Other Side of the Mirror: Mixing with the money mandarins
By: Bikram Vohra
I wasn’t very good at money matters when I was a youngster. And I wasn’t very good with money matters when I was middle aged. Now, as I totter into antiquity I am still not very good with money matters. Guess I am constant. In fact, I was well into my thirties when I realized that the Footsie was not an option for flirting in the back rows of the movies but a fiscal index.
To me bulls and bears are just animals in the wild and when I get stuck in a group who believe journalists are profoundly knowledgeable (this is a complete deception practiced by my tribe) and they ask my opinion on the market situation I do the three things journalists do to cover their rampant ignorance. I look profound. I say, it is too early to tell or, conversely, thing can change at any minute.
Since the only market I am familiar with is the fruit and veggie one near my home in R.K. Puram, Delhi I have to do the wise scribe thing or I’d get found out. And there go the invitations.
The only stocks I am familiar with are those cubes my wife asks me to buy for making soup or stew and shares are just a bite from a choc bar when my daughters are not looking.
The great thing about not being rich is that you really couldn’t care less if the dollar slips, stumbles, bruises its knee or does the Gangnam. Who cares about currencies if your life is spent trying to make your two ends talk to each other and doing sums on the back of the envelope in which somebody sent a wedding card two years ago but you cannot throw it because it has “om’ written on it. And if the Wall Street mandarins want to inflate shares and make the stock prices reach the space station so what, you haven’t a single piece of paper in any company, blue chipped or gilt edged. Not even foolscap from your printer.
I am watching this banker guy at a fancy dinner (get invited by mistake occasionally) and he is talking about the volatility in the current market (I love that word like I love ‘synergy’ and ‘proactive’ but they do not directly concern me) and then he says he predicts another fluctuation of the yen. The yen can become a geisha and perform the fan dance for all I care. So, naturally, since I hate being left out of an intelligent conversation I say, haha don’t care if it fluctuates, oscillates or pirouettes like a ballet dancer, don’t have any.
There is this glacial silence, like a silent expression of horror. Seems most of the people there are investment bankers, a tribe that nightmares are made of and I realize I have fill in that void called ‘awkward moment.’ I lie blatantly and say, ha ha only kidding, fooled you there, actually I am into property myself. There is a collective release of bated breath and one banker says, property is a bubble, too many peaks and troughs, risky business, don’t stretch beyond four-five mil.
I imagine ‘mil’ is his intimate way of saying million and since I am about 94% away from making my first ‘mil’ I smile secretively and trade conspiratorial ‘we rich guys know the inside stuff’ winks.
I worry about the electricity bill, I crusade against every hike in the housing co-op’s monthly payments, I fight like a tiger to buy two for one wrapped in cellophane items at sales and a.m. a staunch believer in repair. But I have not once worried about a recession, there is nothing to recess, did you see how stressed our rich friends look, they are always carping on about how much they lost, if you don’t have it you can’t lose it.
Look at the bright side. You never have to leap off a ledge in sudden financial despair. There is nothing sudden about your despair, it lives with you.