These are a few of my favorite things: #39(Walden on Wheels : On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom by Ken Ilgunas)

Pic courtesy New york times

Pic courtesy New york times

This book takes us on an inspiring journey as we get to know how the author Ken Ilgunas frees himself from a massive educational loan by following the simplicity n frugality model of Thoreau’s Walden.

I was drawn to the book for 3 main reasons. First, I found Ilgunas’ desire to live super frugally in order to pay his loans Very refreshing. This is totally opposite of what I see the kids doing in India(majority though definitely not all).  Parents here  finance the most expensive education of kids, even taking loans in their own names. & after that if these kids don’t get a high paying job which  they feel they deserve, they won’t pick up some small jobs to support themselves + they never dream of cutting down their royal extravagant lifestyle. They must have all the luxuries: expensive gym memberships,  expensive food items. Even after draining their parents financially, they behave irresponsibly, can’t be bothered to switch of lights n fans even when not in use (electricity bills be damned, after all parent will be paying for that too in any case), they can’t even pick up after themselves or do things around home (they need to have their personal servants). The standards of living of these shameless, self entitled youth is very high. Ken Ilgunas is indeed the role model this generation needs.

Second I’ve always admired Thoreau’s experiments in solitude, simplicity & frugality.

Third I find the calm, quite life full of simplicity, solitude & grace which the author led far more desirable & charming than the grotesque life of the Filthy Rich n Famous

Here is an excerpt from the book:

My experiment began in the spring semester of 2009 when I enrolled in the graduate liberal studies department. Months before, I had just finished paying off $32,000 in undergraduate student loans — no easy feat for an English major.

To pay off my debt, I’d found jobs that provided free room and board. I moved to Coldfoot, Alaska — 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 250 from the nearest store — where I worked as a lodge cleaner, a tour guide and a cook. Later, I worked on a trail crew in Mississippi in an AmeriCorps program. Between jobs I hitchhiked more than 7,000 miles to avoid paying airfare. When I couldn’t find work, I moved in with friends. My clothes came from donation bins, I had friends cut my hair, and I’d pick up odd jobs when I could. Nearly every dime I made went into my loans.

I hated my debt more than anything. I dragged it with me wherever I went. While I was still leading an exciting, adventurous life, I knew I could never truly be free until my debt was gone.

I finally got out of the red when I landed a well-paying job with the Park Service as a backcountry ranger. Finally, after two and a half years of work, my debt was gone. I had four grand in the bank that was mine. All mine. It was the first time I had actual money that hadn’t been borrowed or given to me since I was a 13-year-old paperboy.

The more money I had borrowed, I came to realize, the more freedom I had surrendered. Yet, I still considered my education — as costly as it was — to be priceless. So now, motivated to go back to school yet determined not to go back into debt, I had to think outside the box. Or, as Henry David Thoreau might suggest, inside one.

In “Walden,” Thoreau mentioned a 6 foot-by-3 foot box he had seen by the railroad in which laborers locked up their tools at night. A man could live comfortably in one of these boxes, he thought. Nor would he have to borrow money and surrender freedom to afford a “larger and more luxurious box.”

And so: I decided to buy a van. Though I had never lived in one, I knew I had the personality for it. I had a penchant for rugged living, a sixth sense for cheapness, and an unequaled tolerance for squalor.

My first order of business upon moving to Duke was to find my “Walden on Wheels.” After a two-hour bus ride into the North Carolinian countryside, I caught sight of the ’94 Ford Econoline that I had found advertised on Craigslist. Googly-eyed, I sauntered up to it and lovingly trailed fingertips over dents and chipped paint. The classy cabernet sauvignon veneer at the top slowly, sensuously faded downward into lustrous black. I got behind the wheel and revved up the fuel-funneling beast. There was a grumble, a cough, then a smooth and steady mechanical growl. It was big, it was beautiful, and — best of all — it was $1,500.

I bought it immediately. So began what I’d call “radical living.”

My “radical living” experiment convinced me that the things plunging students further into debt — the iPhones, designer clothes, and even “needs” like heat and air conditioning, for instance — were by no means “necessary.” And I found it easier to “do without” than I ever thought it would be. Easier by far than the jobs I’d been forced to take in order to pay off my loans.

Living in a van was my grand social experiment. I wanted to see if I could — in an age of rampant consumerism and fiscal irresponsibility — afford the unaffordable: an education.

I pledged that I wouldn’t take out loans. Nor would I accept money from anybody, especially my mother, who, appalled by my experiment, offered to rent me an apartment each time I called home. My heat would be a sleeping bag; my air conditioning, an open window. I’d shower at the gym, eat the bare minimum and find a job to pay tuition. And — for fear of being caught — I wouldn’t tell anybody.

Living on the cheap wasn’t merely a way to save money and stave off debt; I wanted to live adventurously. I wanted to test my limits. I wanted to find the line between my wants and my needs. I wanted, as Thoreau put it, “to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life … to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

Not only is his story of adventure very gripping n absorbing, but the book is peppered with little gems of wisdom like these:

“Reading sixteenth-century French poetry, suffering through Kant, and studying the finer points of the Jay Treaty may seem to be, on first appearance, completely, utterly, irrefutably pointless, yet somehow in studying, discussing, and writing about these ‘pointless’ subjects, the liberal arts have the capacity to turn on a certain part of the brain that makes us ask ourselves questions like: 

Who am I?  What’s worth fighting for? Who’s lying to us? What’s my purpose? What’s the point of it all? 

Perhaps many students would rather not be irritated with these questions, yet being compelled to grapple with them, it seems, can make us far less likely to be among those who’ll conform, remain complacent, or seek jobs with morally ambiguous employers” (p. 243).

“Discomforts are only discomforting when they’re an unexpected inconvenience, an unusual annoyance, an unplanned-for irritant. Discomforts are only discomforting when we aren’t used to them. But when we deal with the same discomforts every day, they become expected and part of the routine, and we are no longer afflicted with them the way we were…Give your body the chance to harden, your blood to thicken, and your skin to toughen, and you’ll find that the human body carries with it a weightless wardrobe. When we’re hardy in mind and body, we can select from an array of outfits to comfortably bear most any climate”

This book would be of huge interest not only for students, but for anyone seeking simple, spartan, frugal n calm way of living. We need more young guys like Ken Ilgunas n we need more inspirational tales like this.


September 5, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Happiness, Inspiration, Meaning of Life, My Favorite Things, My lifestyle, My Values, Philosophy, Quitting the Rat Race, Reading, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity. Leave a comment.

These are a few of my favorite things: #30 (Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Conell)

Mrs. Bridge

Mrs. Bridge by Evan Connell is the story of India Bridge n her married life. The story is told in form of vignettes/snapshots from events in her daily life rather than as one long continuous narrative. All the vignettes show how she interacts with her children, her husband, her Domestic Help n her Social Circle n thus draw her character sketch for the readers, one episode at a time. This makes the book different n interesting n a very breezy read.

 I found India Bridge’s character fascinating in that I’m always incredulous that some people are actually like her .. she lives to please others. What will others think is her prime guide in doing anything. Even in something as personal as reading books. She doesn’t have any particular taste in books but reads whatever happens to be popular in the circles within which she moves n the purpose for reading books is so that she can talk about them with others!

Her character is brought out in several episodes in the novel, like when she gets upset at her son Douglas ‘cos he actually uses the expensive napkins which she keeps to impress her guests, they are meant only for show off n not for actual use, or when she advises her daughter to carry a purse instead of stuffing things in her pocket ‘cos all ladies are supposed to carry a purse. Her behavior strikes looks at times absurd, at times amusing & even hilarious.

She is also not very sure what she wants from her life n is in a state of perpetual confusion.  On one hand she has too much free time n is at a loss as to how to pass that time, n yet she finds herself  very busy when she wants to do something for herself like learning Spanish. Also she can’t do away with her cleaning woman though she could very well have constructively engaged in managing her home so as to avoid boredom of having too much time n not really having anything to do.

 In my own life individuality, freedom n authenticity have been the prime values. I have an inner locus of control. I think over everything from the reference of my own values. Whether it be my decision to remain child-free or not to pursue a career outside my home or choosing to be Agnostic n Buddhist rather than follow the religion I was born into, never following religious rituals, not watching Cricket (the most popular sport in India) even when it’s an Indo-Pak match (and everyone insists on talking about anything else when such a match is on), not buying expensive jewelry or expensive anything,using a very basic mobile (no smart phone) n camera, etc. all my decisions are made after long careful reflection on my own values n to please myself rather than others. I also have the ‘courage’ to be vocal about my contrarian choices, be it online or in close relationships in my life. After my marriage a friend of my DH hinted that I should remove the article on child-freedom from my blog ‘cos it gave a wrong impression of me as a woman and as a wife!! & I was like, helloooooooo this is giving very much the right impression of me as a woman ‘cos that is who I am, take it or leave it. I also remember a married friend who had to quit job being literally afraid to break the news to her parents ‘cos her parents believed pursuing a career was the only right path for her. Again I never have any problem in breaking any such news to my near n dear ones,’cos my life, my rules, my way, as simple as that. Why should you be having any problem with my decisions as long as I’m not hurting you or interfering in your life a your happiness?!

 Now coming back to Mrs. Bridge…her character reminded me a lot of Peter Keating from Ayn Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead, which is one of my most favorite books of all times. Peter Keating like Mrs. Bridge lives to please others. Peter Keating is a conformist who lives for fame, always seeking approval from others, always doing what would look good to others & not what he actually wants: He wanted to be a painter but became an architect instead; He loved Cathy but married Dominique because Dominique is more beautiful & sophisticated & hence a better wife to impress the world; he rises in the profession by flattery, manipulation, lying, cheating n even near-murder. “Always be what people want you to be,” is his motto. He is what he is because of others, he depends on others for his identity.(As opposed to the protagonist of the novel Howard Roark who neither cares about what others think of him nor spends much time thinking about others)

 Mrs. Bridge’s social life is what Guy Debord refers as ‘Society of Specatle’.Debord argues that the history of social life can be understood as “the decline of being into having, and having into merely appearing.” People are becoming more n more interested not in who they actually are but in how they appear to others, much like Peter Keating n Mrs. Bridge.

You can read the book here:


May 9, 2013. Tags: , , , , . Book Review, Books, Fountainhead, Reading, Reflections/Musings. Leave a comment.

These are a few of my favorite things: #28 (The Hermit by Eugene Ionesco)

The Hermit by Eugene Ionesco

English: Eugene Ionesco on a ship's deck cross...

I love everything about this book, starting with the title ‘The Hermit’…the word Hermit is so beautiful n peaceful. To me it signifies one who has found value in one’s own company.

 (Great minds are like eagles, and build their nest in some lofty solitude.~Arthur Schopenauer;

Language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone, and the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.  ~Tillich, Paul)

I was immediately attracted to the Title of the book a couple of years back (& I reread it just now). At that time I did not in any way know about the Genius of Eugene Ionesco or that I would start loving his absurd plays.

Then there is the most wonderful opening sentence of the novel:

At thirty-five, it’s high time to quit the rat race. Assuming there is a rat race. I was sick & tired of my job. It was already late: I was fast approaching forty. If I hand’t come into unexpected inheritance I would have died of depression & boredom.

(Now it is a coincidence that I too gave up the rat race if there was any rat race for me to begin with  at 35, not that I was bored of my job…I was thoroughly enjoying my stint as a teacher but there came a time when I said to myself enough was enough…already time to quit n explore new things..the new things being doing nothing but devoting a large part of my time to thinking n philosophizing, devoting time to explore n adopt a simpler way of living, a frugal way, a Zen way, a quiet way, far from the madding crowd, far from the white noise of the society n confirmity )…so our unusual protagonist retires at 40 & devotes his time to ponder over the existential issues & the real meaning of our lives, not the superficial or mundane but the actual why n how of the human existence. He devotes his time to ponder over the nature of time, memories, death, infinity of the Universe, n such. Most people would regard him as eccentric n that is the general opinion of people towards him in the novel…sample these conversations & interactions of the narrator with various people:

~ I have a suspicion that the way I lived, the way I acted, rarely if ever going out, must have struck to her as odd. She made a number of allusions to my inactivity. According to her, I had no right to be retired in the first place. Not at my age anyway.

~Yes, that was it: they are all hostile towards me. What did they have against me? The fact that I didn’t live the way they did; that I refused to resign myself to my fate.

~She asked me questions that were vaguely indiscreet: “So it’s you again! Where are you going at this time? You always seem to be going out. And yet it’s safe to say you’re not going to work. You are lucky. Not like the rest of us.”

& the Best of all

~ I was about to drift off when Jeanne (His maid) came into the living room. As she rubbed the furniture to make it shine, she upbraided me, telling me that the life I led was unhealthy. Wasn’t I  going to buckle down & find some work for myself ? All right, so I had an inheritance. That’s no reason to sit around and do nothing all day. At least get married. Did I intend to go on living all alone like some impotent? I ought to start a family. I should have children. Man is made to have children, and there is nothing cuter than little ones underfoot. And then when they grow up and you grow old, they don’t abandon you to poverty; no, they reach out a helping hand when you need it the most. If there’s anything worse than living alone, it’s dying alone, with no one around to offer you a little milk of human kindness. I didn’t know what was in store for me. As for herself, she had a husband she didn’t get along too well, but now he was sick. They had had a child, a boy they had brought up with tender loving care, he had a heart of gold, only he had gone away and left them; he had a heart of gold, it was only because of that wife of his. They hadn’t heard from them in a long time. Apparently they had a baby. She had also had a daughter whom they had raised with similar loving care. A lovely girl. That is, she had been. But she too had a baby, only the baby had died. After that she deserted her husband. She came back home for a while, then left again, she had begun living fast n loose, from all that they had heard. Some cousins were in contact with her and kept them informed. Apparently she was on drugs. Children are ungrateful! You bleed yourself white for them, they aren’t all that easy to bring up in the first place and then when they grow up they go away and leave you, forget you: the best thing is not to have any. You’d better not count on them to show you any gratitude in the time of need.

I told her I was sure she was right. That didn’t stop her, she was still talking, with the dustrag in the right hand while she gesticulated with her left. She made me promise to marry and have children.

This conversation with Jeanne is perfectly classic Non-Sequiter dialogue in which Eugene Ionesco excels. The maid has not too good experience with her own children & yet she wants our guy to marry n have children. Somehow everyone is uncomfortable with anyone who leaves the race of conformity n who wants to live life on his/her own terms, then everyone will jump over each other n try to convince her/him to make the conventional choices no matter how badly they themselves are faring in life with their conventional/conformist choices. I too find myself on receiving end. People try to convince me that I must be bored to be staying at home all day n doing nothing since I don’t have any children either. No matter how happy I am & I look they are not convinced. How can I be happy until I am behaving like everybody else? Unless I have a fancy Job Title n a fat pay packet?

And one more thing is that people never value anything we do for it’s own sake. Not for making money but for the joy of doing the thing, like Vincent Van Goh painting his master pieces none of which sold during his life time. He said he painted for the sheer joy of painting regardless of them not selling. People can’t accept the fact that a guy wanna leave his job n focus on his inner life.

But I admire him for his ability to quit, afterall all of us know many people who crib about Monday mornings n enjoy life only on weekends n yet they can’t give up their lousy jobs ‘cos they gotta buy stuff to impress the people whom they don’t like’…that urge seems to be powerful for the masses of people.I guess it’s very easy to quit the drudgery of work if one wants to follow a simple n frugal life. Our guy (he remains unnamed in the novel) doesn’t squander money on big n fancy things like flashy car or luxury villa or such but just buys himself a modest flat where he can be with himself

I found his character intriguing in it’s aloofness. He tends not to think too much about other people. He is very much attached to his girlfriend upto the extent a person of his nature can be attached to anyone. Yet when she leaves him he has great difficulty in recalling her name…he’s always like ‘I miss Yovne or was her name Marie?!! In this sense he reminded me of another of my favorite character Meursault from ‘The Stranger’ by Albert Camus  (“Mother died today. Or maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure.”)

 I like this novel for what goes inside the mind of the narrator. This book is not for anyone who likes suspense/thriller. I never like that kind of books where you are on tenterhooks as to what will happen next. I could not care less for a whodunit. My kind of book is that in which nothing happens…just life goes on at it’s own pace n that’s it. So no wonder I found this book extremely satisfying.


March 19, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Eugene Ionesco, Existentialism, Meaning of Life, My Favorite Things, My lifestyle, My Values, Philosophy, Quitting the Rat Race, Reading, Reflections/Musings, Solitude. 2 comments.

These are a few of my favorite things: #26 (The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ionesco)

English: Author Eugene Ionesco onboard a ship.

The Bald Soprano is an Absurd play by Eugene Ionesco.  At the beginning of the play we see an English couple, the Smiths who are sitting and discussing the day’s events or at any rate Mrs. Smith is discussing n her husband is reading the newspaper n clicking his tongue n responding sporadically (As seems to be the tradition of husbands n wives all over the world. What is so great about the sadistic boring newspaper that husband’s prefer it over the wives juicy talks?). Anyways, the conversation takes place in non-sequiturs which makes it totally inane and totally hilarious. Examples

MRS. SMITH: Mary did the potatoes very well, this evening. The last time she did not do them well. I do not like them when they are well done.

MR. SMITH: A conscientious doctor must die with his patient if they can’t get well together. The captain of a ship goes down with his ship into the briny deep, he does not survive alone.

MR. SMITH: All doctors are quacks. And all patients too. Only the Royal Navy is honest in England.

MR. SMITH: Here’s a thing I don’t understand. In the newspaper they always give the age of deceased persons but never the age of the newly born. That doesn’t make sense.

MARY: But it was you who gave me permission. MR. SMITH: We didn’t do it on purpose.

 Then they go on to discuss a family where everyone is named Bobby Watson. So Bobby Watson has died n yet Bobby Watson is supposed to be married in a few days. Bobby Watson is unemployed n Bobby Watson faces a tough competition in business. their illogical conversation continues till their maid comes n announces that they have some guests, The Martins, who are invited for dinner n who are standing outside ‘cos they were too shy to come in. (At this point Mrs. Smith who had only minutes earlier said ‘There, it’s nine o’clock. We’ve drunk the soup, and eaten the fish and chips, and the English salad. The children have drunk English water. We’ve eaten well this evening. That’s because we live in the suburbs of London and because our name is Smith.’ now says, ‘Oh, yes. We were expecting them. And we were hungry. Since they didn’t put in an appearance, we were going to start dinner without them. We’ve had nothing to eat all day. ‘) Then they rush to change…now it is the turn of Martins to carry on the absurd conversation, they forget that they are married n come to the conclusion that they must indeed be married by elimination n deductive reasoning. & so the absurdities continue…

To me the play spoke about the futility of our conversations. We human-beings flap our mouths a bit too much n insist on chattering despite not really having anything to say. Why are we so uncomfortable with golden silence n fill our time n space with trashy, meaningless gossip? Though we don’t talk in non-sequiturs but if we really think about it, our conversations are mostly unnecessary n as meaningless as that of The Smiths n Martins.

I get really terrified by the amount of small talk that happens at the parties. People go n on n on about the topics of no interest or relevance. They keep repeating what they have read in the newspapers forgetting that others get the newspapers too!! & I live in constant terror of phone calls for gossiping. I very much prefer the written communication which is so non intrusive n non abrasive.Though I don’t really yap all that much but the verbosity in play inspired me to introspect n find more opportunities to stay quiet. (“Never miss a good chance to shut up.” ~Will Rogers)

The Bald Soprano is a parody of our conversations, of the so-called dramatic situations of our lives, and of our inability to remain silent…. By a deliberate, stark use of the banal and a repetition of the worn-out clichés of language, Ionesco generates an unusual, fresh atmosphere.The Reader’s Encyclopedia of World Drama


This reminds me of one amusing story recounted by Osho tells of how each day Lao Tzu went for a morning walk.  Often a friendly neighbour would follow him, but knowing that Lao Tzu did not like idle chitchat, the neighbour would keep silent.  One day the neighbour had a visitor who also wanted to come; they took a long walk of several hours but the visitor was not comfortable in the silence and felt suffocated by it, so much so that when the sun was rising he said: “What a beautiful sun … look!”Later Lao Tzu said to the neighbour: “Please don’t bring this chatterbox with you again, he talks too much. ‘Cos I know the sun rise is beautiful, you know it is beautiful, he knows it is beautiful, what’s the need to blabber?’

“Talk, talk, talk: the utter and heartbreaking stupidity of words.” ~ William Faulkner

Silence is the means,
silence is the end, in silence only silence permeates.

If you would understand,
if you want to understand,
then only one thing is worth understanding – silence.

Osho : Early Talks – Bhuribai

See the Other Absurd Play reviews on my blog:

Come and Go 


Happy Days


March 12, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Eugene Ionesco, My Favorite Things, Plays, Reading, Reflections/Musings, Wisdom. 1 comment.

These are a few of my favorite things: #24 (Come and Go by Samuel Beckett)

These days I’m captivated by Samuel Beckett. ( Read about my other favorite play by him ‘Happy Days’  here).

His is minimalist theater. Not much happens on stage. But much happens in the viewer’s/reader’s mind. In the play ‘Come & Go‘ we see 3 ladies in bright colored coats, eyes covered with hats, sitting on a bench. From their scanty conversation we can make out that they are old friends who once attended elementary school together n in those days too they used to sit like this on a bench. They are meeting after a long time. Their names are Flo, Vi & Ru. During the course of the play, one of them leaves & other two get a chance to talk about the one who left. In this manner all three women at one point occupy the central position and all become privy to a secret about one of the others. From each response (Ru: (about Vi), “Does she not realise?” Vi: (about Flo), “Has she not been told?” Flo: (about Ru), “Does she not know?”) it is not unreasonable to assume that each is in fact terminally ill but unaware of the fact.

This human trait would be so comic, if it were not so sad. Each one is shocked by what is happening in life of the other two n being saddened by it while being blissfully unaware of their own tragic fates. Now all of us humans share the same tragic fate, such is nature of our life, but while we understand this to be a fact of our fellow humans, we royally ignore this very human condition in our own life.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in other’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3)

Why are we so much interested in n fascinated by the lives of others? What is the charm of gossip in our lives?

  “You get together with a friend and talk about the faults of this person and the misdeeds of that one. Then you go on to discuss others’ mistakes and negative qualities. In the end, the two of you feel good because you’ve agreed you’re the two best people in the world.” ~Geshe Ngawang Dhargye

Wouldn’t it be better if we gave up this behavior & focus on our own lives?Though others have faults,let’s concentrate on our own.

 “Criticizing others while being unaware of their own faults is something that many people do. We can even say that it is something we all do from time to time.” ~ Derek Lin, The Tao of Daily Life,

Let the improving of our own life take up so much of our times that we don’t have time to criticize others.

March 5, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Existentialism, Reflections/Musings, Samuel Beckett. Leave a comment.

These are a few of my favorite things: #22 (Happy Days by Sameul Beckett)

Happy Days by Sameul Beckett

English: Sketch of scene in Happy Days by Samu...

Happy days is an Absurd play by Samuel Beckett who is best known for ‘Waiting for Godot’. Happy days is the story of Winnie, a woman who is trapped waist down in a mound of earth. As she begins her day she declares it to be another lovely day, a rather strange assertion for someone in her situation. She has a huge bag in which she has an assorted nick-nack of items, her toiletries, a hat, an umbrella, a revolver, etc.  Burried in a nearby mound is her husband Willie. Throughout the day Winnie keeps herself busy with her possessions in the handbag & engaging in a long monologue while Willie is busy with his newspaper n occasionally grunts in response (eh, this is how all husbands indeed are, whether in an absurd play or in real life (and there is nothing more absurd than real life after all)!! This is the situation of most married people, the wife chatters n the husband suffers her chatter,is engrossed with newspaper n grunts in response occasionally).

As the Act II of the play begins, Winnie is now buried neck deep inside the earth but continues her life in the same fashion, as optimistic as ever.What makes this play extraordinary n poignant is that the story of Winnie underlines the general human condition, it is the story of all of us. We all get stuck in certain situations in our life n we try to take it in our stride by calling it our inescapable fate. (Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant filled with odd little waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don’t always like.~Lemony Snicket). Despite it all  we try to resort to positive thinking n make the most of it anyways. There seems to be no other choice. This is the absurdity of our existence. And even as we keep repeating our positive mantras our lives as that of Winnie moves from bad to worse. I remember a joke which goes like this, a guy goes to an astrologer who tells him that his life will be very hard for 2 years…the guy asks will it improve after that? Nopes, says the astrologer, but you will get used to it!! So in life, nothing gets better but we learn to adjust.But the tragedy is that when we get used to our bad situation it grows even worse.

In a way we can say Winnie is trying to ignore the reality of her situation by being exuberant. This is both a good thing and a sad thing to do. Is it really wise to engage in the trivialities of contents of handbag? (in real life we are engaged in the trivialities of money, possessions, career, success while ignoring the real futility of all this, while the real issues in life are un-understood & unsorted we are like Winnie who says ‘There is of course the bag. There will always be the bag.). This is like trying to paint one’s house while it is on fire.

One more way of looking at Winnie’s predicament is realizing that sometimes in life we are not in a position to control our external environment but still we can control how we react to them & how we try best to cope up with our bleak reality. (everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.~Victor Frankl). The Title of the pay is very ironic, the situation is not called sad days! This is the way our life seems to be designed, we have to extract our happiness from our life experiences. (Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that. Yes, yes, it’s the most comical thing in the world.~Samuel Beckett)

February 25, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Existentialism, Meaning of Life, Philosophy, Reflections/Musings, Samuel Beckett. 2 comments.

These are a few of my favorite thins: #19 (The Diary of a superfluous Man by Ivan Turgenev)

The Diary of a superfluous Man by Ivan Turgenev

English: Photograph of Turgenev after receivin...

This is a Diary of a man (Tchulkaturin) who is about to die & who declares his existence to be superfluous, frivolous & meaningless. Being a diary it shows us the inner life of the narrator & I always love a peek into the inner lives of people who think interesting thoughts (& insights of a dying person are even more interesting, ‘cos they grow more reflective & more honest). Although written in 1850,   it reads like a contemporary work  (though at some places it does talk of strange things like old fashioned Balls & duels…I never understand duels-men ready to settle small differences in opinion by killing or being killed, rather drastic) .

When Turgenev published Diary of a Superfluous Man in 1850, he created one of the first literary portraits of the alienated man. Turgenev once said that there was a great deal of himself in the unsuccessful lovers who appear in his fiction. This failure, along with painful self-consciousness, is a central fact for the ailing Chulkaturin in this melancholy tale. As he reflects on his life, he tells the story of Liza, whom he loved, and a prince, whom she loved instead, and the curious turns all their lives took

 It is peppered with interesting observations on Life, Death, & (unrequited) love. Sample these:

~But isn’t it absurd to begin a diary a fortnight, perhaps, before death? What does it matter? And by how much are fourteen days less than fourteen years, fourteen centuries? Beside eternity, they say, all is nothingness–yes, but in that case eternity, too, is nothing. 

 ~My father had a passion for gambling; my mother was a woman of character . . . a very virtuous woman. Only, I have known no woman whose moral excellence was less productive of happiness. She was crushed beneath the weight of her own virtues, and was a source of misery to every one, from herself upwards. In all the fifty years of her life, she never once took rest, or sat with her hands in her lap; she was for ever fussing and bustling about like an ant, and to absolutely no good purpose, which cannot be said of the ant. The worm of restlessness fretted her night and day. Only once I saw her perfectly tranquil, and that was the day after her death, in her coffin. Looking at her, it positively seemed to me that her face wore an expression of subdued amazement; with the half-open lips, the sunken cheeks, and meekly-staring eyes, it seemed expressing, all over, the words, ‘How good to be at rest!’ Yes, it is good, good to be rid, at last, of the wearing sense of life, of the persistent, restless consciousness of existence! But that’s neither here nor there.

~Yes! I fought shy of my virtuous mother, and passionately loved my vicious father.

~But it occurs to me, is it really worth while to tell the story of my life?

~No, it certainly is not, . . . My life has not been different in any respect from the lives of numbers of other people. The parental home, the university, the government service in the lower grades, retirement, a little circle of friends, decent poverty, modest pleasures, unambitious pursuits, moderate desires–kindly tell me, is that new to any one? And so I will not tell the story of my life, especially as I am writing for my own pleasure; and if my past does not afford even me any sensation of great pleasure or great pain, it must be that there is nothing in it deserving of attention. I had better try to describe my own character to myself. What manner of man am I? . . . It may be observed that no one asks me that question–admitted. But there, I’m dying, by Jove! –I’m dying, and at the point of death I really think one may be excused a desire to find out what sort of a queer fish one really was after all.

~Winter again. The snow is falling in flakes. Superfluous, superfluous. . . . That’s a capital word I have hit on. The more deeply I probe into myself, the more intently I review all my past life, the more I am convinced of the strict truth of this expression. Superfluous–that’s just it. To other people that term is not applicable, . . . People are bad, or good, clever, stupid, pleasant, and disagreeable; but superfluous . . . no. Understand me, though: the universe could get on without those people too . . . no doubt; but uselessness is not their prime characteristic, their most distinctive attribute, and when you speak of them, the word ‘superfluous’ is not the first to rise to your lips. But I . . . there’s nothing else one can say about me; I’m superfluous and nothing more. A supernumerary, and that’s all. Nature, apparently, did not reckon on my appearance, and consequently treated me as an unexpected and uninvited guest. A facetious gentleman, a great devotee of preference, said very happily about me that I was the forfeit my mother had paid at the game of life. I am speaking about myself calmly now, without any bitterness. . . . It’s all over and done with!

~Yes, one can’t help saying with the Russian philosopher–‘How’s one to know what one doesn’t know?’

 ~peculiar sort of consolation which Lermontov had in view when he said there is pleasure and pain in irritating the sores of old wounds, why not indulge oneself?

~Kirilla Matveitch offered me a seat in his coach; but I refused. . . In the same way children, who have been punished, wishing to pay their parents out, refuse their favourite dainties at table.

~I fully realised how much happiness a man can extract from the contemplation of his own unhappiness. O men! pitiful race, indeed! 

 You can read the Novella here:


February 18, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Reading, Reflections/Musings. Leave a comment.

These are a few of my favorite things:#4 (Ferdinand, the Bull, by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson)

Ferdinand, the gentle, peace loving & content Bull is everyone’s favorite. Though the story is meant for children, Ferdidand is equally loved by adults. To me Ferdinand’s story is about embracing your true nature rather than succumbing to the pressure of society . If you are a bull but like to smell flowers rather than fight then there is no good reason that you should fight. I discovered this book n video only a couple of days back but wish I had known it in my growing up years when I had a little tough time being comfortable with my introversion & solitude loving nature. You were supposed to love meeting new people, making loads of friends & enjoy partying. I would rather read books & daydream. Eventually I learned that my choices were as valid  if not more valid than the more popular choices of the day. Today I don’t feel the pressure to be a super-woman. Like Ferdinand I’d rather be smelling flowers & enjoying afternoon naps.

January 19, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, English Movies, I-Me-Myself, Must Watch Movies, My lifestyle, My Values, Quitting the Rat Race, Reflections/Musings, Teaching Stories. Leave a comment.

Meet an Unlikely Zen Master: Zen Moments #4

“I had a discussion with a great master in Japan, and we were talking about the various people who are working to translate the Zen books into English, and he said, “That’s a waste of time. If you really understand Zen, you can use any book. You could use the Bible. You could use Alice in Wonderland. You could use the dictionary, because the sound of the rain needs no translation.”~Alan Watts

Ruskin Bond is one of my most favorite authors. He writes with a Zen like simplicity. His simple life (the kind of life I admire) gets reflected in his writing. Though he is more famous as a children’s writer, I am rather fond of his books that are a part of his memoirs. It seems that some people have a very interesting life & meet more interesting people or rather it is their observation power n the talent to spin tales about the incidents which we might just take in our stride without particularly reflecting over them or finding anything extraordinary in them, that makes the stories of these people so special. Ruskin Bond is one such person.  I recently read his book “The Parrot who wouldn’t talk & other stories’, on one sunny winter afternoon. I read this book in one sitting & by the time I finished it, I was in raptures, totally enthralled.

Ruskin Bond says ‘I think everyone has at least one eccentric aunt or uncle in the family, I had more than one. My boyhood days were enlivened by them.’

The Just Jacket reads ‘India’s best loved children’s writer Ruskin Bond introduces us to some of the most endearing and adorable characters he has ever written about-his grandfather with his unusual ability to disguise himself as the street vendor, carpenter or washerman; the eccentric & ubiquitous uncle Ken, with his knack for disastrous escapades; the stationmaster Mr. Ghosh and his family comprising of several white mice; and Aunt Ruby, whose encounter with a parrot who wouldn’t talk will make you burst with laughter!

Heartwarming, funny & delightful, these stories are marked by Bond’s inimitable style & trademark humor.’

In the introduction of this book Bond says

“Gentle Reader,

I’d like to meet some of my friends and relatives. These are the important ones:

Grandfather, a man of many gifts, and good company for a growing boy.

Granny, who made great gooseberry Jam & looked after everyone.

Uncle Ken, who got into some strange situations and needed his nephew’s help in getting out of them.

Mr. Oliver, Scoutmaster & schoolmaster.

There are others too, including your author as a boy.

I wrote most of these stories in Mussoorie , during a particular severe winter. As I sat by the fire, the ghost of long-gone relatives crowded around me, demanding that I write something about them.”

One of my most favorite stories in the collection is ‘Bicycle Ride with Uncle Ken’ (though I love all the stories in the book, I must confess I am partial towards the one with Uncle Ken, he gets into some real funny situation & the ones with him are the most hilarious). Young Bond & his uncle go for one of their long bicycle rides & see a ‘Rest & Recuperation Center’..thinking that it is a kind of hotel or hostel, they go in for refreshments, the uncle is eager to meet the inmates…not realizing that it is actually a lunatic asylum, uncle Ken decides to play along with the inmates, all of whom claim to be somebody famous, one is Tansen & another is Prathvi Raj Chauhan and yet another is Napolean. When they see a man in white coat approaching the enthusiastic Uncle Ken playfully says ‘You must be Dr. Freud’ & the Doctor replies ‘Nope, I am Dr. Goel, you must be our new patient’, this is the most hilarious moment in the story, it is only after much pleading & when the real new patient arrives that uncle Ken is let off.

In ‘At sea with Uncle Ken’, the uncle falls in love with a girl aboard a ship & is left behind at a remote place when he is accompanying her to a shopping spree at a stop. Such are the absurd situation Uncle Ken always manages to get himself & others into. At another time he put the very young Bond (9/10 yrs of age) on a wrong train. As Bond says, ‘With Uncle Ken you always expect the unexpected’.

Along with humor, the book is also filled with quiet wisdom & some Zen like observations, sample this:

‘A bicycle provides it’s rider with a great amount of freedom. A car will take you farther, but the fact that you’re sitting in confined space detracts from the freedom of open spaces and unfamiliar roads. On a cycle you can feel the breeze on your face, smell the mango trees in blossom on your face, slow down and gaze at the buffaloes wading in the ponds, or just stop anywhere and get down & enjoy a cup of tea or a glass of sugarcane juice. Footslogging takes time, and cars are too fast-everything whizzes past before you can take a second look-and car drivers hate to stop; they are intent only on reaching their destinations in good time. But a bicycle is just right for someone who likes to take a leisurely look at the World.’ Now isn’t this top class Zen attitude?

The stories are also filled with ample wisdom though they are definitely not moralizing. The wisdom is subtle & I think this form of wisdom works the fastest & most effectively. In the story ‘Parrot who wouldn’t talk’, aunt Ruby buys a parrot, as talking parrots were very fashionable in those days, she tries to teach her parrot talking, but the parrot refuses to oblige, in anger & frustration Aunt Ruby repeatedly tells the parrot, ‘you are no beauty! Can’t talk, can’t sing, can’t dance!’ The young Bond feeds the parrot everyday & one day feeling sorry for it, releases it from it’s cage. It looks like the parrot has grown fond of Bond, so after being freed, it flies regularly into the balcony & sits on Bond’s shoulders & takes feed from him. When aunt Ruby comes the parrot speaks to her & what does it say to her?? ‘You are no beauty! Can’t talk, can’t sing, can’t dance!’ …so it has learned talking after all. Isn’t life like this too? A boomerang, an echo, whatever we give out to the world, is returned to us, in due course. I am not very sure whether Bond wanted us to take this lesson or not, but the story spoke to me of that apart from being a good natured, humorous tale.

Reading this collection made me hungry for more..I am taking out my old books, ‘The Lamp is Lit’ & one more that is missing from my collection, I am frantically searching for it, I am looking forward to spending many more delightful afternoons lost in the world of this (unlikely) Zen Master!!

February 13, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Reading, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity, Zen. 3 comments.

Quitting the Rat Race #4: Killing the cycle of consumerism & (over) work


Image by 特有生物研究保育中心 via Flickr

I guess there is a very close inter connection between  simplicity (living simply enjoying peace rather than stuff), frugality (saving money whenever & wherever we can but still feeling rich & luxurious: yes it is possible), solitude (enjoying time alone n you no longer see the Joneses, so no danger of falling into the trap of trying to compete with them) anti consumerism (stop finding joy in stuff) minimizing our (carbon) footprints on the planet (it makes me uneasy when people come loaded with poly bags containing stuff they don’t even need) & quitting the rat race (goodbye work, hello leisure).

 When we embrace simplicity, frugality & an anti consumerist lifestyle, quitting work is a piece of cake…no more working at a job we don’t want, to buy the stuff we don’t need, to impress the people we don’t even like, & in the bargain plundering the beautiful nature which we actually love!!!

In their ground breaking book ‘ Your Money or your life: 9 steps to transforming your relationship with money‘, authors Vicki Robbins & Joe dominquez say we must not measure the cost of any stuff in terms of money we spend on it but in terms of ‘life energy‘ we have to spend to earn that money. They have redefined the concept of money itself. Money doesn’t simply mean a ‘medium of exchange’ but ‘Money is something for which you trade life energy’. 

In order to apply this principle, you first calculate your hourly wage.  You will then see exactly how much your life energy is worth, and you will be able to measure the cost of money spent in terms of valuable life energy lost, instead of just dollars/rupees/whatever.  (This would come handy in cutting down spending money on useless stuff)

Once you have finished, you can do some eye-opening conversions.  For example:

How much life energy do you spend at convenience stores/restaurants daily?  Could you spend less and still be happy if you cooked at home? & we could think in these term whenever buying stuff big/small. I mean we don’t even need to carry out exact calculations. A general grasp of this concept makes us a little more aware when we are about to spend money.

I am very happy to report that I’ve cut down my own consumption in several areas once i became aware of the concept of ‘life energy’ value of money. This was my precursor to quitting the Rat Race.

‘My dad did not change his lifestyle, he early on recognized that there is a power in keeping a low overhead, he realized that there is a line that balance between having what you want and doing what you want and the more you have what you want the less you will do what you want. So once he says, I have a pair of jeans, a pair of boots and 2 jackets, I can do anything.’
Mario Van Peebles on the accomplishments of his father Melvin Van Peebles.

For me this arrangement works out just fine ‘cos perhaps I’ve been lucky to realize that stuff  ≠ Joy. My home has very simple furniture, just the bare functional basics & I just roll my eyes when I see people’s house that ceased being homes long ago & resemble more closely to museums, they have assorted nick knacks from all over the world displayed proudly (i think comically) in HUGE shelves. So much money down, the drain, so much life energy wasted’ & so much clutter. Spend money & buy head-ache. & more life energy to be wasted on cleaning the dust accumulated on all that stuff.

Ponder Over These too:

“It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else that prevents us from living freely and nobly.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Much of our activity these days is nothing more than a cheap anaesthetic to deaden the pain of an empty life.” – Unknown

“The things you own end up owning you.” – Tyler Durden in Fight Club

‘There must be more to life than having everything!’~Maurice Sendak

“There is enough on earth for everybody’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.”~Gandhi

With money you can’t buy wisdom, you can’t buy inner peace. Wisdom and inner peace must be created by yourself.~Dalai Lama

“Man…sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” ~The Dalai Lama (when asked what surprises him the most about humanity)

September 15, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Current Events, Inspiration, Meaning of Life, My lifestyle, My Values, Personal, Philosophy, Quitting the Rat Race, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity, Wisdom. 8 comments.

Quitting the Rat Race #3: Inspiration from Lin Yutang

Lin Yutang

Image via Wikipedia

I guess the world is divided in two clearly distinct classes: the working class & the leisure class. Money, outward success, status, materialism, consumerism, expensive cars & homes are what appeals to the former & things like loafing, spending quiet time with self, introspection,idling, gazing at the ceiling, contemplating the navel, simplicity, frugality, reading & solitude are the things valued by later.  ‘The Importance of living’ by Lin Yutang is the Bible of the leisure class. Here we don’t find any advice on how to be more efficient or how to get rich but instead it contains idiosyncratic observations on the art of lying in bed, lolling in chairs, enjoying reading just for sheer pleasure & enjoying a cup of tea. This book celebrates idleness unapologetically.

It contains Delightful nuggets & observations like:

It is not when he is working in the office but when he is lying idly on the sand that his soul utters, “Life is beautiful”. 

I do not think that any civilization can be called complete until it has . . . made a conscious return to simplicity.

To me personally the only function of philosophy is to teach us to take life more lightly and gaily than the average businessman does, for no businessman who does not retire at fifty, if he can, is in my eyes a philosopher. 

Human life can be lived like a poem.

I have always assumed that the end of living is the true enjoyment of it. 

Every man born into this world . . . should order his life so that he can find the greatest happiness in it.

What can be the end of human life except the enjoyment of it? 

To cut with a sharp knife a bright green watermelon on a big scarlet plate of a summer afternoon. Ah, is this not happiness?

 I suspect that the American hustler admires the Chinese loafer.

Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise. The wisest man is therefore he who loafs most gracefully.

If men fail to enjoy this earthly existence we have, it is because they do not love life sufficiently and allow it to be turned into a humdrum routine existence.

The illusive rewards of fame are pitched against the tremendous advantages of obscurity.

He who is not wanted by the public can be a carefree individual.

Efficiency, punctuality and the desire for achievement and success . . . are . . . things that make people unhappy and so nervous.

The inability to loaf comes directly from his desire for doing things and in his placing action above being.

Women as a whole, as seen in the parks and in the streets, have better figures and are better dressed, thanks to the continuous tremendous daily efforts of women to keep their figure to the great delight of men. But I imagine how it must wear on their nerves. 

In China, the first question a person asks the other on an official call, after asking about his name and surname is, “What is your glorious age?” . . . Enthusiasm grows in proportion as the gentleman is able to report a higher and higher age, and if the person is anywhere over fifty, the inquirer immediately drops his voice in humility and respect.

It is amazing how few people are conscious of the importance of the art of lying in bed.

Those people who agree with me in believing in lying in bed as one of the greatest pleasures of life are the honest men. 

“Those who take leisurely what the people of the world are busy about can be busy about what the people of the world take leisurely.” – Chang Ch’ao.

“Leisure enables one to read, to travel to famous places, to form beneficial friendships, to drink wine, and to write books. What greater pleasures can there be in the world than these?” – Chang Ch’ao.

“Reading books in old age is like looking at the moon on an open terrace . . . the depth of benefits of reading varies in proportion to the depth of one’s own experience.”- Chang Ch’ao.

A true traveler is always a vagabond, with the joys, temptations and sense of adventure of the vagabond . . . The essence of travel is to have no duties, no fixed hours, no mail, no inquisitive neighbors, no receiving delegations, and no destination.

The point is whether one has got the heart to feel and the eyes to see. If he hasn’t, his visits to the mountains are a pure waste of time and money; on the other hand, if he has got “a special talent in his breast and a special vision below his eyebrows,” he can get the greatest joy of travel even without going to the mountains, by staying at home and watching and going about the field to watch a sailing cloud, or a dog, or a hedge, or a lonely tree.

There are so many kinds of laughter: the laughter of happiness, the laughter at some one falling into one’s trap, the laughter of sneer or contempt, and most difficult of all, the laughter of despair.

A good cup of tea makes (the reading) still more perfect. Or perhaps on a snowy night, when one is sitting before the fireside, and there is a kettle singing on the hearth

A good reader turns an author inside out.

September 12, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Happiness, Meaning of Life, My lifestyle, My Values, Quitting the Rat Race, Quotations, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity, Slacking, Wisdom. 8 comments.

Quitting the Rat Race #2: Read ‘Possum Living’ & get Inspired

‘Many people, perhaps you among them, are not temperamentally suited for the 9-to-5 rat race but assume there is no other way to live.’ Thus begins a very engrossing & gripping tale of how the author Dolly Freed & her father spent living with no job & almost no money.

Many people are attracted to Quit the rat race & spend life in simplicity but they don’t have clues and/or role models. The book is full of philosophical reflections as well as of practical advice on how to live job-free. I’ve enjoyed the book for its philosophical nuggets. The practical advice is of no use to me ‘cos Dolly n her father lived by rearing & eating Rabbits, chicken, duck, fish etc. I am a hard core Vegetarian.Even otherwise  the practical part may be bit dated because the book was published in 1975 but philosophy in it is evergreen. Dolly’s sense of humor & keen insights made this book absolutely un putdownable for me. The best sentence of the whole book is :

“It’s easier to learn to do without some of the things money can buy than to earn the money to buy them.”

Here are my favorite excerpts from the book

~1 We Quit the Rat Race

Do you remember the story of Diogenes, the ancient Athenian crackpot? He was the one who gave away all his possessions because “People don’t own possessions, their possessions own them.” He had a drinking cup, but when he saw a child scoop up water by hand, he threw the cup away. To beat the housing crunch he set up an abandoned wine barrel in a public park and lived in that.

The central theme of Diogenes’ philosophy was that “The gods gave man an easy life, but man has complicated it by itching for luxuries.”

Apparently he lived up to his principles. When Alexander of Macedon, the future conqueror of the known world, was traveling through Greece, he honored Diogenes with a visit. Alexander admired Diogenes’ ideas to the point of offering him any gift within his means. Diogenes, who was working on his tan at the time, asked as his gift that Alexander move aside a bit so as to stop shading him from the sun. This to the richest and most powerful man in the Western world.

Parting, Alexander remarked, “If I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes.” Diogenes went back to nodding in the sunshine.

Diogenes was fair and just to all but refused to recognize the validity of man-made laws. He was a good old boy, one of the first back-to-basics freaks in recorded history. He lived to be over 90. Alexander, The Mighty Conqueror, drank himself to death at age 33.

Well, this “Saint Diogenes” has been my father’s idol for many years. I remember when I was a little girl Daddy painted a picture of Diogenes sitting in his barrel tossing away his drinking cup. He wrote “Are You a Diogian?” as a caption and hung it on the living room wall to inspire us.

~Having told what we do spend money on, let me now say what we don’t spend it on. In a word, hardly anything we can do without. Some people seem to be actively seeking ways to dissipate their money, and get nervous and upset if they fail to get rid of it all on a given shopping spree. It’s burning that proverbial hole in their pocket.

Here are a few things we don’t spend money on:

* Insurance gets never a penny. Once when Mom and Daddy were still married, an acquaintance went into the insurance business and tried to sell them life insurance.

“If I should die,” said Daddy, looking Mom in the face, “money would mean nothing to her.” That was probably the first time in the history of the world an insurance salesman didn’t have a word to say.

We don’t have fire insurance because we have a brick house, a fire extinguisher a hose long enough to reach all parts of the house, a lightning rod, sound electrical wiring, neither of us smokes, and we’re never away from home for long periods of time. We don’t need flood insurance since we live on a hill, and we also don’t need theft insurance (our movable possessions total less than $260 in value). We just see no reason for liability insurance. Not having a car saves us all the insurance associated with that.

* Vacations, another common expenditure, are not required–our whole life is just one big vacation. We don’t need to “get away from it all” because there’s nothing we want to get away from.

* Hobbies don’t cost us much. Mine, birdwatching, requires a pair of binoculars and a book for identifying them, but they both last for many years. We both have $17 running shoes, but they last pretty long. We bought a badminton set for $11 (listed under “Luxuries”), but that, too, should give us years of enjoyment.

* Christmas doesn’t exist for us. December 25 is just another day here. Tis the season to be greedy, ostentatious, treacly sentimental, frenzied, hysterical, morbidly drunk and suicidal, and we see no reason to pretend otherwise. So we ignore it in the hope that it’ll go away. Christmas has become like a horse with a broken leg. You can’t enjoy the horse and simply ignore its broken leg–the only decent thing to do is put it out of its misery and be done with it. If you’re religious, you surely realize that the potlatch orgy of December 25 has little to do with Christ. Mammon or Bacchus, maybe, but not Christ. So do yourself and your religion both a favor and refuse to play the game. If we all ignore it, it really will go away.

* Income tax wasn’t listed on the budget, as you may have noticed. We don’t pay any, because we never have enough income to require paying. You can’t imagine what a difference it makes blood-pressure-wise if one is a taxpayer or not while one is reading the news!

We pay property taxes, because we have to (they really will sell taxes. When the man came around about the “Occupant headtax,” we simply told him we didn’t live here–we’re just here fixing up the place as a rental. He never came back. About two years ago we got a form in the mail about an “occupation tax,” but since we don’t have an occupation, we figured it didn’t concern us.

* Being true misers, we find we can do without all sorts of little nonessentials that do add up: haircuts, “grooming aids,” pets, “knick-knacks” and other decorations, snacks and convenience foods, furniture, beauty parlor visits (I don’t need them), magazines and newspapers (we use the library), telephone service, movies, toothpaste (we make our own–equal parts of salt and baking soda dissolved in water), tobacco, charity, gifts (a quart of wine or moonshine or a dressed rabbit does for gift-giving)–but you get the picture. We keep a record of every cent we spend, so we do know just where it goes. Let me urge you to do the same: You’ll be surprised at all the things that take your money–which means your time and energy. If you’re buying anything on time, you want to find out what the actual interest rate and service charges are, of course.

“But don’t you want Nice Things?” people ask. “Don’t YOU like to go out and have a Good Time?”

“Nope,” we answer. “Get a lot out of staying home reading.”

~We’re incredibly lazy. You wouldn’t believe it! We have an anarchy here wherein neither has to do anything we don’t feel like doing. (Except to feed the creatures. You can’t neglect animals in your care.) Normally I do the housework and the Old Fool does the garden, the heavy work, and the care of the creatures. Not because we have sexist roles, but because the housework bugs him more than it bugs me, and vice versa. If I don’t feel like doing the dishes, say, for a couple of days, why I just don’t do them. I often feed the animals if Daddy feels like goofing off, and he often does the dishes. The anarchy works for us because we love each other and don’t abuse it. It amazes me that so many people must either dominate or be dominated, like a bunch of monkeys on Monkey Island at the zoo.

Often my conscience tries to nag me when I’m goofing off, but it doesn’t get very far any more. Daddy says it’s just the same with him. Actually, it’s hard to understand how it is that laziness has fallen into such disrepute in our society. Well, I’m tired of being a Closet Sluggard! I’m lazy and proud of it!

We can afford to be lazy because we satisfy our material needs with little effort and little money. Of course, you know that money doesn’t buy only goods and services, it also buys prestige and status. Being somewhat egocentric, we don’t feel the need to buy prestige or status. The neat trick that Diogenes pulled was to turn the tables on those of his contemporaries who believed that “Life is a game and money is how you keep score.” He didn’t keep score. We don’t keep score. You needn’t keep score either if you don’t want to. It’s entirely up to you.

Money per se isn’t the only status thing involved. Some people make a big machismo deal out of employment itself. You know, mighty-hunter-bring-home-the-bacon stuff. Folks old enough to remember the depression of the 1930s tend to take a very solemn attitude about jobs, and unless you like to argue, it pays to sidestep the issue with them. It doesn’t matter that you’re not on welfare or accepting charity but are earning your own way in life (albeit in an unorthodox manner), the mystique lies with that Holding Down a Job concept. Don’t ask me why.

Sometimes people who secretly resent it that they have to work (or think they do), and we don’t, point out that Daddy has no security for his old age. Daddy always knuckles under and mutters something like, “Gee, you’re right, mutter, mutter,” because it makes them feel better and doesn’t cost him anything, so why not?

Once he was fishing and an old gentleman came along and struck up a conversation. Coming to the conclusion that Daddy couldn’t find work, he started commiserating with him about the “hard times.” Then Daddy made a mistake and let it out that he didn’t want a job. The old boy got himself into a state of righteous indignation because he was retired) and had earned the right to go fishing on weekdays, by fifty years of hard work, and here Daddy was just going ahead doing it. Daddy mollified him by pointing out that he’d be up shit creek when he got old, and that thought cheered the old gentleman up to the point of giving Daddy a nice catfish he had caught. However, what he truthfully thinks is:

* Sure, you have security, but the slaves on the plantation didn’t starve either.

* The social security system is an obvious pyramid game and can’t be trusted.

* There’s really nothing I do now as a young man to live that I won’t be able to do as an old man.

* It’s unmanly to worry so about the future. Did Caesar worry about his old age pension when he crossed the Rubicon?

* Jesus clearly and specifically taught against concern for future security (Matthew 6:25-34). Like it or not, it’s un-Christian to plan for the future.

* I refuse to spend the first sixty years of my life worrying about the last twenty.

* Dolly will take care of me.

These same resentful people might also bring up that “You aren’t doing your share–you aren’t contributing to society.” While it’s impossible to have too much contempt for this beehive mentality, to avoid an argument you can answer:

* I am too being useful! You can always use me as a Bad Example!

* While I’m not contributing to economic growth, a dubious good, I’m also not contributing to pollution, a definite evil.

~Now that you have the overall idea–is it for you? Possibly not. It depends on the instincts you were born with and your present family circumstances. For example, my Mom wants no part of “this squalor,” as she puts it. Daddy and I are instinctive possums–we break out in hives in elegant surroundings. Also, you have to trust your instincts. ”Philosophize with a hammer,” as Nietzsche advocated, “testing idols to see if they ring true.” Does the money economy ring true for you? Does possum living ring true? It isn’t enough that you know a false idol when you gee one; your family must agree with you. If your kid gets the shakes when the TV goes on the blink, forget it. If your spouse gives you the fish-eye look when you mention rabbits in the cellar, forget it. If the thought of quitting your job blows your mind, don’t do it. If it makes you feel good, on the other hand, do it! Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

~ Clothing

The implementation of buying prestige and status is often through the medium of clothing. I hate to say it, but this seems to be especially true of women.

Once when Daddy worked for Manpower he had a two-week job working for a business that sold fashionable women’s clothing. Ladies would come in–all sorts of ladies, from all sorts of backgrounds, usually with several friends–and start buying (on time payments, naturally). The distinct impression was that they didn’t have as much need for clothing as they had to impress their friends and the saleslady with the size of the bundle they were dropping. Then, right out in public, they’d agree among themselves on what lies they would tell their husbands regarding the cost of the various items.

I completely fail to understand this mentality. No doubt they would fail to understand us, so that makes us even. We get all our clothing at the thrift shop. We’re fortunate in that our local church thrift shop is extremely reasonable (there are thrift shops and there are thrift shops). Daddy’s entire wardrobe, excluding running shoes, cost about $10. Mine, also excluding running shoes, cost about $15.

Well, I know what you’re thinking: I’m some poor, dowdy little thing and Daddy looks like the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. Now, how can I say this without seeming immodest? The truth is that when I get dressed up I’m a knockout. I go out on dates and no one seems ashamed to be seen with me. And while Daddy usually does look like a scarecrow, he, too, is presentable when he wants to be.

Okay, you say, how does all this fine clothing wind up in a thrift shop? That’s easily answered: The ladies who need to show off their spending power also need to make room in their closets before they can buy new clothes. Then, too, many people go on diets and lose weight, treat themselves to a whole new wardrobe to celebrate, and then gain the weight back and have no use for the clothes.

17 Transportation

In our society the automobile is many things to many people. To the suburbanite it has become what the horse was to the Plains Indians–the whole basis of the culture. To a great many men and boys it’s the premier status symbol. Daddy says that when he was a young man the guys would do almost anything to get “wheels,” because the girls wouldn’t even look at you otherwise, and hormones win out over common sense every time. Environmentalists see the automobile, both in its manufacture and operation, as the main ingredient of our monumental pollution problem.

We haven’t had a car for three years now, and there has been some inconvenience because of it. But then there’s an awful lot of inconvenience to owning a car, too: insurance, maintenance, gas worry, traffic jams, parking–and mainly money. Freedom of mobility doesn’t come cheap.

Unfortunately, there’s virtually zero public transportation in our area, so we walk, run, or bicycle everywhere we go. There’s a little town 2 miles from our house, and when we need anything–groceries, hardware, etc.–we walk there pulling a grocery cart (the geek-mobile).

It doesn’t seem to have to do a bit of walking and cycling have harmed us. In fact, we enjoy it. Walking or cycling, you really do notice a lot more about the things going on around you than you do from a speeding car, trite as that may sound

A word or two about our chief mode of transportation: A good three-speed bike is better than a ten-speed bike for practical transportation purposes. It’s easier to ride, easier to maintain, less a target for thieves, and less expensive then a ten speed. We bought our bikes at yard sales rather than from dealers. However, don’t look for a terrific bargain, because if you get one you’ll be buying stolen merchandise. Don’t encourage thieving–your bike might be the next to disappear.

~ Daily Living

Now that you know how to become a member of the leisure class, you may wonder just what it is we leisure-niks do all day.

Sometimes people will tell us that if they didn’t have a job to go to, or a regular routine of duties and responsibilities, they wouldn’t know what to do–they’d be bored to death. Boredom is not to be underestimated. Murders, suicides, and even full-scale wars have come about from pure boredom. (Napoleon justified his career on the grounds that he gave men the opportunity to die with military glory rather than of boredom. Women, too, are vulnerable. “Housewife syndrome”–the daily occurrence of eventlessness–is a major problem in our society. In 6th-century Constantinople, Empress Theodora established a convent for reformed prostitutes, so they wouldn’t be forced to resume business. Some of the “saved” girls manifested their gratefulness by leaping out of the windows–literally bored to death. But occasionally being bored is part of life, so don’t overestimate it, either. (Nietzsche said, “Against boredom even the gods struggle in vain.”)

TV is, of course, the modern way to alleviate boredom, but we don’t have one. People are always trying to give us their old TVs, but we decline. We can’t handle TV. It absolutely fascinates me when I see it, but I always feel nervous next day when I wake up and realize I’ve attuned my thoughts to a TV program I’ve seen–something unreal! My instincts warn me there’s a stalking horse in the field. What predator might not be hiding behind the stalking horse of TV? If you can handle TV there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy it–it’s just not for us.

We haven’t found boredom to be a problem except during the dismal months of the last two winters, which were exceptionally nasty ones. Generally if we are able to get out-of-doors, to exercise properly (run) on a regular basis, eat properly, and be free of outside pressures and harassment, all else falls into place–life is good.

We aren’t hermits and neither need you be if you take up this life style. We have friends who invite us to their parties even though they know we aren’t in a position to reciprocate (which proves them to be true friends). Friends and neighbors stop by here for a drop of the creature and a hand or two of cards, and we do them the same way. I get the impression some of our friends like to visit here to get a respite from the gracious living they’re forced to endure at home. Here they can throw ashes and nutshells on the floor and put their feet up on the table if they want. I go on dates same as any other girl. If you want to be a hermit or a hippie there’s no reason you shouldn’t, but you don’t have to be one just because you don’t happen to have any visible means of support.

~What’s Gonna Happen Next?

It might occur to you that getting off the 9-to-5 treadmill is what you want and need right now but that spending the rest of your life on a half-acre Garden of Eden isn’t the whole answer either. Good thinking.

One thing that living possum-style does is to give a person the confidence to have freedom of choice. It’s quite likely, for example, that I’ll get a job some day: to see what’s going on out there in the “real world” and to meet–well, you know–men. But I’ll never, never get myself into a situation where I need a job. If a job annoys me at all–back to possum living here at my Snug Harbor.

This freedom I harp on isn’t restricted merely to whether or not to have a job. Now that we have some practice at it, I’m pretty sure we can possum live anywhere. And that means we can travel. I have an idea in the back of my head to build a flat-bottomed boat small enough to be rowed or poled but big enough to afford sleeping room for two under a canvas shelter. We would then take off down the intercostals waterway from Philadelphia to my birthplace in Florida, and return. The whole trip would take about a year, and we’d live off the land (and water) the whole time. What an adventure! We’d rent out the house for the year, which should more than pay for the boat and expenses. (Now all I have to do is to talk Daddy–or someone else–into coming along to help do the rowing and poling.)

So that’s how the last four years have drifted by for us.

Now, then, don’t you have a hobby you just don’t have time to pursue? Golf? Tennis? Partying? Studying? Music? Painting? Pottery? Hang gliding? Whatever? Even fishing or gardening–wouldn’t you like to change these from merely recreation to partly occupation?

Yes? Then why don’t you simply do so?

It’s feasible. It’s easy. It can be done. It should be done.

Do it.

September 9, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Consumerism, Happiness, Inspiration, Meaning of Life, My lifestyle, My Values, Quitting the Rat Race, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity, Slacker-Sutras, Slacking, Wisdom. 5 comments.

Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged

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Finally finished reading ‘Atlas Shrugged‘ by Ayn Rand. I say ‘finally’ because I’ve had to abort the attempt to finish this book a couple of times before. Much as I loved (& still love, ofcourse) Rand’s Fountainhead (which  incidentally I’ve read more than a couple of times), I just couldn’t go beyond first few pages of this 1000+ page tome, maybe it was the small print that got me or maybe I don’t connect with the story of Atlas Shrugged in the way I connected with Howard Roark of Fountainhead…I’ve mentioned at more than one place in this blog as to why I just love Roark:

Howard Roark from Fountainhead -tends to be much more interested in what he’s doing than in anybody else’s opinion of what he’s doing. He’s not the part of the crowd but stands majestically alone. An individualist in the truest sense of the word. A man who does things his own way n never anything to please others.He is never out there to win a popularity contest. He is his own man and lives by his own rules. He refuses to join any fraternity. He is not anti-social so much as asocial. He never learned the process of thinking about other people. Nor does he care to. He achieves his top values: self-esteem, happiness, pride, Independence, Egoism, and Achievement.

The Fountainhead portrays individualism versus collectivism, not in politics, but in man’s soul.

Having admired Fountainhead for so long, it’s obvious that I wanted to finish this book too. So when I didn’t see that happening, I caught hold of the Audio book version, put it on my Ipod & listened to the book on my walks & while making lunch.

The book gets it’s title from the Greek God Atlas who literally holds the world on his shoulders…what would happen if one day, he being tired of this burden refuses to keep on doing this??

“If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater the effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders—what would you tell him to do?”


“I…don’t know. What…could he do? What would you tell him?”

“To shrug.”

This is the premise of the novel…in the novel the world is divided into two types of people: The Producers who have the finest minds & abilities & willingness to put efforts into making things happen, the people who really make the world go round..These people are represented by John GaltOwen Kellogg,  Ellis Wyatt,  Dagny Taggart, Hank Rearden,  & few others; The looters: those who want to live their life off the fruits of producers’ abilty & efforts while at the same time labeling them as greedy, money hungry & selfish. The looters consist of James Taggart, Orren Boyle, Weasley Mouch & their cohorts. Tired of the way the looters are shifting things in their own favor to enjoy eating the cake that producers are baking, by  means of  variety of irrational, absurd laws like Anti-Dog-Eat Dog Rule, Equalization of opportunity bill etc, the producers , led by John Galt ( Galt organizes and leads the strike of the mind. He is   the inventor & the destroyer of the revolutionary motor) (having had enough of this nonsense which is just coming in the way of their productivity) decide to do the shrugging a la Atlas by quitting one by one (with the exception of Dagny & Rearden). 

One of the Best things in the entire 1000+ pages is the John Galt’s Oath which basically summarize Ayn Rand’s philosophy (morality): 

“I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

In her books , We the Living (1936) , Anthem (1946), The Fountainhead (1943) &  Atlas Shrugged (1957),  Ayn Rand  speaks about the philosophy of objectivism ( that the proper moral purpose of one’s life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness or rational self interest).

Now waiting to catch the recently released movie based on this book.

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My Take on the Fountainhead

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April 14, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Fountainhead, Inspiration, Meaning of Life, My lifestyle, My Values, Reflections/Musings, Wisdom. 2 comments.

A 100% Perfect Love Story:On seeing the 100% perfect girl one beautiful April morning by Haruki Murakami

Japanese writer Haruki Murakami

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‘On seeing the 100% perfect girl one beautiful morning’ is one of my most favorite short stories by one of my most favorite authors, Haruki Murakami. The story tells us that we don’t fall in love with people who are beautiful as in being Ms or Mr Universe but with people who are beautiful to Us (there’s a quote which goes like this: Do I love her because she is beautiful or is she beautiful because I love her??)…they might not be 100% perfect (Beautifully Imperfect) but they are 100% perfect for us anyways. Sometimes we cross paths with them but things don’t go further because maybe we don’t muster the courage to express our feelings & the moments pass us by forever or mabe  we have to let them go because perhaps the timing is not right…but there are lucky few who meet their 100% perfect partners & have their own happily ever after…some people wait for a 100% perfect person to arrive in their life but they fail to appreciate the simple truth that there is no such thing as perfection in life only what is good (/perfect) for us.  As this joke goes:

A friend asked a gentleman how it is that he never married? Replied the gentleman, ” Well, i guess I just never met the right woman … I guess I’ve been looking for the perfect girl.”
“Oh, come on now,” said the friend, ” Surely you have met at least one girl that you wanted to marry.”
“Yes, there was one girl… once. I guess she was the one perfect girl.. the only perfect girl I really ever met. She was just the right everything … I really mean that she was the perfect girl for me.”
“Well, why didn’t you marry her,” asked the friend. “She was looking for the perfect man” he said.

Perhaps this Gentleman has not yet realized the wisdom : ‘ Don’t love the one who is beautiful to the world; Love the one who makes your world Beautiful’

Okay enough said…this enthralling story begins with magical words:

‘One beautiful April morning, on a narrow side street in Tokyo’s fashionable Harujuku neighborhood, I walked past the 100% perfect girl. Tell you the truth, she’s not that good-looking. She doesn’t stand out in any way. Her clothes are nothing special. The back of her hair is still bent out of shape from sleep. She isn’t young, either – must be near thirty, not even close to a “girl,” properly speaking. But still, I know from fifty yards away: She’s the 100% perfect girl for me. The moment I see her, there’s a rumbling in my chest, and my mouth is as dry as a desert. ‘


You can read the story here:

or better still watch it right here:


I Hope you enjoy this beautiful story as much as I do 🙂

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April 10, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Hmm..., Meaning of Life, Reading, Reflections/Musings, Uncategorized. 3 comments.

The Fountainhead

The Fountainhead is a 1943 novel by Ayn Rand. The story firmly establishes the concept of ‘Individualism’. The book’s title is a reference to Rand’s statement that “person’s ego is the fountainhead of human progress”.

Our culture is full of messages as these:

~Pursue not what brings you happiness, rather what brings happiness to others.

~Every suffering in the world comes from cherishing the self, and every happiness for cherishing others.~ Shantideva

~ Could you spend the next 12 hours without using “I”?

All the above quotes establish that a person must exist as a means towards the end of others. Ayn Rand doesn’t buy into any of these. Neither do I. (As a funny quote goes: If it’s true that we are here to help others, then what exactly are the others here for?) According to her ‘our own happiness is our only moral duty. We don’t exist to serve others’. “By what conceivable right can anyone demand that a human being exist for anything but for his own joy?” She questions why is happiness considered noble if its for others but immoral if it’s our own.

Howard Roark is the protagonist of Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead. He is independent & a free thinker. He lives from his own ideals for his own happiness. He has integrity & never compromises on his values to please others. Roark is independent of good or bad opinions of others. He is a self actualized & an enlightened person. He is a contrast to Peter Keating & Ellesworth Toohey.

Peter Keating: is a conformist who lives for fame, always seeking approval from others, always doing what would look good to others & not what he actually wants: He wanted to be a painter but became an architect instead; He loved Cathy but married Dominique because Dominique is more beautiful & sophisticated & hence a better wife to impress the world; he rises in the profession by flattery, manipulation, lying, cheating n even near-murder. “Always be what people want you to be,” is his motto. He is what he is because of others, he depends on others for his identity.

Recently at an award function a famous actress said: “I want to thank you all. Whatever I am is because of all of you n your love”. Another actor exclaimed, “It’s so good to be recognized everywhere I go”. what a pathetic way to exist…where will they be when the applause dies down?? One must be whatever one is irrespective of other people’s opinions!!

All the so called popular people are in fact Peter Keatings. He has no sense of self. No wonder that his fall is faster than his rise & he ends up being a miserable hag. He is always concerned with what others are thinking about him rather than how he himself is feeling.

 The world is full of conformists like peter keating. All those who run the rat race, & ‘Keep up with Joneses’ are manifestations of Peter Keating mentality. In fact the society calls Peter Keating like people ‘successful’, children are encouraged to become Peter Keatings!!!

( A dialogue between Roark & Keating: [Roark to Keating:] If you want my advice, Peter,” he said at last, “you’ve made a mistake already. By asking me. By asking anyone. Never ask people. Not about your work. Don’t you know what you want? “)

Ellesworth Toohey: has lust for power & is manipulative. He lives for manipulating others & controlling them. He glorifies self sacrifice n living for others, thus keeping people miserable ‘cos people are bound to be unhappy unless they start living for themselves. Miserable people are good followers & slaves. Ellesworth Toohey is also dependent on others to give him a sense of identity. (A dialogue between Toohey & Roark—Toohey: “We’re alone. Why don’t you tell me what you think of me?” Roark: “But I don’t think of you”.)

The only one who is happy at the end of the book is Howard even though he had the hardest life.

Fountainhead is the most important book I’ve ever read. It’s a book that make a point to read again & again. Each time I read it, I understand it at deeper level & gain fresh insights

Other Book Reviews on My Blog:

Confessions of a Shopoholic | The Bridges of Madison County

 Movie Reviews on my blog:

 Mirch | Roman HolidayBabelGuzaarish |  7 Khoon Maaf

Tanu Weds Manu |  The King’s Speech | Dhobi Ghat 

 13 conversations about one thing 

Bruce Almighty | What About Bob | Forrest Gump | Bheja Fry | Ground Hog Day

The Pursuit of Happyness | The Bucket List | Peepli Live | 3 Idiots

March 16, 2011. Tags: , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Fountainhead, Reading, Reflections/Musings, Wisdom. 9 comments.

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