Sunday, May 20, 2007

The One Legged Man

Vivek cursed himself for the hundredth time. Why had he decided to take the shortcut. Now he was in big trouble. His car had broken down in the middle of nowhere, it was getting dark and there was not a soul in sight. Adding to his irritability was that he was stuck right next to the graveyard. Though not by nature a superstitious man, he wished his car had chosen a better spot to break down.

"Babuji". The sound, over his left shoulder startled him. He turned around. It was a villager , with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, using a lathi for support. The villager had a lantern with him.Vivek sent a silent prayer of thanks.

"My car broke down. I must get some transportation immediately. Its urgent".

"There is a dhaba two miles from here. I can show you the way. Iam going that way myself".

As they walked, Vivek noticed a hollow sound. He looked closely at his new found companion and found the answer. The man had a wooden leg. Vivek hadnt noticed it before. Perhaps it was because of the darkness. Vivek lost sense of time as they walked. The tip-tap of the wooden leg was dulling his senses.He looked at the man closely. He seemed all at peace with himself, not in the mood for idle chit chat. The silence however, was weighing down on Vivek.

"What were you doing at that lonely spot", Vivek suddenly asked. The man stopped and looked at him. A curious stare.

"I was waiting for my wife. She didnt come. Perhaps tomorrow...".He sighed wistfully. "The doctors say it will be any time now".

A chill slowly crawled up Vivek's spine. It all seemed so unnatural. He was following this stranger, unable to see more than a couple of feet ahead. For the second time that day, he prayed to God.

"Babuji , whats the hurry? Why do you keep looking at your watch?". The sudden shattering of the silence startled him.

"I have a meeting tomorrow. I think I will be late." Vivek dared not look at the stranger as he answered.

The stranger shook his head wistfully."Today's people. Always in a hurry. Babuji, think of time in terms of years, not in days. You will be more at peace with yourself". And the stranger bared his teeth in a smile. To Vivek's heightened senses , there was something distinctly menancing.

Suddenly the stranger stopped. Pointing ahead, he said, "Babuji, there is the dhaba I was telling you about.You will get a bus from there." Vivek looked in the pointed direction . There were lights some twenty meters ahead. He hadnt noticed them before. Too busy worrying about his situation.
He turned to thank the stranger. But the man had vanished. Almost into thin air.

He ran towards the lights, stumbling. He rushed into the dhaba. There were quite a few customers. Two trucks parked nearby. Everyone stared at him as he rushed in.

"Relax saab", said the dhaba owner, "you look like you have seen a ghost".

"I think I did", Vivek stammered." There was this man with a wooden leg, I met at the graveyard".

The dhaba owner laughed uproariously."You must have met Salim langda. Ever since he had his leg amputated he likes to fool people. You are the third this month..."

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Sentence

He looked around the crowded room. The group of people were gathered around the round table, discussing his case animatedly. Looking at them , he was reminded of the jury members in the film , 'The Twelve Angry Men'. Except that, this was not a movie. This was his life that they were debating and arguing. He let his eyes wander around the room.

At the center of the crowded room, sat the man who would pronounce the sentence. The judge.In regal clothes, aware of his own importance, his face inscrutable, the judge surveyed the room and the people in it. He looked at the judge. he had no idea what words would come out of that mouth - but he realized one thing. Today whatever the judge spoke, would determine his destiny. He looked at that splendid form - and prayed.

The judge cleared his throat. A hush fell around the crowded room. "We have decided".You could have heard a pin drop. "This man", he tried to make himself as small as possible as every pair of eye was trained on him, "is sentenced to life imprisonment". Everyone looked delighted. "Without parole". He looked at the judge , hanging on every word.Could what he was hearing be the truth? The judge continued, "I sentence this man to holy matrimony, wedded to his beloved, whose happiness shall be his sole purpose in life".

Sachin surveyed the room. And smiled.

p.s : Iam getting engaged this Sunday ( May 13th ). Marriage in mid July.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Dalal Street for Dummies

Diversify to Derisk

Henry Markowitz won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1990 for his work on reducing Portfolio risk by diversification. Essentially it means the more company shares you own ( if the companies are from different sectors, still better ), the less vulnerable to risk your portfolio will be. Very commensensical, one would say. Would it surprise you that our UTI proved that theory wrong. UTI's US-64 had the shares of nearly 3000 companies in its kitty at one time ( though most were not traded in stock exchanges would be a small matter ). Still its performance when compared to the benchmark BSE Sensex were abysmal.

Bring down your average cost

I bought shares in a mid cap company. The prices went down and I bought more. The vicious cycle continued till this particular stock formed nearly 70% of my portfolio. Bring down your average cost, the experts will tell you. Don’t throw good money after bad, I reply.
It was very recently that I came across this quotation from economist John Maynard Keynes, "The markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent. " But I have always tried to be positive in my thoughts. The way I look at this is a couple hundred more shares in this company and they should be inviting me to join the Board of Directors. And then we will see who is laughing on the wrong side of his face

The Sachin touch

I believe I have the Midas touch. True , I may not have benefited personally , but what the heck, you cant have it both ways, can you. Shares I bought , and then sold for a pittance in profits have since reached the stratosphere. Consider this - Indian Rayon bought at 74, sold at 80 ( current price is 1200 ), M&M bought at 80 , sold at 120 ( current price is 750 ) , SBI bought at 185, sold at 215 ( current price is 1100 ) - the list goes on. So the next time you want to make a killing on the stock market, just ask me what share I recently sold.

Don’t listen to the 'experts'

I was disillusioned by the so called 'experts' pretty early into my stock market foray. You would have one expert talking glibly on the TV, singing paens to company X - 'X is clearly on an uptrend , will surely rise 20% in one month'. One month later , by which time X would have dutifully dropped 50% and numerous investors having lost their shirts are trying desperately to hold on to their chaddis, the same expert would be back on TV screaming "SELL X!!!" without so much as a polite "Sorry , I screwed up".


There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch - this is as much true of the share market as it is of any other field. It’s a zero sum game - one man's loss is another's gain - unless your stock is going only one way - UP. Two words of advice : Caveat Emptor - Buyer beware applies here.