The joys of being free 2

Here are some more joys , spilling out into a second article.

 Solving the SENSEX conundrum

The importance of knowing about financial markets has been slowly dawning on me since last year. That’s when my father gave me a book on investing. I did not understand a lot of it but made my way through. I didn’t get any practical exposure, so everything seemed distant.

Before that, the only thing I knew about financial markets was that there was this number called SENSEX which had the government and nation’s captive attention. There were entire news channels dedicated to its movement and it quickly became front page news if it went too up or down.  I was clueless why that was so. What did it all mean?

This year as I mentioned in my previous blog , the portfolio manager asked me to come learn. I was not ready then. The topic got closed. In the meantime, I read a book called “Rich dad poor dad” that I had picked up randomly in Chandigarh. It made a lot of sense to me. I finally found enough drive to take up on the portfolio manager’s offer.

 I started going to the stockbroker’s in June. I picked up things quickly. I started in futures and then moved to options. To my surprise, it wasn’t boring and I enjoyed learning financial concepts. I finally understood what the fuss about SENSEX was all about.

One of the big lessons learnt? Don’t bet against Mukesh Ambani. I once short sold a lot of Reliance futures and boy! did I pay for it. The stock crossed all thresholds and went through the roof.

I started with the aim of getting an overview of the financial markets. Trading gave me a start. Then I moved on to deeper concepts of understanding the financial statements of companies, various financial instruments such as debt and equity; insurance, and some more. Baby steps. There is a long road ahead.

I was a regular at the stockbroker’s office for a few months. To my surprise, some of the clients who visited the office got inspired and starting sending their daughters in to learn. I poked fun at the portfolio manager, “I am helping you set up a teaching practice in case you don’t want to be a stockbroker anymore!”

 I am currently reading this archaic book called “An intelligent investor” by Benjamin Graham. Apart from being one of the best books on investing (as per the internet), it’s also a powerful sedative. I read a few pages and I fall into such a deep stupor, even my mom’s threats can’t wake me up.

Gotta keep trudging !

Cooking up a storm

All through the fellowship, I cooked my own food (mutton biryani being my proudest achievement). So I am no novice in cooking. But being home has given me the freedom to explore more – cook more time consuming meals , the kind that I didn’t experiment with in the village.

 I had the thought of making dosa since a long time but never took this long drawn panga in the village. Now that I was home, I experimented with all kinds of dosa – ragi dosa , moong daal dosa (pesarattu) ,egg dosa and masala dosa. In our house, we had never made coconut chutney. I was so into making a proper dosa meal, I made dosa from scratch (not the instant packet variety), coconut chutney, the masala filling and sambhar (the last two delegated to mom).

 

The first time I saw fermented dosa batter, my eyes widened in amazement. I had never fermented anything before (I still haven’t learnt how to make curd. I just get the ready made variety.) Those organisms’ work, silently done through the night, made me really happy.

 My grandma after eating the dosa on my second attempt went,”I never knew such good dosas could be made at home.” My mom liked them too. She would win the award for finding the flimsiest excuses for asking me to make one. One day she came back from mandir with a coconut in hand and went,”Why don’t you make dosa tomorrow. Yeh coconut bhi use ho jayega.”

I am still not able to get the proper golden hue in my dosa. That is a work in progress.

Apart from that, I have experimented extensively with a steamer – steaming everything from fish to broccoli. The next steamed dish on the agenda is dhokla. The poor steamer was lying unused and not getting any love from my family. I revived its fortunes.

After my stint in the village, I became interested in experimenting with millets. Luckily, these days one can find a wide variety in supermarkets. I still have work to do in conjuring something better than a millet daliya.

It’s amazing to me how many relatives still pop the question,”Khana bana leni ain?” (Do you know how to cook food?). When I answer in the affirmative, they have a look of disbelief on their faces. I like to believe everyone knows by now that I have basic life skills, but I am proved wrong often enough.

I will have to host a personal food festival to change opinions around here!

Reading

I love reading. When it comes to books, from the past three years, I have been exclusively reading non fiction – from books on psychology to leadership to the issues affecting the world like globalization and poverty. Infosys had a well stocked library.

This year my reading has been more meditative. I reread some books I loved previously, some parts of them multiple times. I ruminated on them. Two of those books are “The seven habits of highly effective people” by Stephen Covey and “The power of habit” by Charles Duhigg. (The latter I gifted to my Dad long ago. He only recently read it and found it to be amazing as well) I have gone back to these books again and again. Each time, I have come out wiser.

I finally read “A brief history of time” by Stephen Hawking. That book really puts things in perspective – about our absolute insignificance and also at the same time, significance in the grand scheme of things. With the mood I am in vis-a-vis reading, it was a perfect fit.

I read multiple books on financial market concepts. I would call that academic reading. I feel like a super heroine for being able to finish reading those. It took a lot of will power.

Reading is probably one of the reasons I don’t get bored – there is always something to read – a book, newspaper, blogs, articles on the internet. Everyday I spend more than a leisurely hour  reading two English dailies.  This is partially the answer to questions like,”Tu bore nahi hoti gar pe?”,“Tera man kaise lagta hai?” and so on.

Books
Some of the books on my reading list this year

 “Adult”ing at home

Last time I was based home full-time, I had still not reached adulthood. I was a spectator to the adult world. This time, being a fully functional adult, I reckoned I have a right to voice my opinion as much as the next person. This was unusual for some members of my extended family. I heard comments like,”Bache  baat nahi karte. Bade dekh lenge.” Umm. Wait..what?? Who is a bacha ? Have I been gone so long that people have forgotten I have grown up?

“Adults” are funny beings. When it comes to marriage,”You are getting so old. You should have had kids by now.” But when it comes to voicing my opinion,”You are just a child. What will you know?”

Make up your mind guys! It’s either one or the other.

Despite the protestations, I don’t shy away from voicing my opinions. It feels good to be back and to be contributing to the discourse at home – supporting my family, getting them out from a stagnant state on some issues and helping them around.

Earlier I was like a satellite. The action was on earth; I was telephoned and told about stuff. Occasionally I would send a signal back with my opinions on the limited information I gathered about the action. But mostly I was too busy with what was happening in my own orbit and all of it seemed a world away.

Working out 

I have worked out much more regularly while I was holding down a regular job, so that in itself is not a joy of being free.

All my adult life, I have been a morning workout person. I never could bring myself to work out any other time of the day (the exception being evening basketball practice back in college). But all that changed this year. I have been such a lazy bum that I just haven’t been able to go to the gym in the morning. For the first time ever, I am working out in the afternoon. Yup , not evening, not morning but afternoon. I usually go to the gym between 12 and 1 o clock. Why? Because I haven’t been able to wake up, do the morning ablutions and breakfast before its 12. Now, working out in the afternoon can definitely be called a joy of being free. That was never possible while working a job.

Let me describe the afternoon scenario. The gym is empty. I have dibs on the entire equipment ( I can’t express enough the joy of working out with sweat free equipment). The trainer is wondering why he has to deal with me in what should be his break time. So he is mostly busy with his phone pretending I am not there. I have to go disturb his utopia to ask any doubts about my workouts.

Gym selfie
The time I reached gym really late (around 2) and it was completely vacant. Even the trainer had bolted. A sole cleaning lady was there who came up to me and said “Achha hua aap aa gaye. Akele dar lagta hai.”

 For a time, I was working out alongside a popular Punjabi singer couple. They came in the afternoon for privacy reasons, I am guessing. “Hey! I am Mehak, I have no valid reason to work out in the afternoon like you guys. But hey!”  I wonder if they ever wondered. The trainer used to buzz around them and get major side eye from me like,”Have you forgotten your phone now?”

The other benefit of being free is I don’t have a time limit to spend in the gym. Since I am alone, I play my choice of music, do the exercises at my own pace and try all the stuff that I have on my mind – weird stretches mostly.

Sometimes when I am too slow, it’s a call from mom that makes me wrap things up. “Tu vapas nahi aana ghar. Uthe hi rehna hai hun ?? Do ghante hoge gayi nu. Inna kehda gym karna hai? Aape khana bana layin. Main kitchen ch nai baithi rehna.” (Are you going to come back home or are you planning to live there? I am not going to sit in the kitchen all day waiting for you. Make your own lunch. ”

 Being my own boss, or at least trying to!

One of the things I realized over the course of the last few years is I don’t like working in a formal set up. So, this year I have tried to be my own boss. Saying it’s not easy is an understatement. I must be the most lenient boss and the most lax employee ever. It’s a struggle to follow a schedule set by myself. This whole year I have tried to discipline myself, not with much success.

Boss me: We should do something productive today.

Employee me: Mmm. Let’s spend the whole day aimlessly scrolling through social media.

Boss me: Umm, not exactly what I had in mind.

Employee me: Twitter it is!

I even interviewed a few life coaches to see if they could help me cross the “being my own boss” hump. That was an interesting experience.

Things have started to look up a little. I mean if this article reaches you, that means the boss me is getting her way!

 

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