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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sunday musings: the ‘Kunti syndrome’ and its lessons

Stories and anecdotes in the epic Mahabharata give us an idea about the customs and attitudes prevalent in ancient India. They also have lessons for us today because the fallibility of human nature hasn’t changed through the ages.

The story of Krishna’s aunt Kunti is a classic example. Blessed with a mantra from sage Durvasa that enabled her to bear sons with any gods she wished to invoke, she promptly invoked Surya, the Sun god, and bore a son by him.

Ashamed at bearing a son out of wedlock and fearing public disgrace, Kunti put the child in a basket and dumped it in a river – killing it for all practical purposes. Luckily, the child survived and was raised by the charioteer Adhiratha.

The child was named Karna, and grew up to be an expert archer, a valiant warrior, an ally of the Kauravas and a thorn in the flesh of the Pandavas (who had humiliated him because of his supposed lower caste).

Kunti later married Pandu but could not have any children with him because he was rendered impotent by a curse from sage Kimdama. So, after some time, she used Durvasa’s mantra to invoke the gods Dharma, Vayu and Indra and bore three sons by them – named Yudhishthira, Bhima and Arjuna respectively.

But she failed to reveal the true nature of her relationship with Karna to anyone till the Kurukshetra war became imminent. In a desperate attempt to avert the war, she met Karna, admitted that she was his biological mother and appealed to him to break his alliance with the Kauravas.

Karna not only refused her proposal but rebuked her as a self-serving woman who had failed to perform her motherly duties.

When Karna was eventually killed in battle, Kunti told her sons to provide funeral services fit for a king for Karna as he was their half-brother. Needless to say, the Pandavas were dumbfounded that their hated enemy was actually their brother.

‘History’ does not repeat itself – but it tends to follow similar patterns.

Lately, many experts and analysts are pontificating about Pori Bora (a.k.a Indrani Mukherjea) – calling her a disgrace to motherhood for allegedly plotting and murdering her illegitimate daughter Sheena.

But Indrani was probably suffering from the ‘Kunti syndrome’ – being ashamed of bearing children out of wedlock and trying desperately to dodge public disgrace.

Is there a lesson here for investors also? The answer is: Yes.

Impulsive and ‘gut feel’ actions cause big mistakes – specially when you are young, inexperienced and unable to gauge the consequences. Before taking any decision, think, evaluate, consult a known expert.

Instant gratification – whether buying a Harley Davidson on EMI (or stealing it from a showroom faking a test drive) or buying a momentum stock without studying its fundamentals - can cause a temporary adrenaline rush at best.

Long-term wealth building isn’t rocket science. But it requires careful planning, discipline to follow the plan and patience to ride out the ups and downs in the stock market.

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