Monday, March 30, 2009

Post 586 : What a dreadful yawn…

I have realised that as times are passing, I have acquired this tendency to become more pedantic, more cynical and more opinionated.

All of these might be fine in this blog, but not at all great in one to one conversations.

Resolution – shut the trap and cut the crap!!

Post 585 : Coming Clean

We placed the prayer carpet
on the wine jar
and made ablutions
with the tavern’s dust.

Perhaps in these taverns
we’ve rediscovered that life
the one we list
in the seminary

- Abu Hamid Muhammad Ghazali


(from Love’s Alchemy by David Fideler, Sabrineh Fideler)

Post 584 : Perplexed

Those who went the way
of reason and logic

And those who mimicked
the conventions of learning,
the dogmas of faith

They never came to know
the secret of existence.

They became perplexed
in the world
and left perplexed too.

- Saif Ali Shah


(Pg 30 from Love’s Alchemy by David Fideler, Sabrineh Fideler)

Post 583 : Passages 54 : Arundhati Roy, God of Small things : Big vs. small things

"And the air was full of Thoughts and Things to Say. But at times like these, only the Small Things are ever said. Big Things lurk unsaid inside."

-Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things)

Post 582 : GoPutra have some GoMutra!!

(At the outset, I want to set the context – ridiculing a belief system is far from my idea here, but what I am finding funny is the way it is being marketed. The belief itself – I am more than willing to completely respect. Lets leave each to their own “pee”ace.)

From reproduced below for easier reading.

A cow for Mr. Praskash by S Jayasankaran

IT is the Year of the Ox so what does a right wing, nationalist Hindu movement in India do?
It’s going to come out with a soda made out of cow urine. Being the peerless marketers that they were, they knew, with an instinctive flash of clarity, that it was the drink the world had been eagerly waiting for.

Pepsi lacked zip and Coke wasn’t the real thing so a unit called – what else? – the Cow Protection Department of India’s biggest and oldest Hindu nationalist group has decided to come out with a bovine brew that will, apparently, hit the spot.

Om Prakash, the head of the department, said the drink – called gau jal meaning “cow water” in Sanskrit – was undergoing laboratory tests and would be launched “very soon, maybe by the end of this year”, adding helpfully, “don’t worry, it won’t smell like urine and will be tasty too.”

Mr Prakash thought he’d been a rocket scientist in his previous life and all the evidence regarding his present existence seemed to corroborate the thought.

He knew that cow urine was the answer to life’s problems because he mistrusted modern medicine. There was no doubt about it, he often thought to himself when he wasn’t being a rocket scientist, because there was something distinctly unnerving about any doctor who called his clinic “a practice”.

Cow urine was no bull because it represented globalisation, a New World Odour that had everything to do with robust good health, a spring in one’s step, and halitosis. The latter symptom was regrettable, Mr Prakash said apologetically, but they were still working on it.
It was sort of, like, swimming, reasoned the ex-rocket scientist learnedly. “If swimming was supposed to be so good for you,” argued Mr Prakash, “how come whales look they way they do?”

It was a crisp and succinct question that floored every listener and they wondered how come more Hindu nationalists weren’t happy when ignorance was bliss. But the newly reincarnated ex-rocket scientist had another excellent question from where the first one had come.

“What was the best thing before sliced bread?”

It was a deeply insightful inquiry which pleased supporters of cow urine the world over. The trio danced a jig and lit a candle to the memory of Morarji Desai who was Prime Minister of India in the late 1970s and was largely notable for extolling the virtues of drinking his own urine which he did on a daily basis.

Although most thought his stewardship of the Indian economy was piss-poor, Mr Desai did live to a ripe old age of 92 which may have gone a long way in explaining how with diet, exercise and a daily dose of urine, everyone could live to the end of their natural lifetimes.

Mr Prakash thought that Mr Desai was admirable but felt that bovine waste was a better lifestyle choice. He knew perfectly well it could cure most conditions including insomnia for which the only cure was more sleep. It was apparent that he was bright until you heard him speak which only went to prove that light travelled faster than sound.

Coca-Cola and Pepsi were awaiting the new invention with bated breath but Mr Prakash remained coy. He knew he had to keep it a secret and he knew he could keep a secret but he didn’t trust those he told it to.

But he believed in giving good advice as he wasn’t using it anyway. “Thou shall not weigh more than your refrigerator.” he told his disciples, all three of whom immediately prayed that if they couldn’t be skinny, they wanted all their friends to be fat.

The freshly minted ex-rocket scientist was expected to unveil his invention soon but he kept changing his mind. “To vacillate or not to vacillate, that is the question,” he mused to himself. “Or is it?” He knew that indecision was the key to flexibility.

● S. Jayasankaran is the bureau chief of Singapore’s Business Times and can be contacted at

    Saturday, March 28, 2009

    Post 581 : Music 49 : Kate Nahin Raat – Ustad Sultan Khan (from album Bhoomi)

    SKskyUstad Sultan Khan 4




    1. Bhoomi is a 2000 album of Indian fusion.
    2. Ustad Sultan Khan is a sarangi maestro – and sarangi is my favorite instrument – its melancholy is beyond compare.
    3. Ustad Sultan Khan sings as good, if not better than he plays Sarangi.
    4. “Kate Nahin Raat” is the first song of the album.

    We used to listen this song @ MyZus, a company close to my heart.

    Heatrd this again, after almost 3 years. Heard it on repeat for over 5 times.

    Has to be one of the most palatable classical songs for the “regular” junta. In one word it is brilliant.

    Ustad’s vocals are awesome, absolutely right amount of soz’ (melancholy) in it. Ustadji take a bow. You have made a definite impact in my life. (Hear Albela Sajan from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam).

    (kate naahin raat mori, piya tore kaaran kaaran
    piya tore kaaran kaaran) - 2

    (kaale kaale baadal chhaaye
    dekh dekh ji lalchaaye) - 2
    (kaisi aanu paas pihaa re
    dur gaye more saajan) - 2
    dur gaye more saajan
    kate naahin raat mori, piya tore kaaran kaaran
    piya tore kaaran kaaran

    (bheega bheega mausam aaya
    piya ka sandesa laaya) - 2
    (mannva ko chain na aaye
    ?? hain more naina) - 2
    ?? hain more naina
    (kate naahin raat mori, piya tore kaaran kaaran
    piya tore kaaran kaaran) - 2
    piya tore kaaran kaaran - 2

    Post 580 : The long and short of a story….

    Have been trying to read Tales from Firozsha Baag by Rohington Mistry. Its not a difficult read (which if it was, I would have been fine with), its a damn boring read.
    I am 100 down out of 245 pages and am giving it up. 

    From its first page

    “Not that the story need be long,
                            But it will take a long time to make it short.”

    - Henry David Thoreau

    Those 2 lines in themselves made the rest of the (drab) book worth it :-)

    Post 579 : What you might henceforth learn at business school by Prakash Shesh

    Picked this from Times Of India. Its simple and yet effective. It rings true if you meditate on some of it. I snapped this online from

    I have a similar post of my own at


    <start of cut-paste>

    Good business schools have now realised that it is not enough to train managers on how to maximize wealth. Successful persons need to possess skills to maximize happiness - their own and of those around them.

    We must first differentiate between happiness and joy (or pleasure). On a warm summer day, drinking a glass of cold lemon juice gives you great pleasure - your favourite perfume gives you great joy - even scratching a bodily itch gives you immense pleasure. Pleasure is thus  momentary and sensory. Happiness, on the other hand, is "mental" and therefore infinitely more powerful. Can you measure your happiness at having stood first in a tough examination or having beaten your traditional rivals in a sport or for that matter when your children surpass your own achievements?

    Are human beings happier today than what they were, say, fifty years ago? I am not sure about the answer. All the technological progress that we have achieved may not have necessarily contributed to increasing our happiness quotient. How does one then go about maximizing happiness??

    (1) Identify what makes you happy!

    This is a tough one! I have met very few people who are clear in their minds about what will make them happy. Since they are blissfully unclear about their objectives, they live a perennially unhappy life. Take a piece of paper and start writing what will make you happy. Don't generate "motherhood is good" type of statements & remember, a legitimate GOAL is specific, quantifiable, measurable, "achievable and challenging" (this last is not a contradiction).

    (2) Compete against yourself !

    A very interesting study conducted at Harvard Business School demonstrated that people are happier when their wealth is more than their compatriots. In this study  respondents were asked to choose between the following two situations: [a] You get an annual salary of $ 1,00,000 while your compatriot gets $ 75,000; [b] You get an annual salary of $ 1,50,000 while your compatriot gets $ 1,75,000. Though the salary was more in the second case, respondents overwhelmingly preferred the first alternative thereby demonstrating that it is relative prosperity (and not absolute prosperity) that is perceived to be important. This could indeed turn out to be a major cause of un - happiness. Why not compete with oneself to constantly improve instead of grieving over someone elses' better performance?

    (3) Don't expect everyone to agree with you!

    Most of us equate disagreement with enmity in spite of knowing that intelligent people rarely agree on anything (because all have their own perspective and the necessary intellectual firepower to put it across). So if disagreement is going to make you unhappy you have yourself to blame. By all means try and convince the other person about your point of view but if he wants to remain where he is, let him be - discuss something else.

    (4) Live your life according to your own beliefs!

    After achieving financial independence, intellectual independence must follow. How long are you going to live your own life according to what someone else tells you? Life is anyway too short for you to afford this luxury. Implement your beliefs without inconveniencing others & be happy at finally having become responsible for ones own actions.

    (5) Live in the PRESENT (here & now)!

    The past is dead & gone - it needs to be peeped into only to learn from the mistakes that we committed. Yes go ahead and DREAM about the future but you can't enjoy it until someday it becomes your 'present'. Only "TODAY" is capable of giving you the maximum happiness - so concentrate on it. Don't postpone enjoyment - try and experience it today.

    (6) Increase the number of sources of your happiness!

    Gardening, singing, playing an instrument, exercising, meditating, having a healthy sexual life, counseling, making friends, watching 20/20, listening to Jagjit Singh... are all what I call sources of happiness. More the sources, more will be the happiness.

    (7) Limit your desires!

    All of us get caught in that vicious circle of : Motor cycle - Maruti 800 - Accent - Skoda - Mercedes - Cessna and so on....If you are buying these things to give you happiness, you will soon realise that it is short lived. I agree to the wag who said that luxury must be experienced once to realise how un necessary it really is... To put it more scientifically, incremental benefits [as you climb up this value chain of materialism] are not at all worthwhile for the incremental cost that you have to shell out. Limiting desires judiciously (without under performing) is therefore one of the most effective ways of increasing your happiness quotient.

    (8) Forget & Forgive!

    In any situation remember to do your best and forget the rest. Forgiving your opponents who played dirty may not make you a winner but it would surely make you happier. Jealousy and prolonged anger have long ago been identified by psychologists as agents of death.

    (9) Keep your curiosity alive & kicking!

    People who vigorously retain the childlike habit of asking questions in order to seek answers about why things happen the way they do, are happy on two counts (a) because they have a sense of achievement when they get the answer; and (b) this process keeps them from ageing.

    (10) Shun HYPOCRISY!

    We are a nation high on hypocrisy. We will worship godesses but burn brides for dowry. We will keep our courtyard clean but dump the garbage in the neighbours compound when no one is looking. We will demand respect but won't give it so easily. Hypocrisy leads to unhappiness because in his heart the perpetrator knows that he is a sham.

    (11) Spend a lot of time with people younger than you!

    Their happiness rubs off on you. It is indeed a zero cost way of increasing your happiness.

    (12) Give! Give! Give!

    Give a smile, advice, cheer, money, help or just company. This is an age old puzzle. Giving normally reduces your assets but giving away happiness actually increases your own inventory - try it out...

    Here's wishing you tons and tons of happiness!!

    <\start of cut-paste> :-)

    Post 578 : The tables have turned…

    Was cleaning my refrigerator today…It has over 5kgs of various nuts stocked in (dry fruits….cashews, almonds, pistas and the ilk)

    I remember as a kid, I used to drool on dry fruits. We almost never had it at home and if we did, then mom would ration it. All of it was perfect in the context that cashews and almonds were beyond our means and yet… parents treated us to it whenever they could.

    But the keyword for me is “drool”, I used to love to munch on both cashews and almonds.

    FF >> (fast-foward) 25 years. I have 5 kgs of dry fruits in my refrigerator, and my wife is constantly coaxing me to eat a few pieces daily for my better health (which I invariably never do).

    Unlike my childhood, in case we we finish this stock, we can always go in and pile in again. Fortunately (felt strange using that word), we can afford it comfortably today.

    How ironic is that….

    The same applies to television – we used to have 2 crappy channels and my dad vociferously rationed that experience for me (and I thank him dearly for that). Today I have a huge LCD, 200 channels and yet I only switch it on out of boredom, its never out of excitement, or catching the next of a series. Its a just in time “time killer”.

    The more I think of these examples….only one word rings in my head.

    “Leh”….Time to GO!!

    Very similar post from my archive

    Wednesday, March 25, 2009

    Post 577 : Book 10 – Milan Kundera, Identity


    milan-kundera 1223918485_FO01131104

    This is my second book by Milan Kundera, the first being Immortality. Why do I like him? He is dark and real without being Kafkanesque. His darkness comes from the mirror he holds to our (my) everyday life.

    Why should I read/be reminded of our doomedness? Its a choice. Always (not sometimes) the mirror is held up to show you a part, but you end up seeing the whole, much more than the author wanted you to see.

    He is difficult to read, but very insightful and the images haunt you, a la Rohington Mistry.

    Its a simple book about a couple in love who are struggling with their everyday (&  philosophical) differences.

    It is less prose, more poetic. Small book, 145 pages, difficult to rush through it, because its easy to lose the plot.

    Overall – I would rate this 9/10, which means I loved the book.

    Post 576 : Passages 53 : Milan Kundera, Identity : Passion at work

    Milan Kundera, Identity, Pg. 75

    (My 2 pice - This passage is exactly what I have been harping for quite some time to people (who are patient enough to listen to my carp…not crap!!). I believe in it with my heart, I really think this apathetic melancholy is the signature of our times. )

    Then Jean-Marc came back to his idea: I'd say that the quantity of boredom, if boredom is measurable, is much greater today than it once was. Because the old occupations, at least most of them, were unthinkable without a passionate involvement: the peasants in love with their land; my grandfather, the magician of beautiful tables; the shoemakers who knew every villager's feet by heart; the woodsmen; the gardeners; probably even the soldiers killed with passion back then. The meaning of life wasn't an issue, it was there with them, quite naturally, in their workshops, in their fields. Each occupation had created its own mentality, its own way of being. A doctor would think differently from a peasant, a soldier would behave differently from a teacher. Today we're all alike, all of us bound together by our shared apathy towards our work. That very apathy has become a passion. The one great collective passion of our time.

    Post 575 : Trading in love’s currency

    Reason said, “We live in a world
    of six directions – and that’s it!”

    Love replied, “There is a path beyond,
    and I have travelled it many times.”

    Reason saw a market and set up a shop,
    but love trades in another currency altogether.

    - Rumi

    (from Love’s Alchemy by David Fideler, Sabrineh Fideler)

    Post 574 : Graffitti on the bumper of a Mumbai Truck

    चलती हो इतनी अदा से, क्या मार डालोगी,
                      माँगा था थोड़ा सा प्यार, क्या अचार डालोगी.

    Post 573 : Identity ( A poem)

    When the I becomes the we,
    The we becomes the them,
    And they are not they,
    Thats when you know,
                     You have drifted far away….

    (yours truly….chuckle :-))

    Sunday, March 22, 2009

    Post 572 : Music 48 : Allah Mohammed Char Yaar by Nusrat Saheb

    I am not a religious person at all, infact I am a confirmed atheist. And yet, at times, I can’t but ignore the sublime grace of devotional music.

    If you hear Allah Mohammed Char Yaar by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan saheb and it does not impress upon you, all I can say, the seeds of your inner music are dead.

    This is Sufi Qawwali at its best, the more you listen, the more it haunts, first it gets into your skin, then blood, then cells and before you know its all over you. Gets deep into your rooh (closest english equivalent,”soul”, “id”, “identity”).

    Go listen to this song, be blessed and connect with the universe. It will do much more than any ritual or n times of temple going will ever do for you.

    (Warning : This song floats in you head, long after your Ipod has gone silent. My wife and I both experienced the same haunting sense. Once it gets in, its very difficult to get out.)

    4zv7c5t nusratfatehalikhan



    The title of this song in English means: Allah (God), Muhammad and the Four Friends (4 of the most important Chishti saints).

    Allah!  Help this ‘I’ in its journey to You, that one day ‘I’ too might gaze out open the stars of inward heaven.

    And my last prayer is in praise of God, Sustainer of All Being.

    From, by the peer Salim Chisti

    haji kaabe de gird tawaaf karde, kaaba kare tawaaf subah shaam tera
    saare aakh dene ganj-e-shakar tenu, faiz pul jahan de aam tera
    naam lendyae mushkil hal howe, aisa mushkil kusha hai naam tera
    dar te aaye deewane di laj rakh le, bara naaz menu mei ghualam tera

    allah muhammad char yaar... haji, khawaj, qutub, farid

    allah pak mohammad chare yaar, haji, qutub, farid farid hove
    tera paak watan subhanallah, jehra dekh lave ohdi eid hove

    jannat da naqsha pakpattan jithe chishti sabri sajde karan
    ohda akbari hajj honda eh jehnu peer farid di deed hove

    kaaba pakpattan diyan galiyan ne
    mera kaaba pakpattan
    mera kaaba pakpattan
    mera kaaba pakpattan

    allah muhammad char yaar...
    haji, khawaj, qutub, farid

    haq farid mere baba farid
    haq farid mere baba farid
    haq farid mere baba farid

    nigaah hatali to dunya waheen badal dali
    mere farid ki nazr e asar ka kya kehna

    haq farid mere baba farid
    haq farid mere baba farid
    haq farid mere baba farid

    mehboob ho gaya koi makhdoom ho gaya
    misaal he nahi aise nazar ka kya kehna

    haq farid mere baba farid
    haq farid mere baba farid
    haq farid mere baba farid

    faridi naam ka jag mein hai
    goonjhte hein her su tum bhi kaho

    haq farid mere baba farid
    haq farid mere baba farid
    haq farid mere baba farid

    mangto ka dar pe yeh lala-gaah hai
    sir ko jhukaye shah o gada hai
    haath mein kasa lab pe sada hai. kya

    haq farid mere baba farid
    haq farid mere baba farid
    haq farid mere baba farid

    aankhon mein aise bas gayi surat farid ki
    dil maangta hai aur bhi qurbat farid ki

    haq farid mere baba farid
    haq farid mere baba farid
    haq farid mere baba farid

    jannat to mere baba (something) hai???
    hum hein fariduddin ke jannat farid ki

    haq farid mere baba farid
    haq farid mere baba farid
    haq farid mere baba farid

    ganj shakar sarkar deedar de ke ker ke karam te sohniya eid ker de
    tenu wasta sakhi shabbir da ae pori dilan di aj ummed ker de
    hind-al-wali ka sadqa ata ker ke tegh-e-ishq ke naal saheed kar de
    israel vi aaye te asi saim tayye jaam farid farid kar ke

    haq farid mere baba farid
    haq farid mere baba farid
    haq farid mere baba farid

    baba pak pattan diyan galiyen ne
    aaye faiz jahan de waliyan ne
    hai yeh pak dawara jis dar te
    khusrau da peer mureed hove

    khwaja qutub da raaj dulhara ae
    khwaja qutub da raaj dulhara ae
    khwaja qutub da raaj dulhara ae

    khwaja qutub da raaj dulhara ae
    dukhiyan da fareed sahara ae

    ouh kyun na sabir ho jaye
    jehra teri nazar da shaheed hove
    bekhud darwaza jannat da
    hai peer fareed de qadma vich

    chalo chaliyeh ous davare te
    jehre mangtian de sada eid hove

    Allah Pak Mohammad Chare Yaar, Haji, Khwaja, Qutub, Farid Hove

    Post 571 : Passages 52 : Milan Kundera, Identity : Purpose of life

    Milan Kundera, Identity, Page 128-130

    ‘…of which man is, however, a mere instrument.’ Leroy interrupted : ‘The invention of the locomotive contains the seed of the aeroplane’s design, which lead ineluctably to the space rocket. That logic is contained in the things themselves, in other words, it is part of the divine project. You can turn in the whole human race for a different one, and still the evolution that leads from the bicycle to the rocket will be just the same. Man is only an operator, not the author of the evolution. And a partly operator at that, since he doesn’t know the meaning of what he is operating. That meaning doesn’t belong to us, it belongs to God alone, and we’re here only to obey Him so that He can do what He wants.’

    elsewhere on the page…

    Chantal: ‘ But in that case, why are we here below? Why are we living?’

    a paragraph apart

    Why are we living? To provide God with human flesh. Because the Bible, my dear lady, does not ask us to seek the meaning of life. It asks us to procreate. Love one another and procreate. Understand the meaning of that “love one another” is determined by that “procreate:. That “love one another” carries absolutely no implication on charitable love, of compassionate, spiritual or passionate love, it only means very simply “make love!” “copulate” (he drops his voice and leans towards her) “fuck!” (Like a devout disciple, docilely, the lady fazes into his eyes). ‘That, and that alone, constitutes the mean of human life. All the rest if bullshit.’

    On page 132

    We’re going deeper and deeper.’ said the lady anxiously.

    ‘To where truth resides’, said Chantal.

    ‘To where’, added Leroy, ‘ resides the answer to your question: why are living? What is essential in life?’. He looked hard at the lady: ‘ The essential, in life, is to perpetuate life: it is childbirth, and what precedes it, coitus, and what precedes coitus, seduction, that is to say kisses, hair floating in the wind, silk underwear, well-cut brassieres, and everything else that makes people ready for coitus, for instance good food  not fine cuisine, a superfluous thing no one appreciates any more, but the food everyone buys – and along with food, defecation, because you know, my dear lady, my beautiful adored lady, you know what a huge position the praise of toilet paper occupies in our profession. Toilet paper, supplies, detergents, food. That is man’s sacred circle, and our mission is not only to discover it, seize it, and map it, but to make it beautiful, to transform it into song. Thanks to our influence, toilet paper is almost exclusively pink, and that is a high edifying fact, which, my dear and anxious lady, I would recommend that you contemplate seriously’.


    But then where is the grandeur of life? If we’re condemned to food and coitus and toiler paper, who are we? And if that’s all we are capable of, why pride can we take in the fact that we are, as they tell us, free beings?’

    On the next page…

    Leroy interrupted Chantal’s fantasies: ‘Freedom? As you live out your desolation, you can either be unhappy or happy. Having that choice is what comprises your freedom. Your free to melt your own individuality into the cauldron of the multitude either with a feeling of defeat or with euphoria. Our choice, my dear lady is, euphoria.

    Chantal felt a smile take shape on her face. She paid serious attention to what Leroy had just said : out only freedom is choosing between bitterness and pleasure. Since the insignificance of all things is our lot, we should bear it as an affliction but when to enjoy it.

    Post 570 : Passages 51 : Milan Kundera, Identity : Ambition and the lack of it

    Milan Kundera, Identity, Pg 79

    ‘It’s not a setback to give up your studies, what I gave up at that moment was ambition. I was suddenly a man without ambition. And having lost my ambition, I suddenly found myself at the margin of the world. And, what was worse : I had no desire to be anywhere else. I had all the less desire given that there was no real threat of hardship. But if you have no ambition, if you’re not avid to succeed, to gain recognition, you’re setting yourself up on the verge of ruin. True, I set myself up there in comfortable conditions. But still, it’s the verge of ruin I’m set up on. So its’ no exaggeration to say that I belong with that beggar and not with the owner of this magnificent restaurant where I’m having such a grand time.’

    Post 568 : Passages 50 : Milan Kundera, Identity : Can love survive silence?

    Milan Kundera, Identity, Pg. 76

    ‘We could talk about other things!’

    ‘Two people in love, alone, isolated from the world, that’s very beautiful. But what would they nourish their intimate talk with? However contemptible the world may be, they still need it to be able to talk together.’

    ‘They could be silent.’

    ‘Like those two, at the next table?’. Jean-Marc laughed. ‘Oh, no, no love can survive muteness.’

    Post 567 : Passages 49 : Milan Kundera, Identity : The sound of dying

    Milan Kundera, Identity, Pg. 74

    Chantal smiled, and Jean-Marc went on to another memory: ‘ I had just turned fourteen, and my grand-father – not the cabinetmaker, the other one – was dying. There was a sound coming from his mouth, that was unlike anything else, not even a moan because he wasn’t in pain, not like words he might have been having trouble saying, no, he hadn’t lost speech, just very simply he had nothing to say, nothing to communicate, no actual message, he didn’t even have anyone to talk to, wasn’t interested in anyone any more, it was just him alone with the sound he was emitting, one sound, an “ahhhh” that broke off only when he had to take a breath. I would watch him, hypnotized, and I never forgot that, because, though I was only a child, something seemed to be become clear to me : this is existence as such confronting time as such, and that confrontation, I understood, is named boredom.My grandfather’s boredom expressed itself by that sound, by that endless “ahhhh”, because without that “ahhhh” time would have crushed him, and the only weapon my grandfather had against time was that feeble “ahhh” going on and on.’

    ‘You mean he was dying and he was bored?’

    ‘That’s what I mean.’

    Post 566 : Arindam Chaudhuri’s IIPM exposed

    Update : 4th April 2009 Gaurav dropped me a note disavowing
    Mea Culpa!!
    I stand corrected!!


    Refer to my earlier post on Arindam Chaudhari.

    I am still not sure whether any of the malign that is out there against him or IIPM is true, and I willing to give him the benefit of a good defense.

    Inspite of my open approach to this topic, could not help but be a bit biased after reading (earlier attributed to Gaurav Sabnis’ I stand corrected)

    If any of what he says out there is true, we are dealing with a problem.

    My own experience with this though, teaches me, that there can’t be a smoke without fire, but even a small cigarette butt can generate smoke, it does not always have to be a forest fire. (I am just trying to give the IIPM guys a fair chance).

    Post 565 : Baba Sheikh Farid Shakarganj’s couplet



    Not every heart is capable of finding the secret of God’s love.
    There are not pearls in every sea; there is not gold in every mine.

    Post 564 : Passages 48 : Milan Kundera, Identity, Eyes & eyelids

    Milan Kundera, Identity, Pg. 58-59

    When her discomfiture becomes unbearable, he clasps her to him and says, laughing, ‘I wanted to see your eyelid washing your cornea like a wiper washing a windscreen.’

    Since his last encounter with F., he has been thinking about it: the eye, the window to the soul, the centre of the face’s beauty, the point where a person’s identity is concentrated; but at the same time an optical instrument that requires constant washing , wetting, maintenance by a special liquid dosed with salt. So the gaze, the greatest marvel  man possesses, is regularly interrupted by a mechanical washing action. Like a windscreen washed by a wiper. And nowadays you can even set the tempo of the windscreen wiper in such a way that the movements are separated by a ten-second pause, which is roughly an eyelid’s rhythm.

    Jean-Marc watches the eyes of people he talks to and tries to observe the action of the eyelid; he finds that it is not easy. We are not accustomed to being aware of the eyelid. He thinks; there’s nothing I see so often as other people’s eyes. this the eyelids and their movements. And yet I don’t register their movement. I delete it from the eyes in front of me.

    And he goes on thinking; puttering ion His workshop God stumbled on this body form to which we must each become the soul for a short while. But what a sorry fate, to be the soul of a body cobbled together so offhandedly, whose eye cannot do its looking without being washed every ten, twenty seconds! How are we to believe that the person we see before is a free, independent being, how own master? How are we to believe his body is the faithful expression of whatever soul inhabits it? To be able to believer that, we’ve to forget the perpetual blinking of the eyelid. We’ve to forget the putterer’s workshop we come from. We’ve had to submit to a contract to forget. It’s God himself who imposed the contract on us.

    Post 563 : Passages 47 : Milan Kundera, Identity – Crematory Fire

    Milan Kundera, Identity, Pg. 52

    “The crematory fire is leaving me its visiting card.”

    On the same page at a different point

    “The crematory fire is the only way not to leave our body to their mercy".

    On Pg. 54

    ‘And do you know the story about Haydn’s head? They cut it away from the still-warm cadaver so some insane scientist could take apart the brain and pinpoint the location of musical genius. And the Einstein Story?  He’d carefully written his will with instructions to cremate him. They followed his orders, but his disciple, ever loyal and devoted, refused to live without the master’s gaze on him. Before the cremation, he took the eyes of the cadaver and put them in a bottle of alcohol to keep them watching him until the moment he should die himself. That’s why I said that the crematory fire is the only way our bodies can escape them. It’s the only absolute death. And I don’t want any other. Jean-Marc, I want an absolute death.’


    Post 562 : Passages 46 : Milan Kundera, Identity – What is Nostalgia?

    Milan Kundera, Idenitity, Pg. 38

    Nostalgia? How could she feel nostalgia for someone who was right in front of her? How can you suffer from the absence of a person who is present? (Jean-Marc knew how to answer that: you can suffer nostalgia in the presence of the beloved if you glimpse a future where the beloved is no more; if the beloved’s death is, invisibly, already present.

    Saturday, March 21, 2009

    Post 561 : Passages 45 : Milan Kundera, Identity – What is friendship?

    Milan Kundera, Identity, Pg. 43-44

    Jean-Marc rose to get the bottle of cognac and two glasses. Then, after swallowing a mouthful: ‘ At the end of my hospital visit, he began to reminisce. He reminded me of what I must have said when I was sixteen. When he did that, I understood the sole purpose of friendship as it’s practiced today. Friendship is indispensable to man for the proper function of his memory. Remembering our past, carrying it with us always, may be necessary requirement for maintaining, as they say, the wholeness of the self. To ensure that the self doesn’t shrink, to see that it holds on to its volume, memories have been watered like potted flowers, and the watering calls for regular contact with the witness of the past, that is to say, with friends. They are our mirror: our memory; w ask, nothing of them but they polish the mirror from time to time so we can look at ourselves in it. But I don’t care a damn about what I did in school! What I’ve always wanted, since my early adolescence, maybe even since childhood, was something else entirely: friendship as a valued possession above all others. I liked to say: between the truth and a friend, I always choose the friend. I said it to be provocative, but I really thought it. Today I know that maxim is obsolete. It might have been valid for Achilles as Patroclus’ friend, for Alexandre Dumas’' musketeers, even for Sancho Panza, who was a true friend to this master despite all their disagreements. But for us it isn’t any more. I have become so pessimistic that these days I’d even choose the truth over friendship.’

    He took another swallow: ‘Friendship, to me, was proof of the existence of something stronger than ideology, than religion, than the nation. In Dumas’ book, the four friends often find themselves on opposite sides and thus required to fight against one another. But that doesn’t affect their friendship. They still go on helping one another, secretly, cunningly, without giving a damn for the truths of their respective camps. They put their friendship above the truth, or the cause, or orders from superiors, above the king, above the queen and above everything.’

    Chantal caressed his hand and after a pause he went on: Dumas wrote the story of the musketeers two hundred years after their time. Was he already feeling nostalgia then for the lost universe of friendship? Or is the disappearance of friendship a more recent phenomenon?’

    ‘I can’t answer that. Friendship isn’t a problem for women.’

    ‘What do you mean?’

    ‘’Just what I say. Friendship is a problem for men. Its their romanticism. Not ours.’

    Post 560 : Passages 44 : Milan Kundera, Identity – Being in a Coma & What is it to be dead

    Milan Kundera, Identity, Pg. 8

    F. was describing the coma that had lasted several days before the doctors had  brought hum back to life :’You know all those accounts by people who’ve survived death: the tunnel with a light at the end of it. The beauty of the beyond drawing them on. Well, I swear to you, there’s no light. And what’s worse, no unconsciousness. You know everything, you hear everything, but they – the doctors – don’t realize it, and they say everything in front of you, even things you shouldn’t hear. That you’re done for. That your brain is finished.’

    He was silent for a moment. Then ; ‘I’m not saying my mind was completely clear. I was conscious of everything but slightly distorted, like in a dream. From time to time the dream would turn into a nightmare. Only, in real life, a nightmare is over soon, you start yelling and you wake up, but I couldn’t yell. And that was the worst of it, not being able to yell. Being incapable of yelling in the midst of a nightmare.’

    He was silent again. Then: ‘ I never used to be afraid of dying. Now, yes. I can’t shake off the idea that after death you keep being alive. That to be dead is to live an endless nightmare.’

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    Post 559 : Douglas Adams at his best

    My friend Srikanth (Ramasubramanian) is one of the biggest Douglas Adams fans I have met in my life. The thing about Adams which I like is his self-effacing honesty and almost-a-stand-up-comedian-sardonic-lens with which he views life. (The only other author who writes like that is our very own Kiran Nagarkar). The wit and “likeableness” of the prose is a function of its honesty and deprecation, than about real jaw-splitting humor. Its almost as if irony and melancholy mixed in with prose to create a humor concocction…..


    Douglas Adams with his daughter


    Kiran Nagarkar

    Coming back to this post’s main theme, Sri was mentioning DA’s quote about “its ridiculous that we want to save the earth….we must strive to save ourselves…the earth will still be around when we are gone” or something to that effect.

    I did some googling on that topic today, and I found a speech by Douglas Adams (actually I lynched it from

    This speech should rate as one of the most honest and heart warming words I have ever heard made by an author. It tugs and pulls, and it saps too…Read on and judge for yourself. I suggest read it once every year like a prayer…Make others read it too.

    Thank you faithfulohio and thank-you Sri.


    The conclusion of Adams' talk on endangered species:

    There is a kind of terrible irony that at the point that we are best able to understand and appreciate and value the richness of life around us, we are destroying it at a higher rate than it's ever been destroyed before. And we are losing species after species after species, day after day, just because we're burning the stuff down for firewood. And this is a kind of terrible indictment of our understanding.

    But, you see, we make another mistake, because we think somehow, this is all right in some fundamental kind of way, because we think that this is all sort of "meant to happen".
    Now let me explain how we get into that kind of mindset, because it's exactly the kind of mindset that the kakapo gets trapped in. Because, what has been a very successful strategy for the kakapo over generation after generation for thousands and thousands of years, suddenly is the wrong strategy. And he has no means of knowing, because he is just doing what has been successful up till then. And we have always been, because we're toolmakers, because we take from our environment the stuff that we need to do what we want to do and it's always been very successful for us.

    I'll tell you what's happened. It's as if we've sort of put the "pause" button on our own process of evolution, because we have put a buffer around us, which consists of medicine and education and buildings, and all these kinds of things that protect us from the normal environmental pressures. And, it's our ability to make tools that enables us to do this.
    Now, generally speaking, what drives speciation, is that a small group of animals gets separated out from the main body by population pressure, some geographical upheaval or whatever. So imagine, a small bunch suddenly finds itself stranded in a slightly colder environment. Then you know, over a small number of generations that those genes that favor a thicker coat will come to the fore and you come back a few generations later, and the animal's got a thicker coat.

    Man, because we are able to make tools, we arrive in a new environment where it's much colder, and we don't have to wait for that process. Because we see an animal that's already got a thicker coat and we say we'll have it off him. (Laughter.)

    And so we've kind of taken control of our environment, and that's all very well, but we need to sort of be able to rise above that process. To rise above that vision and see a higher vision--and understand the effect we're actually having.

    Now imagine, if you will, an early man, and let's see how this mindset comes about. He's standing, surveying his world at the end of the day. And he looks at it and things, "This is a very wonderful world that I find myself in. This is pretty good. I mean, look, here I am, behind me is the mountains, and the mountains are great. Because there are caves in the mountains where I can shelter, either from the weather or from bears that occasionally come and try to attack me. And I can shelter there, so that's great. And in front of me is the forest, and the forest is full of nuts and berries and trees, and they feed me, and they're *delicious* and they sort of keep me going. And here's a stream going through which has got fish in it, and the water's delicious, and everything's *fantastic*.

    And there's my cousin Ug. And Ug has caught a mammoth! Yay!! (Clapping). Mammoths are terrific! There's nothing greater than a mammoth, because you can wrap yourself in fur from the mammoth, you can eat the meat of the mammoth, and you can use the bones of the mammoth, to catch other mammoths!

    Now this world is a fantastically good world for him. And, part of how we come to take command of our world , to take command of our environment, to make these tools that we need, is that we ask ourselves questions all the time. So this man starts to ask himself questions. "This world" he asks himself, "so, who made it?" Now, of course he thinks that, because *he* makes things himself, so he's looking for someone who will have *made* this world. "So, who would have made this world?" he thinks. "Well, it must be something a little bit like me. Obviously *much much* bigger, and (glancing up) necessarily invisible, but he would have made it. Now, *why* did he make it?"

    Now, we always ask ourselves "why" because we look for intention around us, because *we* do things with intention. We boil an egg in order to eat it. So, we look at the rocks and we look at the trees, and we wonder what intention is here, even though it doesn't have intention. So we think, what did this person who made this world intend it for. And this is the point where you think, "Well, it fits *me* very well. You know, the caves and the forests, and the stream, and the mammoths. He must have made it *for me*!"

    I mean, there's no other conclusion you can come to. And it's rather like a puddle waking up one morning--I know they don't normally do this, but allow me, I'm a science fiction writer (laughter). A puddle wakes up one morning and thinks "Well, this is a very interesting world I find myself in. It fits me very neatly. In fact, it fits me *so* neatly, I mean, *really* precise, isn't it?

    (Laughter) It *must* have been made to have me in it!" And the sun rises, and he's continuing to narrate the story about this hole being made to have him in it. The sun rises, and gradually the puddle is shrinking and shrinking and shrinking, and by the time the puddle ceases to exist, it's still thinking, it's still trapped in this idea, that the hole was there *for* it. And if we think that the world is here *for us*, we will continue to destroy it in the way in which we have been destroying it, because we think we can do no harm.

    There's an awful lot of speculation one way or another at the moment, about whether there's life on other planets or not. Carl Sagan, as you know, was very keen on the idea that there *must* be. The sheer numbers dictate, because there are billions and billions and billions, as he famously did *not* say, in fact, of worlds out there, so the chance must be that there's other intelligent life out there. There are other voices at the moment saying that if you look at the circumstances here on earth, they are *so* extraordinarily specific that the chances of there being something like this out there, are actually pretty remote.

    Now, in a way it doesn't matter. Because think of this--Carl Sagan, I think, himself, said this. There are two possibilities: either there is life out there on other planets, or there is no life out there on other planets. They are both *utterly* extraordinary ideas! But, there is a strong possibility that there isn't anything out there remotely like this. And we are behaving as if this planet, this *extraordinary*, utterly, utterly extraordinary little ball of life, is something we can just screw about with any way we like.

    And maybe we can't. Maybe we *should* be looking after it just a little bit better. *Not* for the world's sake--we talk rather grandly about "saving the world". We don't have to save the world--the world's fine! The world has been through five mass extinctions. Sixty-five million years ago when, as it seems, a comet hit the earth at the same that there were vast volcanic eruptions in India, which saw off the dinosaurs, and something like 90% of the animals on the planet at the time. And another 150 million years earlier than that, another giant, giant, giant extinction. The world has been through it many times before, and what tends to happen, what happens invariably after each mass extinction, is that there's a huge amount of space available, for new forms of life suddenly to emerge and flourish into. Just as the extinction of the dinosaurs made way for us. Without that extinction, we would not be here.

    So, the world is fine. We don't have to save the world--the world is big enough to look after itself! What *we* have to be concerned about, is whether or not the world we live in, will be capable of sustaining *us* in it. *That's* what we need to think about. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. (Applause).



    I suggest read and re-read, this passage is far deeper than it looks. It address existence, god, good, food….and most importantly YOU!!

    Post 558 : The country under my skin by Gionconda Belli


    Both of these passages come from “The country under my skin” by Gionconda Belli. I reached this via Bhupinder Singh.

    We fill the craters left by the bombs
    And once again we sing
    And once again we sow
    Because life never surrenders.

    - anonymous Vietnamese poem


    I dare say, after the life I have lived, that there is nothing quixotic or romantic in wanting to change the world… My deaths, my dead, were not in vain. This is a relay race to the end of time. In the United States, in Nicaragua, I am the same Quixota who learned through life’s battles that defeat can be as much of an illusion as victory.

    Post 557 : A mourning poem for Bajaur

    Picked this up from, translated by Asif Farrukhi, written by Kishwar Naheed. I liked it a lot, think it is relevant for any modern city in these times.

    Coffins have become so numerous
    That the city is shrinking
    The eye is oozing
    And not even a word of association

    Like an open wound
    On the lips.
    The sky looks over everything
    And remains silent.

    Why does it go on believing
    That mankind will awake once again
    From its deep slumber
    And laughter will ring again
    On the threshold of houses.

    No, it was not yesterday
    But many years ago,
    We held hope with our hands
    We sat in the shadow of wide-awake walls And used to think:
    Yellow-gold wheat smiles and laughs
    In our court-yards

    We have the same court-yards, the same threshers
    But bullets jump through them,
    Riddle holes in my fields and in the bodies of my children
    With my tear-soaked pillow I sit in the court-yard, watching
    Coffins have become so numerous
    That the city is shrinking.

    Post 556 : BJP’s IT vision

    Yada yada yada….

    Deepesh (Bhandari) pointed me to the fact that BJP has even specified the exact parameters of the 10k laptop. “Core2Duo laptop with 2GB RAM”…..Read more here.

    The cynic says, too much detail for an empty promise!!

    Post 555 : 8th grade failed? How come you still got a license?

    In post 512 I was ranting about drivers in Mumbai.

    On a related note, read in TOI today that RTO requires drivers to have at least cleared 8th grade to be eligible for driving license.

    Wonder if that was implemented how many of existing licenses can be revoked?

    Thursday, March 12, 2009

    Post 554 : A pact, from Lustra, 1916 by Erza Pound

    In some earlier post I mentioned how I have started reading (and loving) poetry again. Its me falling in love with the word (all over again!!). Read this someplace today and liked it quite a bit.

    Picked the photo from

    More about Erza Pound at


    The Pact

    I make a pact with you, Walt Whitman—
    I have detested you long enough.
    I come to you as a grown child
    Who has had a pig-headed father;

    I am old enough now to make friends.
    It was you that broke the new wood,
    Now is a time for carving.
    We have one sap and one root
    Let there be commerce between us.

    from Lustra, 1916

    Wednesday, March 11, 2009

    Post 553 : A bumdog millionaire ….

    At times, I can be so full of myself (I am human, just like others). Last month, I was betting on stocks hoping to catch them on their bottom scraping ride….and then the gates opened, and I have had to fight hard just to stay afloat.

    Last month, I said

    My current favorite stocks include...
    Titan - fundamentally strong franchise and trust. (CMP 800, like it below 900)
    Gitanjali - They have some phenomenal brands. My only nagging worry is Mehul Choksi does not turn out to be a Raju. (CMP 46, like it below 90)
    Natco Pharma - good pipeline of CRAM orders and some good generic portfolio (CMP 46, like it below 70)
    BGR Energy Systems - looks poised to ride the downturn, inspite of the power sector going through tough times. (CMP 145 like it below 180)
    Firstsource - a good BPO. I hope they last out this downturn (CMP 12, like it below 20)
    Religare - smartest guys in the room - sitting with 5-6bn USD cash and a extremely organised and thriving I-banking and brokerage business. (CMP 320, like it below 400)
    Pantaloon Retail - great brands (CMP 160, like it below 240)
    Asian Paints - old warhouse, not a multi-bagger but a steady 20% growth per year. (CMP 750 like it below 800)
    Tata Chemicals - monopoly in caustic soda (CMP 150, like it below 180)
    Monsanto India - one of my old favs. ....I hate the company on ethical grounds (GM foods) but think its a great 20-30% year stock. (CMP 1300, like it below 1400)
    Entertainment Network - BCCL company. Great OOH franchise. (CMP 130, like it below 200)
    Glenmark Pharma - One of the best runs pharma mid caps (CMP 120, like it below 240)
    Moser Baer - I goto planetm and all I see is Moser Baer CDs and someone is almost always buying them. Something must be right, but its not reflected in the stock price though. (CMP 61, like it below 200)
    3i Infotech - a good IT mid-cap with gauranteed revenues from one of the biggest banks in Asia.
    Tata Investment - strong book value, high dividend yeild and finally a TATA company. (CMP 35, like it below 50)
    Infosys Technologies - I wont comment on them, they are beyond that now. (CMP 1300, like it below 1500)
    Subex - A great telecom product franchise. Subash Menon is a good leader. (CMP 25, like it below 50)
    Sintex - Moulded plastics and textiles. (CMP 130, like it below 200)
    Mount everest mineral water - makers of the great "himalaya" brand water. Now a Tata company. (CMP 60, like it below 140)
    Indage Vinters - Grover Vineyard at nashik. makers of chantilli. (CMP 80, like it below 140)
    Indian Hotels - The iconic taj and ginger. (CMP 40, like it below 70)
    Kamat Hotels - Orchid, VITS and the Vithal Kamat gang. (CMP 35, like it below 50)
    Geometric - Niche software services. Manu Parpia run...(CMP 18, like it below 40)
    Comments invited


    And today, my picks remain the same – save everything at least a further 20% down.

    Titan - fundamentally strong franchise and trust. (CMP 700(versus 800 in feb), like it below 900)
    Gitanjali - They have some phenomenal brands. My only nagging worry is Mehul Choksi does not turn out to be a Raju. (CMP 33(versus 45 in feb), like it below 90)
    Natco Pharma - good pipeline of CRAM orders and some good generic portfolio (CMP 46(neutral), like it below 70)
    BGR Energy Systems - looks poised to ride the downturn, inspite of the power sector going through tough times. (CMP 115(versus 145 in feb) like it below 180)
    Firstsource - a good BPO. I hope they last out this downturn (CMP 10.25 (versus 12 in Feb) like it below 20)
    Religare - smartest guys in the room - sitting with 5-6bn USD cash and a extremely organised and thriving I-banking and brokerage business. (CMP 320(neutral), like it below 400)
    Pantaloon Retail - great brands (CMP 100(versus 160), like it below 240)
    Asian Paints - old warhouse, not a multi-bagger but a steady 20% growth per year. (CMP 700(versus 750) like it below 800)
    Tata Chemicals - monopoly in caustic soda (CMP 99(versus 150), like it below 180)
    Monsanto India - one of my old favs. ....I hate the company on ethical grounds (GM foods) but think its a great 20-30% year stock. (CMP 1150(versus 1300), like it below 1400)
    Entertainment Network - BCCL company. Great OOH franchise. (CMP 108 (versus 130), like it below 200)
    Glenmark Pharma - One of the best runs pharma mid caps (CMP 130(up by 10), like it below 240)
    Moser Baer - I goto planetm and all I see is Moser Baer CDs and someone is almost always buying them. Something must be right, but its not reflected in the stock price though. (CMP 41  (versus 61), like it below 200)
    3i Infotech - a good IT mid-cap with guaranteed revenues from one of the biggest banks in Asia. (25 versus 33)
    Tata Investment - strong book value, high dividend yeild and finally a TATA company. (CMP 190 versus 215, like it below 50)
    Infosys Technologies - I wont comment on them, they are beyond that now. (CMP 1100 versus 1300, like it below 1500)
    Subex - A great telecom product franchise. Subash Menon is a good leader. (CMP 20 versus 25, like it below 50)
    Sintex - Moulded plastics and textiles. (CMP 72 versus 130, like it below 200)
    Mount everest mineral water - makers of the great "himalaya" brand water. Now a Tata company. (CMP 42 versus 60, like it below 140)
    Indage Vinters - Grover Vineyard at nashik. makers of chantilli. (CMP 40 versus 40, like it below 140)
    Indian Hotels - The iconic taj and ginger. (CMP 33 versus 40, like it below 70)
    Kamat Hotels - Orchid, VITS and the Vithal Kamat gang. (CMP 27 versus 25, like it below 50)
    Geometric - Niche software services. Manu Parpia run...(CMP 12 versus 18, like it below 40)


    How bad can it get? I dont know. How much worse can my stock picking get? The answer is an ego-crushing, “lot more”.

    I am 82% down from my peak portfolio, lost over 23% in the past month.

    My only saving grace, I am still buying bits and pieces which I like – whenever this upturn happens –hopefully I will have some mullti-baggers. Till then, I will go back to flogging myself.

    Post 552 : USD vs. Gold

    All around me analysts are predicting a strong USD (because of dollar’s flight back to safety…makes sense) & a runaway gold price (what do you do once you have got the dollar home)?

    My own take is very contrarian. USD in the short term 1-3 months will hover around 55-56 to the Rupee. My 12 month target, ending 1st April 2010 is 45 (more like 45 pushing to 40).

    And gold?

    I believe Gold will stabilize between 1400-1600 INR per gm.

    I am no macro-economist, and am wrong many times. Whoever said you need to bet correct?

    Post 551 : 11 Take-aways from Buffet’s Annual Letter by Fred Wilson

    Original Article at reproduced here for easier reading.



    I took some time on Sunday afternoon to read Warren Buffett's annual letter. I don't make it an annual practice to read the Berkshire Hathaway (BRK. A) letter as many do (nor have I ever been to the shareholders' meeting which Buffett calls "Woodstock for Capitalists"). But given that 2008 was a year unlike any that I have ever witnessed, it seemed like the thing to do on a cold and snowy afternoon.

    Buffett and his partner Charlie Munger are the most successful stock market investors of the 20th century and they have consistently outperformed the public markets as shown by this table (click to enlarge) of annualized returns that I put together with data from the first page of Berkshire's annual report (I love that Buffett starts with the numbers):


    It is very interesting to me that the past five decades have seen the S&P significantly outperform the long term average for equities of around 7% per annum. Even with the miserable performance of the public markets this decade, we'd have to be flat for another decade at least for the markets to average 7% per annum from 1965 on.

    But Buffett and Munger's performance is something else entirely. While it is correlated to the market for sure, it has been so consistently superior for so long that it is clear that they are doing something right (and better).

    So with that in mind, here are my take aways from reading Warren's letter.

    1) The economy - It's really bad. Warren says the "freefall in business activity" is "accelerating at a pace that I have never witnessed before."

    2) TARP and related efforts to stablize the financial system - The Fed "stepped in to avoid a financial chain reaction of unpredictable magnitude. In my opinion, the Fed was right to do so." But it will "bring on unwelcome aftereffects." One likely consequence is "an onslaught of inflation." And "major industries have become dependent on Federal assistance, and they will be followed by cities and states bearing mind-boggling requests. Weaning these entities from the public teat will be a political challenge. They won't leave willingly." That last line is classic and true and Obama's greatest challenge.

    3) Berkshire's two most important businesses are insurance and utilities, sectors that "produce earnings that are not correlated to those of the general economy."

    4) Buffett and Munger are value investors and contrarians. Warren says "When investing, pessimism is your friend, euphoria the enemy" and "Whether we're talking about socks or stocks, I like buying quality merchandise when it is marked down" and "Beware the investment activity that produces applause; the great moves are usually greeted by yawns." Words to live by.

    5) Housing - Berkshire has exposure to the mortgage and housing market by virtue of its ownership of Clayton Homes, the largest company in the prefab home market. Buffett says "Enjoyment and utility should be the primary motives for [home] purchase, not profit or refi possibilities. And the home purchased ought to fit the income of the purchaser." And "an honest to God down payment of at least 10% [I think 20%] and monthly payments that can be comfortably handled by the borrowers income. That income should be carefully verified."

    6) History as a predictor of the future - "If merely looking up past financial data would tell you what the future holds, the Forbes 400 would consist of librarians."

    7) Quants - "Beware of geeks bearing formulas."

    8) Lean and mean organizations - "BHAC: Who, you may wonder, runs this operation? While I help set policy, all the heavy lifting is done by Ajit and his crew. Sure they were already generating $24 billion of float along with hundreds of millions of operating profit annually. But how busy can that keep a 31-person group? Charlie and I decided it was high time for them to start doing a full day's work." Wow. I'm stunned. And now I have something other than Craigslist to use as an example of a lean and mean profit generating machine.

    9) Bubbles and Panics - "The investment world has gone from underpricing risk to overpricing it." And "When the financial history of this decade is written, it will surely speak of the Internet bubble of the late 1990s and the housing bubble of the early 2000s. But the US Treasury bond bubble of late 2008 may be regarded as almost as extraordinary."
    10) Derivatives - "Derivatives are dangerous" and "When Berkshire purchased General Re in 1998, we knew we could not get our minds around the book of 23,218 derivative contracts, made with 884 counterparties. So we decided to close up shop. Though we were under no pressure and we operating in benign markets as we exited, it took us five years and more than $400 million in losses to largely complete the task. Upon leaving, our feelings about the business mirrored a line in a country song: "I liked you better before I got to know you so well."

    11) Risk and Responsibility - "It is my belief that the CEO of any large financial organization must be the Chief Risk Officer as well. If we lose money on our derivatives, it will be my fault."

    I'll stop there because I really like lists with eleven entries. It's a quirk of my personality. All you have to do is read Warren's letter (or even my cliff notes version) to understand why he's the best investor of the past century. Common sense married with a native understanding of markets and value is what produces the returns at the top of this post. Everyone who invests and manages money for a living can take a lot away from Berkshire Hathaway and Warren and his partner Charlie.

    Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    Post 550 : Zen 2 – Last Tree Proverb by Native Indian Cree

    Only when the last tree has been cut down
    Only when the last river has been poisoned
    Only when the last fish has been caught
    Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.

    Post 549 : Wish you were here – Floyd


    Someone I was  close to passed on recently. I want to dedicate “Wish you were here” by Pink Floyd.

    This song was originally meant as an expression of angst for Roger Waters post his alienation from Syd Barrett.

    In some sense, I grieve the alienation the (personal) world around me has with respect to me, and its me that needs to change, not them :-)

    Go enjoy this Floyd classic.

    So, so you think you can tell
    Heaven from hell, blue skies from pain,
    can you tell a green field, from a cold steel rain
    a mile from a veil
    Do you think you can tell?

    And did they get you to trade
    your heroes for ghosts
    hot ashes for trees, hot air for a cool breeze
    cold comfort for change
    and did you exchanged a walk on part in the war
    from a lead role in a cage.

    How I wish, how I wish you were
    we're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl
    year after year,
    running under the same old side,
    have we found same old fears,
    Wish you were here

    Post 548 : Archie of Riverdale & Jughead


    I am hoping you grew up living in the dream (squeaky clean) world of Archie, Betty, Jughead and Veronica.

    For some reason, I suddenly remembered one of its episodes (books) today. In that digest,  Jughead keeps repeating

    “Mustafa Kahin Gehe- nasha” (sounded like that, don’t remember how exactly it was spelt in the book.

    When asked eventually what does that mean, Jughead it says that this is age old distilled Middle-East Sufi Wisdom and it means

    “Every minute in this world, a sucker is born, and for every sucker born, there are 2 others born to take him.”

    Come to think of it, that is indeed timeless wisdom.

    On a personal note, my brother used to love repeating this as a truism, even when we had grown into young adults (that is 10+ years later). I wonder if he still remembers that :-)

    Post 547 : The fallacy of human beliefs

    Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm.
    Lisa: That's specious reasoning, Dad.
    Homer: Thank you, dear.
    Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
    Homer: Oh, how does it work?
    Lisa: It doesn't work.
    Homer: Uh-huh.
    Lisa: It's just a stupid rock.
    Homer: Uh-huh.
    Lisa: But I don't see any tigers around, do you?
    [Homer thinks of this, then pulls out some money]
    Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.

    Don’t tell me you have never met “Homer” in your life.

    Monday, March 02, 2009

    Post 546 : Zen 1 – Search for fire

    It is too clear and so it is hard to see.
    A dunce once searched for a fire with a lighted lantern.
    Had he known what fire was,
    He could have cooked his rice much sooner.

    (from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones)

    Post 545 : Buddha’s precepts


    Am re-reading Philip Kapleau’s “The Zen of Living and Dying”.  Its a book all about death, and how it needs to be looked as part of a natural process (did we not all already know that :-)

    Its definitely one of my fav books. On pg. 170, it lists the 9 precepts of Buddha. According to this version, the 9 read as

    1. not to kill but to cherish all life;
    2. not to take what is not given but to respect the thing of others;
    3. not to misuse sexuality but to be caring and responsible;
    4. not to lie but to speak the truth;
    5. not to cause others to use substances that confuse the mind, nor to do so oneself, but to keep the mind clear;
    6. not to speak about the shortcomings of others but to be sympathetic   and understanding;
    7.  not to praise oneself and condemn others but to overcome one’s own shortcomings;
    8. not to withhold spiritual or material aid, but to give it freely where needed;
    9. not to indulge in anger but to exercise forbearance.

    (* the lack of capitalisation and semi-colons are verbatim, thats how they appear in the book).

    Simple enough, right…not one of them seems out of place and yet….I break each of these rules multiple times everyday.

    On a day like today (with the luxury of a slightly clear mind), I wonder, how far away have I driven off road?

    Post 544 : Mosquito in a nudist camp

    Warren Buffet feels”Tony and I feel like two hungry mosquitoes in a nudist camp. Juicy targets are everywhere.”.

    I feel the same way about the markets. Only difference is I am not sitting on 24bn USD of cash equivalent.

    Read more at, a lesson on how Annual reports should be written - lay speak, entertaining, witty and refreshingly honest and self deprecating.

    Post 543 : Freaky news

    This has to be one the freakiest news pieces I have read in some time now.

    Freaky or kinky ? I think I prefer the former.

    Post 542 : Markets on a free fall…

    Every experience adds up. I am usually quite non-reactive to changes in the world around me, try to be as inert as possible.

    Then there are days like today…I work in the markets (stock, I mean), all my savings are in this market, infact thats all that I have, I could lose my job anytime (I work in the x-zone at this point)….

    I am a bit spooked. Markets falling 3 % in a day are becoming common place. Rupee has moved 28% to the dollar in the past 6-8 months. Gold is at an all time high.

    My wife, my parents…and a whole host of other close ones trust me to be good with the markets.

    I look at my own performance in retrospect and cross my heart, I am not very sure, they are correct. My portflolio is down almost 80% from its high, versus a 60% for the sensex and about 50% on an average for most funds.

    My(ir)rational side (depends on your perspective) tells me to hang in there, we will get through this trough. I know in my gut we will. Speaking of which, its my gut that lost me 80% of the stock value.

    Will I live to tell?

    Sunday, March 01, 2009

    Post 541 : Perfect kaapi (coffee) as per my mom…

    My mom makes the most perfect south Indian coffee in the world…and yes, I mean it. She says she learnt it from her mom…, but thats another story.

    How difficult can coffee be? It just has milk (and water for some) + sugar + coffee. And yet, like the Japanese Sado, the Tea Ceremony….its in the simple that perfection eludes (and exudes for some others).

    Her “secret” recipe (very similar to the secret ingredient soup from Kung Fu Panda) is :

    1. Get nice fresh ground coffee. No instant shortcuts here. Preferably one with chicory (if you want taste, fuck the raste (rest)).
    2. Let it drip in the coffee filter for about an hour.
    3. The filtered brew will be cold (at room temperature).
    4. Take milk and set it to boil (add water if needed).
    5. Take an empty vessel and set it to heat (dry). Heat till fumes come out.
    6. Take about 25% coffee (3 parts milk, 1 part coffee filter) brew.
    7. Pour it on this heated vessel, it will sizzle just like a sizzler.
    8. Let it sizzle for a few seconds, and then proceed to aerate it. (Take a steel tumbler and pour the coffee from height into it, and back into the heated vessel, repeat until coffee is nice and fluffy.) . I wish “Douglas Adams – Meaning of Liffe” had a word for this one. :-)
    9. Finally take the coffee into a nice steel cup. It will be frothy and airy. Add no more than 1/2 spoon of sugar per cup. No self respecting south Indian drinks coffee in anything but a steel cup with more sugar than that.
    10. Take the milk which will be hot by now and add it on top of the coffee. Aerate the mixture. (Same process).
    11. Ready to serve.

    Aeration of the coffee - Stole these images from Arun Shanbag’s site. Hope he does not mind. (Apologize brother, in case you really mind it….If you “mind it”, are you connected to Rajni :-).



    I know this recipe for years, and yet I have never managed to make that single elusive cup the way Amma makes it.

    Here is one to Amma and her Kaapi.

    Post 540 : Its over, cooking is an Art!!

    This is very freaky. Just yesterday, I was talking to someone and telling him that the debate is over. Cooking is an art, it just cant be a science. Culinary poetry, anyone?

    For years I have cooked by feel (esp. for the salt, masala and other weighty issues of proportion).

    The perfect paneer had been eluding me for long, I think I have finally got the perfect Paneer tikka in the recent months.

    Another aspiration, the perfect coffee. My next post is about that.

    Post 539 : Cup of tea…

    I woke up earlier than others today. Put some water in the kettle and made myself some tea, and then settled onto my recliner with the newspaper.

    A few sips down, I realised how comforting this experience was. I have grown, so have my desires. Yet some simple rituals are so simple and re-assuring.

    For me, the glass was half full today.

    Post 538 : Modern talking

    While I was growing up, Kraftwerk and Modern Talking, both German bands set the standards for what eventually became “disco” happy music.

    I loved Modern Talking more than I loved Kraftwerk.

    Classics like Cheri Cheri Lady, Brother Louie, You are my heart; you are my soul…

    I presently don’t know anyone who has either heard this music or still likes them. I just picked up their greatest hits a few days ago, and am blowing my car sound nuts.

    There is happiness associated with each of those songs for me. Maybe, that’s what they call nostalgia.

    More about Modern Talking at

    More about Kraftwerk at

    Post 537 : Sales without force

    Goto and you will be greeted by Oracle’s CRM site – a direct competitor to the existing leader

    And oracle’s brand line is

    “No Force Necessary”. I think its brilliant.