Tagged: Publishable Randoms

The more we think……..


People like to talk with others, whether they know these others or not. If I run into a challenge in a large place which is unknown to me previously, my natural tendency would be to seek out someone from the milling crowd around me who I think has the propensity to respond to my query. I choose the right kind of person, and voila, I get my answer. Sometimes, I choose the clueless guy, who either says he does not know the answer, or points me in the wrong direction. I then need to make a judgement call whether to follow his advice, or ask someone else, provided I develop a suspicion on his response.

We of course, like to talk with people that we do know. There is much less resistance, or reluctance, in starting a conversation with these folks. The assumption here is that they do tolerate you, they know the pitfalls of having the conversation with you, they know that it could lead to a debate, or even to a new problem. It depends on their acceptance of you as an individual with a history of interactions with them, and their current level of tolerance to discuss a topic which could create an issue or a problem. Of course, initiation of a conversation also depends on your comfort level to discuss difficult topics, as your assumption is that there might be a good quality of discussion and a potential outcome which will then help you.

But, what about thoughts? Thinking through any problem, or challenge, or a topic of interest, is one of the most difficult endeavours one could undertake. Your ability to think through the genesis of the problem statement, identify a solution approach, mentally argue on the pros and cons of your proposed approach, and predicting how others would approach the problem given all the evidence in front of you, are all intriguing puzzle pieces. I spend a lot of time thinking about several things on any one day – for example, today I thought about the endurance of distance runners while I was walking early in the morning in the MacRitchie reservoir park, trying to understand how the bio-mechanics of a runner contrasts with mine (I do not run or jog) by observing the guys who were running in front of me. While I was walking back home (after a walk which took me two hours and 13,000 steps), I thought about the perennial fight between the Palestinians and Israelis, and how that problem could be resolved to the satisfaction of both parties – I thought through the options and determined that there is indeed a “bloodless” way which could guarantee Israel’s security and safety, while providing for the establishment of the State of Palestine. I compared that huge challenge with the India – Pakistan fight over Kashmir (which is unlikely to be resolved during our lifetime), and identified issues which are different between the two struggles. Then I thought about the interesting discussion I had with some close friends on Richard Dawkins and Bruce Lipton. On that matter, my view was that it is absolutely essential to understand the position and logic of all parties who could contest a central hypothesis. I have to be able to put myself into someone’s shoes and argue the case for that someone, which helps me to refine my case, logic and rationale against that someone’s position.

And so on, and so forth……….

The more we think, the less we talk nonsense. The more we think, the more logical we become. The more we think, the better we become tolerant and accepting. The more we think, the less isolated we become – though this might sound surprising. Once we think a lot about any particular topic, our mind chases us to validate our position or conclusion, either via secondary research, or by talking to people we know. It is a bit risky talking to people we do not know on weighty topics which could lead to trouble, unless we are a renowned professor who can give a lecture on the matter without inflaming passions!

I strongly believe that the more we think and exercise our grey matter without looking at a book or the internet, the stronger we become in cogent thought formulation, analysis, identification of problems, probable approach to resolution, and determination of potential outcomes. The process positions us on a strong base from which we can argue our case, and persuade people as to the logic of our position. Our life experiences shape us and shape our thinking, and this cannot be denied.

It is not at all necessary to conform to others’ thoughts if you are not convinced. People mistakenly think that they need to conform or agree on the resolution approach propagated by someone else, before you can get into the inner circle of friends and influencers. This is a wrong way of looking at things. People appreciate if one has a view that one explains with passion and then sticks to that view while taking feedback and inputs from others. It is very critical to have an opinion, a view or an analysis of a subject matter of interest to you. Or else, you just read about it in the media, see it on the TV getting debated by erudite people, or hear another view from someone you know, and then you don’t have a view or opinion of your own!

Opinions and views are rarely popular. I have two kinds of approaches when it comes to thinking and then amplifying my views to others who would have the patience to listen. One is original thought process which I come up with (quite often) based on my random readings and very random inner voices, and the other is taking up a contrarian view to what I think people around me are expected to coalesce upon. This second approach has produced some rather interesting results, as I have to develop my thinking to a higher level which could then facilitate a vocal defence of my contrarian view.

In a nutshell, we are given the power and the faculties to think. We should use this power to the fullest. This power would make us a complete human being, with the potential ability and thinking to change the world.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

2nd April 2017

Some Positive Things


There has been some observations from concerned friends and blog-readers that my posts tend to be negative, atleast in a mild fashion, and often criticize whole countries or cultures, rather than suggesting ways to change oneself.

While I believe that as an author of my blog I am entitled to my views (unspoilt by any external or personal influences), and am really open for critical reviews by readers, I think it is also my responsibility to deliberately identify and point out positive things I see around me. I have done that before in my blog itself, but my attempts in the past may not have been that visible or impactful. In my opinion, authors tend to be analytical and shaped by their own experiences, or by things that they witness in their lives. Authors rarely get shaped by one-sided views of their friends or colleagues and instead tend to exercise academic neutrality on issues of critical importance, not getting easily swayed.

In this post, I thought I will write some positive things about India, my country of birth. I have plenty to gripe about India, and have expressed my opinion in multiple blog posts over the years. Unfortunately, I have not been in a position to change anything in India itself, which I regret. The only positive thing that I have done is to stay connected with an orphanage over the years.

One very positive thing about India that the whole world has noticed is the composition of its demographics. India has the world’s youngest population for a very large country of its size – over 35% of its population is under 35 years old, and over 50% of its population is under 25 years old. This is hugely significant – we are talking about over 400M people and 600M people respectively. India can indeed be the factory for the world. No wonder Lockheed Martin kind of companies wish to move their entire F-16 production line to India (just one example, there are other valid reasons for that proposed move). For the next 3 decades or so, India will become the mainstay supplier of young people to the rest of the world. This is a hugely positive thing for India and for the world.

The other great thing about India that I like very much is its resilience as a nation which is a primary result of its people diversity. India snaps back to normalcy after every calamity, or natural disaster, or terror strike, with determination to continue leading normal lives and bitterly swallowing the feelings about its fallen heroes. Such a strong determination makes India a place in which it has never been a problem to attract young men to the army or police. The resilience of its people makes India a great nation which will bare its teeth and fight any challenge with or without modern equipment. One has to just take stock of the series of natural calamities which have hit India time and again, and witness the army’s role in saving civilians, and peoples’ role in saving others irrespective of religion, caste or creed.

A fantastic thing about India is the respect people have for their parents and teachers. The Indian culture insists that we continue to do this throughout our lives. And, we do it all the time. Even if one gets angry with one’s parents, the interaction is going to be usually based on a respectful conversation; no sign of disrespect to one’s parents is displayed as parents and teachers (the good ones at least!) are almost treated as gods. Parents earn for their kids throughout their lives and devote all their efforts to the upbringing of their children, and the children know that as well. It is very rare even today that an adolescent child leaves home on his/her own looking for a separate house to settle down, unless there is a business imperative or unless there is a need to operate out of another town.

There are many positive things about India, and it is not feasible to list all of these things here in my simple blog post. Sometimes, I think that India’s positives might eventually overtake the negatives, but I do not wish to give the slack to India on the negatives which it has to seriously address before it can become a first-world nation. India cannot be beholden to all its not so positive legacies, and must instead focus on building a modern nation based on a gender-neutral, religion-neutral, caste-neutral, race-neutral, colour-neutral society. Government intervention is needed to correct the wrongs and make India a successful first-world country which stands proudly amongst the top 10 countries of the world. However, as it stands today, there are several positive stories that can be recounted about India, and it has been my view that such positive aspects have not been widely discussed or shared.

Wishing a Happy Diwali to all my readers, whether you are from India or not, and whether you are Indian or not!!!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

30th October 2016

 

 

 

From Second World to First World


Singapore is now clearly ensconced as one of the top ten wealthiest nations on planet earth.

This has not been achieved easily.

Lots of sweat and thinking has gone on into making a marshy land one of the world’s top financial centres today. Earlier, it was one of the top electronics manufacturing centres as well, which it has ceded to Malaysia and some other countries. Singapore still has the world’s busiest container seaport, the best airport, and a crime-free city which is still to be rivalled anywhere in the world. There are many other firsts for this tiny “red-dot” of a city state, but the purpose of this post is not to list all of them.

The challenge facing the country today is cost competitiveness.

While larger developed countries have the sustainability due to their larger population and long-standing core country competencies which have been in-built into their economies, Singapore has always been a small city state with core trading skills. As countries around develop their systems and people, Singapore needs to find its feet, while competing on costs.

Which is not entirely possible, with a population aspiring for the best things in life.

Costs have been on the rise over the past four years in Singapore, despite multiple measures taken by the Government to check the rise. Real estate and car prices have risen at breakneck speeds, and are still rising. This has frustrated the local people, who often tend to blame the foreigners for the price rise.

While that may be partially true, there is no substantive rationale for the real estate prices more than doubling in less than four years. Lack of land space is not the reason, as there are probably more than 30,000 apartments lying vacant even now.

I can understand the rise in car prices, but these have again become just untenable. Cars are not really needed to go around the city, but then people have aspirations which cannot be controlled purely by policy-making.

There are other price rises in retail – while food seems to be still OK, clothing and other stuff have become pricier. One of my European friends mentioned to me that he now gets his clothing and suits from Germany (!), which is some 30% cheaper than the same quality commands in Singapore – and he still felt that even the European materials when purchased in Germany are of better quality.

Goes to show that profit-making seems to be the motive rather than catering to a wider population in retail business. While that is fine, Singaporeans also travel all over the world, and so are not immune from learning of prices elsewhere. A high-quality suit can be ordered in Bangkok for USD 500 or in Hong Kong for USD 800, while that would cost not less than USD 1,200 in Singapore. How do you explain that – we are talking of same textile material here, and one cannot explain it saying that the Hong Kong tailors are more efficient with less turnaround time, or that the Bangkok tailors use fake material.

Many examples can be given. In my opinion, Singapore is at least some 25 to 30% more expensive than the neighbouring countries, and some 10 to 15% more expensive than the developed countries.

A strategy to contain inflationary trends in retail does not work due to the variability of the market, but it does work for major elements such as real estate and automotives, etc. It only takes longer – some six to nine months, to take full effect.

It is critical for Singapore not to make it to the list of the top 10 most expensive destinations in the world. Or, to the top 10 most expensive real estate locations in the world. That ranking is not needed to be successful.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
15th February 2014

From Second World to First World


Singapore is now clearly ensconced as one of the top ten wealthiest nations on planet earth.

This has not been achieved easily.

Lots of sweat and thinking has gone on into making a marshy land one of the world’s top financial centres today. Earlier, it was one of the top electronics manufacturing centres as well, which it has ceded to Malaysia and some other countries. Singapore still has the world’s busiest container seaport, the best airport, and a crime-free city which is still to be rivalled anywhere in the world. There are many other firsts for this tiny “red-dot” of a city state, but the purpose of this post is not to list all of them.

The challenge facing the country today is cost competitiveness.

While larger developed countries have the sustainability due to their larger population and long-standing core country competencies which have been in-built into their economies, Singapore has always been a small city state with core trading skills. As countries around develop their systems and people, Singapore needs to find its feet, while competing on costs.

Which is not entirely possible, with a population aspiring for the best things in life.

Costs have been on the rise over the past four years in Singapore, despite multiple measures taken by the Government to check the rise. Real estate and car prices have risen at breakneck speeds, and are still rising. This has frustrated the local people, who often tend to blame the foreigners for the price rise.

While that may be partially true, there is no substantive rationale for the real estate prices more than doubling in less than four years. Lack of land space is not the reason, as there are probably more than 30,000 apartments lying vacant even now.

I can understand the rise in car prices, but these have again become just untenable. Cars are not really needed to go around the city, but then people have aspirations which cannot be controlled purely by policy-making.

There are other price rises in retail – while food seems to be still OK, clothing and other stuff have become pricier. One of my European friends mentioned to me that he now gets his clothing and suits from Germany (!), which is some 30% cheaper than the same quality commands in Singapore – and he still felt that even the European materials when purchased in Germany are of better quality.

Goes to show that profit-making seems to be the motive rather than catering to a wider population in retail business. While that is fine, Singaporeans also travel all over the world, and so are not immune from learning of prices elsewhere. A high-quality suit can be ordered in Bangkok for USD 500 or in Hong Kong for USD 800, while that would cost not less than USD 1,200 in Singapore. How do you explain that – we are talking of same textile material here, and one cannot explain it saying that the Hong Kong tailors are more efficient with less turnaround time, or that the Bangkok tailors use fake material.

Many examples can be given. In my opinion, Singapore is at least some 25 to 30% more expensive than the neighbouring countries, and some 10 to 15% more expensive than the developed countries.

A strategy to contain inflationary trends in retail does not work due to the variability of the market, but it does work for major elements such as real estate and automotives, etc. It only takes longer – some six to nine months, to take full effect.

It is critical for Singapore not to make it to the list of the top 10 most expensive destinations in the world. Or, to the top 10 most expensive real estate locations in the world. That ranking is not needed to be successful.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
22nd Sept 2013

Dead Horse Theory


Courtesy: From a person personally known to me

“When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount and get a different horse.”

However, in government, education and corporate life, more advanced strategies are often employed, such as:

1. Buying a stronger whip.

2. Changing riders.

3. Appointing a committee to study the horse.

4. Arranging to visit other countries to see how other cultures ride dead horses.

5. Lowering the standards so that the dead horse can be included.

6. Reclassifying the dead horse as ‘living impaired’.

7. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.

8. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed.

9. Providing additional funding and / or training to increase dead horse’s performance.

10. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse’s performance.

11. Declaring that as the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overheads and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than do some other horses.

12. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.

And, of course,

13. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position!

Alarmingly True, right ?

Courtesy: From a person personally known to me

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
29th April 2012
Mumbai

The Taxi Ride


Courtesy: Anu, my IIM-B Classmate

Note: I do not know the original author, so I am unable to give the credit that is absolutely due to him/her. I am just reproducing this outstanding story from an email I received from my classmate, and I believe that the more it is read, the more it would convey the importance and criticality of its central message to a wider audience. This truly impressed me and is really a great story with a strong message on how small acts of courtesy would go a very long way in life.

The Taxi ride….this is beautiful

I arrived at the address and honked the horn. after waiting a few minutes, I walked to the door and knocked.. ‘Just a minute’, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knick-knacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

‘Would you carry my bag out to the car?’ she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.

She kept thanking me for my kindness. ‘It’s nothing’, I told her.. ‘I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.’

‘Oh, you’re such a good boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, ‘Could you drive through downtown?’ ‘It’s not the shortest way,’ I answered quickly… .

‘Oh, I don’t mind,’ she said. ‘I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. ‘I don’t have any family left,’ she continued in a soft voice.. ‘The doctor says I don’t have very long.’ I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

‘What route would you like me to take?’ I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds
She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, ‘I’m tired. Let’s go now’.

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

‘How much do I owe you?’ She asked, reaching into her purse.

‘Nothing,’ I said.

‘You have to make a living,’ she answered.

‘There are other passengers,’ I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly. ‘You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,’ she said ‘Thank you.’

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light.. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life…..

I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift?

What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away? On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.

We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

PEOPLE MAY NOT REMEMBER EXACTLY WHAT YOU DID, OR WHAT YOU SAID BUT THEY WILL
ALWAYS REMEMBER HOW YOU MADE THEM FEEL

You might help make the world a little kinder and more compassionate by sending it on and reminding us that often it is the random acts of kindness that most benefit all of us.

Thank you, my friend…

Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here, we might as well enjoy it…….

Courtesy: Anu, my IIM-B Classmate

Note: I do not know the original author, so I am unable to give the credit that is absolutely due to him/her. I am just reproducing this outstanding story from an email I received from my classmate, and I believe that the more it is read, the more it would convey the importance and criticality of its central message to a wider audience. This truly impressed me and is really a great story with a strong message on how small acts of courtesy would go a very long way in life.

Cheers

Vijay Srinivasan
21st January 2012
Mumbai

Word Count on Blog Posts


Wow, that’s a new topic, and I hope my friend who commented on my earlier post on “Aspartame” reads this one !

I have been made conscious about the fact that I am too verbose when it comes to writing articles. Some people do complain that I am longish when talking to people or addressing a group of people. I have strived hard to correct this second complaint, and I have discovered to my pleasure that I am indeed able to limit any consequential damages by limiting the word count which flows out of my mouth. Collateral damages could continue however.

When it comes to writing about my own personal exploits or commentaries on world affairs, I am finding it tougher to limit my word count, despite pressures from well-wishers like the friend I referred to above. While I am not enamoured about his writing either, I have to say that he is more savvy and marketing-oriented rather than self-centred when it comes to expressing his thoughts. However, I am writing for my own pleasures, and I have belaboured many a time to mention this aspect to my friends who insist that they will come by and drop into my blog. Well then it is their problem, I guess.

I think it is important to express oneself lucidly with abundant clarity and the English language offers fabulous opportunities for the same. I am not confident about other languages though. I am not a cartoonist who can express figuratively what I have in mind. My mind is complex, and so no choice but to cull out of my brain what it is thinking and trying to tell me. I hope my friend realises that this a truth that even he has to face sometime.

Given this kind of complexity, and also given the fact that life is far too complex to solicit brevity of any kind, I have no choice my dear friend except to write lucidly and test the reader’s patience. If you have come this far, it shows that my language skills are good and adequate to keep your mind focused on what I am trying to communicate.

Well, I must be the only person who has written so much about “word count on blog posts”. Please leave my blog now and enjoy the start of the weekend. And my friend, I was not able to connect with you even though I was in Singapore, I am now returning to Mumbai this evening ! Sorry about that, next time will arrange to meet with you and have Char Kway Teow in East Coast !!

Have a wonderful weekend.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
7th August 2009
Singapore Airport