Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Life chasing Lollipops

Life has become too complicated these days for poor old me. What with PINs, T-PINs, credit card numbers, usernames and passwords for various websites not to mention my passport number, PAN number and voter identification number, I wake up every day screaming from nightmares about drowning in an alpha-numeric soup. Then I read articles about how simple life has become these days, how convenient is modern banking and shopping etc. etc., which leaves me wondering about what I am missing..or is it what is missing in me?

I do understand that life is quite great for the youth of today. You can put on the desired personality with the clothing you wear, you can slide into the right attitude in the vehicle you use and you can pour charisma out of the perfume bottle. Why, you can even squeeze your destiny out of a face cream tube! The joie de vivre that you could pour down the hatch and the courage you could puff into yourself have, of course, fallen prey to the moralists!

Time was when people used to sell goods based on how well they serve the primary purpose that they intended to serve. People bought clothes primarily for covering themselves either against observation or against the weather and bought vehicles primarily for transportation. Ever since the concept of "Dont sell the steak, sell the sizzle' caught on, one sees only the sizzle advertised. In fact, I believe, that on most occasions, people only buy the sizzle..the steak is an unnecessary addition! After all, in the case of fashion, the bulk of the price is paid for the label and not the contents! Either most of us actually believe that personality traits are actually acquired along with possessions or the entire advertising community has got its sums wrong. In any case, it is smooth sailing for the current generation as far as acquiring personality goes..it is easier to buy it from your neighbourhood shop than the hard grind that we were taught to go through!

In other directions, however, life has become more complex. Take the case of money. Initially, you had to go around trying to figure out how many bushels of rice equalled how many yards of clothing. Someone invented money and, presto, you found that doing sums had become easy. A piece of paper in your hands reflected either so much cereals or so much cloth or so much meat or what have you. You sank your money into business and then issued shares. The share represented so much money which in turn represented so much property in the business. Did we stop there? We evolved what are called Mutual Funds, which represented so many shares in so many companies which in turn represented so much money which in turn represented so much actual goods in the business. Feeling a shade dizzy? It does not stop there..we parallelly devised what are called futures, which represented so many shares at a future date which represented..well, you get the picture! Then you have Mutuals Funds dealing in futures, you may have futures of Mutual Funds dealing in futures etc. etc. ad nauseum! To think that we started this whole rigmarole with a view to simplifying transactions. (And I have not even started talking about multiple currencies, currency futures, swaps, forward covers etc!)

Somewhere in this whole maze something catches a cold and, then you have what they call a recession.The entire house of cards comes tumbling down. You rush to your friendly neighbourhood Mutual Fund salesman (Oh! You are too fly to put your money in stocks. They are too risky!) and he talks to you about market cycles, which sort of slides over your head. He then adds, sagely, something about the stock market being a zero sum game from which you understand, possibly correctly, that what he means is that the sum of the value of your investments is zero. He then adds, chirpily, that what you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts. You feel a bit cheered but, in retrospect, it appears that the fairground of your life is exclusively equipped with swings.

Somewhere in the middle of this maze there must, theoretically, be some people who actually add to the goods and services which the money and that entire superstructure actually represents. If you start thinking about the fact that the people manning the superstructure actually hog most of the money while the poor sods creating the value behind the money probably go hungry, you tend to feel like picking up yon red flag and wave in the rivers of blood..till a cautious voice whispers in your ear that you, too, are one of those manning the superstructure! (Ah! The red flag would probably have waved in a different type of parasite into the positions currently occupied by the likes of me!)

Let us leave morbid reflections behind and go on to areas where life has become simpler! It has become particularly simple for children. I still remember wondering about what I wanted to become..Engine Driver topped the list (Sheer glamour!) but then maybe a Doctor (for the sheer pleasure of administering injections to others!) or maybe a scientist or, perhaps a freedom fighter (an ambition died still-born due to the unfortunate premature exit of the British!)! Things were a bit too confusing with the multiplicity of options. Thankfully, an engineer meant nothing concrete, a lawyer still less and the Computer Engineer had not been invented yet! Things are much simpler now. It is so much easier to answer the question 'What do you want to become?'. The answer is 'Rich!’ All it has required is a small shift in ambition..from what you want to do to what you want to have! After all, if you are rich you can put on your personality with your clothing, you can slide into the right attitude with the vehicle you use and you can pour charisma out of a bottle!

I remember a precocious cousin of mine who replied 'Rich!' to this question back then. The reason was that he could then have an unlimited supply of lollipops! Things haven’t changed very much after all. All of us are working day and night for our own lollipops, are we not?

19 comments:

  1. Nice one Mr. Suresh; One question remains.. i.e Can we go back; Is it possible to go back to those 'barter' days?

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  2. "Nice one Mr. Suresh; One question remains.. i.e Can we go back; Is it possible to go back to those 'barter' days?"

    To argue for stopping at some point where one can still make sense of the transaction is not an argument in favour of reverting to the ab initio situation

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  3. yes we all want our lollipops. u write exceptionally well. lot to learn from u.

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  4. Thanks Debajyoti...you are being too modest...That's exactly what I felt when I read your stock market post but couldn't think of it to say so:)

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  5. Real heart felt article, CS. So true. You did not add that smartest brains in the world spend their intelligence doing complicated mathematics on super computers to make sense out of this financial system they have created.

    Your engine driver and doctor reminded me of my mom's cousin who is around your age who had exactly the same ambitions as per my mom. Finally he ended up doing MBA and landed in your own pet area - fertilizers. Right now he is 'rich'

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    1. So someone paralleled me - except that he managed to get 'rich' as well :)

      Btw, these super-brains on super-computers are not spending their time making sense of the system - they are spending their time in finding a way to diddle the system - much like gamblers devising systems to beat the roulette table. :)

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  6. Ooh, that was deep! But please go back to making me laugh -- thinking hurts too much!

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  7. Love Para number 2. Just love it. As well as the rest of it. :)
    Yes, I agree with Mimmy, this was 'deep', but I guess not having studied Economics ever has to have it's consequences. :)

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    1. Economics? Huh? So what I was saying in this - THAT is economics? :)

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  8. Another gem here, Suresh! Not only have you told the readers how simple life has become for our youngsters, you have also really simplified the maze of investing for their parents who would need all that advise so that they can help the youngsters get their "simple, rich" lives, full of personality and what not :)

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    1. See - I always knew I would become a useful member of Society one day :)

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  9. Great analysis as usual, Suresh ji.
    We can have angels dropping from the Heaven if we splurge money on a particular brand of Deo! :)
    Wish things get simpler & better. Imagine how nice it'll be if we know of simple ways to earn Money & have Lollipops!!!

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    1. Yes Anita! Quite true!

      Btw, your comment reminded me of one of my most favorite posts - http://jambudweepam.blogspot.in/2012/11/even-angels-will-fall.html

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  10. Ha ha, yes. We are all drowning in an alphanumeric soup. And yet we can't do without the soup. What a soup to be in!

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  11. Love it! Why haven't I read this before? Or have I? Bringing the Wooster-ian phrase of swings and roundabouts to Mutual Fund investment is something I dare say only you could pull off.

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    1. Thanks Percy! Trust you to pick that Woosterian phrase :)

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