The Economic Times Equity Challenge

Friday, September 28, 2007

Yo! I rule (not anymore though). I enrolled in the Economic Times Equity Challenge exactly two weeks back and it took lesser than i had imagined to break into the top 100. Let's just say I was riding high on the Reliance wave. The game is simple...the way it works is you get a notional amount of Rs. 10 Lakh on the first of every month to build your portfolio. The person with maximum gains at the end of the month is chosen as the winner. I made it to the top 10 day toppers for 3 consecutive days . It was amazing to rise from Rank 1400 on day 1 to Rank 78 in 10 days. Wish I had enrolled on September 1. And what if it were real money..I would be sitting on a cool 20% profit in less than two weeks..phew!

The secret is not to worry too much as in real money and not do much during the day, to book profits and reenter the counter on dips. I also stayed away from too much speculation and responding to market rumors. The best was 50% gains in Reliance Natural. I had purchased 900 shares of RNRL for real too on 4th September but sold them a day early to book a 10% profit. The very next day it shot up by 37% followed by 22% the day after. I was just shot of killing myself for having acted in haste.

A clinging nightmare at 9 months

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The lean mean crawling machine has moved on to the next stage in life. His mom's presence is required at all times of day and night. A disappearance act by me can send the eardrums of anyone in the vicinity to burst. The shrill pitched cry is to let me know, "Come back else the neighbors will come knocking at our door as to what's wrong withe the hero of the neighborhood." To Lil General's credit, everyone around acknowledges him as a very well behaved kid. "Spend a day with us and you'll know", I tell them.

Its hard to say if it was hard on me when he was a foetus or when he was all of 4 weeks being colicky crying through the evenings or that rolling over stage trying to fall off the bed or when he began crawling and broke my dear Netgear. I find it very hard now. He didn't need me waiting on him hand and foot all through the day all these months. Makes me think if its just the age or something wrong with my parenting techniques that has got him clinging to me so much. I can't read a book in the same room. I can't work on the laptop sitting on top of the bed. I have to sit next to him so that he can play with me, pull my hair, climb over me, sit on my tummy, poke my nose, bite my ankle and laugh while I scream in pain. He LOVES me and this is his way of expressing it. I DO too but sometimes it just gets to me.

His Highness now expects to be fed in his chair while we have our food. He won't eat alone. He hates drinking water from a table and likes to drink like adults, holding the beaker with both his hands only to let it fall after a few seconds.

Door knobs, door mats, soiled clothes, sandals, shoes, cooker, the adhesive of his nappy pads and anything that remotely resembles dirt with thousands of bacteria in it continue to fascinate him.

The toys have barely managed to stay in shape. They are held, turned around and then banged hard on the floor. Gadhadhari bheem doesn't enjoy carrying the gadha anymore.

Krishna Jayanthi and Ganesh Chathurthi were fun for LG too as he made an imprint of his legs for the former and joined us in pooja for the latter. Everyday he makes a visit to the pooja room to look at the pulayar idol.

I managed to complete The Third World War and restore it back to the book shelf but the The Devil wears Prada that I am currently reading might not be as lucky.

There are time he behaves like a grown up not wanting to be disturbed while he is busy playing with his toys or breaking stuff or just surveying the house. And then there are moments when he makes us realise he is just a small nine month old baby who needs the attention and love of his parents. He enjoys it when we applaud him on the feat of pulling down the bath foam bottle from the second shelf or attempting to eat a biscuit on his own with crumbs strewn all round the floor. Sure, it means a lot of work for us after the event but it makes him happy and encourages him to keep trying.

The moments that I'd rather not remember are the potty sessions and waking up at 4:47 a.m. every morning like an alarm clock.

The ground level is clear for navigation. We just got done with childproofing the house -stage 1. Happy about our accomplishment, I was telling V, now we can take it a little easy for a few more months. We were wrong. He is attempting to stand. Working hard at it every second of the day he is awake. and what do you know? Baby center sends us a newsletter asking us to look for things from his eye level and remove the objects. So you have 2 grown up adults crawling their way through the house. Most of the stuff that were on the ground moved up by 2 feet. Now they will have to move further - on our heads! Damn!

Maaaaaaaaaa Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Paaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Paaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. It sounded like this though it could have easily meant anything else. I wanted to believe that he spoke his first words and didn't waste a minute letting my family know. For all you know, it would be quite sometime for a repeat performance. All he is interested in now is moving around to break stuff.

From a demanding eater he turned into a fussy one giving us a very hard time. Things are getting better on that front, though you never know.

The pram rides continue to be fun though he isn't laid back and sits through the rides ready to take on the world smiling at strangers, acknowledging faces he knows and turning away from people he despises. I know, what an attitude at this age! And I'm not kidding on the turning his face away part.

As if he meant to say, "Grow up, get an iPod momma", he broke my favorite Air Supply cassette. If there is a knock (sorry bang)on the bathroom door, then I know its been more than 2 minutes since I went in. So my run to the bathroom sessions have to be planned during his sleeping hours. Emergency trips to the loo can wait until there is another adult in the house.

Peek-a-boo was a fun game. Now, he gives the kind of look that says, "I am a grown up and stop being childish all the time."

He is growing up and so am I, in my own ways.

How much do you gain from bargaining?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

If you can show me an Indian who buys a vegetable from a roadside hawker without bargaining, I will treat you to a dinner. There is one thing we Indians share irrespective of the state we come from, our upbringing or the status in society - the compulsion to bargain before buying anything. It is more psychological in nature than getting real value for the product you buy or the service you pay for.

I was a compulsive bargainer and took pride in the fact that I managed a Rs.500 discount for the Rs.10,000 washing machine or got that Kg. of Tomato for a Rupee cheaper. If there was ever a big ticket to be bought at home, I was always taken to the shop for milking the last rupee for the item bought. The organized retail sector has done little to help Indians get rid of this habit. The haggling in malls and supermarkets gets sophisticated with demands of discount in percentages. The look of helplessness is drawn all over the cashier's face as he is in no control to give discounts to customers with all the prices programmed and fed in to the system.

This behavior of ours I believe has a lot to do with our upbringing. The generation of our parents perceived that they were always cheated and did not get value for money spent. .And bargaining was the only route to get the real value for their service. This has passed onto the next generation. Theirs was a time when a Rupee had significant value. Value of rupee has changed so has our standard of living but not our mindset.

I don't take pride in my bargaining habit anymore. It all changed this Sunday. I took pairs of sandals to be stitched to the roadside cobbler. There were three pairs and I asked the lady how much it would cost me. She examined them as if to calculate in her head what the real cost would be plus the extra 2- 3 rupees and then replied, "Barah" (read: Twelve rupees). I agreed and told her I would pick up the stitched sandals ten minutes later. The surprise showed on her face for a minute because the lady expected me to bargain, perhaps for Rs.10 as every other customer who came to her shop did. Infact, I have done that myself before, for all these years. Advice from Dad and V echoed in my ears, "Don't ever bargain with the vegetable guys and these people. They have a very less margin. If you can afford it and if it doesn't seem over the top, just pay it and keep moving." How much was I going to gain from getting her to fix those sandals for Rs.10? Rs.2 is perhaps a substantial amount of her daily earnings. These are the very people who form the "have-not" section of our society. Why widen that gap with some mean behavior of ours just to get a happy feeling in our minds of having won over that person for Rs. 2?

The dark side of being a stay-at-home-mom

Saturday, September 08, 2007

OK, firstly, I had never thought in my wildest dreams that I would use this term - "stay-at-home-mom" ever.

The jargons SAHM and WAHM (Work at home mom) that all the online mommy blogger community with so much ease as saying hi and bye, drives me up the wall. Yes, I DETEST the terms because so much is made out of nothing. There's always one post everyday you can find on one of those popular mommy blogger sites, to begin with The Mad Momma who leads the online mommy brigand with her never ending rant on this topic that talks about the trials and tribulations of a mom staying at home and those working. I have nothing against her or the others, it's their wish. But isn't the grass always greener on the other side and neither of the parties are content with their status with something always to crib about and justify why they chose the path they did. Financial independence, what if something happens to my husband some day, what use is my Post graduate degree if I sit at home, diminishing social life, gender (in)equality etc etc - you know the arguments and the never ending justifications.

This post is anything but all of the above. V and I do talk a lot about how things have changed ever since I started staying home and we both constantly work all the time to keep me mentally stimulated (not necessarily gaining financially) with writing and trading for instance. The arrival of Lil General had nothing or little to do with my quitting. It just acted as a catalyst that I had been planning for a long time in search of something I liked to do for a career.

As we went for our evening walk today, something dawned on me when V said, "these are not my topics of interest to discuss". For some relationships, intelligent conversations provide that spark and you connect on a mental plane that no mushy or mundane conversation ever can. The dark side of my staying home has changed the way we connect. It is no longer about which corporate bagged the huge deal or how much profits our respective organizations made that quarter or what new hiring policy was going on or which moron MBA (oh I have a lot of issue against the MBAs and it's no secret, at the risk of some of my good friends taking offense like MD, AK) got in as a new business analyst with zilch knowledge about systems. And we loved these conversations talking into the wee hours lying on the couch as weekend(s) passed by and we wouldn't have moved our bums out of the damn house! There was always something to debate on. Now suddenly all of it has changed. I am the sounding board with very little to contribute. My window to the world is the Internet and Economic Times, which if I am lucky I get to read some days else it comes out of the potty next day from LG.

Every evening, I still have a lot to tell as V gets back from work. Not about who put in his paper or what mail my manager sent with screwed up grammar. It all revolved around which salesman came and at what time of the day - sometimes to the precise minute. I rant about the fights my maid has with her daughter-in-law, how the people downstairs spend loads of money on their wood work or how bad the noise level was from the neighbor's house who just turned his driveway to set up a atta grinding machine and how the neighbour lady looks svelte all the time and impeccably dressed. Its more about the vegetables and groceries than the deadlines and milestones at work. Nothing interesting..all the mundane stuff with some exciting tidbits on how LG entertained me and kept me productive.

This life is convenient. I am in a comfort zone now, having stayed away from work for a year. But this is black hole. You just get drawn deeper and deeper by the day. I've no idea where I am going with this post...its all muddled in the head right now as I try to find my answers of how to take it forward staying at home. Maybe those of you who work from home as freelancers can show me some light as to how you compensate for the lack of working in an environment with people mushrooming around your work place.

Gokulashtami : How to draw Krishna's little feet?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I look forward to Janmashtami / Krishna Jayanthi every year for one reason. I love making Krishna's little feet something that I've done since I was 13 years old. The house we live in currently has a black flooring so the feet appear beautifully against the dark background.

How to make these little feet :

  1. Mix maida in water or soak rice for 4 hours and then grind it in a mixer. Don't make these mixtures too thick..its consistency should be neither watery or nor like a dough. Somewhere in between like a porridge will do.

  2. Fold your hands as if you were going to punch someone. Now place your hands in the mixture and then make the impression on the floor. This becomes the feet. Place five dots over the feet to form fingers.

  3. Alternate this process with both hands to get the pattern of Krishna walking.

  4. For every 3 or 4 single steps put both the feet together.

This year, I had Lil General to help me out. I put his feet in the mixture and made him stand :)

Nine tips to get over your blogging addiction

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Are you constantly finding ways to trick your company firewall to gain access to your favorite blog? When you wake up at 1:00 a.m. to go to the loo, do you also sneak into the study to peek quickly into the laptop if anyone has left a comment on your 11:00 p.m. post? Do you think hard when someone asks you what your hobby is or do you instantly answer “blogging”? Do your blog buddies outnumber your other friends?

Unless you blog for a living, these are signs of being addicted to blogging. Technorati estimates that there are currently 95.7 million blogs with over 175,000 new blogs being created every day and that bloggers update their blogs regularly to the tune of over 1.6 million posts per day, or over 18 updates a second. The statistics are mind boggling and addicted bloggers like you and me contribute to these numbers which makes it important to monitor one’s blogging habits before it gets in the way of our lives. Below are some tips that will help us keep this obsession in check:

1. Stop the chain reaction – Blog hopping is a chain reaction. If the latest post on one of your favorite blogs links to another blog on which you might find another interesting link, then before you realize you would’ve already spent a good 30 mins blog hopping. And then you get back to reading your daily dosage which can span anywhere from an average 50 to 300. Save the interesting links on your social bookmark manager like for later reading.
2. Get a life – Set aside a time of the day to read and write blogs just as you would for any other activity as cycling, dinner, reading for the kids etc. Do not be tempted to skip any other activity to write a comment or post for the 10th time that day. Go back to your hobby like gardening, skating or whatever interested you before blogging hooked you on.
3. Make topical feeds – Set aside a day of the week for each topic if you have too many blogs on your list. Classifying them based on topics such as General, Technology, Entertainment and reading posts on a particular topic will not be overwhelming and time consuming.
4. Post once a day – Some bloggers make it a point to leave a comment on every post on every blog they read to build links to their own blog thereby boosting the rating for their site. Soon, it becomes a full time job. Ask yourself, “Do I really want to write about how glasses of beer I gulped down today or what channels I surfed on TV or am I writing because there is nothing else to write about?” Sure, there are a lot of people out there to read the dirt on one’s private life but sooner than later, it is the quality of your posts that will matter than quantity.
5. Clear the RSS clutter – If there are way too many RSS feeds in your blog reader like bloglines or Google reader, it is time to examine them on a quarterly basis and remove the ones that don’t interest you any longer. This way you will keep your reading list small.
6. Early to bed and early to rise – Late night is family time and early morning is a good time to exercise. 11:00 p.m. with the laptop and switching on the monitor at 6:00 a.m. to check if someone has left a comment on your last post are sure signs of a bad lifestyle.
7. Stop dating with statistics – Obsessively monitoring the statistics every hour is the first indication of being addicted to blogging. Do you get into the nitty-gritty of site statistics analysis as to how people reached your blog, from which part of the world they came and how much time they spent on what part of the site? It is alright to analyze your traffic once a week but if you find yourself doing it more than two or three times a day, then it is time to sign up for a weekly e-mail report and consciously stop logging checking.
8. Fame calling? – How many contests have you enrolled yourself into in the past 1 month that gives awards for the best bloggers under various categories? Keep a check on this and if you really feel the need to enter, then apply for the widely recognized one than every other contest announced in town. Some bloggers attain fame quickly and are widely known in the virtual world of blogosphere. In order to keep up with the pressure they churn out post after post. Even if fame is knocking at your doors, keep a tab on your blogging habits.
9. Bid goodbye to broadband – Give yourself a reasonable time to try all of the above. If none of them works, then maybe it is time dump your broadband for a while.

These are only tips and this is just like another addiction. It takes a lot of self discipline and willingness to acknowledge you are addicted and take appropriate steps to get over it before it starts taking over your lifestyle.

Lil General's blog URL changes

Lil General Rules is now at