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Home > Opinion
 
Just pain, no gain

Asha Iyer Kumar (LIFE) / 18 January 2013

Even a third grader would know that birds fly southwards to escape winter in the north. But some dumb homo sapiens, like the my husband I here, defy common sense and always head the other way by default.

Ours is the kind that is so geographically challenged and directionally deficient that we ask Lady GPS to guide us home every day.

Take this for instance. The price of gold was surging. Go, get the gold, they said. The rich cows flocked, grazed and had their fill, smartly stocking up on the bullion. The lesser ones, like yours truly, kept slavering at the effervescent market with no dough to expend on what the experts said would fetch handsome returns. We waited for the funds to collect and finally went and got the bar. Pity, that we didn’t use the gold dispenser at Atlantis. It would have added glamour to the asset that everyone believes would turn around and help us in old age. But no one told us that we had just hit the North Pole in winter. The metal faltered, got grounded and didn’t take to the air again. “It is good in the long term,” we whispered wearily.

And then, a need for cash arises. Let’s get the gold out, we decide. What we hear at the gold store makes us see red. “It was at a high the day Obama won the election. It has fallen again,” says the gold man. “That was only two days ago. Can’t you do something to get us those rates today?” I plead, staring at the loss. The gold man smirks as if to say, “Lady, get a grip. I am not trading potatoes.”

Scenario two. The Dollar was riding high against the Indian currency. Thank you, said the Gulf Indian who had funds in his local accounts. Some, like us, said, “Where do we go for Dirhams now? Didn’t we buy gold with it? We tracked the rates and queues at the exchange centre spitefully till the Dollar began to flounder again. It was a huge relief to know that the world around us had slid back from an ‘advantage’ point, and we were on ‘deuce’ again.

A few months down, the money collects and we wait for the Dollar to appreciate. Following Murphy’s law, it doesn’t. That’s exactly when there is an urgent need back home for cash. We wait for a week before the emergency presses on us and we dump the money at a six month low rate. We rue the notional loss for days, even as we watch the Dollar’s upward swing. Two months later, the US dollar regains its former glory against the India rupee, and all we do is slump with the currency, stare at our dismal bank statement and swear.

Scenario three. The business channels blare out that the stock market is on fire, and our spirits rally in tandem. As market amateurs, we waver, unsure of where to wager our money, reading up company fundamentals and corporate news, looking for cue.  By the time we do the homework, the stocks have soared and we buy some crap at illogical prices. Soon the market corrects, tanks and we wait to cross the red and exit with nearly burnt fingers and crushed sentiments.

We recently bought the scrip of a beleaguered Indian private airline hoping that it might be revived by a takeover, a la Satyam. The stock promptly slid and we panicked, even as no news about a resuscitation plan for the company emerged. We finally sold it at a loss. A few weeks later, we saw reports of a foreign airline’s plan to shop for stakes in the airline. The stock heaved and we sighed.

“Do you think the creator forgot to put the financial compass and navigator in our system?” I asked my husband.

“Apparently,” he said wryly, and switched the business channel off.

Asha Iyer Kumar in a freelance journalist based in Dubai

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