Friday, June 12, 2009

Indians willl have to guard themselves

Obama has exhorted " Indians and Chinese are coming" . There are a lot of job losses in US as the companies transfer jobs to cheaper Indian locations. Australians have plenty of race attacks on Indians. Indians are one of the most richest diaspora in the US. India has the highest remittances in the world. A lot of companies have Indian CEOs.

Why I am mixing the stuff. Aren't these things are unrelated to each other?

I guess not. That Indians are targets of hate either at physical , verbal or mental level is a fact. We have been meek sons of soil, who worked very hard to make money. We have come quite far in life and our success is not based on manufacturing. We are kind of loners. We perform very well individually but in a team we break apart because we do not have leaders who have a vision. But even then , so many people performing consistently and may be just of acceptable quality at quite a low cost, is a adrenaline rush for cost-cutting hungry corporations of the world. They are eager to get the job done at a fraction of the cost even with some inconvience.

That is so far positive side. What is negative? A slow and rising hatred against everything that has Indian written on it . The incident where Indians are constantly attacked in Australia, the web site in BBC where Indians are ridiculed even for sending a cost effective mission on moon, just because she has poverty and finally the anti-outsourcing brigade that exists in all parts of the world.

I have worked aborad and seen the welcoming smile vanish when I tell them that I am an Indian. I think what they are thinking is how this 'slumdog' can ever manage to take away their jobs. Jobs that they thought only they were capable of doing. Unfortunately , we are still give technical work while they keep all the real work ( business) with them . Still they dont like it .

Also it is quite hard for a 'White man ' to understand that how come a brown man of a continent that is so shrouded in poverty, nuclear race and mindless caste system is able to say things that'he is not able to imagine. Even once on a project back home in India the racist attitude of a funny Australian manager was quite palpable. He used to fart in the room and then jokingly told his female colleague 'Hey I guess I gave them a good one' . In the same project , it were mostly the Australians who shouted in top of their voices to disturb and trouble everything that Indians were doing .

This is not to say that whole Australia is racist . There were some fantastic managers and also visitors from australia who had deepest regards for Indian culture and the people . But as people say that one Indian can destroy reputation of India , it applies to everyone else.

This blog is not about asking people to get aggressive about racism but to accept it as a reality. Till we start respecting ourselves, treating ourselves not as victims of colonial rule but as makers of our destiny , it is not possible to ask world to accept us. Racism exists at all levels in all countries. Even many of our NRIs become racists against native Indians . They have to change and view India in a different light.

Indians have to guard against nice speeches that make them complacent, lowering the guard and making sure that we do not become lazy. We have to accept that no one in this world is going to help us if we are down, its only us. We may have friends but they are only till the time we are good to them . People will praise us , flatter us but they will also try to deceive us. We have to keep focus on bringing our country back on its feet. Then only world will respect us

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Who got damaged rowdy or my car

My car was vandalized by locals last week . I parked it in a place where I did not expect traffic to happen. But unfortunately it did and my car was the cause of it . They managed to scratch the windows and did slight damage to the bonnet.

When I mentioned this incident to one of my friends , he said " In India, people prey on weak things" ." If they are aware that the thing is not going to retaliate they are going to crush it " . How true and how inconsiderate of people to bring out their anger on my poor little car.

This statement has me thinking that yes we are a nation of cowards. We are ready to follow the path of Ahimsa but we are sure ready to take himsa if we know that there will be no retribution. I feel that most of the people of this country are mild mannered meek people who are made to submit by powerful forces .

This has been there from time immemorial when Mughals attacked us first. Next British came and destroyed us completely while we cringed for freedom. There were a lot of proponents of ahmisa ( which is a good concept in my opinion) while a few for himsa too. But even the himsa was done with character and not as an intent to harm a weak helpless object. Bhagat Singh blasted a bomb in court not to hurt people but to prove a point that British must leave. It was his character that made him stay and be taken a prisoner. He could have run away and caused more violence.

Today , we are witnessing supression of weak and poor in every area of life. People who have power and might do not care for people who dont have anything . There is absolutely no protection to general public from hooligans who have private connections. Are we a part of this ? Of course we are . We have never failed to supress our family members , our juniors in office , our servants in home . I have seen the behaviour of people who eat in restaurants towards waiters who are serving there.

I am not praising that I did a great job by not fighting there. But since my wife was present and I wanted to take her and my car out of danger. There was no use fighting those rowdies. It might have cost me my life. My life was definately much more worth it than the damage suffered by my car. I will use my next salary to repair the car.

It also made me think , why people never grow in life. My straight opinion on the rowdy who vandalised my car is that he will stay there and will never have a great life. Maybe he is the lucky one and he will become a politician who will make a lot of illegal money. But he will also inspire many who will take up rowdyism as a career and many of them would end in street either murdered or hurt. There would not be any job , any family responsibility , any growth for them . They will stay there and see the world pass by. They will know it but it will be too late.

As for me , I went to a pub , drank two and forgot about the incident because there are still so many things to do in life rather than worrying about a rowdy.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Dont make that mistake again

Interest rates are falling down, inflation is at its lowest in 33 years , house prices are at the bottom. Every paper screams that this is the time to buy your "dream" house. The question is that if this is the right time ? Or is there any right time at all ?

There is a tendency in human beings. Like all animals we too are territorial . Though we have brains to make us a little less territorial we are none the less territorial. This tendency causes a need to feel in control. The need to own something , to call it your belonging and cherish it forever. The need to control makes us seek a space we call our own . May be we stayed in Rental dwellings with invasive landlords, too high a rent and a place that always belongs to some one else. There was no end to our miseries except the fact that we could buy a new house or was it ?

These days I am meeting a number of people whose houses have been left incomplete on account of default by builders , people who are unable to pay EMI because of job losses , people whose house values have fallen below the purchase price ( or loans ) making them an unwilling defaulter. They are sad and angry at their states. They feel cheated by banks ,builders and governments but themselves.

Now again with interest rates dropping , again a cry is being raised that houses are affordable . Thankfully people are more patient this time , waiting for prices to come down . They have been burned last time because they did not take time to research their facts , read between the lines etc. But the same people will again fall for hype when things go back to normal . Why ? because of the tendency to project good future many times but poor future very less number of times.

This is the time for us to retrospect that is there any friend of us all in these builders , banks , governments etc. Behind the lovely looking ladies of customer care is a shrewd business man who is hell bent on finding techniques to take more of your money . So this a time to think of that business man who is a "devil in God's clothes" and to find out the real truth . The relationship of banker and bankee should be based strictly on business. However today it has become a master slave relationship because a slave has become greedy and is ready to obey his master for any favour even though it may not serve his purpose.

I have a car loan which I was always confident that I could pay . So till this far when 3 years have been completed , I have not even bothered to talk to them once. Because I do not think that they are my masters . They need my business too to run their business and hence talk is striclty business and no-nonsense. That is the reason I have not taken loan beyond my comfort and I can still shout at them if they make mistakes .

The point is that even a normal person needs to be smart and financially educated to find out the reasons behind all the goodies that are offered all time . It is for us people who know to educate people who do not know and for them to learn what they dont know .

Friday, March 13, 2009

You never get it right almost always first time

One relative of mine was of the opinion , that she can never learn to drive. She gets scared the way that people come close to others when they are driving. To her it is a horrible thing and scared that she might hurt or hit someone has kept her off the road.

To me it is a reflection on the things that we want to be perfect the first time . We want our marriage to be perfect ,absolutely flawless just because we are scared that we have not left anything behind . We want our lives to be perfect asap because we want todo everything right at the first go .

I remember times when I was young and very fond of riding a bicycle. I do not remember count of times that I have fallen from it hurting myself badly in the process. Soon , I got the touch and never fell down. But it was not a days job.

During my school days it was so hard to learn physics , a subject that I loved a lot. But sheer persistent effort made sure that I learned it well. I even passed one of the toughest technical examinations.

So why are we so scared of trying . A photographer never gets the best shot in one . A tailor never makes a perfect suit at first time . And in soccer goals are never scored often in first minute.

One of my feelings about it is that we have a society that loves heroes who succeed . It gives no importance to people who have tried and could not succeed. The society showers praise on the people who have made a mark but never gives a thought or even ridicules people who dare to try and not succeed.

Inherently the risk taking in missing here. We do not want to learn from the mistakes we make but want to do job right at the first time . Unfortunately even geniuses cannot achieve this. When I tried to learn guitar , I suffered a lot . In one year I was trying to play like a top guitar player. Sooner it begin to dawn on me that I am copying others and not developing my own style. It was because I was not enjoying the difficult parts . I was shying away from them.

In the obsession to reach the perfect goal , most of the time we miss on the way we could have done things right and enjoyed the moment . Instead of worrying about that perfect shot , we can take a lot of amateur shots and try to improve them . I am sure then that perfect shot is lurking nearby and will come to you before you know it.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Its the liberal that looses

Ever day we are hearing a number of stories of people trying to make people 'moral' by beating them, stopping them from drinking , visiting pubs , asking them to behave like this and not like that.

Taken to the extreme side, I see terrorists in some asking people to follow certain religious laws. To me this is an extension of the original idea of trying to make people moral .

This has taken me to thoughts about why we have to suffer like this . In my observation, there always has been a fight between progression and regression just like there has been between adharma and dharma in Mahabahart time. A progression is about having a culturally diverse set of people around you where law is respected and everyone is listened to . Even though people may not agree with each other but they still respect diversity. While regression is sticking to policies that only some people think are right, is generally divisive in nature and favours one set of thinking over other. It also means taking up the causes which are detrimental to concept of individual thinking while forcing conformance.

But the problem with regression is that of degeneration. If you see, our neighbour country is now in the path of regression because mature democracy , rule of law never existed there. Rule of law never existed in India too but we were at least aware that we need to live together and though it was uneasy existence always made sure that we were at least democratic.

In my opinion , there can be only two paths that are available to a human being. One, is of 100 % tolerance and second of any kind of intolerance. There is no place in between . Any kind of intolerance will lead us one day to 100 % intolerance in due course of time . We may hate a person and what he is , how he feels, how he dresses but we may never cause a harm to his existence, his self worth. If we do tomorrow , we do not have right to say anything if a harm comes to us .

All these intolerance leads people to get afraid. Normal people like you and me are afraid of hurt and humiliation that comes with intolerance. However ,this is a time for introspection. Looking around, we can see a number of people we loathed. People from different regions , religions, sex, status , we hated everyone once and all. Not only this ,we sometimes made sure that the hurt was passed on them . In turbulent times like this , when liberals are under attack, we have to introspect if we have any shred of intolerance left. If we are pure , then only we can fight for our ways . However , if we take pride in lording over one another while proclaiming ourselves as a liberal , I don't see how we can be united in face of conservative , ill-liberal onslaught. Remember, the forces of adhrama wants dharma to lose and we have to fight it every day.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thinking before acting

My blogs would state to you the obvious, that we are all influenced by hype and advertising. What I am going to tell you more that we are influenced to the extent that it becomes a question of our survival. It is instinctual tendency of an animal to listen to most loud sound and look towards it . Once we find that out , we start rationalizing the fact that since the sound is the loudest , it definately makes a logical sense that what it is trying to tell us must be true. Since the loudness of the sound dims our capability to reason well, we tend to assume that whatever someone is telling us is correct

If you do not believe that humans dont think much before taking an action please look around . Look at the drivers on the roads who are driving smart computer controlled cars. These cars are supposed to be safe and intelligent by providing the driver with maximum amout of control but it is not the car but the human sitting on the steering that is careless. In one of the shows in discovery channel , the narrator informed that the more safe cars are becoming , the more recless drivers are .

In normal circumstance, if you stop a driver and ask him , if it is good to drive safe, the answer would be definately in positive. But the same driver when he gets hold of the car starts behaving in exactly opposite way.

That brings us to the question , how are we different from animals. We have almost all the instincts of animals such as Fear , greed, hunger, thirst etc etc. In the evolution of the mankind , our body has evolved to perform complex mind functions such as solving puzzles, holding a cutting knife in right position , flying a plane and many others . However, we are not able to let go of the instincts that we brought upon our transformation of the animal world. Everywhere in the world finance, wars ,sports , we see that all these factors come into picture. They help us survive in the competition for food, mates and shelter. But there is one more thing that we have more than all animals , which is our thinking . We as a fairly evolved beings can think before we act. Unfortunately that is not very easy. We are conditioned by our environment to suppress our thinking . We also look to our past to prepare our future responses , which is okay when it comes to iproving your behaviour such asbeing more polite or be diplomatic however is not useful when it causes us not to take good amount of risk to get a higher reward . For e.g. if a father beats up a child for no reson regularly , the child will not come to father for even simple requests.

Our thinking before acting may sometimes acts a best response. There are times when we want to do damage, beat someone or say nasty things for a moment, we pause . This gives our brain time to think and the damage is not done. It is quite possible that the response we have is not the best response. We would like to inflict some harm on the opponent and that may be needed. But think of the other consequences that would have arised out of it . So we have chosen a response we have decided as mature adult and not as enraged person. We can even frame anassertive response , which can rightly affect our opponent.

There are a lot of practical applications of thinking and making an informed decision based on whatever information we have and not at the spur of the moment. It can save us with lot of hassles later on.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Everyone forgot the risks

One common complaint I am hearing these days is that banks are not reducing the home loan rates even if there is sufficient liquidity in the market . People are complaining that banks have their cakes and are eating them too. A normal borrower like you and me are trapped by all these techniques applied by the banks .

My response is ' easy to blame the banks and everyone other than yourself'.

I have my reasons to believe in the above statement .

1. We all fell for hype. In the national dailies , in 2008 , there were a plenty of advertisement by real estate builder promising us heaven while bankers were eager to put the ladder on. Money was easy and hence rates were down . It was much easier to factor all the cost into our salary. There was not a single reason not to take a loan. Add to the cacophony , we had people whom we knew were profiting from the bubble of the real estate and it was hard imagining why we were not profiting

2. We all want to become rich before we die: That is a fair assumption . It is very difficult to every day go to office, listen to abusive boss and work for a paltry salary. So there must be some easy way. Now since there was so much hype around , we were fooled into thinking that it is our road to riches. According to one news item I read in 'financial express' , most of the rich become rich not because they are brilliant or master strategists but because they take excessive leverage. And if their business venture becomes successful, they are hailed in the eyes of the world. This story raises an interesting point that given similar circumstances, is it possible that cautious general public would also take excessive leverage to get rich even though there is no fallback when something goes wrong. In my observation , yes they can if they could. I have heard and read a number of stories where people have gone into excessive leverage to invest in stocks or real estate before they went bust.

3. We forgot about the risks : There are a plenty of risk when you make a business investment. Even a safe instrument called fixed deposit have strong risk from high inflation and busting of bank. If tomorrow the bank goes down a la Lehman , then it will take all our deposit with us . A risky investment is stock market , where it is not even possible to count the number of risks you can see . A real estate investment is considered a risk free investment as at least you have the land / flat / house with you even though the value goes down.

In my opinion that is the biggest mistake our Indian masses do . A real estate investment that is based on good location of the property can fetch handsome rewards. Other ways that real estate can work to our advantage is the fact that it is a commercial / residential development that provides us with a constant revenue stream in the form of a rent. There is some tax benefit that we derive out of our investment . However risks are plenty.

  • There could be oversupply of the real estate leading to a drastic fall
  • The whole area is now not considered suitable for investment
  • The property taxes have made running businesses difficult
  • The inflation is rising too fast and it is making maintenance and repair beyond reach and many .
  • The loan rates have climbed too high mostly out of our reach.

I am not a real estate expert but all I can say is that even this asset class has its set of risks and the public either failed to see them or they were misled into believing that it is not risky at all.

4. We forgot to read the fine print : You assume that you are customer of the bank and the bank would follow generally good practice .You assume many things on bank's behalf. But on the other side, your bank is not assuming everything. They are making sure that they leave nothing to chance while the only risk they bear is when the price of property goes below the loan amount( they would squeeze you on that ) , floating rate gets higher ( they would squeeze you on this too), you default for a month ( be prepared for onslaught). Obviously , they have done their homework while you in your dreams have even not cared to read what they have written in the document that you are going to sign . In this case , all mistake is yours .

5. Our experiences fail to teach us : My bank raised the credit card rate of interest on the account of a flimsy reason that many customers of theirs are defaulting . It means that they penalized me for the fault of others . It never occurred to them that I have been paying my dues on time and there is absolutely no risk doing business with me .

But this experience taught me one thing "Bankers are not our friends, they do not like us , they do not love us ". They are here only because they need money to run their business and they deal with us because we help them make money. I reduced my credit card balance to zero, immediately dropped my plans of unnecessary expenditure and used cash for most of my transactions . This has helped me to use the facility provided ( a credit card ) without falling into the trap they want me to get into. I have my credit limit to 50,000 and never exceeds it even though it might mean giving up on things I desire badly.

Now back to general public. I feel that everyone had one or the other kind of experience with the banks. But that did not deter people from taking huge loans . The higher the loan , the higher the risk of default . A bank is where you keep money so that it does not get stolen while you may take a loan based on your capacity and risk appetite. I do not think a bank is useful to me more than that.

Now if you are trapped in such a scene, how would you come out of it .

1. If you are over leveraged, try to reduce the debt either by borrowing from friends and family . Remember , they understand you better than any other smiling bank salesman
2. Cut on your credit card expenses because they take a lot of money to repay
3. Do not fall for marketing gimmicks of the banks and industry. One of my way to avoid my mind getting fooled by the marketing is to add one line 'Now give me your money' after every advertisement . That would be a reality check.
4. Do not buy a thing if you don't have to buy it . Do not buy if everyone says it is good . If everyone knows about it then probably it is already overpriced
5. Learn to read between the lines especially in agreements . If you are not sure take help from someone who knows about it .
6. Don't let your emotions run through . Look for the risks , hidden agendas, ambiguous lines. Ask if you don't understand.
7. In Hindi we say 'Bhag kar kahi nahin jaa raha hain ' . You cannot turn everything into a winning opportunity. There are some lost calls too . Just wait and think before you decide to act.
7. Last but not the least . Avoid taking loan at all cost . Try building assets instead for e.g. . stocks which appreciate with time . They would provide you more stability that leverage.

I hope all these make sense to the public and people become more conscious before they take a decision.