Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Rupee will have more takers with policy changes

Apart from 50 bps rate cut, RBI made few more changes to monetary policy. All of that will lead to multiple benefits such as improvement in liquidity situation, lower interest rates for both Govt. and retail segments, lower SLR for banks and increase in the demand for Rupee in international financial markets. Let us look at them in detail.

Foreign money in Govt. bonds

Foreign institutional players (FPI) have already exhausted their limits in holding the Govt. bonds indicating there was unmet demand. As RBI increased those limits (Link:, more foreign money will flow into Govt. securities in the coming months. Deposit rates are close to zero in many developed economies so it is natural for the fixed investment funds there to find way into India. But it was only restricted by the policy set by our central bank, which it revised now and has also committed to review or increase this limit every six months in the future. As the demand for Govt. securities increase, bond yields reduce so capital cost for Govt. will decrease marginally. Any savings will help. It also leads to reducing SLR (Statutory Liquidity Ratio) which is mandatory investment imposed on local banks, currently set at 21.5%, which will come down gradually. At least by 25 bps or so every six months in the near future. This will release huge amount of funds into banking system which it can lend freely to retail segment at slightly higher rates. That helps banks to improve profitability. As this freed up capital chases the same consumer base in India, competition among banks will intensify and the interest rates reduce. Banks profits will not come down as the lending rates to retail will still be higher even after reducing the rates (at 8% to 9%) than Govt. bond yields (less than 8%).

Rupee bonds in foreign currency

IFC toyed with this idea last year and it was fully subscribed. Encouraged by the enthusiasm, RBI is allowing more corporate to issue Rupee denominated bonds in foreign markets. Indian companies can borrow and settle in Rupee terms. They do not have to worry about forex fluctuations as that risk or reward wil be transferred to hedging companies. The companies which borrowed in Dollar terms in the past when Rupee was trading at 50 a dollar are in trouble in paying back their debt as they need 65 Rupees to get a Dollar now. With Rupee denominated bonds, Indian companies will not suffer the same risk as settlement is in Rupee terms. Idle money in the foreign markets will get into these bonds and hedging Rupee against other currencies will become a big business too. It helps coprporate to get funds at lower rate which is a feature of the developed market. The benefit for Indian consumer is, rush to borrow from banking system in India from the corporate will reduce. That helps interest rates to reduce.

How rates reduce?

Money in the banking system has three kinds of borrowers - Govt., corporate and the retail consumers. As the borrowing demand from Govt. and Corporate reduces due to policy changes in bond market, banks will be left with surplus funds (higher liquidity) and dependency on retail segment will increase. As all the banks compete for the same customer segment, they will drive down the rates to attract or retain their market share.

Rupee to become more stable

Interest rate coming down further next year is good news for us, the consumers. There is also another benefit. Foreign money coming into Govt. bonds will increase the demand for Rupee. Similarly Rupee denominated bonds too will see the conversion of foreign currency into Rupee. This broadens the holding base for Rupee in foreign markets. It will have many takers in the developed world, in which there is no demand to mention now. While I do not expect this to make Rupee gain against Dollar significantly, at least the downside will be protected. And volatility reduces as Rupee will have many takers in the international capital market. Is this a way for Rupee to get into Top 10 currencies of this world? Probably so, but Rupee has to become fully convertible which will take few years to reach there.


Essence of this story is, there will be more foreign debt, lower rates and a stronger currency in the times to come. These are clear signs of an economy transforming into a more global, mature economy. We may not beat the toppers anytime soon. But on PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) terms, we would have reduced the gap by a wide margin in the coming decade. Hopefully this translates India into a better society too.

Book Review: The Folded Earth by Anuradha Roy

If a novel written in a refined language and style appeals to you, this book is the next one you must read. It also has a nice background setting of a Himalayan village too.

Maya, a young widow, leaves her town of Hyderabad to Ranikhet, a sleeping village in the foothills of Himalaya. Her husband, Michael, a trekking fanatic, had died during his expedition to Roopkund and is cremated at Ranikhet. She had married against the wishes of her loving parents, so she does not go back to her former home.

She finds a job as a teacher in a Christian missionary run school in Ranikhet and a cottage on rent to live in. Course of life completely changes for her as she is drawn to beautiful setting of Ranikhet and many eccentric personalities it houses. Her landlord, Diwan Sahib, is a grand old man. He has an unaccomplished task of writing the biography of the famous hunter of the mountains - Jim Corbett. Helping Diwan Sahib in that task becomes part of daily routine of Maya’s life. There are rumors that Diwan Sahib has in possession of the letters written by Nehru to Edwina. So he is much sought after person for many journalists.

In the courtyard of the crumbling mansion there are mud huts and there lives Charu, a village girl along with her grandmother and uncle. The school where Maya teaches is headed by Miss Wilson. Mr. Chauhan is a newcomer in the town who is determined to turn Ranikhet into a tourist spot to boost the business for Aspen Lodge, a hotel chain for which he is the manager. In his hotel, there is a cook Kundan Singh, who becomes the lover of Charu.

It is Veer, a relative of Diwan Sahib, who was a visitor to the mansion, shifts his base to the house. He too is a mountaineer, a professional one and runs an organization to guide the trekkers. A relationship develops between him and Maya.

In the course of events, Kundan Singh leaves to Delhi and Charu leaves Ranikhet to join him. Diwan Sahib dies of old age and ill health. He leaves behind a will. Maya discovers a strange truth that Veer did know about her husband’s death. The novel ends with her response to stark realizations.

Though the whole story is told through Maya’s eyes, all the characters find equal opportunities to express themselves. With a nice blend of wildlife, changing political scenario in the hills, conflicts in religions do find mention in the novel.

This is the second novel of Anuradha Roy. All three of her works have been well received by the readers and critics. Her latest book ‘Sleeping on Jupiter’ was shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize.

She is a publisher turned Author, knows the importance of a finely written novel. She rewrites her work to almost perfection, so it leaves fine taste in the readers and lasts long. 

She lives with her publisher husband at Ranikhet where this novel is set.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Inflation is low so rate cut was due

Rajan stormed the media again today. When the most surveys expected a 25 bps cut, he unleashed the market spirits with a 50 bps cut. They say it is a pleasant surprise and term it as ‘Diwali Gift’. My opinion is different.

I have been writing on this blog that rate cut was due. Negative WPI and persistently coming down CPI were calling for rate cuts for few months in a row. But the cautious stance held by RBI was preventing the rate cut. Today Rajan let it a go. But still RBI says Inflation can come back to 5%. They are inflation hawks; controlling inflation is their first job. But what one has to note that is, it is not because RBI is cautious inflation is down. To get your facts right, please look around and take note. Inflation is down everywhere. Forget inflation, many developed countries are fighting deflation. Paul Krugman wrote a column on why inflation is good for his country. Many emerging countries and our Asian neighbors all have a lower inflation. Our rival China’s inflation is lower than 2%. When this is the situation and the trend, why India would behave entirely different? Global economic growth is down, so is inflation and interest rate. A normal course which India also catching up. So a 50 bps cut is not any gift and it was rather a delay in the roll out.

Now that RBI is again cautious in saying that inflation (CPI) can come back to 5%, they are most likely to be surprised with what the future holds. India is not overspending like Greece or over investing like China. We have our own issues but inflation situation is likely to ease further than flare up. This rate cut will help in improving the profitability at banks and much of their NPA which were on the edge are set to come back in green when the benefit is passed on to ailing debt laden corporate. Reducing capital costs will ease the pricing pressure across the board. Some of the inventory in housing can reduce with reduction in the EMI as fence sitters finally make their decision. When new houses are occupied, it will stall the rents from soaring which is a big component in CPI. E-commerce companies are giving away so many offers, all your household stuff can be bought at discount, forget the inflated prices. If you drive your own vehicle, you fuel bills are slightly lower than last year so they are not contributing to inflation. Food is a tricky part but monsoon was not bad. Onion prices calmed down as the hype did not last long. Supply situation has improved a lot in agriculture commodities. There is lot of physical infrastructure which has come up in the recent past and has to find utilization. So Schools and Hospitals can’t ask for moon like before as they are likely to lose their customers to their competitors as there are many new entrants. Food will be the only biggest component in CPI pack driving inflation up. Transportation is seeing a deflationary trend. All other components are staying where they are, neither inflation nor deflation. All in all, inflation is likely to remain at 4% and may go down below 4% too.

As inflation surprises the central bank of India, it will reduce the rates further. I will not be surprised if SBI offers a home loan at around 8% next year. It is not because of Rajan or Modi. I am not against them, but you cannot ignore the fact that luck is favoring them.

Interest rates are closer to zero in US. Though they are set to rise, it will go up very slowly. When savers there get nothing, why the borrowers in India will have to pay interest rates (bank rates) of above 10%? Will it not be fair to expect to have a real rate of 1%, (inflation at 4% and RBI rate at 5%) so that an efficient bank would lend it to retailers at 6% to 7% for long term borrowers like in the housing sector or to clean corporate? That will drive investments and infrastructure growth and turns India into an economic power house. There are so many households aspiring for a solid roof over their head. Why interest outgo has to be more than the principal in their loan period of 20 years? Many infra projects will become viable at lower capital costs.

I suppose though there is a delay, India’s destiny towards economic prosperity is not denied and today’s rate cut was a witness that we have not lost the way.

Do you think all Indians are equal (economically)?

How well do we know India? Let us check ourselves and begin with the economic growth and distribution across India. You will know that prosperity has not reached middle lands of India soon.

Here is a chart to look at which lists the states in a order by their GDP per capita. Goa is on one end and Bihar is on the other end. A person in Goa (on average) contributes little more than Rs.18,500 a month to economic output of India but an average resident in Bihar does contribute Rs.2,500 approx. a month. The gap is an astonishing difference of 8x!

True, but the toppers in the list Goa, Delhi and Sikkim could be outliers due to small geography, finite population and may have some favorable factors to manage and distribute growth. So keeping them aside, Maharashtra seems to be the ideal topper but still it is almost double of whole of India’s average. And with the bottom of the pack, the gap is a wide 4x. Do you still think all Indians are equal?

Start looking at which all states are doing better which have higher than national average. Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Kerala who are doing good have one thing in common. Sea line helps them in having higher trade. Except Odisha, those states on the geographical periphery are doing well. Does not it look similar to US, where economic activity is concentrated in East Coast and West Coast but not in the middle lands? Yes, but yet the gap is not 4x there.

India’s national average is lower than most of its states as UP, Bihar seem to be pulling it down as they have higher population concentration. You know it well, until growth picks up in these middle lands of Madhya Pradesh and surrounding geography, India’s total figures will suffer. But there is a potential too. As wages in these states tend to be lower, they can host labor intensive industries to start with. It is a matter of time before entrepreneurs figure this out and the residents in those states too realize. If Govt. does act and locals cooperate, these states will offer a higher return on investments. And the gap will shrink over a period of time. These states are already wild cards in election results but will gradually catch up with other states on the economical front in the coming decades. Expanding the base at the bottom, increasing the per capita income in UP from Rs. 19k a year to Rs.25k a year would benefit India more than few toppers doing exceptionally well.

What every household needs? Housing, Education, Health care, Transportation, Entertainment etc. all these sectors will see growth in the states at the bottom of the list at a different rate than those at the top. Income inequality is here to stay but it will not be at 4x gap across states, but much lower, probably at 2x. Then you will see a lot more homogeneous India. Until then, all Indians may not be equal, not in spiritual terms, but going by the money in their pockets and their spending power.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Misplaced hopes in a lip service Govt.

In 2014, majority of India (including me) had voted for one person who looked very promising. But the hopes seem to be misplaced. My reasons are here. Currently the person in focus is in US, for the second time and he has been visiting many countries in a row, claiming to bring in investments.

Americans are businessmen by nature, when they see profits, they come-in, and they do not need pampering. Jack Welch came to India and partnered with Azim Premji because it worked well for the business he was running. Similarly, when they see risks, they just walk out creating a stampede in the capital markets. Look what they did to Rupee valuation in the recent past. Govt. before, now or in the future plays the role of facilitator. They cannot make or break the economy. Given the situation, does this call for head of our Govt. (Prime Minister) to go calling Americans?

Building 'Smart Cities' was on the agenda before the elections for his party. In that case, why did they take more than a year to announce the list itself, this is when they claim to know India too well than anyone else? How much more time is required to align with State Govt., get the required approvals, get the funding in place, call for tenders to begin the actual work? If it is going to take couple more years, we will have the next election coming. So will it become the agenda for the next election too?

Let us come to ‘Make in India’, ‘Digital India’. Will they just remain slogans? Where are the detailed execution plans and the road maps? Look at the power cut situation in Karnataka. How do you 'Make' when there is insufficient energy supply? Who will have the courage to set-up a new factory? (My employer in Bangalore runs huge Diesel Gensets to power the building burning hundreds of liters of fuel everyday when the Govt. talks of reducing import burden).

Few good visible works by this Govt. are keeping the deficit down and having tough talks with neighbors. But they need to work on all fronts to change the image of India. Change it in such a way that American businessmen line-up to meet PM at Delhi. For that to happen, our PM need to go around India first to make things happen than outside India. Indians who voted for him need him more than Indian diaspora who lives all over the world.

Those who left India can look after themselves better than those staying here in India. The poor Indian living in India cannot afford to get a visa to meet our PM as he is out on frequent trips.

After all who’s PM he is, of those staying in India or not? 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

ಸಣ್ಣ ಕಥೆ: ಅನ್ವೇಷಣೆ

ಸ್ನೇಹಿತನ ಸಾವನ್ನು ಹತ್ತಿರದಿಂದ ನೋಡಿದ ನಂತರ ಮನಸ್ಸಿಗೆ ಯಾವುದೂ ರುಚಿಸದಂತಾಗಿತ್ತು. ಮನುಷ್ಯನ ಜೀವನ ನಿರರ್ಥಕ ಅನ್ನಿಸಲು ತೊಡಗಿತ್ತು. ಇದರ ಪ್ರಭಾವ ಎನ್ನುವಂತೆ ಸಾಮಾನ್ಯ ಜೀವನದಿಂದ ದೂರಾಗಿ ಅಲೆಯತೊಡಗಿದ್ದೆ. ಯಾವುದರ ಅನ್ವೇಷಣೆಯಲ್ಲಿದ್ದೆನೋ ನನಗೆ ತಿಳಿಯದಂತಾಗಿತ್ತು. ಗೊತ್ತು ಗುರಿಯಿಲ್ಲದ ಅಲೆದಾಟ ನನ್ನನ್ನು ಭಾರತದ ಉದ್ದಗಲಕ್ಕೂ ಕರೆದೊಯ್ದಿತು. ಕಾಶಿಯಲ್ಲಿನ ಧಾರ್ಮಿಕ ವಿಧಿ-ವಿಧಾನಗಳು ನನ್ನಲ್ಲಿ ಭಕ್ತಿ ಪರವಶತೆ ಮೂಡಿಸಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಗಂಗಾ ಸ್ನಾನ ಮೈಯನ್ನು ಹಗುರ ಮಾಡಿದರೂ ಮನಸ್ಸಿನ ಪ್ರಶ್ನೆಗಳು ಹಾಗೇ ಉಳಿದು ಹೋದವು. ಮುಂದಕ್ಕೆ ಹಿಮಾಲಯದ ತಪ್ಪಲಲ್ಲಿ ಕಲಿತ ಧ್ಯಾನ ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ ಸಹಾಯಕ ಅನ್ನಿಸಿತು. ದಣಿದ ಮನಕ್ಕೆ ವಿಶ್ರಾಂತಿ ಕೊಡುವ ಸಾಧನ ಎನ್ನಿಸಿತು.

ಅಲ್ಪ ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ ಕಲಿತ ಧ್ಯಾನದಲ್ಲಿ ಒಂದು ದಿನ ತೊಡಗಿದ್ದಾಗ ಮನಸ್ಸಿನ ಪರದೆಯ ಮೇಲೆ ಒಂದು ಚಿತ್ರ ಮೂಡತೊಡಗಿತು. ಒಬ್ಬರ ಹಿಂದೆ ಒಬ್ಬರಂತೆ ಸಾಲಾಗಿ ನಿಂತ ನಾಲ್ಕಾರು ವ್ಯಕ್ತಿಗಳ ಬಿಂಬ ಸ್ಪಷ್ಟವಾಗಿ ಗೋಚರಿಸಿತು. ಅವರ ಮುಖ ಚಹರೆ, ವೇಷ ಭೂಷಣ ಸ್ಪಷ್ಟವಾಗಿ ಕಂಡು ಅವರೆಲ್ಲ ಒಂದೇ ಕಾಲಕ್ಕೆ ಸೇರಿದವರಲ್ಲ ಎನ್ನುವ ಭಾವನೆ ಮೂಡಿತು. ಆದರೆ ಅವರೆಲ್ಲರ ನಡುವೆ ಒಂದು ಸಾಮ್ಯತೆ ವ್ಯಕ್ತ ಪಡಿಸದ ರೀತಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಬೆಸೆದುಕೊಂಡಿತ್ತು. ಇವು ನನ್ನ ಹಿಂದಿನ ಜನ್ಮದ ರೂಪಗಳಾಗಿದ್ದಿರಬಹುದೇ ಎನ್ನುವ ಸಂದೇಹ ಮೂಡಿತು. ಹೀಗೆ ಅನುಮಾನ ಹುಟ್ಟಿದ ತಕ್ಷಣ ಬಿಂಬಗಳು ಒಂದೊಂದಾಗಿ ಸರಿದು ಹೋದವು. ಮನಸ್ಸು ಮತ್ತೆ ಕತ್ತಲಿನ ಪರದೆ ಆಯಿತು. ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ ಸಮಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಅದರಿಂದ ಹೊರ ಬಂದ ನನಗೆ ಇದು ಧ್ಯಾನದ ಪರಿಣಾಮವೋ ಅಥವಾ ಧ್ಯಾನದಿಂದ ನಿದ್ದೆಗೆ ಜಾರಿ ಕಂಡ ಕನಸೋ ತಿಳಿಯಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಪ್ರತಿಯೊಂದನ್ನು ವೈಚಾರಿಕತೆಯ ದೃಷ್ಟಿಯಿಂದ ನೋಡುತ್ತಿದ್ದ ನನಗೆ ಪುನರ್ಜನ್ಮ ಎನ್ನುವುದು ಒಂದು ಅಭಿಪ್ರಾಯ ಆಗಬಹುದಾಗಿತ್ತೆ ಹೊರತಾಗಿ ನಂಬಿಕೆಯಾಗಲು ಸಾಧ್ಯವಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಆದರೆ ಅನುಭವ ನನ್ನ ಅಂತರಂಗದ ಬಾಗಿಲನ್ನು ತೆರೆಯಲು ಸಹಾಯವಾಯಿತು.

ಉತ್ತರದಿಂದ ಮತ್ತೆ ದಕ್ಷಿಣ ಭಾರತಕ್ಕೆ ನನ್ನ ಅಲೆದಾಟ ಕರೆ ತಂತು. ಇಲ್ಲಿನ ಸುಂದರ ದೇಗುಲಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ದೇವರು ಇದ್ದಾನೋ ಇಲ್ಲವೋ ಆದರೆ ಅಲೌಕಿಕ ಅನ್ನಿಸುವ ಆಕರ್ಷಣೆ ಇತ್ತು. ಹೀಗೆ ಸುತ್ತುತ್ತಿರುವಾಗ ನನ್ನ ಹಾಗೆ ಇನ್ನು ಒಬ್ಬ ಅಲೆಮಾರಿ ನನ್ನ ಗುರುತು ಹಿಡಿದು ಮಾತನಾಡಿಸಿದ. ಆತನನ್ನು ಹಿಮಾಲಯದ ಆಶ್ರಮದಲ್ಲಿ ನೋಡಿದ ನೆನಪು ಮೂಡಿತು. ಆತ ಬರಿಗಾಲಲ್ಲಿ ಪುಣ್ಯ ಕ್ಷೇತ್ರ ದರ್ಶನಕ್ಕೆ ಹೊರಟಿದ್ದ. ಆತನಿಗೆ ಮಾರ್ಗ ಮಧ್ಯೆ ಯಾರಾದರೂ ನೀಡಿದರೆ ಊಟ, ಇಲ್ಲದ್ದಿದ್ದರೆ ಹಾಗೆ ಸಂತೃಪ್ತಿ. ಗುಡಿ, ಮಂಟಪಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಇಲ್ಲದಿದ್ದರೆ ಯಾವುದಾದರು ಗಿಡದ ಕೆಳಗೆ ರಾತ್ರಿಯ ವಾಸ. ಆದರೂ ಆತನ ಮುಖದಲ್ಲಿ ನೆಮ್ಮದಿ ಕಾಣುತ್ತಿತ್ತು. ನಮ್ಮ ದಾರಿ ಬೇರೆಯಾಗುವದಕ್ಕೆ ಮುನ್ನ ಹತ್ತಿರದ ಊರಲ್ಲಿ ಇದ್ದ ಒಬ್ಬ ಯೋಗಿಯನ್ನು ಕಂಡರೆ ನನಗೆ ಉಪಯೋಗವಾಗಬಹುದು ಎಂದು ತಿಳಿಸಿದ.

ನನಗೆ ಯೋಗಿಯನ್ನು ಹುಡುಕುವುದು ಕಷ್ಟವಾಗಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಊರಿನ ಎಲ್ಲ ಜನರಿಗೂ ಆತನ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ತಿಳಿದಿತ್ತು. ಅಲ್ಲಿನ ಬೆಟ್ಟವೊಂದರ ಗುಹೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ವಾಸವಾಗಿದ್ದ ಆತನನ್ನು ಊರಿನ ಜನರೇ ವಿನಂತಿಸಿ ಊರ ಹೊರಗೆ ಬಯಲು ಜಾಗದಲ್ಲಿ ಒಂದು ಆಶ್ರಮ ಕಟ್ಟಿ ಅಲ್ಲಿಯೇ ಇರುವಂತೆ ಕೇಳಿಕೊಂಡಿದ್ದರು. ಆತನ ಶಾಂತ ಸ್ವಭಾವ, ನಿಸ್ವಾರ್ಥ ಗುಣ, ಸರಳ ಜೀವನ ಶೈಲಿಯನ್ನು ಕಂಡು ಆತನನ್ನು ಯೋಗಿಯೆಂದೇ ಸಂಭೋದಿಸಿತ್ತಿದ್ದರು. ತುಂಬ ಕಡಿಮೆ ಮಾತಿನ ಆತನ ವ್ಯಕ್ತಿತ್ವ ಅಲ್ಲಿನ ಜನರನ್ನು ಆಕರ್ಷಿಸಿತ್ತು. ನಾನು ಮಧ್ಯಾಹ್ನದ ವೇಳೆಗೆ ಆಶ್ರಮಕ್ಕೆ ತಲುಪಿದೆ. ಪ್ರಯಾಣದ ಆಯಾಸವೆಲ್ಲಾ ಯೋಗಿಯ ಮುಂದೆ ಕುಳಿತ ಕೆಲವೇ ನಿಮಿಷಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಾಯಿತು. ತುಂಬಾ ಹೊತ್ತು ಧ್ಯಾನಾಸಕ್ತನಾಗಿ ಕುಳಿತಿದ್ದ ಆತ ಕಣ್ತೆರೆದಾಗ ಅಲ್ಲಿಯೇ ಕುಳಿತಿದ್ದ ನನ್ನನ್ನು ನೋಡಿ ಪ್ರಶ್ನಿಸಿದ

'ಯಾವ ಉದ್ದೇಶ ನಿನ್ನನ್ನು ಇಲ್ಲಿಗೆ ಕರೆ ತಂತು?'

ನಾನು ಗೊತ್ತು ಗುರಿಯಿಲ್ಲದೆ ಅಲೆಯುತ್ತಿರುವ ವಿಷಯ ತಿಳಿಸಿದೆ. ಆತ ತನ್ನ ಮೃದು ನುಡಿಯಲ್ಲಿ, ಅಪ್ಯಾಯಮಾನ ದೃಷ್ಟಿ ಬೀರುತ್ತ ಅಲ್ಲಿಯೇ ಉಳಿದುಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ತಿಳಿಸಿದ. ಮತ್ತೆ ತನ್ನ ಧ್ಯಾನಕ್ಕೆ ಮರಳಿದ. ಸ್ಥಿತಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಆತನ ಮೈ ಬಿಗಿದುಕೊಂಡಿತ್ತು. ಮುಚ್ಚಿದ ಕಣ್ಣುಗಳು ಒಳ ನೋಟಕ್ಕೆ ತೆರೆದು ಕೊಂಡಿರಬಹುದು ಎನ್ನಿಸುತ್ತಿತ್ತು. ಆತನ ಇಂದ್ರಿಯಗಳು ಲೋಕದ ಪರಿವೆ ಇಲ್ಲದಂತೆ ಪ್ರಶಾಂತವಾಗಿದ್ದವು.

ನಾನು ಯೋಗಿಯ ಸಲಹೆಯಂತೆ ಆಶ್ರಮದಲ್ಲೇ ಉಳಿದುಕೊಂಡೆ. ಹಾಗಾಗಿ ಆತನನ್ನು ಹತ್ತಿರದಿಂದ ಗಮನಿಸಲು ಸಾಧ್ಯವಾಯಿತು. ಯೋಗಿಯ ಭೋಧನೆಗಳು ತುಂಬ ಸರಳವಾಗಿದ್ದವು. ಸ್ವಾರ್ಥ ಬುದ್ದಿಯನ್ನು ದೂರ ಇಟ್ಟು, ಸದುದ್ದೇಶದಿಂದ ಮಾಡಿದ ಕೆಲಸಗಳು ಮನಸನ್ನು ಶುದ್ದಿಗೊಳಿಸಲು ಹೇಗೆ ಸಹಾಯಕವಾಗುತ್ತವೆ ಎನ್ನುವದನ್ನು ಆತ ಬಂದವರಿಗೆ ಮನದಟ್ಟು ಮಾಡಿ ಕೊಡುತ್ತಿದ್ದ. ಆಸೆಗಳನ್ನು ಹತ್ತಿಕ್ಕಿ, ದುರಾಸೆಗಳನ್ನು ದೂರಗೊಳಿಸಿ ಸಮ ಚಿತ್ತರಾಗಲು ಭೋಧಿಸುತ್ತಿದ್ದ. ಮಾತುಗಳು ಅವನನ್ನು ಕಾಣಲು ಬಂದವರಲ್ಲಿ ಶಾಂತಿ, ನೆಮ್ಮದಿಯನ್ನು ತುಂಬಿ ಹರ್ಷಚಿತ್ತರಾಗಿ ಮರಳುವಂತೆ ಮಾಡುತ್ತಿದ್ದವು.

ಯೋಗಿಯ ಸಂಗ ನನಗೆ ಪ್ರಿಯವೆನಿಸಿದರೂ, ನಾನು ಎಲ್ಲ ಸಮಯವನ್ನು ಆಶ್ರಮದಲ್ಲಿ ಕಳೆಯುತ್ತಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಆಶ್ರಮಕ್ಕೆ ಬಂದ ಯಾತ್ರಾರ್ಥಿಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಒಬ್ಬರ ಜೊತೆಗಿನ ನನ್ನ ಪರಿಚಯ ಸ್ನೇಹಕ್ಕೆ ತಿರುಗಿತ್ತು. ಅರಣ್ಯ ಇಲಾಖೆಯ ಕೆಲಸದಲ್ಲಿ ಇದ್ದ ಅವರ ಜೊತೆ ಕಾಡು ಸುತ್ತಲು ಹೋಗುತ್ತಿದ್ದೆ. ಅವರ ಸಹಾಯದಿಂದ ನನಗೆ ಕಾಡಿನ ಮಧ್ಯೆ ಇರುವ ಒಂಟಿ ಬಂಗಲೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ರಾತ್ರಿ ತಂಗುವ ಅವಕಾಶ ದೊರೆಯಿತು. ಅಲ್ಲಿ ಒಬ್ಬಂಟಿಯಾಗಿ ಕಾಲ ಕಳೆಯುತ್ತಿದ್ದೆ. ಅಲ್ಲಿನ ಸಾಯಂಕಾಲದ ತಂಗಾಳಿ ಹಿತ ತರುತ್ತಿತ್ತು. ರಾತ್ರಿ ಬೆಂಕಿ ಹೊತ್ತಿಸಿ ಚಳಿ ಕಾಯಿಸಿ ಕೊಳ್ಳುವುದು ನನಗೆ ಪ್ರಿಯವಾದ ಅಭ್ಯಾಸವಾಗಿತ್ತು. ಸುತ್ತ ಮುತ್ತ ಕಣ್ಣು ಹಾಯಿಸುವಷ್ಟು ದೂರ ಯಾವುದೇ ಮನುಷ್ಯ ಜೀವಿ ಇರದೇ ಇರುವುದು ನೆನಪಿಸಿ ಕೊಂಡರೆ ಭಯ ಮತ್ತು ರೋಮಾಂಚನ ಒಟ್ಟಿಗೆ ಆಗುತ್ತಿತ್ತು. ಮಧ್ಯ ರಾತ್ರಿ ಕಾಡು ಪ್ರಾಣಿಗಳ ಘರ್ಜನೆ ಹತ್ತಿರದಿಂದಲೇ ಕೇಳಿಸುತ್ತಿದ್ದವು

ಅಲ್ಲಿ ಒಂದು ಸ್ಥಳದಿಂದ ಕಾಣುವ ದೃಶ್ಯ ನಯನ ಮನೋಹರವಾಗಿತ್ತು. ಬೆಟ್ಟ ಗುಡ್ಡಗಳ ಸಾಲು, ನಾನಾ ಜಾತಿಯ ಗಿಡಗಳಿಂದ ತುಂಬಿದ ದಟ್ಟವಾದ ಕಾಡು, ಕಣಿವೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಹರಿಯುತ್ತಿರುವ ತೊರೆ ಮತ್ತು ಅಲ್ಲಿಗೆ ನೀರು ಕುಡಿಯಲು ಬರುವ ವನ್ಯ ಮೃಗಗಳು ಹೀಗೆ ಪ್ರಕೃತಿ ಮಡಿಲಿನ ಸೌಂದರ್ಯ ಅಲ್ಲಿ ತುಂಬು ತುಳುಕುತಿತ್ತು ಸುಂದರ ಜಾಗದಲ್ಲಿ ಸೂರ್ಯೋದಯದ ಸೊಬಗು ಕಾಣುವದಕ್ಕೆ ಒಂದು ಬೆಳಗಿನ ಜಾವ ಇನ್ನು ಕತ್ತಲಿರುವಾಗಲೇ ಹೊರಟೆ. ದಾರಿ ನನಗೆ ಅಂಗೈನ ಗೆರೆಯಷ್ಟು ಚಿರ ಪರಿಚಿತವಾಗಿತ್ತು. ಅಲ್ಲಿಗೆ ಮುಟ್ಟಿದ ನಂತರವೂ ಇನ್ನು ಕತ್ತಲು ಕರಗಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಆಕಾಶದಲ್ಲಿ ಇನ್ನು ನಕ್ಷತ್ರಗಳು ಮಿನುಗುತ್ತಿದ್ದವು. ನನ್ನ ಊಹೆಗೂ ಮೀರಿದ ಯಾವುದೊ ವಿಷಯ ಅಂದು ಕಾದಿದೆ ಎಂದೆನಿಸತೊಡಗಿ ನನ್ನ ಹೃದಯದ ಬಡಿತ ಜೋರಾಗತೊಡಗಿತು. ಬೆಟ್ಟದ ಕಡೆಗೆ ಬೆಳಕಿನ ಕಿರಣಗಳು ಕಾಣ ತೊಡಗಿದವು. ಮರದ ಮೇಲಿನ ಮಂಜು ಕರಗಲಾರಂಬಿಸಿತು. ತೊರೆಯ ನೀರು ಹೊಂಬಣ್ಣ ಪ್ರತಿಫಲಿಸಿ ದಿನದ ಆಗಮನಕ್ಕೆ ಸಜ್ಜಾಯಿತು. ನೋಡುತ್ತಿದ್ದಂತೆ ಸೂರ್ಯ ಮೇಲೇರಿ ಬಂದ. ಆಗ ಕಂಡ ಪ್ರಕೃತಿಯ ಸೌಂದರ್ಯ ವರ್ಣಿಸಲು ಅಸಾಧ್ಯ. ಸೂರ್ಯನ ಕಿರಣಗಳು ನನ್ನಲ್ಲಿ ಹೊಸ ಶಕ್ತಿಯನ್ನು ತುಂಬುತ್ತ ಎಂದು ಕಾಣದಂತ ಹರುಷ ಮೂಡಿಸಿದವು. ಮೈ ಮನಸ್ಸು ಪುಳಕಿತವಾಯಿತು. ಕಾಲಲ್ಲಿ ಶುರುವಾದ ಕಂಪನ ಮೈಯೆಲ್ಲಾ ಸಂಪೂರ್ಣವಾಗಿ ಆವರಿಸಿತು. ಉಕ್ಕಿ ಹರೆವ ಉನ್ಮಾದ ಹಾಗೆಯೇ ಮುಂದುವರೆದಿದ್ದರೆ ನನ್ನ ಆತ್ಮ ಪ್ರಕೃತಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಲೀನವಾಗುತಿತ್ತೋ ಏನೋ ಆದರೆ  ಹಾಗಾಗದೇ ದೇಹದಲ್ಲಿನ ಚೈತನ್ಯ ಹಾಗೆ ಉಳಿದುಕೊಂಡಿತು. ಕೆಲವು ಗಂಟೆಗಳ ಕಾಲ ಅಲ್ಲಿಯೇ ಕುಳಿತಿದ್ದೆ. ವಾಪಸು ಬರುವಾಗ ನನ್ನ ದೇಹ ಹಗುರ ಎನ್ನಿಸಿತು. ನಡೆಯುವಾಗ ನೆಲಕ್ಕೆ ಕಾಲು ತಾಕದೆ ಗಾಳಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ತೇಲಿದ ಹಾಗೆ ಎನ್ನಿಸುವಷ್ಟು ದೇಹ ಹಗುರವಾಗಿತ್ತು. ಅದರ ಜೊತೆಗೆ ನನ್ನ ಕಾಡುತ್ತಿದ್ದ ಚಿಂತೆ ಸಂಪೂರ್ಣವಾಗಿ ದೂರ ಆಗಿತ್ತು. ಗೊತ್ತು ಗುರಿಯಿಲ್ಲದ ಅನ್ವೇಷಣೆಯಿಂದ ನಾನು ಬಿಡುಗಡೆಗೊಂಡಿದ್ದೆ.

ಕ್ರಮೇಣವಾಗಿ ಅರ್ಥವಾಗುತ್ತ ಹೋಯಿತು. ದಿನದ ಸೂರ್ಯೋದಯ ನೆಪ ಮಾತ್ರವಾಗಿತ್ತು. ಅಷ್ಟರಲ್ಲಿ ನನ್ನ ಸುಪ್ತ ಮನಸ್ಸು ತನ್ನ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆಗಳಿಗೆ ಪರಿಹಾರ ಕಂಡು ಕೊಂಡಿತ್ತು. ಅದಕ್ಕೆ ಪೂರಕವಾಗಿ ನೈಸರ್ಗಿಕ ಸೌಂದರ್ಯ ನನ್ನ ಮನಸನ್ನು ಉಲ್ಲಾಸಗೊಳಿಸಿತ್ತು. ಸಾಮಾನ್ಯ ಜೀವನದ ಕಟ್ಟು ಪಾಡುಗಳಿಂದ ಹೊರ ಬಂದ ಮನುಷ್ಯ ಸುಖ-ದುಖಗಳನ್ನು ಸಮಾನವಾಗಿ ಸ್ವೀಕರಿಸುವ ಸ್ಥಿತ ಪ್ರಜ್ನನಾಗುತ್ತಾನೆ. ಅದೇ ವ್ಯಕ್ತಿ ಅಹಂಕಾರ, ಕಾಮನೆ ಮೆಟ್ಟಿ ನಿಂತಾಗ ಯಾವ ನೋವು ಆತನನ್ನು ಭಾಧಿಸಿತು? ಆತನಿಗೆ ತನ್ನನ್ನು ಸಮರ್ಥಿಸಿ ಕೊಳ್ಳುವ ಯಾವುದೇ ಅವಶ್ಯಕತೆ ಕಾಣುವುದಿಲ್ಲ. ಸಾವು ಕೂಡ ಬಿಡುಗಡೆಯ ಒಂದು ಹಾದಿ ಎಂದು ತೋರುತ್ತದೆ. ಅಲ್ಲದೆ ಬಂಧ ಮುಕ್ತನಾಗಲು ಸಾವಿನವರೆಗೂ ಕಾಯ ಬೇಕಿಲ್ಲ. ಆಸೆ, ಅಹಂನಿಂದ ಹೊರ ಬಂದ ಮರು ಕ್ಷಣವೇ ಮುಕ್ತಿ ಪಥದ ಆರಂಭ. ಇದು ವೈರಾಗ್ಯವೋ, ವೇದಾಂತವೋ ಎನ್ನುವ ವಿಮರ್ಶೆಯೇ ಅರ್ಥ ಹೀನ. ಬಂಧ ಮುಕ್ತನಾಗಲು ಸಾಧ್ಯವಾಗುವುದೇ ಬದುಕಿನ ಸಾರ್ಥಕತೆ ಎನ್ನುವ ಸತ್ಯದ ಅರಿವಾಗಿ ನಾನು ಆಶ್ರಮಕ್ಕೆ ಮರಳಿದೆ.

ಯೋಗಿಗಳನ್ನು ಕಂಡು ಅಲೆದಾಟ ನಿಲ್ಲಿಸಿ ಮತ್ತೆ ನನ್ನ ಹಿಂದಿನ ಬದುಕಿಗೆ ಮರಳುವ ವಿಚಾರ ತಿಳಿಸಿದೆ. ಆದರೆ ನಾನು ಜೀವನವನ್ನು ನೋಡುವ ದೃಷ್ಟಿ ಬದಲಾಗಿದ್ದು ಅವರ ಗಮನಕ್ಕೆ ಬಂದಿದೆ ಎನ್ನುವಂತೆ ಮುಗುಳ್ನಕ್ಕು ಸಮ್ಮತಿ ಸೂಚಿಸಿದರು.