Sep 23, 2006

In defence of round tummies

Once upon a time, 1 ½ years ago to be precise, I had a waist that would put most Bollywood actresses to shame. People used to accuse me of being too thin, and called me “skeleton”.

Then, I joined SP and all fitness discipline vanished. No more early morning exercises, food full of fat (parathas with butter and chocolate doughnuts), no more ‘natural workouts’ in the form of travelling in Mumbai locals (second class), and soon, my waist resembled a pregnant Britney Spears (remember her proudly posing nude when pregnant!!!). Again, people started accusing me of becoming fatter by the day ("kozhupu romba jaastiya pochu” in Tamil), and called me ‘mote’. Damn people, they just need a chance to call me names.

Then, I started weighing the pros and cons of a flat six-pack vis-à-vis a round beer gut. (especially with ‘ultra-thin’ models being banned in fashion shows abroad recently). So, here goes the defence of big, fat, round tummies…

In defence of round tummies (bullet points mein – true MBA style)

Ø A round tummy is a sign of saying, “I have arrived!!!” Your tummy can be a style statement which proclaims, loud and clear, “I have attained mukti. I don’t fear death anymore. I don’t mind dying by a heart attack, unlike you mere mortals who count every calorie and work your @$$ out in gyms.”

Ø A round tummy also means that the owner of the tummy is one who enjoys life without guilt. He doesn’t think of his waist size while having a sinfully creamy chocolate cake, he’s more into admiring the waist of the gal sitting across the table (who, btw, looks longingly at the said cake, but thankfully decides against it. Poor thing, a gal with a round tummy still means only one thing – main aapke bacche ki maa bannewali hoon!!!)

Ø Your girlfriend can use your tummy as a nice pillow – imagine having to rest your head on a rock hard six-pack. How boring!!!

Ø Your kids would love to jump up and down on your tummy, and would love you for it. (“Papa, I want a balloon just like your tummy” or "Papa, let's play tummy jump"). Of course, it would be impossible for a guy with a flat tummy to entertain his kids this way.

Ø Once you start with a round tummy, you can grow fatter and people would hardly notice. For a guy with a waist size 28, every millimetre increase around the waist would have people saying, “Oh my God, you are growing fat, man. Watch your weight.” (and the poor guy ends up handing over his chocolate cake to the jolly fat friend sitting next to him).

Ø Think Fat, Think Jolly good times. Christmas in the West (Santa Claus), Ganpati in India… East or West, Fat means Festive Season. A round tummy is a sign of saying, “I have arrived!!!”

Not for nothing did the wise men say, “Aadmi ka pet, aur ghar ka gate… bade ho toh behtar hai”.

Three cheers (hic) to a jolly round beer gut!!!

Sep 20, 2006

Mutual Funds and Wealth Creation - I

My first week into my project… reading all about Mutual Funds… am attempting to put up my understanding of what I have read over one week… but, first a little background…

(My post is so long that I have to break it into 2 parts... read ahead at your own risk!!!)

History of Investing in India:

Earlier, people used to go to work, earn, save a small portion, put it in a bank account and forget about it. The stock market was shunned and people who invested in shares were looked down upon as shameless gamblers.

Then came Dhirubhai with his ‘Reli-able’ IPO and changed the face of the Indian stock markets. Suddenly, every TDH started dabbling a bit in shares. But, the stock market bug had not penetrated enough and people still viewed them as risky gambles, with stock broker tips acting as the basis for most investments. Analyzing stocks was not very popular.

Then, ‘Big Bull’ Harshad Mehta happened and stories of people becoming millionaires overnight hit the headlines. Alas, it turned into a scam that many people would rather forget, but would do well to remember lifelong, for it would repeat itself. It was momentous in the sense that SEBI came into operation soon, and troubled the lives of finance managers for ever.

Then, the Y2K season came, and IT stocks with nothing but eyeballs in their revenue account zoomed. HP no longer meant Hindustan Petroleum, but Hewlett-Packard. Sabeer Bhatia was the new role model, and Infosys guru Narayanmurthy was the ‘God who doled out Infy shares to employees and made his driver a millionaire’. Alas, the IT bubble also burst, and people lost their shirts and more. But, this IT zoom had led to a more than ever awareness of stock markets, and soon, my barber was giving me stock tips.

The era of assured double digit returns was now a pleasant dream, but long forgotten. A mirage in fact, for the senior citizens who feel they are too old to learn the tricks of the stock market, but are left with no other option. The collapse of US-64 of UTI was one of the symptoms, and the elderly soon realized that a post office is an extinct species today, as you don’t post letters anymore (e-mail ka zamaana jo hai!!!), nor do you park your money in the ever reliable Indra Vikas Patra…

In this scenario, where every person, young or old, has to invest some portion of his money in the stock markets to earn some decent returns, Mutual Funds emerged as the ‘knights in shining armour’ to save the day. They promised a lot, and have also delivered decent returns, although the debate continues whether a fund manager can consistently beat the market.

Mutual Funds and Wealth Creation - II

(Continued from Part-I)

Do Mutual Funds create wealth? Are they the ‘great saviours of the middle class’ as they are made out to be?

Let me try my hand at understanding a very interesting industry. This is going to be a longish post, and very boring…

Suppose I am an accountant. I have lots of friends – say doctor, engineer, lawyer, and banker and so on. All of us slog from morning to night, and earn something to keep our families from starving. Now, we work harder and manage to earn some more money. Since we don’t spend everything now, and dream of having a comfortable life when we retire, (and since our teacher taught us ‘the ant and the grasshopper’ story in our school) we decide to put some money away for the future.

We don’t want to lose our hard-earned money, and look for ‘safe’ avenues. We put money in Bank FDs, Post Office instruments like IVP/KVP, PPF and the like. We are assured of both, the return on and of our investments. What’s more, the Government even offers us some tax breaks on these investments. Life is good and we look forward to a peaceful life. The stock market is an alien concept to us.

Suddenly, a friendly canny businessman comes along and says, “Hey guys, I have this great idea. All of us save small amounts, and therefore can’t afford the big ticket investments individually. Let us all pool our money, and invest big time.” It sounds similar to the time that four of us friends went to a TV shop and bought 4 TVs at a time and thus, managed a decent discount, after some not-so-decent haggling.

So, the guy sponsors (sets up) a Mutual Fund and we give some of our money. He says he will appoint a professional Asset Management Company (AMC) to invest our money. To allay our fears, he says he will also appoint a board of ‘Trustees’, consisting of well known people who will make sure that our ‘interests’ are taken care of. He needs to sell his scheme to people all over the country and appoints ‘distributors’. He needs a place to keep his (our) shares and money, and therefore, appoints a ‘Custodian banker’. He promises us that we can take our money and quit whenever we feel he is not doing his work properly. So, he appoints a ‘Transfer Agent’ to help us buy and sell the units of our Mutual Fund.

Suddenly, the Government realizes that this guy who takes our money might be an evil fraudster and to protect us innocent people from his evil designs, it comes up with an evil more evil design – ‘The Regulator (SEBI)’. Now, SEBI is entrusted with the unenviable task of bringing some order into the stock market chaos. They respond with even more chaos. SEBI employs a hell lot of out-of-work lawyers, and comes out with tonnes and tonnes of paperwork, euphemistically called ‘regulations’ and ‘guidelines’.

One of their better ideas is to make every fund put a line in their ads: “Mutual Fund investments are subject to market risks.” (which is about as effective as the statutory warning on cigarette packs!!!). Now, our Mutual fund friend realizes that if he were to follow every letter of the ‘regulations’, he will never make any money, for himself or for us. So, he also appoints a battery of out-of-work lawyers and accountants like me, to help him fight the regulator.

He also needs to know which companies to invest in, and so brings along a team of ‘Equity analysts’ who do nothing but read up boring incomprehensible annual reports of companies and try to ‘value’ a company’s worth. That they get it wrong most of the time is explained away by saying that markets react irrationally, and so, unless they get it horrendously wrong, they get to keep their jobs (Equity researchers rank pari passu with Weather Forecasters, Crystal Ball Gazers, road side palmists, tarot card readers and worse of all, Economists). To complicate matters further, there are sell side analysts (whose bread and butter comes from selling their crap reports to gullible fund houses) and buy side analysts (bechare, they don’t even get to sell their beautifully bound well-decorated reports).

So, as you can see, Mutual funds are vehicles of wealth creation. They create enormous wealth for so many useless finance graduates (in the different roles mentioned above), either directly or indirectly. Whether they do add to your wealth over the years is something you have to find out by putting up some money into a fund. I’d recommend an open ended SIP from one of the top performing funds, though I must warn you: “Past Performance is not an indicator of future returns.”

Sep 17, 2006

Weekend Masti

Every weekend I promise myself so many things – I’ll start exercising, I’ll clean my room, I’ll re-arrange my desk and numerous other mundane activities that I don’t take time out for during ‘busy’ weekdays.

Every weekend, I promise myself that I’ll not while away my time in some useless activity, and do something which stimulates my creativity and helps me develop an all round personality.

I want to learn a new language, learn a new skill, learn something on the computer, read a good book, write letters to family, play chess (with a human opponent), go for a trek and admire Nature, and sooo many other things.

Every weekend…

I start my weekends with a good dinner with friends… which sets up the mood for the night and the next day…
I then religiously call up home and do some small talk… usually, the questions and the answers remain the same, and unless I have some specific news, I think I can practically record my answers on a tape and play it and they wouldn’t find it out :)
I check my long forgotten email ids for some useless spam, write crappy scraps in people’s orkut homepage, write more crap in my blog…
I then move on to a small computer game… Age of Empires, Cricket, Tennis etc. which takes about 2-3 hours and 'refreshes' me :)
Then, I watch a movie on my comp… which again takes anything from 2-3 hours depending on whether it is English or Hindi/Tamil…
At the end of all this, the time would be around 4.00 am and I decide that it is time to get some good sleep.

The next day I wake up at around 11.00-12.00, and do the usual morning activities. Lunch usually happens at 12.30 and then, the long wait for the ‘one and only’ Washing Machine in the Hostel to be free. More games on the comp, or another movie follows. An afternoon siesta which stretches to late evening, and the weekend is almost over. It is time to arrange some things for the next day college classes (or the on going autumns project, for now).

I promise myself that the next weekend, I’ll surely not waste time like this. I look around and see 99% of my batchmates doing the same routine, and the relative laziness makes me feel better.

Then, I remember the saying, “A day not wasted is a day wasted”, and I feel happy!!!

PS: This state of (in)activity has definitely made me an ‘all-round’ personality, particularly at the waist!!!

Sep 9, 2006

If your name begins with S...

I received another of those stupid forwards which claims to tell all about my personality from my name, birth date etc., At the risk of repeating myself, and boring people to death, I attempt one more commentary on the same.

If your name begins with the letter S: (original mail in red, my comments in usual font)

For you, it is pleasure before business.
Why do you do business? To earn money…
Why do you earn money? To be able to afford some pleasures in life…
So, by putting pleasure before business, am I not going to my destination without enduring the painful journey??? ;)

You can be romantically idealistic to a fault and is capable of much sensuality. But you never loose control of your emotions.
If I never loose my emotions, then I am a robot like humanoid. If so, how do I become romantic and sensual?

Once you make the commitment you stick like glue.
(Fevicol ka jhod… tootega nahi !!!)

You could get jealous and possessive.
(Jealousy arises from the fact that others have something that I don’t. Possessiveness is about keeping things with myself and not giving it to others. Is there a possible oxy‘moron’ here?)

You tend to be very selfish often regarding yourself as the only human being on the planet.
Well, if I am possessive, doesn’t it convey the fact that I am selfish? Why repeat a redundant point? As for the ‘only human being on the planet’ part, well, sometimes I do think so J

You are very caring, sensitive, private & sometimes very passive.
Oops, you just said I was selfish a minute back. Now, wither you are confused or I am. L

You like being the center of attention.
If I think I am the only human being on the planet, what else do you expect?

Turned on by soft lights, romantic thoughts.
Of course, I get turned on by soft lights. You don’t get turned on by a bright neon sign, do you? And, if I don’t get turned on by ‘romantic’ thoughts, what else do you expect me to get turned on by? Horror stories??

When it gets down to the nitty-gritty, you are an expert.
Nitty-gritty of what, my dear? Oops, I just proved your point!!!

You know all the little tricks of the trade, can play any role, or any game, and take your love life very seriously.
Well, I like this statement, and am not going to dispute this ;)

You don't fool around.
Of course, I don’t. Why do you think I am still reading your crap?

You have the patience to wait for the right person to come along.
Well, I have been waiting for 23 years now. I do hope she turns up!!!

You are very generous & giving, often selfless. You are kind nature & sweet, which is found to be attractive by many. You are a good friend.
Now wait a minute. This is the height of contradictions!!! A couple of lines back, I was this selfish guy who thought that he was the only guy on the planet. And suddenly, I have metamorphosed into this generous, selfless guy, kind nature, sweet and a good friend!!! Man, you guys are better than politicians at twisting your own messages. Hats off!!!

I luvvvv these forwards... they help keep me in good health by providing me wid my daily dose of laughter... Keep them comin!!!