Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Fading Images

“Naughty”. That was the reprimand that I heard as I accidentally switched on the table lamp. I was kneeling for the daily prayers and instead of concentrating on the prayers I was obviously more engrossed in the things on the table. After all it was summer vacation and I was in my grandfather’s house to enjoy every minute of it. Prayer seemed too much of a distraction and waste of time. My grandfather was very particular about prayers and no mater what the occasion he would have his daily prayers exactly at 8:00pm. A grandson playing around with the table lamp was not something he accepted during that time. Like he always said, “Play time play and study time study”. True to his word he did have his play time. He cherished the time he spent surrounded by his grandchildren. He would spend lazy afternoons sitting at the dinning table drawing caricatures of politicians much to the amusement of his young observers. He would regale us with the history of our ancestors and occasionally take a dig at my grandmother who was busy making the afternoon coffee.

My grandmother was much more of a silent kind. She would show no outwardly signs of love but you always knew that she loved each and everyone very dearly. She was a veteran at the business of raising kids since she had ten or her own. She believed in frugality and shunned excesses, be it for adults or kids. My sister and my cousin would probably attest to this following the now infamous sulking episode. One afternoon after lunch both of them decided that they were not happy with half a bar of chocolate and that they needed a full bar to be satisfied. My grandmother however thought differently and that ended up in a confrontation. Needless to say that the veteran came out on top in that standoff.

My other grandmother (Dad’s mother) spent a lot more time with us at home. She was with us growing up at different stages of our life. My dearest memory of her has to be her anxiety when I returned from school a good four hours late. She was at the verge of tears and couldn’t contain herself after seeing me. I however was bewildered (and probably laughing) at her anxiety unawares that a boy missing for four hours at the age of six is a little worrisome. “Get away of India” as she would famously call the most revered monument in Bombay still brings a smile on all our faces.

All of them were such an integral part of my growing up. Yet today, years after their passing away, they are but a distant memory. So much has happened and so much has changed since their passing away that I can hardly recollect the details of my time spent with them over the first twenty years of my life.

How quickly memories fade.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Paralyzed

There was a time at the beginning of my post graduate program when I was trying to decide about living alone. I remember one night lying in aunt’s attic bedroom in the dark and computing expenses all the way to the end of the year just so that I was sure I could afford such a change. I knew it was the right thing to do, to go out there and learn how to manage my own life. But the correctness of the decision wasn’t sufficient enough for me to make it and move on. I had to work it all in my head and make sure I was not missing anything.

I am consumed by jealousy when I watch people make life altering decisions in a fleeting moment and move on with their choice. Most times this works out very well for people. Even in my case I have found that in spite of all the analysis that I do, my first impressions have usually been right. So then why am I so paralyzed at every step of the way?

I wish I could make decisions based on first impressions. Make those decisions and live to learn with its consequences. Isn’t that what “living in the moment” really means? I have to start making choices rather than keep my “options” open. I need to be more decisive and above all I need to believe in my ability to make the right choices and even if they are not the right choices, be able to make amends and move on.

I hope to get there one day.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Truth is overrated

Is it always smart to tell it the way it is? Would it be smarter to sugar coat something if you know that that is what people want to hear rather than the plain truth. If it does no one any harm it real seems like the smart thing to do.

When you are put in a situation where you are not sure if the true answer would be something that the listener can deal with then what is the point in actually saying it if it serves no additional purpose. Even if you believe that you want to have an open and honest conversation with that person is there really a merit in actually saying it the way it is at the risk of offending that person? Is the truth more important that the persons feelings?

As an idealistic teenager I used to believe that brutal honesty is what is always better. My dad probably has something to do with that method of thought. But over the years I am not so sure anymore. I feel brutal honesty is overrated. It is probably better to anticipate what the other person likes to hear and modify truth accordingly rather than coming out and saying it as it is. After all if it doesn’t hurt it only helps.

Friday, May 04, 2007

School of life

The stock market appears to always be in a hurry. There is always panic and noise on the floor of the market on any given day. Words like “spectacular”, “fabulous”, “unbelievable” etc. are thrown around in the media. New York is the place where it all happens in the Americas and if you are not part of it you are not really an investor.

Yet the oracle from Omaha lives and operates out of the most inconspicuous of cities in the country. He has been at it for over 50 years patiently biding his time. Never an anxious word or a superlative term escapes his lips. Everything is matter of fact and understated. Over the years he has trounced the market and its theories with diligent and patient investing. Results speak for themselves. Berkshire Hathaway is a study in smart and logical investing.

I started out in the world of investing about five years back. The bubble had burst and the market had hit rock bottom. I started off by buying the companies that I had heard of the most. The market returned 120% of my investment within 6 months. Boy did I feel smart. I stormed the arena and began firing in all directions. It didn’t take a year for the gun slingers in the market to shoot me dead.

The market is like life played out in a smaller arena. There is excitement, disappointment, comedy, tragedy, thrills, spills, deceit, betrayal and everything in between. Over the years what the market teaches you is to be patient and diligent about investing. It burns you for any missteps and rewards you for smart planning. It teaches you to regroup from debacles and be mindful of success.

Today is a Friday and the school is closed for the weekend. Though I am hurting from the punishments of years past I think I will be back at school come Monday. There is no place like the market to learn the important lessons of life and make money of the side.

Like the Oracle once said: "It doesn't count to predict the rain. What counts is to build the ark"

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Raw emotions

She mostly ambles around the house with not a care in the world. Everything is fair game in her eyes and nothing is too expensive or too precious to be categorized "not a play thing". The first step is to pull down any object to her level and then examine it and see if it is interesting enough to keep her engaged.

One day she strutted around with an old can on talcum powder. Since she had no one else to play with, her grandfather happened to be her most obvious target. The grandfather obliged and played along asking for some powder to puff his face with. She willing gave him some and enjoyed doing so. A few hours later in her eternal quest to find something interesting, she found the grandfathers powder tin. Promptly she took it and walked around the house threatening to puff up the whole house. The grandfather was quick to reclaim his can of powder and explained to the child that it was not a toy. The child surrendered the tin but walked away pointing out that she had willingly shared her tin of powder and sees no reason why she was treated differently. Needless to say that the grandfather was quick to run after her with his tin of powder begging her to play with it.

One day in her usual manner she was at odds with her grandmother. The grandmother unable to win the argument warned her that if she did not listen to what was being told, the grandmother will go away and not come back. The girl not susceptible to normal admonishments began to bawl uncontrollably. It took a lot to explain to her that it was merely a joke before she stopped.

How bare and naked is the child’s mind. No social norms, no animosity, no bitter thoughts. It is all out there bare and naked for all to see. And yet my niece will lose this quality of hers in the matter of next couple of years and enter the world of controlled emotions. But till then she makes for a wonderful bundle of joy with her raw emotions out there for all to see.