Sunday, March 22, 2009


It's 7:30 and the weather is cool and balmy and with that smell that says darkness is nigh. Unfortunately, I am stuck in my office, working on some deliverables for the next day.

I remember my college weekend nights - many of them would be spent outside, on one of the many lawns scattered throughout the campus with friends, talking about stuff I don't even remember now. In the summers, we would pray for a breeze, and then, sometimes our prayers would be answered, and a light whiff of dust and flower scented gentle wind would flow - it'd seep through our sweat-drenched shirts and trousers and fill it with coolness and life and we would all shut up and just savour it.

I remember the nights spent at home - I think I spent most of them in the company of a book. I would start at 9:30 and go on till 11. I look at that image - me, curled up in my rajai and reading and smile.

Life is never idyllic - I might probably look back at this time now and say - it used to be great and how I had many friends, and travelled a lot, had the time to write a blog and ate so much :) - but the point is not that.

What I am trying to say is that all the hard-work and midnight oil burnt is more to minimise the sadness in one's life, than provide it happiness. It is important to know that the things that really give us pleasure come fleetingly, unasked for and go away as quickly.

So, we need to always have that space in our minds, and that ability to relax and enjoy when they come.

So, even though I have to work this evening - next Friday evening is going will be better. I'll go with some friends to the neighborhood park, take some good wine and (hopefully) watch the sun rise. That's a plan.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Tipping Point

Reporter - How do you feel about the manner in which your paper has been received?

JB - Well, to tell you the truth, I am a bit surprised by the rather extreme reactions it has generated. And I think the most popular interpretation of the paper - and I hope you understand what I mean - has been a tad surprising. My conclusion has been restricted to saying that there is an inverse correlation of the GDP growth of a country and the inversion of the population pyramid. And I have restricted this study to a period of the last 20 years - which I have made pains to explain - can not be extrapolated as a general trend.

Reporter - But you must have had some idea of how it would be seen particularly by the Youth parties, right?

JB - Well, what can I say? I didn't even know about these parties at all - I just came to know about them last month when they invited me to speak at their gathering.

Reporter - And did you go?

JB - No, of course, not. I am not an ageist.

Reporter - But doesn't the main message your paper give consistent with their philosophy

JB - Please let me make this clear - it was an academic study to see the variation in the growth rate and how it can be attributed to the population growth rate of a country. It has taken me and my team two years to come up with this and there are several useful conclusions to it. Examples of how countries who have structured their pension plans better, have increased their retirement ages have done better. And there are several recommendations that can help a country shape its policies.

Reporter - But you do know that they are using your paper and your image to promote their messages.

JB - Yes, and let me use this opportunity to categorically say that I strongly condemn their philosophy, their messages and their hate campaign. My father is 70 years old, alive and kicking and in my view, a very important and useful member of the society.

Reporter - I am sorry to keep coming back to this. But, their interpretation, as far fetched as it is, doesn't it have a kernel of truth, a logical connection to what you have written.

JB - Please. I don't want to talk about this any further. I would be really happy if you could restrict your questions to academic matters. Politics has never been of any interest to me, and I have no relation or connection to these murderers masquerading as a political party. I am sorry, but this interview is at an end.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Her Story

(A different narrative - part of the Retirement Plan)

I married very late. Growing up, I was fairly shy with girls and somehow nobody really took my fancy for longer than a while. I didn't really know what I was looking for, and after a while I gave up trying.

It'd be inaccurate to say I fell in love with her the first time we met. But yes the glance did linger. I had gone to give a lecture at the university she was teaching in. We had exchanged mails when she invited me - and I had accepted. The lecture didn't go very well, I was distracted. For some reason, I kept wanting to look on my side where she was sitting - more out of curiosity, to tell the truth. And yes, I did notice that she didn't have a ring.

We went out for dinner that night - I was nervous and earnest. But the conversation was easy and she smiled a lot. A week later, I kissed her. At 40, I fell in love for the first time.

For 20 years, I kissed her lips and smiled at everyone. Those were the best years of my life. Most of all, what stay with me are the Sunday afternoons. The afternoon sun would keep the room bright and warm, and I would sit in my armchair reading. She would always sit across to me, correcting her papers. From time to time, we would look up at each other and smile. That's the memory I want to die with.

She wanted to live with me. As the clock ticked and she clung on to me, I came to realise what she couldn't do, and what I had to do to her. Did I flinch? Not perceptibly, but I would have gladly destroyed half the world than push the needle into her.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Coming of age

The group of Indian friends that I have here are all older than me. I am 24 and they are all between 25 and 29. A few things are common between all of them - well-educated, good jobs, all pretty successful in the conventional sense, and yes, all single and desperate to get married.

A lot of our conversations focus around marriage. I sit quietly, uncomfortable.

A few days ago, I received a weird mail - a girl had accidentally mailed the marriage bio-data of her sister to my address. I forwarded it to some friends for a few laughs. I was scared for a bit - it could be real one day, and not so far in the future. But I didn't fret too much about it. It'll happen and I'll take it as it comes.

I feel so much older these days. Last night, I and a friend had planned to go on a pub-crawl. I went to his place - we had dinner, and at 9:15, we looked at each other and decided to call it day. We had a couple of beers at the apartment, talked and then went to sleep.

When I was 21, I had a lot of time, but didn't have the money to go to fancy places. Now I just get tired so easily. I don't think there was ever a good balance between these two things.

I have also gotten very quiet. I fly into fewer rages, and yes, am less passionate about more things. It's just very sedate these days.

Don't know whether this is just a passing phase or a final maturing. I still hope to fall madly in love, and find the passion of my life, and do something that leaves a permanent legacy.

The only thing is, I would be fine even if these things didn't happen.

Monday, March 09, 2009

French Watchmen

The world will look up and shout, "Save us", and we'll whisper,"No. We don't work on weekends, alternate Wednesdays, before 10 and beyond 5, all bank holidays and 1 month of skiing vacation"

Monday, March 02, 2009

Retirement Plan

(Some initial thoughts on a book)

My son was retired yesterday. He didn't resist. They never do. I wish I was like everybody else.

I am used to the attic now. For the first few years I resented it, I even tried to crawl out and move about the house. But S caught me doing it once and thereafter he locked it. Slowly I got used to it. I hardly moved out, I had my books, my movies and my writing to keep me busy.

Self-sufficiency is so under-appreciated. It's so true - before I came upstairs, I had never understood the hikikomori. I thought they were weird, but I get it know. There is so much within each of us. 40 years - I have spent 40 years myself, alone, hidden, with nothing else to think about but myself, and how it all came to this.

Very few people know about this but the "retirement plan" was first talked about in 2010. It came from what was a broader macroeconomic paper looking at different ways of resurrecting the Japanese economy. It concluded that the inverted population pyramid was THE cause of the slowdown, and that they needed a retirement plan that would be economically viable. I was doing my MBA then, and it was a paper I came across then. I remember thinking there was something wrong somewhere but I couldn't put my finger onto it.

I remember many events from those days very vividly, but I still find it difficult to piece together all of it. Not that I had a lot of time to. I was working very hard. Still, I travelled quite a bit and I heard people moving from an academic discussion on the plan to more implementable ways of getting there. They only talked about it with their best friends, and were very discreet about it. But slowly and surely, the idea was gaining ground.

I think the event that took the idea over the hump was the results of the euthanasia trial that occurred in Norway in 2020. Euthanasia had been legalized in 2012, and retrospectively, they had seen applications for for euthanasia jump to as much as 60% for people over 80. The Norwegian government took lots of pains to emphasize the success of their decision, and the positive effect it was having on their economy.

People took notice. And they thought about it.