Bukowski 9 to 5

 

Few days ago I watched an old movie named Barfly starring Micky Rourke. The movie was based on the formative years of Bukowski when he was drinking himself to death and was on verge of destitution. He wrote the screenplay himself and portrayed the lead who finds solace in writing poetry.

One dialog from the movie is remarkable. Wanda asks Henry “Do you trust me”?, Henry replies “Yes, why not! It is easier that way”.

I am pasting one a letter here that goes hand in hand with what we feel today. How insecurity, the comfort, the society influences our actions and make us do things which we might not have done if free abstractly.

 

December 8, 1986

Hello John:

Thanks for the good letter. I don’t think it hurts, sometimes, to remember where you came from. You know the places where I came from. Even the people who try to write about that or make films about it, they don’t get it right.

They call it “9 to 5.” It’s never 9 to 5, there’s no free lunch break at those places, in fact, at many of them in order to keep your job you don’t take lunch. Then there’s OVERTIME and the books never seem to get the overtime right and if you complain about that, there’s another sucker to take your place. You know my old saying, “Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.”

And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.

As a young man I could not believe that people could give their lives over to those conditions. As an old man, I still can’t believe it. What do they do it for? Sex? TV? An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did?

Early on, when I was quite young and going from job to job I was foolish enough to sometimes speak to my fellow workers: “Hey, the boss can come in here at any moment and lay all of us off, just like that, don’t you realize that?”

They would just look at me. I was posing something that they didn’t want to enter their minds.

Now in industry, there are vast layoffs (steel mills dead, technical changes in other factors of the work place). They are layed off by the hundreds of thousands and their faces are stunned:

“I put in 35 years…”

“It ain’t right…”

“I don’t know what to do…”

They never pay the slaves enough so they can get free, just enough so they can stay alive and come back to work. I could see all this. Why couldn’t they? I figured the park bench was just as good or being a barfly was just as good. Why not get there first before they put me there? Why wait?

I just wrote in disgust against it all, it was a relief to get the shit out of my system. And now that I’m here, a so-called professional writer, after giving the first 50 years away, I’ve found out that there are other disgusts beyond the system.

I remember once, working as a packer in this lighting fixture company, one of the packers suddenly said: “I’ll never be free!”

One of the bosses was walking by (his name was Morrie) and he let out this delicious cackle of a laugh, enjoying the fact that this fellow was trapped for life.

So, the luck I finally had in getting out of those places, no matter how long it took, has given me a kind of joy, the jolly joy of the miracle. I now write from an old mind and an old body, long beyond the time when most men would ever think of continuing such a thing, but since I started so late I owe it to myself to continue, and when the words begin to falter and I must be helped up stairways and I can no longer tell a bluebird from a paperclip, I still feel that something in me is going to remember (no matter how far I’m gone) how I’ve come through the murder and the mess and the moil, to at least a generous way to die.

To not to have entirely wasted one’s life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself.

Your boy,

Hank

A day without emojis

Smileys, furious face, tongue sticking out, crying faces have become integral part of daily life. The phones and various chat applications keep on updating their emoticons palette; Emoticons have the ability to replace the words to the degree that complete sentences can be formed using them. There are puzzles based on emojis in which you have to decipher the name of a movie, some food, emotion, a proverb or something else from them when used in a particular sequence. So much so that. I remember that I wasn’t agile enough to use them straightaway. When I started talking to a girl online some 10 years ago, I never employed smileys in my texts and little did I know that my humor, sarcasm, and other statements not supplemented by emoticons would be misconstrued. From then on I reached a point where there is one emoji in 15% of my social texting. Not there anything is wrong with it but I did notice it and decided to cut down the usage for a day and see whether pre emoji era conversation would be misconstrued. I asked a friend of mine to try emoticon sans conversation, though she is a frequent user of emojis and was reluctant initially saying she can’t stand it, she did agree to participate for a day. The argument that I used was the books don’t have smileys and it has been working out very well for them without them. She retorted that books have longer sentences for touching the emotional chords. Long story short, she agreed. Another precursor of communication was that we couldn’t have asked questions such as are you mad, disappointed etc.

We started our day, went through it and wrapped it up exchanging 308 messages between us including the Oks, Yeses, Nos, and notorious mono question marks. I did supplement lol and haha to indicate humor but there were times during which the conversation veered off in a tangential direction despite the fact that we knew each other quite well. I was wee bit adventurous by bringing more controversial topics on the table to see whether emojis are needed or not. At times explanations were needed and at times we might have obviated the details. The deliberate obliteration of the colon, semicolon, right and left round braces revealed a macroscopic picture about linguistics. I once attempted to study hieroglyphics and understood that pictures can tell the same story as the words can; Mandarin, Cantonese, Kanji, Hirangana, Katakana are the visual scripts in which symbols stand for words or phrases. I am not leading anti emoticon protest but I wanted to see whether I can convey emotions and pass my word across without being misconstrued and I would say the experiment didn’t fail.  I don’t want to make a case that as a human race we have evolved and should use the words rather than the smiley or winking faces to convey the messages. Sometimes a thumbs up or a smiley face can work fine but one should take a step back and check whether he/she is capable to put the word across without use of emojis and if one is inept then it could be a red flag for the declining literacy and decimating self confidence that if veered off, the communication can’t be brought back on track.

A little history : Scott E. Fahlman, computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon is credited with inventing the smiley face. https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~sef/sefSmiley.htm

Hygge

Hygge was among the finalist words in words of the year year 2016. Oxford dictionary defines Hygge as – A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being. I think the definition of the word is subjective and being able to enjoy the passing moments of life, howsoever transient or ephemeral they might be, should come under the larger set.  To start with I had been pronouncing the word incorrectly for a long time. It is not Hy -gee but Hue-gaeh, but my laziness made me adapt to the former pronunciation than the correct one. I have always wondered what exactly would I say as hygee in my life. My Swedish friends have Fika for hygge but I? I might have myriad answers to it. Sitting at Fisherman’s wharf  feeling the wind from the pacific and the heat of the sun is definitely hygge and so is letting the cool breeze dry the sweat from your back. Enjoying every sip of hot coffee might be hygge for many but I have burned my tongue and entire pallet on this account multiple times and have been rendered incapable to taste for few days on multiple occasions. The Portuguese word cafune seems like hygge but I am not sure. Cafune is running your fingers through someone’s hair. It would make me sleepy before I decide whether it is hygge and moreover I am ambivalent on number of people that can participate in one person’s hygge ceremony. Washing the dishes doesn’t seem very hygge-istic to me either, it can be therapeutic but mundane and trust me when you have to clean a pressure cooker after cooking Sambhar ( an Indian curry) in it then all hygge will vanish from your life.

I have assumed that reading a book and curling up is hygge-ing but on the other hand it can be a result of my anti-social, tight upper lipped behavior that quashes me to spend time with people. Sleeping on my yoga mat in Central park is definitely fun but there are many who would disturb my inner peace there. Smokers and birds are two culprits to begin with. Apart from that there are multiple hygge related events – binge netflixing, slurp sounding while having soup (many would call it plebeian style but who cares), able to generate perfect crease on trousers, stretching your body and hearing the clicking sound from various joints, smelling the soaked urad lentil ( split and dehusked black grams), leafing through a glossy magazine, listening to a song of your liking on radio and may be many more.

BTW…here is the the Hygge Oath

hygge_oath_2

The Purpose

I don’t know why am I writing this post today. I should have written long time back but that is how it is and I am writing it now. Today, a friend of mine and I were talking about world war 2 and then we switched to Adolf Hitler and then to Gandhi. I gave her a detailed account of Indian struggle for independence and the phrase ” winners get to write the history”. I sent her a link of Rang De Basanti – one of my favorite movies. I don’t know whether she watched it but I watched it again and so did I watched The legend of Bhagat Singh. I admire both of the movies to no end and to pieces and the related events.

It’s not the movies that I admire but the events and the heroes who were part of it. India adores Mahatma Gandhi and ignores the 700, 000 other people who died for the country. Is that fair? May be no! But again – winners get to write the history. I am not denigrating or castigating anyone here but as a citizen of India, it is my responsibility to understand and read my history properly before engaging in an argument with anyone. Although, the premise I am presenting isn’t understood by most and most reach the conclusions hastily.

Indians have mostly been non-confronters, timid people and among them rose the likes of Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Batukeshwar Dutt, SukhDev, Jatin Das, Udham Singh and many others. Most of them fresh out of college, 22-23 years of age but unknown to the fear. At such young age they had unparalleled focus, the will to give up their lives for the country, the clarity of thought and the will to act upon what they thought. I don’t want to compare our generation with them as it won’t be apple to apple comparison. Rang de basanti has a dialog – there are two ways to live your lives – 1. Keep on absorbing what is happening around you and keep on adapting even to the worst of circumstances. 2. Take the responsibility to change the conditions around you and change them. The above mentioned names chose the second one. There is a dialog in the movie Predestination – What does anyone want? Love. Oh fuck love, a purpose. I strongly agree with the statement. To be able to give your life a purpose is a life fulfilled. Bhagat Singh would agree with that too. Multiple people believe in multiple things but it doesn’t mean that one is right and the other is wrong. Creationist would always be against the believers of Darwin’s theory and would term the non believers as arrogant, baseless who are floating on the cloud of their own notions. Many say that a rational society can’t be helpful to humanity but is is really the case?

 

 

The new roommate

I saw this plant in a grocery store and bought it immediately. I am next to zilch in Botany – except few flowers, plants and trees I can’t identify the wide variety of flora on terra firma.  It is with me for more than a week and I see that it has started withering, the leaves made a crunchy noise when I touched them. I can’t put it outside as it is snowing and always very windy, so it has to stay inside my apartment. I removed the extra water today and to desiccate, have put it under a lamp. I hope it survives. Is it Daisy or something else?

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Guide – 1965

To me R K Narayan has always been more than a fiction writer; at one hand he is a sweet reminisce of relatable stories and on the other is someone whose stories if read deeply can be as complex as Freud’s civilization and its discontents.

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http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059246/

Based on the book Guide which won Sahitya Academy, the movie – Guide, is a classic produced by Indian cinema industry. Few people know that it was Pearl S. Buck ( The writer of The good earth) convinced Dev Anand to produce a movie on this book while both of them were in Berlin film festival. Corroborated with excellent background score and soulful music, the movie is a mandatory watch to anyone interested in international cinema or any Indian who harbors the notion that CGI clad Hollywood movies are the best thing that have happened in this century. Although R K Narayan wasn’t elated on seeing the movie as the movie doesn’t adhere to the book verbatim, he extolled Waheeda Rehman ( Lead actress) for bringing Rosy alive on the celluloid.

It is interesting to see the how the characters of Rosy and Raju develop throughout the text. Love, skill, success, devotion, aversion, egotism, deception, introspection, withdrawal, asceticism, belief, altruism, and the eventual knowledge follow in order. The guide guides himself to glory. He guides himself to the strength that a few are introduced to and transcends the bridge of life and death. I can extrapolate Guide to the reverence with which The Great Gatsby is looked at and I think I am not wrong.

The 4 stages of life

Carl Jung, Alfred Adler and Sigmund Freud are said to be fathers of modern psychology. Each of them have different perspective on multitude of things. Freud gives us civilizations and its discontents, interpretation of dreams, a rehash of oedipus complex while Adler proposed 14 day cure plan for anyone who is depressed and emphasized on the importance of social factors in one’s well being. Carl Jung carved out archetypes for human life. Jung broadly classified the stages into 4 which might not be music to the ears of William Shakespeare who wrote seven stages of life. The 4 stages are the mirror for us and let us answer the rhetoric of self identity and motivation.

Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.’   – Carl Gustav Jung

The Athlete – The stage of self obsession. Mirror is a constant companion here. Aesthetic points are valued in this stage and narcissism can be the pivot. We might know few people in our lives who haven’t been able to come out of this phase or wind their lives around it. Few keep abreast with other stages while keeping the athlete alive.

The Warrior – Let’s go out and conquer the world. The world is our Troy and we are the Achilles, hopefully without arrows through our ankles 🙂 . We become more responsible and the vanity of the athleticism starts to fade. Achievement and tip of the pyramid are the alluring and driving factors. Some of us would die within the warrior stage due to multitudinous gratification.

The Statement – Ok, we have achieved few things in life but they aren’t making us happy to a large extent. We need more gratification and self fulfillment. There should be something that should be passed on as a legacy. Giving becomes important in this stage. What material possessions and money used to do for you might not be true in this case but you won’t shun them either. Egotistical self starts taking a back seat and leaving the world in a better place than when you arrived can be a mantra here. Few of us would associate the statement phase with parenting and being a provider rather than sucking the marrow out of life alone.

The Spirit – We eventually realize that the former 4 stages don’t define us but they are crucial to reach the spiritual phase. We realize that we are more than the money, friends, body, country. We are spiritual beings and something else is also there in the pandora box of the unknown world to which our physical bodies might not transport us. We start observing ourselves from an entirely different angle and acquire a wholistic perspective towards life and death, spirit and body. As an exercise in meditation, one has to step out of his thoughts and observe what is happening in the mind, we do the same in this stage of life. We step out and observe our mind and our body. We are the observer of the events as opposed to the beings of what we observe.

Laozi, the writer of Tao Te Ching – written over 2500 years ago, said “can you step back from your own mind and thus understand all things? Giving birth and nourishing, having without possessing, acting with no expectations, leading and not trying to control: this is the supreme virtue.”

 

 

 

The Wordly Affair

There are words in other languages that don’t have any counterpart in English and few of them are majestically beautiful.

Cafune(Portuguese) – Running fingers though someone’s hair

Yakamoz(Turkish) – Reflection of Moon on water

Ya’aburnee(Arabic) – You bury me ( You love someone so much that you can’t see them die before you, so you request that the person buries you)

Culaccino(Italian) – Water mark by a glass on a table/surface due to condensation

Connecting the dots!

You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.

– Steve Jobs, Stanford commencement speech, 2005

Demonetization in India

maxresdefaultIndia’s Prime minister Narendra. D. Modi, on the night of 8th Nov’ 2016, announced that denomination of 500 and 1000 will be invalid hereafter and general public has stipulated time to exchange that money for either 100 Rupee notes or newly minted 2000 Rupee notes. Media is lauding the PM and general public has termed this step as the master stroke. The step, according to me, is a audacious one  as it will put many people against him especially the businessmen who deal only in cash and the people who live on the daily wages. It can even cost him the next election.

The purpose : Black money, stocked money that in general is in higher currency denominations will be brought to circulation and money can be moved from unorganized to organized sector. The issues of terror funding and fake currency will be dealt well by this step. The level of cash in the central banks will be raised; It will give better picture to data scientists of Govt. and better plans can be chalked out for small scale businesses. On a fundamental level, it will increase the lending power of the banks.

The timing of announcement : He had plans to unearth money from the homes of people and get it into circulation for a long time. He started it 2 years ago by making people open zero deposit and free accounts in banks. Then he asked people to deposit whatever money they have in the bank accounts. He extended the cutoff deposit dates too. Approx. 62,000 Crore ( 620 Billion Rupees) were deposited and 45 % tax rebate was given to people who deposited this amounts. But people are incorrigible and then PM used his master stroke and just before midnight he announced demonetization. All business gets closed by that time, stock markets, shops, and almost every business transaction gets done by that time. It came as a surprise to people and created a panic situation for the money hoarders.

What is targeted : Fake currency, black money that is stocked, funding to terror groups, people who keep large undocumented cash as the black assets and people who conceal the income e.g. Jewelers dealing in cash, real estate marketeers. Also, it attack the parallel economy that runs in the informal/grey sector (Untaxed sector)

What is not targeted : The big fish of the ocean who black the money in foreign bank accounts, stocks, gold bullion, tax evaders and corruption. All these processes generate a lot of black money but it doesn’t mean that it is stored somewhere in form of cash. Some part of that money comes into the cycle of economics.

Tax evasion in India : Only 1% population pays the tax and 25% of that population earns < 5 lakh Rupees per year. Around 3% population files the tax return but the 2% gets away by showing zero income. Also, 50% of the population is still employed in agriculture and allied activities and agriculture income is tax exempt.

The currency : 500 and 1000 rupee notes make up approx. 85% of the monetary chunk. Right now, they are nothing more than an exchange coupon. India is a cash based economy as over 90% transactions are done in cash

People’s reaction : Although people are frustrated for the long queues in front of ATMs and banks but people who understand how things work and why the step was necessary are happy with the step. People are coming up with an argument that it could have been planned in advance. NO! It couldn’t have been. If people had time and had prior knowledge they would have converted the money to some other asset. If more 100 Rupee notes were to be printed before the announcement then the news could have been leaked and would have shattered the whole plan. I have friends who work in banks and even though they are in office for longer periods and even on weekends, they are happy with the step. The panic will last few days as there is some cash crunch but things will be back to normal in a few days.

Market’s reaction : The sudden currency ban caused the markets to go down by 6% but both BSE and NIFTY resurged.

Positive impacts : 1. Brought 75 thousand crore rupees ( 750 billion) in one of the national bank of India within 3 days.

2. Counterfeit currency that was used to fund terror groups and other things will be curtailed.

3. Cash hoarders  (> 2.5 lakh rupees) will have to explain to the tax department.

4. More data points for the data scientists of Govt. to chalk out better strategy.

Other impacts : 1. Approx. 100 billion Rupees spent in printing the new currency.

2. Hassle to people.

3. No impact on those who have foreign bank accounts and still no action by the Govt. when it is said that the list of account holders is available.

4. The informal sector e.g. the chit funds would be ruined and people employed in those sectors will be affected. This informal sector acted as a lending agency and it will be damaged permanently. Although, one can argue that lenders use to charge whatever interest rate they wished.

5. There is an opportunity of discounted currency business to grow i.e. You give me 500 Rupees and I will give less than 500 rupees to you in form of non demonetized currency. Discounting is illegal and Govt. is setting up measures to curb the same.

6. Tourists who had money in form of large currencies will have to face problems.

7. Collateral damage to housewives : UN reports say that 80% of Indian women didn’t have bank accounts till 2014. So, most of their possessions are in the form of cash and gold. They have been hoarding money for years but they are unintended victims of the process. Whatever they had saved over the years will come to the limelight of the family members. They should learn to invest and save, not hoard.

8. Around 26% of the population doesn’t have access to the banking system as they don’t have the valid ID cards with them and I wonder what will happen to those people’s money. This step might encourage people to get documented and be a part of the system.

Conclusion : Demonetization is not a sudden one-step action against graft but part of a bigger picture to control and curb corruption and the parallel economy that the tax evaders are running.  If people can wait in queues for hours for getting latest phones, reality show auditions, some mega sale at a mall but whining while standing in a queue in a bank or outside an ATM then the interests of those people might not be concurrent with the national interests.