Thursday, May 24, 2007

Penny Wise Pound Foolish

It was 9.45 p.m. I was returning from a bad day at work. My boss had manhandled me all day long. One of the reasons he seemed to be frustrated was an window, which was open on my desktop from 10 to 3. Same day, I had lost 9000 rupees in a single trade within a span of two hours. I was angry with myself, not because I lost money, but because I traded in futures & options instinctively. I had warned myself against this many times before, but failed once again to show discipline.All in all, it was a bad day and I felt like taking some ‘medicinal fluid’ to forget everything and get some good sleep. On last couple of occasions I had been to some high-end bars and it had cost me dearly. So this time I walked into a low-end country liquor shop (deshi daruche dukan). The place was such that I was sure none of my friends, colleagues, relatives, or acquaintances could ever think of coming there. So I was relaxed as there was no scope for any undesired chance-meetings. The ambience interested me. That same well-known strong fragrance was freshening the entire place. Lots of singing and shouting was enlivening the liquor shop. I could see how people were more addicted to the place, than the medicine. I purchased a bottle filled with yellow liquid and a 300 ml bottle of soda, picked up a glass, and took a place in a corner.After making myself comfortable on a three-legged mini-stool, I prepared that evening’s first peg, said cheers to myself and started sip-by-sip. Inspite of soda, I could sense that the concentration of alcohol was much better than in any of those top brands in high-end bars. I was the only one there doing things methodically with a glass and a soda bottle. Most others kept things simple by using just the yellow bottle.Two pegs later, I got bored of watching a man sitting two tables away, totally out of his senses, singing for me. Neither the song, nor the tone was changing. Just then, an old man came and sat in front of me. I put on my specs to assist my poor eyesight which got poorer after just three pegs. Oh my god! I couldn’t believe it! It was Albert Einstein sitting in front of me with a yellow bottle in his hands!Albert started in a disappointed tone, “You have changed mak… changed for the worse… recall those school days when you used to happily spend n number of hours solving algebraic equations… those lectures full of D-group problems when you looked more comfortable than your teacher … those nights when you measured time not in hours and minutes, but by the number of calculus problems that you just solved…. Where has that passion gone mak?”I tried to defend myself, “You seem to be taking things too seriously Sir. Please don’t misunderstand me. I haven’t lost my roots. Now a days I spend most of my time either studying balance sheets or writing pieces of C code. Both these areas of work are nothing but applications of our subject Sir.”I felt bad that Albert too was upset with me like everyone else and that was reason enough for two more pegs. After a few minutes of silence, one more man, not as old as Albert, joined us. I looked at him closely and got one more shock. It was Warren Buffet, world’s second-richest man! Now I was convinced that people chose country liquor for reasons beyond budget.Warren who was standing besides Albert and listening all this while said, “Forget the past Mak. Past is all dead history. Look into the future. That is where you have to spend the rest of your life. It doesn’t really matter whether you loved maths or some neighborhood girl when you were a kid. The only thing that really matters is the rate of return at which you can compound your wealth over the next 30 years. Be my follower for these 30 years and thereafter you may spend rest of your life solving simultaneous equations, or counting numbers from 1 to 100, or whatever Albert says.”I thought I understood what Warren was saying. But, with Warren, came memories of those 9000 rupees I lost a few hours back. Bullshit! How can I do that! One more bout of frustration and anger. And two more pegs. This time no soda.Crowd was growing and there were no stools left for standing people to sit. It hardly mattered as no one had any issues with sitting on the floor. Few were even enjoying rolling over their back like pigs. By now many people were standing around our table and may be few of them who knew English were following our conversation. One of them was an oldish foreigner with round specs, a little younger than Warren but not young enough to be called young. Oh great! Even foreigners are fond of the Indian taste. This foreigner suddenly started talking and I realized that this too was a well known personality. If Albert and Warren can come here, then what’s there to be surprised on seeing Bill Gates?He said, “Don’t listen to Warren. He just got a little lucky in the stock market. You yourself have been seeing charts and trying to find correlation between trend-lines and top-lines and bottom-lines. Tell me if you have found any damn meaning in the random walk of stock prices. True wealth is made, not by gambling with lottery tickets, but by switching jobs… just keep revising Tenenbaum’s data structures… and always keep in mind that heap-sort has the worst case complexity of O(n log n) …. Keep updating your Resume on and when someone calls up, just let him know that you know all about that n-log-n… and he shall immediately offer you 40% more than what your current employer is giving. 40% !! Mind you, Warren never got anything better than 32% p.a. in his entire life. Always remember… never ever forget n-log-n.”Out of all of Bill’s wisdom, the only word that caught my attention was ‘40%’. It reminded me of my latest job-switch which fetched me just 33.3% due to my own stupidity during the bargaining-interview… I mean the HR interview… yet another bout of frustration… this time I was in such hurry that I did not even bother to pour into the glass… I just approximately measured two pegs while drinking directly from the bottle… its easy… one peg is two mouthfuls of liquid… but remember, for this measurement to give accurate results, a mouthful has to be truly a full mouth.Just then, the bulkiest man around, banged his hand on our table. He seemed to be getting really annoyed by old men’s words of advice.Arnold was standing right at the center of the liquor shop, holding a glass of milk. He began in a firm voice, “Mak, just ignore all this non-sense blabber. Look at all these old people and look at me. Tell me where real life is. Just look. Don’t think. Thinking is not good for health as it redirects all the oxygenated blood supply from muscles to brain.” Here, I thought for a moment and got a little worried about my liver.Arnold continued, “What love for maths is this Albert talking about? First ask him to go and learn how to comb his hair. I can’t understand how all this number work is going to help you in any way. All you need to know is how to count from 1 to 20, as no exercise needs more than 20 repetitions per set.Bill and Warren are living poorer lives than Albert. He is atleast enjoying his life multiplying c by c and then again m. Look at these two beggars. They have half the wealth of this world but are dying to get the other half. Off course their ageing bones won’t allow them to do so and they will die unsatisfied. A man’s wealth is not measured by what he owns but by how much more he desires.If you spend all your time slogging like a dog, you will off course make loads of money. But what are you going to do with all that money? After all, a daily healthy meal of roasted chicken and boiled eggs, and a few body fitting t-shirts don’t need more than a few thousand rupees.Listen to me. Burn all those books. Sell all your stocks and put your money in a 8% post-office FD. Ask your boss to move you from development team to some low-profile documentation team. And start concentrating on your work-out routine and diet.”I decided to follow Arnold’s advice. There was some 200 ml liquid remaining in the bottle for which I had paid 85 rupees upfront. I like these country liquor shops which insist on payment before use. That shows the faith they have in the effectiveness of their product. I knew this was my last bottle and my liver shall live happily hereafter. So without calculating how many pegs make 200 ml, I gulped it all down my throat and started walking out like a true drunkard, recalling an irrelevant out-of-context poem… ”when the mind is without fear… and the head is held high… where words come out from the depth of truth… where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way…”

1 comment:

pushpak said...

GuruDev what a Blog ...i love you ...

You Remember we had an experience of Country Liquor on ur Delhi's Arrival!!!!

i am pleased to see that ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER is able to convince your mind.