So I recently read: Same as Ever

There was always an ongoing joke when I was growing up that if the weather forecast says it would rain, it definitely won’t rain. If they say, the day will be sunny, high chance that it will rain cats and dogs. Fortunately, the accuracy of weather prediction has come a long way and it is indeed really accurate nowadays. But forecasting remains a funny topic.

I spent the majority of the last 3 years working in forecasting for retailers. The algorithms take historical sales and inventory data and after applying a bunch of data science models, generate forecasts for the next few seasons. When it comes to retail, it is generally safe to assume that for mature market societies, patterns generally repeat seasonally. Thus, the forecasts more or less are pretty accurate. Of course, when drastic events happen, all forecasts go haywire but even those are nowadays taken into account and predictability takes into account such shocks and comes up with good predictions.

You cannot apply forecasting easily to many other things like Share Market, although people try their best to do so. Gambling and Betting on Sports play on human emotions and greed more than luck and forecasting abilities, I think. Another field that deals with prophecy is Astrology. It is beyond me that horoscopes are given such a big place in newspapers and people take pride in being from such and such zodiac signs. I can go on and on about this but let me not digress.

I recently read Morgan Housel’s ‘Same as Ever’. He surely is one of the most known writers nowadays who knows how to drive a point using stories. His earlier book The Psychology of Money was also a best seller and is often quoted. He explains, in this book, that no matter how much we can predict and play with numbers and emotions, some things never change and that is Human Behavior. Time and again, people do the same things, make the same mistakes, learn from the same mistakes, and the cycle goes on. Societies or individuals go through cycles of ups and downs and initially, we forget what we did then but later we realize. It tells that the world remains unpredictable and human attempts to tame it remain the same. Mediums might change but the primal urge to react to things hasn’t evolved much since our ancestors also reacted and adapted to changes in the same way.

It might sound pessimistic but rather the book strengthens the belief that if we have got into trouble, it is also the human ingenuity that can pave the way forward. I felt that it encourages us to experiment and use previous knowledge to come up with new solutions because even if nature cannot be predicted, people’s behavior remains the same.

As I mentioned earlier, I have been following Housel’s blog https://collabfund.com/blog/ for some time and all his writings and storytelling are highly enjoyable. Like ‘Psychology of Money’, I recommend ‘Same as Ever’ as a compelling book about the psychology of people.

[AD] ‘Same as Ever’ by Morgan Housel can be bought from here:

https://amzn.to/3utIv3z

So I recently read: The People of Indus

To atone for the crime of watching the movie ‘Mohenjo Daro’, that too alone in a theatre, I will read 2000 books related to Indus Valley Civilization, I had promised. This is 1st of such.

Just kidding. There are not many interesting books about Indus Valley Civilization anyway.

Growing up with Comics and working as a graphic designer for a few years, if something is presented visually, it naturally becomes interesting and appealing, as far as I am concerned.

The People of Indus: and the birth of civilization in South Asia by Nikhil Gulati is one such wonderful book which presents information visually through the medium of cartooning about the advent, the peak, and eventual decline of the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC). I came across this book in one of the Podcasts from Puliabaazi.

History is assumed to be taught in such a bland manner that most people think of it as a boring thing. I, however, was blessed to have good school teachers who tried their best to make it interesting, within the constraints of the school syllabus and the time allowed. Also, thanks to my grandfather who had translated a number of books related to history (or rather decolonization, as they say, to be specific), my interest always remained aligned to learn more about history. But, all the books mostly had text. There have been a handful of photos in black and white as if nobody had access to a color camera ever. This book certainly piqued my attention as for the first time ever history is shown in a medium I enjoy.

What this book does is to enhance the knowledge about IVC by presenting various aspects about how life could’ve been between 3000-2000 BC. It goes through the familiar seals and mini-statues of the IVC. It also talks a lot about how that civilization interacted with the other nearby civilizations like Mesopotamia and the gulf. It goes into detail about one peculiar aspect that IVC has had no signs of any battles and the hierarchical structure of the society was governed by commerce.

I liked the aspects that it touches daily lives, the commercial as well as social processes and the possible languages of the period. It doesn’t try to extrapolate information and shows the evidence as they are.

Since I have had some interest about this so some facts were already known. It didn’t shock me, if I was expecting that. But it does expands the knowledge horizons and acts as a good refresher certainly.

It’s interesting that even now artefacts are found across the north and western plains of India and sadly some of the major sites are now in Pakistan. Rakhigarhi chariot, fortunately was found near Delhi. Aryan Migration/Invasion theories are being challenged regularly with more and more studies being done which suggests that Indian DNA has been generally the same across the subcontinent even though people try to divide us. As far as the mystery of the language of IVC is concerned, that is yet to be deciphered which keeps some secrets as secrets. I recently also read an article that they might not mean anything religious at all, although Shiva has been mentioned on the seals sometimes. Anyways, theories will change as we become better at genes study and archaeology gets more traction.

I enjoyed this book and hope that it might trigger others to start showing mundane concepts graphically, thereby making them interesting. Surely, if this is shown to school kids and young adults, they would be more inclined to know more about Indians from the bye gone era which still has impacts and make us what we are.

This book can be bought from Amazon from this link [ad]

https://amzn.to/48aoa0Y

So I recently read: THE BEE, THE BEETLE AND THE MONEY BUG

When I was growing up, discussions of shares and stocks, Interest Rates, Sensex, and Money in general, were as alien to me, as Machiavellianism is to Rahul Gandhi. In my family, the discussions at the dinner table were mostly related to *wait-for-it* just dinner. On the contrary, some of my close friends knew about all these financial terms and games very well. I liked to believe that it could be a caste thing. But then it turned out that being money-minded and knowledgeable about Finance isn’t a crime but rather a necessity in life.

I recently read that the author of ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ Robert Kiyosaki was himself under a debt of billions of dollars. Morgan Housel’s Psychology of Money also made it clear that it is one thing to earn money, but it is a different thing to gain wealth. And to gain anything, one needs to be smart with money.

I kept delaying understanding finance and the nitty-gritty of markets and thought of myself as a Nerd who felt elated only when some PSLV took off, or when India’s run rate went up and not when the market went bullish or bearish. This continued even when I started earning. However, the reality that some smart people do spend time planning their finances pretty early in life, hit me when my bank balance remained, even after years of working, in the figures that looked more like an OTP and less like a Mobile Phone Number.

But one cannot remain ignorant for long. I did start learning about things slowly and steadily and learned to save and invest in safe havens, where risk is minimal. I also came across help from friends and acquaintances who told me a thing or two. One grudge I always had is that Articles and Videos I came across had so much jargon that I would watch Chess or Golf instead.

But times have changed, YouTube nowadays has a plethora of good information in a language you can easily understand. There are shorts and reels as well, in which people dance and tell you which Mutual Fund for how long would make you a Crorepati. There are playlists after playlists you can watch and become an expert yourself and start your own finance-related podcasts. Kids nowadays (sigh) have become much more knowledgeable due to the rise of Fintechs than surely my age group.

I wanted to remove the clutter and learn things slowly (or rather reconfirm my understanding) that come from some experts who could break down things into a not-so-complicated manner and give information without ads. That can happen only with a Book.

I came across The Bee, the Beetle, and the Money Bug: The Bankbazaar Guide to the Financial Wild by Adhil Shetty and A.R. Hemant. I have known the co-author @arhemant since Minimal Movie Posters days. I found this book a pretty good primer in explaining a lot of things that can be beneficial to a salaried employee like me who is between 30-40 or even younger. It also convinced me that I am not an idiot after all and some decisions which I had taken early in my career were rather good. It also gave me insights about what can I do now to secure the next 20-30 years and beyond as I am now reaching the middle of my career (mid-life-crisis is looming large). If one has a family to support, this book does cover whatever options are available at this point at our disposal.

To summarize, it is late but never too late to take stock of our finance-related knowledge. This book (and nowadays there are several such books) can help anyone who is looking to learn personal finance and see through the noise.

Here are some of my notes with a disclaimer like they say:

Please read the offer documents clearly as everything below is subject to market risks. This is not an investment advice blog. Or any advice blog for that matter.

Emergency Fund

Anything can happen to anyone at any time. So, try to have at least six times your monthly income as an Emergency Fund in a secure but liquid fund such as a Fixed Deposit. One needn’t complicate this but aim to review this as salary increases. When created at the same bank, FDs and RDs offer the same returns. While an RD is ideal for creating your emergency fund, an FD is ideal for holding it. During an urgent need, you can liquidate either. You will only lose a portion of your interest for the premature liquidation.

Don’t put all eggs in one basket

Diversity in savings and investment is necessary. It is advisable to park the bulk of your savings with large, stable banks and go for a carefully calibrated exposure when it comes to smaller banks.

Learn about sweep-in FD facility

Here, your bank automatically transfers surplus funds from your FD and never lets your bank balance go below the minimum level.

One basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage. That’s all.

Don’t Do just FDs

Avoid making the mistake of investing only through FDs. This is because they yield low post-tax returns. Therefore, a 7 percent FD returns only 4.9 percent if your highest marginal income tax rate is 30 percent.

Kya Mutual Funds sach mein Sahi Hain?

Equity funds buy stocks in high-performing companies. Debt funds invest in the government and corporate bond markets. Liquid funds invest in money market instruments—highly liquid debt instruments, such as treasury bills issued by the Government of India.

While picking any MF, do look at its past performance, the fund manager’s credentials, and the quality of securities it is composed of. You may want to refer to its fund rating. Several MF research websites analyze funds on various parameters, such as performance, risks, and costs.

Laddering

Split the money into five deposits at different rates. Each deposit will renew at different intervals of one, two, three, four, and five years. Doing so ensures better average returns.

Highs and Lows

When the rates are high, go for longer tenures with your deposits. When they are low, ladder them and wait for higher returns.

Credit score

Your credit score is a measure of your ability to repay your past loans. A lower score—anything under 750—implies you have had trouble paying your loans on time.

FOMO-JOMO

Turn your FOMO into JOMO—the joy of missing out. You might save yourself from wasteful expenditure.

Using Corporate Insurance Wisely

You have the privilege of working for an employer that provides great health coverage, do not waste it. Port the policy when you leave that job, and continue with the coverage—it will help you protect your family because getting coverage for your parents only gets tougher with time.

When your policy is due for renewal, you have the option of shifting it to another insurance provider. This ensures you will not lose the waiting periods already served when the term for your new policy begins.

50-30-20

50 percent to be set aside for essential monthly expenses. These can be for rent, groceries, utilities, education costs, or insurance payments. Then, 30 percent can be spent at your discretion—visiting the mall, upgrading your gadgets, or taking a vacation. Lastly, the 20 percent should be set aside for savings and investments—the minimum amount of money you need to compulsorily lock away.

MoSCoW Method

It stands for Must Have, Should Have, Could Have, and Won’t Have.

Eisenhower Matrix

If something is important, do it now. If it is urgent, but not important, delegate it. If something is not urgent but important, schedule it for later. If it is neither important nor urgent, avoid doing it.

Invest and Forget and let the Power of Compounding do its magic

Companies by Market Cap

India’s top 100 companies by market capitalization would be called large-cap. Mid-cap companies would now be those ranked from 101 to 250. And small-cap companies would be any company ranked 251 onwards.

To rephrase physicist Richard Feynman talking on quantum physics, if you think you understand taxation, you probably do not understand taxation.

Keep your family in Loop about your finances

You may buy this book from this link [Ad]

https://amzn.to/3UxnfEu

So I recently read: Factfulness

I first came to know about Hans Rosling, through this TED Talk. I was searching for data visualizations and how the world perceives other nations.

Naturally, once you watch this, you will realize that Hans Rosling was not only a witty speaker, but also the stats he displayed were proof that most of our knowledge comes from our perceptions and not the facts. These perceptions are ingrained in us from the very beginning. The even more disturbing part is that the perceptions present the image of something from the past and are highly deceptive because the world is continuously changing. The example of how Chimps sometimes, randomly, would be more right than most of the so-called developed and educated audience was extremely funny.

So, I recently read a book called

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think

by Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, and Anna Rosling Rönnlund.

Hans Rosling has passed away since then but you would’ve certainly heard of Gapminder and if you haven’t, it is difficult to not have seen graphics from a similar org called ‘Our World in Data’. Remember the daily cases and overall case graphs? Hans Rosling, for most of his later life, worked to help people know better about the world. He was a Swedish medical professional who worked extensively in Africa and Asia so he saw things firsthand.

Here are some of my notes from the book:

We can divide people or countries into 4 Levels of Development based on income. Every country wants to be at Level 4 that’s the highest per capita income level. Funnily, every country would believe that they are not on Level 1, which is the poorest of all. Like a normal curve, the majority of the world lies on Level 2 and Level 3, and even if news channels show a grim picture of the world, the trend is that every country is moving towards Level 3 or 4, the pace might be different. It is also fully possible that a country might appear on Level 4 but it might have subsections of societies that are on Level 1. For example, if you work in any Tech Park in Bengaluru, you work on Level 4. As soon you come out and hit the traffic, you go through Level 3 and Level 2, and sometimes Level 1 as well. As soon as you enter your home, you are back to Level 2 or Level 3, if not Level 4.

This book tries to encourage people to think beyond the news articles and images one has been through. It encourages one to think about averages and exceptions. I particularly like the aspect that it tries to clear the stereotypes and encourages the reader to look at things objectively.

My highlighted notes

  • The throat is flat, not round. That is how circus performers swallow flat swords.
  • Critical thinking is always difficult, but it’s almost impossible when we are scared. There’s no room for facts when our minds are occupied by fear.
  • Fears that once helped keep our ancestors alive, today help keep journalists employed.
  • A doctor in a relatively poor country continuously has to balance between treating everyone or putting all resources on one patient.

“In the deepest poverty you should never do anything perfectly. If you do you are stealing resources from where they can be better used.”

  • Finding Real Stats and Numbers by dividing the total by the population. For example, emission by China and India is often called the highest. But in reality, per capita emissions by China and India is still lower than the West.

“I learned that Indian Medical textbooks were sometimes three times as thick as Swedish ones, and they had read it three times as many times.”

  • Forming your worldview by relying on the media would be like forming your view about me by looking only at a picture of my foot.
  • Being intelligent—being good with numbers, or being well educated, or even winning a Nobel Prize—is not a shortcut to global factual knowledge. Experts are experts only within their field.
  • Red List is a list, where you can access the status of all endangered species in the world, as updated by a global community of high-quality researchers who track the wild populations of different animals and collaborate to monitor the trend.

“Give a child a hammer and everything looks like a nail.”

“If the pharmaceutical companies were better at adjusting their prices for different countries and different customers, they could make their next fortune with what they already have.”

  • Before modern medicine, one of the worst imaginable skin diseases was syphilis, which would start as itchy boils and then eat its way into the bones until it exposed the skeleton. The microbe that caused this disgusting sight and unbearable pain had different names in different places. In Russia, it was called the Polish disease. In Poland it was the German disease; in Germany, the French disease; and in France, the Italian disease. The Italians blamed back, calling it the French disease.
  • We need the Olympic Games, international trade, educational exchange programs, free internet—anything that lets us meet across ethnic groups and country borders.

The best part about this book is about Teaching Children

We should be teaching our children that there are countries on all different levels of health and income and that most are in the middle.

  • Teach them about their own country’s socioeconomic position and its relation to the rest of the world, and how that is changing.
  • Teach them how their own country progressed through the income levels to get to where it is now.
  • Teach them what life was really like in the past so that they do not mistakenly think that no progress has been made. • We should be teaching them how to hold the two ideas at the same time: that bad things are going on in the world, but that many things are getting better.
  • Teach them that cultural and religious stereotypes are useless for understanding the world.
  • Teach them how to consume the news and spot the drama without becoming stressed or hopeless.
  • Teach them the common ways that people will try to trick them with numbers.
  • Teach them that the world will keep changing and they will have to update their knowledge and worldview throughout their lives.

You may buy this from my affiliate’s link:

Amazon



Jai Shree Ram

Although I was not old enough to understand what was happening back in late 1992 and why, I was old enough to remember the general mood of those days. Near my place, there’s a railway station and whichever train to Ayodhya used to pass at that time, people used to shower the people (Karsevaks) with flower petals and provide them with food for the journey ahead. Some nearby temples had been provided some sort of a Brass lamp (or only in some temples it was taken one by one by the rath yatra?). There were saffron flags and stickers from VHP all around and graffiti with phrases like ‘Mandir wahin banayenge‘ and ‘6 Dec Ayodhya Chalo‘ are still etched onto the memory as they were then. Many other scary things happened soon but I was too young to grasp them fully at that time.

Then I grew up and realized that this religion thing, if not an unnecessary hassle, isn’t that impressive after all. People did too much hullabaloo for something that will eventually get stuck in the never-ending judicial battles, as that is the only peaceful way. By that, it essentially meant that it wouldn’t be resolved in our lifetime. As I grew up further, studying history in school and otherwise pushed me farther and farther from rituals and practices. History education drilled in us that as a Civilization, we haven’t had a win for millennia. What we got in 1947 was the only exception but it came with an even bigger Conditions Apply* caveat. Religion was one of the core reasons why we have ended up in such a place and haven’t recovered properly, yet. In my 20s, I had made up my mind. Fighting for/against religion is a lost cause. I should mind my own business in a way that keeps everyone around me happy by doing the bare minimum, and everyone away from me who believes in strict ideologies, away. I think I went on declaring that for a country that has usually seen so much bloodbath due to religion, shouldn’t the place be used for a Hospital or a School? A temple or Mosque would keep us divided further. I am pretty sure, people who had similar experiences would’ve felt the same.

Then I grew up further and realized the word religion itself doesn’t necessarily represent what we have in this country. For example, the 26 alphabets and their combinations in Roman cannot truly convey how we Indians use a plethora of more alphabets in our languages. I don’t know how to comprehend ‘zh’ but I know how to pronounce ‘ळ’. Similarly, our beliefs and traditions don’t need any validation from others who see us from a different lens. I read further, broadened my horizons, and grew older. With age and experience, it has finally dawned on me that by not indulging in certain traditions with full fervor I could be seen as an atheist to devout Hindus but for non-Hindus, I am going to remain a Hindu. This means 2 things. One, it is perfectly alright to not go deep with rituals and traditions but remain a Hindu like the Charvakas. One can live happily as long as I am not being intrusive in other’s beliefs. There’s no need to be apologetic for following something or not following something. This calls for a detailed post in itself but in Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism, the usual definition of religion doesn’t fit. Two, for anyone whom I interact with, my identity would be assumed as a Hindu. So, in essence, being an Indian, I am going to be perceived as a Hindu by default.

So, I changed my beliefs. I think as a Civilization, we should see our past objectively. We certainly have had problems but we also had many things good. The last millennium didn’t treat us positively. We lost many things and thanks to how our education system remained post-independence, we remained a low confidence nation for decades. Some confidence is returning now. It is important to rebuild the lost causes to increase confidence further. We do have the right to reclaim certain places, objects, or symbols if they were taken away from us unceremoniously. However, the means need to be thought out and utmost care should be taken to not create an upheaval and disturb the growth trajectory our Country is on right now. It would take longer but that would be the right thing to do. That is the true meaning of following the dharma.

We know what happened in 1992 and have no qualms in saying that it could’ve been handled differently. But post that, the law was indeed followed and the matter was resolved in 2019. I don’t know if I have any desire to visit Ayodhya (too much crowd anyway) but the event suggested that we are now looking back at our past without shame and moving forward with heads held high. One would be naive and partially blind to not see what the current mood is. If there’s saffron everywhere around, it certainly shows that’s the desire of the population. I would like to also say one important thing here. While I am alright with public displays of faiths and beliefs at certain places, I understand where such beliefs should see themselves out and rationality comes into play. Having said that, it is not just to ask people to calm down when an event, as big as this one, took almost 5 centuries to come to fruition. Our mentality of appeasing should stop now. Why should one faith be asked to tone down when nobody else tones down when it comes to their ways? If others have the right to enjoy the freedom to pursue their religion, everyone else has that right equally. That’s the definition of secularism. Obviously, in an Indian context, the government isn’t secular and has never been secular. If anyone goes overboard, it is the responsibility of the law to check that. One cannot be asked to not feel happy if they feel elated. One’s snobbery cannot be forced upon others.

One individual’s individual belief is too insignificant compared to this civilization and the unwavering faith people have. Religion isn’t going anywhere but religion and dharma are 2 different things. The civilization in this country has seen various churns and revolutions. It is now time to learn about it objectively. Fix the cracks and strengthen the foundations. We have to look forward while not forgetting the past. I welcome the direction in which we as a country are moving towards. There will be course corrections and sails would be adjusted if need be but the momentum should be preserved.

Needless to say, the header pic is from the original fundamental rights page of our Constitution. Ram has been part of this civilization and if we aim to be a Ram Rajya, we have to be ready to face dire challenges but keep unwavering faith that this Civilization is here to stay and become better.

Jai Hind!

Jai Shree Ram!

Books I read in 2023

Sorry to disappoint everyone who expected me to read a lot but I was able to read only 5 books this year. (All links are Amazon Affiliate Links). Adding my one-line review in CAPS for help.

Same as EverEVERYONE SHOULD READ IT

FaithfulnessEVERYONE SHOULD READ IT

How to Fail at Almost Everything & Still Win BigGOOD LIFE LESSONS, EASILY ONE OF THE MOST FRIENDLY SELF-HELP BOOKS.

Ram – Scion Of Ikshvaku – PHILOSOPHICAL AND WELL WRITTEN

The Gita – CLASSIC INDEED

Namaskaara 2024

ಇಂದು ವರ್ಷದ ಮೊದಲ ದಿನವಾಗಿರುವುದರಿಂದ ನಿಮ್ಮೆಲ್ಲರಿಗೂ ಹೊಸ ವರ್ಷದ ಶುಭಾಶಯಗಳನ್ನು ಕೋರುತ್ತೇನೆ.

We are well aware that nowadays nobody can read past 1-2 lines because of our declining attention span. Therefore, by writing the 1st paragraph 100% in Kannada and not a mere 60% like a hypocrite, I think my job is done. Continuing further in the language we all love to hate but cannot live without at this point in time, i.e. English.

This blog is about Time.

I recently picked up a book called:

Affiliates Link https://amzn.to/3U1I0YX

And if you are expecting a joke, here it is: I gave it up after a few pages of reading. I will probably go back to this later but too many things are happening way too fast in the world and one cannot catch up with them all. And still, it feels like nothing is happening. If you go by the trends and fads these days, it would appropriately be called: Millenials are getting old.

2024 is here. When you last blinked it was 2019. Since I have been just repeating this line every year for the last few years, I am going to stop doing it from now on. I was recently sternly reminded by someone that I am still stuck in the lockdown (mentally) and it’s time to move on and smell the coffee. Fair enough, it is indeed time to move on and accept the reality. Even though some new variants are still lurking around, mostly everyone else has moved on and started doing normal things like living their lives, buying new things, expanding their families, traveling, and creating jams on the highways.

2023 was a year that also finished pretty quickly, in my opinion. I have been complaining about how time is zooming away for the last few years. The theory of time flying is easily understood by this wonderful graphic by Tim Urban.

It also boils down to the same old adage. Without new experiences, every day looks the same. Unless one tries to do things differently or try new stuff deliberately, even this year would be over in a jiffy. Hopefully, this year things will be interesting if not dramatically better. After all, our country would go through General Elections (which is also a good hint to stop watching the news and leave Social Media). AI would become more and more popular even if it is still not really AI, but it’s fine, why be a snob? Let’s call it AI. And so on.

The responsibility lies on us, we have to be the change we want to see in the world. Like many past years, I don’t have any New Year resolutions. I am just going to try to read more books and control bhook (hunger) in general.

But I am going to sincerely try to be more creative and less of a consumer. I don’t know how long I can do that but I have given up my Netflix subscription already. Prime Video already has everything on Rent or in other words it is useless. Nothing is there to watch on Disney Hotstar and after the debacle on November 19, 2024, opening the app itself gives me shivers. I still have a YouTube Premier subscription but it is mostly used to have an uninterrupted viewing of important channels like Pink Fong and Cocomelon. So, to change a few things, I have started to read more and ordered a few graphic novels (review soon).

That’s the mantra for 2024 then: Create More, Consume Less.

Happy New Year to anyone who landed on this page and continued to read till here!

Header Photo by Ananthan Loggi on Unsplash