Things to Leave Behind : Namita Gokhale

The novelist, Namita Gokhale is from an illustrious family of Kumaon. Born in Lucknow in 1956, Gokhale was brought up by her irrepressible grandmother Shakuntala Pande—niece of freedom fighter Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant—and free-spirited aunts (Jayanti Pant and Hindi writer Shivani-Gaura Pant ), in an extended joint family in Nainital.

First time I read about these crazy ladies was in the book ‘Diddi‘ , the story of Shivani by her youngest daughter Ira Pande.  Shivani  is not well known among the English Speaking Indians ( Not necessarily English reading) as she wrote in an Indian language, Hindi. Though she was proficient in Gujarati, Bengali Urdu, English and Sanskrit, she chose to write in Hindi. It’s matriarchs all the way in the families of Pants, Pandes and Joshis of Kumaon. These ladies are all manifestations of Shakti and Kali rather than the docile Gauri.

The story “Things to leave Behind” centers around two strong ladies Tillotama aka Tilli and her daughter  Deoki alias Diana. What powerful personalities  they depict , particularly so when considering that the story is  set in the backdrop of Orthodox brahmin families in the middle of 19th century.

As a historical fiction, main events in history including the many natural disasters are interwoven with the story of Tilli. It was also the tumultuous period in history , when the first battle of Independence took place . Though the British were rulers , there were some who were born and raised in India and became more Indians than Indians, like Jim Corbett .

The author highlights the extreme levels the Kumaoni brahmins go to,  in their efforts to avoid pollution and for purification. There are  frequent references to the “written in stone ” rules for cooking and washing. Only a brahmin lady in a single un-stitched garment is allowed to enter a kitchen.  Chhyodha (a mixture of ganga jal- water from river Ganges and gaumiyam – cow urine) is kept at the entrance of the house , so that the men folk who have to interact with public could purify themselves before entering the house.

There are many foreigners in the story, that includes British and American evangelists / administrators and a  free spirited , effervescent American painter,  Dempster who develops an instant liking for Deoki.

The relation between Dempster and Deoki is described in such a  natural and poignant manner, that there is no hint of a sin which is a feature central to any Orthodox way of thinking.

All in all , the women of Kumaon, come out to be more liberal and natural in their thinking despite their sticking on to many of the centuries old traditions. On the contrary, the foreigners are firmly bound by the Victorian morals . They just  have an option of total acceptance or total rejection. No wonder, the Indians’ tolerance for ambiguity would make a westerner totally confused. They often dismiss it  as hypocrisy, which it may not be.

The central character Tilottama, educates herself after marriage. She even  learns English by reading Almora Annals a broadsheet newsletter published by the Cantonment Press.

She refuses to  be intimidated by the local customs nor the imported culture of the West. As a young girl, she adds new motifs to a traditional wedding Pichora . Where you had only spiritual symbols like swastik and Ohm, she adds books and pens indicating her love for books.

As a mother, when she finds that her son in law had converted to Christianity, she responds in her eccentric best . I quote from the book…

You are a christian , so is she , now. You see before you Deoki Diana….

In an impromptu and ragged ceremony, put together from her readings of Pandita Ramabai, Tilottama had taken a copy of the Holy Bible from her ever expanding library and thwacked Deoki on the head with it. ‘I now pronounce thee Deoki Diana,’ She had announced in a grave English voice ,’Rest in Peace!’    

The book has the  sights,sounds  and smells of Kumaon, Nepal  and the old Bombay all through, making it an interesting read.

Having read the book , I had to go  back to Diddi by Ira Pande which I had read long back and bought “Mountain Echoes” by Namita Pant that I had not come across before.

On reading all three one comes across the amazing overlap between real characters and fictional ones and often one finds that, to fall back on the much used cliche  ” Truth , indeed is stranger than fiction”. True liberals and true feminists indeed. True stories with some embellishments , are richer in emotional and intellectual appeal , and definitely more inspiring to negotiate  the day to day issues  in life.

Work – Life Balance

Alert:  Please Don’t take  me too seriously.. just asking ..

What is work-life balance ?

Are work and life mutually exclusive ? Do people stop living while working or is it that suddenly they get a life when they stop working ? If that be so , why work at all ? Is work only for paying the bills or is work mandatory for well being an individual? If it is mandatory for well being , why not call it life as well ?

What is me-time ? Does it mean the periods other than me-time are spent for someone else ? What if that someone else is dearer to you than yourself? Does a mother or for that matter father, spending time for his child come under me-time or child-time ? and of course the next question would be “which is the better spent time ?”

When a person is more at home at work place than he or she is at home , where does she/he have a ‘life ‘ ? at work place or at home ?

Maintaining relationships can be very stressful many a time ; why not bring it under ‘work’ ?

Can life be at work-place and work be at home ?

Why else, people have stuff like working lunch at nice restaurants and conferences at holiday resorts ?

A philosopher would say ‘What is office but escape from home and what is home but escape from office ?’

May be all mandatory activities, irrespective of whether it is at work-place, home or elsewhere  could simply be categorized as life draining activities and life rejuvenating activities , say LDA and LRA and they could be set to a desired ratio to balance ?!

Or would it be better to say  ‘ battery draining’ ,’battery neutral’ and ‘battery charging ‘ ? Writing such thing is battery charging for me ,hope it is so for reading also.

 

Desi Samasya Desi Ilaaz

These days there are many Indic words in many languages , which have acquired a derogatory meaning . When you want to say Bhakt, you need to say ‘devotee’ lest you’ll be misunderstood. So have words like sanskari, behanji come to mean something else other than their original meaning. The word desi itself has come to mean something or someone obsolete or culturally retarded.

Desi food, desi attire, desi bhasha , desi anything is taboo. In Chennai, though people still have rice with lemon or tomato mix ,they would rather call it lemon rice or tomato rice rather than “thakkali saadam” or “elumichai Soru” , even while talking in Tamil.

Talking in an Indian language  or the ability to read or write in an Indian language is simply not cool. Today, there are so many children growing up in India without ever  learning a single Indian language in school !!.

In short, anything desi is  considered shameful.

Fortunately, we have seen many great , desi human beings like Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda , Subramania Bharati, Shri Aurobindo , to name a few. One truly awesome, desi human being in recent times was Dr Abdul Kalam. He could be a great scientist without his scientific temper coming in the way of his spiritualism, could be the President of India without losing the common touch and above all ,his continuing to teach young people did not come in the way of his own learning. He was learning to play  endaro mahnu bhavaulu    as he told MS Subbulakshmi , another great desi human being,  during the function when she was being honoured with Bharat Ratna Award.

Once he was asked by a foreign reporter as to  what was the core competence of India. He replied ” our core competence is dealing with our millions . No other country has or needs such expertise”

Whatever has to be implemented in India has to be for a billion plus population.  Be it housing, power supply, water supply, employment , education, health care , conduct of elections; whatever be the issue, it takes on a different connotation when it has to be done for a billion people.

So desi samasya need desi solutions. Against this backdrop, does it make any sense to go for a downtown and suburbs model as in US? Does it make any sense to have a network of freeways and a huge number of automobiles zipping through in the peak hours, burning gallons of fossil fuel and polluting the air, beyond redemption?  If we have to go by the US model we would have about a billion cars on our roads; forget about plying the cars, there would be no place to park.

Is it a rocket science to deduce that we need more of public transport and people staying closer to their workplace, meaning more number of smaller cities than a few unmanageable cities like Mumbai or Delhi ? Till 2002, Delhi did not have any mass public transport ? Many of our cities still do not have.

We cannot ban private vehicles, but they can be taxed heavily for use of roads and parking space to encourage use of public transport.

Whatever solutions or models we go far we need to think of 100,00,00,000. Or else we are just creating islands of California in a sea of sub sahara as Dr Amatya Sen put it.

I remember reading  an article by Sunaitra Chaudhry where she brings out the reactions on a certain issue as seen by the ‘ have nots’. As it is fashionable these days, she turns to her maids, driver, mali, nanny, malishwalah etc for feedback. By the time i read through the article , I had counted nine people serving some member of her family in some way.

Today we see our development model in NCR  as  a number of gated colonies surrounded by slums occupied by economic refugees from UP, Bengal or Bangladesh.

Can we sustain this model without the socio-economic stress, building up over time.

Another thing people seem to forget is that India lies in the tropical zone.

These days one sees a lot of buildings in the cities with huge glass fronts. A tropical country like ours should have buildings with less glass to keep it cool. If air-conditioning is the solution we go far, then one has to think of a billion air conditioners and of course the power required to run them at the same time . I can’t even imagine the effect on environment of running a billion air conditioners and a billion automobiles at the same time.

I have never understood the idea of breeding Alsatians or Dobermans in a tropical country like ours.  Particularly in summers these pets go through enough cruelty  for  PETA to wake up. But somehow these ‘dog lovers’ look to servant boys to walk their dogs, in the process littering the walk-ways with dog poop and then they depend on air-conditioners to keep them in their native (European) temperature.

The local breeds are hardier and more intelligent than these ‘phoren’ dogs, yet they are reduced to unwanted, stray animals .

Why don’t people grow jasmine bushes or parijata instead of fragrance less flowers like pansies and phlox.  Even the Indian variety of creeper roses are hard to find these days in India.

About our attire, the less said, the better it is. It is moronic to see people going about in coats and ties even in palces like Chennai, and nursery school kids wearing ties is abominable.

It is so nice to see amaltas and gulmohur in bloom. Along with these, what we need is more shady trees like peepal, tamrind and neem.  How have we come to  the state where poplars, silver oak and eucalyptus are dominating our landscapes ??? These trees, bring down the water table  , clog the drains, give no shade and snap like match sticks during monsoons!

Having done away with most native species of flora and fauna, having relegated desi languages to servant-talk, having set aside desi food and clothing for  ethnic days in the office and festival days at home,  we march on triumphantly towards being total copycats of the west.

What comes to my mind is Goerge Orwell’s concluding lines from the animal farm.

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which

The Revenge of the Non-Vegetarian : Book Review

One of the greatest advantages of residing in Mhow is having three good  libraries within a radius of two Kms. The icing on the cake is that all these libraries face an identical problem during this part of the year; how to expend the budgetary allotment for purchase of new books before the end of the financial year !

As one approaches the new arrivals corner of the library , there’s the distinct ambiance of a posh books store . Picked up the latest novel of Upamanyu Chatterjee “The Revenge of the Non-Vegetarian ” and not disappointed at all.

The setting is similar to ‘English August’ and ‘The Mammaries of a Welfare State’. A young anglophile bureaucrat in a rural district moving about as a detached observer looking on everything minutely at times incredulously yet not being judgmental.   He just goes about doing his sarkari stuff like  a true karma yogi.

The title is rather misleading. In the polarized world we inhabit today, mental auto-fill would complete the title to “revenge of the non-vegetarian ….against vegetarians” ; and nothing could be far from truth. If anything , it is the revenge of a forced vegetarian against well to do, practicing non vegetarians. After all , in India most non vegetarians are forced into vegetarianism not by religion or politics but sheer economics.

The plot revolves around a crime in a fictional province of India ,Narmada Pradesh, in India easily identifiable as Madhya Pradesh with some characteristics of Bihar and Bengal thrown in. A servant bludgeons to death the entire family of his employer for some beef stew and some grudge against not being fed properly .

The rest of the story is about the predictable but long meandrous course that the justice system is India takes. The crime is committed in 1949 and there is some kind of conclusion in 1973.  For some reason the protagonist , a passionate lover of all kinds of meat, vows to turn vegetarian till the culprit is hanged.

As it happens, it is not just the lawyers, but every criminal is well aware of the loopholes in the justice system in India. An accused can keep prolonging the trial and conviction.  Even after conviction and sentence, there is a whole series of hurdles before the sentence becomes final. For someone sentenced to death, there are special provisions for appeals and confirmations ; the whole process goes on for years till the final relief comes through mercy petitions to the President of India. For the record, there are over 350 prisoners on death row and only four were hanged in the past 15 years. A passing thought on the present status of persons convicted in the horrendous  Delhi rape case of 2012, prompted me to google; to find that the law is still on its course to justice. The juvenile culprit, who is now no more a juvenile, even by the dubious records of Indian Census  has already walked free.

Coming back to Upamanyu Chatterjee’s novel, the narrative is almost in  slow motion, gently moving on from one scene to another, with hardly any twists or turns. Yet the book is “un-putdownable “. It is like a series of haiku poems just describing the scenes in detail and leaving the actions and dialogues  to the imagination of the readers.

There is plenty of black humour as always, in this case the gallows humour is not just figurative but literal.  He talks of the ‘never say die attitude ‘ of a death row convict fighting through the legal system to stay alive.

 

It is published by Speaking Tiger publications and the hard bound edition costs
₹ 350/-. Oh, I love libraries !

A Painting in the Library of MCTE, Mhow.

The Big Fat Indian Wedding

Big Fat Indian Weddings.

 

The cliche Big Fat Indian Wedding is somewhat misleading.  India is too diverse a country to be slotted into one word or phrase. Every region , sub region has it’s own way of conducting their weddings. If you had some people spending in crores  for just the wedding outfits for the bride and groom, there are others who  go through the rituals  in plain cotton dhotis and saris dyed yellow in  haldi.

Thanks to Films and TV serials, there is a kind of convergence defying time and space .

There was a time when the entire village became one huge pandal or mandapam ; food was cooked on industry scale for over a week, though the formal functions were spread over ‘only’ four days.  The mud-ovens in the houses were physically destroyed  so that everyone was forced to depend on the community kitchen.

As people moved to the cities, the  leisurely four day affair  got telescoped into one day .

Now the trend shows a switch to a three days revelry. The only difference is that religious rituals take a back seat while  fun events like  sangeet and mehndi to accompaniment of DJ Music and choreographed dance sequences hog the time. Nowhere is it as pronounced as in a Sikh wedding where the actual wedding ceremony is reduced to about half an hour. Why cut into fun time ? Why not have more time for  daru and chicken, music and dance, bhangra and giddha fused with bollywood beats.  Even the sedate southies are readily taking to Karan Johar and Ekta kapoor type boisterous , colorful  functions.

Recently , I attended a wedding. Baraat with the groom on horseback is always the central point ; the famous Band, Baja ,Baraat.  When the bride and groom are from different regions , the ubiquitous  pagris become even more colurful.  The tall Rajput pagris  can be seen along with the flat Puneri (from Pune) pagris.

The Bride and the Groom go through the rituals ,conducted by the pandits while the rest go about the business of eating, drinking and socializing till they are called to shower their blessings on the young couple followed by group photographs. In short , all have fun except may be the the main characters as  in most communities the bride and groom are on some kind of fast till the rituals are over .

Screaming kids can appear anywhere at anytime , with are without their video-games on  smart phones.

So today , what is it that defines a typical Indian wedding ?  May be it is the riot of colours, loud music, be it the traditional Dhol or the modern DJ (often it is the fusion of both), plenty of food and all kinds of drinks, lots of dance and some religion for the Wedding Album !

 

Tips and Tricks

When I say, I trade in equities , the first question I face is “where do you get tips from ” . Or it could be “give some tips , na” . No tips, No trading; so it sounds.

Tips can mean anything . Peter Lynch says in his book; When two fund managers run into each other, may be in an office corridor, the first conversation after hello would be “hey, what are you looking at ” and the response could be “there’s something happening at General Motors ” or “may be a buy back offer at abc company…..” . That’s what fund mangers do; keep tabs on the businesses”. Tips could also mean precise directions to trade; buy ABC at 683 for 5 months period; target 790 and stop loss 627.

It is the latter connotation one is more familiar with . Everyone wants someone else to hook the fish so that you can pose with catch proudly.

Good Tips, Good Catch. Easy does it

I just fail to understand how such tips can work in practice. Even if seven out of ten such trades work, anyone can become a millionaire just by following these directions, precisely. There would be minor losses and major gains as the losses incurred would be just 20-30 % of the gains accrued when the target is hit.

But does it really happen ? Obviously not. Even paid advisory services , which are dime a dozen do not have the kind of hit : miss ratio that can keep you in the positive zone, leave alone make you a millionaire.

Ironically , when people find  that the system does not work, they hardly blame the method , but just attribute the losses to  bad tips or poor implementation. So, the chase for the holy grail called ‘Good Tips’ resumes.

There are people who swear by fundamental analysis and there are others who take technical analysis as Gospel Truth . The Fundamental Analysts go through earnings, past present and future, the book value , and whole host of ratios to come out with one number that would be the price target in next 12 months. As a rule the targets given by the analysts vary from -20% to + 20% with all kinds of recommendations , buy, hold or sell. Here’s one after the recent Q2 results

As for technical analysts , they pour over charts and a dozen indicators and prophesy the future course of the price movements. Here, the variance is even more pronounced. On the TV Channels, if there are three technical analysts , there are six opinions. Why six ? After all each sentence is followed by , “if this, then that ” and “having said that ….” Most of the time the second part of the opinion totally negates the first part.

This is the research based on which TV Channels provide precise directions down to a rupee for buy price and target price. Some channels make it more interesting by going for fancy formats like 20-20 after the 20-20 Cricket.

I can almost hear the cry “ek ka do, ek ka do” in their enthusiasm to provide foolproof tips.

In reality about 50% of the tips would be productive, which is also the probability of flipping a coin and calling  right .

So, the question is do traders need tips at all . One can easily find 10-20 tradable stocks from any of the web sites on stocks. They give real time inputs on prevailing trends. Here’s an example

Real Trends as on 17 Jan 2019.

Assuming that people need the name of a stock to start with and all are not net savvy, (Though all are TV Savvy) we come to the next question; how to use these tips. Some follow it to the letter; there are others who partially follow. Then there is another class of people who take a totally contrarian call on the view that the entire herd would go in the direction of the tips while they could runaway with the booty by taking the opposite direction!

Be that as it may, in my view, most tips are only as useful as a coin unless it is insider information which is illegal anyway.

So, what’s the way out ? There are many methods to make money in the market and probably even more ways to lose money . As I see, one has to find a way that works for himself or herself. A lot depends upon the time available, money available, risk appetite , loss aversion, mental discipline, ability to focus and the state of one’s nerves. Of course some principles may be applied almost universally.

Some principles that I can think of :-

  1. Fundamental Analysts tell you what to buy and Technical Analysts tell you when to buy.
  2. Technical analysts’ recommendations work only for short term trades and fundamental analysis would need to be done every quarter or on occurrence of fresh inputs on the business .
  3. It is better to book a small loss when the trade does not go your way, rather than wait for the loss to go bigger by which time one becomes even more reluctant to book a loss. Will power does not work in the face of bad business or bad sentiments. Yes,  sentiments are as important as the business.
  4. Averaging is bad . I am surprised by many experts on TV Channels advising traders to average. Your holding a particular stock should not influence your buying decisions. If you would buy a stock irrespective of whether you are holding it or not, then sure go ahead and buy. Averaging to mean, buying more of the same stock, is no method to reduce the loss you have already incurred . The loss can be recovered through any other trade. Of course, if you are not sure of the right price for a stock, you can buy it in small lots to average. The risk and reward , both are reduced.
  5. Never ever convert your short term trade to long term one or vice versa, just because the trade is not going your way in the originally intended period. For long term or short term, the type of stock and size of positions would vary a lot.
  6. Money management is often overlooked. Trading is a risky activity and only solid money management can cover the huge risks inherent to trading. As I view, one needs Solid Blue chips stocks to provide stability to a portfolio, then mid and small caps to provide growth and liquid cash to exploit the opportunities and to mitigate losses in case of a crash. For example a conservative trader could have 60% in blue chips 20% in mid caps and remaining 20% in cash at any given time.
  7. Mental Discipline would be the single most important factor that separates successful traders from the not so successful. Good traders book their losses when they go wrong and let the profits run when they are right. Amateur traders who are too reluctant to book losses and too eager to take home the profits end up doing exactly the opposite. They let the losses run and cut short the profits.

Different Drums

 

Dr M Scott Peck has many bestsellers beginning with “The Road Less Traveled” and two others with similar titles. “Beyond Road Less Traveled’ and ‘Further Along Road Less Traveled’. For a full list of his books see here.

an earlier post on a book by Dr Peck . here

His books traverses though fields far beyond psychiatry and goes deep into mysticism and philosophy. He has also done some pioneering work in Community Building. His ideas and experiences in this field are covered in his “Different Drums”.

Dr Peck says, It is community building that would save the world. The world today is getting more and more pluralistic and differences are getting sharper by day, there is an effort to make people think and behave in a uniform manner. This is not going to work. The idea is to accept the differences and may be even celebrate them. This is not something new in India, but where we go wrong is in being very selective about accepting the differences or weird behaviour. A naga sadhu is considered too weird, which he is, while whole communities taking over a public road to pray, which is as weird , is not considered so. Probably, the only criteria to accept weirdness should be “does this behaviour threaten or inconvenience other citizens ?” If so , it cannot be accepted .

The approach to community building is designed to work for the smallest community, ie a nuclear family and also the largest community that we know today, the global community.

As long as one doesn’t threaten or inconvenience others, all ideas, clothing ,or lack of it, behaviour and life style should be perfectly okay.

The book is organized into seventeen chapters in three parts. The first part talks of characteristics of a community and problems in community building. The second part is aptly The ‘bridge’. It dwells on the human nature on dealing with situations. and Part III suggests solutions. In a book of this nature, it is better to go directly into the source before trying to explain.

Here are some excerpts from the book. These excerpts are from my highlights while reading the book. These are given as block quotes , while my own annotations are in red italics.

……..Secure though it was, my home was not a place where it was safe for me to be anxious, afraid, depressed, or dependent— to be myself……

At some place the author claims , the entire aim of evolution of an individual is to be himself or herself.

 

As it happens a child is exactly that. That is one reason Indian Philosophers have suggested “be child like”

Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 61

Community is and must be inclusive. The great enemy of community is exclusivity. Groups that exclude others because they are poor or doubters or divorced or sinners or of some different race or nationality are not communities; they are cliques— actually defensive bastions against community.

Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 61 There was no pressure to conform.

Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 62 Our individualism must be counterbalanced by commitment.

Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 65 Begin to appreciate each others’ gifts, and you begin to appreciate your own limitations.

Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 65 : a group of people do these things— as they become a community— they become more and more humble, not only as individuals but also as a group— and hence more realistic. From which kind of group would you expect a wise, realistic decision: an arrogant one, or a humble one?

 Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 67 : Once a group has achieved community, the single most common thing members express is: “I feel safe here.”

 Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 67 : everyone enters a new group situation with his or her guard up.

Chapter III gives the characteristics of a community; inclusive, non-judgmental and non threatening. The corollary is that once you feel you ‘belong’, the guard is down.

Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 68
health and wholeness and holiness. (All three words are derived from the same root.)
 Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 68
When we are safe, there is a natural tendency for us to heal and convert ourselves.
Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 68
So they focus not so much on healing as on making their relationship a safe place where the patient is likely to heal himself.
 Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 68
are free to discard defenses, masks, disguises; free to seek your own psychological and spiritual health; free to become your whole and holy self. A LABORATORY FOR PERSONAL DISARMAMENT

In a community as visualized in this book, there is absolutely no effort to heal or convert. Normally when we are tolerant and sympathetic to someone having different views, there is an underlying assumption that the other person is sick and needs to be healed.

Dr Peck lays great importance to vulnerability. A child does not hide its vulnerability to her mother, though among playmates there may be an air of arrogance or bravado. Dr Peck goes to the extent of suggesting that for two nations to reconcile their differences they need to expose their weakness rather than arm themselves literally and figuratively. I am sure when people or close enough to one another they are not really looking to project their best appearance or behaviour. That is when one really feels at home, irrespective of the place be it an office, restaurant or a Temple. Today, one may include a social media group also. Are you part of the group to sermonize or seek information or just to be yourself and enjoy the warmth of the real community on a virtual platform.

Chapter III: The True Meaning of Community > Page 74
even the agnostic and atheist members will generally report a community- building workshop as a spiritual experience.

One area where there are profound differences is Religious beliefs. Replacing religious ‘isms’ spiritualism helps. Though many people don’t believe in spirit either , most people have experienced ‘out of the world’ feelings for which they are at loss to give a label.

Chapter IV: The Genesis of Community > Page 79
But I am reminded of the Chinese word for crisis, which consists of two characters: one represents “danger” and the other “hidden opportunity.

Interesting take on the word “crisis’

The author warns of pseudo community where everyone is polite to each other but the warmth would be missing. In a true community , there would be differences, there would be conflicts, every member may be becoming more and more of himself or herself, yet there would be not tolerance but acceptance of the individuality of others. There would be no conformity to generally accepted ideas , yet the conflicts would cease to be.

It is tempting to go into the complete book, which besides being a boring sermon may impinge on the Intellectual Property rights. I have uploaded my notes on the book in pdf form on my website , more for my reference than to be part of this post. I wind up with one final excerpt from Chapter IX. Dr Peck has categorized the evolution of individuals into four stages, based on his own experience.

Chapter IX: Patterns of Transformation > Page 188
Again it didn’t compute— until I realized that we are not all in the same place spiritually. With that realization came another: there is a pattern of progression through identifiable stages in human spiritual life. I myself have passed through them in my own spiritual journey. But here I will talk about those stages only in general, for individuals are unique and do not always fit neatly into any psychological or spiritual pigeonhole. With that caveat, let me list my own understanding of these stages and the names I have chosen to give them: STAGE I: Chaotic, antisocial STAGE II: Formal, institutional STAGE III: Skeptic, individual STAGE IV: Mystic, communal

 

Stage I is “who says”. There is disorder. One questions everything, every rule, every tradition or convention.

 

Stage II One is reconciled to following some rules imposed by an institution; may be a family, religious order, army . There is a need here for rigid beliefs to sustain the accepted behaviour.

 

Stage III One becomes skeptical about religion, and rules imposed by institutions, but acceptable behaviour holds.

 

Stage IV It is all mysticism and communal .Incidentally, ‘communal’ is not at all a bad word in this book. One is comfortable with God, religion, yours and others. One willingly works for the community without any induced incentives or threats.

Just as with any views, one may or may not agree with Dr Peck. But reaching the Stage IV for individuals as defined by the author appears to be a desirable goal. If nations follow this approach to community buiding, there would be no Wars of yesteryears or conflicts as they call it today.

Thathastu.

Trading times : Motive for Trading

contd from http://sibha.online/wprandom/2019/01/03/trading-time/

As we have seen , people call themselves, long term investors, short term investors, intra-day traders, swing traders, position traders , momentum traders and what ever, depending on the positions they have on different stocks.

Except in a secular bull market, many of us are in the Red. There are people switching from quick losses to slow motion losses  (read short term term investing to long term investing ) and vice versa. Whatever be , hardly anyone calls himself an ‘universal donor’ kind of trader , though that could  be exactly what he achieves. It is  a kind of public service to provide liquidity to the market, unfortunately it is all done inadvertently and they get absolutely no credit for this Yeoman service. There are people who continue to keep trading in this mode. So, what is the motive ? Is ‘money making’ the only motive to be in the market ?

As I see there could be many other motives to deal in stocks quite unrelated to making money. Some that I can think of:-

Peer pressure . It is so cool to talk about stock market , particularly among men. Ladies are catching up fast in everything from cuss words and  drinking to gambling ! 

Intellectual Stimulus. Trading is very challenging. There is so much to understand , so much to conquer. Fundamental Analysis is full of ratios  to study and  numbers to digest and Technical analysis is a world of charts hiding in a few lines on the charts, the entire gamut of human emotions Fear and Greed. It is a fascinating world telling a different story every day, every hour. Some people just try to predict the markets ,just for the thrill of “I told you so” feeling. Just as hill folks love to predict weather , analysts love to predict the market moves.

Snob value . Surprisingly , the ability to lose big money has as much snob value as the ability to spend money. I lost a lakh today has more snob value than to say I made 500 bucks today.

Gambler’s thrill . When you risk something big and you are waiting for the outcome , there is that adrenaline rush which is so addictive. Stock market is some place where you can get the thrill by putting away just that amount you need to get that kick; too less makes it all too pedestrian and too much can destroy your Capital. 

One can think of many other motives. Once I heard a fellow officer saying with a rather dreamy look, “can’t wait to quit ….. post retirement, this is all I am going to do…” When asked , if it would be online, he was shocked.

“Why would I do that ? Look, a man can’t sit at home all day, running errands for the lady. The idea is to go to a brokerage , a trading place, join a gang of punters , talk crap, eat and drink junk food and just enjoy the bonding and go back home in the evening fully  refreshed.”

Those days, the trading stations were mostly ‘men only’ place .

As for me, I am more fascinated by the tools of the trade rather than the trade itself. The kind of software and database you have today is absolutely phenomenal. When you sit at a terminal, you have minute to minute data on your screen, even while you are listening to some great songs on you-tube and chatting with friends on social media. Once in a while I have a game of chess going on in one tab. At the end of the day , it is +1000 or -500, who cares ? It all evens out and the day is well spent and mostly pays for itself.  Mutual Funds and a few steady stocks along with some debt instruments beat the inflation comfortably.

Next is … Tips and Tricks !  

Trading Time

courtesy cartoonaday.com

Time is a commodity available in plenty, post retirement. So, one looks for time-consuming activities rather than time saving gadgets or tricks.

Trading in stock , is indeed a time consuming activity. Starting from the time spent on learning about fundamental analysis and technical analysis , one needs to be always aware of the ever-changing macro and micro issues . Ashwini Gujral , a market guru calls trading a dance on moving dance floor. May be a guru can just let the floor do the dance for him, but others have to be constantly moving to keep from falling on their faces.

Trading in stock , is indeed a time consuming activity.

If that be so, how is it that you find so many people with busy schedules professing to be traders and that too successful ones? (Yours truly included in this group till a couple of years back; only now I realize what I had been doing)

I have always been calling myself a long term investor particularly after reading some great investor/authors like Warren Buffet,  Peter Lynch etc; it does not matter that this long term investor is yet to see a multi-bagger. In bullish times, when you are sitting on a profit of 50-60 % it is simply too tempting to book profits and thump your chest. The lurking fear is also present that a sudden crash could come anytime and wash away all profits in jiffy. Of course when you are sitting on loss , however small, for years together , it helps to remember the wisdom of Warren Buffet & Co and counsel yourself that long term investors are not easily deterred by short term losses on the book; it doesn’t matter that the short term may extend beyond five years.

All stock market ‘investors’ , including Warren Buffet  claim that they  were not speculators but investors in a business. Nothing can be far from truth. They are really not investors at all. Everyone in the stock market is a sheer speculator.  When TCS came out with a public offer to sell a share of face value Rs 1/- at a premium of Rs 899/- , we  investors bought it at such a huge premium hoping that the premium would rise much further in future. Noone bought it for the dividend of Rs 5 /- and Rs 10/- that the company gave every year.  So it is all about speculation on capital appreciation rather than for returns through dividends, which alone an investor should be looking for. It is a different matter that the capital appreciation could be dependent on the quality of business; wealth creation is through speculation as to how the market appreciates or discounts a business. very good businesses have given luke warm returns while ordinary companies have given great returns. 

Everyone in the stock market is a sheer speculator.  When TCS came out with a public offer to sell a share of face value Rs 1/- at a premium of Rs 899/- , we  investors bought it at such a huge premium hoping that the premium would rise much further in future. No one bought it for the dividend of Rs 5 /- and Rs 10/- that the company gave every year. 

The only time I was an investor was when I put some money in a cousin’s start up. Rs 5000/ in the eighties was large sum. For three years the company gave 20% dividend ie Rs 1000/ per year. The company was not listed in any exchange , so you could sell it to or buy it from only the company . For next 2-3 years there was reduced dividend pay out and one fine day the company folded up.

Fortunately, this long term investor had a short term requirement  for money and could sell the share back to the company without any buy back offer. No one who ever held the share saw any capital appreciation or depreciation till the day it just became zero.

Coming back to the world of traders /investors, in my opinion there is only one category Speculators. They may be divided into long term speculators or short term speculators. So wherever I use the word trader it could be read as a speculator.

An average trader buys a stock based on ‘tips’ from colleagues, friends, TV Channels and well just about any source. Many a time it is just a group of letters like ONGC rather than a company with real people and real operations. The normal question is “will it move up, when , how much “etc .Once the stock is bought then you watch the tickers everywhere; on TV and  mobile phone. The day you see green , the chest fills out and any red streak on the ticker prompts one to seek assurance from experts, in order to continue being long term investors. Who wants to book losses ? Losses are left unrealized and they keep growing . How else would you hear such queries on business channels, “bought xyz stock at 1020 three years back; should I continue holding it; I am a long term investor”. The stock would be trading around 250/-.

It is always the intellectual honesty that becomes the first casualty . It doesn’t matter what you tell others, but it certainly matters what you tell yourself.

It goes like this .

When booking profits, however smalllet me book the profits now; At least I am getting something ;have been holding on for over a month; after all you can’t keep holding on to it for ever ;It might take a nose-dive again to below my purchase price. I am a position trader

When holding on to a stock at a huge lossI am a long term trader and I’ll not sell at a loss

When booking a higher loss on the same stockyou know I need money to buy ABC stock which is sure to go up”

Then you can call yourself, day trader, swing trader, position trader and what have you , to justify the fear , greed, insecurity, need to brag,need to cry and loss aversion.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the very process of trading becomes so random that it becomes difficult to keep track of the profit and loss. Human mind is so smart, the profits remain on the surface while the losses are buried deep into sub-conscious mind ,as Freud calls it. 

Today, you have all kinds of reports generated by the web interface of your brokerage company . It is not just the overall profit and loss for the year, but the exact XIRR for each trade done. 

So, as I see it, the first requirement of successful trading is , absolute intellectual honesty to understand where you stand.

——will continue..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mutual Funds in India – SIP (Systematic Investment Plan)

Human Mind is hardwired to lose money in Stock markets. There is a perpetual oscillation between greed and fear, that influences any buy/sell/hold decisions. (hold is also a decision , remember our late PM PV Narasimha Rao) I have attempted an illustration of the human mind while dealing with stocks. (pic 1)

Human Mind is hardwired to lose money in Stock markets.

If one is to succeed there is a need to detach human mind from our buy / sell decisions.

Another example of how an automated system is better suited to certain situations

You come back home tired , late at night and ask your Mom to wake you up early for an important meeting . Then you find in the morning you are late, having overslept. You ask your mom and she says sweetly, “you were sleeping so soundly that I didn’t have the heart to wake you up” … Ok , it would have been a different matter had you asked your wife. She would have taken it as a great opportunity to pour a bucket of cold water on your head ! Under the circumstances an alarm clock , set to multiple rings , would have solved the purpose wonderfully, sans emotions.

So we come to SIP or Systematic Investment Plan .

Many of us would have come across tables to illustrate how investing through a Systematic Investment plan is superior to investing a lump sum.

Two options are compared through the table; lump sum investment of Rs 12,000 at the beginning of a 12 month period and monthly investment of Rs 1000/- for 12 months. The SIP route has resulted in getting an addition unit of MF for the same cost price even though the amount invested is in installments.  You get more units when the market is down and less units when the market is up. It is also called Rupee Cost averaging.

A point to note is that this is not always the case.  In a bear market, SIP is more efficient and in a bull market SIP may actually result in getting less number of units. Ideally one should invest in a lump sum when the market has bottomed out. But the catch is that Nobody knows when the market has bottoms out. In 2008, No one knew , that the market was at its peak and in 2009 No one knew that it had bottomed out. If an investor had got out of the market in Jan 2008 and re-entered anytime between Oct 2008 and Mar 2009, he would be sitting on a huge fortune today. But that is hindsight. In reality most people sold out in mid 2008 at a loss after waiting for a reversal and were scared to re-enter till 2012 when the market was already up. Some are still keeping away and are just coming back in trickles in 2017-18 .

If an investor had got out of the market in Jan 2008 and re-entered anytime between Oct 2008 and Mar 2009, he would be sitting on a huge fortune today. But that is hindsight. In reality most people sold out in mid 2008 at a loss after a long painful wait for a reversal and were scared to re-enter till 2012 when the market was already up. Some are still keeping away and are just coming back in trickles in 2017-18 .

It’s like riding a roller-coaster ride blind-folded; you can’t brace yourself for the ups and downs.  For a deeper understanding  click here

More important than the arithmetic, it is the detachment of human mind that makes SIP great. When I first started regular investments in MF, it was during the bull run post 2004 elections. Then in 2006, there was a slump and every stock, every Mutual Fund started heading south. I had a tech heavy portfolio and these stocks lost wealth faster as dollar was depreciating against rupee. My first action was to redeem my MFs. Why should I actually pay someone to lose my money ?

More important than the arithmetic, it is the detachment of human mind that makes SIP great.

On hindsight , I had made two big mistakes. Firstly, I had compared the MF performance in absolute terms and not with its benchmark Index. These MFs were still losing money slower than their benchmark indices and so, were still performing great. The second mistake was that while I was prepared to invest at higher NAV while I was hesitating to do so at lower NAVs.

Stock market pundits would tell you that , 10 shares of Infosys bought at IPO at Rs 95/ per share (all of Rs 950/) in 1993 (it was under-subscribed) would now be worth over 50 lakhs. So is it with the wealth created by Wipro or Reliance. I wonder how many of us have met any person who have actually benefited from such an investment. On the contrary, prior to Harshad Mehta scam, the same shares Infosys and Wipro had reached astronomical prices with three figure PEs and many investors lost big-time as the bubble burst. I am sure we would have met some of these investors . In short, big losses are real while big profits are hypothetical and on hindsight.

In short, big losses are real while big profits are hypothetical and on hindsight.

Sundaram Finance undertook an exercise to identify the beneficiaries of one of its top performing MFs Sundaram Select Midcap Fund. The idea was to honour these people in their AGM to highlight the importance of long term view on investments. It had given 5400% returns in 15 years since launch. After a lot of digging into their databases they could physically identify only a handful of investors. Half of these were dead and the others were not aware that they were holding these valuable assets. They were the only people who created wealth through long term investment ; the dead and the duds. So, if you want to make money through stock markets, after investing, be dead to the market or just be unaware, forget about the market; easier said than done.

the only people who created wealth through long term investment ; the dead and the duds. So, if you want to make money through stock markets, after investing, be dead to the market or just be unaware, forget about the market; easier said than done.

More than anything, an SIP ensures that you are not affected by the swings in the stock market .  It goes like the steady tick-tick of a grandfather’s clock even though a storm may be raging all around. I’ll conclude with my personal experience on the effectiveness of SIP.

Most of us are used to the monthly subscription we make to some kind of provident fund , partly to avoid paying higher income tax. Provident Fund gives about 8 % returns and there is a tax rebate. After retirement in 2012, I started investing in ELSS (Equity Linked Saving Schemes) through SIP. Last year I had invested in Axis Long Term Equty Fund . I get the same tax rebate as someone who invests in PPF, and the returns given by the MFs are about 12-18% annualized. Since there is a lock-in period of three years , it is a forced long term investment. Pic

Axis Long Term Equity Fund – ELSS

Note that there is no growth for the first year and a half but it is made up subsequently. Normally , a human mind is susceptible to intervene in such situations, often to a disastrous effect.

The only thing which is always true in a MF brochure is the mandatory disclaimer :  Mutual Funds are subject to market risks ; …. Past performance of a Fund is no guarantee for future returns.

We know from the historical data that Market rewards long term investors. We also know from anecdotal evidence that most people buy high and sell low.  It is not the people , but their emotions , greed and fear that make the buy / sell decisions.  Detach the emotions from investment decisions and you have SIP.

Next we see how individual MFs are evaluated.