Author Archives: Ranjan

About Ranjan

Writer, scientist, traveler and speaker.

Living Free, Living Well

My First Book: Living Free, Living Well: My Life as a Zen Bon Vivant

Nine years into a very comfortable retirement, I wrote and published my first book. The full title is on the cover picture below. It describes my journey across three continents and the life-experiences that enabled me to retire happily and comfortably at fifty-eight. It is is a short, simple roadmap for anyone to follow, now available on Amazon.com.

Living Free, Living Well
Living Free, Living Well: My Life as a Zen Bon Vivant

Take a ‘look inside’ the book on the Amazon website. There are many tips: from the financial to the philosophical and everything in between. I selected the pictures with great care, to add to the theme of the chapters. Some are archival and you may have difficulty recognizing. For example, compare the cover picture to this one:

Undergraduate, Calcutta, 1974
Undergraduate, St. Xavier’s College, Calcutta, 1974

I worked in the pharmaceutical industry as a research scientist for over twenty years. I was laid off in 2013. It felt like a punch in the gut. I describe my feelings on that day in the Prologue. What is your reaction when you read it?

In my office, the last days at work, 2013
In my office, the last days at work, 2013

That precipitated an intense period of introspection. I had, over time, prepared for just such an eventuality, both financially and psychologically. I was lucky. I retired—and never looked back. I am now living my dream; reading, writing, traveling and speaking. The layoff was the push that did it. It forced me to think, to prioritize, to realize what was important in life. I realized that to be happy and to live well you have to be free, hence the title. Now, I can do what I want to do, not what I have to do to earn a living. The change from “have to” to “want to” makes a world of difference. I have no boss (except my wife, but that is another story, detailed in Chapter 10, My Life in Retirement).

And Now This—At Andaman Islands, India, 2020
Enjoying retirement—at the Andaman Islands, India, 2020

Who knew that retirement, would be so creative and pleasurable. I have just published my first book and already contemplating a second, a compilation of my stories on travel and adventure!

On an elephant, Arunachal Pradesh, India, 1979
On an elephant in the jungles of Arunachal Pradesh, India, 1979

I wrote this for those planning retirement or are close to it but afraid to take the plunge. It is also for those interested in life in other lands, in this case: India, France, USA and China.

I hope you read the book and find it entertaining and useful. It may change your life! You may soon be living the good life of a Bon Vivant with a relaxed Zen attitude and enjoying retirement as much as I am. I look forward to your feedback and reviews.

A Zen Bon Viveur
A Zen Bon Viveur

Synopsis and the back cover below.

My book: Living Free Living Well: My Life as a Zen Bon Vivant
Living Free, Living Well, back cover

More information including reviews on my website: ranjanmukherjee.com

Three baby Canadian geese

Spring, Cherry Blossoms and baby Canadian Geese.

It is May and my Japanese Cherry tree is in full bloom. The sun rises higher in the sky, it is brighter and warmer, and the trees are putting on their spring greenery. I took some pictures of the cherry blossoms. It has become an annual ritual for me. It signals the advent of spring. Time when the heavy coats go to the back of the closet and I go out for regular walks in the neighborhood. I sometimes see wildlife on these walks. Will I be lucky today?

My Japanese cherry tree in full bloom, 2022
My Japanese cherry tree in full bloom, 2022
Continue reading
With Signers in Signers' Hall

My Educational Trip to the National Constitution Center and Elfreth’s Alley, Philadelphia.

It was mid-March, 2022. Winter was drawing to a close and spring was in the air, the days brighter and warmer. I was restive from being cooped up too long. Cabin fever can sometimes get to me. So I decided to use an unusually warm day for a trip to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. I had missed seeing it during my trip last year to Independence Hall and I was raring to make up.

Continue reading

How Biogen’s Alzheimer’s Drug impacts our wallets, and sets a very dangerous Precedent

This was first published as an op-ed in the Buck’s County Courier Times, February 9, 2022.

I am a scientist and have worked in the pharmaceutical industry. I believe in and love science.

I am also a retired senior citizen, dependent on Social Security and Medicare. Hence, costs are important to me, especially that of medicines. Biogen’s antibody aducanumab — marketed as the brand name Aduhelm — for Alzheimer’s disease should not have been approved in the first place.   

The approval process was torturous. Two large trials showed no convincing clinical benefit, that is, slowing patient’s cognitive decline. An independent advisory committee voted overwhelmingly against approval. Yet it was approved.   

This raises some unpleasant questions. Why was it approved and who benefits? Not the patients. A famous line comes to mind, “Just follow the money.” There is a reason why people are increasingly skeptical about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC; and what doctors say.  

It was initially priced at $56,000 per annum, a totally outrageous price. It was later cut back to $28,200 which is interesting in itself. If Biogen can make a profit on this price, how or why did they initially charge $56,000? To fleece patients because they could? Obviously, Biogen is still making a tidy profit at the lower price.  

The Medicare Part B premium was increased by $22 this year, of which $11 will be used to create a fund to pay for this drug. This is the first time one pricey drug has led to a premium increase for all Medicare recipients, not just affected patients.   

Why? Because Aduhelm is given as an intravenous infusion in the doctor’s office. This has to stop or every pharmaceutical company that develops antibodies as drugs — there are many and it’s increasing — will be tempted to take this route.   

I can almost visualize the ads on television. A well-dressed and well-groomed elderly person intoning in a rich baritone, “I can feel my memory improving after I started taking this. It makes me feel sharper and younger. It could do the same for you. Talk to your doctor.”  

Very seductive indeed. Naturally, seeing these ads, seniors will rush to their doctors to clamor for it. And that, precisely, is the goal. Biogen makes a lot of money. Benefit for the patients? Very questionable.  

And Medicare part B premiums will keep spiraling upward, $22 this year, then $50, maybe $150 the year after. Can retirees on a fixed income afford this increase, especially with inflation running rampant? And can Medicare keep up without raising taxes and/or cutting benefits?   

The recent Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, CMS, decision is to pay only for CMS approved clinical trials with Aduhelm until its efficacy is clearly established is therefore necessary. This plan is nicely explained in Bach and Garthwaite’s (June 17) opinion piece.   

Health care costs are bankrupting us. I am constantly amazed at the exhortations from our elected representatives to do something about it and then their inability to follow through. Maybe they cannot or probably will not.  

But we can do a few things. First, start by writing or calling our elected representatives about this problem. They know but they need to hear our frustration. There needs to be political action. And second, try and maintain a healthy life style through diet and exercise. This will lead to fewer doctor visits and fewer medicines to take. We will benefit on many fronts. Save money and enjoy a better quality of life.   

My Cheese Board

My Simple Holiday Cheese Platter with accompanying Wine and Beer.

Wine and cheese—a marriage made in heaven. I can vouchsafe for it. Over the Holidays I made a simple cheese platter that my guests loved. It made for a great center piece at the bar and elicited much lively discussion. Here is how I made it and selected the accompanying wine and beer. Try it yourself. Enjoy.

Continue reading