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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sunday musings: there is nothing holy about the colour of money

At a convocation of a local management institute, a businessman had the following words of advice to the graduating students: There are two kinds of women in this world – those who like to be pursued and those who prefer to be left alone. Ma Durga’s two daughters exemplify the difference.

Ma Saraswati (Goddess of Learning) likes to bestow her blessings on any one who pursues her persistently and sincerely. Ma Lakshmi (Goddess of Prosperity) is more choosy – preferring to shower her blessings on those few who are prepared to wait for her arrival at her chosen time. If she feels unwelcome, she doesn’t stay for long.

Not too long ago, India was a poor country but it valued education. The well-educated had a pride of place in society even if they were not wealthy. When Swami Vivekananda visited the USA 120 years ago, he was a penniless monk who depended on the charity of others. But he won the hearts and minds of everyone (save the orthodox Christians) because of his demeanor, knowledge and wisdom.

‘Progress’ has changed our outlook towards life. Education is no longer a lifelong pursuit, but a means to become rich. Many engineers join management institutes and specialise in Finance or Marketing or HR in a race to get hired by an investment bank or a consulting company at seven figure salaries. The engineering degree goes to waste.

Very few doctors are able to diagnose and cure people. They prescribe several tests at a diagnostic centre and prefer to go on foreign junkets bankrolled by drug companies instead of spending their time on learning about latest innovations in their fields of speciality. Unnecessary operations are carried out where a simple regimen of medicines and exercises would suffice.

Semi-educated ruffians join politics and become MLAs and MPs with a single motive – to get immensely wealthy in a short period. Instead of serving the people, they expect people to serve them. They realise too late that amassing money of the wrong colour can turn them into state guests for a long time.

Legendary investors have imparted their experiences and wisdom through thick tomes that clearly chalk out how to go about building wealth through well-planned investments over the long-term. A short-list of such books have been put up on this blog since inception.

How many have read those books? Of the few who have done so, how many have read them more than once? But there has been less hesitation in wasting money on F&O contracts or in chasing after mythical multibaggers in an effort to get rich quickly. 

Most small investors fall into the trap of forsaking Ma Saraswati in the mindless pursuit of Ma Lakshmi - with tragic consequences. Blessings are received from neither.

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