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The Mirror In You

“The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.” ~ Saint Jerome. The first part of this quote is an adage in many languages. Every adage, including this one, was evolved over the years and had come into existence from the forge of human experiences. They are hammered into substance out of the attentive and elucidating chapters of human life. So they do carry messages of truth. Howsoever clever or deceptive a person is, she/he cannot paper over reflections of the mind. In the movie, Terminator 3: Rise of Machines, the Artificial Intelligence machine personified by Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger tells John Connor, who threatens to shoot himself, “Based on your pupil dilation, skin temperature and mode of functions, l calculate 83% probability that you will not pull a trigger.” The three metrics were reflecting John’s mind though he was telling otherwise. The adage of face being the mirror of mind is substance-fully correct.

Household mirrors do reflect, and they reflect because of back-silvering – the process of coating a non-conductive substrate surface like glass with a reflective material like silver. What about a household mirror that lost some of its back-silvering? It reflects from the area that is silver-coated and lets object-images pass through the area that had lost the silver-patch. A part of me was absent when I looked at the mirror in my dressing room. There was nothing wrong with me, but the mirror had lost some of its silver-coating, so it allowed a part of me to pass through while reflecting the rest. We should also be like such a mirror, absorbing and reflecting good things that come to us while allowing – like the silver-lost part does – bad things, negative thoughts and unfriendly and negativity-spreading people to pass through – let go – without them having any impact on us.

How many types of social interface do we get exposed to in our daily life? We come across two types of people and things: positive and negative. By using our basic intelligence, we can decide to reflect positive people and things and learn from whatever they bring to the table, as well as decide to direct the negativity-spreading people and things to the silver-lost part of our mind and let them pass through without having any impact on us. Negative people should be allowed to go, not to be reflected on, for they have nothing productive and positive to contribute to your progress and well-being and that they are mostly incorrigible with an inbuilt thought-machine that runs on the fuel of negative energy.

In the ultimate analysis, you are someone with either a positive or a negative mindset but not a neutral one. You can train yourself in and become a champion of neutral response, but neutral response itself is a suppressed state of negative or positive attitude. So, is that all? No, there are two more types, with one being dangerous and the other a miss. They are false-positive and false-negative respectively, and you need more than basic intelligence to handle these two.

U.S.A. doctors found something strange in the diagnosis of COVID-19 in both swab and serology test methods. In one study, of the 12 antibody tests that were studied by the COVID-19 Testing Project, one of the tests gave false-positives more than 15% of the time, or in about one out of seven samples. Three other tests gave false-positives more than 10% of the time. Some studies showed that the false-negative could be to the tune of 14.8%. False-positive is negative, so it is terrible to tell someone that she/he is COVID-19 positive though it is not so. Similarly, false-negative is positive, and it is very dangerous as the person is considered as virus-negative, though she/he is actually positive, and allowed to socialize with others. Doctors, finally, resorted to scanning machines to check if the lungs were infected or not to reconfirm the test results.

False-positive — the hidden personality — individuals are the most dangerous persons to deal with. Like COVID-19 giving false-positive test results, these deceptive people succeed in hoodwinking our basic intelligence to make us understand them incorrectly – we will be unknowingly made to think that they are attitudinally positive. Similarly, it will be a irretrievable loss if we identify someone as false-negative and let her/him pass through the silver-lost part of our mind. We lose a chance to learn from them, to get kindled by their positive energy and enthusiasms that could have motivated us to climb the heights with added vigor. How do we identify false-negative and false positive people? We need something, like the scanners used by the doctors, to see through the intentions of people to know if they are charged positively or negatively.

There is no specific tool or method that can be deployed to read if a person is behaviorally false-positive or false-negative. We have to employ our Deep Intelligence to diagnose whether people have virulent intentions hidden deep inside or are carrying benign and productive frame of mind by swabbing deep beyond the facade put up by them. Arnold Schwarzenegger had a built-in supercomputer within him, which enabled him to look for and decipher nuances like the eye-pupil movements and understand if John Connor was telling truth or not. Like Arnold used his supercomputer-intelligence, we should use our Deep Intelligence, which is the retrofit of basic intelligence with knowledge and experience. By a certain age, you would acquire certain level of knowledge and a unique level of learning from your experience. Knowledge and experience, the crucial semiconductors added to your integrated circuit called basic intelligence, convert basic intelligence to Deep Intelligence. We need to scan through histrionics and other body languages of people using our Deep Intelligence to gauge and judge if they are matching with what they say – what they think. Deep Intelligence should be used ruthlessly, unbiased and unemotionally to identify false-negative and false-positive people.

Prepare your mind like a mirror that has patches of silver-lost area. Deploy your Deep Intelligence to identify negative and positive people, including false-negative and false-positive. Reflect positive people and things while you let go negative people and things without them having any impact on you.

Chile

Esperanza is a Spanish word that means hope. I heard this word for the first time when Ariel Ticona sent a message to his wife, Elizabeth Segovia, through a fiber optic video link from 2300 ft underneath, telling her to give their new born baby the name: Esperanza. Who is Ariel Ticona? He was one of the 33 miners who got trapped as the San Jose gold-copper mine they worked at caved in in Copiapo, Chile, on August 5, 2010. They endured sweltering conditions for a record 69 days before being rescued and brought back to the world on October 13 through an operation that was watched live on television by more than 1 billion people across the globe. You may have a little bit of Chile at your home in the form of electrical copper wires as Chile is the largest producer of copper in the world.

My first visit to Chile was in April 2007, to the capital city of Santiago, a business trip to scout for a distributor. Subsequently, I visited Santiago a few times. The maiden visit was challenging and thrilling. I was in Sao Paulo to attend a trade fair and did take a chance to visit the Chilean consulate in Sao Paulo to get visa. After so much discussion and persuasion, the consul agreed to stamp my passport with a tourist visa. I booked a one-way ticket to Santiago as I did not know how long it would take to finish my work, but at the Sao Paulo airport I was made to buy a return ticket prior to the check in. I landed in Santiago without a hotel booking around 7 p.m. The taxi driver was friendly and helpful; he took me to a few hotels, finally, to a nice hotel at Miraflores area, the city center. And this area turned out to be a lucky spot for me as my mission was accomplished thanks to this location.

Mira Flores:

Chile is called the Europe of South America as it is the most prosperous country in the continent. I was told that citizens of other Latin American countries come to Chile to make a living. One sore point between the Chileans and the rest of Latin America is that during the Falkland war, the entire South America stood behind Argentina, but Chile supported the United Kingdom. At Mira Flores, the most attractive tourist beacon is Santa Lucia Hill and Park. I remember sitting at Santa Lucia park around 8:30 p.m., but it was not dark yet – a typical South Chilean climate of more daytime accompanied with warm days and cold nights! Santa Lucia Hill, with an altitude of 690 meter and 65,300 square metre area, is the remnant of a volcanic eruption that happened around 15 million years back. The hilltop has a chapel where Sunday mass is held. It also has got remnants of fort and castles.

Santiago has all the trappings of an urban environ like well-paved and clean roads, good-networked transport system — including metro-trains — towering skylines, and so on.

Plaza de Adams is a popular park in Santiago, and even on a working day that I visited the park, it was bubbling with so many people and fun!

Museuo Colonial is another attraction that can not be missed out at Miraflores.

A video capturing the lively moments of a Monday evening of the Santiago city:

Personality – The Rainbow of Life

I saw a rainbow yesterday. It was beautiful, curving from one side of the landmass to another over the skies of the Cochin backwaters. As you may know, rainbow is formed when light bends — refracts — due to reduction in speed as it enters water droplets in the atmospheric air, followed by another bending as it picks up speed while leaving the water droplets, and in this process exhibiting the seven colors of Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange and Red — VIBGYOR — in a beautiful fashion. There are no two opinions that rainbow is one of the most beautiful creations of Mother Nature.

Man is a microcosm of nature, and everything that nature has has a part of it in man. Going by this philosophy, I searched for the rainbow of our life. We, too, have a rainbow called personality which can also be beautiful like the nature’s one. The VIBGYOR of our personality-rainbow is Values, Intention, Benevolence, Gaiety, Youthfulness, Optimism and Reasonableness.

Man bereft of values is not a man but less-than-a-man. How do we define values? Value is a set of dos that unravels how one characterizes oneself through one’s behavior. It is the mix of absolute fundamentals of principles, standards and norms that governs the conduct of a person. Honesty is the principle of telling truth. Punctuality is the standard of being on time. It is a norm to be respectful toward others. There is nothing called more or less honest but honest as honesty is absolute; similarly nothing like less or more punctual; and more or less respecting or respectful. A point to be noted here is that showing more respect is a sign of deception or of vested interest of expecting something in return for that extra respect. Being penniless can be overcome through hard work, but being valueless can seldom be tided over. Values ought to be the axis around which a person builds up his/her character — the mooring of one’s personality. A life without values is meaningless as echoed in the Biblical words: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”

Every action has an intention – purpose – irrespective of whether the person behind the action is aware of it or not. If the person is aware of the intent behind the action, the act is said to be purposeful; otherwise, we say it as an action resulting in unintended consequences. Why do I do what I do? This is probably the most important question one should ask oneself. The question can be paraphrased in a better way; what is the purpose of what I am doing or going to do? If you do not have an answer for this question, you are like an engine-failed boat drifting directionless in the ocean — you are adrift and afloat without knowing the beachline. The sum total of the intentions of your life decides the overall purpose of your life. Life will reward as you intent and act — good giving back good and bad returning bad. Be purposeful — purposeful with good intentions.

There is a saying that humility is the mother of all virtues. Kindness is the first in the list of the virtues. Benevolence is the actualization of kindness. If kindness is a theory, then benevolence is the practical side of it. One can be sensitive to human sufferings but do nothing to ameliorate it — this is being kindful but not benevolent. A person can also be insensitive to human suffering, which is callousness. Showing kindness and acting on that kindness to mitigate the suffering is benevolence. Benevolence has no outer perimeter, it can even go to the highest level of giving up one’s happiness for the happiness of others. And there is no happiness better than the happiness of giving up one’s happiness for someone’s happiness — the ultimate gain from a benevolent act. Though it sounds ironical, giving up happiness gives happiness provided that foregoing has an underlying, self-satisfying cause. Everyone is not benevolent as being benevolent is driven by a cause(s). We need to differentiate between benevolence and the camera-pausing charity gimmicks as the latter do not reflect happiness but pleasure. Pleasure and happiness are different. Pleasure is an effervescence that gives temporary feel-goodness but fades away over a period of time. On the other hand, happiness is the feeling inundated within you from doing a good thing, and it is stable and long-lasting. Be benevolent!

Literarily, gaiety means light-hearted and cheerful behavior. The most beautiful part of this literary meaning is that one cannot be on cheerful mood if one is not light-hearted. Light-heartedness and cheerfulness are mutually inclusive. Light-heartedness is the product of the continuous practice of letting go things which are unproductive as well as have the potential to tie you down to indignation. It is impossible to be cheerful when you hold back and live with ill-feelings. Letting go is the key to light-heartedness as it frees one from the fruitless pain of having a heart that is laden with unwanted and useless feelings. Can you smile at yourself while standing in front of a mirror? That is the beginning of the road to ‘let go.’

Youthfulness is the mindset of having the feel of possessing the vigor and trigger of younger age. It is possible that an young man is for want of this feeling while an elderly man is effervescent with youthfulness. A man is only as old as he thinks. Irrespective of age, there is youthfulness in everyone, with only its levels varying from person to person. Be youthful in your thoughts as thinking so does not demand proof of age.

There is no feeling more rewarding than optimism because it radiates hope, the kindle that keeps one moving forward. Have you ever noticed someone while him/her telling that it is a hopeless situation? If yes, you would have seen an energy-drained, frowned and disappointed face! Optimism is the radiance that keeps you moving. One of the most difficult things in life is to remain optimistic during pessimistic times. Be optimistic as it keeps you going.

Reasonableness is being on the side of the reason, not any reason. There is a natural reason or a set of reasons behind the events and incidents with which we get involved, and being on the side of that or those reasons makes us reasonable. In other words, reasonableness is being in harmony with the natural reasons. Being in harmony with the underlying reasons makes you fair in your interactions with people. And being reasonable with oneself is the beginning of showing reasonableness toward others.

Light is made up of electromagnetic waves, each wavelength representing a colour. VIBGYOR is what is visible to our eyes, with the rest colours being outside our retina. Violet represents the shortest wavelength, so it bends the most as light enters and exits the water droplets while Red’s wavelength is the longest one, bending the least. And Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow and Orange bending in decreasing fashion, thus, making VIBGYOR of rainbow. Violet is the base while Red adorns the surface of the rainbow. The VIBGYOR of our personality-rainbow also has a similar make with Values forming the base and Reasonableness being the outer layer of our character, along with Intention, Benevolence, Gaiety, Youthfulness and Optimism playing their parts. Introvert or extrovert, one’s rainbow of personality will be displayed as one passes through the water droplets of interactions with others, with its beauty or lack of it representing the nature of one’s personality traits. In your life, you would have come across people about whom you said: I like his/her personality or I do not like his/her personality. Either of these statements reveals one thing: you knowingly or unknowingly noticed the traits — colours — of his/her personality — rainbow. Have a rainbow-personality which is as beautiful as the nature’s one.

The Land of Maradona

The first time I ever heard of Argentina was in 1986 during the Football World Cup, and I fell in love with Argentina right away, thanks to the great Diego Armando Maradona. It was always a dream to be in the land of Maradona, and that dream came true in April 2007 when an opportunity came my way to make a business trip to the capital city of Buenos Aires. I, subsequently, visited Argentina a few times, with the last being in 2014. Though Maradona left the field long time back and that the latest sensation Messi was dribbling all along, Maradona still continued to be the god of football in Argentina. He is held in such awe and admiration in Argentina! The Argentinians and the Brazilians still do not agree on who the greatest footballer of all times is: Pele or Maradona?

Bienvenidos Ala Argentina meaning Welcome to Argentina was what I saw as I entered Aeropuerto Internacional Ministro Pistarini, the international airport in Buenos Aires, after the disembarkation.

I still remember the euphoria that overwhelmed me when I set foot in the airport. I flew from Santiago, Chile, to Buenos Aires and was the only Asian — a rare, inexplicable feeling that I got used to in the subsequent years — in the flight! The immigration procedure was easy, and I got out of the airport without facing any problem. The Buenos Aires airport is one of the few airports in South America, where sniffer dogs are used to check baggage for explosives. The taxi driver, who tried to pick up a conversation in Spanish, with me not being able to understand anything except that he was trying to say he was happy to meet an Indian. He continued his welcoming conversation till he dropped me at the hotel at Avenida Corrientes, the main thoroughfare in the heart of Buenos Aires.

Avenida Corrientes:

I always stayed at Avenida Corrientes, which had easy access to all the available transport modes, including metro trains. I recommend this area for putting up if you happen to visit Buenos Aires.

A lane to Avenida Corrientes:

At the intersection of Avenida Corrientes and 9 de Julio is the Plaza de la República, where stands tall the Obelisco de Buenos Aires, the national, historic monument of Argentina. The iconic monument standing 221 feet tall was constructed in 1936 to commemorate the 400 years of the foundation of Buenos Aires City.

The red lines are the dedicated bus lanes. Many Latin American countries like Peru, Chile, Mexico etc. have dedicated bus tracks with the bus stops built at the center of the road. One African country where I saw similar dedicated bus tracks was Tanzania. The city is adorned by many other monuments, and I captured a few of them.

The city also has many public parks, and the following are from one such park.

The Presidential Office is located near to one park. The beech colored office’s beauty gets amplified in the fading lights of the evening sun.

Argentina saw a coup d’état in March 1976 when the democratically elected President Isabel Peron was overthrown by military junta, and the military dictatorship continued till December 1983 when democracy returned to the nation. During the military reign, many activists were picked up by the military only to be never returned — they were made to disappear from the face of the earth by the brutal regime. There is one place under a bridge, where the pictures and names of those victims are exhibited.

A few buildings from Corinates Avenue.

A write-up about Argentina without mentioning Tango is like having a discussion on Indian cuisines without saying anything about spiciness. Tango is the spice of Argentina. Tango is the traditional dance of Argentina, evolved in 1880s along the Rio de la Plata, the border between Argentina and Uruguay. Tango, initially developed among the African slaves, is a mix of three dance-and-music fusions: African Candombe, Spanish-Cuban Habanera and Argentinian Milonga. It is a partner dance, with the partners making synchronized moves of tapping their legs on the ground and producing rhythmic sounds. You will come across both exclusive Tango theaters as well as roadside Tango performers in the busy streets of Buenos Aires.

From the streets of Buenos Aires:

If you happen to be in Argentina, do not leave the place without having ‘Mate,’ the national drink of the country. Mate is prepared by filling a container with powdery mixture of dried and ground leaves of Yerba, a herbal plant containing caffeine and xanthine alkaloids, and pouring hot water — not boiling water — over the mixture and drinking with a straw, the Bombilla. The container of Mate is unique, and I bought it as a souvenir.

Mate is also consumed in Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and parts of Chile and Brazil.

I had an opportunity to visit La Bombonera Statdium owned by Boca Juniors, one of the Argentinean football clubs. It was learnt that both Maradona and Messi used to play for this club. They also played at this association football stadium. Pictures and portraits of the Argentinean god of football were all around the stadium walls and the premises. The shop that sells souvenirs at the place had more of them of Maradona than any other footballer. Every Argentinian that I met had praise and awe for Maradona in his/her words, and that was why I titled this blog the way I did. Pele is mesmerizing, but Maradona is my most preferred for the best footballer of all times.

I went for a sightseeing bus-ride that took me to the city outskirts that looked like a village. The following images were captured from there, them possibly portraying the Argentina’s heroes, culture, history, colonial past, way of life and so on.

The environs of the outskirts, with the last picture below being a traditional Argentinian house.

Kiev

Ukraine was the breadbasket of the erstwhile U.S.S.R., similar to what Zimbabwe used to be for Southern Africa. Robert Mugabe gleefully destroyed the agrarian economy of Zimbabwe by grabbing farms owned by the white farmers. Unlike Zimbabwe, Ukraine continues to maintain that status although renamed as “Breadbasket of Europe.” It is one of the leading exporters of grain-crops like corn, barley, wheat, etc. The soil of Ukraine is so fertile that during the Second World War, the Germans took tons and tons of topsoil from Ukraine to Germany, I was told by someone during my visit to Ukraine in July 218. Of the recent history that come to one’s mind about Ukraine are the Orange Revolution and Crimea. The bloodless Orange Revolution which happened during the intervening period of November 2004 and January 2005 saw the beginning of the end of the Russian hold on Ukraine while the forceful annexation of Ukraine’s Black Sea port city of Crimea by Russia is a reminder of the dangers posed by autocrats like Xi Jinping, Putin, etc. in using force to alter the boundaries in this modern era.

Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, lies on the banks of the Dnipro river — pronounced as nipro — which flows from north to south, bifurcating the city.

The Dnipro river rises in the Valdai Hills in Russia, traverses through Belarus before entering Ukraine and down-streaming into the Black Sea. The riversides are retreat spots for the locals as well as tourists, especially during weekends. Growth of the city is happening along the banks of the river, with tall buildings rising from its shores.

The city has mountainous terrain on one side and plains on the other, and a 100-year old tram is the quickest and shortest way downhill to the plain.

The following is the tram-exit to the plains, and the cascading greenery is the canopy over the hilly terrain.

The city has around 70 public parks and gardens. There is one park dedicated for couples and lovers, and it has a bridge named “kissing bridge” for lovers to modelise themselves. I had seen many cities like Sao Paulo, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, etc, which had many public parks for people to leisure. However, Kiev is the city that I saw with maximum number of public parks. The cityscape:

The one underground metro station in Kiev is possibly the most subsurface one in the world: 120 meters down, and most metro stations are constructed at similarly deep levels. This is probably to offset the problem of hilly terrain. The underground metro stations resemble those of Moscow in both make and design!

The city center is named Kreschatik, a lively place with many eateries, gatherings and roadside entertainers in the evenings. This is a good place to put up if you happen to be in the city.

Maidan Nezalezhnosti — Independence Square — is located at this area. It is the public square of Kiev:

The Independence Monument built in 2001 on the 10th anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence from the U.S.S.R. is the towering attraction at the square. It is 61 meter in height. The monument is of a woman named Berehynia — Slavic goddess — with guelder-rose branch in her arms.

It is at this Maidan Square where 55 people lost their lives on February 20, 2014, when the police opened fire on unarmed people protesting against the incumbent pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, who refused to sign the treaty integrating Ukraine with Europe. The protest ended with the fall of Viktor and the end of the Russian hold on Ukraine, but Putin used it as a pretext to annex Crimea. The following sculpture is erected at the Maidan in respect of those fallen on the bloodiest day of Ukraine.

Another famous monument in Kiev is the Motherland Statue.

Saint Michael is considered as the protector of Kiev — the guardian angel.

Evenings are lively with roadside performances:

Kiev is a city of churches — imposing, centuries-old architectural wonders!

I do not know who these men-on-horses are. But they must be of historical importance to Ukraine.

The night views of Kiev are stunning:

Many curse Mikhail Gorbachev as the person responsible for the collapse of the U.S.S.R., but, as I spoke to a few people in Ukraine and as all said, he should be hailed as a “Great Humanist” who gave freedom to millions of people to get out of the shackles of the State Control and choose their own future. Will there ever be a Gorbachev in China?

Fringe Elements of Success

Success is a constant and a being that is independent of whoever follows it. But it goes with anyone who reaches to it. Some take longer time to reach success, some people reach to it quicker than others while a few never reach there. Before proceeding further, let me define success as something which one considers as achievement and aspires to possess. Success can be anything like someone wanting to establish as a businessman/woman or becoming a rich person or a well-known personality in scientific field or a pilot or a marketing professional, etc.

Success is a constant means that the distance to success is fixed which none can change. Let me explain it with an example: is there any connection between a ladder and the moon? Apparently, there is nothing in between them. The only connection between them is that you cannot catch the moon by climbing a ladder. To catch the moon, you need to take the route shown by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins because the distance to moon is already fixed, and there is no shortcut to reach the moon. In other words, whatever be the target you set as your success-milestone, it is a constant which is away from you and that there are no shortcuts to that success-target but the natural route to it.

How you tread the distance to success and how aware you are about this distance are the variables that determine your reach to success. There are integral elements as well as fringe elements that decide ‘the tread’ to success. The ingredients like goal-setting, determination, passion, hard work, perseverance, discipline, positive attitude , receptiveness, etc. are INTEGRAL to one’s success, and I had explained about them in the blog: https://nowhereperspectives.com/2020/02/12/success-ingredients/. In this blog, I am looking at the FRINGE elements that have the potential to give you a slip between the cup and the lip even when you have put into use all the integral ingredients of success. The integral elements equip you to tread the distance to success while the fringe elements, though seem and sound insignificant, can decelerate or accelerate and may even derail or dovetail your progression to success. In other words, fringe elements of success are not less important as integral elements of success. Smartness, skepticism, perfection, correctness, ignorance, carelessness and jealousy are some of the fringe elements that play no less important roles in your success.

Smartness is the capability to behave in a prepared-way in an unprepared situation. Fear of unknown is felt but is managed as if the person was expected to know the unknown. Smartness is the quick-but-controlled burst of energy derived from self-confidence. The three adjectives: prepared-way, as if and quick-but-controlled that I used to explain smartness underscore one important aspect: speed of thinking. Smartness is not finding solution to a problem but is the speed with which one can manage a difficult situation with relative easiness. How do we do it? Most incidents that happen in our life are related to people whom we deal with, and understanding the incidents is a better way to understand the people because there is no room for personal bias in such an approach. Smart people concentrate on incidents, not people, to get a quick, unbiased idea of an incident, then, use it to manage the situation.

Faith in something stops us from having any doubt about it. However, faith does not demand that we have to stop ourselves from being curious about that something. Skepticism is the curious element of faith. Curiosity demands answers to verify if our faith is right or wrong Absence of curiosity element in faith — absence of skepticism — turns one from faithful to faith-full. To put it raw, not being skeptical turns people from faithful to fanatic. Have faith in someone or something but do not stop being skeptical about it. The words of Bertrand Russel echo this, “I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.” An important point to note is that being skeptical is a positive quality provided that one needs to be skeptical about being skeptical.

We often hear people saying that he/she does things in a perfect way. What is perfection? Is it possible for anyone to be perfect? It is possible! Perfection is a state where a man has succeeded in eliminating known mistakes as well as keeping himself open to handling unknown errors, if any, as soon as they become known. An expert is not the one who knows about everything in his/her field, rather a person who looks for, finds out the possible mistakes in his supposed-action and rectify them before he/she acts. They say everything is imperfectly perfect. In a sense it is correct because one can eliminate only known — known to man’s faculties — mistakes, still, there is possibility of unknown fault-lines cracking up in a perfect way of doing things. It is important that one treads the distance to success accompanied by perfection.

Correctness is the absolute way of telling what it most probably means. There is no correctness without probability element being part of it, nor is there no absoluteness in correctness. Being correct has the limitation of this dichotomy. One needs to understand this dichotomy while pursuing the correct way of doing things. Is perfect way of doing things the same as correct way of doing things? Are perfection and correctness one and the same? Actually, these questions are superfluous because correctness vouch for perfection — they are mutually inclusive.

Helplessness is the failure of our capabilities. One of the contributors to that failure is ignorance. Ignorance has two dimensions. Being unaware of something can be set right by acquiring knowledge about it. However, if one is unaware of one’s own unawareness, then nothing much can be done by one for oneself with respect to that ignorance. In other words, ignorance can be cured, but ignorance of ignorance is almost incurable. In any given situation, we need to ask: is that all what I learnt was all that available to learn?

Appreciation bereft of enthusiasm is a half-hearted gesture and, possibly, does reflect an element of jealousy. Jealousy is a big hindrance to progress in life; it ties down a man to the narrow confines of his mind, where he, instead of competing with attributes of success, gets obsessed with his limited knowledge about other’s success, thereby absenting himself from exploring the times that offer opportunities for progress. Do appreciate and learn from other’s success to appreciate your knowledge for success.

Carelessness is the hidden factor that can push success away from you even when all other factors are favorable. Carelessness is the self-assurance of accomplishment of success even when the tread to success is not yet over. A way out of this malice is to be careful of this carelessness factor. By careful I mean that one should be conscientious of such a hidden danger. Unnoticeable is not completely outside the realm of inner eye called conscious. Be careful about carelessness as it is the last impediment that stands between you and your goal.

Morality versus Technicality

Morality is a compulsion while technicality is an intention. Morality demands, but technicality offers. Morality is the compulsion of and demand by truth while technicality is the room-to-maneuver offered by questionable and convenient interpretation of laws governing truth. Morality is the righteous path clearly marked by truth, which is straight-tracked and unidirectional. Technicality is finding ways to work around truth so that one does not necessarily have to adhere to truth, still, can portray oneself as abiding by the laws of truth. It is not that difficult to differentiate morality from technicality though we are prone to seasoning by technicality to the extent that we often miss out morality and go with technicality without any compunction. However, one unambiguous factor is that morality is not the diametrically opposite of technicality and vice versa. The difference between them is a measure of purity and timeless non-negotiability that a person attributes to truth. 

A dilemma that many people often confront in life is whether to choose morality or technicality. More specifically, the dilemma boils down to choosing between morally right and morally wrong but technically right. It is easier to decide on something which is morally either wrong or right and that which is independent of any technicality. In other words, decision-making is straightforward when a person has to choose something which is morally right or wrong  – he/she decides depending upon him/her siding with morality or not. But, which one – morality or technicality – to go with when we confront something which is morally wrong but technically right? Should we choose morality or technicality in such a situation? In this scenario, one goes through this dilemma which gets accentuated when both morality and technicality have equally powerful arguments on their sides. A simple example to illustrate: suppose that you are a taxi driver who picked up a passenger from point X to drop at a point Y. Also, imagine that the straight road traffic from X to Y costs US$10 for the trip, but due to your ignorance of the route you drove more and the fare came to US$12. You are technically right to charge US$12 from the passenger, but, is it morally right to do so? 

At personal level in our daily life, we confront ourselves with events where we have to go through this dilemma of choosing between technicality and morality. And most often, many end up the day with a mix of them. Ideally, it should only be of morality without allowing technicality to creep in. Many people, however, choose technicality over morality. On personal front, there are many incidents to cite where morality takes the hit and technicality wins. However, let me cite a recent incident where someone upheld morality over technicality. It happened in Spain where the long-distance runner, Iván Fernández Anaya, refused to take advantage when his competitor, Abel Mutai, short the finishing line by a few meters. Instead of racing ahead and winning, he guided Abel to the finishing line and let him cross first. At the end of the race, these were the words of Iván, “I didn’t deserve to win it. I did what I had to do. He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I couldn’t have closed if he hadn’t made a mistake. As soon as I saw he was stopping, I knew I wasn’t going to pass him.”

Technically, Ivan could have raced to the finishing line and won the race. But these words: ‘didn’t deserve’ and ‘rightful winner’ of Iván echo the spirit of morality. The questions that we need to ask: Do I deserve it? Am I the rightful winner? The answers to these questions will decide on which side you are: with morality or technicality. When an individual begins to choose technicality over morality, he/she might gain in the short-term but loses out in the long-term. And a stage will reach when he/she unwittingly loses the sense to differentiate between these two variables. A journey through technicality is torturous, demanding a lot of mental space and  time for doctoring and spinning, and in this process, one misses out simple, good things of life. But the virtue of morality, though challenging, courses through as the rules that govern it are straight and self full-filling.

We are witnessing a disturbing phenomenon in societies across the world where elected leaders are replacing morality with technicality as a platform of governance. Public governance demands respecting and accepting societal values and norms like honesty, accountability, respect for minority views, etc. in both letter and spirit. However, the emerging trend is that leaders are finding ways to work around the letter of the laws, with scant respect for its spirit. This trend setting by elected Chief Executive of a nation has cascading impacts on millions of his/her followers and others who get seasoned by this rampant but looking-okay new normal of technicality as the acceptable societal norm. It percolates down and permeates across the social fabric of a nation, damaging morality in gargantuan proportion. It is morally wrong for one political party to orchestrate divisions in another political party and make political capital out of it though the former may justify it by citing various laws. It is morally wrong for elected leaders to ignore advice of subject-experts on social and economic matters, instead, put forward their own lopsided arguments and theories to augment their electoral prospects, even at the cost of people’s life and livelihood.  

Replacement of morality with technicality is erosion of values that we are facing today at both individual and societal levels. A society is destined to retrograde when its people go with technicality, instead of morality.  Every time an individual or a society chooses to take technical route to justify a wrong, then morality dies and technicality triumphs. The gradual death of morality and its supplanting with technicality are worse than a moral breakdown, for in the latter, there is a chance for conscience-pricks, hence, possibility for mid-course correction while the former does not offer any such leeway. 

Majestic Moscow

Russia has a population of 142 million people, and out of that, around 50 millions live in the three regions: the city limits, the metropolitan area and the urban area of Moscow, This is phenomenal which makes Moscow the most populous city in the entire Europe. The three areas together constitute around 34,000 square kilometres, clustering Moscow with the largest cities in the world. 

As a city, Moscow had a history of changing fortunes. When Tsars expanded the powers of Russia, making it an empire, the capital was shifted from Moscow, established in 1147 as a small town, to St. Petersburg — My blog on St. Peterburg:https://nowhereperspectives.com/2020/05/18/the-city-of-white-nights/?fbclid=IwAR1H2zMJQUBE61POdtef8tcPsKVYJTNs1812agTuYcsdwFf86sJkmi_0oLw. Moscow regained its capital city status after the October Revolution of 1917. Moscow lives in modernity as much as in its history!

Some of the old buildings and their historical linkages from the city:

Modernity and the history are seamlessly merged in the make of the city. And the cityscape of Moscow is a testimony of this unity of diversity:

Juxtaposed with the historical-modern hybrid sphere are the sounds and rhythms of modern life and its accompanying infrastructure. I was in Moscow in July 2018, and there was a festival in the city during that time.

For a visitor, Moscow offers plenty to keep him/her engaged for the days she/he spends in the city. One such pull is the churches of Moscow. There is a plethora of towering churches, many of them being colorful with intricate and ornate designs. The most iconic church in Moscow is the St. Basil’s Church adjacent to the Red Square.

A few other churches in Moscow:

All these churches are near to the most important landmark in Moscow: the Red Square. It houses both history and the history-making. The historical remnants of the Bolshevik Revolution or the October Revolution of 1917, which thrust Socialism upon the world, are buried-but-live here in this Square. Kremlin, one of the two power centers of the world, is also seated at the Red Square. And the current incumbent, President Putin sits here.

The Kremlin:

History has its milestones, some of which get interpreted by different generations in diametrically opposite ways. We had seen that what one generation hailed as victory for humanity being pooh poohed by the generation that followed. The Red Square has one such milestone: the mausoleum of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, well known to the world as Lenin, the man who owned the history at some point of time and the man who was disowned by the history later. Passing by the side of his diminutive body. embalmed in a glass casket kept on an elevated platform and visible in yellow-bulb light, gave a few ‘moments of still and chill of the history!’ The guards strictly enforce the rule of ‘No Photos’ of the corpse of the man who changed the history.

The Red Square itself is majestic. Most of the main roads of Moscow end or begin from here. It is the central square of Moscow. If the world were a square, it would have been named as The Red Square! And that is the majesty of the Red Square!

The tombs of the Russian leaders since the October Revolution are housed in the Red Square:

The Red Square is also a venue for military parades on nationally important days:

During festive times, the main road approaching the Square will be closed. When I was in the city, there was an exhibition of the old vehicles of the vintage era:

From the Red Square, there is a pedestrian street named Nikolsyka Ulitsa for dine and shopping. The street is lit with multicolored lights hanging from the strips hooked on the buildings on either side. It is crowded in the evenings, and it is a fun to take a walk along the street.

Moscow is situated on the bank of the Moskva River, which is hardly a kilometre away from the Red Square.

There is a pedestrian bridge that extends over the road, enabling the visitors to have an aerial view of the river from much closer.

Countervailing

Nature’s natures are phenomenal which when understood makes one feel awe about it. Countervailing is one of such blissful natures that Mother Nature has engraved on man. Countervailing is the reverse-balancing to ensure that you are corrected, if needed, mid-course in your journey toward your set destination so that your actions will be in harmony with the non-negotiable fundamentals of nature. Nature itself countervails! Summer is countervailed by winter, autumn by spring, centrifugal by centripetal, and examples of the nature’s countervailing are aplenty. Nature thrives by countervailing! Do you countervail yourself? Do you allow others to countervail you? Why should one do countervailing? Man has no power to defy cosmic laws that  govern his life, hence, needs to check if he is in harmony with the laws of life.

To easily understand the concept of countervailing, let me explain it with a simple example. Why do we slip when we step on banana peel? We slip because of the absence of friction. Conversely, we do not slip while on move, thanks to the presence of countervailing force called friction. Sir Isaac Newton explained friction in the First Law of Motion: “In an internal frame of reference, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity unless acted upon by a force.” To put it much easier to connect with this blog, the law can be paraphrased that a body in motion continues to do so until it is stopped by a force. In our life, this countervailing by friction is a default action that we fail to notice.

Countervailing happens at intrapersonal and interpersonal level. Introspection is the amphitheater of intrapersonal countervailing.  Behavioral scientists advocate that one should spend time alone and reflect upon oneself. Self-reflection is an attempt to check and recheck whether the path followed by one is in harmony with the nature’s rules. As you self-reflect, incidents and events of the past, particularly of the immediate past, unravel before you, with an open-ended freedom to look at them critically. None other than oneself has the open-ended freedom to make unsolicited critical observation on oneself because when others do it, it is likely to hurt ego. In his best-seller, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Steven Covey cites ‘Sharpen the saw’ as one of the 7 Habits. He says that pausing and self-reflecting rekindle a person, adding impetus to fine-tuning the thoughts leading to better outputs. 


Introspection is the inner inspection. In other words, it is the internal audit of oneself for oneself by oneself. Introspection adds immense incremental value to your life provided that you do the auditing sincerely. It carriers out rewinding of the past doings through the inner eyes of an independent observer and curator that you are,  in order to balance and rebalance your life. Acting on the outcome of introspection is as much important as the introspection itself. In the fast-paced life, we may not have time to pause and reflect though the fact is that such reflections make us faster and sharper like the improved effectiveness of a saw as said by Covoy. It can even lead to resetting of your targets. 

There is an anteroom before introspection, and many people get stuck there,  thereby preventing themselves from entering the room of introspection. There are two players in this anteroom: self-doubting and self-questioning. Doubts are answered by asking questions. However, doubting and questioning have mutually exclusive relation in between them. This is best demonstrated when we hyphenate these two variables with self. Self-doubting and self-questioning are two elements in our thought process, juxtaposing each other with a natural competition set in between them to better the other. They work in the same sphere of our mind, and each one of them competes for the maximum space of that sphere. Unless confronted and addressed, self-doubting is capable of eating up self-questioning, 

Self-questioning is the working of one’s abilities to critically look at one’s own thoughts as well as actions while self-doubting is the lack of confidence in one’s own abilities. Self-doubting is a dead-beginner, meaning it disables and immobilizes you from thinking by you about you. On the other hand, self-questioning critically evaluates your abilities vis-à-vis a task and arrives at a conclusion if you can or cannot do it.  In our everyday life, we go through tussles between self-doubting and self-questioning, with us being unaware of it most of the time. Triumph of self-questioning over self-doubting is a prerequisite to enter the room of introspection.

How are self-questioning and introspection related? Self-questioning is the precursor to introspection. The fundamental difference between them is that in introspection one has open-ended and absolute freedom to self-evaluate while self-questioning gives relative freedom limited to a task. Introspection  is more learning than reasoning unlike in self-questioning. Self-questioning is a reaction when confronted with a task while introspection is a process by itself. Self-questioning gives answers to the questions asked while introspection reveals answers holistically, covering both asked  and unasked questions,  In introspection, mistakes are valued as they give new answers without having any questions raised. Introspection impartially countervails you against and for you.

Interpersonal countervailing can be in the form of advice, suggestion, instruction, order, request, etc. Nobody is the final authority on anything, for barring truth nothing is absolute. It means that whatever someone says on anything is debatable. This factual proposition opens up the room for interpersonal countervailing. An advice from a friend can make you realize the shortfalls or shortcomings; a suggestion from an acquaintance may help you to redo what you did and get a better result; a request from a stranger can force you to rethink and make necessary changes in your approach; and so on.

Countervailing is as important as the momentum of your progression in life, for without countervailing, you can be either dead-in-motion or poised to hit against an unknown wall. When to pause or change the direction is as much important as the move itself. Do not self-doubt but self-question. Do cultivate a habit of self-questioning as a way of training yourself on the road to introspection because the habit of introspection does not happen overnight.

Temples of Angkor

In Khmer, the official language of Cambodia, Angkor means capital city. Khmer Empire was the most powerful ancient kingdom in South East with its peak reign during 12th century, and Angkor was its capital city. Wat means temple in Khmer. I visited Angkor Wat in September 2012. Located in the modern city of Siem Reap, Cambodia, it was built as a Hindu temple during the regime of Suryavarman II, who followed Hinduism. By the end of 12th century, Angkor Wat was made into a Buddhist site. The temple complex is located within an area of 162 hectares, making it the largest religious place in the world!

I am standing on the bank of a pool of water, and the temple is behind:

Angkor Wat temple is at an islet surrounded by a creek:

From the entrance, there is a long walk down to the temple:

The temple is a marvelous architectural wonder built fully with sandstone. A closer look at the temple reveals the enormous amount of artistic effort in shaping up the sandstone into various sculptors of impeccable perfection. The multi-layered edifying gopuara standing tall blemishless over the centuries betray the architectural prowess of ancient times.

The temple adorns painstakingly carved sculptors depicting gods, godesses from the Hindu mythology. The temple walls have intricate designs:

It will be a challenging but savory for a connoisseur of arts to take a stroll down the corridor of the temple as the temple walls are ornate with scriptural arts of jaw-dropping admiration.

We can climb to the temple top:

View from the temple top is amazing. One will feel fantastic while being at the top of this mammoth monument.

Along with the temple-folk: 

Budhha:

Fortune-teller conducting rituals, using palmyra-written scripts to explain/predict her future.

Finally, she keeps the scriptures on her head to know which way her head will move. And based on the direction in which her head moves, the fortune-teller further fine-tunes his predictions of her future! 

The Bayon is a famous Khmer temple of Buddhism, built around the same time as that of Angkor Wat.

The entrance to the Bayon:

Like Angkor Wat, the Bayon also got water surrounding it:

Inside of the Bayon: The most striking feature of the Bayon are the smiling faces of Buddha sculptured on massive rocky structures:

A visit to the Bayon is a part of the day one spends at Angkor as this Buddhist temple is hardly a few kilometres away from Angkor Wat.

The Baphuon is another temple dedicated to Buddhism at Angkor, It is a 3-tired temple mountain or mountain temple whichever way one wants to put it.

A view from the top of the Baphuon:

I had written two blogs on Cambodia, and their links are given below:

https://nowhereperspectives.com/2020/03/22/the-land-of-smiles/

https://nowhereperspectives.com/2020/05/23/floating-villages-of-siem-reap/

Addendum to International Sales – Understanding and Tackling New Markets

On the basis of specific feedback from a reputed professional, C.P. Mohan, with whom I share Institute of Rural Management Anand, or IRMA, as alma mater, an addendum has been made to the Pyramid Model for Market Understanding, or PMMU, which was explained on the blog: International Sales – Understanding and Tackling New Markets –https://nowhereperspectives.com/2020/07/10/international-sales-understanding-and-tackling-new-markets/?fbclid=IwAR0rKgUce8Thmmaa2L4clcBlUrFBiB-Mr_tjUj0Z-UoXUeAQQNvLCzS-Qkk. This addendum deals with three points: demand estimation, steps in understanding trade and positioning challenges.

Demand Estimation in the PMMU followed a guesstimate-approach because it was based on on-the-job experience, not on any particular Market Research method, for, as a marketing professional who used to go on short visits to a country, it was not possible for me to have the wherewithal to conduct any systematic market research. Hence, the PMMU in general and the demand estimation method in particular are more of directional guidance than conclusive milestones for an international marketer. Nonetheless, there are a few essential elements that need to be part of demand estimation. Gender demographics is one such factor. It is common knowledge in the perfume trade that there are more perfume users among women than men. A rough ratio of this gender metric is 60:40 in favor of women. Hold your breath for a moment! There are many perfume manufactures, including Nabeel Perfumes Group of Companies, Dubai, which employs me, that sell more Pour Homme than Pour Femme. 

Why is this incongruity? Well, I learnt from counter sales staff and merchandisers across the continents – I am fortunate to visit 86 countries – a ubiquitous consumer behavior that many women use men perfumes but not vice versa. Furthermore, my interactions with consumers at retail shops, bulk-buyers at wholesale points corroborated this cross-gender consumer preference. What is the psychology behind this? Men perfumes generally are of stronger scents while women perfumes are lighter fragrance. Marketers say they do not sell products but emotions! Many women want to project a strong personality, hence, prefer the stronger fragrances in men collections. ‘Brut’ brand of perfume is a good example of the woman-power of a men perfume. ‘Dolby’ under “Chris Adams,” the brand I sell, also has this crossover effect. My experience shows that around 10-15% of women perfume users ALSO use men perfumes. The word: ALSO is very important because it means that such women consumers use both men and women perfumes – their dressing tables have both Pour Femme and Pour Homme collections, and which one to use depends on their mood, occasion, time of the day, etc. 

Another metric that is of vital importance in demand estimation is the percentage of working population. Ghana’s working population in 2019 had the following data: Employment to population ratio was 38.33% — modeled I.L.O. estimate — for males in the standard age group of 15-24 while it was 33.51% – modeled I.L.O. estimate – for females for the same age group. The source of the data is the International Labor Organization: ILOSTAT database – retrieved in December 2019 – and the I.L.O. says, “Employment to population ratio is the proportion of a country’s population that is employed. Employment is defined as persons of working age who, during a short reference period, were engaged in any activity to produce goods or provide services for pay or profit, whether at work during the reference period (i.e. who worked in a job for at least one hour) or not at work due to temporary absence from a job, or to working-time arrangements. Ages 15-24 are generally considered the youth population.” 

The male to female ratio of Ghana’s 31 million population is 102.62 to 100 which gives 15.70 million males and 15.30 million females. So the working population of Ghana comes around 11.15 million – 38.33% of 15.70 million males + 33.51% of 15.30 million females. This 11.15 million working population in the age group of 15-24 has a significant share in my rough estimate of 60% perfume users of 18.60 million in Ghana. 

Average per capita income, another determining factor in demand estimation, may be misleading in communities with significant income disparity. So the per capita income of US$1800, which I mentioned for Ghana, is more of macroeconomic relevance than an essential element in the demand estimation. Nonetheless, prevailing habit of perfume usage — fitting into the suiting prices — as a part of lifestyle across the income groups, however, can offset this shortcoming to a great extent.

Understanding Trade: From a trade point of view, perfume can be classified as Oriental and Occidental perfumes. Occidental perfumes are French-line perfumes, and Orientals are of Arabic type, with Oudh being the most renowned from this stable. Genetic classification gives eight families of perfumes: Fresh, Floral, Florential, Oriental, Fougere, Woody, Chypre and Gourmand. Based on concentration of fragrance, classification of perfumes goes this way: Eau de Cologne, concentration 2 to 4 %; Eau de Toilette, or EDT, has 5 to 15% level; Eau de Perfume, or EDP, 15 to 20%; and Perfume Oil; 20 to 30% concentration.

Distribution Channel Penetration: By and large, we can say that urban and suburban dwellers are the consumers of Designer perfumers. Hence, these two types of perfumes are mostly sold through modern trade channels like high-end stores located at shopping malls, pharmacies and other perfumery and cosmetic stores located at affluent areas. Mass-market perfumes are sold through supermarkets, low-end perfumery and cosmetic chains, textile shops, fancy stores, pharmacies, etc. Significance of distribution channels varies from country to country. For example, pharmacies are the main channel in Argentina. In Peru and Chile, Modern Trade, or M.T., channels of malls, perfumery chains are the main outlets. In Zambia, pharmacies are an important channel in the cities while fancy stores in the country side. In sub-Saharan Africa, perfumes and cosmetic shops — doing both wholesaling and retailing — fancy stores, roadside makeshift-shops, hawking, etc. are the channels. In South East Asian counties like Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, M.T channels contribute bigger share. In general, in advanced and more-developed developing countries, Mass-market perfumes are sold mainly through M.T channels while less-developed developed countries, the channels are mainly of traditional outlets.

What are the existing relationships and how to identify the soft spot for penetration and entry? Single-brand retailing hardly exists in Occidental perfumes though Oriental perfume companies do so because of the range of products within the same brand. Such retailing is done at manufacturers’ home turfs or in the areas where they have control. However, this is not a recommended model for a global scale of operation. For Mass-market type, distribution needs to look at stores and shops where middle-income people shop at. People buy a new brand of perfume after smelling it – this is the soft spot in penetration. When you launch a perfume in a new country, support your distributor with enough testers of the new perfume. Use testers to generously spray on paper blotters and make potential walk-in consumers feel it. 

Positioning Challenges: When you buy cooking oil, you buy it for the use by your family, but when you buy perfume, you buy it for yourself. It means that lots of personal likes and dislikes like type of scents, color of perfume boxes, shape of bottles, etc. will come into play. There are a few characteristics that are unique to perfume trade. All types of perfumes have the core product attribute: durability of scent – how long it lasts on your body after spraying. The commonality ends here as each type – Mass-market, Celebrity and Designer – of perfumes has its own characteristic product attributes. In other words, perfume is a luxury product, but a zooming in of the trade will show that many attributes, barring the core product attribute, of luxury have different meanings for different types of perfumes.

In Designer type perfume, attributes like shape of bottles and their exquisite elegance and packaging; color, shape and nature of material used in the box play significant role in buying decisions. Price is not a very significant factor as Designer perfumes are more brand than products. Retail price of Hugo Boss or Christian Dior going up from US$100 to US$110 will not likely deter a brand-loyal consumer from buying it. Designer type perfumes have very high brand loyalty, hence, can withstand price shocks – aesthetic value overpowering price value.

Mass-market perfumes has an underlying positioning assumption: making luxury affordable. In other words, Mass-market perfumes target those who cannot afford a US$100 perfume but want to wear same scents at a lower price. The business model of Mass-market perfumes imbibes this consumer fundamental by bottling scents of the most popular Designer perfumes, with differentiating packages. So Mass-market perfumes are like this or that: like Boss Orange or GUCCI Guilty or Dior Joy, etc.  In Mass-market perfumes, price plays domineering role in influencing buying decision though aesthetics has inherent strengths in influencing consumer behavior in varying degrees. Price completely overpowers aesthetics in Mass-mass perfumes – diametrically opposite of Designer perfumes. If a manufacturer, however, can take up the challenging task of producing a mass-mass brand with good aesthetics in terms of attractive packaging by leveraging size-cost equilibrium  – nothing significant can be done on fragrance concentration due to the limiting factor of price –  then the brand can still be differentiated in the same segment.

In Mid-mass segment, price still plays domineering role, but aesthetics claims its due space in consumer choice. A perfume consumer who wants to buy a good brand that will last longer and has aesthetics derived from an exquisite bottle and attractive packaging and at the same time at an affordable price suiting his purse, then he/she is looking for a Mid-mass type perfume. This is a delicate balance between luxury and price – a consumer needs luxury and want that luxury within his/her affordability. This type of perfume is the most challenging for a marketer to drive volumes. 

Masstige type perfumes have an equilibrium between price and aesthetes – I will put it as 50:50. Both price and aesthetics are equally important in influencing buying decisions. I am willing to pay extra but give me better-looking bottles and more attractive  packaging — the buying attitude in this type. Pricing of masstige type of perfumes allow enough room to maneuver on aesthetics. However, a manufacturer here cannot pay too much attention on aesthetics and cross the masstige price barrier because then he/she shall be foraying  into the turf of Celebrity perfumes  whose dynamics are different. If a marketer cannot price-differentiate masstige brand from Celebrity brand, his masstige brand might fail. Suppose that you have retail- priced your masstige brand at US$25 in market where Antonio Banderas or Shakira — both are Celebrity brands — is sold at US$27, then many consumers are likely to go with Antonio or Shakira. Hence, positioning of masstige should be below Celebrity with reasonable price difference.

The PMMU model can be used to understand the market for any product. Let us look at the Beauty Soap Market. Brands like Claus Porto, L’ Octane Cravtree and Evelyn and Dior Joy come under Luxury/Premium type; Tom Ford and Victoria Secrets brand under Celebrity type; Dove being Masstige; Lux, Vivel and Pears in Mid-mass range; and Nirma, Hamam amd Lifebouy are Mass-mass type.

International Sales – Understanding and Tackling New Markets

This is the second blog of a 3-part series on International Sales. The first part dealt with the preparations for making an international travel – https://nowhereperspectives.com/2020/06/23/international-sales-preparations-for-a-business-trip/?fbclid=IwAR1KMmN2KSC-7V2hvTUBwcysa92GIINnfFCrslaMt0TuvXi68wcwVPklHrM – and in this edition, I will try to explain the ways to start business in a virgin market. The job of hunting for and getting a business partner, who can be an importer-distributor of your product or a local business partner, starts at the very moment you land in the target-country. Immigration procedure, easiness in collecting baggage and getting out of airport, quality of roads and traffic, etc. give cues to the country you landed in. Imagine that you have scheduled to spend a week in a country to complete the task at hand, and that means you have five days comprising 40 hours to interact with potential partners before you wind up the trip. It is better to arrive in a country on Saturday, especially if the flight is of long haul, as you get Sunday to rest and recoup so that you will be afresh to start working from Monday. This blog has two components: Understanding New Market and Tackling New Market.

Understanding New Market: Before we get into the task of tackling a new market, it is imperative to understand the market in terms of the product that one wants to sell as well as the price-market dynamics. I developed a simple model to understand this dynamics and named it as Pyramid Model for Market Understanding, or PMMU. The model has three elements: General Product Classification, Market Segmentation and Demand Quantification. I am in the business of marketing perfumes in international markets, hence, using perfume as the specimen product to illustrate the model. 

General Product Classification: Using price factor, the model classifies perfumes into three types: Mass-market perfume, Celebrity perfume and Designer – also called Branded/Luxury/Premium – perfume, with the Mass-market further divided into three sub-slots of Mass-mass, Mid-mass and Masstige. Mass-market perfumes have Manufacture’s Price, M.P., of US$1 to 6 & Maximum Retail Price, or M.R.P., as US$2 to 20; Celebrity perfume: M.P. is in the range of US$6 to US$10 & M.R.P. of US$20 to US$40; and Designer perfume: M.P. of US$10 to 20 & M.R.P. of US$50 to US$100 and above. The price indicators within the Mass-market perfume: Mass-mass: M.P. of less than or equal to US$1 & M.R.P.of US$2 to 4; Mid-mass: US$1.10 to 3.75 & M.R.P. of US$5 to 20; and Masstige: M.P. of US$4 to 6 & M.R.P. of US$10 to 20. The range of M.R.Ps. within the same type is an indication of the differences in import duty, Value Added Tax and other tariff among different countries and of M.Ps. tells the flexibility in deciding the quality of various product attributes. Furthermore, the interface of prices represents sales overheads like distribution costs in varying degrees across the markets. For example, in Brazil the combined duties come to 200% of Cost and Freight, or CFR, value for perfumes while there is no import duty for perfumes in Singapore, with the only tariff being 7% VAT. Cost of distribution in sub-Saharan Africa, barring Kenya and South Africa, is lesser as the lion’s share of sales is through the traditional channels while modern-trade plays a bigger role in Latin America and South East Asia. It is very important for a marketer to understand in which type or sub-slot his/her product belongs to because without such an understanding, a marketer will not be successful to decide the right brand or mix of brands for a market, besides, being in dithering on the kind of prospects to hunt for. The classification is illustrated in the following diagram:

Market Segmentation:  It is a conventional straight-line that the size – the potential demand for a product – of a market is the sum total of the demands of its different consumer segments. Hence, a marketer needs to develop a good idea about the various consumer segments of the market he/she operates. Let us take the Republic of Ghana, a West African country, as an illustrative example for quantifying the demand potential of a product, say, perfumes in a country. Ghana has a population of 31 million people. Based on my experience that encompasses interactions with importers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers, consumers, shipping companies and various other players in the trade as well as scooping up information from internet and referring research reports of the perfume trade by various agencies, I guesstimate that 60% of the Ghana population uses perfumes. That gives 18.60 million users of perfumes in Ghana. I zeroed in on 60%, which still  has scope for further fine-tuning, after umpteen deliberations and thinking over a long period of time. A marketer can conjure up such data using consultative and deductive skills. The 60% is not a fixed datum and can change in tandem with the overall economic changes in Ghana. Also, the number of perfume users in a country varies depending upon many other cultural and macroeconomic factors.

Ghana is a sub-Sharan country with an average per capita income of US$1800 which boils down to US$150 per month. Most sub-Saharan countries have more or less same per capita income. Sub-Saharan Africa constitutes 49 countries after excluding the five North African countries from Africa. One striking factor in the income distribution of sub-Saharan Africa is that middle income group, unlike in the developing countries, is not significant in size – one is either very rich or abject poor, with a relatively smaller middle class bridging in between. 

Despite this distorted income distribution, sub-Saharan Africa is a big market for perfumes. I know you have a doubt: How can perfumes, a sign of luxury, have such a big market in a poor continent? Well, hundreds of years of colonialism had largely transformed the African way of living into the European style. A police man having US$150 monthly salary or a maid earning US$100 per month or a manager earning US$400 is willing to spend US$5 or US$10 to buy a perfume and smell good because perfume is a part of his/her daily life, just like coconut hair oil for the Keralites or paan – betel leaf – for a sizable population of Indians. A Keralite may not spend ₹500 – US$6.66 –  on a perfume but will do so for a coconut hair oil  because he/she considers perfume as a luxury while coconut hair oil is a part of the lifestyle. A paan user might dish out a similar amount over a period of two months to savour Paan but not on perfumes for the same reason as a Keralite does. Similarly, an African may not spend US$5 or US$10 on hair oil or paan as it is either a luxury or not a part of his/her lifestyle but will spend on perfume because it is a part of his/her day-to-day life.

Such a lower per capita income makes the share of Mass-market perfumes disproportionately higher in Ghana and sub-Saharan Africa. Thirteen years of my interactions with different perfume markets across the globe gave me a few interesting insights into type-mix of various markets with respect to perfumes. Mass-market perfumes form around 95% of perfumes sold in sub-Saharan Africa, with Celebrity perfumes and Designer perfumes forming 1% and 4% respectively. In Hong Kong and Singapore, the Designer perfumes hold 18 to 20% share while in Chile it is around 15%. My Peruvian client told me Mass-market perfume has 65% market share within the perfume market, with Celebrity type having 25% and Designer 10%. Designer perfumes have around 30% share in Western Europe, but its number falls to 10 to 15% in Central and Eastern Europe. In U.S.A., the richest country in the world, Mass-market perfume holds somewhere between 50 to 60% market share. Further insight into the Mass-market type of perfumes reveals, as I experienced across the markets, its rough breakdown into 50% Mass-mass, 35% of Mid-mass and 15% of Masstige.

Coming back to Ghana, 95% of 18.60 million perfume users will bring the number to 17.67 million Mass-market consumers, 1% of Celebrity perfume users to 186,000 consumers and 4% of Designer perfume users to 744,000 consumers. Let us get into sub-slots of Mass-market: Mass-mass of 50% coming to 8.835 million users, Mid-mass of 35% coming to 6.18 million consumers and Masstige segment of 15% making the number of 2.65 million consumers.

Market Segmentation of Ghana:

Quantification of Demand: Suppose that a Ghanaian consumes a 100 ml perfume in 2 months, then she/he uses 6 perfumes in an year. So we can quantify each segment as follows:

Mass-mass: 8.835 million x 6 bottles = 53.01 million bottles per annum.

Mid-mass: 6.18 million x 6 bottles = 37.08 million bottles per annum.

Masstige: 2.65 million x 6 bottles = 15.90 million bottles per annum.

Celebrity : 186,000 x 6 bottles = 1.12 bottles per annum.

Designer: 744,000 x 2=6 bottles = 4.46 million bottles per annum

Annual perfume market of Ghana: 106.02 million bottles.

Annual Mass-market perfume market of Ghana: 111.60 million bottles

I am selling Mass-mass, Mid-mass and Masstige brand perfumes. From the above quantification, I get an idea that our Mass-mass brand ‘Nuvo’ has a potential market size of 53.01 million bottles per annum and Mid-mass brand ‘Chris Adams’ has 37.08 million bottles in Ghana. Furthermore, Ghana offers a market size of 15.90 million bottles per annum for a few collections of perfumes in our Masstige type. With these information, I am in Ghana to find a distributor for the brands. How do I go for it? One pertinent question that arises is how one will have all these information if one is going to Ghana for the first time. Well, you can still have sizable information to prepare the Pyramid Model by getting the details from different publications and trade news.

The model can be used to classify and quantify demand for any product under FMCGs: toilet soap, ketchup, toothpaste, etc.; Consumer Durables like cars, television, washing machine, furniture, etc.; Industrial Products: medical equipment, cement, bus, etc.; and Concept products: interior designing, insurance, etc. You will find different price-points for each of these products to fit into the three types and sub-slots of the PMMU. In some cases, number of price-points can increase or decrease the types and sub-slots for a product. In other words, the PMMU model can be applied to any product. All the numbers used in the illustration of the model are guesstimates based on the experience, and although demand estimation through this model does not give accurate data, it will definitely give a marketer a fairly good idea about knowing the product one handles and its market potential, besides, giving a comfortable platform to confront difficult issues like where the brand stands in terms of market share, annual growth plans, performance versus competitions, etc. 

Tackling New Market: In-country prospecting leading to a rendezvous with the prospects is detailed in this module.

In-country Prospecting begins on the very day of arrival in a country by collecting information about locations of wholesale markets, supermarket chains, and other stores where your category of products is sold. By picking up conversation with hotel staff, you can collect some of these information. Another source of information is shipping and forwarding companies. Also, it is important to get information about the safety and security of moving around in the city. If you see many policemen on roads, it is an indication that there is some safety issue in moving around. If police are armed, then the risk is higher. On the other hand, it is also an assurance of security.

It is logical to begin the first working day with visits to a few retail shops to get an idea about the competing products that are being sold, prices, etc. There are many countries where rules mandate that importer’s name and address should be mentioned on the product packaging. If you get such information from retail stores, then the doors to your potential clients are straightway open before you. You can also talk to counter sales staff and collect information on the suppliers of such products.

Visit to wholesale markets can fetch you more information as most importers and main distributors have shops there. Hence, if you spend a few hours at wholesale market, it is highly likely that you will come in contact with importers of your competitors’ products or the same-channel products. So by the end of the first day, you will have a list of real-potential clients. It is also possible that the list keeps expanding by the second or third day of your stay because it can be an ongoing process as your stay progresses in the country. In this way, you keep contacting and firming up meetings with more prospective clients as and when more relevant information come your way.

Deal or No Deal: It is not smooth sailing as it might seem from what I scribbled above. You may get a contact but it can say no to meeting; if meeting happens, another round of meeting can be fixed, which in turn can lead to a third meeting with or without a favorable result at the end; intervening periods between meetings can be of anguish and agony; frustration can creep in; disappointment from the failure to close a deal; ecstasy of a successful deal; and so on. The time you spend in a virgin market will be a mixed bag of these ups and downs. You will either succeed to close a deal or understand that a deal is not possible because of business reasons or return with a realization that a deal is possible on further follow up or during a next visit with better preparations. While success is not guaranteed on your maiden visit to a country, you will definitely be richer for the experience.

A Day Out in Bangkok

I took a 1-day guided tour to get a glimpse of the tourist attractions in and around Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand. Before proceeding to the tourist hotspots like Pattaya and Phuket, it is worthwhile to spend a couple of days in Bangkok if you are on sojourn, for there is plenty to see in the City of Angles or Krung Thep as known in the Thai language. If you are a business traveler, reserve Saturday or Sunday for the outing. There are many travel and tour agents, possibly you can see one such at the hotel where you are put up, who provide such guided tours. I paid USD30 for the 2-meal-included diurnal trip which started at around 8 a.m., with the pick up from the hotel.

Maha Mariamman temple in Bangkok:

Our first stop was Damnoen Saduak floating market, the famous floating market in Bangkok, which worked from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Monday to Saturday. In a floating market, goods are sold from boats. Before all those road and rail networks came into existence, extensive waterways of canals and rivers were the main transport networks in Thailand, and a floating trade flourished as a natural outcome of this traditional transport mode. Nowadays, floating markets serve as attractions for local as well as international tourists to experience riverside shopping, besides, being the living souvenirs of the history. I saw similar floating markets in Vietnam.

One has to take a boat from the vehicle drop-off point to reach the floating market. I remember that it took around 20 minutes to reach the market.

Waterway to the floating market — what a way!

Most of the goods sold were fresh farm produce. The following pictures illustrate further:

When it came to souvenirs and non-food stuff, the tour guide told us to bargain as prices mostly started 3 to 4 times higher.

Smaller canoes:

In addition to the floating shops-on-boats, many shops were also set up on the concrete dykes in and around the water-marketplace. There is dedicated canoe service to take tourists around the market.

After spending couple of hours at the market, we left for the next destination, the Elephant Village, a place to do elephant safari. One has to pay separately for this.

There are white elephants in Thailand, I remember that our tour guide told, which are owned only by the Kings.

Boarding;

Safari:

The time spent at the next attraction, Samphran Elephant Ground & Zoo, was thrilling. There were enthralling shows by the elephants:

Elephant Trapping: Simulation of guiding an elephant out of an elephant trap.

Football game by the elephants:

A few other shows:

Elephantry was an unavoidable part of the militaries of kings and emperors. A simulation of the battle by elephant-mounted troops:

One side is getting ready for the battle!

The other side:

The battle!

The battle rages:

The Winner and the vanquished.

My bit with elephants:

Two beauties:

The visit to a wood carving center gave an exposure to the making of traditional handicrafts of Thailand.

A wooden robot:

We moved on with our journey, and the last two stops threw up adventurous games. Crocodile and cobra shows.

Crocodile show: Two young guys playing and tussling with crocodiles! One of them even went to the extent of keeping his head in the mouth of an alligator.

Cobra show: I paid USD 6.50 for the show, but the thrill, curiosity and awesome fear that the show gifted to the spectators were priceless.

Catching a jumping cobra:

Collecting venom from a large snake:

Mongoose-Snake fight:

It was a show where the animals were trained to not harm each other. So there was no murder.

Catching three snakes at a time. A man catches three sankes – two with his hands and one with mouth!

It was a.day spent well. I had a good time in Bangkok.

Flying During COVID Times

Who does not enjoy flying, albeit in an aircraft? Barring those who suffer from aviophobia, all get thrilled by a flying opportunity. That thrill is the harbinger of the actual joy that one will experience as one passes through various stages of a flying-journey, starting with preparations for trip, entering the cool confines of an airport, queuing for check in, being a part of the hustle and bustle at airport, popping in at duty free shops and actual flying that you enjoy – watching without fear but awe the objects on the ground going smaller and smaller as you climb up, finally, their disappearance as aircraft reaches its usual trajectory-altitude of around 40000 feet. And the cabin thrills like enjoying a good meal while watching your favorite movie on the front-screen. Wow, great going with many cheerful faces around you! Can you imagine flying without these fanfares? Yes, that is the way now! COVID-19 has changed the way the world does things, so did it change the way one flies!

When I got confirmation to fly in the next day’s chartered flight, I felt very happy that I was going home. But that feeling faded out soon as I realized that the day to reach home was another 16 days away though I would be flying the very next day. Furthermore, when I visualized the journey, I realized that the journey with just three and half hours flying time was going to be tedious, devoid of any fun of travel. My travel agent told me to report 5 hours before the flight departure, which I did. With a surgical mask, an N-95 mask and a shield fitted on the face, along with gloves on hands, I reached the airport at 11 a.m. for the flight leaving at 4:20 p.m. Everyone religiously followed social distancing while waiting for the antibody test for the virus, the result of which came within a couple of minutes. COVID-19 negative! Heartening news! Well, I heard a murmur from inside: you are COVID-19 only till the time the blood was taken for the testing and that you have a long way to go before you complete the trip!

Airports throws a cool blanket around as one enters, but that was not so when I entered, for the airport was operating under-capacity. There were no long queues at the checking counters, with many of them remaining closed. The queues had social-distancing markings, and everyone followed them. A couple of kilograms of excessive weight in the check in baggage did not elicit any query or extra cost. The immigration procedure, with an addition of thermal scanning, was as usual, barring the usual busy queues. The boarding areas and its surrounding ambiance were always busy with duty free shops, coffee shops, lots of peoples, lights, sounds of frequent announcements about departing flights, etc. But all those hustle and bustle was absent. What I saw: one passenger here or another there sitting and enjoying social-distancing, many shops remained closed, and those which were open had scant business as I could see during my 4-hour stay at the boarding area. Mask-worn people shunned coffee shops although there were a few who took the risk and kept their masks away to sip coffee. I frequented many airports umpteen times but never saw such deserted look, nor did I ever imagine it. Times have changed beyond our imagination!

The passengers entered the flight observing the social distancing norms. All those norms, however, turned faux pas as the flight was full with almost all the seats occupied. After boarding, the flight was delayed for one and half hours due to some technical problem. Food was served during the flight, but many eschewed. However, it was bizarre to watch many others, some even wearing P.P.E., removing the mask and enjoying the meals. A few of them continued to remain unmasked after the meals, forcing the cabin crew to request to them to wear the masks. The airline has an excellent in-cabin visual entertainment system called ICE, which offers an array of movies from across the languages. But as per the COVID-19 protocol, ICE was too hot to be on in order to prevent contamination from the touch-screens. There were hardly anyone using washroom. People somehow want to complete the journey and get out of the aircraft – I felt so! With many mask-and-shield-ornate grim faces around, what else feeling can one get? There was no pulling up of window-shields to get a view of the sky! In between, display-screens were reminding passengers to drink enough water to avoid dehydration, but nobody seemed to be bothered about such reminders.

After landing at the Cochin International airport, it took an hour to get out of the aircraft, thanks to the deboarding of an aircraft that landed just before. Only 35 passengers were allowed to deboard at a time to maintain social distancing. Reception with sanitizer, thermal scanning, instructions to the arriving passengers by an airport staff through microphone were novel. As I arrived from the U.A.E., where the virus test was done prior to the boarding, no further test was carried at the Kochi airport. Other procedures at the airport included handing over of one of the two filled-forms – details about the test done, address in India, stay address, etc. – at the immigration counter, collecting the baggage as usual, giving the second filled-form to a counter and collecting exit-slip from there, showing the exit-slip at the exit gate to the police man – you are out of the airport. It all took around an hour. You can book taxi from the airport. The taxi that I hired had the passenger area separated from the driver’s place by transparent fiber-boards – COVID-19 protocol for airport taxi. It was amusing to see the big duty free shop at the airport turned to a kiosk.

It took fifteen and half hours for me to reach the room in Kochi from my room in Sharjah though the flying time was just 3 hours 30 minutes – 10 a.m. U.A.E. time to 3 a.m. Indian time. I did not have any food or water during this time period. I drank water after reaching the hotel where I am quarantining, that too after a shower and washing of the clothes worn during the travel. For the last 16 years, I have been travelling extensively as part of my job. I undertook long haul flights of more than 30 hours with flying times of 16 hrs direct, 22 hours mix, etc. and flew tens of thousands of miles. I always enjoyed all those travels. Though some of them were tiring, they were not dispiriting or dejecting because they were not burdens. I looked forward to and enjoyed every travel. But the trip – 15 hours and 30 minutes’ trip is not big for me – that I undertook a couple of days back was a burden and dispiriting. The new protocols and procedure that one has to undergo at airports and inside planes will mentally drain you – the joy of flying is taken out from you. Wearing mask and face-shield unabatedly for longer period puts strain on your head, sometimes making you feel like pulling them out and throwing them away. All these make flying a pain, not a happy experience.

If one has to endure such difficult times for a three and half hours flight, what will be the plight in a long overhaul flight having 10 or 15 hours flying time? The journey will likely to be of more than 30 to 40 hours between departure room and arrival room! Who can undertake such an ordeal, that too in a debilitating flying ambiance with fear of contamination by the virus? People go on overseas holidays as a break from work and familiar places they dwell. But if flying itself takes a toll on your physical and mental health, who will go for it? Similarly, for undertaking overseas business trips a lot of physical and mental strengths need to be conserved. But if flying itself drains that strength out of you, you will not be able to work to your potential after reaching destination country. It will be extremely difficult to undertake an international trip with these flying difficulties. With COVID-19 around, flying is looking to be a tedious affair. I loath to conclude a blog on pessimistic note but had to succumb to the reality. Unless a vaccine arrives or the virus disappears altogether, nonessential international travels seem to be off the table.

Problems and Issues

Many a time, we fail to differentiate between problems and issues and, mostly, respond in the same way to both. Problems and issues have characteristics which are diametrically opposite to each other. They, therefore, have to be dealt with differently. Problems, if left unsolved, have the potential to stop our progression in life, but issues can stop us only if we pay excessive attention to them. Problems are inevitable while issues are nonessential. Confront problems, but deal with issues only if they cannot be avoided. Let’s look at the inherent characters of the two.

How do we characterize something as a problem or an issue? Anything that critically stops you from progressing materially as well as intellectually – emotionally, mentally and spiritually — is a problem. Problem comes with three options: solve so that it is no more a hurdle in your way, allowing you to move forward with the knowledge and confidence acquired from the solution found; surrender to problem and live with it; and avoid problem by changing the course so that you evade the problem.

While dealing with problems, the biggest mistake we make is diagnosing symptoms of a problem as the problem itself, then, trying to solve the problem by focusing on symptoms. Let me make a simple illustration of this misgauge. My shirts’ collars always have more dirt than the rest part, making me to put extra soap to remove that dirt. Upon looking at this problem recently, I realized that the best way to solve this problem was to put that extra soap around my neck while bathing instead on the collars while washing clothes. I actualized my realization, and it solved the problem. Most problems in life have solutions within our reach provided that we do not synonymize symptoms with problems but look for and deal with the root cause(s) of problems.

Every problem is an opportunity, but an opportunity in disguise. Opportunity means that something is possible while problem is something that is apparently impossible. It is commonsensical that the solution to a problem opens up an opportunity. However, more important than finding solutions to problems is the realization that problems are opportunities, hence, have to be tackled, not procrastinated or avoided. Take a look at your life and see if you face more problems or opportunities. More problems. Right? Opportunities in plain, undisguised form visit you lesser in numbers compared to them coming veiled as problems. Quicker you take out opportunity from a problem faster the next opportunity knocks at you as another problem. Do not surrender to a problem and live with it nor take an evasion. Surrender option is dangerous because you are chaining yourself to the problem that will put a drag on you. That will make you to go on default mode to connect every irritant in your life to this unresolved problem. If you decide to avoid a problem by changing your course, it is not avoidance but evasion as the problem will resurface later in one form or another. Deal with your problems because they are your opportunities. I looked for easy ways in life only to find that they were trapped in difficulties called problems. More the problems you face happier be you.

How do we solve problems? Take problems to your mind which will give you solutions. Your subconscious mind has the solutions to all your problems provided that you make the problems to reside in your conscious mind. Reside means think deep about the problems and allow them to be in your active thought process. Never do take your problems to heart, for it will dispirit you as heart cannot think, hence, is not in a position to offer solutions. Knocking at the doors of heart for solutions will elicit no responses. Heart can only reject or accept what mind says, a process that involves tussle between emotion and discretion.

Issue is anything that diverts your attention from the path toward your goals. They defocus you. Issues are not critical to your success but have the potential to sabotage your way to success. Incidents that come up in your day-to-day dealings with friends or foes and acquaintances or strangers have no bearing on your future are issues. You should not pay undue attention to or spend much time on such non-critical things. Unnecessary and meaningless criticism, a grumbler friend, bickering couples in your neighborhood, noncompliant colleagues who have no work-interface with you, not scoring an A+ in every examination and in every subject, etc. are issues, not problems to bother about, and they should not have any lasting dwelling inside you. The word: shun is very relevant here, which means avoid deliberately. We may have to get involved in issues – that includes people and incidents – but no need to be accommodative to them. What about dealing with problems and issues connected with the society we live in? Well, classifying societal matters as a problem or an issue with respect to you is a personal call you have to take and deal with, accordingly. If it is a problem, confront it, otherwise, treat it as an issue.

It is quite human that we fail to differentiate between problem and issue. More often than not, we take issues as problems by failing to evaluate if such issues are critical to our intellectual and material growth. When you get diverted by issues and when you fail to unlock the opportunity in a problem, something called fate or bad-luck triumphs over you. On the other hand, when you are able to differentiate between problems and issues and brush aside issues but confront problems decisively, nothing can stop you from achieving your goals. A successful man who remains undeterred by issues but remains focused on dealing with his problems shows fate its due place instead of allowing fate to decide where he should be.

Emerald of the Equator

Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world, consisting of 17,508 islands, out of which, 6000 are inhabited. Such a geographical grouping stretches Indonesia’s border to Singapore and Malaysia on its west at the Strait of Malacca, to Australia at the Timor Sea in the west, and to the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean on its northern and southern sides respectively. Among the islands, Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi are the main ones. The capital city of Jakarta is located in Java.

Bali, a beautiful island that is 1153 km away from the capital city Jakarta, is the most famous tourist attraction in Indonesia, but I did not get a chance to be there. My six visits spanning 2007 to 2019 to Indonesia were to Jakarta, thanks to the business nature of the visits. While visiting Jakarta, if you have one free day, then make a visit to Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, a theme park in Timur, East Jakarta. It is worth spending a day out there. The theme park is 18 km away from the central Jakarta. It houses ‘Museum Indonesia,’ a Pagoda and many modern amusement facilities. 

Besides having a part of India in its name, Indonesia, like other countries in South Asia, has many Indian cultural  similarities in its way of living. This is the leftover from the past when Hinduism was the predominant religion in the region. Buddhism replaced Hinduism in the countries of the region, with Islam doing the same in Indonesia, a few hundred years ago. A welcome with folded hands like in Namaste, spicy food named Padang – from Sumatra region of Indonesia – are some of these rudiments. 

Padang Food Plate:

Bali, a predominantly Hindu region, is the living example of the Indian way of living in Indonesia Bollywood is very popular in Indonesia, with songs and dance numbers from Bollywood movies reproduced as video albums that are good choices for screening at popular eateries and pubs. And the Indonesian singers of such albums are very popular in the country. Ramayana and Mahabharatha serials telecast by the Indian television channels were hugely popular in Indonesia. There are statues of Hindu mythological figures erected at many places in Jakarta. There are many other Hindu customs that are being followed. All these show the Indonesians are a tolerant people and respectable to their past.

Mahabharatha monuments from Jakarta:

Coming back to he museum, it also showcases Hindu-era artifacts and sculptors.  

A Chinese monastery at the park:

The museum also houses effigies of bride and groom of all the provinces of Indonesia. Every province of Indonesia has unique wedding attires for bride and groom.

Ache bride and groom:

Java bride and groom:

North Sumadra:

Taman Mini also has a cable-car tour offering sky-views of around.  

A church as seen from the cable-car: