What will not change?

“Everything material is changing all the time and is temporary, so for lasting happiness, we should change our focus from what is temporary to what is eternal” said our broker friend Jigneshbhai as we met for our weekend coffee yesterday.

Swami and I were stumped seeing him in such a philosophical, almost spiritual mood, specially coming from someone from the world of investing. He went on to explain that he had returned from a spiritual retreat where his teacher had made such a statement, and he was reading from his notes from that retreat.

“Of course everything is changing” said Swami, but it didn’t look like he was on the same plane of ‘consciousness’ (isn’t that the word used by spiritual leaders?) as our broker friend seemed to be.

The difference in their ‘planes of consciousness’ was evident as Swami continued.

“A few months back everyone was saying NDA is out, and now everyone is saying Modi will be back. Last year they said don’t go near small caps and midcaps, and now they are saying the next bull market rally will be led by them. The ‘Mahagathbandhan’ seemed like the in-thing then, and now it seems to have changed.”

This probably brought Jigneshbhai back to the ‘mundane plane of consciousness’ as he looked up from his spiritual notes on hearing Swami, and smiled.

“My investments are changing everyday based on all these material changes, so how can I not focus on them?” revolted Swami, having got Jigneshbhai’s attention.

There was a slight silence as usual while Swami and I waited for our broker friend to speak.

“Well – even in investments, it is better to focus not on the temporary but on the eternal – not exactly eternal, but at least things that are a bit more permanent” Jigneshbhai started explaining, though it wasn’t quite still at our ‘plane of consciousness’.

Looking at our blank faces, he rightly thought this needed more explanation.

“Who is in power is temporary, what people feel about markets keeps changing, political alignments are temporary and so are changes in people’s tastes and moods, and hence prices of businesses. Better not to focus on the temporary but on the permanent.” our broker friend continued, now talking things that made some sense.

“But what is permanent?” Swami was ready with his question.

After a silent pause, Jigneshbhai said, “Well, 10 years from now, young Indians will still aspire for a better life. That won’t change. There will still be Indian businessmen who will identify markets and build profitable businesses – for India and the world. That won’t change. And these entrepreneurs and their shareholders won’t settle for bank interest rate kind of returns. That also won’t change.”

He looked at us and saw that Swami and I had started getting what he was saying.

“So, while not quite permanent – even that is temporary – but irrespective of who is in power or what happens across the border or in the world, these probably won’t change.”

Jigneshbhai said with a deep sense of confidence and faith. The need for human progress is built-in, Swami and I thought. That need is unlikely to change, and human enterprise for progress more or less guarantees a set of new and old profitable businesses being built over time.

Even though they may be temporary at our broker friend’s new found ‘higher plane of consciousness’, Swami and I thought, looking at each other, that they will work at our plane.

As we were further musing on the temporary and permanent (nah – eternal as per Jigneshbhai) things in investments, the wealthy man in the sprawling bungalow who had been listening to our conversation walked to our table. And today we were pleasantly surprised as he wasn’t as cryptic as he normally is, when he gave us some direct advice.

“Focusing on the unchanging over a few decades is as eternal as you can get in the world of business. Jeff Bezos built Amazon based on what he thought will not change. You must also build your investments based on what you think will not change.”

Four Legs and a टेढ़ी Tail

“Abraham Lincoln once posed the question: ‘If you call a dog’s tail a leg, how many legs does it have?’ and then answered his own query: ‘Four, because calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one,'” Buffett writes.

Our broker friend Jigneshbhai was reading from Warren Buffett’s latest annual letter to his shareholders. He continued as he read further.

“Buffett then sarcastically adds: “Abe would have felt lonely on Wall Street.””

The lazy skeptic in our broker friend seemed to have loved this. I saw that he had a wide grin on his face as he looked up at us after reading this.

Swami and I were just digesting this leg-tail business when our broker friend continued.

“Not just on Wall Street, Lincoln would have felt lonely at so many places, with so many bent on calling a tail a leg, isn’t it?” Jigneshbhai asked, with, maybe, a slight sense of resignation.

“No wonder Lincoln is said to be one of their greatest Presidents. While everyone saw their version of reality, he saw reality as it was,” our broker continued, still excited about what he had read.

Swami and I were wondering which tails and legs and their ‘mis-calling’ was our broker friend referring to.

Swami was the first to ask, as usual.

“Buffett is probably referring to the accounting shenanigans that so many companies indulge in – when they don’t call some expenses as expenses. I read his latest letter” he remarked proudly.

Jigneshbhai was pleasantly surprised with Swami’s comment.

“Indeed. Reality doesn’t change when you call it something else” he said, and then after a few moments of silence, added, “All that you manage is an illusion.”

Swami looked at me and wondered if our broker friend was talking about expenses or something else.

Swami was definitely thinking about only accounting. “You need to be careful about such companies and such managements. The ones who regularly indulge in calling a tail a leg. Expenses need to be represented correctly to shareholders,” he proclaimed confidently.

He was probably right about being careful of managements that do such misrepresentation. But Jigneshbhai was probably talking about misrepresentations of reality by some other entities.

“If you don’t see and accept reality as it is, and keep calling it something else, reality itself doesn’t change, isn’t it?” he continued again.

“And that’s true of not just companies and managements, but also of people, political parties and even countries, of late, isn’t it? If you repeatedly call a tail, a leg, it doesn’t become a leg.”

“It is better to maintain some distance from them – because anyone who repeatedly calls a tail a leg will hardly change that habit. And actually start believing it.”

“After a while, even you can forget that what you call a leg is actually a tail.”

Jigneshbhai stopped and looked at us with a sigh. Swami and I started thinking about what our broker friend had just said – perhaps Lincoln’s statement applied not just to accounting, we thought.

But Swami was still not sure what to do and how to deal with those who call a tail a leg, repeatedly (though our broker friend had advised a safe distance!)

Just as we were thinking about it, the wealthy man in the sprawling bungalow, who had been listening to our conversation, came across to our table. Jigneshbhai smiled at him as he saw him coming.

And as we finished our coffee, the wealthy man looked at Swami and said “कुत्ते की दुम टेढ़ी की टेढ़ी – कभी सीधी नहीं होती. You must deal with them assuming this!”

Nonstop Nonsense

“Charlie Chaplin once said ‘I remain just one thing, and one thing only — and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician'” said Jigneshbhai, my broker friend as we met for our weekend coffee. He was musing over the happenings of the past few days apparently.

charlieclown

“But it’s getting increasingly difficult to differentiate between a clown and a politician nowadays” he smiled, looking at Swami and me. For a change this week, he had started talking and we were the ones silently sipping our coffee.

But Swami was least interested in the political circus and was waiting with his questions.

“I love Charlie Chaplin. But honestly, there’s been so much happening over the past few months, that there’s been more to worry than talking about comedy” he said, quite satirically unlike his regular style.

“Oil prices have been fluctuating, the populist budget is done, the RBI has reduced interest rates a bit as inflation is down but then maybe so is growth. And now we have the worst terror attack on our paramilitary and talks of war. Plus there is a US-China trade war. And there are elections coming up in a few weeks, and we aren’t even sure if the current government will be back!!” Swami was clearly exasperated by the set of events over the last few months and understandably, perturbed about what seemed like a fairly uncertain time for an investor.

He paused for some breath, and I looked towards our broker friend to say something.

“After Charlie Chaplin, there was another clown who made me laugh. Do you remember that slapstick guy in Didi’s comedy show?” Jigneshbhai asked, still stuck in his comic musings. Almost on second thought, he added, “But our new age clowns and Didi’s can’t be matched” he continued, looking at us with a wink in his eye and a wide smile.

But his smile quickly went away when he saw Swami stare at him, clearly not amused.

Here he was talking about all the important happenings impacting his investments, and Jigneshbhai was smiling thinking about his comic stars, old and new.

Realizing the mood difference, our broker friend acknowledged Swami’s concern, but didn’t take it seriously. There was a slight longish silence as usual, while we waited.

“Of course, there’s been a lot happening. But eventually all of this won’t matter – for your investments. You will hardly remember this after a decade or two,” Jigneshbhai assured us, always talking in time frames which put Swami off.

“Who knows who will be alive at that time? I want to know what I should do now, or the next few months at best?” Swami revolted, despite our broker friend’s long-term assurance.

“Well – that’s true, but then on that, I don’t have any answers for you” said Jigneshbhai, his mood turning from a cheerful one to slightly pensive. Thinking about Chaplin and Didi surely got him more laughter than this talk of recent happenings for sure.

While Swami, I and our broker friend were sitting silently sipping our coffee, the wealthy man in the sprawling bungalow came across to our table. Apparently, he had been listening to our conversation.

Though admittedly, our conversation today was more like Jigneshbhai’s monologue on his comic heroes and Swami’s rambling on unsettling happenings of recent times.

So the wealthy man quietly sat with us for a few seconds, and just as we were getting ready to leave, he left us thinking with what he said. “Charlie Chaplin said that life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot. For your investments, all of this, after a few years, will seem like Nonstop Nonsense!”

Of Artificial Intelligence, Natural Stupidity and a Higher Wisdom

“Artificial Intelligence is going to completely change investing” said Swami excitedly as we met for our coffee. Jigneshbhai did not react, and continued sipping his black coffee, as usual. Swami was not the one to be discouraged by that, at least immediately. So he continued with even more enthusiasm.

“Machines will be reading through stock prices and market movements and predicting what’s going to happen next!” he proclaimed.

Still seeing no response from our broker friend, Swami turned to me and said “With Artificial Intelligence technology, humans are going to be redundant.”

I gave him a polite nod, while trying not to take sides. He quickly realized I had no idea about this AI and investing stuff, so he turned impatiently back to Jigneshbhai.

“So are you going to say something or just stay silent?” Swami asked, with a tinge of protest.

Jigneshbhai looked up and finally said, “Yeah, machines are getting smarter.”

Happy that he had finally got some response, Swami slowly got ready for what he thought was going to be a long argument with Jigneshbhai.

“I read that AI programs will read through earnings reports and identify trends. And AI will also track social media and measure sentiment about a company.” Swami happily boasted of his new-found knowledge.

He wasn’t done yet though. “And so many news reports on a company or a sector come out every day. AI will go through all these things and predict how it will impact prices in real-time.”

I nodded at Swami in appreciation, making him feel good about his knowledge and that he had a receptive audience, though I was a relatively easy audience to impress.

Jigneshbhai though didn’t seem too impressed. Turning to him, Swami confidently said, “So with all this analysis and real-time prediction, this artificial intelligence is going to change the face of investing!”

Swami seemed done with his side of the argument, now expecting Jigneshbhai to start. But all that our broker friend nonchalantly said was “Maybe, but more likely not.”

Obviously this wasn’t acceptable for Swami, and even I expected a more elaborate response. So we waited for Jigneshbhai to say more.

After a longish period of silence waiting for him to speak, our broker friend finally said, “Investors don’t need to increase artificial intelligence. All they need is to reduce natural stupidity.”

Swami and I looked at each other confused. Swami had read so much on AI, and the whole world was gung-ho on how AI was going to impact everything, and here was our broker friend more worried about natural stupidity! Before I could say anything, Swami was ready with his question.

“What do you mean? AI is not going to change investing?” he asked.

Again he got a smile from Jigneshbhai. Again we waited for him to speak. Again there was a longish silence.

Jigneshbhai finally spoke.

“Well, it may change trading. They anyway look for so many variables like MACD and moving averages and global cues and what not! Now they can add trends from news and earnings reports and social media sentiments to that mix if it suits them. Someone I am sure will come up with software to do it and sell it.”

He said this with a sense of wry despair. Swami and I were thinking about what he said, and thought perhaps he wasn’t wrong. It looked like Swami was also beginning to question his recently acquired knowledge.

Meanwhile, our broker friend continued.

“But for investing, all you need is to avoid natural stupidity. I hope they come up with some AI technology to detect that!” he said, and laughed loudly.

Just as he was laughing, Swami and I saw the wealthy man from the sprawling bungalow sitting at the table next to us. It looked like he had been listening to our talk on AI and investing all along.

As we were getting ready to leave, he tapped Jigneshbhai on his shoulder and said, “To avoid natural stupidity in investing, no AI can help. You need a higher wisdom!”

Where have you been?

“Where have you been?” asked my friend Swami to Jigneshbhai, as we met for our weekend coffee after a really, really long time.

Indeed when I checked, it was over a year since we had last met, and some of our coffee house friends had also started asking me why we had stopped meeting.

“I was on some quests. I was climbing mountains and diving deep into the seas” said my broker friend to Swami.

Swami and I looked at each other wondering whether Jigneshbhai was serious about what he was saying or pulling a fast one, with some cryptic clues on his whereabouts over the past year. Be that as it may, with no further clarification forthcoming from our broker friend even after the usual confused looks on our faces, we just let things be without delving further.

But then Swami, as usual, could not control his curiosity and was the first to ask. “So what kind of mountains and quests? Have you left investing in the markets?”

Swami and I waited for an answer. It drew a blank, for a while at least. After a rather long silence, finally Jigneshbhai said, “A lot of famous people go away on these kind of retreats and come back refreshed. They climb mountains or go to foreign lands and come back with new perspectives, I hear. So I thought let me try that too.”

Swami was quickly ready with his next question. “So did you come up with some solutions to the falling markets? Or just had fun?” he asked rather bluntly.

Jigneshbhai had a wry smile on his face and replied, “When you come back from such retreats, you generally see problems, not solutions. Everything looks better in the places you have been too, and worse where you come back.” And he further asked, “and the problems you see around you when you are back can spark off a chain of frustrating thoughts, isn’t it?”

Swami and I listened to our broker friend, and couldn’t quite get what he was saying. Seeing our confused faces, he explained, “Don’t you come back from a foreign trip and then everything in India seems so bad for the first few days? And then that sparks a chain of complaints on our airports, roads and traffic for a few days, isn’t it?”

“Yes – so?” asked Swami indignantly, “So you are also finding problems after your retreat from wherever – mountains and deep seas – you went on a quest to?”

“Hmm” said Jigneshbhai. “Well, they are not real problems, mostly imaginations.”

“And when your mind imagines problems, it starts looking around for data or some aspects of reality to justify it, and that sparks a wildfire of thoughts. And then you think the problem is real.”

Swami and I were starting to understand a little bit of what Jigneshbhai was trying to say now, but not yet quite fully. As we were musing about it, he further continued.

“So if I am corporate employee back from such trips, I imagine problems with my job, my boss and commute. If I am an investor, I imagine problems with my shares, my mutual funds and markets. And if I am a politician, specially an opposition one, I imagine problems with the government. And yes, as these sparks ignite thoughts, some parts of reality do surface to justify them, and it can become quite a wildfire.”

Swami and I now understood what our broker friend was referring to. We smiled at each other happy that, for once, we had some clue of his tacit talk. Meanwhile, he continued.

“And then there are so many ‘amplifiers’ to spread the wildfire – maybe your thoughts or other people in your company, or other market participants and all the media especially, which is always looking for sparks with a potential.”

“But then, after a while, I always wonder – what started the wildfire? Did the imagination come first or did the aspect of reality come first? Or did the imagination and some aspect of reality combine on a fertile ground to start it?”

Swami and I found ourselves nodding in agreement with Jigneshbhai. So often in investing had we found that a rumor causes prices to drop and then some other news comes, and then there is further fact-driven amplification, and then it becomes a wildfire. But what came first? It is hard to say.

And then in politics too, so many allegations start and then some news comes, and then some data to fuel the imagination by the amplifiers, till it becomes a wildfire. But did the imagination come first or the data and amplification? Tough to say.

While Swami and I were thinking about this, Jigneshbhai confidently remarked, “But one thing is certain – whatever started it, there’s always someone taking advantage of these sparks, specially if they are in politics.”

This broke Swami’s and my chain of thought. While we were still thinking whether imagination or aspects of reality cause these sparks, our broker friend was almost suggesting that it doesn’t matter eventually.

Swami asked, “So you mean that someone engineers these fires?”

With a wry smile, Jigneshbhai, seemingly happy that we were asking the right question, said, “Well, it may or may not be true. But what is true almost always is that after it is sparked, someone, who is the same or different, is definitely taking advantage of it.”

Finally he confidently asserted, “For someone, these sparks or wildfires, fuelled by imagination or some aspects of reality, are always an opportunity – self-made or godsent.”

Just as he was saying this, I saw the wealthy man in the sprawling bungalow (who always speaks cryptically) at the table next to us.

He had been listening to this coffee talk between us. Before Swami and I could ask him where he had been, he looked at our broker friend Jigneshbhai, and, like Thakur from Sholay, in a solid baritone voice, said “लोहा गरम है मार दो हथौड़ा!”

social-media-lessons-from-sholay-6-638

ढूंढते रह जाओगे!

“Many years back there used to be an ad for some detergent remember where the lady of the house boomed with pride ‘ढूंढते रह जाओगे’ when her husband found no stains on his shirt. Do you remember that?” asked Jigneshbhai while sipping his coffee last weekend.

Swami and I met our broker friend Jigneshbhai had after a really long time, almost as if searching for an occasion.

I did remember that ad and a quick search on his phone by Swami got the video, and he showed it to our broker friend.

After watching it quickly, Jigneshbhai exclaimed, “Yes – ढूंढते रह जाओगे – she said.”

“It looks like a lot of people are searching for things they aren’t going to find in a hurry” he continued as he took another sip.

Swami and I looked at him waiting for an explanation, but as usual our broker friend kept silent and kept us waiting.

As usual, Swami was the first to lose his patience. He erupted “Who is searching for what and what aren’t they finding?”

“A lot of people!” remarked Jigneshbhai looking up from his newspaper and pointed out. “For one, the government is searching for the दाग of black money and still not finding it!” He showed us the numbers released recently which showed that almost all currency notes were returned to banks after demonetization.

He continued “For another, the RBI is searching for the दाग of fake currency and still not finding it!”

Swami and I looked at our broker friend. Swami asked, “But they got so much cash in the banks and data and now know who has how much cash, and I am sure they will catch the crooks!”

Jigneshbhai had a faint smile. “That’s another search, the income tax authorities are still searching for the दाग of those who have black money and still not finding them!”

Swami was not convinced. “They will, isn’t it? Demonetization has increased the tax base and collections, isn’t it?” he asked.

My broker friend was silent for a bit. But he added quickly. “Possibly” he said. “But that’s another search, maybe a treasure hunt, for another day” he added.

Swami was a bit irritated by Jigneshbhai by now as always. “It’s alright. But in the long-term, it will lead to growth in the economy and even the stock markets are up” he asserted.

“Well – that’s truly another treasure hunt. The public’s search for jobs and development! And the investor’s search for value in the markets!” he said in a sly, furtive manner.

Swami was angry by now. “But it has put a fear in the minds of the crooks and left all the politicians from the opposition stumped.”

My broker friend kept silent for a while again. Finally he said. “Now that is true. It has stumped the opposition. They are searching for a smarter politician and still not finding him. It’s a very tough search for the opposition – they are truly ढूंढते रह जाओगे!” laughed Jigneshbhai loudly.

And that seemed to have made Swami happy too, who broke into laughter too.

After a long time, I had seen Swami and Jigneshbhai laugh this way even as they were having their usual tussle. I myself wasn’t quite sure – like always which side I was on.

Just as we were enjoying the last sip of coffee in the middle of this laughter, the wise man in the sprawling bungalow (who always spoke little and in a cryptic manner) was watching our conversation and dropped in. And he stopped us in our tracks as he said,

“ढूंढते रह जाओगे for the दाग of black money is fine for now, but I hope the search continues with the same ferocity, and leads to some real development. Because that’s why we elected this government in the first place. Remember the same ढूंढते रह जाओगे marketing company came back a few years later and told us दाग अच्छे है!”

 

Heads I Win, Tails You Lose

“Do you remember Dr Rustom Pavri that character from Munnabhai MBBS that helps Munna pass all exams and not get caught by answering questions secretly on mobile?” asked my broker friend Jigneshbhai when we met for coffee this morning.

Swami and I had a distinct smile of recognition on our faces, but weren’t quite sure why Jigneshbhai was talking about that comic Parsi character.

“My CA friend felt like him yesterday night” he remarked.

Swami and I were wondering why. Seeing that, our broker friend clarified.

“All his trader ‘Munnabhai’ friends were calling him continuously yesterday night, like students who had suddenly got an out of syllabus surprise question in their paper.”

“But this time even my CA friend had no answer to this question. And there was no time to find an answer too!”

Swami and I then realized that Jigneshbhai was referring to the announcement made by the PM and Govt that 500 and 1000 rupee notes would be illegal tender from midnight of Nov 8-9, 2016.

It was the classic out of syllabus surprise question set by a tough paper setter aimed to fail cheating students, and given 10 min before the bell rings.

“And the best part is” continued Jigneshbhai, “that whatever happens, chances are high that the paper setter i.e. PM Modi and his government, win.”

Jigneshbhai was pretty excited about this new announcement and explained the various scenarios why it was a win-win situation for the government.

“Firstly” he said, “if you are a sincere student, this doesn’t apply to you except for a few days of inconvenience of exchanging now illegal tender for valid notes. For that small price, the government gains tremendously in the minds of the common sincere man.”

“Secondly” he continued, “if you are a cheat with cash, you can take the first choice of going to a bank and depositing it, and somehow declaring it. In which case, government gains with tax income.”

“And if you choose not to do it, then you are left with paper which you can’t do much with. In which case again the government gains because they eliminated some unaccounted money without the hassles of catching it.”

“And Thirdly” Jigneshbhai explained, “if you are a cheat with undeclared assets other than cash, you don’t suffer much immediately, but are going to think twice before generating more black money in cash. Again the government gains.”

“Fourthly” my broker friend wasn’t done yet “if none of this happens, the least that happens is the real criminal, drug, fake currency and terrorist organizations are anyway left high and dry with useless paper.”

“And finally” Jigneshbhai concluded, “beyond the economic benefits, the political gains in terms of clean image, brownie points and leaving the opposition with nothing to oppose clearly are like that MasterCard advertisement – things that are beyond measure.”

Jigneshbhai was truly, genuinely excited today. Perhaps after a long time, there was satisfaction felt that being honest mattered, not having black money was good. And the silent black money holder was probably worried for the first time in years.

But it was too early to celebrate. It definitely seemed like the first major step of many more steps of clampdown on domestic black economy. It seemed like an honest attempt, at the very least, and a genuine transformation, at the very best.

The old man in the sprawling bungalow who had been listening to our conversation from the table next to us, reminded us that of all the calculated risks, this would probably rank way up there for this government, with potential gains outstripping possibility of losses – for itself and for the country.

Like Amitabh’s coin in Sholay, it was a case of “Heads I win, Tails you lose.”

Saboot aur Gawaah

“Tamam gawahon ke bayaanat aur sabooton ko madde nazar rakhte hue” started Jigneshbhai in a very filmy mood when we met this weekend for coffee. “Isn’t that how that dialogue went in the old Hindi movies?”

Swami, a big fan of Hindi movies completed the dialogue that my broker friend had started. “Yeh adalat is natije pe pohochi hain ki, Mulzim bekasoor hain. Lehaza Mulzim ko ba-izzat bari kiya jaata hain.”

And we had a big hearty laugh remembering the troubled judge banging “Order, Order!” in God knows how many old Hindi movies.

proof

My broker friend said “One of my friends, an ardent non-believer in God, has this habit of asking for evidence every time any of us remotely talks about anything suggestive of religious, spiritual or ritualistic things.”

Jigneshbhai seemed to be in his story telling mode today, so Swami and I were all ears. Specially when it comes to proof and evidence, Swami is always attentive.

“And as you know, no one has been able to conclusively prove the existence of God so far.”

“So every time after presentation of tamam gawaah aur saboot, the ‘mulzim’ gets baizzat buried!!” Our broker friend broke into a laugh.

Swami and I were not quite sure why he was laughing so much, specially about touchy matters like proof of God.

After a while, realizing that he was laughing all alone, he stopped.

With a twinkle in his eye, he said “By the way, we believe in God with no evidence, but nowadays, ask for evidence about everything else, right?”

Swami and I got an inkling that Jigneshbhai was probably referring to the demands of proof for the surgical strikes that the Indian Army had done a few days back.

All government actions require documentation and process.

We have to submit proof of identity, proof of residence, proof of domicile, proof of income for so many things like Aadhaar card, admission to government colleges, loan applications, etc. Even to get bills passed in parliament, there is ‘kanooni process’. Audits happen to establish ‘saboot’ of corruption happening or not happening.

So it is natural that in a country that goes so much by ‘gawaah aur saboot’, the Army also needs to provide proof of a surgical strike it performed on the enemy.

I wonder whether it would have been a good idea for our Army to have submitted all the right documents at all the government offices and followed all processes, before performing the surgical strikes.

Maybe that would have left ‘tamaam gawaah aur saboot’.

While we were lost in figuring out what would be the best documentation to ensure that there is enough proof before the next surgical strike by the Army, Jigneshbhai broke that chain of thought.

“So we ask for proof from the Army, but where there is proof and ‘after tamaam gawaah aur saboot’, the judge has given his verdict, we don’t follow it, and evoke emotion!”

Swami and I were again left wondering what Jigneshbhai was talking about, but quickly realized that he was probably referring to the verdicts in the Cauvery Water case and the BCCI Lodha committee.

“Sharing water and establishing corruption and shady cricket deals where there is ‘tamaam gawaahon ke bayanaat aur saboot’, we invoke emotion, and from the Army, where we need a bit of faith, we ask for proof.” Jigneshbhai clarified.

Clearly, in a rational world, evidence and data are paramount, Swami and I thought. But our broker friend was perhaps right in suggesting that there is a place for rationality and there is a place for faith.

While we were musing over this, the wealthy man in the sprawling bungalow, who had been listening to our talk (mainly Jigneshbhai’s today), walked over to our table. He sat for a while today and left us with more food for thought.

“For the Army and government, it is rational to not provide “gawaah aur saboot”. And for the enemy and politicians, it is rational to demand for it. For you, it is wise to determine who to place your faith on! Because Koi saboot nahi, toh Koi gunehgaar nahi!”

Known Knowns and Unknown Unknowns

“Swami uncle, how do you know that Ganpati Bappa goes to his home elsewhere after we immerse him?” asked Jigneshbhai’s son as we were returning after immersing the Swami’s Ganesh idol after this year’s festival.

It was Swami’s turn to be at the receiving end of questions this time from our broker friend’s son. Jigneshbhai was having a naughty smile as he was enjoying the reversal of fortune – from Swami’s questions to Swami being asked questions.

“How can all lakes and seas reach his home?” Jigneshbhai’s son continued. “Do you have proof that Ganpati Bappa reaches home?”

Swami was lucky that we soon reached our coffee-house, and our families left us alone with our weekly coffee routine, and so the questions stopped.

“Your son asks a lot of questions!” Swami finally said, after they were all gone.

“For once, I did not face your questions! Or his!” my broker friend laughed.

“So how would you answer them? Of course, we know the real Ganpati Bappa goes nowhere. But next he would ask me if there was any proof if Ganpati Bappa was real?” an exasperated, god-fearing Swami exclaimed.

Jigneshbhai stayed silent for a while. He was probably lost in some thought.

“Well if we don’t have conclusive proof that he exists, we also don’t have conclusive explanation to negate the theory that he does exist!” Jigneshbhai stated.

That left Swami and I a bit confused. But our broker friend continued.

“There are the known knowns – like oxygen is necessary for life, and then there are the known unknowns – like we don’t know how life originated or if God exists for sure. But there are also the unknown unknowns – like maybe we don’t even know what we don’t know about the possibilities in the endless universe or in the future!”

Swami and I looked at each other, wondering whether our broker friend was fine. He seemed in fine health a few moments back, but suddenly he had escaped into an unknown orbit.

Unlike our normal confused faces in such situations earlier when Jigneshbhai gave some profound theories, this time our faces indicated outright amusement. Perhaps that’s the reason our broker friend too broke into laughter.

“I am not joking!” he said. “Isn’t it right? Even Donald Rumsfeld when once asked if there was enough proof that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction used something like this. Maybe he meant it, or maybe he was justifying the war – who knows!”

Indeed that was true. I distinctly remembered that, and it became a topic of contention for a long time. But it actually demonstrated the realities of taking decisions at the highest centers of power with an understanding of what is known, what is unknown, and an appreciation of how little may be actually known.

While Swami and I were musing about the known knowns and unknowns unknowns in our life, our broker friend, in a jovial mood today, intercepted our thoughts cheekily. “Like whether the markets will oblige him is a big unknown for Swami!”

Obviously that little provocation was enough for Swami to get started. “Maybe” he said sarcastically, “but most else in your investing domain is based on numbers and metrics isn’t it? So it should fall into known knowns!”

“Well” said our broker friend. “Numbers give you a false sense of knowing.”

Swami and I were starting to understand what our broker friend was trying to get at, and why his answers are often in shades of black and white – specially to Swami’s questions on buy or sell. But it still wasn’t fully clear so we were lost in thought.

Jigneshbhai continued.

“There are many known knowns in investing – like high profitability is good, or low P/E is cheap. And then there are known unknowns – like what will the market do in the next month, or who will be the next RBI governor. But there are also the unknown unknowns – like we don’t know what technologies or trends will emerge and impact business.”

“The important thing is to collect as many knowns as you can, and build an appreciation of their limitations due to the possibilities of the unknowns. And then act with openness.”

While we were engaged in this discussion on knowns and unknowns, the wealthy old man in the sprawling bungalow walked over to our table. He had been quietly listening to our conversation, and as we were preparing to walk, he looked at Swami and I and left us with some words of wisdom, emerging from rock music, perhaps?

There are things known, and things unknown, and in between are the Doors.

Motivation and a System

“What was your motivation? Can you give us a few tips?” asked one of Swami’s friends to my broker friend Jigneshbhai when we met him last weekend. It was a slightly different coffee meet last weekend as some of Swami’s and my friends had also joined us for a coffee session with our broker friend. One of them had met Jigneshbhai over a year back last time and on seeing him was obviously surprised.

Reducing 25 kg is a lifetime achievement for someone who has been overweight for most of his adult life, and for Jigneshbhai who was a self-proclaimed foodie and someone who did not have a special talent for any major physical activity or sport, it was a doubly commendable feat.

“This is one question that nobody has missed asking me whenever I have met them over the past month or so” Jigneshbhai remarked nonchalantly on hearing that question from Swami’s friend.

“But the funny thing is I don’t even remember what was the motivation for me to get started” he continued.

Swami and I had got into this type of conversation with Jigneshbhai a couple of months back when we had seen him reduce his weight substantially, get fitter and look younger over the past 6-8 months. He had told us then that at some level, the starting point was some kind of feeling that life was probably running out. At another level, it was perhaps about setting a healthy example for his son.

Eventually he also told us that it was also about trying out something new and seeing where it goes. He also remembered having a conversation over coffee with another mutual friend who had embraced the healthy lifestyle, that had provided the spark for him to start down the fitness path.

“But honestly, motivation is overrated beyond the start. Motivation is a pretty unreliable partner” my broker friend asserted, continuing his reply.

Swami and I were slightly surprised with this answer from Jigneshbhai. We generally tend to think that someone who has done something remarkable probably had a huge motivation. Or some special secret. Even our mutual friend felt the same. And hence his question on the source of motivation and tips.

But Jigneshbhai continued with his different view.

“Motivation fills you with hopes of tomorrow, only to disappear the next day morning. It fills you with possibilities about the future, only to disappoint you when you need it most.”

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While Swami and I were thinking about it, our broker friend continued.

“Don’t get me wrong – motivation is pretty good to get you started, motivation gives you the initial ‘why’ of anything, but that’s about it – don’t depend on it.”

Swami was listening to this with a sense of surprise. And as usual, was the first to counter Jigneshbhai. Not with anger this time – unlike our discussions on investing – but with a sense of curiosity perhaps.

“So if not motivation, what do you depend on?” Swami finally asked.

Jigneshbhai broke into a smile on hearing Swami’s question. He more or less expected Swami to intervene at some point I think. And now that Swami had spoken, he felt a sense of familiarity maybe.

“Well – what I have learned over the past year is that whether it is wanting to build health or to build wealth, the rules are not very different. All that you need is a system. And once you have figured that out for yourself, that system is what you can depend on.”

This was not what Swami and I were expecting.

We were talking about health, and here our broker friend had somehow managed to connect it with his pet topic of investing. And while we were hoping to hear some motivating stories about his journey to fitness, he was telling us about some kind of system. Obviously not something that could keep Swami silent.

“What is a system?” he blurted almost as soon as my broker friend had finished, and while I was trying to absorb what he had said.

Jigneshbhai seemed to have an answer – almost a definition of sorts – ready.

“A system is something that determines what actions need to be taken, builds a plan around them and structures them into regular habits to increase the probability of producing an outcome.” He defined a system almost as if it was from a book on physics.

“And the rules of the health system aren’t very different from those of the wealth system” he added, leaving both Swami and I a bit lost.

Health, wealth, rules, system – it was all getting a bit confusing. Specially when all that we had asked him for was what was his motivation to get fit. And perhaps share a few tips on it so we could follow them.

Sensing the usual look of confusion on our faces, our broker friend was more enthusiastic than usual to remove it. So he clarified.

“Well – the system is a set of habits that remove the need for motivation every time. And I realized that the top few rules of health and wealth systems are simple and very similar.”

“Firstly – you need to save calories, what they call as a deficit, if you want to reduce weight – essentially the difference between what your body spends and what you earn from food. Unless you have a deficit, everything else is irrelevant. Pretty much like investing starts with savings – the difference between income and expenditure.”

“Second – you create the deficit by allocating calories between a bit less food and a bit more exercise of different types, so that you can manage it. In this process, you figure out the foods and exercises that work best for you without losing sleep and within the calorie budgets. A bit like asset allocation.”

“And Thirdly – you build habits in your life that let you do this day in, day out, week after week, month after month without need for a surge of motivation every time. A bit like setting and automatically following your investing plan via a set of methods that work for you, irrespective of where the market is going.”

“That’s all there is to it. Of course, there are finer aspects of what you eat, when you eat, or what you exercise and how much – running or cycling or weights, and such things. But those are techniques that each must find for oneself – a bit like which stocks or mutual funds to buy and sell.”

Finally, Jigneshbhai had told us – in black and white unlike his investing wisdom – the things that he learned regarding his fitness journey over the past year. There weren’t any specific tips we were looking for. But maybe it was better to learn fishing than get a fish.

While we were absorbing what Jigneshbhai had learned from his one year journey to fitness, the old man in the sprawling bungalow who had been listening to our conversation walked over to our table.

This time he looked at all of us and left us with food for thought – the healthy variety.

“Find your motivation and build a system. Motivation will make you feel like doing something, and a system will make sure you do it even if you don’t feel like it.”

Happy Ending

“So finally this is the happy ending we were looking for!” said Swami, in an especially exuberant mood today, as we met for coffee this weekend. Swami’s smile knew no bounds today. “I wonder what took them so long!” he exclaimed.

My broker friend, Jigneshbhai, obviously realized that the reason for Swami’s impish glee was that the Rajya Sabha had finally cleared the constitutional amendment needed to bring in the ‘one country, one tax’ GST regime, and that too unanimously.

And today, even my broker friend, was happy. “Indeed it is a momentous step, a happy one” he remarked making Swami smile. “Politics was why it took so long” he added.

Swami looked at me almost as if to say that, for once, your broker friend has agreed with me. And he seemed to agree with Jigneshbhai too. But today Swami was in a happy, almost filmy, mood.

“You are right. But all sides did ‘Give Some Take Some’ I guess” Swami said, coming up with a new full form of GST.

“But you have to give it to our PM. Kabhi kabhi jeetne ke liye kuch haarna bhi padta hai. Aur haarkar jeetne waale ko baazigar kehte hai!” Swami was in a truly jubilant mood today, which had turned filmy for some reason.

Jigneshbhai gave a surprised smile on hearing the dialogue from Swami.

“But it is the start, not the end,” he proclaimed. “It is not the happy ending, it is the muhurat shot!”

Even my broker friend wasn’t to be left behind in this trading of filmy dialogues today. “The producers and the cast are all set, but the entire film has to be shot still.” They were now speaking only in filmy metaphors.

But he was right, I thought. I had read in the papers that this thing they had done in parliament of clearing a constitutional amendment was only an enabling start.

The states had to now bring their own GST law, and at least 15 states needed to pass it. And then separate GST bills for central and state taxes had to be brought back to parliament, and finally a GST council of finance ministers had to set the tax rate. All this just to get the law started on paper.

Later of course, the bureaucracy – also consisting of former, presumably disgruntled, central excise, octroi and state tax departments, who would then have nothing to do and little avenue for under the table money – had to implement it with utmost sincerity – using a new IT system that was being built.

When all of this is done, it would probably be a happy ending.

But Swami had the habit of celebrating early. And he wasn’t ready to take doses of my broker friend’s realism today.

“So are you saying this is not going to happen?” he questioned, now with the smile gone away.

“Chances are bright that the film will be completed” Jigneshbhai remarked, still in filmy-speak. “But we will have to wait for that to see if it is a happy ending. You know how various stars develop tantrums or sometimes the producer runs out of money!” My broker friend seemed to have taken the filmy thing really seriously today.

But Swami had already declared it – ‘The GST film’ so to speak – a hit. So he had a frown on his face on hearing this from Jigneshbhai. But he was not the one whose enthusiasm could be cowed down today.

Kehte hain agar kisi cheez ko dil se chaho toh poori kayanath use tumse milane ki koshish me lag jaati hai” he finally remarked continuing his SRK dialogue sessions. “Everyone wants this so badly now, that it is going to happen. So don’t worry, this will be done!” Swami continued with a splendid show of confidence.

Well, it was true that there was reason to think of the possibilities of the future, given the leap of faith that our politicians seemed to have taken two days back. But it was equally true that, with time, those tenuous equations change, and there could be obstacles that could put GST on the back-burner again.

So while I was thinking about what was right – Swami’s unbridled happiness, or my broker friend’s cautious hope – the wealthy old man in the sprawling bungalow, who always spoke cryptically walked up to our table.

It looked like the filmy virus of our conversations that he had been listening to, had caught him as well, as he left us wondering with a dialogue of his own.

“Hamari filmon ki tarah hamaari zindagi mein bhi, end tak sab kuch theek hi ho jaata hai.. Happies Ending.. Aur agar theek na ho toh woh the end nahi..Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost!”

Double-Edged Sword

“It’s a bit like Karma. Every entry on the debit side has an entry on the credit side. There cannot be a single absolute good or bad” said the old man in the sprawling bungalow sitting next to our table while Jigneshbhai, Swami and I were enjoying our coffee.

Today while we were silent, the old man was speaking. I wasn’t quite sure what he was referring to, but he seemed to react to Swami’s exuberance on the markets reaching new 52-week highs this past week. Swami was in a great mood today, and had nothing to complain as he thought about how well his investments were doing. When he has nothing to complain, generally he has nothing to say.

“Everything is so good. Markets are going up, hitting new highs, and they say this is just the start” Swami had said, a few minutes earlier when we were starting our coffee.

The old man in the sprawling bungalow was probably reacting to that, I thought.

“There is nothing like only good” he asserted.

My broker friend Jigneshbhai was listening attentively. When the old man spoke, all of us generally listened. But today Swami’s exuberance got ahead of him.

“How can you say that? Brexit is behind us, the GST bill is going to be passed, earnings have come up well, and the markets are going up. How can all of that be anything but good?” he protested.

Jigneshbhai and I waited but the old man in the sprawling bungalow did not say anything.

Swami directed his gaze at my broker friend, expecting an answer. There was a silence.

Finally knowing well that the old man in the sprawling bungalow doesn’t speak much and whenever he does, it is quite cryptic, Jigneshbhai thought that it might be time for him to speak.

“Well – for every buyer there is a seller. And both of them think they are right. Both of them think what they are doing is good for them.”

My broker friend seemed to agree with the old man. But Swami clearly wasn’t in agreement. And I was confused, trying to digest what both of them were saying.

“But isn’t good earnings good?” Swami revolted.

My broker friend smiled. And after brief thought replied. “Yes – but the buyer of shares is buying because earnings are good, and the seller of the same shares is selling because of the same reason – earnings are good. And both of them think they are right.”

Swami was still not convinced. And I was wondering what’s the truth in this circular argument of my broker friend.

“This is all philosophy. Markets are up and that is good. Nothing else is right. How can there be two sides to that?” Swami finally concluded with a tone of confidence.

My broker friend continued with the same logic that he had earlier.

“Sure – but the buyer of shares is buying because markets are up, and the seller is selling because of the same reason – the markets are up. And both of them think they are right.”

“So what? Who is right? And isn’t it all good?” asked Swami, by now quite impatient, and finally added, with an uneasy tinge of uncertainty “And finally what should I do?”

Despite the tacit explanations of my broker friend, Swami wasn’t convinced. All he knew was markets were up and he felt good about it. My broker friend had tried to explain the duality of markets.

“That’s the thing about economics and finance. No right or wrong, no good or bad in absolute sense.”

But clearly the message of balance was lost in Swami’s exuberance. But it had, nevertheless, raised some doubts in our mind on what’s good and what to do anyway.

And while Swami and I were musing about it, the old man in the sprawling bungalow got up and prepared to leave. And he left us with some food for thought.

“There is no good or bad. Markets are always a double-edged sword. For every greed buying, there is a fear selling. For every greed selling, there is a fear buying. You just need to go beyond both, so that you are never on the edge.”

 

Love Hate Aur Dhoka

“Indians have a love hate relationship with stock markets” said the CEO of the Bombay Stock Exchange a few months back. And he goes on to add “We have a market that is not safe for investors to a large extent.” Further he adds “Only 2% of India i.e. 20-25 Million people invest in shares or mutual funds.”

My broker friend was reading out from a magazine as we met for our coffee this weekend. Swami and I were wondering what he was getting at. But he continued, this time from another article.

“SIP inflows are now about 3000 crore monthly as against 2500 crore six months back.” “FII inflows till date are about 22000 crores this year against 60000 crores last year.”

Swami and I were thinking that our broker friend will now tell us what he was getting at. But he continued again. This time with even more exclamation.

“Quess IPO was oversubscribed 147 times, L&T Infotech IPO was oversubscribed 12 times, Thyrocare was oversubscribed 62 times, and Ujjivan was oversubscribed 41 times. And I am sure there are more to come.”

Finally he looked up at us, smiled and said, “Looks like we are falling in love again.”

Swami and I looked at each other kind of wondering “What’s love got to do with it?”

“The hate of the past few years is gone. The love was cooking, now it seems it is served.”

Swami and I still confused. Love, Hate, Cooking and Investing. We just weren’t getting it.

Finally Swami had just one question “So?” Our confused state of mind was amply clear to our broker friend from the question itself. He finally obliged with some explanation.

“Well – it does look like there is increased participation in the markets from individual investors now. Which is great. But I hope it is not out of love.”

We were finally getting some of what Jigneshbhai was trying to say.

The quotes he was reading from did seem to indicate that individual investors were putting in money in the markets faster and in greater amounts than earlier. More money in SIPs, more money in IPOs, and lesser impact of foreigners’ money seemed to suggest that.

As we were musing over the apprehensions of our broker friend, he continued speaking.

“Because even if you love the markets, it won’t love you back. This kind of love can quickly turn into hate with the slightest mishap.”

That got Swami and I thinking about our broker friend’s skepticism.

The old man in the sprawling bungalow who was listening to our conversation walked over to our table. He always spoke cryptically, and this time was no different, albeit a bit clearer.

“Don’t love the markets. If there’s no love, there’s no hate. And if there’s no hate, there’s no dhokha. Go by your long-term plan, love it and stick to it, so that there is no love, hate or dhokha with the markets.”

Nothing is Impossible

“What’s up? Where have you been?” asked Swami, when we finally met after a long gap over coffee last weekend. It was indeed a long time since we had met our broker friend Jigneshbhai. “So many things have happened, and you have disappeared!” Swami repeated while sipping his coffee.

Our broker friend had a sly smile as he looked up from his coffee at Swami and I. “Indeed, the more things change, the more they remain the same” he said in typical nonchalant style.

“How can you say that?” Swami revolted as usual, waiting for our broker friend to react. But all he did was keep sipping his coffee. So Swami continued.

“So many things have happened in the past few months. The Fed increased rates, Modi government finished two years, our RBI governor left, Europe got bombed so many times, Britain exited the EU – so many things, and you say they remain the same?” Swami clearly had gone through the newspapers of the past six months in detail as he listed the significant events of 2016.

Jigneshbhai and I were quite pleasantly surprised by Swami’s listing. But he wasn’t done.

“And then PSU banks wrote off so much debt, Oil prices and gold prices rose again, BJP won in the state elections, a good monsoon is happening, new policies and a cabinet expansion were announced, and Trump may actually become US president!! So much has happened, we had so much to do, and you have disappeared for the past few months!”

That was indeed quite a list of happenings, I thought. I looked at my broker friend, and he was smiling too. I wasn’t sure whether it was because of the scale of events itself, or because Swami actually managed to list them out. But beyond the smile, he wasn’t speaking much as usual. After a brief silence waiting, Swami finally spoke again.

“We have missed doing the right things in the past six months. So what should we do now? Are we on the cusp of a new bull market? Is it time to get into the thick of action?” he asked excitedly, waiting for our broker friend to answer.

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After a couple more sips of coffee, finally Jigneshbhai said “I don’t know. Ideally do nothing.”

That left Swami dumbstruck. He looked at me as if to ask “what’s wrong with your broker friend?” How can he say ‘do nothing’? Isn’t it time to act? And how does he – supposedly an expert – say I don’t know? Does he really ‘not know’? Maybe he doesn’t want to share his secrets. Those were the lines of Swami’s thoughts.

I was equally surprised. Both of us looked at our broker friend waiting for him to elaborate. After waiting in silence for a few sips of coffee, Jigneshbhai seemed to have sensed our discomfort at his answer and finally relented.

“That’s the reason I disappeared. I had nothing new to say”, he said with a sense of resignation. “Honestly, why say anything if you have nothing to say? And moreover, in response to all of those events you listed, my answer was still the same. Stay Put and Do nothing. Nothing to say and nothing to do. How can I say ‘nothing to say, stay put and do nothing’ in different ways?”

Swami and I looked at each other in mute surprise on hearing Jigneshbhai’s explanation. Swami was probably thinking whether our broker friend had ‘lost his edge’. He was probably wondering what’s the point in meeting for these coffee’s if the advice from our broker friend essentially remains the same – nothing to say, stay put, do nothing. If the advice doesn’t change, probably change the advisor. Maybe that’s what Swami was thinking.

Just as we were sitting in silence (actually doing nothing!), the old man in the sprawling bungalow (who always spoke cryptically) was listening to our brief exchange from the adjoining table, and came over to our table. As we finished our coffee, he spoke and left Swami and me in further confusion, and our broker friend Jigneshbhai with a grin on his face.

“Your broker friend has told you the secret. It is (doing) nothing. Nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day!”

A Plan for a Punch and a Bitten Ear

“What should we do now?” asked Swami, as my broker friend Jigneshbhai sipped his coffee when we had our first meet of the New Year this weekend.

“Now that markets are back to their levels before our PM Modi came in, all my long term investment plans seem to be back to square one. So what’s the plan now?” Swami was unusually less aggressive today with my broker friend, specially given that markets were down so much, almost pleading for this attention.

As usual, Jigneshbhai kept reading – this time he was reading a sports magazine. Looking up at me and Swami, he smiled and read out. “When Mike Tyson was asked by a reporter whether he was worried about Evander Holyfield and his fight plan he answered; “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

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“And the market is punching us in the mouth” Swami cried out.

“It is almost 20% down from the top of last year, and they are giving all kinds of reasons from Oil to China to Europe to whatever. So what’s the plan now?” he continued with his question.

I watched as my broker friend kept listening while he sipped his coffee.

“Those are all punches that the market is giving you. You can avoid them or get out of the way only for some time. Eventually they will get you” said Jigneshbhai non-chalantly.

Swami was in an irritable mood. Falling markets have this effect on him. Earlier he used to get angry. This time he did not seem angry, but still looked dismayed, as if he was helpless. And here my broker friend wasn’t even pretending to offer any comfort or solace.

“All that is fine – punches and all. But people are saying it is like 2008 again. That’s not a punch, it’s a knockout!” Swami responded in dismay, on the one hand worried in thought if that happens, but on the other hand, almost happy with himself that he had spoken in Jigneshbhai’s language.

My broker friend was also surprised and looked up in amusement.

Almost sensing that he had got Jigneshbhai’s attention due to his metaphor, Swami repeated his question, “So is it going to be a knockout? What’s the plan then?” this time with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

“I have no idea what’s in store” insisted Jigneshbhai, and then also said “But you better have a plan.” After this brief talk, he got back to his nonchalance, his coffee and his magazine.

In fact, he read out from his sports article. He said “You should read what Tyson said a few years later when asked why he said that.”

Jigneshbhai continued reading from his sports article.

“People were asking me [before a fight], ‘What’s going to happen?,’ ” Tyson said. “They were talking about his style. ‘He’s going to give you a lot of lateral movement. He’s going to move, he’s going to dance. He’s going to do this, do that.’ I said, “Everybody has a plan until they get hit. Then, like a rat, they stop in fear and freeze.’ ”

No sureshot answers irritate Swami no end. “Why does your friend change the topic?” he asked me in dismay. I had no clue and looked back trying to figure out what’s next.

Just as Swami was almost ‘getting ready to get angry’, I noticed that the wealthy man in the sprawling bungalow had come in and was sitting on the table next to us listening.

As we finished our coffee, the wealthy man walked to me and Swami, took the sports magazine from Jigneshbhai, and left us with some words on what looked like boxing, but left us wondering nevertheless.

“Whether it is a knockout is up to you. But if you have a planned for a few punches on your mouth and keep going even as you may end up with an unplanned bitten ear, who knows – you could still end up winning the fight – twice – like Holyfield eventually did!”

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