Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Principle of Finance

When i grew up in school and collage, success was more a measure of ones stringent adherance to act on order and conformity to norms. You simply fall in line to be treated with high regard for ones intellect.

When i broke into finance stream, success has been more a measure of ones stringent adherance to act on reason and nonconformity to norms. Here you stand apart for the same acknowledgement.

A radical shift in thought and action, as big a change in perception as a Galileo to a Copernicus.

Friday, September 23, 2011

To Shirdi from Mumbai

The best mode to get to Shirdi from Mumbai is by taking a bus, preferably a Volvo or a sleeper bus which would cost about 300 for a point to point or a one way trip. The buses are available in abundance from Dadar and starts to Shirdi from early in the morning to late in the night. Shirdi is roughly about 250 kms and takes about 5 to 6 hours to reach. You do get trains but will have to get down at Manmad and travel another 15 to 20 kms to reach Shirdi.

The first thing that strikes about Shirdi is that the roads are pretty dusty and dirty. To add to it, there will be a bunch of guides who would swarm around and begin to walk with you, acting as your guide without a hint of approval from your side. The best thing to do is to shoo them away and make your own search on whatever you are looking for, as these guides are quiet inclined to drive you to their points of interest.

The entire place around the Sai Baba temple has mushroomed with a lot of lodges, many low grade, handful of good grade and a few higher grade lodges. This simply signifies the existence of a competitive market, so if you spend some time and hunt, you can be assured of getting whatever sort of lodge you are looking for. The price for a 12 hour stay would range from 200 to about 1400 depending on what kind of lodge you opt for. Mostly likely, a decent to a good lodge can be booked within a range of 800 to 1000.

The darshan can be done in about one and a half to two hours time on a special day like Thursday and probably much earlier on other days. Once the darshan is done and you are out of the temple, the only the other option left is to do some shopping, which wont take more than an hour or so. Again there are too many shops selling the same products, so there is definite bargain available if you are willing to check a few shops.

There are a few other places in Shirdi but they gave an impression of being a bit too insignificant and hence I really didn’t think of visiting them. Once you are done with darshan and shopping then you are pretty much done with Shirdi and can pack your bags to get back home.

The whole trip to Shirdi can be done in one day from Mumbai if you start early in the morning, let’s say at 6 am, Shirdi will be reached by 12 noon, find a good lodge, freshen up and have your lunch. By 2 pm, begin your darshan and by 4 pm you should be out of the temple, add another one hour for some shopping and by 5 pm you are done with Shirdi and can take your bus back to Mumbai, reaching home by 11 pm.

However, if you are inclined to explore and it’s alright to get back home the next day then you can try Shani Shinghnapur, it’s Shaniswarar Temple about 70 kms from Shirdi. The temple is quiet neat and pleasant and couples well with a cool trip that would take you through a lot of green fields along the path to Shinghnapur. There are quiet a lot of cabs available and will charge you Rs. 100 for an up and down trip. This whole trip to Shani Shinghnapur will take 5 hours, 4 hours on traveling to and fro and about an hour spent in the temple and shopping.

Jai Sri Sai Baba!!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mumbai Meri Jaan

Born and brought up in a tradition based and culturally inclined Chennai, Mumbai gave me the first taste of unity in diversity. People from different walks of life rub shoulders with you everyday, a hedge fund manager doesn’t get across a day without enquiring about the next available train to Mahalaxmi from a tea stall vendor or a student of some unknown collage.

Mumbai is designed to exude an incredible sense of cooperation that no other city can boast of, a line repair in western line at some point in Dadar or King’s circle is somehow communicated to the other person standing in Churchgate who is wondering about the next train to Andheri.

Welcome to Mumbai, the third largest city in the world comprising of 1.8 crore residents who exhibit complex adaptive system and a place where people compete and cooperate everyday. Am not by any chance hinting at an absence of the same in some other city but Mumbai executes it at astounding levels than in any other place. One can easily exist in isolation say in a Delhi, Chennai or a Hyderabad but am not sure how many would be able to or will be willing to do the same here.

Over the past 2 and a half years, I have certainly fallen in love with Mumbai, not for the stench and narrow roads but rather for imparting the essential life skills that is so much necessary to sustain and evolve in life.

As I head back to Chennai in a week’s time to open a new chapter, I won’t be going back with a rich bank balance but certainly with much richer experience.

Mumbai Meri Jaan!!!

The Incredible Night Trek

Anuk, Burange, Rashmi, Seema, Arvind and myself, all six twenty something characters, decided to do a night trek, in a place called Rajmachi near Lonavala, in the first weekend of March. The idea behind such a decision was probably to go for a night trek in an unfancied and not much known location. Am not completely aware of the brainstorm before the decision was made but i pretty much jumped into action without a hint of the geographies of the location or the extent of trekking that had to be accomplished, only to shockingly realize that no one had much of a hint of what we were about to do.

Incredible!!! And we are yet to begin the journey.

Rajmachi is basically an abandoned fort on top of a hill and about 20 kms from the Tungarli Lake, which happened to be our starting point. There is nothing great about the path in the dry forest that leads to the fort or the fort, the incredible stuff rest upon the trek itself, no one seem to question the feasibility of walking 40 kms at a single stretch that too in the middle of the night. Even the much inspired Gandhi with his 75 compatriots walked just about 16 kms a day in his march to Saifee Vila, Dandi but we were made of a different mettle and not to be compared with the mortals of the yesteryear.

There were many more unanswered questions that sprung up as we tread upon the journey, our wisdom to venture into such a trek can definitely be questioned but it goes without saying that the gems of wisdom that we picked up after the trek was simply invaluable and timeless.

At about 7:30 pm, after we having an early dinner, we begun our trek with roughly 8 bottles of water, couple of bread loaves and a few more eatables. We had to pass through a tiny Thakurwadi village before getting onto the real trek path but since we were not aware of the direction that leads to the fort, we decided to employ a local villager who can act as a guide. The verbal agreement was casted in the air of trust for a paltry payment of Rs. 500 to walk the entire night with us.

The first part of the trek went about without much of an excitement as we were trekking on the plains and could be easily done without much of concentrated effort. We simply broke into groups of two or three and got into serious discussions on seemingly irrelevant and arbitrary stuff. No one could feel much of discomfort and simply went through the motions until we reached the point where we had to make a decision to climb the hill to see the fort or simply cut short the journey at this point and return.

This was a critical decision in a lot of ways, it was 11:30 pm and we had already walked for about 4 hours, in short we were beginning to test our endurance at this point. The decision to climb needed to be a group decision as even a single strong ‘no’ from anyone meant a ‘no’ for everyone but as there were two or three strong ‘yes’, the decision was pushed over with the remaining weak ‘yes’.

The fort was placed on top of a hill at about 100 feet from the current point, the path was steep and rough and definitely not advisable for people on the heavier side. Luckily, no one was of that build and we set about conquering the fort with all our grit. Almost all of us begun to pant by this time as the climb was sapping us of all the energy but we ventured on and reached the fort in about 40 minutes.

If the climb sapped a part of my energy then the site of the fort sucked up the remaining. I simply couldn’t comprehend the rationality of expending all my energy and effort to reach such an insignificant spot. The place appeared more of a large sized rat hole and gave not even a faint impression of a fort.

Anyhow, all of us were happy to reach the destination and opted for the much needed rest under the cover of the stars. The rest after such an arduous journey was pleasant and we munched up most of the food, hoarding a little portion for the remaining journey.

Just as Anuk and myself were beginning to feel the soothing effect of the cool night on top of the hill, Rashmi got charged up and started pushing everyone to begin our return back home. It was already midnight and another dreadful 20 kms to cover coupled with the drive to Mumbai from Lonavala. But i had neither the mood nor the energy to begin such a taxing task; frankly, it had already taxed me enough for the night. I strongly felt the need for at least 3 to 4 hours of sleep to get the energy back into my system.

However, such inherent expression of thoughts could have never been explained to Rashmi, who was still a distant friend to me at that point in time. Moreover, i couldn’t comprehend Burange’s decision to workout a 40 km night trek, when he had a 3 hour FRM class to be taken the next day. After all, Rashmi was just trying to be that loyal wife and back up her husband’s sense of commitment to the hilt. So, I simply was left with no choice but to fall in line and exhibit that unwilling sense of cooperation.

At precisely 12:45 pm, we began disembarking down the hill, i would say that it was a bit risky considering the rough path combined with soaking tiredness. We carefully got down step by step and finally reached the plains in about 40 minutes without much of a fuss and strangely avoided filling up our water cans, citing unnecessary risk from a group of people who had camped at the basement. Sometimes rationality in decisions exhibited by humans are pretty complex to understand, we overlooked the risk of getting cramps due to dehydration but felt it riskier to fill up water from a group of innocuous people.

With still 20 more kilometres to walk and another 100 odd kilometres to drive, the task was certainly looming large in front of us. The next 5 hours of trek probably formed the most incredulous part of the whole trip, we were left with no fall-safe options, the compulsion to keep walking despite the slight niggles that was cropping up, pain at the end of the toes due to sustained pressure over the last 6 hours, signs of cramps in a few, fatigue and lastly no exit option (common we were all finance professionals). At this juncture, we had already tested our endurance and were touching the limits of our physical ability.

We pushed forward the trek, taking short breaks every half an hour or so and were able to walk through for the next 3 hours but the final one hour or so was truly killing. I was finding it tough walk with the shoes on as the ends of the toes were getting squashed by the corners of the shoe, Anuk started walking in small steps as he started feeling the cramps and so were the remaining members who felt different niggles and pain at different parts of the body.

Till this point, it was our physical ability at work but from now on the mental aspect of the trek started to surface. Rashmi had started cribbing at this senseless decision to trek, Arvind and Seema went into a discussion on who could have possibly made this trek a bit more worse, i was urging everyone to sing some song or crack some jokes, Anuk was reticent all through and Burange was probably praying that all of us let him off the hook for enforcing on a nonstop full night trek.

Just at that point in time, we were confronted with the path splitting into two directions and it was exactly for this particular junction did we actually employ a guide. Had we taken a wrong path then it would have further more added to the woes, compounding with the existing serious problems that we were facing. That identification of the right path, in that moment was worth much more than 500 bucks, in fact it was priceless.

We huffed and puffed but were able to reach our hotel at about 5:30 am, a journey that had begun at 7:30 pm the previous night, enduring tough condition and testing our physical limits that lasted 10 hours.

In the entire episode, there was a key nugget of wisdom waiting to be picked up, when you set to achieve any tough goal with a definite time frame and without an exit option, you invariably achieve it.

Courtesy: Nikhil Burange

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Churchill Statement


The Bengal famine in 1943 caused lakhs of people to lose their lifes and created a complete chaos in the country, despite the fact that there was just a 5% drop from normal food production. The reason behind such a famine was not an Act of God but rather an Act of unrestrained Distribution by the Britishers with a complete disregard for the resident Indians.

Now this is the killer blow, when the pressure mounted on British bureaucrats, Winston Churchill sent a cable demanding to know why, if food was so scarce, his sworn enemy Gandhi wasn’t dead yet.

A statement of complete distaste from someone regarded to be the most inspirational leader in British history.


Mere Brother ki dulhan – Review

The first thing that strikes after seeing such a movie is that, we have very much arrived in an era where directors and actors are keenly vying for difference in storyline. Though we still have Dabaang type of formula movies hitting the screens every now and then, there is definitely a strong sense of the shift on the characters of the films and risk appetite of the producers.

MBKD has certainly come out with good performances from all the actors, i was specially surprised to see Katrina performing when most of the times in the past, it was her visual impact that left a strong impression with the audience. Kudos for pulling out the life in the character given to her.

The story starts with Imran trying to find a suitable bride for his brother who looks to settle down after a break up with his girl friend. After some comical struggle, Imran finds the perfect bride in Katrina and gets the alliance fixed. Things go on smoothly until Imran and Katrina plan for a masti outing on a chetak scooter, just a few days before marriage. Things take a different turn from this point as both of them get attracted towards one another and Imran experiences his first taste of love but towards his brother’s bride and hence the apt name MBKD.

Both realize that they have a strong sense of emotion pulling them together and hence scheme a plan to break the alliance and twist it to their favour. Their scheme comes off with astounding success with Imran’s brother fleeing with his former girl friend and both the families make a hurried decision on an alliance between Imran and Katrina to cover up the incident and save their family’s esteem.

Just as everything seem to have worked out perfectly, there happens to be another twist in the tale leaving both the families in ruptures. What extends beyond this is point, forms the final part of the story.

MBKD certainly provides upteen entertainment for a one time watch but if you are planning for a second time, you may probably be wondering, how can a set of parents possibility be so stupid?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Phantoms in the Brain - V.S. Ramachandran - A Review

When i was attending the valuation class taken by Mr. Damodaran, he gave a strange but an interesting analogy to pinpoint the misplaced concreteness in identifying flaw or the loopholes in the financial statements, he asked us, how does one treat the itching sensation on his amputated thumb?

Now, this question triggered two more questions within me.

1. How can someone possibly feel the itch on a nonexistent thumb?
2. If that really is the case then how do you go about your treatment on something that’s nonexistent?

Phantoms in the brain, written by Ramachandran, tries to enlighten us to those questions and a lot more syndromes that we didn’t even know exists.

This is a syndrome which is identified as Anosognosia, the inability of your brain to perceive the absence of some or any part of your body. It was common amongst soldiers who lost their limbs in the civil war but could still feel the presence of their lost limbs. We can call them ‘Phantom limbs’ for easy identification.

At times, these patients come to the doctors claiming that they feel extreme pain in those phantom limbs. Now, the challenge is not just diagnosis but also the treatment of a nonexistent limb. Initially, the surgeons tried to remove the entire stump of the amputated limb, so that the brain begins to understand its absence but such a surgery didn’t help much in relieving in the pain. Many more drastic surgeries were tried to no avail.

Hence the doctors touched each and every part of the patients body and enquired the patient on the exact location where the patient felt the touch. To their astonishment, they found that the pain in the lost limbs was caused by a few areas near the face. When the doctor dragged a pen on the face of the patient, it was felt on the skin of the lost limb. Such a diagnosis not just puzzled them but threw them into unchartered territories on neurology.

The reason cited behind such a syndrome is that there are about 30 different divisions in the brain that identifies different parts of the body, the region that identifies a few areas of the face falls right next to the region that identifies the limbs. Hence when a limb is lost there happens to be an invasion of territory and hence the area of the face and the limbs are merged into a single entity leading to a faulty geographic identification of pain by the brain.

Now, how do you rectify such a syndrome is a different story all together.

There are many more syndromes that are discussed in the book and are truly mind-blowing.

Like, Hemineglect, patients who neglect the left side of their body completely. They comb only the right side, eat only on the right side of the plate and many more. This happens due to damage on the right parietal lobe.

Something that really put me off my chair was Psuedocyesis, which in understandable terms is called Phantom Pregnancy. Here the patient develops all the signs and symptoms of true pregnancy, like frequent headache, nausea, their stoppage of menstruation cycle, morning sickness, tummy getting inflated and to kick it off, they feel labour pain in about 9 months. Puzzling, isn’t it?

In 1700’s these cases happened in the ratio of 1 in 200 but now ratio has plunged down to 1 in 10,000. The reason being that the pressure to deliver babies has been reduced drastically and the numbers has reflected just that.

Ramachandran has made lot many more clinical observations and the same has been reflected in his book. Guess we can’t expect anything less from a Phd in Neurology, Professor and Director, Center for Brain and Cognition, University of California and many more recognitions under his name plate.

Finally, to answer my second question, just scratch the surface below the jaw.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Markets show a declining trend in F&O

(Source: NSE India)

Over the last 6 months, the markets has shown a declining trend in Futures and Options segment, which can be clearly observed by the reduction in daily average number of total contracts traded from 4.94 million to 4.12 million, a fall of 16.4%. While the turnover has reduced from daily average turnover of 1.42 lakh crore to 1.1 lakh crore, a fall of 22%.

As a result of this declining trend, there has also been a change in distribution of the total contracts traded.

(Source: NSE India)

As observed in the pie chart on the distribution of no. of contracts, there was a noticeable but mild shift from Futures to Options. While Index Options constituted 68% of the total contracts in Jan 2011, it now constitutes about 72%, the shift has occurred because of investors changing their strategy by having more exposure in Options than in Futures.

(Source: NSE India)

This observation is also substantiated by the fact that though the Index Futures average number of contracts per day has fallen by 33.5%, index options has fallen by just 12%. Even the fall in Stock Futures is more than the fall in Stock Options though by not the same magnitude as Index Futures and Options.

The observation does give a cautious outlook for the markets ahead in the F&O segment.