An Opinion on Everything, A Country of Experts

“Yeh PSPO nahi jaanta!” Remember that old ad for – I think – Orient fans? In which a customer gets mocked for not knowing what is PSPO?

That was the kind of look my broker friend Jigneshbhai got from Swami when he said ‘No Idea!’ in response to Swami’s question on ‘where are the markets headed?’

“See he is not answering properly” complained Swami to me. I had a blank look wondering why my broker friend wasn’t answering as he was the expert. In anticipation, I stared at him.

But he did not budge. He continued reading and sipping his coffee.

Swami then turned to me. “Ok – so what do you think? Should we go for deep value cyclicals or safe defensives?”

I just stumbled from my chair at this question, and was still trying to decipher what Swami was saying. Like in conferences, when you don’t understand a question that someone asks, you say ‘Good question’ and buy some time to think? I was thinking of doing that. While the other part of my mind was wondering how Swami had done so much homework and from where he had got so much expertise.

But before that thought ended, his next question came up.

“Ok – this one is in your area” he pointed his look towards me. “You work in the hi-tech industry, so you should know. So do you think Infosys is in for good times now that Vishal Sikka is at the helm?”

I stopped just short of saying ‘No Idea’ like my broker friend. Swami’s questions were not ending. At the same time, the answers were not starting. It was but natural that he was losing patience.

On getting no reply, his disappointment knew no end. “You guys are deliberately hiding your expertise from me” he continued complaining. “You are hiding all your secrets from me.”

“There is no secret” asserted Jigneshbhai now. It reminded me of the dialogue from Kung Fu Panda. My broker friend repeated that he genuinely had “No Idea”.

This wasn’t well accepted by Swami, and he suddenly seemed to have lost respect for my broker friend. “Even I have a view on it, and how can you have no idea?” he seemed to be thinking.

The acceptance of having ‘No idea’ is not a well-accepted thing nowadays, where everyone is expected to have an opinion on, well, almost everything. With google and wikipedia and 24×7 TV, irrespective of the topic and your background, you have to have an opinion. And in this case, Jigneshbhai was an expert anyway.

Having an opinion on things that you have no reason to know much about is the new normal, so saying ‘No idea’ on a topic that you are supposed to be an expert on is truly atrocious. So thought Swami.

He turned his attention to me. “Take any topic of discussion today, sports, politics or business – there are always experts who have an opinion. And here I ask your broker friend for his opinion, and he says he has no idea. I am sure he isn’t willing to share his secrets” provoked Swami, with a tinge of sarcasm.

Swami then told me about his son (who was at-least 6 years away from getting anywhere close to engineering), but despite that how he was an expert on cars and had a clear view on which car they must buy next. “He nonchalantly rattles out figures on BHP and torque and ground clearance as if he has been driving cars since the age of 2″ Swami boasted.

“And even my wife tells me that her patients know so much about medicines and have a view on her prescriptions nowadays.”

My mind wondered to the opinions of my morning walker friends that I had heard for the past few weeks.

Each of them had convincingly told me about their opinion on what works best for weight loss. While one shared his view on the importance of cardio exercise, another had said weight training was the most critical piece, and a third one had dismissed both the others saying just watch what you eat.

Our society committee has a range of experts with clear opinions on how to run security, housekeeping, accounting and everything else required to run an apartment. My gorkha watchman is an expert on Chinese border issues, and when the PM hosted the Chinese premier, he subtly warned me “yeh China se door rehna chahiye.” A few days back, after the Mars mission, all of us became experts in space research and while I had no clue on the rules of boxing, last week, I became an expert in boxing.

We were surely a country of experts, having an opinion on a range of topics around, well, almost everything.

“This is too much, Jigneshbhai. Don’t just sit silent. Tell us your secret opinion on what to do next in the markets!” Swami exclaimed.

The coffee was getting cold as Swami and I waited for our broker friend to speak. But that was not to be. Now Swami was starting to give my broker friend the ‘yeh PSPO nahi jaanta’ look once again. ‘How can he not have an opinion on this?’ he still wondered.

Just then the wealthy man in the sprawling bungalow (who always spoke cryptically), and who had been listening to our conversation since a while back walked up to us.

What he left us with still keeps Swami and I wondering.

“Experts are either people who know more and more about less and less, until they know everything about nothing; or people who know less and less about more and more, until they know nothing about everything. In my opinion, it is better to form your own opinion.”

3 Responses to An Opinion on Everything, A Country of Experts

  1. Sid says:

    All opinions are prisons. If I opine for a serpent, the serpent will opine for a dog. My position is that I have no opinions.Or do I? 🙂

  2. even that is an opinion!!! 🙂

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