Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Late Hai To Safe Hai

"Seedhe twenty feet paani ke ander"...The words reached my ears as I lazily turned to look down from the upper berth of my coupe. I turned, but did not look down as I was reluctant to open my eyes. I had already slept for 21 hours since I boarded the Falaknuma Superfast Express, to Secunderabad, from Kharagpur. Did not want to break the momentum. "3 more hours and I will be able to boast of sleeping for 24 hours at a stretch. I dismissed the comment as the banter of the whining stout girl (well her stoutness and the whining voice are the only two things I remember about her) and did not bother to look down. Her boy friend retorted "shubh shubh bolo...hameshaa galat sochti ho". I thought, " how can you think of spending your life with a stout, whiny girl, who always "thinks wrong"....sorry, thats the direct translation from Hindi...". Another passenger, now he was a sweet one, an IIT Kharagpur aluminus (married ofcourse...all sweet men are married!), said "Don't worry, they are working on it. It will be ok in a few hours". Hold on...what will be ok? What's wrong? Now curiosity had taken over my laziness. So I slowly opened my eyes...all this while, I had not even realised that the train was not moving...so much so for being absent minded. As I looked down, I got the shock of my life when I saw that there were about 30 people sitting in our coupe (which is made for eight, including the side berths), and as my eyes drifted to the windows, I saw that there was flowing water on both sides, and we were on a small bridge. On enquiry, I came to know that the train had derailed, of course I got this information after getting dirty looks from many passengers who were obviously envious and disgusted by the fact that someone can sleep in the middle of so much of chaos. While I was contemplating descending from my cosy seat, a few policemen entered the coupe and coach and asked everyone to evacuate it and go to either the one before it or after it. Now its often said that in a grocery store, the queue you stand in moves slower. True of the trains too. The coach I moved to was stalled for five hours in that deserted place, while the other part of the train left for Secunderabad. Our part of the train went all the way back to Vishakhapanam, got a new engine, a new route and reached its destination, Secunderabad, around 11 hours late. Now you can ask me, "But you haven't described anything about the derailment and the details related to it". Well, the true answer is, I don't know. And I don't care. When the derailment happened, I was sleeping. And after I got up, I was more interested in finishing the James Patterson's book that I was reading and was glad that I was getting the time to finish reading the book before hitting the regular schedule of going to the office and eating and sleeping....and then again going to the office and eating and sleeping and then again....

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Gold is still cheap and a great investment

October 17, 2006, www.rediff.com, Co-author-Aditya Jadhav

Diwali being just a few days away, the sale of gold ornaments, coins and bars are already going up. So is the price of gold. However, contrary to popular belief, gold is still a very cheap buy when compared to many other commodities. When adjusted against inflation, gold is just about as expensive as it was in 1980.
India is the largest consumer of gold in the world, consuming around 18 per cent of the total world's production. India has to import around 70 per cent of its total gold consumption, thus imparting a lot of foreign exchange to major gold producing countries.
With the development of the stock markets, especially on-line trading systems, urban India is slowly shifting its investment focus from gold to the other avenues of investment such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, et cetera.
But, rural India still has its major investments in the form of gold. Around 65 per cent of the total demand for gold in India is from people involved in agriculture and allied industries which contributes to around 30 per cent of the GDP of the nation.
An effective hedging tool
Gold provides an effective hedge against inflation. Gold prices are considered to be highly sensitive to inflation and rise accordingly. Gold also provides effective liquidity higher than other forms of real assets like gemstones, land and antiques which require some time to get liquidated.
The only problem that arises with the liquidity of gold is its resale value in the form of jewellery. Jewellery requires gold to mix with a little amount of other base metals like copper and zinc which reduce the purity of gold and hence gives lower returns than pure gold (99 per cent pure) of equal weight.
Oil price impact on gold
The demand for gold also goes up with an increase in oil prices. Increase in oil prices have a major impact on inflation as most of the inflation indices give a lot of weight to the increase in oil prices (30-35 per cent). Hence, increase in oil prices result in an increase in inflation.
People buy gold to hedge against inflation. Oil prices have been on a rise and will continue to be on a rise with the increase in demand for fuel, plus, recently Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has given indications that it will curtail the supply of oil.
Commodity trading and gold
With the opening of the commodities market for gold, gold futures has become another mode of investment in gold. Although this avenue is not as extensively used as spot purchase of gold or the securities market, gold futures do impact the spot prices of gold, as the wholesale traders have started to use this avenue to hedge against future price changes.
Gold is different from other commodities traded on the futures market, as the consumed gold can be brought back into the market (though at a discount) unlike other commodities. This creates a situation where the current demand and price of gold is not only dependent on the current purchase, current demand and future demand but also on the past purchase and demand.
Gold is the only commodity in which the total supply can be higher than the demand making the trading of this commodity unique.
Gold is not just a mere investment for Indians. It is woven into the fabric of the Indian culture, traditions and religious beliefs. There is a popular Jataka tale where a poor farmer donates a gold cat to the Brahmin to get rid of the sin of killing a stray cat. The farmer has to take a loan from the money lender for this purpose resulting in the ultimate forfeiture of his land by the money lender.
Women are the majority users of gold ornaments in India. Parents give their daughter gold ornaments during her marriage which is her exclusive property (streedhan) and not to be used by the husband for his personal gain without her permission.
Gold is also a status symbol helpful in asserting the status of a person in the society, especially in India. The importance attached to gold, along with its scarcity in the earth's crust compared to other metals, and its ability to provide a good hedge against inflation, makes it a highly demanded precious metal. The demand ensures that the prices will surely look northwards in the future too.
So, this Diwali, invest in gold without worrying about the prices being too high!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Hats off to Ekta Kapoor!

More than six years, more than 1200 episodes, more television awards than any other soap on the Indian television, more number of characters than you care to remember, more drama than ever seen on Indian television before, more generations than can ever come together in reality, thats the Virani Parivaar of Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi (KSBKBT). Tulsi Virani, the central character of the serial, holds the family together with a carrot and a stick attitude. She instills the right values, evokes the appropriate emotions, scolds and slaps at the right time. The same amount of drama as KSBKBT, again more number of characters and more generations than one cares to remember, over dressed bahus, scheming bahus, crying bahus, ideal bahus, you will find them all in the Agarwal household of Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki (KGGK). Parvati Agarwal, the eldest bahu of the family does everything to save the family from evil eyes, fulfilling the duties of her dead husband. Produced by Balaji Telefilms, the brainchild of Ekta Kapoor, who is the celebrated daughter of our own jumping jack of yesteryears, Jitendra, KSBKBT and KGGK, are two of the oldest and most popular of the popularly called ‘K’ series soaps. These serials are a subject of ridicule for the so called generation ‘X’. And I was one of them till fate too a 180 degree turn and hurled me in the opposite camp of those who religiously watch these serials. I used to laugh at the senseless melodrama, the eccentricities, the emotional blackmailing, the lovey-dovey-weepy-villainy scenes which are so common to these soaps. I started watching these soaps with the sole intention of making fun of those who watch them. However, the more I watched, the more I got hooked on to them. I soon realized that there is a lot more to these serials than just the apparently ridiculous stuff. For example, there is something about the background music “Ram Ram Jai Raja Ram, Ram Ram Jai Sita Ram” of KSBKBT or the pain in the eyes of Parvati Agarwal when she talks to her dead husband, Om. Somewhere these serials catch the imagination of the viewers with the portrayal of the values, the traditions, the culture, which are a part of the extended joint family system in India, which has been breaking up rapidly now. For example, the respect that Tulsi commands from her sons or the emotions shared by the brothers which keeps them together in spite of the differences between them, these values touch a chord within me which is difficult to express. Similarly, Parvati Agarwal selflessly taking care of every member in the household in spite of the others mistrusting her or accusing her of various wrong doings stands out as the epitome of patience and perseverance. Well, I had resolved to stop watching the serials after a few episodes. And I would have. But, at this point, I must laud Ekta Kapoor for being a master story teller. As soon as I was ready to stop watching both the serials after Tulsi Virani came back to the palatial Virani house and accepted Mihir Virani again in KSBKBT and in KGGK, Parvati Agarwal was finally able to send Suyash Mehra to Jail for the murder of her husband Om, story in both the serials have taken a twist. In KSBKBT, a new character named Abeer has been introduced who is apparently taking revenge from the Virani’s. But for what? Who is he? What does he want? Will he be able to marry Bhumi (daughter of Karan, son of Tulsi)? Has Karan survived the accident orchestrated by Abeer? Or will we see Karan, a very popular character, exiting the serial? Similarly in KGGK, suddenly Suyash Mehra is being shown as a victim. He seems to be genuinely in love with Parvati Agarwal. There is someone else who has masterminded the whole thing, making it appear as though Suyash killed Om. But who is this person? There is also this angle of three ladies in the Agarwal household being pregnant at the same time. The serial has been fast forwarded six months in one episode. Three months more to go. There have been indications that at the end of these three months, the mystery surrounding Suyash Mehra and the mind behind Om’s murder would also be revealed. Whoa! When you are caught with such important questions, how can you stop watching the soap?