Ability to be honest

Well, as I sit here looking at my computer, I think of many topics to write about this evening. Most of the time, I would have chosen the topic in advance and then thinking about the content for the topic. However, many a time, I run out of topics and then have to think deeply enough to write about something meaningful to me and to my audience.

For today’s blog post, I chose the topic of honesty (and, by extension, integrity). In friendships and relationships that we build, the essential building block is honesty. The ability to be totally transparent and honest with friends is one of the key tenets in building a sustainable relationship. Sometimes, it might lead to a loss of friendship due to the brutal nature of input or feedback – though rarely, as the friends that you choose would be sturdy enough to receive your feedback, otherwise they just become casual acquaintances.

Personal integrity is key to any relationship – if I say that I will do something by a certain time, I will do everything possible to deliver on that commitment to a friend, having agreed to do so in the beginning. It is fundamental to the partnership between two individuals. As I test each building block of a relationship, I am looking for potential cracks and weaknesses. The ability to sustain for the long term is a must. The ability to be honest when things do not go right is also absolutely critical to move the relationship forward on a solid footing.

However, we always encounter friends and especially relatives who do not understand the basics of building a honest partnership based on total trust and integrity. They sometimes take things for granted. I never take things for granted in any relationship. I believe sincere and hard work is always needed to keep nurturing any relationship. The ability to share experiences and expectations without any kind of reservation is also an essential component of this relationship.

I constantly keep testing friendship equations to ensure that these are always “balanced”. If someone asks for a favour, I try to fulfil it if I can figure out a way; being totally transparent as to my strengths in fulfilling the request is very important as it is not mutually beneficial to build any false hopes. I try to restrict (as much as possible) my seeking any favours, as I do not wish to create an obligation for achieving balance in a slightly unequal equation problem. It is very critical to maintain equality in the partnerships; at the same time, I would extend my hand to support genuine requests which are made in the hope that I could fulfil the same.

In a nutshell, honesty and integrity are the cornerstones for building a successful partnership, though it might take a longer time. The idea is to build a sustainable growth based on mutual trust, belief and commitment to each other. It is not necessary that we have to see “eye to eye” on every single issue. In fact, we might differ on most issues, yet see congruity in building the partnership. For example, I might belong to a different political dispensation, a uniquely different social orientation, or a corporate profile not compatible with the “equation” that we are trying to establish. Nevertheless, we both see that we could jointly achieve certain things by working together closely, and we mutually decide to pursue the same. Paths might diverge but thoughts are aligned.

Honesty and integrity are hard to maintain, should we fall prey to the damning persuasion to be just “nice” to each other all the time. While being nice is important, it should not detract us from more critical conversations on matters which are close to our hearts. It is also important to call out positions not compatible with lack of integrity at an early stage, as gradual deterioration would lead to irreversible loss. It is very important to remember this fact.

Being open, communicative, completely transparent, and honest are key ways to lay a strong foundation to building a long term partnership with anyone, even with new unknown friends. And, surely that works even between two companies!

I would say that being honest has paid me dividends over the years, though there were couple of misses, which was fine. One cannot expect the best return all the time. I also know that even in those rare cases, the friends involved maintained respect for the interaction and for me, as they understood I was not hitting them in a personal way. I was attacking the issues involved in a straightforward manner, though they did not like the matter even being raised.

So that is my thesis on the need and ability to be honest all the time in all interactions. such an approach will pay off in the long term.


Vijay Srinivasan

11th February 2018


Fine Dining at a higher level

I had the opportunity to dine at the Mezzaluna European Restaurant on the 65th floor of Lebua State Tower in Bangkok recently. It is supposed to be the highest restaurant in all of Bangkok. Specially transported to the 64th floor first (and then you walk up to the 65th floor) in a rather silent lift populated by very well dressed and groomed diners, the Mezzaluna surprised me with its epicurean delights. There are vegetarian options here, however it is not designed to please my vegetarian friends – they might however, delight themselves by having drinks in the bar on the 64th floor with exotic views of the city and the river all around.

Mezzaluna is a beautifully appointed fine dining restaurant with lots of attention to detail and designed to please the most demanding diners by providing not only an outstanding dining experience but also fine music, great views, and well informed servers who explain the details of each dish with sophistication. This is the first time I dined at a “2 Michelin Stars” restaurant. The Mezzaluna has received numerous awards over the years.

The menu does not have a la carte choices – just today’s Tasting Menu paired with some great (though very expensive) wines. I enjoyed every bit of the exotically designed menu offerings, except, of course one beef item. The rest were mostly sea food and couple of vegetarian dishes. In such restaurants, one cannot expect a plateful of food – it is extremely small portion, however you get 5 or 7 course options.

I tasted some exotic dishes from the tasting menu such as “Pen Shell Scallop”, “Langoustine”, “Dover Sole” and “Chocolate Vacherin” – anyone?

Strongly recommended for those with adventurous spirits, but read each and every menu item carefully so that you understand what you are going to eat and enjoy. I have not spent so much time reading up a food menu and then listening carefully to the waiter for his/her explanation of the particular dish that has just been served. Given that it is Bangkok, one would expect some rather difficult English pronunciation, but not at the Mezzaluna – each and every waiter has been trained thoroughly to keep up with the standard of a world class restaurant.

Yes, Mezzaluna can easily pass off as a high quality, high class, fine-dining restaurant in Paris or New York. Just outstanding. An experience to be relished.



Vijay Srinivasan
26th January 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!


Vijay Srinivasan

21st January 2018

The Passing of an Eventful 2017

Today is the last day of 2017.

What an eventful year it was – every year has some significant events which define it. However, 2017 was one of those years which had multiple significant events trying to define it, the most important one being the coronation (!) of Donald Trump as the President of the U.S. in January 2017.

That changed almost every other significant event in the entire world – Trump changed the world order for everything significant. It became a topsy turvy world defined by uncertainty, chaos, confusion, war-mongering, spiced up elections, enhanced killing of civilians, increase in the number of refugees, increase in the severe perpetration of atrocities on ethnic minorities, diplomacy torn to tatters, more urban violence, intolerance towards minority races, testing of long-established alliances, threat to dismantle trade partnerships, ruinous twitter shots, anti-immigrant rhetoric, vilifying genuine polictical opponents, and what not. The list is endless, but the defining moment of the year was the unexpected anointing of Donald Trump as the most temperamental power-mongering trigger-happy IDK (I don’t know or care) president of the most powerful nation on earth.

If the U.S. is making diplomatic and militaristic waves in the North American continent, the U.K. is making a different set of waves in an economic and trade sense, in Europe via its Brexit separation from the European Union. While massive chaos has not followed the Brexit vote, it is likely that the full impact of this separation would be felt in 2018/19, as both entities resolve trade, immigration, security and other issues between themselves. In Asia, the country which is making most of the persistent waves of a destructive impact would be none other than China, which is intent on flexing its military and political muscle towards an unreasonable, unjustified nationalistic expansion into the South China Sea, to the detriment of the South East Asian countries. While Japan and India are acting as joint counter-balance to the rising influence and belligerence of China, they would not be able to match China, without the active involvement and participation of the U.S.

The most peaceful economic rise is that of India. While marked down by the demonetization and the national goods and services tax initiatives, India is recovering and is on the verge of exceeding a 7% GDP growth rate, soon to reclaim as the fastest growing large economy on the planet. Such a focused, sustainable growth rate is expected to lift 200 to 300 million people out of poverty in the coming 3 to 5 years.

2017 saw military conflicts in Yemen, Iraq, Syria – all in the Middle East. An accurate tally of the human cost of these conflicts is not available, even from the United Nations, but it is safe to assume that a million or more civilian lives has been lost in these countries. It appears that human lives are the easiest expendable commodity that is available to policy makers in both political/government and military circles. This is a pathetic evolution of unnecessary warfare on civilians who cannot defend themselves, or who cannot be defended by their own weak governments. A totally ridiculous situation which even the most sober people in the world are not able to address and resolve to this day.

The ejection of the Rohingya Muslim community by Myanmar is another sad refugee story, which is tainted by lots of blood in the hands of the government and the arumy. The glorified leader and Nobel peace prize laureate, Aung Saan Suu Kyi of Myanmar, has not done herself any favour, by not speaking out loudly and clearly on the ethnic cleansing which has characterized the army operations against the Rohingyas. The United Nations, again, is unable to do anything except giving media interviews.

2017 was positive in many aspects as well. Stock markets everywhere created huge additional wealth during the year. There was strongly positive action in corporate market, with several major mergers and acquisitions announced/completed. Tax rforms in the U.S. have been a positive news for U.S. corporations. Climate change initiatives are in progress, despite the lack of U.S. support and participation. Trade initiatives are in progress, despite lack of U.S. participation (Trans Pacific Partnership, Belt & Road initiative, etc.,). GDP per capita is firmly rising in Asian countries.

So, in a nutshell, 2017 while being a dramatic and significantly eventful year, has not diluted the human confidence on the criticality of economic growth, alleviation of poverty, elimination of wars, sustainability of peace, trade, manufacturing, healthcare, etc., At the end of the day, people need more bread on the table, and if governments can help in achieving that goal so much the better for everyone.

I think we can learn a lot from the happenings of 2017, and could plan execution of important events in our life a little better. Lack of study, analysis and preparation hampers our execution many a time, and we should not let that happen. However, we almost have to pray that a nuclear war is not unleashed on Asia (again). Only one country has suffered from a nuclear war, and that is Japan. Do we want the second such country in Asia as well?

Surely not. Let us hope better sense will prevail over hot heads who have been given the mammoth responsibility to make epochal decisions which affect all of mankind.

I hope you all had a good 2017, and here’s wishing you an outstanding year in 2018 and more success, peace, and health. Forget the money and focus on these three things. You will come to the conclusion that your money priorities were not the right ones to lead a positive and cheerful life.


Vijay Srinivasan

31st December 2017

Update on Rev Fr Felix Joseph, S.J.

Many of my St Marys’ High School classmates reverted on the post I published recently The Loss of a Great Life Teacher

I had obviously missed out on some of the key teachings of Rev Fr Felix Joseph, S.J. Here is a summary of the comments provided by my esteemed classmates from those impactful, influential, and most remembered days at the school in Madurai, that I am publishing on their behalf:

Ganesan says – “………the first thing he wrote on the blackboard was ‘I expect great things from you‘………shall always remember him”

Chander says – “………the 4C of Fr Joseph are ‘Critical, Creative, Cultural and Communitarian‘………”. This needs no explanation, we all understand what the Rev Fr was trying to say.

Chakravarthy says – “………...whomever he has vented his anger on have done well in life. Even if he is harsh, he will come back next day with his trade mark smile. Once he even left our class in anger saying that he didn’t want to handle this class any longer. Very next day he forgot everything and proceeded as usual. That’s him”.

Ramesh says – “………….the drama show for the inmates of (Madurai) jail (prison), put up by Rev Fr………..a great philanthropic deed for those inmates……….”. Ramesh also says – “…………he was the first teacher who visited his students’ houses in those days……….he was a great lover of fine arts………..he introduced the habit of House Magazine,……….and our class was chosen to receive the first prize……..I remember to have received the prize on stage on behalf of our class in 9th standard………..”

Ashraf says – “……….he always used to say ‘I expect great things from you‘……….”

Shihan Hussaini says – “…………..LOSS OF MY FOUNDATION! There are people who are truly responsible for your foundations in your childhood. Fr Felix Joseph was my strongest foundation. He groomed me, moulded me, helped me, supported me and guided me all through my life. When I was in school and when I was out of school. When I was in touch with him and even when I was not. His powerful influence has chiseled many a young mind in St Marys’ Higher Secondary School where he was the Assistant Head Master and my class teacher. His ability to identify talent was phenomenal. I was cast in the lead in two plays that he directed – ‘Punnagaiyin Pugal’ and ‘Nulainthae Teeruvom’. His dramatic portrayal of the various characters and his acting every character out to teach us is vividly in my mind. His love and motivation for English vocabulary and his emphasis on all of us learning new words was legendary. When I expressed my love for oil painting and my inability to afford the materials, he gifted me my first oil paint tubes box and hog hair brush. He encouraged the pursuit of reading. He always gave me a pat on th eback and a word of appreciation when he found me in the school library. Can’t forget how he took the entire class to director K. Balachander’s movie ‘Tappu Taalangal’ and encouraged us to participate in a national film review contest. Individual boys were assigned to write criticism (critique) on various sections of the movie. I was asked to review ‘art direction!’. We won the contest and the first prize of Rs. 200 was shared by the boys. In later days when I was introduced in movies by K. Balachander, I narrated this to the director and he was keen to meet Fr Felix Joseph. Incidentally my first play with Fr Felix was called ‘Punnagai Mannan’ and my first movie with KB sir was (also) ‘Punnagai Mannan’. Fr Felix helped me to connect to Dr Michael Debakey, the pioneer of open heart surgery from Houston USA (after my childish, failed experimental open heart surgeries with white mice) and was instrumental in getting a personal scholarship of USD 100 every year from him (for me). When I met Dr Debakey many years later during his visit to Chennai for a seminar and thanked him, he was keen on meeting Fr Felix. Fr was personally responsible for evolving my acting, mono acting, painting, writing, oratorical, debating and other skills. When he visited me at home in Chennai, he presented my wife with a picture of Mary. He was in touch with my wife frequently as I was not reachable on phone many a time. It’s truly sad that he is no more. He lived a fruitful life shaping young minds and creating moral foundations for his students. I see his influence in every creative work I have done and will do. He will be remembered. Truly, Father, rest in peace………”.

Nanda Kumar says – “………For late comers in lower classes who come to get his signature, he used to tell them ‘Thank You sollittu poda‘……………”.

Anthony Jayakumar says – “………..God bless his soul! He was a great teacher and a wise man. He led a long and fruitful life………….”

KS Sekar says – “………..I can never forgive myself for not visiting him in my numerous trips to Madurai despite Ashraf offering to take me. He was committed to our batch like nobody I have seen. He pushed us to succeed on our own efforts. He beautifully handled academic slackers and extraordinarily brilliant and eccentric minds alike. I interacted with him extensively while at St Marys’. Not once did he try to impose his religious beliefs on me or criticize mine. I will never forget his rule to include vocabulary words in our essays. In my humble opinion, he was a true guru I was blessed to learn from………”

I have tried to capture as much as I could from the various WhatsApp messages. This is a summary which hopefully will stay in one place on the internet for all of us to refer to……..and show to our children and grand children.


Vijay Srinivasan

24th December 2017



The Loss of a Great Life Teacher

My most impressionable years were spent at the St Marys’ High School in Madurai city of Tamil Nadu State in India. Those days it was a different society, a different education system, and a different method of teaching. I spent 6 crucial years in the secondary school (6th grade to 11th grade), and for three of those years I went through a transformative experience under the tutorship of Rev Fr Felix Joseph, S.J.

I am a member of the WhatsApp group of St Marys’ of my batchmates, and it was through that platform I learnt of the demise of Rev Fr. I also saw his pictures, and it brought back a lot of memories from those days which continue to influence me even today.

Rev Fr Felix Joseph was a firm assistant head master, and a teacher for our class. He displayed immense strength in character while showing his kindness in many ways. Our class comprised of students with varying degrees of talent and naughtiness, and he dealt with each and every student in his own personal style, without causing a fear psychosis. Students were, of course, afraid of him due to his firmness in demanding discipline and class work quality, but that never detracted the students from demonstrating their talents to the Rev Fr. He had a strong interest in literature and cinema, and also in journalism. He published his movie review in a local Tamil magazine, which attracted widespread attention, as Jesuit Fathers are not known to be very social and cinema-oriented.

Rev Fr Felix Joseph took personal interest in the development of many students – he specifically encouraged students with talents in extra-curricular areas such as sports and games, art, dramas, painting, writing, film critique, public speaking, etc., I know of my class mates who have benefited in a significant manner due to his personal involvement, guidance and mentoring. He shaped so many of us who were struggling to find our feet in this world, while goading us towards a better academic performance all the time.

He never tried to instil any Christian religious values – but, he emphasized the importance of a value system to be developed by oneself and to be followed. This is an important distinction when over 90% of the students were from the Hindu religion or philosophy. In this context, I would point out that Indian parents, of the educated variety, mostly preferred to send their children to Christian schools those days. When the school asked us to bring used clothes for charitable purposes, we all brought without any question. When we went around the statue of Jesus Christ with candles in hand, we did that without a religious orientation – we knew that all religions were the same (and still, remain the same).

Rev Fr Felix Joseph was well known for his love of the English Language, English Literature and English Vocabulary. He insisted that we broaden our knowledge of English and its application, by learning a lot of words and reading a lot of books. The value of that work was revealed during later part of our respective lives, when we could all stand our stead proudly in front of any one from around the world and hold our heads high.

A life spent in moulding young minds and lives must have been a rather enjoyable and fruitful life for Rev Fr Felix Joseph. He was a wise man and an excellent teacher of not only the English language but life skills. As a batch of students in a formative stage of our lives, it is not an exaggeration to say that he was the one single teacher who was instrumental in positively influencing all of us and guided us towards the next stage in our lives. I would say most of us survived successfully thanks in no small measure due to his unselfish contribution to our lives.

Rest in Peace Rev Fr Felix Joseph, S.J.

Cheers, and Continue to follow his guidance in the rest of our lives St Marys’ friends,

Vijay Srinivasan

17th December 2017

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,


Vijay Srinivasan

16th December 2017

Against Evil and Darkness

Today is Diwali or “Deepavali” as we call the most important Hindu festival in South India. It is a very key occasion when Hindus all over the world celebrate the victory of good over evil, and lights abolish darkness for ever. While it is a religious occasion, it is also a time to celebrate time with families and friends – a time for acquiring a “feel good” feeling which kind of emancipates us from the clutches of daily routine and frustrations, and brings a strong whiff of good will and smiles all around. Of course, we eat a lot, specifically sweets and savouries, which add to our waistlines and continue the long-standing Indian tradition of diabetic influence in our lives as we chugg along.

Not very different from Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or any of the other major religious festivals around the world.

We are fortunate that Singapore (and Malaysia) celebrates Diwali like a national festival, and has a public holiday today (like India), considering a significant population of Singapore are from Indian ethnicity. Other ethnic compatriots like the Chinese and Malays wish us “Happy Diwali” when they see us in public places like condominium lobbies, and that greeting enhances the bonding that we all have towards Singapore. The “Little India” area of Singapore has been lit with “Happy Deepavali” LED lights for nearly a month now.

For the first time ever in my career, I became an avowed Diwali enthusiast, and declined business meetings on the eve of Diwali and during the Diwali holiday (which is today). I realized that it is time that I respect my own private time during this auspicious occasion, and avoid taking calls in temples (of all places!). Calls came, of course, on Tuesday evenings, but I politely declined. The world needs to understand that Diwali is celebrated by almost a Billion Hindus, and the festival needs to be respected. Even the White House celebrated Diwali! President Trump read out a statement and then lit the lamp adorned by bright flowers, surrounded by key Indian officials.

I also declined calls during the day today (most of Asia works today), and did not look at my laptop all day. This was an unusual departure from my usual practice over the years, when I treated Diwali as any other working day (though it was always a public holiday in Singapore and India), and continued to transact business. Now, I am of the opinion that all religious festivals of national importance have to be given the requisite space and attention, whether one has any faith or otherwise. It is the sheer number of folks who follow the faith(s) and the festival(s). I also realized that the crucial message of the festival would not percolate down to our children, if I continue to be nonchalant about its importance and its place in our life.

As I sit down this evening with a glass of wine and contemplate the times when I was very young (less than 15 years old), I feel an overwhelming sense of self-pity and gloom that I have missed out a lot. May be it is true, but for me it is an emotional recall of my younger days in the city of Madurai in South India where I grew up. I am able to easily visualize the Deepavali noise and celebrations in front of my house in Palace Road and Mahal Vadambokki Street in the 1960s and 1970s. My eyes are wandering down Palace Road and making a turn towards my famous school – the St Marys’ High School of Madurai. I remember most of what was going on during some of those years, though not able to correlate the specific year with a specific event.

It is a far cry now where I am sitting in the Thomson locality of Singapore, but I believe my soul never left Madurai. Though I have not gone back to Madurai since the year 2000 (my India base is now Madras or Chennai), I still have those Deepavali and other connections to Madurai tugging me, asking me to visit the place. Some of my school mates are still living there, and I have been in constant touch with them through the magic of WhatsApp.

So, now I am thinking about Deepavali and its critical annual role in providing me with a sense of relief and liberating thoughts. I did not go to temple today as we as a family decided to stay away from the crowds. We went to the temple Monday evening, and I was so happy to make a quiet visit to the Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon area of Singapore with very little crowd at 6:30 PM. Apart from the temple visit, I also enjoyed the free “prasadam” or temple food paid for by a devotee, which in my opinion is a lucky occasion. If I am able to stand in the queue and receive the temple prasadam, I am fortunate as I then totally forget that my family was supposed to go elsewhere for dinner! The food was so delicious that we decided to eat the same and dropped the dinner plans. Such is the simple beauty of utter simplicity in thoughts and deeds. There were others who had driven their Mercedes and BMWs into the temple parking lot who were also queuing to receive the temple prasadam. We all do not need it, but we relish the important fact that the temple cooked the simple food, and we have to sit down on the temple floor to eat it on a piece of “butter” paper!

When I am able to come down from my elitism to the simplest common denominator of a guy walking down Serangoon Road, then I have become a Socialist craving equality among the masses. In essence, that is who I am. While I am not saying no to the comfort of my savings, it gives me more pleasure when I am one among the people who are commoners doing things which 90% of the world’s population does on any specific day. No one else does anything for me at least. If I am able and willing to do things on my own, then I am a Social Animal and unlike what the Rich folks say, I am willing to work hard for myself and my family and earn my worth. The Rich Republicans (I am using the U.S. example here to ease the understanding of the readers) always point that the “Left: or the Socialists are weak and poor, and do not deserve subsidies or handouts, and do not work at all”. It kind of aggravates me – that is utter nonsense. Most people want to work and earn. Sorry, I am distracting you into a completely different topic, but the essence of what I am saying is that being an elite removes you from the sufferings of the masses.

So, that is the conclusion of my Diwali holiday today, and back to the office tomorrow. In the meanwhile, enjoy your respective fatty foods and sugars and drinks today. After all, we have driven out the evil darkness from our lives, and the life ahead is full of light.


Vijay Srinivasan

18th October 2017

Maharani Ojima

This is the first ever time that I am writing about an Indian restaurant in Tokyo.

I was in Tokyo for better part of last week, and had the opportunity to have dinner with few colleagues at the Maharani Restaurant in Ojima area of Tokyo. The area is located towards the eastern part of Tokyo (some 13 stations away from the famous Shinjuku station on Tokyo’s complex subway system). It is easy to get lost in Tokyo’s Metro and Subways – Shinjuku is an underground city almost, with connections to various parts of Tokyo, and it always amazes me how the Japanese built such incredibly sophisticated underground systems several decades ago. And, couple of things continue to amaze everyone – how efficient the system works all the time (breakdowns are unheard of), and how easy it is to navigate once we understand the system interlinkages. Further, there is not much of noise anywhere, though thousands of commuters are always traversing the stations. One cannot hear loud noises or loud speaking – people move around in almost an eerie silent manner! Their discipline is simply difficult to believe or achieve in other countries (even the developed ones).

Well, let me come back to the restaurant. It is a smallish one, as most Japanese restaurants are, and located in a quiet neighbourhood with many apartments and small shops (it looked to me as though it is some part of Mumbai or Chennai). Not being in the central business area, Ojima is quiet with many old folks walking along the pavements, and some young ones riding their bicycles. Taxis have not changed in Tokyo for ages, with Toyota Crown still dominating the roads (very expensive with minimum fare starting at 410 Yen or USD 3.70, and accelerating fast as you cruise in search of your destination). I saw far less taxis in Ojima, and it is well covered by the subway.

There was no one in the restaurant when we reached it at around 6:30 PM. We ordered Rotis, Bhindi Masala, Dhal Tadka, Chicken Biriyani, Roasted Papads, and Raita. All items were well prepared and delicious. Of course, we ordered Kirin Beer which went well with the spicy Indian food. Our Japanese colleague enjoyed the food, and I asked him whether it was the first time for him at this place. He replied saying that he had been to this restaurant many times, and every time he had always relished the food. In fact, like in many developed countries, the restaurant menu displayed the severity of the spiciness of each item on the menu, and my Japanese colleague selected either a 4 or a 3 out of 5! I like Japanese food – especially the Sushi and Sashimi (yes raw fish), and also their unique Rice with the Chicken Gravy (called “Curry Udon”), and of course the Tempura Set. Mostly it is bland, except for the masala gravy on the Curry Udon, but it is pure and tasty. So, I always appreciate when a foreigner enjoys Indian food!

Though the Maharani Restaurant is small and the ambience probably gets only a 3 Star, the service is outstanding and rates a 5 Star. All the Indian staff and the Chef speak fluent Japanese (and of course, Hindi). They strive to make the patrons very comfortable with a polite conversation and smile all the time. They engage in some small talk with the Indian patrons.

The food and service are of high quality and I do not have hesitation in suggesting this place for a lunch or dinner. It costs approximately between USD 20 to 35 per head depending on the items ordered, and could be more in case one orders Sake or Whiskey.

That is my experience of Tokyo last week, though I had the usual business cocktails and dinners in 5 Star hotels. However, it might get boring as it is more of the same all the time, in most cities. The unique local experiences define the feeling for a place that one develops over time. Like the “Blue Bottle Coffee” that I had in the Roppongi business district – amazing coffee which would make you not to venture into a Starbucks again! And stories go on like that……..the world is fascinating if only we can get out there, not fixated on our laptops or smartphones. Talk to the people around – for example, I engaged in a brief conversation with a Blue Bottle employee, and it reveals another side of human life that we are totally unaware of!!!


Vijay Srinivasan

15th October 2017

Eye & Eye

I have continuously worn eye glasses for 45 years. The spectacle is part of my life as much as any part of my body – sometimes (forgetfully though), I have even taken a shower with my glasses on. Clearly, I had come to consider that my eye glasses are an integral part of my being, and respect it as much, all these years.

So, imagine my plight without eyeglasses for the past few days! Really miserable!! Especially when the eye doctor instructed me not to read anything – whether newspaper or smartphone – for the next few days, after my cataract surgery. Yes, I had my first ever surgery of any kind last week on one of my eyes at the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC). I will have surgery on the other eye next week. The difficult phase of life between the first and second eye surgeries is characterized by one eye being able to see long distance, and the other one unable to do so. It is a kind of funny situation as I walk around with one eye blurred, and not being able to wear my favourite spectacle frame. So, now I have no eye glasses, and that appears to be a situation when a man has no clothes!

The good part of the experience, is of course, the ability of the rectified eye to see long distance, and suddenly everything appears to be crystal sharp. I was sitting on the living room sofa, after a few hours of surgery, and was a bit startled to be able to read everything at a distance of more than 10 feet, even small letters on an equipment or a box. It was never the case before, and even with glasses it has always been tough to discern characters from a distance of more than ten feet, unless these are somewhat big. The other eye of course refuses to cooperate, as it is yet to be rectified.

I read about laser-assisted cataract surgery, and can only wonder how far things have progressed in medical technology. In fact, my doctor also commented on this point – that technology has taken us far ahead, but we still use files to write comments on. I remarked it is just a question of time when almost everything in life will be automated (coming from a technology company!).

In a nutshell, I have not been reading my emails and WhatsApp messages for the past couple of days, and this is a blessing in disguise, I should say. I have been able to think about substantive matters of existential importance (which always happens to all of us when we get out of a hospital), and that line of thinking throws up new areas to discuss and of course, blog!

Lots of eye drops go into the operated eye every few hours, and this is part of the recovery process. I am going through that now, and it will continue all through October (4 weeks for each operated eye). The guidance and service at the SNEC has been excellent, though it is a government facility. I got a friend’s strong referral for a senior consultant at SNEC, and that is how I landed there. The professionalism and strict adherence to procedures and processes are what distinguish such institutions.

OK, I will have to stop writing further as my wife is frowning, and asking me why I am violating the code of conduct. Will report later on how life is going to be transformed without my favourite eye glasses.

In the meanwhile, have a good weekend, and a good week ahead,


Vijay Srinivasan

01 October 2017