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22 February 2008

Ragiguda Stock Exchange - A Story

On my latest visit to Ragigudda, I found Sandeep Pandey looking gloomy, morose and melancholic.

In those days, I used to visit Ragiguda regulary in my role as the financial consultant implementing ERP solutions for XYZ Corporation. Sandeep was a member of my implementation team as a key user in charge of payables process. On every visit, I used to find Sandeep very happy, cheerful and pleasant. A slap on the back, a cheerful 'Good Morning' or a bright smile - Sandeep had them all. In fact I used to feel that Sandeep was becoming cheerirer on every next visit of mine. I attributed this to his approval of the way our team was implementing the ERP solution in his organization.

That was why I was surprised - and concerned - when I found Sandeep Pandey gloomy, morose and melencholic. My immediete thought was that something has gone wrong with the implementation.

I asked Sandeep if this was true. He reassured me that everything was fine with the implementation. He, however, refused to divulge the reason for his - for want of any better word, shall I say - melencholia.

Since Sandeep refused to divulge the cause of his gloom, I approached Anantha, who was a member of our team and has been in the customer site from the commencement of the implementation. It was said of Anantha that 'he missed nothing and nothing missed him'. He was the 'know it all' of the team and was sure to know the reason for Sandeep's gloom. He likes to share what he knows or heard (you might call it gossip, but he prefers 'information gathering and sharing'). And sure, he knew why Sandeep was sad, and was happy to oblige me.

"Do you know 'Bhavesh Bhai'?" Anantha asked me.

Of course, you don't know him", Anantha continued without waiting for my response, "he is the clerk in the finance department. He expired recently".

Now I understood. Sandeep and Bhavesh must have been close friends. The sudden demise of a friend would have been hard for Sandeep to handle.

"Must have been close friends, Sandeep and Bhavesh" I observed with sadness.

"No, no, you have got it all wrong" added Anantha hastily, "Yes, Sandeep is sad because Bhavesh is no more. But his sadness is not attributed to friendship or anything like that".

Now I was puzzled. "Then why is Sandeep sad?" I enquired to Anantha.

Anantha asked me a counter question. "Do you notice any other sad faces in the finance department?"

I tried to think. The finance department in XYZ Corporation was not the one which was known for its exuberance. In fact, even on a wonderful spring day, the only cheerful face that can espy was that of Sandeep. The members of the finance department were habitually sad and sadder on special days, as it were. A life time of handling credits and debits had to take its toll somewhere.

"There was a general air of despondency in the department" I agreed with Anantha.

"These guys lost a lot of money when Bhavesh died", informed Anantha.

Suddenly it all became clear. Bhavesh must have borrowed a lot of money from his colleagues. His sudden demise meant that these guys lost all that money. I could sympathise with these guys.

"Why did Bhavesh borrow so much money from these people?" I queried.

"No, no, you are wrong again" said Anantha, "Bhavesh did not borrow anything from them".

"But then how, what...?" I was thoroughly confused by now.

"These guys gave money to Bhavesh" informed Anantha.

Tight fisted guys like those in Ragiguda do not come these days. They have lost the mould. It could not visualize them voluntarily parting with their brasses. That Bhavesh must have been a heck of a guy to get them to part with their money.

"Why did they give money to Bhavesh?" I asked. I was very curious by now.

"Let me tell you the whole story" said Anantha

"This must have happened around 7 months ago" continued Anantha, "ICICI had come up with its online share trading portal named ICICI Direct. Though ICICI aggressively marketed their portal here in Ragiguda, people were not excited by the idea of online share trading and did not open accounts. The concept was new and people were sceptical of the portal performance and the network connectivity and the safety of their investments. The market which was down in the dumps at that time did not help matters either."

"No one opened account with ICICI except Bhavesh Bhai. He invested a small sum in the market thru ICICI Direct, in safe blue chips. No one took any notice till markets suddenly turned around and Bhavesh's investment tripled in about a month."

"In place like Ragiguda, these things tend to go around. Soon people came to know of Bhavesh's tryst with Midas and he got the reputation of a wealth creator. Being born with business acumen, Bhavesh decided to brand and sell his wealth making knowledge".

"Thus", said Anantha, " 'Ragiguda Stock Exchange' was born".

"Of course, there was no stock exchange" (as you would have guessed, said Anantha) "Bhavesh encouraged people to give him a small sum of money, around a lakh (Rupees One Hundred Thousand (Approximately $2500), for all you non - Indians reading this) which he promised to double in two weeks. Bhavesh took a 10% commission on the gains made by him on his customer's portfolio. Market was in the early stages of a major upmove and Bhavesh was able to keep his promise to his customers. While the notional wealth of his customers increased manifold, every fortnight Bhavesh was able to take home his real commission of 10%. Market was looking good, the share prices were going up, the customers were happy, Bhavesh was happy. Even the morose guys in the finance department shed an occasional smile....."

"There was a general air of exuberance in Ragiguda. You must have noticed it in the finance department " observed Anantha.

I had. And had attributed it to the fact that our team was doing an excellent job of implementing ERP solution in the organization. How silly...

"You would have attributed this to the excellent work done by our team" commented Anantha reading straight out of my mind. "It had nothing to do with that. The fact was that the wealth had increased manifold. For example, the initial one lakh invested by Sandeep had grown to 5 lakhs in 4 months".

"The only sad faces in the finance department were of those who had totally missed the Bhavesh Bus and did not invest at all.

"Everyone else was making money", continued Anantha, "None more than Bhavesh. The proverbial 'little 10% commission' had grown enough to build him a double storied house in the prime locality in Ragiguda"

"Wasn't the whole deal illegal?" I enquired

"Of course, every participant in this game knew that it was illegal. However the system worked on trust and worked smoothly for over 6 months. Ragiguda Stock Exchange (RSE) was well and thriving" said Anantha a trifle melodrammatically.

"And then what happened?" I could hardly contain my curiosity.

"And then Bhavesh died" informed Anantha.

"So?" I couldn't understand what he was driving at.

"You see, Bhavesh died suddenly without leaving any documents. Since what was being done was illegal, his family is now refusing to give back to the investors either their networth or even their initial investment."

"That must have hurt" I observed, "No wonder Sandeep is gloomy"

"Of course it hurt. But that is nothing compared to the knowledge that the value of their investment is now more than 10 times and growing. For example, Bhavesh invested Sandeep's money in a company at a price of 50 and now it is worth about 600 and going up. Can you imagine the grief that you will feel when you open the morning paper and see that you are richer by a lakh today than you were yesterday? And know that this is a notional wealth which will always remain notional for you?. Boy, it must hurt" commented Anantha.

"Mate, with the mood in finance department as it is, you are going to face some tough times in your financials implementation" observed Anantha drily.

11 February 2008

Of Monkeys and People!!!

The incident I am about to narrate happened during my initial days in Durgapur.
I was selected by SAIL thru a national entrance exam and was posted as a management trainee in Durgapur steel plant in West Bengal. After a month of induction training in Bhilai, we reached Durgapur in August 1987. This was my first visit ever to the eastern part of India and I was young and eager to experience different cultures and different feels if you see what I mean.
Somewhere into my second week in Durgapur, I went to Benachity market which is a big market almost two to three kilometers in length. You can get anything in Benachity market.
It was sometime in the afternoon when I ventured into Benachity.
I don't know what I brought from the first shop that I went to but I vividly remember what he gave me. As I was leaving the shop, the shopkeeper gave me a calendar.
My next destination was the fruit and vegetable market. I wanted to buy half dozen of the ripe old bananas which were strategically placed in front of a street vendor.
"Khela kitne ka hai?" I asked the vendor.
"Kudi Taka dojen", he replied in some vague language which sounded like German or something. I hardly understood what he was saying. (Later I came to know that the language was Bengali and he, of course, meant 20 rupees per dozen)
You see, till that day, my interaction with others was limited to communicating with my friends from my batch, the language of communication being mostly english or hindi. This was my first exposure to the Bengali language.
"Kitna?" I repeated.
He was not listening. His attention was focussed on the calendar in my hand.
"Dekhi (let me see)" he said and quickly took, almost snatched, the calendar from my hand and opened it.
It was a black and white photograph of someone whom I did not recognize. Obviously the street vendor was a much read man. His eyes seemed to light up as he saw the photo.
"Nazrul Islam, Kabi" he informed me. It sounded like 'Kapi'
Now, in the parts of India that I come from 'Kapi' stands for Monkey. Was the street vendor informing me that the photo in the calendar was that of a monkey? Why should the previous shop owner give me the calendar with the photo of a monkey?
I took the calendar from his hand for a closer look. With the long locks of hair and piercing eyes, the photo on the calendar seemed to me to be that of a man, and most definitely not of a monkey..
"Yeh to aadmi lag raha hai?" I told the street vendor a trifle hesitantly. It was more likely that he will recognize a monkey in Bengal if he sees one. Purely due to his comparative longivity in that part of the world, if you see what I mean.
"Aapni ki bolchen? Yeta Nazrul Islam, banglar bado kabi" he informed me vehemently and almost menacingly. ('What do you mean? This is Nazrul Islam, renowned Kabi of Bengal')
He was so vehemant that I took a closer look. Now I was not very sure.
"Lagta to aadmi hai" I again repeated with a lot of uncertainty this time.
I could see that the guy was getting really angry. "Yeta Banglar Maha Kabi. Aapni kichu janen na." he started getting up. ('This is a revered Kabi of Bengal. Don't you know anything at all?')
Who was I to argue with a short-sighted , short-tempered and omniscient street vendor who could not differentiate between monkeys and people? Before I knew, I had taken my half dozen of bananas and legged it.
(Much later, I came to know that in Bengal, they prononce 'a' as 'o' and 'v' as 'b'. So 'Kabi' actually become 'Kavi' which in my language means 'poet'. Putting two and two together, I realized that the shop keeper was trying to educate me about some famous Bengali Poet and not, as I had imagined earlier, about the initial phases of human evolution!!)

10 February 2008

'Ghumne' or 'Ghumane'

Let me tell you of a hilarious incident that happenened when I was working in Durgapur.

We were a group of four friends staying in the same hostel. Me, Sunder,Peeps and Kamal Kumar (K K, obviously). KK had another friend named Gautam Mondol, a Bengali whose parents were settled in Kanpur, the place where KK was also from.

At the time of this incident, Gautam's grandmother, a typical Bengali lady, was staying with Gautam.

Even though he is in Bengal, KK cannot speak one word of Bengali. Luckily for him most people in Bengal speak Hindi and he is able to survive on not learning Bengali. 

That sunday afternoon, KK knocks at Gautam's door, his grandmother opens the door. Gautam is sleeping. In Bengali language that the word for sleep is 'Ghum'. For instance, 'Gautam ghumoche' means 'Gautam is sleeping'

The dialogue here is in Hindi. English Translation in brackets (as if you didn't know). Note: there are three languages involved, Bengali, Hindi and English.

"Gautam hai?" KK asked. ("Is Gautam here?")

"Woh Ghumne gaya hai" replied the lady. ("He has gone roaming")

"Kahan ghumne gaya hai?" asked KK ("Where has he gone roaming?")

"Apne kamre mein ghumne gaya hai" ("Gone roaming in his room")

"Kamre mein ghumne?" ("Roaming in the room?")

Lady felt that something was amiss.

"Gautam ghumata hai", the lady changed tack ("Gautam is taking someone for a ride")

"Kisko ghumata hai?" persisted KK ("Who is he taking for a ride?")

"Apne aap ko ghumata hai" replied the lady ("He is taking himself for a ride")

"Kahan ghumata hai?" queried KK ("Where?"

"Bistar main ghumata hai. Aap baad aayiye" replied the lady before closing the door. ("He has taken himself for a ride on the bed. Please come later"

05 February 2008

Taare Zameen Par!!

Watched Taare.......
Nice movie. Saw lots of kids watching this. Why is that? This is not a 'Children's' movie. Why the parenets have to force children to watch this?
I understand that even schools are holding 'assembly shows' of the movie.
We are living in the best of times. Last two years produced some of the best movies produced by hollywood. Ever.
If 70's showed 'Angry Young Men' frustrated with the system, the present set of movies show young men and women wanting to do something, knowing that their objective can be achieved by sheer hardwork and working to a plan and succeding in their objective.
They do not have to beat up policemen or goondas to achieve their objectives..
Big change that...