Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daalara Daalara...

Well, the economy is in pits. Every bank is sitting on the edge, and in an unenviable position waiting to spiral downwards. The problem is, it seems to be happening with alarming ease. Yes, the economy is in doldrums, to say the least. Well, that means, the Indian rupee should be gaining on the dollar right. But, contrary to that, there seems to be a reverse effect. The rupee is weakening by the day, and having fallen in the bracket of an NRI (you can use whichever acronym to suit your needs - Non Returning Indian, as in Swades, or Non Reliable Indian (as in monsoon wedding) doesn't make a difference to me, for me it is Never Rewarded Indian), there is always that selfish glint in my eye to see the dollar strengthening.

So, the common perception among the folks is, Oh, don't keep anything in the bank. Send everything back to India. This is the best period for you to take advantage of the dollar exchange. After all, you never know how long it is going to last. The dollar might go down any day. With the American banks falling in line everyday, you might not get your money back.

Another of those common statements, Do one thing! Why don't you buy an independent house in Bangalore? This is the best time to buy a land or a house. Invest all your money on the site.

All good so far, but what I really don't understand is, how come the dollar tree never grows in my house. Send all the money back to India. It is difficult to explain to most of them that money in the bank is insured by FDIC up to 100,000$, and for me to reach that amount, even by the most optimistic estimates, would take me more than single digit years. Transfer all the money to India, huh? When is my next pay cheque? As for building a house in India, it requires more than the FDIC insured amount, and that means well more than a 100,000$. OK, you are actually talking to the wrong person!!!

I don't know whether a dollar is 45 rupees or 46 rupees, but I still spend the same 6$ to get a burrito bol from Chipotle or one of the local restaurants here. It doesn't really make a big difference as to whether the rupee has gone up by a few notches or not. Life is still dependent on the fortnightly cheques. But somehow there is one aspect of the dollar going up or down that leaves me with a terrible feeling. It is always such that, when you are taking a loan from India, the dollar is perched at the top. But when you have to return that money, you can be rest assured that the dollar would have fallen from the top. It would have hit the depths. There would be the usual cliches - surging Indian economy, falling inflation, NASDAQ is doing great, the SENSEX hitting never before heard values and what not. You are paying your loan back at the worst possible rate. You just sigh, because you have to return at least a few thousand dollars more to get back to ground zero. And then magically, somehow everything hits a spiral, including the rupee, and now certainly you start to think, "Rupee is at an all time low against the dollar. Looks like God definitely has some plans for me. I am sure that it is a matter of time before I take a loan!!!"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sh(t)ock brouhahahaha!

My friends can vouch for this, and will agree wholeheartedly. Well, I was never a person with a great amount of intelligence. Translate that to the financial world, and you can put a big cipher in front of my name. I find brilliant ways to land myself into all sorts of mess, and somehow, gasping for breath, would claw my way back, before realizing the futility of the whole exercise. At the end of the day, there should be lessons learned. If not, the mind keeps taunting you with, I told you! Why did you have to get into all this? It has happened in the past, it happens now, and I can tell you in no uncertain terms, I am just waiting for the future!

As soon as entered the corporate world, I was lured into the world of stock market. This certainly has to be the way to make money. What can a software engineer fresh from college earn anyway? There has to be other alternate ways of making money. So, trusting my financial "intelligence" that was embedded in me right from birth, I put my feet in the stock market. My father, who was well versed with the fluctuations of the stock market, warned me "Dei, vendaam da! Don't get involved in all these things. I have experienced all this; at first, it will be very exciting, only when you lose money will you realize that it is too late." As is often with me, this served as an extra motivation to prove him wrong. I laughed silently, "Well, time will tell who has made the right decision." Of course, I didn't tell him that. If it were today's times, I would have cried out "Why don't you support me like Yograj Singh (Yuvraj's father)? See, even though he does not perform well in cricket, you can never get his father to agree that Yuvraj needs to be out of the team." It is a different matter that Yograj, and not Yuvraj, needs counselling. But, those were the days, when I had to silently plan my course of action.

I studied the market for quite some time, and thought I could do no wrong. After all, how much do I have with me to invest, I thought. So, I started with an initial amount, and invested in some well to do companies. Like any buyer, I thought, this is the perfect time to buy. It took me time to realize that there are thousands of sellers, who at that moment are with the opposite notion This is the perfect time to sell. I could see a variety of emotions creep in me for the next few days, and I would eagerly monitor the value of the stock, hoping that the company really does well. Even the CEO of the company wouldn't care about how well his company stock is doing. See the time line of the change of thoughts:

This is certainly the good time to buy.

As soon as the value of the stock goes up by 0.00001% in the next few days,
Thank God, I have made the right decision in buying the stock at the right time. Maybe I should have bought more!

Well, after a few days,
Oh, why is it going down? Maybe it has something to do with the FDI, inflation and other things (I would have no idea what either of them means. Everybody is talking; and so should I). I am sure it is going to bounce back.

I think I better sell this now before I lose all my money.

The net transaction would have resulted in a steaming loss, and thanks to the transaction charges, the damage would be compounded further. But, in spite of all this, I would not breathe a word about my loss. Attitude!!! More than anything, I had to put on some face saving act.

So, last week, as I contemplated investing some money in the NASDAQ, the past came haunting me. As I read the news about the bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers, immediately, I could hear the phone ring. Maga, hoduskondodhe maga, bejaan duddu hoyitho...Bonds ella purchase maadidhdhe maga.....
(Man...I lost it...Had purchased a lot of bonds...)

I went back in time!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A "weightless" proposition

Right from time immemorial, read right from birth, I have never had it in me to give importance to fitness. I was never one of them to go around flexing muscles, by doing those pull ups and push ups, that added an aura of invincibility to your personality. Moreover, in India, I always thought it was difficult to devout time to such meaningless activities. Obviously, it is hard to imagine paying a few hundred bucks, going to the nearest gym, and spend about an hour or two in solitary confinement. That, for a person like me is totally unimaginable. Half the time was spent in travelling and the other half, chatting with friends and eating tonnes of junk food by the wayside. At one point, I felt I needed no physical activities, since I felt that spending time bowling and fielding cricket balls, more than served my purpose. Later did I realize that even in cricket, people like Ranatunga and Warne existed with disproportionate assets. In spite of all this, when somebody out of the blue recommended, I would quietly give an excuse, Oh, I cycle five hundred metres daily. So, no way in the world that I can become fat, I would say.

Many, many years later did I realize that all those wonderful samaritans did not ask me to go to the gym to cut down weight, but rather, most of them were getting numb seeing a thin creature walk on the roads, without any sense of understanding. That never meant, I was low on intakes. Never! Even if my mother, when not in her usual self, used to tell my friends, What is this, this fellow doesn't eat properly at all!!, my friends would yell out No aunty, don't worry at all, God only knows why he is like this; you just have no idea how much he eats. Well, that was because, these guys used to see me eat, eat and eat. Even though I used to go to college at eight in the morning, I used to spend the morning recess, afternoon break and the after college hour, eating. The time in between was spent in a trance.

As I continued with my zeal for eating anything and everything, I realized that I should do what I can on my part, and put on some weight. It was after all proper, that, atleast I shifted my center of gravity, from dead center to somewhere near the chest. This, after all, is not a bad thought on my part, isn't it? Immediately, I enrolled myself to the nearest gym. I had to do it at the moment, because such moments of realization are very less, and importantly, they never last long enough. As they always say, when you are in the zone, just go for it! So, as a part of the joining benefit, I was entrusted with a trainer to find out about the initial status of my (lack of)muscular weight. She, being a nice girl, did her level best to suppress her volcanic bursts of laughter that was slipping out from within her. After running through the various physical tests, I could see her sport a devilish grin on her face. Or maybe, the lack of weights was creating havoc in my mind. Or it could be that, she had found a one in a million test case as a perfect example of how not to be. She chalked out a perfect routine for me, and told me to meet her after a month.

So, every day, off I went after work to maintain a perfect schedule of what she advised me to do. I was an eager student wanting desperately to gain that extra ounce of weight, the extra ounce that could really make a difference! Some of my friends were baffled, wondering when I had become fitness savvy, and I was baffled to see them baffled! After all, I wanted to show some progress at the end of the month! So, finally, as my time approached to assess my fitness regime after a month, I was more than eager to find out as to whether my hidden mus-kels had surfaced miraculously. There I was, an enthusiastic student, and she was pleased with my daily schedule. After all, who goes to gym regularly, and that too, in such an energetic and enthusiastic way. Truly, I thought, she must be blessed to have such a student. Finally, she said, OK, let us see how much you weight now. Well, this was the moment I was waiting for. As I stood on the weighing machine, I felt that I should contribute whatever I can to aid gravity. I stood as though I had won the gold medal in Olympics. She played around with the scales, adjusted the lever to perfection, checked my previous entry and yelled in delight. There I was, as if standing in front of my manager, expecting a raise. This had to be the moment. Praveen, congratulations, you have not lost an ounce of weight. You weigh exactly the same as what you weighed a month ago. Looks like you have maintained an excellent diet. I wish somebody could have captured that moment!!!!