Sunday, February 18, 2018

Book Review: Two Saints by Arun Shourie

This is about the incidents from the lives of two saints, that of Sri Ramakrishna and Ramana Maharshi. Both were acclaimed spiritual masters lived similar lives but with slightly different
approaches to self-realization. Both had gone through similar phases in life and have faced similar experiences. Drawing upon those incidents, the author looks at what the medical and psychological sciences say about them. Drawing heavily from the research and surveys information, he tries to see if the experiences of the saints were caused by hypnosis or placebo effect or any other psychological illusions and observe the differences.

This book gives detailed account of the personal lives of two saints as observed by those who lived with them. Sri Ramakrishna had chosen the path of Bhakti Yoga. Though he was ardent devotee of the mother goddess Kali, he is also seen worshiping Rama at one instance and Krishna another time and Allah and Jesus too. It is mesmerizing to know he could take the diseases from those common people who were visiting him and suffer from those ailments while his visitors got cured. Much of it cannot be explained by the science so they just remain part of the spiritual world. Similarly some of the teachings of Ramana Maharshi like the one in which he says ”it is the ego which takes rebirth” cannot be affirmed with science. At the end, author concludes it will not be possible for all of us to do what those Saints did but an effort towards it can better our lives.

Arun Shouri is a seasoned journalist and this is his 37th book.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Trade wars and hypocrisies

I could not resist appreciating Donald Trump this time. He raised a simple question. When India levies heavy taxes for the bikes made in USA while they enter in India, why reciprocal taxes were not put in place? (Link:

When US allows lots of goods manufactured in India enter their country with zero taxes, this case looks unfair. What you can disagree with? In this back drop, China and India criticizing Trump on disrupting trade appear like hypocrite behavior. Heads of India and China gave long speeches at Davos on protectionism and how it is affecting global trade while what they do is against their own advice.

On another note, Trump’s talk shows that his country is no more a world leader but fearful of China and India. He wants to make his country great again. It does imply that they have lost that position. Look at their currency, USD has lost 20% against Euro in the past year. If they continue with protectionism, global trade will shrink. Along with it USD valuation will shrink too. And other countries will have the reduced need to hold USD as reserves. India has more than $400B as forex reserves while China’s reserves are five times more of India. As USD loses its importance and the global trade begin to use other currencies, it will become a serious blow to the US. Probably Trump is not thinking that far. His predecessors were surely smarter than him. They did not have reciprocal taxes in place but had ensured that global trade happens in their currency. They were bigger hypocrites than the current leaders of India and China. Now what Trump is doing is dismantling that empire built by his predecessors.

It appears to me that it is time to sell USD and get on to Gold.

PNB and NiMo saga

The scam which has hit Punjab National Bank is making everyone lose the trust in how the public-sector banks are managed. Fraud to the tune of Rs. 11,500 crores going undetected in a bank having a market capital of Rs. 30,000 crores is a wonder. Many are speculating that it would not just be a con job but it had the involvement of top management else the alarms would not have gone silent.

Govt. had recently announced its decision to recapitalize PSU banks. And where does that money ends up? Why con jobs would not repeat again? Had these banks been responsible, this NPA mess would not have happened in the first place and the new scam shows that money just runs out of these banks into fraudulent hands at a high velocity.

When Govt. provides capital to these banks, it does so from tax payers money. PSU banks lose it to scams and bad loans and they go back to Govt. with empty hands. And the cycle repeats every few years. No wonder rich-poor divide is widening. Middle-class pay the taxes which is siphoned off to ultra-rich individuals in the mask of promoters who will fled the country with that money. What a shame!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Loans on recovery mode – India slowly getting over NPA mess

Last couple of years, we saw NPA raising at alarming pace. But things seem to be turning around. Take a look at three news items in today’s ET.

1. Bhushan Power’s liquidation value doubled to Rs 20,000 crore (Read more at:

2. Lenders to take JSPL account off bad-loan list. The company's total debt was close to Rs 45,000 crore. (Read more at:

3. Enforcement Directorate to sell Rs 4k-cr Vijay Mallya shares in United Breweries. (Read more at:

Around Rs. 70k crore is collectively coming back into system. No wonder why RBI said things are improving during their last monthly report.

We don’t know how much of red figures turn into black. But we can see that trend is reversing. That money if used to fund the right businesses, it would add to economic growth.

Takeaway is, get onto Public sector Bank stocks. (Disclaimer: I am adding Bank of Baroda stocks to my portfolio).

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Life is calling. Don't say you are struck in traffic.

I am a regular user of Bangalore Metro now. It feels like a wonder when you travel in it at a nice speed and you watch the traffic on the roads below it is struggling to move an inch. Ask any Metro passenger, they would appreciate its reliability and convenience. Especially the women passengers, Metro has made life little easier for them. Why the traffic in Bangalore has worsened despite Metro running at full capacity carrying thousands of passengers every hour? I see following reasons for it.

Metro construction: The extension line construction of Metro (at Whitefield, Mysore road etc.) has really taken a toll. New bottlenecks are created and the average speed has come down drastically. A travel between KR Puram and Whitefield, though it is just 8 km’s, takes past one hour to two hours as Metro construction has occupied half of the road width. Everyone agrees the pace of construction is relatively fast but yet it will take good time before the civil works are complete and the lanes are freed up.

Increasing population: More people are moving into the town. Bangalore’s majority population has always been migrants. Not just from other parts of Karnataka and neighboring states but people originating from all parts of India are making Bangalore their new home. Probably Bangalore ranks highest among all towns of India in the number of new jobs being created (while rest of India seems to be under performing in job creation). Those new jobs mean new workforce moving in with their families. It also creates the increased need for supporting services like Schools, Hospitals, and Banks etc. George Soros had called this a self-reinforcing phenomenon, growth creating new growth opportunities. It is good to see Bangalore representing whole of India. But the bad part is all these new people are welcomed by the same old roads of it.

Picked up construction: A secondary impact of the new migrating population is increased demand for housing, office space, and commercial real estate. So the construction activity has picked up and much of construction materials have to come outside of Bangalore into it. All those trucks and the material moving vehicles of all sizes rush in and out Bangalore for brisk business.

Elections: Elections are nearby. National leaders of political parties are frequently visiting Bangalore and the local leaders have become actively engaged too. They roam around a lot along with their party workers. And there are political rally of many kinds being conducted bringing in lots of floating population. They all hit the clogged roads of Bangalore.

Call it a booming economy or a under developed infrastructure, Bangalore’s traffic finds new reasons to worsen with time. The pace of economic growth is not matched with the infrastructure addition. Though Metro is helping, it seems inadequate. Bangalore's seamless growth has its disadvantages. It is not just commute time or air quality, a drought year can bring its citizens a serious trouble over water.

To make it sustainable, industries based in Bangalore need to create jobs in other towns and voluntarily move their offices out of Bangalore. That would happen anyway but to make it early it needs encouragement from Govt. in the form of providing the infra needed for such a move. It seems like Chicken first or Egg first problem for now. Who would make the first move? I think it is the industry and the tipping point for that would be when the costs (real estate, transportation costs and wages) begin to hurt their profitability. May be five years from now, we would be in the middle of that problem. Until then, we need to learn to cope with the traffic or find alternatives to cut our commute time. Yes, find a house near to work location (or find a job near to your house) or go in shifts avoiding the peak hour, do whatever works for you (I have changed my job).

Save yourself from spending all evenings on road. Life is calling, where are you? Don't say you are struck in traffic.

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