TAKING STOCK OF RETIRED LIFE

This is about two old men.

Apu had once been a Government employee. For as long as his failing memory could recall. He had never known of any private company, and of its demands on time, commitment, and excellence. Never had he attended such a company’s AGM in a five star hotel. Nor had he ever attended its Board of Directors’ meeting, with its elaborate dinners at ‘off-site’ venues, androgenic entertainment and cognac that we have all heard of, but rarely experienced.

Apu had gradually climbed the seniority ladder and retired five years back as a Bank Manager of the Bank of India. After retirement, he was not doing anything in particular, except that he had got into an accident that broke his hips. Two operations and three years later, he set out for a new life with new hip joints.

These days, we heard, we can find Apu between 10am and 3.30 pm in a small room in an old building near his Kasba flat, sitting in front of a computer terminal. Apu never learned how to use a computer till late in life. He was never comfortable with it. His junior staff used to do his computer work, and he was happy to escape the new complications of office.

Apu is found sitting, as we were promised, in front of a computer terminal. He has with him a laundry list. Just like he takes along a list of vegetables and stationary to buy every other morning. This list, we peep shamelessly, reads as follows:

Suzlon 20
RCap 10
LT 10
MLL 100

and so forth.

Puzzled at the code, we wonder if he is seriously sick with some psychiatric disease for which he has been prescribed these weed-killing poisons.

He greets us, “Hello, Doctor shaheb! Kaemon aachhen?

Keen to impress his daughter, who has just popped in to give him his forgotten glasses, we say, “Sababa”.

Now, we do have some Israeli friends, from whom we have extracted, over the last few years, one solitary word in Hebrew. Sababa. It could mean anything. Generally, it means ‘cool’.

Unimpressed daughter raises left eyebrow, rolls eyes by ten degrees towards the thinning Arctic icecaps, and exits. Without any audible sniff or aside. We can clearly see she is not the sophisticated urban, smart young woman we are so fond of acquainting ourselves with. We, too, are clearly unimpressed, though there was scope for imagining a certain potential. We realise that we, too, can make the occasional mistake. Clearly an overestimation, like a certain Chief Minister of West Bengal.

Coming back to reality, Apu smiles genially at the ‘sababa’ and nods in understanding (nothing).

“Er, Apu-da, what is this list you are carrying? Are you sick or something?”

No answer. Greetings and bhadrata over, Apu is devouring the computer screen with his bare eyes.

He has not come to this tiny hole in the wall to learn computing. Because the board above the entrance says ‘Maalamaal Shares and Securities Ltd.’

The screen, we learn, is filled with the names of companies with eyepoppifying numbers of buyers and sellers.

MLL, then, is Mercator Lines Limited, a shipping company whose price in India’s share market recently rose from Rs. 80 to Rs.180 a pop. He had a hundred. Old man Apu says, “Chhede dao (sell)”

Rapidly flashing his fingers over an aged keyboard, a young man, with a cell phone on one ear, and a land phone on the other, somehow, miraculously hears Apu’s call. He keys in a ‘sell’ order. Apu has just made a profit of 10,000 rupees (around $250). He next turns his eyes over to Reliance Capital, or RCap. There was more shopping for Apu to do till 3.30 pm today, the time the share market closes.

The daughter slips in behind him and notes down the profit in a diary, her eyes reflecting dreams of wearing tastelessly elaborate gold jewelry on her wedding day.

In the meanwhile, far away from Kolkata, in a dusty coal-belt town called Ranigunge, another old man, eighty years old, called Glaxo Benu, is sipping a cup of tea. His shrivelled legs are being oiled by a maid. Benu was a clerk with Glaxo while it was still called Glaxo, and now lives with that name stuck to him for the rest of his life.

Two years back, this was Benu’s story:

Glaxo Benu was sitting on the footpath, enjoying some sun, when his grand daughter and her boyfriend came by.

“What, dadu, how are you today?”

“How do you expect an old man like me to be? I have only a few of my days left!”

“Dadu, have you heard from Ma? We are getting married next year!”

“What? That is great news! Well, khoka, what do you do for a living?”

“Dadu, I work with some shares and stuff, you know…”

“Shares? What do you do with them?”

“Do you know what shares are?”

“Shares? Long back, I had bought some. Why I bothered, God knows! Wasted my money…”

Curious, Golu, the boy, asked him, “What shares did you buy?”

“Oh, some company called Unitech or something. I spent one thousand rupees, can you imagine it? One thousand rupees on a hundred shares of this stupid company. Ten rupees for one! I am sure the rogues ran off with all the money from gullible bokas (fools) like me!”

A proverbial chill ran up Golu’s spine.

“You mean you still own those shares?”

“Yeah, I have the papers in my old trunk in the attic. Why, why do you ask?”

“Dadu”, Golu said in a low voice, “Do you know what the price of Unitech is?”

“You mean the company still exists?”

“It is worth 14,500 rupees!”

“Really, you don’t say? I spent a thousand rupees twenty years back, and you mean I will get fourteen thousand odd today? Okay, not bad. Can I sell this?”

“Dadu, NO! EACH share is worth that! You have shares worth fourteen lakhs of rupees!”

In little time, Glaxo Benu’s two sons took over from Golu. There was a huge row over the ownership of the stock, as the younger son was looking after Glaxo Benu for the last five years, while the older one had been looking after him the years previous to that. Fight over the ownership of Benu and his shares continued.

If the foreign reader does not get it, it is based on the modern Indian tradition that grandfathers’ problems are always donated, while their assets are always coveted.

The money came in, all of it, as promised. But the family of Benu was splintered, unable to handle the pressures of the sudden affluence that threatened to come into their lives. The bounty was split over several times, and went to grand daughters and their husbands, and their children. The brothers were left with a couple of lakhs each, but were no longer on speaking terms.

Glaxo Benu was very happy, and basking in the attention. He could not understand why everyone was asking him detailed questions about his old days and the contents of his old trunk.

If further papers are discovered, we will share the information with you, you poor, helpless fools!

Editor’s Participatory Note:

The use of the term ‘We‘ when referring to the first person singular is to be singularly condemned. Only the following are allowed to use the term ‘We’ when referring to themselves:
1. The Pope, as he speaks for himself, the entire Christian community, and sundry pedophilic priests.
2. The Queen, as she speaks for herself, her subjects and her dogs.
3. Men with tapeworms in their intestines. Roundworms and threadworms may also be considered as similar qualification. People who are generally greeted with the epithet ‘worm’ or ‘politician’ may also use ‘We’.

18 responses to “TAKING STOCK OF RETIRED LIFE

  1. All this really happened? How do you know these folks?

    Marc,
    All this really happened, to a large extent. The rest is augmented by my feeble imagination.
    I just happened to meet these people….

  2. Is this a true story doc? Or inspired by one?

    True, Oemar, with some creative license…

  3. Well written Rambodoc.The kind of story you can actually relate too. I have seen real stories like this associated with Indian Stock markets happening all the time. We had a neighbour who resigned from a well paying job and started playing in the stock market full time. Unfortunately the markets crashed soon after that. For a few years after that he survived on the ESOPS the MNC he worked in had given him from time to time. In another story 2 brothers living a middle class lifestyle all of a sudden became rich after the death of their father. From the DDA flat they were living in, both of them moved to builder flats of their own, thanks to the hidden khazana of shares left by their nagging father. The irony of the story is that the father who was a govt employee lived a very frugal life as long as he lived. The Reliance IPO he had invested in the early 80’s had multiplied many times over the years. He probably didn’t realise this due to illness and old age.

    Prerna,
    Good stories for you to write about!

  4. Ramesh Natarajan

    Interesting post.

    The retail investors are now attracted with the Indian market’s bullish trend. Those who conventionally save money in Fixed Deposits, Gold, chit funds are now investing in equity and mutual funds. This is good for our economy.

    However, buying stocks/mutual funds without much analysis might result in lossess.

    Shares & Mutual funds are now sold as commodities by stock brokerage firms, most of the staff don’t have indepth knowledge about the market. I would say to fellow readers, if you are new to stock market, please play with caution.

    Regards,
    Ramesh Natarajan
    Global Indian

    Ramesh,
    Welcome to this blog!
    I appeciate the advice, but this is very difficult to follow!

  5. inspired by the market boom i presume?

    well there are many such positive stories and many more negative ones , due to rogue companies like essar where people have lost fortunes

    Prax,
    Essar is a rogue company? I thought it was a $20 billion company?!

  6. Rambodoc,

    Terrific stories, both. I am too ignorant about the subject (I tend to practise what Ramesh Natarajan preaches) to match the profound comments above, but regarding the use of ‘We’ in the singular, you forgot the privilege editors enjoy.

    Vivek,
    Thank you. If an erudite man like you says this, I guess I should feel honored!
    🙂

  7. This is another story that has added a feather in your already crowded surgeon’s cap.
    You seem to be able to write on anything!
    Words fail me…I just have to say I love you!
    🙂

    Sonam,
    Welcome, and thanks!

  8. The closest I’ve come to something like this in my own life was long ago when I attended a wedding. The brother of the groom was excited to tell everyone he met about the new business he was founding. More importantly, he wanted everyone to know that for a very small sum of money, they could become an initial investor in that business.

    I didn’t give it much thought, I’m sorry to say. After all, I had never heard of “computer work stations” before — and what kind of name for a new business is “Sun”?

    The day I saw the brother’s picture on the cover of Time Magazine was the day I realized that, had I made that small initial investment, I would have cleared over two million dollars from it within ten years. I’ve been laughing at myself ever since.

    Ah, Paul, but then you would not have been a world famous blogger otherwise, isn’t it?

  9. Wonderful story with, as the literary critics are apt to say, multiple layers. We enjoyed the first few layers that were apparent to us 🙂
    We especially liked the EN/PN at the end explaining the correct usage of pronouns. We think as a husband – generally considered a puzhu – we qualify for the usage of the first person plural.

    Thanks, Vijay!

  10. Ramesh Natarajan

    Rambodoc, just to clarify on my earlier comment, for sure, the market will give fantastic returns on long term investment horizon, say 3 years or more.

    I meant ESSAR oil and other few stocks which have gone 30% in one day, without any fundamentals. If anyone think, this is the kind of return, they can make out in the market, they might fire their fingers.

    Long term investors, can pick up any stock which is fundamentally strong, irrespective of the current level.

    Good luck to all investors.

    Regards,
    Ramesh

    Ramesh,
    You seem to be an expert on this, so tell me why you think the market is going beyond predictions in terms of growth, for example, Essaroil’s superlative performance.

  11. I have something for you. http://mondaymorningpower.blogspot.com/2007/11/thanksgiving-thank-you.html

    Powerkis,
    Thanks! I tried to comment in your blog, but something was going wrong….

  12. Ramesh Natarajan

    Rambodoc,

    The Essar Oil and other Refinery Stocks are mostly gaining momentum on speculation. These stocks are largely traded by day traders and not delivery based trading by retail investors. There is no justification for this price increase.

    Petronet LNG, Mercator Lines, JP Hydro, Bank of India, IDFC, Voltas, Punj Lloyd are buzzing stocks, not over priced, and expected to go up further..

    Regards,
    Ramesh

    Note : I have posted an article in my blog today regarding Investing in Mutual Fundswhich might be interesting to new investors.

    Thanks, Ramesh!

  13. Great stories!
    I admire you, O Rambodoll!
    You are the stuff my ideal man is made up of. Are you sure it is not you who is masked as him?
    When it comes to money, we Gujjus have our fair share of knowledge!
    😉

    GD,
    I am sure Gujjus have proven that!
    Welcome to this blog!

  14. Rambodoc:

    I see you are being propositioned a lot lately… 😉 even though one of them calls you RamboDOLL instead of RamboDOC! Humour and erudition is proving a deadly combo, eh?

    Shefaly,
    Rambo-combo? How DrOLL!
    🙂

  15. RamboDOLL? Hahaha. Pleeeeeze… our beloved R-doc hardly needs ego enhancement. As you know, surgeons usually have low self esteem, anyway ;-))))
    Now, what was this topic about again?
    Wonderful Holidays to all to celebrate Thanksgiving: That wonderful tradition: Eat, fight with family, visit friends, eat some more, give thanks, eat, then recall why you moved so far away as soon as legal age permitted it….. love it!

    Happy Thanksgiving, Jackie!

  16. Now THAT is what I call good writing ! In all its layers !

    Thanks, Lakshmi!

  17. Well,
    you talk of shares n me a gujju would not comment? Not possible.
    Yeah share market burns hands pretty often. But I love it.
    And Rpet (Reliance Petro) is also something to look for. Not an analyst as such. Just in love with reliance. Reliance ki kasam!!!
    Disclaimer: In love with the stocks of Reliance and the value it gives to us- its shareholders. Baki I have no idea about its conduct in the corporate world.

    Minal,
    Hope you will give the Ambanis a run for their money one day!

  18. Wonderfully funny post! I think your blog is the remedy to my monthly-dose-of-humor-from-Reader’sDigest withdrawl problem. What is more, I cannot read all the stuff in one go. My compliments!

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