness in one’s mind.

Are we there yet?

Most of us are not. We are so mortally afraid of missing out something in our lives, of not being able to be around when our families need us, of death and misery, of war and violence, and what not. We must think of such fear every day, it keeps our head on our shoulders! But we cannot be subjugated by such fears. The world moves on without all of us anyway, so why be afraid? Participate in the happiness around you, or be the creator of happiness for folks around you. It is critical to be happy. It is very critical to ensure that people around you are happy. This would involve a lot of work if you think of it.

Spreading joy should become everyone’s mission instead of spreading unhappiness. Come to think of it, I realize that being joyful for even a minute about something as simple or as casual as my car looking swelte and clean after a car wash that I myself performed for more than 60 minutes with my hands, will lead to a positive state of mind over the next day or so. You can think of countless such examples. When you meet positive people, then you can see that things happen. Things work out. Everyone seems happy and positive.

This is not hogwash. This is real stuff. This is the way to become happy.

You will see that your life improves dramatically with positive and happy frame of mind. You will tend to be more successful. You will make others successful. Now you start to understand why Bhutanese people are happy, living, working and playing with each other in their tiny country without much separation from one another. They are in their lives together!

Don’t you think you should be happy? I can be your consultant!! Or you can visit Bhutan to learn firsthand!!!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

21st August 2016