Monday, April 22, 2024

My Year of Rest and Relaxation - Ottessa Moshfegh

 It really is a year of rest and relaxation that the narrator takes. Recovering from her father's death due to cancer and her mother death soon after due to alcohol and perhaps drugs, the young lady who has graduated from college and has a job in an art gallery decides to live a year of rest and relaxation. She has money from her parents, no relatives and in her state of mind, a year off appeals to her.

Helping her on her journey to rest and relaxation is her therapist or psychiatrist Dr Tuttle who prescribes her whatever she wants. The narrator takes the medicines in increasing doses and shuts herself off from the world after quitting her job in rather dramatic circumstances. Her routine at home is watching stuff on her VCR. The one main obstruction to her rest and relaxation is her friend Reva who drops in every now and then with her mundane issues like -  her married boyfriend, her not losing weight, not having enough money and looks etc. Anyway, stuff happens until the narrator decides to up her rest and relaxation through prescription drugs while also becoming an art piece.

The best part of the book is the last page when we realise that it is going to end. Actually no - the best part is when the terror attack of 9/11 happens and she knows two people she knows work in that building - her ex-lover Trevor and Reva. Trevor escapes - being in Hawaii on that day while Reva does not. Our narrator keeps watching footage of a young woman jumping off the building and believes it to be Reva.

Well, there are ways to spend your life and this is one such.     

Thought for the Day - Save Park, Builder Zulm Nahin Chalega

 I go or a walk in Czech Colony which is close to my place, has quieter and longer roads which are tree lined with far less traffic than my colony. Apart from regular walkers, some construction activity, a gym, my fav Benne Dosa place, the new mall and so on I also see the small quiet parks lining the Sanathnagar side of the colony. 

Quiet, little parks with benches. Not used as much which is a pity. I don't think we use our parks well. But they are nice, quiet oases.

The other day I saw this flex banner on the park with a message 'Save Park, Builder Zulm Nahin Chalega'. Opposite the park was a huge complex being built. I suspect that the builder must have cast an eye on the park.

Looked like its straight out of a movie. I hope they save the park. And I hope builder zulm is opposed and handled.

The more I see such tiny protests, the more I feel hopeful. I can see how a few are trying to seize power, pushing or misleading the general public or just steam rolling over them and how the majority simply stays silent. But whoever put that banner gives hope to those small voices, pushes back the ones who are pushing their nefarious agendas which normally get through because there is no protest.

That banner is good enough for a start.

We need more such small protests. Just to speak up. Quietly. Slowly. But say it. One point for the right cause is worth ten from the opponents of truth and justice.

I'll save this up for another post but for the present - save the park.     

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Economics in One Lesson - Henry Hazlitt

 I found this classic in Ajji's collection in Pune. It looked like a slim, easy to read book and I picked it up. I have no idea when it was bought but the paper was so brittle that it would break into pieces when I turned them. I glanced through it, picked up the key point from each chapter and put it away carefully. I doubt if any one else would be able to read this any more.

Interesting concepts like 'The Broken Window' (when some lumpen elements break a window is it good or bad for the economy - it's bad unlike the popular concept that was s good for the economy), 'The Blessings of Destruction' where he states that though some see endless benefits in enormous acts of destruction - it is a fallacy which confuses need with demand. Most of the good economic results which people attribute to war are really owing to wartime inflation. He says that the belief that a genuine  prosperity can be brought about by a 'replacement' demand' for things destroyed or not made during the war is a palpable fallacy.

In 'Public Work Means Taxes' he says that a certain amount of public spending is necessary to perform essential functions but to give subsidies and hope to get something for nothing makes no sense. One cannot invest projects for creating employment because for every public job created by the project, a prvate job has been destroyed. On 'Taxes Discouraging Production' he says the larger the percentage of the national income taken by taxes the greater the deterrent to private production and employment. When the total tax burden grows beyond a bearable size, the problem of devising taxes that will not discourage and disrupt production becomes insoluble.

In 'Credit Diverts Production' he says a fundamental thing - that credit is not something a banker gives to a man - credit is something the man already has against which he gets the loan. Government funds all come through taxes. In 'The Curse of Machinery'he proves that on net balance technological improvements, economies and efficiency do not through men out of work. On the other hand machines, discoveries and inventions increase real wages. He says that disbanding beaurocrtas is a good idea because for our money we pay through taxes we get nothing in return. He says its better to have easy going loafers as beaurocrats than those who actively disrupt the production. He says when we can find no better argument for the retention of any group of office goers than that of retaining their purchasing power, it is time to get rid of them.

The economic goal of any nation, as of any individual, is to get the greatest results with the least effort. On subsidies he says that  all subsidies are paid by someone and by no method does a community get something for nothing - which means subsidies are being paid for by someone. 

'A power over  a man's subsistence amounts to a power  over his will.'

The best way to raise wages is to raise labour productivity. The more the individual worker produces, the more he increases the wealth of the whole community. Real wages come out of production, not out of goverment decrees.

Makes sense. I am in agreement. Create real value.    

Friday, April 19, 2024

Sri Rama Navami - Jai Sri Ram

 In the olden days Sri Rama Navami was a holiday. We'd do some small puja perhaps and some people went to the temple. Panakam was had. It was a quiet affair. Just like Ganesh Chaturthi was. Or Hnauman Jayanthi was. Or Durga Puja was.

Our colony

Temple complex 

I noticed a huge tent coming up in our colony community hall and wondered what the occasion was. Normally the Ganesh puja is a big affair but this time it extended to Sri Rama Navami. Flags came up - by the hundreds! The tent itself must have had about 50-60 flags. Every second house had one or more flags. I was amazed at this fervour. 

The slum

Further down the road the slum behind the colony had as many flags. Including one in the Ambedkar Yuvajana Sangham. I wondered if the Ambekarites knew of Ambedkar's stance on Hinduism. Most likely they would not know. It would be a big thing if they knew a bit about Ambedkar. A bit more about Sri Ram.

But flags do that. 

Massive scale

Food preparations

I saw one man sitting by his scooter tying the flag to his scooter. Further down I saw a huge pandal in the temple complex with hundreds of flags again.

Out in Czech Colony they shut out a road and put up a huge pandal. On the cross road they set up a huge kitchen. That entire stretch of road was filled with the flags. People were dressed out in their best. Fod was cooking. An important spiritual man Chaganti was coming - as Chief Guest.

Even our garbage truck guy got inspired - luckily no one got offended by this


I never saw such fervour before for Rama Navami. Is it because people are suddenly more religious? 

Whatever it is  - Jai Sri Ram. And hopefully follow his great lessons and virtues.

Thought for the Day - The Perils of Making a Livelihood

 One of the things I cannot miss on the road are photo ops like this - two ladies sitting dangerously close to the edge of the auto, guarding the produce and perhaps also hitching a ride. One of them looks exhausted and appears to be closing her eyes. I wonder what will happen if she loses her grip and falls. Another unfortunate, forgotten story perhaps.

Don't miss Dhoni in the background!

Another one

I remember another such sight - a young kid sitting on the back of a motorbike holding a bunch of chairs stacked one upon the other - again head resting on the chairs as much for support as for rest. 

Boy holding chairs and sleeping in them

Life goes on. 

Elvis - Movie

 2022. English.

Narrated from the point of view of Elvis's manager Colonel Parker, who many felt exploited Elvis, the story recounts how Elvis grew up in poverty, in black neighbourhoods and picked up music and performance from there. It was racially divisive times but Elvis sticks to his music, his style (which was considered vulgar and not fit for white masses consumption) and makes it. How his life changes and he becomes a star dependent on drugs, sex while fighting loneliness - until his sudden death at 42 - is the rest of the story. Colonel Parker himself is fighting a gambling addiction and a mysterious past. 

But it leaves you with a message - Elvis was what he was because he was devoted to his craft. Despite his exhaustion and ill health he gives his final performance 'Unchained Melody' his heart and soul. I like these little insights into the lives of these stars.

Tom Hanks as Colonel Parker is brilliant. Just as Austin Butler as Elvis is.

Very watchable.


Bombay Balchao - Jane Borges

Jane Borges is a Mumbai based journalist who writes for Midday and co-author of 'Mafia Queens of Mumbai'. In this book she explores the life of a Goan community in Bombay - and does it in true Goan style. What it is don't ask - you gotta feel it.

The setting is Cavel, a Catholic neighbourhood somewhere near Bandra I am assuming, where a bunch of Goan families live. The Coutinho's - Annette and Michael - grab much of the screen space. Pretty Annette is someone who sways this way and that, listening to her heart a lot more than she should and perhaps gets away because of her looks. Her near-betrothal to handsome Joe Crasto from Mangalore (not seen by the Goans as belonging to the same pedigree) is marred when she lusts after the drunken dance moves of the less qualified and who we later find out abusive alcoholic Benjamin. Michael marries Merilyn and since his kids are away in Canada strikes a friendship with Ellena who never married. We have the heroic fireman who dies in the explosion of the ship in Bombay and his son who moves from his aspirations to become an artist into a crossword solver of repute. Not to forget his mother who does everything to keep the home fires burning including selling hooch during Prohibition by carrying a tube filled with the liquid. They live and they die, drink and make merry or cry, fight to retain their houses through the Rent Act and their identities that are gradually getting diluted and merged.

They are delightful characters, full of life and verve, opinion and personality, made even more quirky thanks to Jane's wonderfully lyrical writing style. Something about the way she writes makes you want to keep on reading - characters are so much more interesting, situations funny and tragic. When I read some books I feel like visiting the place where it is set. Cavel is one such place - off D'Lima street. And hopefully get to eat some sarpotel and balchao there as well.