Personal Musings

This blog is intended to be just a jumble of thoughts that hit me and need not necessarily mean anything.

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Location: Kerala, India

Water flows ...

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Ajay relived that dark night again.

Ajay relived that dark night again.

The night was cold. The turbulent winds behind the shack that called itself as a tea stall was even worse.

Fingers ran through the pack of cigarettes, plucked out one and transported it to the quivering lips. The other hand unconsciously traveled to the left side pant pocket, retrieved a match box. The fingers damp with perspiration still managed to take out a match stick, strike and light the cigarette in a single sweeping motion.

Cough! Cough!

Fingers could still travel like it used to do three decades ago, but the lungs doesn't take it like the past. The next puff filled the first urge that had filled his mind.

"Sir, aap ka chai!", the shop-keeper yelled.

Alternating between sips of hot tea and the cigarette that had re-entered his hands, he lived through the events again.
If only, he had just stuck with his plan to just have that one peg of whiskey. But, no! He had to go for that whole bottle. He had to talk about Neha. He had to brag.

The cigarrete burned his finger and he dropped it. Reality hit again. He quickly paid and rushed back to his car.

All he had to do was to say, "Sorry yaar, didn't know she was your wife."


At least, he could have stopped when he shouted, "Ajay! don't kill me!"

The spot in the railway track was still there. Ajay had to do it once more.

The title is the six word story.
This story limited to 250 words.

Usual disclaimers apply. No, this story has nothing to do with any murder or smoking.
If you are not mature enough to know that smoking is injurious to health, watch this

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I love my FoS with two squares of restrictions

Freedom of Speech(FoS) is the new drink in the market. It's so potent that ideology seems to not come in it's way. In short, this is all about everyone wanting this drink. But all the folks are debating about how to have this intoxicant.

First a bit about the features about this FoS. It seems, US of America is pretty famous for it. Everyone typically talks a lot about how they even provide the special Flag charred variant of this.  But, no one wants to talk about the hooters there. And that precisely is the difference between US and us. So,let us not talk about them.

Now, coming to the way we Indians prefer our brew. In the good old days(and in some remote villages even now), folks used to compulsorily carry a towel along with them, especially the younger folks hiding from elders(or sometimes, some elders trying to hide from other people). This towel is a very sacred piece of conviction. A conviction that covering a few inches will safely hide the face. (Most of you would have heard only about cats stealing milk by closing their eyes so that no one else knows about it!!) This towelization of FoS is only a natural way for us to have a drink.

Please don't ask: why towel? It's a genuinely tough question. It's tough to explain especially to those who have never had to use the towel. It's like the purdah in that famous song in Amar Akbar Antony. Don't ask why Akbar's(played by Rishi Kapoor) girlfriend had to wear that veil. But the beauty of the Qawwali is in having the veil hiding the face of the lover. These songs typically deal with three things(actually just one hing: love)--love for booze, love for girl and love for God. I'm telling you: all these three loves are pretty dangerous. Interestingly, all three use towels. But, I guess I already digressed a lot. Frankly speaking, I don't mind if you do a bit of hiding behind a towel if the FoS brand is a bit extra feisty. We use towel because that's how we manage to give the freedom to drink without compromising on the tougher task of owning the consequence as well.

There is another thing with FoS. It typically has do you say it...a certain regional twist to it. It's something like bad handia(a local, horribly pungent brew). The other day, i saw a couple of drunkards fighting in the middle of the road. To make matters worse, they were standing in either side. The one on left was not allowing the one of right to move and vice versa. All of us were practically praying that the stop the fight or sober up soon, so that we can move. The worst part of all this: they were actually arguing whose brew is more potent!! I mean, here we have two drunkards. Both are blocking the road. Both smell like shit. No one really cares much about the place from which either have come. But they will block our road. I thought I would myself have joined one of the sides or decide to break up and form my own side if they don't stop. I tell you: no matter where the brew comes, there will be some drunkard who is always going to claim that they make it best in their village or village shop.

The problem with a large country like ours is that we have just too many brews, some even changing from one road to the next. So, especially in an Indian context, it's actually safer to sell the FoS in a dark bottle. I think a dark bottle, or a bottle marked with "Made in India" instead of the place name is the safest bet. I mean, no one is going to throw cudgels if they think it is for the good of the nation, right!

So, that sort of says why i like my FoS with the two restrictions--something to protect me from bloodthirsty fiends and brainless local hooligans.

(Please do read Jay Panda's TOI blog: Hypocrisy on free speech for more about FoS)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Some tips on Income tax

Some tips on Income tax
(Disclaimer: these are only observations. Please consult a certified financial planner for professional advice.)
(This was posted by me on whatsapp as an instantaneous reaction to someone talking about ULIP to save taxes)

One of the common mistakes many of us (ppl in 10% and 20%) brackets do is to rush and invest over a few "tax saving" instruments without much thought. I am just listing a few things you should seriously consider.

Please note the two most important advices i have received:

Paying tax is better than wasting money on a bad financial instrument.
(For 10% bracket, you pay atmost 25000 rs. For 20% brakect, that is atmost 75k rs)

You should not put money anywhere unless you know all risks(even bank FD has risk), and you have a need for putting money there.

Real option for ppl like us:
1. Best option: get a home loan.
Principal part of home loan comes under section (u/s) 80. Upto 1.5 lakhs limit as of now.
Interest comes u/s 24. For home loans that we can afford, all interest is deductible.

You must get bank certificate in which they will clearly say the principal and loan part.

A decent home loan should cover most of your tax related needs.

Do not forget to insure the loan. The banks will add a small premium, but its worth spending.
(Personal exp: my home loan was in name of me and my father. When my father passed away, i could have got insurance co to pay rest of 6 lakh premium if i had insured by paying 300rs more a year)

LIC term loans:
These are low ticket. If you dont have it, you must get this.
While picking a term plan:
Sum Assured should be at least 30-50 lakhs based on your needs.
Eg: if total monthly family expenditure is 32,000, SA should be atleast for
50 lakhs.
(For a 40 yr old, taking 25 yr term for 50L, premium is about 3500 rs)
 i name only LIC bcoz they are the biggest term insurer. In insurance business, the best one has most customers.

Health Insurance:
A must.
Atleast get the health insurance from Vijaya Bank.
This is one investment where you can put money on one or more insurer.
For the second insurer, go for a health insurance player like Max Bupa, etc. All the good ones are private. Ask your nearby hospital about the insurers that provide cashless facility there. Then only buy. Always prefer family floater(only bachelors need to fall back on individual plan)
IMPORTANT: there is something called "top-up" plan in health insurance. The way this works: we pay money for all expenses beyond a limit, send the bill to insurer and get money refunded.
If you have a base plan of 3L and you then go for a topup of 5L with a base of 2L; and god forbid something happened to you requiring a 6L surgery; your base plan can initially cover the 1st 3L. The remaining 3L has to be paid by you to hospital. The bill of this amount should be sent for processing claim in the topup plan. Money will be refunded by them. You can actually show the 6L bill, and ask for topup ppl to pay you 4L rs. You can then give 1L back to base plan.
Point to note: topup plan pays only those bills that cross the base limit.

And, due to this condition(only pay if a base is crossed and no cashless facility), they are going to be much cheaper.

4. PPF
If you dont have, please get one. This is the extra pension that you are saving up. Make sure you put at least 1000 rs in this.

Optionals based on need:
Rest of money should be put based on your age.
I am just listing some of the ones that make sense for ppl earning less than 10L.

Please note: asset allocation is crucial.
(Even though it wont save tax, do your usual gold purchase, bank FDs, etc)

(Important point: when i say risk, it only means that the earnings may not be best. You are going to lose money only when you do emergency sale. In emergency, there will be slight loss in everything.)

A) 5yr Bank FD: prefer putting this in 50,000 or 1L.
Lock in period is 5 yrs. If there is an emergency, you might end up breaking this.
Ideally, start a basic 5yr FD every year.
Risk: interest rate risk.

B) NSS, KVP etc.
Interest rate risk. Policy risk. Put money only if family compulsion is there.

Dont put money in the rest if you dont have atleast 1L in bank FDs(regular and 5yr ones)

ULIP: generally discouraged by people.
Use this with full money on equity. If you are joining, go for atleast 20yrs.
Market risk.
Important: do not put debt component in ULIP if you already have liquid cash of 3L(spread in banks, including short FDs, gold)

General rule of thumb:
You can put upto 100-Age% of your free money on equity.
Ex: for a 35 yo, upto 65% of investment can be in equity.
If you are 25 yo and earn 40k per month, and you spend 20,000 for household expenditure, 10,000 for personal spend+emergency kitty; you only have 10,000 to play with. At 25yrs, you can put upto 100-25=75% of this 10,000, ie, upto 7500 in equity. If you have a ULIP of 1000 per month, NPS with equity of 3k per year(equiv of 250/month), you can only put upto about 6000 on equity. For this person, i wont recommend anything more than 5k per month as SIP.

ELSS must be invested only as SIP. You may topup when you get unexpected money.

Important point with ELSS or any equity: benefits accrue only on very long term. You are holding for 15-20years or even upto your death.
ELSS makes money bcoz money is invested in top 500 cos in market. On an average, they will aim to make at least 10% operating margin over long term(10 yr time horizon). No matter how market reacts, these companies have to maintain a steady course bcoz owners get to eat kanji only if co make profit. Over any 15 yr period, equity will give returns of 10%.
Someone who started putting money from 1999 in ELSS would have made 17-24% over the 17 yr period(ELSS started in 99)

There are lots more. Its better to pay tax than invest on them(i would not have said KVP and NSS as well if i hadnt seen an attachment for it among baniyas)

For realistic advice on tax investments, read Monika Halan, editor of money section livemint.

Its wiser to lose a few thousand on tax than a few lakhs later on.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Reflection on the fall of Dinasaurs

Once upon a time, the dinosaurs ruled the world. It might even be said the dinosaurs were the world. I am not discounting the insects and other basic mammalians that might have been alive during that time. But, all the major life forces were dinosaurs. Some were leaf-eaters, some others fruit-eaters, some stuck to meat, while some others gobbled up everything. But, what happened to them? Now, all we are left with are a few lizards and crocodilians.

Celestial cause

Some people consider that the larger earthlings perished due to act of God. It is believed that a huge meteorite crashed onto Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs. May good Lord be praised for not killing the small mammals! This is a bit confusing: if a meteorite killed a big dinosaur, then why didn't it kill the small mammals as well? Now, this is not the real interesting question. In the land of big lizards, there were smaller ones too. We see snakes, crocodiles and other "old" dinosaurs even today. So, why didn't the meteorite kill the small dinosaurs as well?

It's commonly argued that the mammals survived because of their small size. They were able to hide in small, safer crevices; and that's why they survived. This line of argument looks like the biggest fallacy out there.

A meteorite impact is actually a very local affair. Of course, there are those who argue that a meteor impact does more damage than meets the eye. A large enough meteorite impact might result in large shock waves, leading to massive "earthquake". These shock waves may trigger volcanoes, earthquakes elsewhere. A meteorite falling on an ocean might result in massive tsunami. The meteorite on impact night spew out molten rocks leading to extra damage. Then there is the ash cloud that can block sunlight. There is the heat generated during impact itself.... The list can go on, but so what! There is still one problem with this line on destruction.

If there is a real wipe out, say by the large amount of molten rock falling back to Earth, they are going to fall back in the nearby region. The rock can't fall back on the other side of Earth. The immense heat generated will not only burn the large organisms but also the smaller ones. Whether a large animal or a small animal is subjected to high temperature, both are going to get fried. Heat is not biased against reptiles or plants or insects(don't forget about these older living things) or mammals. Maybe a hornet may get fried at a 47 degrees and a honey bee at 60 degrees; but if a molten rock is going to fall on them, both are going to die.

Let us assume for an instant that the mammals saved their skin because they went underground. A tunnel is not really a safe place during an earthquake. The walls of the tunnel are bound to collapse if the shock wave is large. Then there is the problem of the overheated air above. Hot air will rise and nearby air will take its place. Most of the tunnels build have a natural way of circulating air, otherwise there will be CO2 built-up. If tunnels were built with holes, hot air will enter the safe places where the animal was sitting. Also, how long are these small animals going to survive without eating any food. Food is one thing, what about water. When the temperature rises, these animals who aren't evolved to live under such circumstances are going to dehydrate. At high temperature, water is going to evaporate. Those who live in hot climates know that animals cant hydrate by drinking hot water.Eventually their body temperature will rise and they will get boiled.

In short, looking at the skies is never going to convince anyone on why the dinosaurs perished.

(to be continued)


Saturday, January 03, 2015

dharma: My understanding(partial)

Having read a lot about dharma, specifically in the context of terming it as religion of Hindu, i am just presenting what i know about this notion. (As a standard disclaimer, i am not learned. Hence my description may have flaws. All mistakes are mine, whatever truth gets uttered are due to my teachers.) Let me first start saying what is not. Then i will try to say what it is.

dharma is not a religion. Merriam-websters defines religion as: the belief in a god or in a group of gods; or an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods; or a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith. dharma is neither of these. dharma doesn't require a belief in any god. Different people may follow different ceremonies; they might have different beliefs related to god(from atheist to monotheist to polytheist); but they do have dharma. there are no rules on how to worship in dharma. dharma is not restricted by a cause, nor by a principle; nor by a belief system. As nothing in the definition characterizes religion, dharma is not religion. Let me try to explain this better.

Water, whether it is taken from well, river, pond, lake or ocean; is just water, or plain old H2O. No matter what you do to it, the molecule of water has exactly two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. The moment it ceases to have these, it ceases to exist as water. So is water from the well sweet, or from the ocean salty? based on the place from which water is taken, will it's taste change? If one accepts that water is the molecule and nothing but the molecule containing the three atoms, it obviously can't have different tastes just because we collected from different places. However, we can sense different taste for different water. Tap water doesn't taste the same as bottled water. To know that it is water, do we need to assign a taste to it? Can one water be more 'water' than another water? I think it is clear from this argument that one cannot distinguish water from multiple sources. Similarly, dharma is not restricted by either belief or non-belief of god.

Water may be flowing down a stream. It might be getting accumulated in a lake; and discharging from the lake through a river into a sea. It might be getting evaporated, getting stored in clouds, and drenching earth in the form of rain. When one looks at a stream or a river, one can perceive the banks that water rarely crosses. One might be able to hear the rhythm of water flowing. One might be able to see the color of the flowing water. Just because we are perceiving through the multiple senses, water doesn't cease to be water. Just because water came down one side of mountain instead of another, it doesn't cease to be water. Just because a person follows a set of ceremonies instead of another, he doesn't stop to follow dharma.

Having seen that dharma cant be restricted by a notion of god or by a notion of customs, ceremonies, etc. let me try to analyze whether dharma has a predefined system. To take the analogy of water again, let us try to look at how water is made. Without going into much of chemistry, we know that water is the result of many reactions. Having made water, will it really matter how the specific molecule of water was made? Similarly, once someone is following dharma, does it really matter how he managed to follow dharma!

Having denied that dharma is a religion, let me next show why dharma is not a definition of a hypothetical ideal person. One of the things that people try to do is to define dharma as an embodiment of a person. You may want to call hero-worship. You may want to call this as reliving the way greats have lived. People-based religion want to emulate the life of their favorite "saint". If dharma is really about conforming to a mold, then there are so many people who claim to be followers of dharma. Why aren't we having replicas of the initial saint? Why are people waiting for the next Moses, the next Jesus, the next Nabi?  If rAma is the ideal man, why are we not molding ourselves into a rAma? Why are we not trying to get one more Adi shankara? The question can also be rephrased as: why did only one type of monkey evolve to be a human while others didn't? Here in lies the difficulty of providing a template to dharma.

dharma, ultimately, is about the individual. I am not denying that it can never be with respect to a collective. The understanding of what constitutes as dharma also evolves with the individual. It is really about understanding what are the choices that a person can make, cannot make, ought to make, ought not make. These are not rules of engagement. These are basically a bunch of frameworks. The choice I was referring is the choice of the framework at the current point of time.

We, as human beings, make a lot of choices. Some of them are very small ones. for example: should i type with one finger or many fingers? Some are "big" choices: do i quit this job? Is there religion behind these choices? Some might want to dogmatically say yes; but we all know that none of these choices have any significance in isolation. How we make these choices depend on dharma.


Saturday, August 09, 2014

kash koi sochta meri bharat ma ke bare mein bhi

काश कोई सोचता मेरी भारत माँ के बारे में भी
मरहम लगानेवाले डॉक्टर को भी कोसते हैं जो लोग
उन्हें कहाँ पता देश बनता है लोगों से
न कोई पुरानी ज़ंजीरों से ||

काश कोई सोचता मेरी भारत माँ के बारे में भी
कोटि कोटि युवा है मेरे देश में
मगर यौवन के बारे में इन्हे क्या है पता
बडे हवेली में बसे  इन्हे क्या है पता ||

काश कोई सोचता मेरी भारत माँ के बारे में भी
चैनल में आकर चिल्लाते हैं जो लोग
कहाँ कहाँ से खाए हैं घूसों के ये भोग
काश कोई सोचता मेरी भारत माँ के बारे में भी ||

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

poor by socialism -- समाजवाद से है कंगाल

जन्मे थे कंगाल मगर भिखारी हम कभी थे नहीं  |
समाजवाद के नाम पर हमें भिखारी आप बना दिए |1|

खाली पेट जब पले हुए तब भी सिर झुक्काये नहीं  |
जातिवाद के नाम पर हमारे सिर झुक्का दिए  | 2 |

अगर समाज सुधारने चाहते तो क्या-क्या नहीं कर सकते थे आप |
जेब भरने के चक्कर में आप इन्सानियत भी भुला दिए   | 3 |

आज कुछ धन से है कंगाल, कुछ इज़्ज़त से भी कंगाल
मर्यादा पुरुषोत्तम के देश में गरीबों को भी बेच दिए   | 4 |

समाजवाद के नाम लेकर भी आप समाज सुधारना भूल गए |
धन से कंगाल देश को अब आत्मा से कंगाल भी बना दिए  | 5 |