Monday, August 30, 2021

What is Yoga

Slowing down the breath ,

Increasing exhalation:inhation to 2:1 when not exerting yourself,

Letting go of thoughts, being a witness to your thoughts, silencing that voice in the head,

Relaxing, letting go, un-tensing all muscles,

All of this is Yoga, and all of this is a pre-requisite to Yoga.
Keeping the mind in a non agitated state, by giving up negative attitudes like envy, lust and greed, and cultivating positive attitudes like compassion, love, and forgiveness is Yoga. This is not something you can ever be perfect in, it should rather be seen as the direction in which one should take the mind. 

The above is not something you just "do" and forget about, it is something you do to integrate into your life, that is Yoga.

Putting the body in certain  positions, asanas, that increase the flow of Prana, vital energy, in a constant state of relaxation ( except the specific muscles being tensed in the pose) , is  Hatha Yoga, which people refer to as Yoga nowadays.

People divorce  the practice of asana from the mind and the beareth,  and don't bother  about the pre-requisites. In that case, it merely becomes another form of physical exercise , not without benefit, but it will not enable the practitioner to progress further.

Asana is merely the third step in the eight step Ashtanga Yoga outlined by Patanjali. Its side effect is good health and vitality but that is not the goal. 

 Any person of any age can do Yoga. 

The goal of Yoga is much loftier than mere attainment of bodily health, which is an almost guaranteed outcome of regular asana practice.  The goal of Yoga is to attain union of the individual consciousness with the cosmic consciousness, and asanas are  practised to make the body ready for more advanced practices.

Once the body has  been rendered free of ailments, and has been made flexible and pliant with asana practise, is when one goes to the next step, Pranayama. In case one jumps into advanced  Pranayama practice without laying the foundations, it may result in more harm than good. Basic breathing exercises are fine, but advanced practices are ruled out. Most of us do not even know how to breathe, and we talk of Pranayama, it is necessary for most people nowadays to attend classes to learn how to breathe.

Where the breath goes, energy follows. The practice of Pranayama is actually the practice of "yama, control" of the "prana, energy" , which is the vital energy that flows through our nadis, invisible channels or pathways that carry energy through the body.

That takes care of the Annamaya Kosha and the Pranamaya Kosha, the Gross Body sheath and the next higher sheath of the Energy Body. 

Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, are the first four steps of the eight steps of Patanjali, and it is Bahiranga Yoga, the outwardly focused Yoga 

Then starts Antaranga Yoga, Internally focused Yoga, the process of bringing the mind under control. Meditation is not truly possible unless one puts the gross body and energy body in a state to be ready for it. Meditation is also not possible unless one learns to be truly, truly, relaxed. 

For a person who is truly relaxed, ideas and inspiration strike the mind effortlessly, said Cicero, the ancient Roman philosopher. Relaxation is essential for true well being.

Antaranga Yoga has four steps, starting with Pratyahara, withdrawal of the mind from sense objects. 

Then follows Dharana, concentration , where the mind is steadily focused on one single thought, to the exclusion of all else, just like oil poured from one  jug to another, flows in a continuous stream. It is almost impossible for the mind to be brought under such control even for a few minutes, and the meditation practices are all aimed at focusing the mind on a single thought.

From "single thought" to thoughtlessness or meditation, or silence,  is a process that automatically has to happen, just like sleep automatically happens, you can never "do" sleep. Dhyan is the seventh step of Patanjali's eight steps.

Then comes Samadhi , union with the Supreme, a state which is difficult to reach. A few in every age, the Sages, manage to reach such a state. Patanjali even goes on to describe different types of Samadhi!

The above is the path of Raja Yoga. The Gita mentions other Yogas as well, which can serve equally well for attaining the same state of Union. They are Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Jnana Yoga. Depending on individual temperament, it is for us to choose which path to take.

The paths are not mutually exclusive. Working  without worrying about the results as in Karma yoga, having an attitude of Bhakti as in Bhakti Yoga, and sifting the real from the unreal as in Jnana Yoga, are all necessary things to do, to a greater or lesser degree.

As the Masters have stated,  the aim is the Mountaintop,  and many paths lead to the same place. Once you reach the top it does not matter which path you took. 

Reaching the top of the Mountain is Yoga, and  travelling up any of the paths is also Yoga. Union of the body, mind and spirit is Yoga.


Show me what or who you love,
And I know your true nature,
What your life revolves around,
Is what you truly experience!

The beloved casts a shadow,
That lights up all things around,
Everything takes on a glow,
An intensity newfound!

What we experience as life,
Is what we turn the mind towards,
Where the mind is turned defines,
Each by each, our entire life!

Passion colours all we see,
Vividly in passion's hue,
Life is not the same again,
Passion always extracts its due!

A new kind of brain teaser

Adnan, Benjamin and Sameer ( let's call them A,B, and C for short) want to decide which covid vaccine to take. You need to help them to decide.

A has already had covid, and has now tested negative. B has not had covid and has now tested negative. C has not taken a test but has taken the first dose of Covaxin.

They all want to study abroad, in Europe.  A is going to country A which has approved Covishield but not Covaxin, B to Country B which has approved no Indian vaccine, and C to Country C which, according to sources in the Indian Foreign Office, is very likely to approve both, very soon, since they are under threat of all their citizens who are currently in India being sent to Tihar Jail for fourteen days compulsory quarantine, under foreign minister Jaishankar's arm-twisting exercise  India Intimidating Initiative (III for short).

Meanwhile Diksha ( let's call her D) who is A's cousin and  studying medicine at CDEF ( College of Doctors Evengelizing Fear ) and is a member of VV,  Vaccine Vigilantes, has some statistics on vaccines. Covishield is 75 percent effective after 1 dose, 90 percent effective  after 2 doses. Covaxin is 70 and 83 respectively. Taking covishield after taking covaxin , two doses of both, is 97 percent effective, but given shortage of vaccines right now, one may have to wait for six months before that is allowed. Taking annual booster shots of all of them is next on the cards, as per information she has collected from reliable sources. But, Country A has only Pfizer vaccine available, Country B has Pfizer and Moderna, and Country C has only the Chinese vaccine. The students may have to come to India to take their booster shots actually, if they want Covaxin or Covishield.

Meanwhile Pfizer has been given approval for manufacturing  in India, and will take six months to hit the shelves. A is all in favor of Pfizer, B is confused, and C will never touch it since it uses the new unproven mRNA technology which he fears may play havoc with the DNA in his cells.

All three of them have the option of deferring their admissions by one year. 

Meanwhile, the respective colleges where A , B and C are studying have mandated vaccines, whichever available version is fine, or else they cannot go to campus. Not going to campus will result in their project being declared invalid by the foreign universities, so it is essential for them to go to campus to retain their admission.

A is gung ho about the vaccine since all the people in his family have taken it and no one has died, B is sceptical since his uncle who was hale and hearty till then, died of cardiac arrest  exactly three days after taking the vaccine, and C is afraid of injections.

So, you need to decide for A, B, and C, keeping all factors in mind:

1. Should they take admission this year or defer to next year?

2. What should their vaccine strategy be - which vaccine/s , what frequency, and strategy for booster shots

Please send in your answers by evening today.

The Bogeyman

The mere threat of a Bogeyman,
Is 'nough to keep the kids in line,
Makes sure he comes in their nightmares,
And they dream of him noon and night!

Those who have seen him all attest,
He's not so fierce as imagined,
What he can do at his  worst,
Is nowhere close to their  nightmares!

The Bogeyman is merely a ploy,
To control the kids, keep them in line,
That of the  uncertain  unknown,
Of a fearsome drummed up renown!

Won't  let the kids play in the dark,
Fills their minds with grim forebodings,
Won't  let them meet, or go walkabout,
Fills them with fears of threat impending!

Each age and time has its Bogeyman,
From past to now, from child to man,
They make it far easier to rule,
Over those who are running  scared!

The wheels of Time

News item today: Zomato is readying for its IPO, at a valuation that exceeds that of all the listed hotel companies taken together!

Beauty lies solely  in the eye,
Of the stricken beholders,
Lining up, drooling, to buy,
Inflated pieces of paper!

It has already changed hands,
At dubious values in the past,
Getting pumped up each time,
To values, till then, unheard of!

The company excels at burning,
Whatever the investors put,
Seeing the smoke from the chimney,
Makes more of them come hurrying!

Not an asset to its name,
A few youngsters in a garage,
Have soon managed to overtake,
Those who've been around for years!

Each one aims to dominate,
The world as viewed from their prism,
Doing whatever it takes,
To spend their money to success!

What happened to values like thrift,
And patient accumulation?
How long before you deserve it,
Does fortune visit you out of turn?

What happened to values of prudence,
And not throwing money away,
These VC's scatter it in the wind,
Hoping that some of it will land!

What happens to all that I can see,
Brick and mortar  built on sand,
That now shifts beneath their feet,
Will it all come crashing down?

A new world order will rise,
From the rubble of the old,
The rulers of today will die,
And upstarts will storm the hold!

Their turn in turn will come in time,
To go under the wheel of fortune,
Which will crush them as it grinds,
Its way relentlessly on!

The gist of Personal Finance

The world of personal finance is made needlessly complex by the plethora of undifferentiated products that are available, the hordes of snake oil salesmen calling themselves money managers peddling toxic products to gullible customers, and clueless investors who are gullible prey for the sharks.

Are there a few simple rules that can help guide investors in such a situation? Especially the minnows, the newbies who are not so financially literate?

Based on my years of learning and teaching  the subject, if I were to attempt such a list, this is what it would be.

1. Spend less than what you earn. For doing this you must: 

Keep aside your savings first every month, before you start spending

Live in a locality that is equivalent to your earning or less - peer pressure can make you do dumb things

Invest what you have kept aside and stay invested for the long term.

2. Have only one goal, multiple goals are confusing. That goal is: being in a position to retire. 

How much do you need for that?

Let us say your current monthly expenses are x,

You need 400 times your current monthly expenses (400x)  to maintain your current lifestyle and to  take care of inflation.

3. Invest in Gold, Real Estate, Stocks or Fixed Income 

Don't touch commodities, derivatives, currencies, futures and options, and don't trade on margins. On no account, touch cryptocurrencies.

4. Buy an affordable house , don't overreach on this one. Your house is not considered part of your wealth and thus is not part of the 400x.

5. Borrow only to buy a house, or to save your life.

6. Do not ever, ever, pay interest on your credit cards

7. Take term insurance for around 100x to 150x , expiring at your age of 65. 

Do not ever, ever, take any other form of insurance.

8. For tax saving invest only in PF, PPF, ELSS, or NPS, to the extent required. Ignore all other options

9. Invest your surplus every month as follows: 

10 to 15 percent in gold. This can be in Gold ETF's. 

The balance in equity mutual funds and debt mutual funds,  in any ratio between 30:70 and 70:30 as per your comfort. Always choose the growth option and not  the dividend option. 

Do not invest in bank FD's, they are tax inefficient.

Do not invest in direct company deposits, they are risky, tax inefficient, and cumbersome to keep track of.

11. When a good real estate investment comes along, liquidate your gold, equity and debt holdings, and take a small loan if needed.

12. Good real estate means land, neither in the center of the city, nor too far away, in a locality that is about to see development. Apartments are neither good, nor real estate. This advice does not apply to those from Mumbai since there is no land in Mumbai.

13.Four years before you plan to retire take a Family Floater health insurance policy for a coverage of about 5 lakhs per annum.

14. Marry into a rich family. It is not your fault if your parents are poor, but you can try to ensure that your prospective in-laws are not.

15. When you reach a wealth of 400x, you are in a position to retire.

Ensure your x does not go up too significantly in the meanwhile.

That kind of sums it up.

Now go and do something about Point No. 14 above


( Written  in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh) 

Mountains as far as the eye can see,
Range upon range unfolding,
Each one mighty in its Majesty,
But at once  part of the whole!

The clouds kiss their feet as they pass,
In obeisance to the mighty ones,
They stare down from their pinnacles white,
At the clouds in lofty disdain!

A few villages scattered across,
Clinging to the sides of the mountains,
A lonely road winds its way through,
Sign of hope in the isolation!

We watch the scene with outsiders' eyes,
Awed by the stark beauty of the place,
For the villager it's daily strife,
At once part of the scene, and against!

I doubt if he thinks its beautiful,
For he is part of the picture
That we see as part of the frame,
The words are merely our description!

Does beauty come into being,
Only when someone perceives it,
Or is it something that's always there,
Only beautiful till it's discovered?

Venture, Thy Capital!

Where do they find the funds,
To fund the new upstarts,
Each vying with the next,
To burn them as they come?

Where do they find the means,
To justify what they've done,
Each vying with the next,
To give more cash to burn?

How do they have the guts,
To throw good money after bad,
The more the company sinks,
They fund to dig deeper!

Where do they find others,
To jump in after them,
Into the bottomless pit,
Courting a gory death?

They do all this and more,
And then do the IPO,
A call to the lemmings,
To come jump off the cliff!

See the lemmings lining up,
For a piece of the action,
They all want to jump and die,
No one wants to miss out!

It's a weird case of FOMO,
How far, how deep, can you jump?
Those who don't  get the chance,
Envy those who jump and die!

The Elite

Shut the doors, shut the windows,
Draw the curtains, pull the blinds,
Keep the outside from coming in,
A self contained universe!

Use the phone and never meet,
Every human is suspect,
Keep them all at great length,
Walking germ carriers,  terrified!

Cover the nose, just don't breathe,
And wash the skin off your hands,
Scrub the air and scrub the seats,
For all things, delivery man!

See the world only through a screen,
Talk only to avatars,
Flesh and blood is full of germs,
Let's shift to the metaverse!

There is a world that's out there,
It moves on nicely without you,
Flesh and blood out on the street,
There's also sun, rain, and breeze!

Two worlds exist out there,
Will the twain ever meet?
The elite are in their lairs,
The others are on the street!


Most prisons are of the mind,
By its power we are confined,
No need for big gates and high walls,
Imagination will suffice!

To take away a man's freedom,
You need to plant some fear in it,
He will panic, shut himself in,
And come and hand you the keys!

In scale of primal emotions,
Fear overcomes greed by far,
The best jailers are only those,
Who play on emotions, and yours! 

A fearful populace is one,
That is docile and tractable,
There are many dictatorships,
The best are not visible!

Driven by Ideals

Anyone who wishes to rule,
Has to learn to manipulate,
Bend people to achieve his goals,
Make them listen to what he says!

The motivation that people need,
Is best achieved by pandering,
To their fears and baser needs,
But packaged as loftier things!

Nothing works like carrot and stick,
Our basic nature hasn't changed,
What  changes are stated ideals,
The motives need good packaging!

Single minded pursuits are good,
Forsake all for power and  profit,
But since that is not very noble,
You need Vision Mission statements!

The horse that is drawing the cart,
Needs to feel it is important,
While it tugs and heaves and gives its all,
The leader plays patriotic songs!

Vicarious Living

Unchecked euphoria one day,
Sunk in the depths of gloom the next,
What's it about the game of cricket,
That swings us from one to the other?

Only a few countries play it,
A few more have heard about it,
A win, and we are world beaters,
A loss is blow to self esteem!

Any victory we appropriate,
Nobel, cricket to gold medal,
What is it that makes us claim credit,
For something we didn't help create?

A person with few things to show,
As victory against his name,
Will always seek to bolster his pride,
By claiming others' as his own!

A nation that is so obsessed,
Shows a deficiency within,
Very little to celebrate,
Always looking for silver linings!

It's time we got busy doing,
What we expect our heroes to do,
Put in our best in everything,
And, individually, excel!

A victory should be par for the course,
Any defeat a stepping stone,
It's time we stopped looking to others,
And claimed victory for our own!

Please let them be!

They first came for the sick,
Then targeted the weak,
Then all us healthy ones,
Finally, they will target the kids!

Please! Just let them be,
They don't need your poisons,
They who cannot consent,
Don't feed them your noxious potions!

Please! Just let them be,
We grown-ups have destroyed the world,
They are healthy, were born that way,
Please please please, leave them alone!


 with location  tracking,
 with vaccine mandates,
 with authoritarian regimes, 
And quarantines,
with a scared populace, 

The world is a prison,
Each guards the other,
A morbid suspicion,
Against every brother,

Big brother gives you a bracelet,
To wear everywhere you go,
Embedded with several chips,
For whatever he wants to know!

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Covid in Dharavi

An article on Dharavi, the largest slum in Bombay, probably in Asia, says that only eleven percent of people  there have been vaccinated so far.

Nine lakh people compressed inside three square kilometres. Where social distancing is impossible and people  practically live on each other's toes.

What they will never say is that the fatality rate in Dharavi is extremely low. And it will continue to be so, whatever number of variants may emerge.

Add to it the fact that they lead normal lives , not like many of us cloistered at home, panicked in the mind, forever fearing for us and everyone around us, exchanging notes on how little we have stepped out and how tight our masks are, and the irony is complete. We think we are doing it to protect ourselves when the only protection is in following the example of Dharavi, and making sure we get exposed to everything out there.

Those  are two worlds out there. The Dharavi world is far more vibrant, and way more healthy.

Friday, August 20, 2021

On Investment Options

People frequently confuse Asset Classes, Vehicles for Investment, and modes of investing , for  example I have heard questions like

"Should I invest in Equity, Mutual Fund, or SIP? " when you can actually do all three at the same time! 

What follows may be elementary to most, but it may need reiteration for some. 

You should  keep the following distinctions in mind: 

Asset Classes: equity, debt, Real Estate, Gold

Investing through ( vehicle for investment) : direct, or through MF

If Gold: physical gold biscuits, ETF's ( which is an MF) ,  Sovereign Gold Bonds

If Real Estate: Direct or through MF 
If Real Estate MF: InVit, or any other

If debt: direct ( bank FD, direct corporate FD, VPF, PPF, any other instrument... Or through MF)

If debt MF: 
Duration of underlying Paper:  short to long

Credit Risk: Zero to High

Quick pointers:

Investing in FD's is usually tax inefficient. For debt , investing through MF's is better

Debt MF's investing in long term paper carry interest rate risk 

Gold Ornaments don't count as investment.

The era of Real Estate as a preferred  Asset Class is over. 

The era of high interest rates are over. 

Low inflation is only on paper. 

You will see your lifestyle costs going up in the next few years, along with drop in real wages. We are going the way of the west, which generally means we are going to get screwed. 

Diversify, but not too much

It is a field that is complex, most times  needlessly so, and  In case you don't wish to spend time understanding it, consult an expert.

Beware of experts in any field. Most of them know very little, and they mostly work to maximise their gain, not yours

Derivatives, Currencies, Futures, Options, Cryptos, Commodities are not investment. Unless you are an expert, stay away. If you are an expert, beware. Many a strong swimmer has been swept away by the current.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Legal Luminary turns fifty

One is of tennis fame,
One is a software czar,
She shares her birthday,
With a few lesser mortals!

One said he never inhaled,
And he liked to give the suck,
A high position he held,
But he's not a patch on her!

A real luminary,
Who holds her own where she goes,
In a ring full of men,
She's scored many a K.O!

Knockout not just in a fight,
She can kill with her look(s),
Many a  heart took flight,
And went aflutter!

When God made her he said,
She will be one of a kind,
Sent her down and broke the mould,
And here we are, fifty years hence!

We wish her fifty more to come,
Of glorious sunrise years,
For the sun never sets,
Where she is around!

Tuesday, August 17, 2021


We are all secure,.
In our sinecures,
And cosseted lifestyles,

We cannot even hope,
To understand,
The desperation,

Of a life uprooted,
By a change of circumstance,

A country taken over,
By forces of chaos,
Thrown back to mediaeval times,

Murder, pillage, rape and loot,
Divine right of warlords,
Going back to ancient times,

We are lucky to have lived,
In our little sinecures,

Counting our wealth and indulging,
In our little pastimes,

We cannot even hope to understand,
How worlds can get uprooted,
By forces beyond our control,

And how the little things we take,
For granted,
Now are so important,

The world was never a safe place,
It is all an illusion,

We spun ourselves into our cocoons,
And fed our delusions,

It's when the fabric tears apart,
That the threads start unraveling,

The tapestry of which we are a part,
Is our place, our time, our good fortune!

Saturday, August 14, 2021


Not Done is the best way to be,
Always with something to do,
If all I've to do is complete,
I will feel strangely empty!

Don't ever rush to do things,
For the list is never ending,
Good to have the same thing on your plate,
To satisfy those who are asking!

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Subbu of Barings

Long, longer, longest,
Both the name and the quals,
He got his Barings right,
VC in Angel form !

Legendary fellow,
Made millions for people,
And then wisely withdrew,
Before the shit hit the ceiling!

Now he roams around the world,
Weddings and temple tours,
Still has his gentle smile,
As if he wouldn't hurt a fly!