Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Here we go round the merry go round

'The more things change, the more they remain the same.'

- Jean Baptiste Alphonse Karr

Yet another multi nation tournament. Yet another dismal performance. Yet again we are almost certain to not get past the group stages. Yet again our destiny lies not in our own hands.

Foreign coach. Bowling coach. Fielding coach. Masseurs. Physio therapists. An unconventional psychologist who goes against all footballing norms and urges the WAGs to accompany their husbands on cricketing tours in order to revive the fortunes of Indian cricket. The Indian Premier League. We have tried everything. Nothing seems to work. We read articles of how a nation of one billion can't produce a tennis champ or more Olympic gold medalists. But what about producing eleven champion cricketers? Surely that shouldn't be too tough for a cricket crazy nation like ours!

I think the problem lies in our genes. Immensely talented though we are, we lack the mental fortitude and grit, of say the Australians. We have no street fighters in our team barring Dhoni. No one who can dig deep and deliver when the chips are down. No one who can give a good account of himself. And why only blame our cricketers? Our boxers are no different. They struggle to get past the semis. And so do our wrestlers, badminton champs and tennis stars. We are a nation which has always sacrificed grit for flair. Doggedness for flamboyance. Tenacity for panache and charisma.

Yet another multi nation tournament. Yet another dismal performance. Yet again we are almost certain to not get past the group stages. Yet again our destiny lies not in our own hands. Yet again we depend on our best friend, the net run rate to see us through. Here we go round the merry go round, the merry go round, the merry go round...

Quote for the day: Reputation is just the shadow. Character is the tree.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

5 Golden Stock Rules for Market Newbies

Most of us will start earning now, sooner rather than later. Some in rupees, others in dollars. And just in case you, dear reader, are looking to invest in stocks and are new to it, here are the rules that govern the worlds of stocks. Presenting my (unsolicited) advise on trading. My '5 Golden Stock Rules for Market Newbies'.

Rule 1: Don't put all your eggs in one basket

The first and most fundamental rule. Don't put all your savings in a single stock. The risk is just too much. Diversification is the name of the game. Also, don't invest in different stocks of the same kind. For example, investing your money in 4 stocks like TCS, Infosys, Satyam and Wipro is not diversification. All of them are IT majors and so the odds are that they will move together. Instead choose from a variety of sectors like pharmacy, energy, auto ancillary, cement, sugar etc.

Rule 2: Gold glitters

Hedging your investments is extremely important. At times when the markets are experiencing sharp downs, you don't want your entire portfolio to sink. In such cases invest in oil shares like Aban Offshore. This stock normally rises when the oil price goes up and that's when the other stocks are hit.

Coming to gold, we Indians are obsessed with three things: snow, fair skin and gold. So the prices of gold never fall down drastically. And specially when the markets go down, gold prices always shoot up. So make gold a part of your portfolio. Please note that when I mean gold, I mean gold biscuits or gold coins. Don't let your mother or sister sweet talk you into buying gold jewelry. Their rationale will be 'ki investment bhi ho jayega aur hum bahar pehen bhi sakte hai.' Convincing as it may sound, it doesn't make good business sense because you lose a lot of your money on making charges.

Rule 3: To B or not to B

B, C and Z (that would rhyme if you are American) group shares, much like their movie counter parts provide cheap thrills. These shares shoot up only to fall back harder. So beware of them. They offer quick money, but if don't get out soon enough, you may burn your hands. These shares form about 10% of my portfolio. Ideally, you shouldn't hold such shares for more than a month. Invest, get a 15% return and move out. Don't get greedy.

Rule 4: A watched pot never boils

A common mistake made by market newbies is that they keep checking the worth of their portfolio every 10 minutes and get worried if they don't see significant improvements. Once you buy a stock, set a target, both in terms on time and value. When either of it is reached, get out.

Rule 5: Diamonds are forever. Stocks aren't diamonds

Lastly, never get emotionally attached to your stocks. I know this may sound silly to you, but it does happen plenty of times. Stocks that have performed very well for us, we tend to view favourably. We want to hold onto them forever.

I had this share Gujurat Mineral Development Cooperation (GMDC). Had bought it at 85. Shot up to 550 in 6 months. I was in love with the stock. Had even developed a soft corner for Gujaratis because of it. Then it started dropping. 500. 400. 350. I should have sold it. But I didn't. I hung on to it. I was going to be loyal to it, I decided. Guess what? It doesn't work that way! GMDC hit a low of 35! Last month I sold all my GMDC shares at 90. 2 whole years after I had purchased them at 85! Taking into account brokerage and tax, even a savings deposit in a bank would have yielded more! So remember selling at the right time is vital.

If I were to put down my experiences and the foolish mistakes I made in the stock market, a book wouldn't be enough. My initial investment of 100,000 (loaned to me) went up to 750,000 and then crashed to to 40,000! As I write this, I have stocks worth 55,000 after paying off my initial loan with interest! So I guess I am in a position to give you this gyaan.

Post Script: Article dedicated to Nishit Gogri, a good friend but a not so good stock advisor.

Friday, 18 September 2009

These are a few of my Favourite Things

Getting up early: I normally wake up by five thirty. When most of the world is still asleep. Gives me a sense of achievement. And a head start on everyone else. I like attacking the day. Getting up early helps me do that.

Purple: I like the colour purple and all that it stands for. Victory. Triumph. Glory. Royalty. Wisdom. And poison.

Riding my bike: It took me an eternity to learn how to ride my bike. I found it extremely complicated. Clutch. Gears. Front brake. Back brake. Helmet. Pillion rider. Distractions. But now I just love it. I take my bike everywhere I go. To college. Out to dinners. Even to the local grocer.

Going one up: I never knew I had the habit of always trying to go one up until a friend actually pointed it out to me. If I am ever going to meet you, I will always make sure I am at least five minutes early. That way I am more comfortable with the place than you are. And when you come I can always accuse you of being late. And making me wait. And go one up. (I know I'm weird)

Table tennis: We have a table tennis room in our building. Initially table tennis was an excuse for us friends to meet and gossip. I hear that 'catch up' is the word cool kids use these days for gossiping. Now table tennis has become an addiction. I play it at least twice a week for three hours at a stretch.

Texting: I can text up to seventy words to the minute. Without looking down at the screen. On a non qwerty keypad.

Watches and sport shoes: I hate shopping. But I have spent the best part of three hours to choose two pairs of sport shoes. And I have enough watches for a entire rugby team. I like collecting watches and shoes. Not quite wearing them.

Pejoratives: I didn't even know such a word exists until I studied for my GRE exam (which was the dumbest exam I have ever given by a long, long way. But that for some other time.) A pejorative can be crudely defined as something good said with a belittling connotation to it. And I just love using them. So me going to do an MS in this recession hit economy would be 'brave' not foolish. And hoping that one day I become the mythical creature, a professional blogger, would be 'ambitious'. (These two were just examples. I have no intention of making a life out of this. And recession wasn't that compiling a reason to not go on a two year picnic.)

Eliciting reactions: The world can be divided into two halves. Two unequal halves. Those people who say what they mean and mean what they say. And those who don't. I very safely belong to the latter. I am very random. Most of the things I say I don't mean. When I truly, genuinely mean, I find it very hard to say. And if I do manage to word it, making the opposite person believe that I'm not kidding is almost impossible. So I don't even try.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

I told you so!

Juan Martin del Potro, the 20-year-old Argentinian, won his first Grand Slam title today with his five-set victory over No. 1 seed Roger Federer. At the end of the epic 260 minute battle, the score line read 3-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2.

In 'Greatest Ever?' I had predicted that Federer would win Wimbledon quite easily since his nemesis Nadal was out with an injured knee. Sure, he won Wimbledon. But it wasn't the normal walk in the park that Federer is used to. He was made to struggle and I consider him hugely fortunate to have won it. Had Roddick served first in the fifth set, Federer would have proved me wrong. I thought Federer would retire after winning Wimbledon. He didn't. And I am quite sure as he goes to bed tonight, he would be wishing that he did.

During the fag end of today's US Open final, Federer looked a pale shadow of the champion he once was. Serving at 2-5 down in the last set, he was a bundle of nerves. His forehand was crashing into the net and his backhand was struggling to stay in court. He served 11 double faults. A player double faults either when nervous or when under extreme pressure. The champion shouldn't have experienced either. During the course of the match, Federer has several run ins with the chair umpire and even swore at him. All of a sudden, the halo over Federer's head seemed a little bit murkier. Seeing the champion cut such a sorry figure evoked sympathy in me. I can only imagine how his die hard fans must be feeling.

Let's get one thing clear. Reaching the final of a grand slam is no mean feat. And I am not yet completely writing Federer off. Before he eventually decides to call it a day, Fedex may win a couple more slams. But Federer was not born to win the odd Grand Slam or keep reaching the finals. He was born a champion. He was destined to destroy opponents with the ease of one swatting flies. He wasn't born to be second best. He wasn't born so that a 20 year old kid with a big forehand and a bigger heart could beat him at his game. No! He wasn't. And if only Federer would have realised that!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

End of an Era

Yesterday I went to college to collect my final semester mark sheet. When I turned in my identity cards, I realised that an important phase of my life had just ended. I had a lot of expectations from engineering. Firstly, it was supposed to teach me how to fix my computer at home. It didn't. Secondly, it was supposed to make me mature. I am still as kiddish. Engineering was supposed to build character! No, it didn't. On the other hand it fooled me into believing there was indeed a short cut to success.

When I received my first semester mark sheet, I couldn't stop myself from jumping for nearly five minutes. And now I was amongst the very last to collect my final year mark sheet, more than 20 days after it was out. That was more or less how engineering turned out. Exciting at first, but the novelty wore off too soon. By the end of it, I was just going through the motions and waiting to get done with it. I had absolutely no interest left. And I think when I looked at my final semester mark sheet, it pretty much told me the very same thing.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Media - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Good:

The manner in which the media has covered the ongoing strike between the pilots and the Jet Airways management is praise worthy. Pilots are some of the most envied people in the world, for the job they have and the amount of money they make. And all that for just using the 'auto pilot' button during the entire flight! Coming back to the strike, the pilots had decided to form a union, which the management opposed. Taking a strong stand on this issue, the management even sacked the two pilots who started the union. 40 days have passed since and no sort of agreement has been reached between the warring parties. So in protest, the pilots have gone on a strike. Oops! Not a strike technically. It is just that 432 of them happened to fall ill on the very same day. And so scores of flights are canceled and poor passengers harried. Opportunistic Air India has increased its flights and even has a stand-by crew to fly to any place where Jet flights are canceled. Naresh Goyal, Chairman, Jet, is absolutely adamant that he won't let the union be formed. But Goyalji, this is India. We are a democracy. People can and will form unions to safeguard their interests. And you can do nothing about it. And just in case you forgot, let me remind you, that it is this very same democracy that gave you 'open skies' and allowed you to fly on any route you wished to, thus killing our national carrier.

The Bad:

The media coverage of the death of YS Rajasekhara Reddy or YSR, the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister had to be seen to be believed. They kept showed photos of him addressing rallies, starting new schemes, visiting farmers while all the time having some sad Hindi song playing in the background. Such was the praise lavished on him that it would have evoked sympathy even from the most stone hearted of people. It is no wonder then that around 70 people either killed themselves or died of a heart attack after watching the news. Agreed that the people in South India are rather fanatical when it comes to movie stars or politicians. And one need not have watched Quick Gun Murugun to know that. But 70 is just too big a number. As for me, I never knew much about YSR. But the fact that a BJP led Karnataka government declared two days of public mourning tells me that YSR is as good as they get these days.

The Ugly:

When swine flu first arrived in India with the death of an NRI, the media was in a frenzy. At least five pages of print were dedicated each day to this deadly virus. Sneezing in public had become an unpardonable crime and elicited stares, glares and dirty looks. Sharma Aunty from my building who normally wore jeans while going shopping or to the market, now strictly wears salwar kameez. Only so that the dupatta doubles up as a mask. People stopped going to public places and even the Sunday church bore a deserted look. Nothing much has changed as far as swine flu is concerned. At least three people still die everyday. But now the media has juicier stuff to cover. And swine flu is no longer in vogue. And so now sneezing in public is no longer an offence and life has returned to normalcy.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Quick Gun Murugun - 3.5 on 5

There are mindless comedies, sleazy comedies, comedies which just aren't funny and then there is Quick Gun Murugun - a cult comedy. I went to watch Murugun expecting it to be just another spoof. But guess what? It has what most recent Hindi films don't: a very decent storyline.

The film revolves around Quick Gun Murugun, a South Indian Tamil cowboy who believes his duty is to protect the world from rival, Rice plate Reddy who wants to convert the world to non vegetarianism. Quick Gun Murugun enters into an epic battle that spans time and space, from a small South Indian village to an Indian heaven and then finally to a cosmopolitan Mumbai across 25 years.

The USP of the movie has the be its melodramatic nature and the exaggerated mannerisms of the cast. The movie has more than its fair share of laughs. The cowboy battle between Murugun and Rowdy MBA on a crowded Mumbai street and the payasam scene between Murugun and Mango Dolly were the pick of the lot and had the audience laughing like crazy. Every single member of the cast delivers a power packed performance, especially the supporting cast. Shanmugha Rajan as Gun Powder, Vinay Pathak as Chitragupta and Ranvir Shorey as a television host are simply fabulous, even though they have very little to do. The two songs that the movie has, are short and catchy. At times, the movie drags and the characters try extra hard to be funny, but that I think can be forgiven.

In this day and age of multiplexes, when watching a movie is a luxury that you can only afford every once in a while, I don't know whether Murugun is worth the 200 bucks you pay at a multiplex. But if you happen to live in South Bombay, then it is definitely worth every cent of the 70 bucks you pay at Regal!

My verdict: Watch it, I say! (Multiplex or not)

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Sach ka Saamna - India's Moment of Truth

If there was one reality show I was absolutely certain wouldn't come to India, it had to be 'Moment of Truth'. Now that 'Sach ka Saamna' is here, I am sure 'The Jeremy Kyle show' will soon follow suit. And I am real, real proud of India for not succumbing to the pressure of publicity hungry, hypocritical politicians who did everything possible to get the show off air. 60 odd years into independence and finally we have shown some sense of maturity.

Coming to the show, I really enjoy watching people make a complete fool of themselves on national television. It beats me as to why a person would want admit/confess to her fiancé, her family (and the entire world) that she had been cheating on him, all this while. I mean there are less embarrassing ways to dump a guy! However, the absolute high point of the show has to be the use of the 'buzzer' by any of the family members or friends of the contestant. This buzzer is used if the person doesn't want the contestant to answer a particular question and can be used only once. But the producers, as expected, are always a step ahead. The question which follows the one that is 'buzzed' out is either even more embarrassing or is the same question paraphrased! Picture this.

Question buzzed out by contestant's newly wed wife: Do you feel trapped by marriage?
New question: Do you regret marrying your present wife?
Answer: Yes!

And here is another instance. The contestant was a marine engineer and spent most of his life on the ship.

Question buzzed out by contestant's brother: Have you been leading a promiscuous lifestyle?
New question: Do you frequent whore houses?
Answer: Yes!

So you see, the buzzer is not of much use if you ask me. Another thing which adds to the charm of the show is the translation in Hindi. I mean shoplifted, living in and slept with don't sound half as bad as dukaan se chori, najayez rishtha and sharirik sambandh.

The best way to go about the show in my opinion is to answer the first 6 questions and walk away with 100,000 bucks. The starting lot of questions are relatively innocuous. Remember, the key word here is relatively!! That way you get the money (albeit a small amount), you get your 15 (or rather 22) minutes of fame and plus you save yourself from embarrassment. But if it is the money you are after (like Bobby Darling) and care two hoots about what the world thinks about you, then answer each question smartly rather than truthfully. Here is an example.

A particular contestant had answered 16 questions correctly and had already won 2,500,000. This was a guy my grand dad's age, who had had 3 ex wife's and was living in with his equally old 'girlfriend' (that is how she was introduced in the show). During the course of the show he admitted to visiting harlots, having a child out of wedlock and stealing hotel bedspreads among other things. His 17th question was whether he has been a good father to his only daughter. Now obviously the answer they wanted is 'No'. But the dude answered in the affirmative. He thought he was on some charity show where the organizers would let him walk away with half a crore and be a hero in his daughter's eyes. Not happening sirji.