Retirement Humour.

A friend and ex colleague now retired from employment but, in his own start up business sent me this nice video this morning.

I responded with this truth: “The only decision that I make nowadays is whether to sleep or to read. For that I don’t need an MBA.” He responded with laughing emojis and that was that.

Ten minutes later, I got a phone call from a landline number. Since it was a landline number I answered only to be completely taken aback by a totally strange voice addressing me by my name and asking me to spare some time. Under the impression that it could be a tele-marketeer, I first demurred saying that I am retired and not in need of anything. He explained that he wanted to talk about one of my blog posts and that piqued my interest and I said that okay let us talk.

He said while searching for a Visiting Card maker, he saw a link to my blog post My New Visiting Card and that is what he wanted to talk about. On enquiring further he wanted to know what position I retired from and where I lived.

Being in a frivolous mood, I told him that I never had to work for a living and had always been in retirement but now, I have formalised it by getting these visiting cards made. His interest was now piqued and he wanted to know how without working for a living I had lived and I responded that I simply spent my father’s money. He wanted to know how old I was and when I told him that I was 77 he was quite taken aback and asked whether my father was still supporting me. I responded that I now spend my son’s money, he finally got the joke and pleaded me to enlighten him seriously. I requested him to go back to my blog and read the post on Ambition. He promptly did and called me back after a while and had a fairly intense chat and he has promised to come to meet me once the lockdown is lifted as he often visits Pune from Mumbai where he lives.

My Tuesday was made. As I write this, I am smiling at the memory of the two exchanges.

PS. The Ted Talk is very interesting and I recommend that my readers listen to it.

Tragic Optimism.

“The man I am, greets mournfully, the man I might have been.”
~ Hebbel

I contacted a Senior Teacher of Vipassana in Pune yesterday, whom I have known since the last more than two decades. He was a highly successful Medical Practitioner as was his wife but, both have quit their practices to devote their full time and energies to Vipassana. I contacted him to find out how best I can attend a camp with my health issues. Being a doctor and a teacher of Vipassana, I thought that he would be the best guide to approach as I felt that I needed a concentrated meditation camp at this stage of my life. He guided me to my full satisfaction and also assured me that he will ensure that I will be well looked after in the local Meditation Center.

It was a nice long chat catching up with each other on many subjects and I intend keeping in regular touch with him henceforth.

After the talk was over, he sent me a photograph taken during the early days of a Vipassana Meditation Center at Markal near Pune with me and two students of meditation in it. The link will take you to show you how the place is now.

This was circa 2003 when it was still in its nascent stage and accommodation and meditation hall were still in early stages of being set up. I was approached by the same teacher to be a volunteer to serve the attendees as by then I was already a caregiver to my incapacitated late wife. In this particular case, they were a group of blind students who had to be looked after, and guided around the primitive undeveloped area so that they did not come to harm and the ten days that I did this changed me for ever.

Spending eleven nights and ten days with blind people and serving them will do that to any body. One is humbled by them with their good cheer and will to survive despite their handicap and their total trust and unconditional affection for me was a high impact emotional experience for me. My caregiving duties only increased and was even doubled after my then 91 year old father came to live with us.  That period till ten years later saw the most stressful times that I have ever experienced and thankfully I was able to withstand and survive those situations due, I have no doubt, to my regular meditation practice.

That experience with the blind students changed my attitude towards life and just about that time was when I first came across Viktor Frankl and his Tragic Optimism. His profound conclusion that I share with my readers below describes my current situation at the age of 77 with health issues.

“From this one may see that there is no reason to pity old people. Instead, young people should envy them. It is true that the old have no opportunities, no possibilities in the future. But they have more than that. Instead of possibilities in the future, they have realities in the past—the potentialities they have actualized, the meanings they have fulfilled, the values they have realized—and nothing and nobody can ever remove these assets from the past.”

What Has The Lockdown Done To/For You?

By the time this post gets published, India would have been under full or partial lockdown for 79 days. During this time, I have not left my home and have not received any visitors to meet me.  All contacts with the outside world has been through telephone, texting and email.  Other than my immediate family who share my home with me, I have not met anyone.

The first thing that the lockdown did to me was to stop my daily supply of newspapers and my morning indulgence of seven crossword puzzles. Luckily for me, the supply has started again a few days ago, though one paper, containing the toughest puzzle, which used to come from Mumbai is yet to restart in Pune where I live. None of the periodicals that I have subscribed to, have resumed supplies again.

This spare time was spent on looking for news on my smartphone which led to getting involved in many debates / arguments with members of some groups with differing ideologies and points of view. An obsession also developed to keep going to the smart phone to check for new postings on WhatsApp and twitter.

In this process I lost my power of concentration and was unable to indulge in my next favourite pastime of reading books. I was simply unable to focus and I discussed with another friend who also had the same problem but, who had diagnosed it as anxiety syndrome. I promptly contacted my Psychiatrist, who confirmed that it was indeed so and also that it is quite widely prevalent now. He suggested that I should not worry about it and prescribed some supplements which improved my concentration and I am now able to read books.

I started attending a web meeting of a social group of which I am a member and it has been a completely new and fascinating experience to me.

Another development was that my eyesight started getting to be blurred, and this was diagnosed by my Ophthalmologist as being due to too much time spent on the smart phone. He too said that this too is quite widely prevalent and asked me to reduce the time I spent on it. I duly dropped out of some WhatsApp groups after explaining and apologising and hopefully, things should improve in the next few days.

I haven’t been able to get a hair cut and so the friar’s fringe is now beginning to look like a strange type of duck tail.

I have been able to meditate for longer and this has been the greatest development due to the lockdown.

Other than these, I have had a fairly comfortable time being fussed over by my son and daughter in love. Lucky me!

This is my take on this week’s Friday 6 On 1 blog post topic. The other five bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Sanjana, PadmumRaju, Shackman and Conrad.  This week’s topic was suggested by Shackman. Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they have to say on the topic. Thank you.

Aatjun.

No, I have not invented a new word. Let me explain.

I placed an order online for a book with a local book seller in Pune just before the lockdown. I have been keen to read the book and so have been calling them up on and off to find out when they will send the book only to be told that it will be as soon the as the lockdown is lifted.

Many establishments have been allowed to open since the last few days and hoping that perhaps this establishment too would have opened, I called them again yesterday and after some investigation, the lady on the phone informed me that I should not worry and that the book will be sent to me after aatjun. I requested the lady a few times to be more clear blaming the poor quality of the phone line connection and she kept on repeating aatjun.

Please remember that this conversation is taking place in Hindi, and so in exasperation, I requested the lady to repeat the term in English and the mystery was solved. She meant “8th June”. Aat in Hindi is the numeral eight and pronounced June as Jun.

I should hopefully get the book by mid next week.

Phew.

Emotional Investment.

There is a field in finance called emotional investing which means using feelings rather than logic in making investment decisions. I will briefly talk about it later, but I would like to focus more on the psychological emotional investment which is – “Emotional ‘investment’ in a subject is the degree to which emotions are evoked when the subject is encountered. Things in which we can invest include: Relationships with others. Ideas and ideologies.”

Viktor Frankl in his best seller Man’s Search For meaning talks about two instances of emotional investment which end up in tragedy. The first is of a man who gets a dream where he hears that he will be free from the concentration camp by the end of the month and perks up. When there is no sign of freedom at the end of the month, he dies. Similarly, other inmates imagine that Christmas will bring about their freedom and before the new year they will be free. They too die of disappointment.

On the other hand, Frankl observing such behaviour keeps his hopes alive with the single thought that he will one day write a book about his experiences and that one thought keeps him going till his release.

What better examples for emotional investment in ideas that can lead either to negative or positive results?

In the Indian system of Personality Analysis, there are three traits in all human beings called, Satvaguna, Rajoguna and tamoguna. All of us have all three in us except that the degree to which they predominate differs from individual to individual. I flatter myself that I am the Satvik type.

Some years ago, I had an opportunity to undergo the Myers Briggs personality analysis and I was given this analysis about my personality type:

Extraverted Sensing Thinking Judging

• Realistic, outgoing, systematic, dependable
• Dignified, strong-willed, and principled
• Extremely loyal to family, community, and country
• Great strategist and outstanding “game” player
• Respects tradition and order
• Highly ethical, hardworking, dedicated, and honest
• Lives in the observable “real world” and focuses on what is practical
• Extremely organized with difficulty dealing with uncertainties
• Responsible and would rather plan before acting.

In the Indian system of personality analysis, I flatter myself that I fall into the Satvic type.

My Yogic analysis and the MB analysis gel well and I can say that I am a well adjusted personality with just enough emotional investment in what matters and not greatly involved in the negative aspects of such investments.

Now, coming to the financial emotional investment aspect of this topic, I had made some foolish investments based on emotion rather than logic and lost a packet in the bargain. For instance, in a horse race, I bet on a horse named after my late wife and that horse came last! Similarly I invested in an IPO of a company named after a favourite deity and that company went into liquidation in just three years. After that experience, I have withdrawn from all kinds of financial speculative activities and now live a comfortable if somewhat placid life.

This is my take on this week’s Friday 5 On 1 blog post topic. The other four bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Sanjana, PadmumShackman and Conrad.  This week’s topic was suggested by Padmum. Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they have to say on the topic. Thank you.

Unemployed.

I received this image as a forward in WhatsApp from a friend who felt that I should get some printed like this for myself.

I did not think that this would serve any purpose for me but, on seeing it as a forward from me, another friend who has the necessary infrastructure of an office with staff suggested that he order for a hundred cards with my name and with some modifications.

I agreed and when it gets printed, I shall write another blog post on it.

In the meanwhile, the “Unemployed” description on the card took me to one of my favourite exchange of letters in The Economist between a reader and The Undercover Economist.

The Letter.

AUGUST 6, 2005

Dear Economist,

My son-in-law has been unemployed for a couple of months now. As far as I can make out, he’s enjoying a PlayStation lifestyle while being supported by the state and by my daughter, who has had to find a temporary job. What concerns me is that he’ll get used to this. Should I tell my daughter to apply pressure by quitting her job?

Yours sincerely,

Godfrey Pickens, via email

The Response.

Dear Mr. Pickens,

The issue here is whether your son-in-law’s preferences will change over time—will he “get used” to a life of leisure, and so be less likely to work?

There are two competing views here. One is that he will become hooked on leisure (the welfare trap hypothesis) and will work less in the future, even if his wife quits her job. The other, equally plausible in theory, is that he will become addicted to the extra income provided by his wife’s new job, and if she quits, he will go on to work harder than before.

Such competing hypotheses have been hard to test in the past. But economist John Kagel has succeeded in running a series of experiments that shed light on the matter.

Kagel first forces his subjects to work for their income. Then, for a while, he provides them a substantial unearned income—a kind of welfare, if you will. Unsurprisingly, they slack off at once. Later, he withdraws the welfare and observes whether they work more or less than before welfare had ever been paid. The answer: the interlude on welfare makes very little difference.

This implies that your daughter should keep working for a while and see what happens. No harm will result. The only question for you is whether Kagel’s findings apply to your son-in-law.

Kagel’s subjects were rats. Do you think the parallel with your
son-in-law is close enough?

Yours experimentally,

The Undercover Economist