November 30, 2008

December 2008

Nothing seems to be happening right in the whole world. We were still struggling with the worst of crisis in the economy, and then the job cuts started. All the major banks across the world announced plans to lay-off a high proportion of their workforce. And now, to top it all, we had the Mumbai Terrorist attacks. I'm not sure if things could get any worse from here.

Hopefully the end of the year would bring an end to all this. May be, it was just a bad year for the whole world, and 2009 would bring fresh hope. Barrack Obama would take over as the new President of US, and we would have a new Prime Minister in India as well.

Going back in time, I remember how things were different when we started this year. That was the peak of the bull run in India, and everyone was convinced that we were the next big thing in the global arena. People talked of 40k and 50k Sensex  by the end of the year. There was only one report which predicted a downturn, but that too predicted a value of 19,500 by the year-end. Looking back, all that seems a different era all together. There wasn't a worry in the world, and everyone was minting money. Now, things have come crashing down (apart from Mumbai real estate prices). Hoping that the next year won't be another mad year.

October 13, 2008

Catcher in the Rye

What do we want to become when we grow up? I have pondered long over this question till a few years back, and then stopped asking myself. Each one of us, as a child, had dreams and fantasies of becoming someone. And here we are, all lost in this world, chasing some dream we don't even know about.

'The Catcher in the Rye' is one of the most famous books in the history, and also, amongst the most controversial as well. I was surprised to learn about the controversies though. When I read through the book, I found nothing so much objectionable. It is a story about a small boy named Holden Caulfield. He narrates the story after he has been expelled from his school, and how he spends his couple of days away from everyone. He talks at length about his family - his brothers and his sister. He describes the relationship he had with his classmates at the school, and a couple of his ex-girls. One of the better books I have read in recent times. There is no meaningful story or a flow per se, but the quality of writing is awesome. 

August 17, 2008

Independence Day

This was an extended weekend in India, with 15th August being a holiday. This is the date when we celebrate our independence from the British empire. More than 60 years have passed since we became independent, and am not sure how good or bad we have performed. As a democracy, we have been very successful, and all the governments we have had, had been elected to power, and all the power transitions have been peaceful. However, as an economy and as a society, we haven't had the desired results.

Next day, 16th August, we had the festival of Raksha Bandhan. This is another Indian festival celebrated annually. Tomorrow the weekend ends, and another week starts. I have had couple of pending works on which I'm running late. Hopefully would be able to complete them this week.

Go Kiss the World

I recently finished reading the book 'Go Kiss the World'. The book is written by Subroto Bagchi, one of the co-founders of MindTree consulting.

Most of the books start with the important part of the story plot. For a biography, the most of important part is one's birth. That decides so many things in one's life. Here, Mr. Bagchi goes even beyond that, and starts with the life of his grand-parents. To some extent, one's destiny is largely influenced by one's family history, and values. And hence, to understand the person, its vital to know the full history.

The book then moves on to his education, and his early work life. He started working at a government office with a clerk's salary, and then went on to join DCM group in Delhi. That part of the book is really fascinating and has great lessons for everyone. Great lives need not start with a bang, and from the word Go. They happen slowly over time, and you learn from unknown sources. Overall, a good book to read in your free time. One of the better books I have read in recent times.


August 10, 2008

If GOD Was a Banker

I'm quite interested in Indian writing. When I read the European and American writers describing the beautiful places and scenery, I always wonder about a native writer writing about the beautiful Indian cities. Someone who would make an outsider fascinate about the country.

Alas, most of what I have read of Indian authors, I am quite disappointed. The basic problem seems to be that no one here actually thinks writing as a viable long term career option. Most of the people just intend to publish a couple of books, and feel happy about it. And none of them is a full-time writer, all are busy with their real profession as well. Books are just another feather in the cap, something they work on in their free time. And this explains the quality of the writing.

Well, 'If God Was a banker' is no different. It is just another attempt to write about one's experiences, and hasn't been given much time either. Nothing much to write about the book, its a tale of two bankers (which some people claim is a real life story) and how they grow within their company. Nice storyline, but the writing leaves a lot to be desired.

Kane and Abel

There was a time when I didn't read novels. For no great reason, but just didn't read. Then one day, one of my friend asked me to try one of them. He gave me 'Love Story' by Erich Segal, and I did like it. I borrowed another novel from another friend named 'As the Crow Flies' and I liked it too. Later that friend told me that it was one of the worse novels of Jeffery Archer, with 'Kane and Abel' being his best. I didn't have a great pocket-money in those days, hence I never bought the book to verify.

After 6 years, I finally read the book. Well, my choice have changed a little, and I mostly read Finance and Economics books these days. Hence, it took me a long time to buy this one, and give it a read. It's a story about two men, born on the same day, but in very different families. It narrates how both of them grows with vastly different experiences - one goes to Harvard and wins more and more scholarships, whereas the other survives the first world war, from the Germans and as the Russians. They both grow on to become rich and powerful, and somehow, start hating each other. Its a nicely written fast flowing story, and narrates the incidents from birth to death of both its characters.

For all the Jeffery Archer fans, this is a must read.


July 21, 2008

A Thousand Splendid Suns

So little does the world knows about Afghanistan, and our view is solely based words/pictures from a few sources. Most of the times we forget that there are ordinary people like us living there, who are now suffering more after US help then they were before. And yet, no one is raising a finger. 

'A Thousand Splendid Suns' is a story about a little girl, who was an illegitimate child of a rich man. However, his father never accepted her, and instead, sold her to an Old man in Kabul to send her away. It talks about all the tortures she goes through while trying to be a wife to an old drunkard. It a beautiful story about the real sufferings in the country, and why the world should have been united against its rulers. There must a lot of similar books from the region, and I would love to read a few of them. 

July 5, 2008

Life Otherwise

Life apart from the job has been quite good recently. Have been watching almost every new bollywood release, and have been reading a lot of good books as well. Apart from the weather and traveling, have got quite comfortable living in Mumbai.

Recently finished the book 'Life of Pi'. The book starts off with a family in Pondichery who looks after a zoo. Then they decide to move to Canada, and boards a ship. The ship sinks in the pacific ocean, and a small boy named 'Pi Patel' is the sole survivor. The book is about this boys journey in his lifeboat through the vast Pacific Ocean. The book is very similar to 'The Old Man and the Sea', only much more detailed.

Overall, a good read, though I should warn that the story is very slow, and hence may not interest the fans of Jeffery Archers of the world.

May 19, 2008

The City that was Bombay

When the British left India, Calcutta was perhaps one of the most happening City in India. It had a great history, scholarly people and one of the best literacy rates in the country. 60 years after independence, Calcutta is dead. It was replaced by Kolkata, and that represents everything that went wrong with the City. You might ask what's in a name? Well, there is nothing in the name, and that is the whole problem. Whenever a City's name is changed, the following things are at play - (1) The government is bad enough to develop the state, and hence it resorts to these kick-out-English-in-comes-Hindustani stunts, (2) The government is also playing the regionalism game here by using a name in local language, and hence creating a vote bank of locals for the themselves, even at the cost of their state being branded anti-nationalist and against the unity of the country, (3) It is a symbol of one's preference of locals over cosmopolitans. And these are the reasons why Kolkata could never match Calcutta irrespective of all the efforts by the IT Czars and the government.

Some people refuse to learn from history and Bombay is forced to make way for Mumbai. Bombay is everything that represents India's advancement in Finance and Industries. Once it is dead, Mumbai would never be able to match the splendor of the City. Mumbai would become another Kolkata, a City known for its monuments, and traditions, a City that is a must visit who wants to see the India's glorious past, a City from the history books rather than from Business Magazines, a City that would stop its growth, and put all its energies into preventing its decay. And once it decays, it would be known as another Antique City.

So where does this leaves us? This leaves a scope for another City to come forward, this leaves a room for another Shanghai to leapfrog Beijings of the World. And the City which might take the lead would be Delhi, for the simple reason that it has been known as Delhi for more than 60 years. I am surprised that no other State has taken the lead to call all the companies that are reeling under political pressure and sky-high rentals in Mumbai. It makes sense to pay even exorbitant amount in a City for the future, but not Mumbai. Mumbai is being pulled back by its political class, and its only a matter of time when it joins Kolkata.

March 21, 2008

Reminiscences Of A Stock Operator

On someone's recommendation, read the book 'Reminiscences of a Stock Operator'. Its a real life story of a very successful stock trader who practiced the habit of tape reading. It a story based set in the begining years of 20th century. Its a story about the legendary trader Jesse Livermore, and how he made and lost fortunes on the wall street. There were numerous instances when he lost all his earnings on the street, but everytime learnt something from the mistakes.

The book more than anything else stresses on the art of tape reading. The trader here concerns himself only with the story told by the tape. He sites innumerable stories of great traders, like the one below:

One day a very close friend of Livermore came to him and passed a tip that some Mr. XYZ was buying all the suger in the market, and he too should buy as there might be some good news expected on it. He added that Mr. XYZ was literally grabbing all the suger contracts available. Livermore, instead of buying, gave an order to sell 10000 lots. He waited for the fill, and after getting the fills, gave orders to sell 10000 lots more. His tipster was baffled, but he was calm. All the offering was gone in a second. Then he gave the order to buy 50000 lots. As he explained later, by selling 10000 lots twice, he was just testing if the information was correct. If he was able to sell everything without moving the price at all, it meant that someone was ready to buy everything at the market price. He tested it twice, and once convinced, bought the largest stake he could have afforded.

Its really a wonderful book, and anyone aspiring to be a good trader should read it atleast once.