The “all-screen” Addiction

I am not a TV watcher or movie goer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Vijay Srinivasan

17th February 2019

The Nature of Our Perilous Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you folks think?

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

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

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

Have a great week ahead folks,


Vijay Srinivasan

18th November 2018

Point of View

Courtesy: Shyam, my IIM-B Classmate

Answers given by 2nd year school children to the following questions:

Why did God make mothers?
1.She’s the only one who knows where the selotape is.

2. Mostly to clean the house.

3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.

How did God make mothers?
1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.

2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.

3. God made my mum just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.

Why did God give you your mother and not some other mum?
1. We’re related.

2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people’s mum like me.

What kind of a little girl was your mum?
1. My mum has always been my mum and none of that other stuff.

2. I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.

3. They say she used to be nice.

What did mum need to know about dad before she married him?
1. His last name.

2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he smoke a lot ?

3. Does he make at least 1 million a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?

Why did your mum marry your dad?
1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my mum eats a lot.

2. She got too old to do anything else with him.

3. My grandma says that mum didn’t have her thinking cap on.

Who’s the boss at your house?
1. Mum doesn’t want to be boss, but she has to because dad’s such an idiot.

2. Mum. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.

3. I guess mum is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.

What’s the difference between mums and dads?
1. Mums work at work and work at home and dads just go to work at work.

2. Mums know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.

3. Dads are taller and stronger, but mums have all the real power ’cause that’s who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friends.

4. Mums have magic, they make you feel better without medicine.

What does your mum do in her spare time?
1. Mothers don’t do spare time.

2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long.

What would it take to make your mum perfect?
1. On the inside she’s already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.

2. Diet. You know, her hair. I’d diet, maybe blue.

If you could change one thing about your mum, what would it be?
1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I’d get rid of that.

2. I’d make my mum smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it not me.

3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back of her head.

WHEN YOU STOP LAUGHING — SEND IT ON TO OTHER MOTHERS, GRANDMOTHERS, AND AUNTS….and anyone else who has anything to do with kids or just needs a good laugh!!!

Courtesy: Shyam, my IIM-B Classmate


Vijay Srinivasan
7th September 2014

Love Your Child and Kids in General

Children are quick and always speak their minds………

TEACHER: Maria, go to the map and find North America
MARIA: Here it is
TEACHER: Correct. Now Class, who discovered America ?
CLASS: Maria

TEACHER: John, why are you doing your math multiplication on the floor ?
JOHN: You told me to do it without using the tables

TEACHER: Glenn, How do you spell ‘Crocodile?’
TEACHER: No, that’s wrong
GLENN: May be it is wrong, but you asked me how I spell it

TEACHER: Donald, what is the chemical formula for water?
TEACHER: What are you talking about ?
DONALD: Yesterday you said it’s H to O

TEACHER: Winnie, name one important thing we have today that we didn’t have ten years ago

TEACHER: Glen, why do you always get so dirty ?
GLEN: Well, I’m a lot closer to the ground than you are

TEACHER: Millie, give me a sentence starting with I
MILLIE: I is…….
TEACHER: No, Millie………always say. ‘I am………’
MILLIE: All right…….’I am the ninth letter of the alphabet’

TEACHER: George Washington not only chopped down his father’s cherry tree, but also admitted it. Now, Louie, do you know why his father didn’t punish him ?
LOUIE: Because George still had the axe in his hand……..

TEACHER: Now, Simon, tell me frankly, do you say prayers before eating ?
SIMON: No sire, I don’t have to, my Mom is a good cook

TEACHER: Clyde, your composition on ‘My Dog’ is exactly the same as your brother’s. Did you copy his ?
CLYDE: No Sir, it’s the same dog

TEACHER: Harold, what do you call a person who keeps on talking when people are no longer interested ?
HAROLD: A Teacher


Vijay Srinivasan
6th July 2013

Pocket Money : Not Savings

It is funny to think about.

When I grew up, there was no pocket money. If there is a need for something, it would be met by the parents directly. There was no need to go and get something for oneself on one’s own pocket money. The need was not there.

Over the years, as with everything else, this notion of pocket money gained popularity. Children started comparing with one another about how much weekly or monthly pocket allowance they are getting from their parents. While an allowance per se is not a bad idea, as children would need some money even while at school, or when going out with friends, what is striking is that none of the pocket money today is considered as potential savings.

All the money is for spending ! No kid thinks any longer on savings. This is despite the long ingrained savings disposition of Indians, who have one of the highest savings rate in the world.

Spending culture has already gained ascendancy in India, with children driving the shopping malls to frenzy – most chains of shops in big malls are now redesigning to attract the young crowd which today is having a steeply climbing buying power vis-a-vis their own parents. Parents are now “old time”, still trying to figure out what all this mad rush is all about.

Mature teenagers are now directing the big-ticket spending towards high end accessories. Shoes cost INR 4,000 (USD 80) ? No problem. Handbags cost INR 5,000 (USD 100) ? Absolutely no issue. Seeing the way things are moving with their elder sisters and brothers, the younger ones as young as 6 or 7 years old demand pocket money these days and wish to spend on Haagen Daaz icecreams, which seem to be costing more than HP Printer Ink per ml in India.

The world has changed, and India is changing very fast. I have seen such huge changes in the past six years in Mumbai (which happens to be the most happening place in India anyway) that now I am immune to the rapidity of market changes. The market today is made up of people less than 20 years of age, and it is a huge market with growing spending power that retailers can ignore only at their own peril.

What do parents do ? Some adapt, some gawk, some question, some complain, some blog. Like this one – I mean myself, spending some time writing about the market trends driven by children in India. I can only admire at parents who seem to have adapted extremely well to the very fast changing trends, and also giving in to the ever-rising demands from their children. That may not be the right behaviour always, but adaptability is a key trait that most of us lack. The worry is the drop in sync with the traditional value systems that Indians have always prided as something unique in their culture. Unfortunately, value systems take a hit, whatever we might say, in a fast-changing culture which puts emphasis on money and spending, and moves away from a culture of savings.

Well, is this any different from what has been the practice in the West ? No, not at all, but then the West has long experimented with such changes and has more or less settled into peace terms with the cultural changes wrought by youngsters. But India is still struggling with those changes.

Parents in India are getting challenged by their kids all the time, and I think it would not be long before they are forced to seek help in the form of psychological counselling. It would be prudent to stay close to the ground and listen carefully to one’s children all the time, and then devise ways to cope with the changes.


Vijay Srinivasan
29th January 2012

The Adventures of Tintin

I did not see this latest movie: “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn”, but my son saw the movie.

He said that I should write about this movie, so I agreed to interview him on his experience seeing the movie. Here it goes:

Q: Why do you like Tintin as a character ?
A: He finds solutions to problems in his detective work. He is very cool and adventurous.

Q: Were you waiting for this new movie to come ?
A: Yes, I was waiting for more than a month for this movie to come to Mumbai.

Q: What did you like in the movie ?
A: The mission of Tintin to recover three scrolls from three unicorn model ships and find out where all the treasures of the late Captain Haddock are hidden

Q: Do you think it is a “great” movie ? If so, why ?
A: Yes, it is a great movie because of its strong story and the wonderful animations and the way it makes the audience feel the suspense about what is going to happen next

Q: Have you seen any Tintin movie before ?
A: No, I don’t think there was a full movie, mostly cartoons

Q: Do you think there will be a sequel to this movie ?
A: Yes, certainly there will be a sequel as there is an unfinished ending to this current movie

Q: Have you read the story of this movie ?
A: No, I have not read the related comics

Q: Were there lots of kids in the movie theatre, or mostly adults ?
A: There were more kids than adults

Q: What is this story about ? What is “unicorn” ?
A: This story is about how Tintin discovers the secret of the unicorn ships. Unicorn is the name of the ship.

Q: How would you compare this kind of movie with a Simpsons or a Harry Potter movie ? If better, why do you think so ?
A: I would think that a Harry Potter movie is better because of the real-life characters acting out in what appears to be a real-life movie, rather than just animation as in Tintin movie.

Q: What is the message from this movie to children ?
A: Children should be inquisitive and adventurous, not just desk-bound. Ha Ha !

Q: Overall, did you enjoy this movie ? If you did, give one reason for the same ?
A: Yes, I enjoyed this movie very much, because I like seeing adventurous movies and this is one of the best adventurous movies I have seen.

Well, I thought it was a decent interview, though I haven’t seen the movie and don’t intend to do so. But it is always good to talk to children and find out what influences them or makes them happy. They determine the future, don’t they ?


Vijay Srinivasan
26th November 2011

Kindergarten Pricing

I have been seeing the rampant rise in the price of education in India over the past few years. Quality education comes at a price, that everyone understands. Quality cannot be cheap.

Since the government has failed in its stated objective of providing quality education at the primary school level, spending less than 3% of the national budget, it has become necessary for private education providers to step in and fill the void. The demand far outstrips supply in a growing country like India. A good kindergarten education in a city like Mumbai or Delhi in a reputed private school can set you back by USD 3,000 a year in just fees alone.

So, I was taken aback to see a price of some USD 5,000 for kindergarten education in a country like China which has a far better centrally administered and controlled government than India does. I read in “China Daily” newspaper edition dated 13th October 2011 that competition for admission is fierce in Shanghai’s private kindergarten schools. Parents have to register for admission two years in advance in the international kindergarten schools, to at least have a chance during the admission process. There are many international kindergarten schools charging between USD 500 to USD 2,000 per month ! Four-year old kids are interviewed along with their parents !!

Looks like Mumbai or Delhi is a shade better ?! In Shanghai, parents invest in pre-interview training for their kids, often spending in excess of USD 1,000 just for the training some six months in advance.

Chinese parents want to give their kids the best in education, often preferring bi-lingual education over Chinese-only education, and are willing to pay 4 to 5 times more than what is being charged in public schools funded by the government. Sounds familiar ?

At least, the government agencies in China, such as the Municipal Education Commission have focus on fulfilling the demand for decent and reasonably priced education. The Commission recently announced that they will build another 100 kindergartnes within the next 3 years, on top of the existing 1,252 kindergartens. What about India ?

It is a matter of grave concern to all of us when there is not enough supply of approved quality education facilities available in a fast growing country like ours. It is also a matter of concern when private school education prices keep climbing up every year, trying to meet the demand from parents thirsting for such education. During my school years, education was virtually free, costing some INR 200 (USD 4) per month at the primary school level in a private school. But now, when the population of the country has increased from 700M to 1.2B, have we done enough and more for providing for the future generation ?

When we ponder over this question, it is not surprising to learn that the birth rates in the country has started declining ! Young would-be parents would obviously not wish to get burdened with the fear of big financial commitments even before they consider starting a family.

That is the cost of growth. May be it is not all that bad. But, we need to provide a good quality of education for the current kids, who will have to carry the flag of India well into the future.


Vijay Srinivasan
16th October 2011

International Clown Fest

I attended theatre after a very long time (many years) yesterday at the St Andrews College Auditorium in Bandra. My wife persuaded me to accompany her for the International Clown Fest.

I was not too keen, as my favourite pastime for a Saturday evening comprises of gymming, followed by a laid-back drink, and blogging. I had to give up my gymming and blogging, forget the drink. And, I did try to escape, but did not succeed.

So there we went to meet the international clowns.

It was a bit surprising to see the compound of St Andrews College – it was spacious and well laid out. It is not far from the St Andrews Church and is just next to the School. It had a lot of parking space, which is unusual in Mumbai, and there was no parking charge ! Wow !!

The auditorium itself was quite impressive, though it was not very modern. It could easily seat nearly 1,000 people. I asked my son to compute the total number of seats in 60 seconds and also the revenues of the show if atleast 90% of the seats are taken up on an average. What about the total revenues for the 8 sessions they were running over 4 days ? And, what would be the share of the clowns if only 50% of the receipts is shared with them ? My wife and son got quite irritated with this line of thinking and questioning, obviously, as they had come to see the antics of some clowns, not get into some arithmetic computations.

The Clown Fest lasted almost 2 hours with a break of about 15 minutes in between. The team of clowns from the U.S., Canada, India and Malaysia did pretty all right, but I did not feel that the show was that great to demand the price they were charging.

In any case it was fun to spend some time away from home. I was amazed at how quickly the entire auditorium filled up to the brim, though when we came in, there was hardly some 10% of audience waiting to get in some 30 minutes before the show started.

Take a look at: “clown fest India” . It was interesting to see the cast and how they engaged with the audience. But there should have been more fun from the clowns.


Vijay Srinivasan
02 October 2011

Remember Your Old Friends

I often find that a few select folks who were close friends when I was 15 or even 10 years old, still try to maintain their affinity to the mutual friendship and attempt to keep it alive, despite distances and time differences.

It is not always the case though. More often than not, old friends are engaged with their respective lives too intimately to find any time at all to reconnect with their past. At the prime of their lives, there might be just too many things on the plate to handle. That is normal.

However, a few friends make that extra effort to reconnect and maintain their relationship. I have a few friends like that, and a couple in Mumbai. The strength of a relationship in such cases is such that, an occasional phone call once in a few months is adequate to rekindle old thoughts and discuss matters of current interest. It is wonderful when I do receive such calls.

Recently, I received a call from Stuttgart, Germany, from an old classmate who studied with me in secondary school – we are talking about early Seventies. He called to thank me for some referral I made over an email about one of his relatives. But the very thought of calling up and thanking, rather than let email take the usual course, is a great feeling. One won’t do it for everybody or every situation. People do feel intensely about old friendships and relationships, and old schools and places that they had lived in once upon a time, long ago in the past.

I feel quite touched when I think of Madurai, the Southern Temple City in which I grew up. Most of my formative years up to the age of 18 was spent at Madurai, many of the friendships were formed there. I had a good ride as well as a very bad ride in my life while still being a teenager. Without delving deep into the past, I can say that those years impacted me like none other period in my life. And, when I hear a voice from that time, it is truly amazing to know that somebody remembers me from those times. I still speak to a close friend who still lives in Madurai, and we share some tidbits about how things have changed over the past 3 decades or so. He is still a traditional businessman who has adopted some modern techniques but lives very much in the past in Madurai which has hardly changed all these years !

I was thinking about these old friendships suddenly today after I received that call from Germany, spurred by old memories. I have a very close friend from those times who lives in Chennai and with who I share a relationship with no barriers. We together mimic the teachers from our 8th Grade even now when we meet sometimes – very rare though. When we are not able to meet at all, I give him a call and do the mimic and both of us burst out laughing, sometimes uncontrollably.

Isn’t life made of those small and deep memories, and friends from the yesteryears who have made a significant impact on you or contributed in some way to your growth as an individual ? It is, and today I relished some of those nice memories.

Welcome to the old good world of friendships in these days of Facebook and Twitter.


Vijay Srinivasan
20th February 2011

Tiger Moms

Professor Amy Chua of Yale Law School has shaken up the staid world of American Parenting with her recently published book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”. There is so much coverage of her book on the net so no point in recounting the key points here.

While she might be right in certain aspects of parenting that she has experimented with, I think that her methods and conclusions are so way out of the current thinking on parenting, even in today’s China. May be her book would see an outstanding acceptance in Singapore !

Disciplining kids in today’s world requires an exquisite balance of the type we learn in the corporate world. One does not wish to create a rebel out of one’s kid in a wanton fashion. There has to be a certain amount of “buy-in” from the kid, whether he/she is in his/her pre-teens or teens. Today’s exposure that a child gets and chooses to receive is so enormous and rich that we need to work hard, as parents, to help them sift through the rubble and find the real gems of learning. Easier said than done, even for ourselves.

Prof Chua disregards the realities of today’s world in her treatise on Tiger Moms. While I agree that Asian mothers, in general, are more concerned with academic performance than Western mothers, they do not provide a “total” or “better” solution for the development of their children. If that were the case, Asia would have, by now, created a phenomenal number of Nobel Laureates and other global inventors of repute, which we all know is NOT the case. Asia’s proportion of Nobel Laureates is well below 10% even today. Asian innovators seem to thrive in Silicon Valley better than in Bangalore or Shanghai, though things are very slowly changing. The American Economy has not collapsed, it is having a growth rate of 2.6% which is not bad for a USD 14T economy. Let us not write off the U.S. economy or their system of higher education which still remains the envy of all world, including China.

Ask a Chinese student or an Indian student where he or she wishes to graduate from. Given equal opportunities and resources, it would be almost inevitable that they respond with an American University name. Do they say they want to graduate from a Delhi or a Shanghai University at the post-graduate level ? No. I haven’t heard such an answer. Even a reputed school such as NUS (National University of Singapore) is rarely mentioned.

Why ?

America still produces the best inventive and innovative minds in the world. It is having some challenges in the secondary school education system, which they are trying to fix.

Coming back to Tiger Moms and their characteristics, I disagree with the harsh techniques used by Prof Amy Chua. I am surprised that as a product of the U.S. University System and a teacher in the same system, she chose to use those techniques on her own children. May be she wanted to inculcate “Asian” or “Chinese” value systems in her two daughters. That may be fine, no issue with that. We all tell our children to respect elders, be frugal, follow rules, be disciplined, study well, etc., We all try to do parts of what Prof Chua advocates in her book. However, she has stepped out of line with her harsh techniques and her assumptions on “good parenting” that she picked up from her parents.

Times have changed. World is not the same place that her parents started off with in the U.S. The essential skill that we must teach our children are not related to Maths and pushing them to be #1 in the school maths tests (like what Prof Chua did with her first daughter). It is not about piano lessons, or horse riding, or swimming skills. It is not about driving them hard on academic output, to the exclusion of all the rest of the life skills.

Today’s children need “life skills”, more than anything else – they need to be able to handle complexity from the word go. They need to develop into the equivalent of “general managers” in the corporate world when they grow up. The specialization into something close to their heart can happen after they hit 16 or 17, ready to get into college. I have seen and experienced the fact that kids do not wish to know the impact of world affairs, leadership behaviour, interactions between leaders and countries, scientific developments, historical antecedents when analysing a particular dispute, and psychological issues. Maths, Physics and Chemistry are important, no doubt, but rote application of the principles in these subjects leads to a mind which is not able to apply the same in later life. Example : mine !

A combination of “scientific application of principles” and “development of life skills” is what is called for, and this would require parenting of a different style. Unfortunately, parenting cannot be outsourced. And, the U.S. has just too many broken families with no serious child support. Parenting by graduates of the U.S. education system (like Prof Chua and her husband) in the traditional American way would not have produced kids which are worse than the current children, since highly educated, integrated families produce a better impact and influence on the kids – they learn from imbibing and seeing what their parents have accomplished in life.

Well, I can go on and on, but the key point is that the message has got to be different – it is not possible for the American parents to quickly switch over to the Tiger Mom way of parenting and benefit from its output. They got to think for themselves, learn a few techniques, and ensure that the family support system is in place to produce great children who would grow into great adults.

No shortcuts, folks ! And, to Prof Chua – I am sure you will reconsider some of your conclusions as you receive feedback.


Vijay Srinivasan
13th February 2011