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Prologue

To, Mr Stocks SEBI, Mumbai. ``In the name of the Father, and of the Son.. ``OmOh the Almighty, I invoke your blessings upon all transactions I do on this day. I begin this day in your name. Amen. Sir, it is nothing communal. At least, for me. I am not asking you to follow my religion also. Dont misunderstand me, as many have done with me. I am a Catholic, and to be precise, Syrian Catholic. Because, there are many flagship brands under the Catholic corporate conglomerate. I am not sure, if you know Catholic Church will be the largest corporate house in the world, if all their assets across the continents put together. Ok. That is something which other religious leaders are worried about, either you or me have no business in taking stock of their billions in kind and cash. My point was, there are myriad variants among Christians across the world, different in colour, creed and costumes. You may not know it. It is ok, that will not be disqualification for your current job as the supreme commander of the Indian stock market. I have couple of strong reasons to begin my letter with this invocation. We, the traditional Syrians, begin all our works with this chant as many Hindus would invoke the blessings of Ganesh. Not just the Catholics a in Kerala alone do it, even our Pope too does the same way. Only difference is that he says it in Latin (In nomine Patris et fillii et Spiritus Sancti"), meaning the same. Before moving further, let me also make a confession.

``Mea culpa, mea culpaMea maxima culpa. That is again the sacred language of the Church. As Hindu pundits like to use Sanskrit, our Christian priests also use such abracadabra sounds. May be, priests of all religions have one principle in common the less the followers understand them, the more they will sound divine. But the meaning of what I said a while ago is ``my mistake, my mistake, my maximum mistake. I will surely explain this in detail as I will make lots of confessions to your good self. We say it in our confessions to the priests. For the time being, you should know that I have committed some grave sins. I dont know, if they are sins or crimes, or harmful deeds, or troubles. All these words differ by the degree of gravity. You can classify my mistakes under any of these categories, as per your choice when you get some time to ponder over it. But, to tell you, the most important crime (again, I am too confused to describe this as crime or not) is: the global recession of 2008 happened because of me. I was the prime cause for the global depression, causing trouble to millions of people. I am so sorry that Lehman Brothers Holdings went bankrupt. Because of me, the stock markets world over tumbled. Many countries struggled. Even Satyam Computers crumbled because of me. Poor Ramalinga Raju had nothing to do with it. What he did was just enjoying his good fortunes and relishing some of gains of hard work. He is innocent. But, please dont rush to police to announce it and get me caught, before you learn the entire story of mine. I wont take it lying down if you are tempted to accuse me of doing the biggest crime in the world. I have some staunch counter-arguments and I want to defend my case, your honour. First of all, is causing global recession a crime? why should it be a crime? Forget about Wikipedia definition (I assume that you would also surf the net to find

definition of anything and everything, like I do). I dont know if I breached any rule to describe it as a crime. I could never find a clause in our Penal Code that it is a crime if global recession happens because of my portfolio management tactics. I made certain rules for me and I observed them. So it was not a crime. May be in the process, some people were affected. It is a natural corollary. When a big tree falls, some small trees will also suffer. It is a well-accepted theory in India where in the past some tall leaders have propagated. I have reservations about confessing it as a sin too. Sin is the violation of a moral rule. May be, we need a national debate on the very terms and ramifications of these two words crime and sin. Perhaps, we need a national debate involving our TV-savvy politicians, moral police, financial advisors, and whoever wants to be part of it. I leave that task to you. Sorry, I got boringly lengthier. But, if you want to know more of me, you need to bear with this trait of mine. Let me introduce myself now. Ohh before that, let me give a clarification about how I addressed you. I thought, I would address you as Mr XYZ, the most common but the most obscure particular name. Besides, no single alphabet of English can describe you. Because, you take any alphabet and there will be many companies listed with a name starting with that particular alphabet, be it X or Y or Z. And it will be a bit too biased, if I use that way. I wanted to write your original name, but thought of using Mr Stocks, as you symbolise share market and preside over billions and billions of rupees, going by the market capitalisation of the BSE. Now coming to me, first I thought of giving my full name. But then I told myself, it is not very important as a name by itself does not mean anything. There is no meaning for a name, unless you see that person and relates his features with the

name he carries. As long as you dont know me and you have not seen me, what difference it can make if I am Rao, Singh, or Chauhan. Just think it. Parents give a name to a kid, who till then is just a bundle of flesh. He then is identified with that name. The people who have seen him can identify this bunch of flesh and soul (better, human being) by that name. What about those who have not seen him? They have no idea how and what he is, until they see him. He is a blank form, if he is not known to some ne. So, what is the meaning of a NAME? It is the particular noun of a void reality or a formless being. That is what I did not want to put my original name, by what word I am being identified to my own people around. May be, if you are lucky to see me, I will give my name and then you will get the idea. Man is an idea and concept, before he becomes a physical reality. And I really double if you would see me ever. After thinking for many days, I chose a name for myself. One more thing, I did not have a choice about the name that was given by my parents. That was their pick, not mine. May be they should have bundled their affection into that small name. But, I am proud of my new name, as I have full liability about its merits and demerits. Let me hence, solemnly and proudly introduce myself. ``Sir, Namaste. I am Son-of-Bear-Bull. Call me simply SOBB. Nice to meet you. Yes, that is my introduction, and my name. Rest of me, you will find in time. I do owe you an explanation about my name. I will do it. Now let me move on to next item of this letter. I will be writing to you some secret stories or a few annals from my life history. A few unseen leafs from autobiography.

I know, you have no time to read it. But that is upto you. My duty is to send it to you in time, so that you may know a bit of me. Perhaps, you are the right man to know about me as both of us have a common and strong link STOCKS. Even if I send all my details, you will not read it now. Because, I am one of the just 1.21 billion names of India, most of them faceless and formless as I told before. But, I am sure, you will like to know more about me one day, if you remember my name at least. I have no idea if my arrival into this world sprang a big celebration. It could have made no impact, as I was the fifth child of my parents. People say, as children multiply, joy will not multiply but woes will. Birth of fifth addition to an average Indian family is normally greeted as a routine, nothing special. But, my exit from this world will have a big difference. Perhaps, something like the economic recession of 2008. Or something just opposite to that, as I owe to many of my fans some fortunes, some happiness, paying back for snatching their joys through the melancholic depression. You must be dead boring now and cursing me, mumbling ``what is this asshole saying. I know, nothing can move you, unless your ass feels the heat. This humble asshole cannot keep your ass hot now. But I will do so one day and you will start thinking of me. So only when something terrible happens in your backyard (stock market) your ass will feel the heat. Till then, just wait.. Yours faithfully, SOBB (son of bear-bull) March 5, 2012.

Chapter 1 Ass is still cool Thiruvila Narayana Chettiyar Iyer, alias TNC Iyer (to be referred as Mr Stocks hereafter) looked at the kettle keenly. The boiling water inside the kettle can give him a bubbl spirit any day. Perhaps, that very feeling forced him out of the swanky bed at 6 am itself. He wanted to sleep bit more, after the tiresome flight to Delhi late last night. But, the aroma of a coffee can make him feel cosy. More than the jet lag, he knew that the burden of multi-billion stock market make him tired these days. Heading the Securities and Exchange Board of India, SEBI, is prestigious and challenging to many. But after a couple of years of ruling the bourses, he is now just counting the days to retire and relax, unlike many of his envious peers. Even as water starts boiling with a tired whistle, his mind was away from all permutations of stock market. That is why when he stays in a hotel, he would never order and wait for a coffee. After fixing the coffee as per his own supreme choices, that he never can exercise in any other spheres of work and life, he sank down on the sofa. Another bad habit he has developed is reading a newspaper, be it pink or white, while sipping the coffee. He kept glancing towards the door, still hesitant to gulp down the coffee. As the moments grew longer in wait, he knew that tension was building up. It should not be any cause for pushing adrenaline. But, what to do? Finally, he heard that hissing sound. A small part of the white paper squeezed in with a jerk. Before stooping down to pick it up, he stared at it curiously. Half of the masthead was in pink while the other part stayed tidy and chaste in black as usual.

Being the commander of the stock market that throws up scandals and innovations every day, it did not take much time for him to realise that the leading newspaper has broken another brilliant idea of marketing, though pledging its own very identity masthead. The pinkish masthead looked like the head of unborn baby jutting out from the womb. The hot news (these days news is never hot because of TVs and online portals) or may be juicy analysis of the news must be twitchy like any unborn child. He held the head of the paper with utmost care that any midwife should display. He pulled it by the head. A successful delivery. Paper was delivered to the reader. Holding the coffee in one hand and the newspaper on the other make a perfect start of the day. Without opening the folded paper, he took a sip. The drops of warm coffee silted down the neck and went down leaving a lukewarm trail through the intestines. That is another secret of his success. He would never share it with anybody too. As one finishes the coffee, he can feel that warmth right down to the ass, giving a sweet push. Then go to the toilet to relieve yourself. Bowl movement is directly linked to the success of the day, at least for Mr Stocks. He has seen it with his own daughter when she was very small. She would end up the whole day cranky if she could not relieve herself smoothly. Later he thought over it for long and knew that it is like formatting the computer. Clearing all unnecessary wastes of the previous day is very important to start a day fresh with new challenges and responsibilities. As he thought of his philosophy of poo again and continued gulping down the coffee, he felt that warmth inside.

Ass is still cool. That brought him suddenly the content of the email he was reading in the airport. He was surfing through the old mails from unknown persons that he chose not to open. While waiting for the flight, he thought he would clean up the piled up unread mails. It was by chance that he decided to read that particular mail, coming from one SOBB. May be the curious code prompted him to open it. Once he saw how the letter was addressing him ``Mr Stocks, he started reading it curiously. The final part about `feeling the heat in the ass obviously caught his attention for long. Before going to sleep also, it still filled his mind. Here, again he was thinking about the ass getting hot The more he thought about the letter, he became more curious. Who should be writing it? Someone is trying to fool me? It is just another asshole, as he himself described? Is it from somebody who knew me well? Obviously questions, more than answers, popped up in his mind. No answers evolved from any corner of the mind. It is again unlike of his calibre. Whenever he sits down with a puzzle or an issue, several answers usually spring up. But not this time anyway. Chickchick.chick .. It was some funny sound of the door bell that broke a cool stream of thoughts about SOBB. He opened the door bit unpleasantly. Even his hands may be feeling irritation over unwelcomed intrusion.

His annoyance grew bigger when he saw the unruly faces of two policemen. Not a good omen to begin the day at all. The service boy should have been a better sight of the morning, he thought. As he opened the door, the two constables went inside the room in their truly typical police style without asking permission or excusing themselves. Moreover, their faces were awkwardly stiff. Perhaps, they are coming after the graveyard shift or went to the duty without their basic morning rituals, that was his immediate thought in mind. That what happens if you dont get a good motion in the comfort room in the morning. Hiding his displeasure, he asked : ``How can I help you? He made sure that he sounded maximum soft, though adrenaline was slowly rushing in his body. Without saying anything, the two policemen looked at the farthest corner of the room and then the chandelier hanging from the roof. For a minute, Mr Stocks thought they were from the Scotland Yard office or disciples of James Bond. Next moment, he felt a smug squeezing to go out of him. But instead, he said: ``Sir, what is the matter? ``Why should I tell you what is the matter.. one of the cops replied. As most of the North Indian people, he murmured some abusive adjective too (matherc****). That is the inimitable style of Indian police. Mr Stocks knew it well. So he just tried to keep mum. After all, during his long service in the Civil Service, he had the opportunity to be the Home Secretary at the Centre. He was controlling in a way the entire police force of the country.

If these cops could recognise him, the treatment would have been completely opposite. From being snarling tigers to sycophant cats. But that is the last thing he can expect as these to khakhi-men must also among the majority of their peers who are asthmatic to the dust coming out of newspapers in the morning. Mr Stocks thought about his attempts to reform the police force. But after many years of hard work, he too realised that it is like teaching the pigs to be clean. Lack of basic education and etiquettes make Indian police, surely with exception, one of the worst behaving law-keepers in the world. He tried to push a legislation that would make degree course the basic qualification to join the police. Now, muscle power is the minimum qualification. And it shows in all their future works. But the attempt bumped into the political wall and bounced back to throw him off his chair. Once again, Mr Stocks was at the receiving end of that unique police culture of India. They pounce on hapless people on the streets and tremble before the powerful and the moneyed. They beat ruthlessly the nave ordinary citizens and lick the boots of the rich and the mighty. Third degree investigation methods are their best tools even in this modern era. ``Who are you? When did you check in here? The duo snarled taking turns. But Mr Stocks this time chose not to look at them and instead held his coffee cup tightly. ``Are you not listening?, one of the tigers in khakni paced towards Mr Stocks menacingly. ``Mind you. Mr Stocks looked up at him sternly. Mr Stocks summed up all his patience not to spell further. He knew that he would be abusing them.

What is this fool asking? They should check the register of the hotel and see all these basic facts before entering the room, he thought. If it was not the five-star luxury hotel, the scene would have been different, he knew. These ordinary policemen also know that only the rich and the powerful could afford to stay here. So they were still trying to be maximum civilized. That means, they were not throwing blows on Mr Stocks, though they would really want to do so. For next few moments, none of them said anything. The cops continued to scan the room, with their eyes alone. Mr Stocks sat down on the sofa and opened newspaper. But even the big headlines seemed blurred. He knew that his aura was getting steamy. He wanted to say `get out with all his might and send out the two intruders. But the cops, on their part, were also feeling a kind of humiliation. They would never stand to such treatments, if it was not such a big hotel. Tension was building up in the room. The tick-tick sound of the clock in the room was getting ominously louder as if it would any moment burst the bubble of tension building up around them. The two tiger cops continued to snarl bad words, but in hushed voices, and paced up and down. Mr Stocks held his hand tightly around the mug. He felt himself inside a big bubble of tension that has grown huge by now. He feared that it could burst if he takes a deep breath. He dared not to move, not even take a sip from his favourite morning coffee any more. He hated to look at the two unshaven murky faces that spoiled his morning.

The door behind him creaked mildly. The door was fully open. But he did not care to look around. But he saw the two cops hurriedly gathering themselves. As if they were jolted out of the bed while sleeping with paramours. They gave a long salute. At that point, Mr Stocks glanced sideways to see another khaki-clad man inside. ``Sir, good morning.. The polite sound from the new man surely caught his attention. The young man was standing and saluting Mr Stocks! He did not mind the two cops at all. Mr Stocks could not believe it. But it was real. He felt relieved totally. The young man had a totally different look. A decent look indeed. The two other policemen had undergone a total transformation already. They looked completely obedient like pet dogs. ``Sir, you are here? The gentleman police asked, still waiting for an acknowledgement to his salute. Mr Stocks raised the hand and acknowledged it duly. ``I am here for a meeting with the Finance Minister, Mr Stocks quipped. ``I am Vikas Rasthogi, DCP South, he introduced himself. The young IPS officer surely portrayed his pedigree with cool manners. ``I met you many times when you were the Home Secretary, sir, he continued. That relaxed Mr Stocks further.

Mr Stocks looked at the two cops once again. They still could not understand why their superior was so awestruck. Because, the IPS officer was speaking in chaste English. English still sounds like Greek to most of the constabulary in India. ``Nice to meet you, Mr Officer, Mr Stocks for the first time sounded like a matter-of-fact officer of his cadre and extended hand. ``Please ask them out. Mr Stocks pointed his finger at the cops and asked, without thinking about the propriety. The IPS chap also did not care to worry about the propriety. He moved his eyeballs and signalled to the cops who went out like obedient cats after giving one more long salute. After all, any intelligent officer could guess what happened with Mr Stocks. ``What brings you here? Mr Stocks got curious really now. ``Sir, one man staying in the next room was found dead this morning. We were informed by the hotel management. ``What?.. Mr Stocks could not believe it. ``Yes sir. Vikas affirmed. ``How come? Murder or natural death? Mr Stocks got really interested suddenly. ``No idea yet sir. We are just in and still initial proceedings on, he explained. ``So, your men were to catch the murderer in my room. Mr Stocks smiled. ``Every one is a suspect until the accused is traced, the young officer made the rhetoric in the same level of lighter vein. ``Your chaps were acting like 007, Mr Stocks observed. ``I know Sir. Sorry for the trouble. He again showed his breed.

``Where is the man from? He got bit curious. ``We are still verifying the address Sir. His name was given in hotel register as one B. Bos. The officer shared what he could so far gather about the man. ``How can I help you? Mr Stocks enjoyed talking to the officer. ``Thank you sir. I will be in touch with you, if at all we need any help, Vikas said. He gave another salute with a cool smile and retreated. Mr Stocks accompanied him outside the door. He shook hands again to say bye. But he did not feel like going back inside, though the officer was already proceeding towards the next door. Mr Stocks also followed him out of curiosity. He stayed in 105 and the next room 106 was the scene of action. Door was already sealed with red ribbon. Many policemen and hotel employees were standing around, all looked so serious as if digging out the intrinsic layers of a big mystery. Everybody in the scene of action looked like doing their bits to unravel the mystery. After spending few minutes there, staring blankly on each faces, Mr Stocks felt out of place. He felt he did not have any business. Better, he felt at a loss as he could not contribute like each one around and help them solve the case. So he decided to go back to his room and mind his own business. Back in the comfort room, sitting on the bowl, again thoughts start rushing into his mind as usual. But, this time, everything seemed to be tied around one name. B. Bos.

Mr Stocks could not find why that name was stuck to the mind walls so hard. B. BOS???????

Chapter 2 Another Cool Day

Mr Stocks woke up from the sleep and looked at the clock. Still 60 seconds are left for five. He stretched himself fully like a lazy cat stirring out of slumber. That was his daily practice after once a doctor advised him to do so. That doctor was not just a bit too crazy in ideas, but also so scornful about anything and everybody. He argued that we should stretch ourselves to the fullest as soon as we wake up. That is as effective as making a brisk walk for 20 minutes. And he based his theory on the animal world. ``Have you ever seen a cow with diabetes?, When the doctor posed such a blunt question, Mr Stocks also felt like a moron or a school-drop, fumbling for a word to answer. Till then, Mr Stocks always wished for a 20-minute walk early morning, as directed by his personal physicians after he was diagnosed with diabetes. More often, it just remained as mere a wish. Reasons like rain or snow, late night work or early meeting guarded him against prick of conscience. ``Cows and animals stretch themselves and sum up energy for the whole day. Just observe the tiny kids doing it, without any coaching. It is in-born wisdom and no doctor can advise one year-old kids, that was the theory of the doctor.

But anyway, Mr Stocks also sincerely accepted it and religiously practised it ever since. At least that spares you from the big task of walking in the morning. And you need not to go to gym to do a simple stretch. Even as he was thinking about his stretch-ups, clock ticked five times. For years now, he would wake up sharply one minute before 5o Clock. Even last night, he went to sleep only at 2.30 am, after late night flight from Delhi. But, he cannot sleep beyond 4.59 am. Whenever he tried to oversleep, he ended up day staying wide awake and thinking of nonsense things. As usual, he glanced to the side where Mrs Iyer was sleeping when he went to the bed. The place was empty. The night lamp was giving a twilight shade in the room. He took a deep breath and stared at the clock blankly. He tried to keep the mind blank for a moment. But he knew it is an impossible task. So what he does is to look at the thin needle of seconds and follow its clock-wise move. He can then feel the tranquillity of the morning and as he could listen to the rhythm of his heart beat to the march of the needle. As it fulfilled a couple of rounds, Mrs Iyer was beside him with his favourite coffee and pink newspaper in the hand. She has been doing it without a fail for three decades now. Of course, except when he is not around. She switched on the light in the room, heralding the advent of the day.

She had taken bath and changed the saree already to add to his morning charms. That same fragrance of coconut oil still hovered. That is another favourite fragrance that blended with the aroma of his coffee for years. He knew that his wife must have already drawn the rangoli just inside the door. That is still one of her frustrations. She cannot make her designs in a sprawling courtyard as in her house. That is perhaps the only creative thing she does every day. She tried to enjoy. When during the initial days after wedding, as they were settling down in Delhi, he knew how rangoli design would mean to her. Still he cannot forget that miserable look on her face when a guard unknowingly stepped on rangoli. Ever since, he would make sure to caution every visitor or even the cleaning lady. He also slowly started to enjoy it as it gave him indications to her moods. An approving, not admiring look, from him would make her day happy, he learnt it. In Mumbai, a 2 BHK apartment is the maximum luxury. All your rangoli or even pets should be within that 900-sq ft world. Anyway, she has survived it now, after staying in such apartments in many places as he shifted from one ministry to another and finally in Mumbai. While giving coffee to him, Poornima (Mrs Stocks) affectionately planted a kiss on his forehead. That had the same flavour and feel that he first experienced 30 years ago. But, that time she was just 17 years old. 12 years younger to him. She had just passed her intermediate. Not the ripe age for marriage in many places. But at the sleepy village dotted with just green farm lands and 50 km away from the nearest town of Madurai, 17-year-old girl was already over-ripen.

But for a foreign course that Mr Stocks attended, she would have not have gone over-ripen. Like her peers, she also would have born fruits by then, at least a couple. Their families had fixed their wedding even when she was born. She was the daughter of Mr Stocks eldest sister Malathi. That is the age-old tradition of his place. Not many options for the groom and bride, irrespective the marriage brokers preying around. Mr Stocks had a life stark contrary to that of Poornima. He was raised up in big cities, went to convent schools and passed civil services in the first attempt itself. But Poornima never went beyond Madurai till her marriage. She could not speak more than `what is your name or `thank you in English. Obviously, it was natural. Mr Stocks father was an Army officer, shuttling from one place to another while Poornimas father was an ordinary farmer who never faced the threats of transfers. Mr Stocks father talked about war heroics always while Poornimas father could never understand anything but farm strategies. Her mother was the only one among her siblings who stayed put in the ancestral village. Perhaps that was why Mr Stocks also did not want to dishearten his sister by opting out for a modern girl from a city. She was the most affectionate among his four siblings and he was too sensitive to say no to her when she proposed it to him. Anyway, years proved that it was not a bad choice. If marriage is a lottery, as many elders say, Mr Stocks surely won one. That is why he can still feel fresh after a coffee accompanied by a kiss from Poornima every morning. Mr Stocks was still stuck on the first page of the pink paper itself. Because, he did not want to venture out the aura that Poornima left with a kiss.

She lived upto the high expectations like most of the girls from her place. A life dedicated to the husband. ``SEBI Chief Meets FM The two-column headline suddenly refilled again the pink colour of the paper in his eyes. It was about his meeting with the Finance Minister on Saturday. But, after reading the first paragraph itself, he found it to be as another halfbaked story. Beating around the bush with mere speculations, as usual. Competition forces the journalists to play one-upmanship and the result often is such less-truth-more-speculation story. But he does not hate this modern bunch of journalists. Over the years, he learnt about their compulsions and only grew compassionate for them. Instead of reading further, he decided to go to his favourite Comfort Room. He sat on the bowl and lit the cigarette. That is another bad habit of him. (It does not mean, he has too many.) After a deep puff in, he would always hail that unknown man who named the CR. For Mr Stocks, it was not just comfort room, but it was his Creative Room too. He can in fact relieve of his discomforts. And he gets his most sparking thoughts and ideas in that room. Some people get up in the night with a lightning thought and idea. Mr Stocks can always come out of CR with lots of ideas. He would plan the day well and make decisions there. He can even scan, mentally, through the files that would appear on his table later in the day. And the decision-making process keeps him seated there for upto 30 minutes sometimes.

During the initial days, he would shudder out of thoughts only when Poornima would frantically knock on the door. But as she learnt his habits, she would sound panicky even if he sits there for an hour. As streams of puffs went in and out, suddenly one name shot back into the frame of thoughts. B. BOS! Even the rising smoke rings seemed forming into a few letters B B O S. Exhauster could not deform them. That name was haunting him ever since the intrusion of two cops into his room. Many questions kept springing up whenever he got some time for himself, especially in the comfort rooms. Who, What, Why, How ? The more he tried to push it aside, it bounced back further. An undefined proximity tied him to that name. He could not define it.

Chapter 3 Wholesale Dreams of a Retailer

At 8.15 am, Joy Kuruvila was ready in his office attire long sleeve shirt in light red shade and khaki trousers. ``I need to go to office today. I will, he told himself in the mind for the s 17th time this morning.

`Kuru, fondly called by friends, works as an accountant in garment export unit in the outskirts of the city. That is one of the usual jobs for the Keralites who landed with a degree a commerce degree in hand. The lives of these Keralites are also monotonously similar outside Kerala. A dingy 4 or 5 feet office room, with ledgers and bills strewn around. An old chair to match the black and white computer and room furnishings like cranky fans, bought 40 years ago. Piles of files to match with the great piles disease that many of them acquire through the sedentary food and life style. Even the regular abuse by the employer would have that boring cycle. You cannot count how many times these non-sense illiterate employers would use their favour chants like `matherc@@@@ one day. ``Why dont they read some book or surf net to change some new words at least sometimes, Kuru also used to wonder like many of his friends The disgusting monotony is the only order of the day. Kuru sprayed Giorgio Armani very carefully under the arms. An uncle coming from the US had gifted him the costly perfume, a couple of years back. It has been one of his prized possessions. He wanted to look like the metro-man, with designer executive apparels. But like most his compatriots, such dreams will materialise only if someone else gifts something. He used the perfume very rarely. It is another prompter to go to the office. Lately, he very dearly needs such pulls to go to office. The rowdy face of the owner of the company can never be a pull. Not even the Keralite girl, disproportionately placed one, cannot pull him to the office. There can only be `push to go out of the office, given a chance.

But he knows, he has to find pulls and go to the office for the sake of his two young kids. He has adjusted mentally and physically to the monotony. But what has keeps him away from the office these days is another strong passion pulls of the stock market. The dancing graphs of the sensex and the changing colours on the ticker break his monotony of life. His wife terms it an addiction while he wants to believe that is another job, perhaps a part-time business that is not monotonous at all. ``Papa, take the phone..take the phone, the sound of his five-year old daughter became louder and louder from the mobile phone. That is the ring tone for his wife. ``Hello, he sounded matter-of-fact on the phone. ``Are you going to office today? the voice of wife was bit sarcastic and teasing on the other end. ``Yes, he replied curtly. For a second, she did not say anything. But then her voice turned like a humble prayer. ``Papa, please go to office. Dont sit in front of the computer, she pleaded. ``I am going. Sure. He affirmed gently, trying to match for affection and care. ``Ok take care. She snapped. That is another regular call he gets around this time. She has fought with him initially without any result. She prodded him affectionately for long, but again without any success. She wept many times, but still without much impact.

He skipped office most of the days. And the old Gujarati owner grew impatient and arrogant day by day. He was helpless too as he cannot find a cheaper replacement who would work like a donkey. Moreover, Kuru has stayed with him for over 10 years, and can handle entire accounts alone. She even took him to retreats and counselling. But nothing much changed. He also wanted to break out of the habit, but could not. These days, he would make a firm decision as soon as he wakes up to go to office. Finally, things improved a bit. He now goes to office at least three days a week. He slipped into the black shoes and sat for breakfast. It happened almost mechanically. While stuffing a piece of idli into the mouth, Kuru took the remote controller for the TV and instinctively switched on the TV. Before it struck his mind, he had already surfed through the several channels and reached that Money Matters channel. The anchor man, who looked a bit like a distant cousin of chimpanzee, was murmuring big words like inflation, global trend, stop-loss, sensex etc. A very few could follow his punctuations and accents. He was speaking so fast and incessantly. May be when you talk about the abstract stock market, you should sound so muddled. The girl, his fellow anchor who looked cute, was slower in tempo, but higher in pitch. But her facial mannerism did not do justice to her looks. She pouted so awkwardly while uttering the big words.

It looked like tips of her mouth were also trying to reach the farthest markets as she commented on the global trends. Or she may be trying to add intensity to those big words. Two fat men, so-called known market gurus, were also sitting in the studio, giving out invaluable inputs on the trade. ``Watch this particular channel and get a pulse of the sensex and about the forecast every day before u trade. That was one of the basic lessons given by Bennichand, the self-acclaimed stock market evangelist. Kuru met bald-headed Bennichand, a business journalist by profession and hailing from Maharashtra, through a common friend over a few pegs of Royal Stag. With his profound knowledge on business matters, accentuated by figures (you cannot verify those figures and counter him instantly. So his hypothesis always gets approved without objections.), he can win anybodys confidence in no time. He sounded like a proven player in the market when he announced that he would win at least Rs 10,000 a day through margin trade. That too, without any substantial capital. He kept rubbing the gleaming head in between, as if he wanted to stop the ideas bursting out through the egg-like flimsy skull. But always he held a glass of whisky in the hand and still managed to do gestures without letting it spill. The flow of intake, by refilling the glass, kept pace with the output in the form of the theories and profound analysis of the political and business situation of the country. Kuru and his other friends were in awe of the man who keeps meeting the Union Ministers and toasting with CEOs in parties.

Bennichand talked at ease about American economy and business models of Vikramaditya. He convincingly narrated how people become rich in a few years. He substantiated his claims with lively accounts of his meeting with successful entrepreneurs like Kishore Biyani after and before his meteoric rise in fame. He sure had a comment about any topic that came through their talks. More than that, he wanted that his comments are the final. Nobody dared to question him, because all others were also already feeling like lesser mortals. At the end of a three-hour party, Kuru was feeling like flat on the floor. For the first time in life, he felt like his whole life is not worthy for a penny. It was just a vegetable organic life, with no achievement. He never saw any Minister in person, never partied with a CEO. By the time, the philosopher-turned journalist tottered out of the home at 1 am, Kuru had already taken a very important decision that would turn his life upside down later. He wanted to become someone who will be counted among the billions in the world. A desire, obviously fuelled by the fiery whisky, burnt him. He had for the first time had one on the rocks. He wanted to take an account with a broker and start the trade and be rich. Not to be filthy rich like his employer, but rich enough to buy a Teachers whisky sometimes, buy good dress for the kids, and not to look like a loser always when wife wants a saree. And Bennichand was so kind enough to even to refer him to his own relationship manager.

``Going by the global trends, the market is bound to flat or slip into negative, assessed the anchor. ``I agree with you. To me, it seems, it should be red. We hope that there wont be a sharp decline, said one of the wisemen in the panel. Ever since Bennichand impressed upon him, Kuru kept watching this channel other business channels as a routine in the morning. He betted heavily on the predictions on these wise men initially. But seldom, they became true. As he grew wiser through own experiences, he found that these men do come on TV with an agenda and indirectly trying to manipulate the markets. As a courtesy, they would be disclosing about a few stocks and interests they have. But often, it would be only a miniscule of what they do by themselves or through nominees. ``For me, it seems that that there will be pressure of exit and the sensex will fall drastically, said the other pot-bellied market guru. Kuru was already in dilemma whether to go to office or not. If the market tanks, he has to offload the margin buys. He had bought a few stocks other day and was holding them on margin. He could not really imagine about another heavy loss. Though he did not want to go by the claims of the gurus, their words were becoming louder and louder in his ear drums. He was growing tense as most of his mornings. He wanted to once again overlook the advice from his wife. He was itching to open the computer. At least it is wise to open the account and put the stocks on sale, he tried to argue with himself.

He checked carefully the global trends popping up in the boxes on the TV screen. All markets were down. NASDAQ , Strait Times, FTSE 100..all were in the red. He was getting further uncertain about what to do. ``Should I sit back? he asked himself. But that will invite the wrath of not just his wife, but his boring employer too. Already that grumpy looking man is so pissed off with Kuru. He wished, if he had an advisor or guide at this juncture. He wished, if he could pose his question of dilemma to the wise men on the TV. But, he knew, it will be silly and nonsense to ask whether he should attend office today!!!!! With no concrete answer in the sight, he pulled off a coin out of the wallet. The game which he practiced as a kid to decide in such predicaments has a soothing touch even now on him. He tossed the coin up and said to himself: ``If it is tail, I will not go to the office. The coin made a couple of somersaults before nose-diving and hitting the floor. Flat on on its head.. and tail is up. It had a magic cure on Kurus mind. He felt like bad cholesterol melting down fast. His heart pumps were getting choked for long since morning, trying to make a decision. The guilt, fear, and anxiety building up for long but everything seems to be dissolved fast with his favourite childhood game. Without more reflections, he rushed to the computer and switched on it. He knew, the more he takes time to act, the lesser the possibility to stay home. The beseeching face of the wife and irritated looks of his boss would haunt him.

The old computer was taking its sweet time to open up, without realising Kurus urgency. He punched in the password for the demat account in a hurry. The warnings from the wisemen ringed in his ears. He wanted to place the orders before the market opens and offload the stocks he was holding. However, the ticker seemed so unruffled, may be struggling to hush up a storm brewing beneath. Kuru checked the global trends. Global markets were bleeding red as the wisemen pointed out. Nervousness grew stronger inside him. The bad cholesterol was again building up. Heart beats were hitting its walls louder and louder. He checked his cache and exposure was heavy. He murmured a prayer in silence. But he knew that God would not support him in such gambling. He realised it long back. Still 15 minutes were left for the opening bell. He was in a fix, whether to put the stock on the sale. But if things suddenly improve and hit the green? That is nearly impossible, given the market sentiments and predictions. But, hopes cannot easily fade. In a bold move, he decided to put many of the stocks from his basket on sale to minimise the loss. As if sitting on a time-bomb, he could feel the heart beats making a countdown. Unable to hold on, he opened his mail for a distraction. There was only one unread mail.

That was coming from bbn.com. After a long time, he got a mail from that id. ``Hi brother, buy maximum number of SNS industries, Andhra Chemicals, Trust Communications. With rgs, SOBB That was the brief message. He wanted to discard it as another stupid advice. But he knew, he got the mail from the same mail id and by instincts he followed the instructions, a couple of times earlier. Both the times, it proved exactly correct. It is coming from a website called bear-bullnetwork.com. The website is also mysteriously brief. It gives some daily advices, that too very rarely. It does not say who runs it or who owns it. ``We are a network of retail investors to take on the might of institutional investors and cartels run by the biggies. That is all the description under About Us section. ``Your portfolio manager from the Heaven, that is tagline of SOBB who sends the mails. When you are in neck-deep water, any such advice can be hay of hope. He also decided to follow the unknown portfolio manager. You never know, he is from the heaven or the hell created by the same old filthy gangsters of the stock trade. He looked at SNS Industries price. It was down by four percent yesterday. The stock was priced at Rs 42.35 at the closing. He checked his balance. May be he can buy 2000 shares on margin.

The other two companies are heavy weights, deciding the fate of the Sensex. Andhra Chemicals closed at Rs 590 and Trust Communications traded last at Rs 2440. At this stage, both were beyond the buying capacity of Kuru. He checked the month-long and six-month graphs of these stocks. The highest price for SNS Industries in the last 52 weeks was just Rs 55.50. But it was on a slide for the last one month, but without any sharp curve. But in the case of two other A stocks, prices remained around 50 percent of their highest prices. He looked at the clock on the computer. Still 10 minutes left. He was getting uncertain about what to do. Whether to go ahead with the plans of selling or cancel the bids? This dilemma is not new in the last five years after he took the demat account. Like majority of the retail investors, he also mostly got the sentiments wrong. When he goes for short-selling, the market would go up and he ends up losing. When he puts money on stocks on the rise, they may suddenly slip into red. At times, he earned in thousands, but mostly lost heavily. And the net loss in the game of stocks must be around a million. It may be a small amount for many. But it is equal to his combined gross salary of nine long years. The necessary result was that he had to sell his car, the jewelleries of the wife and many personal loans at huge interest rates. But the stock market continued to play havoc in his life as he failed to wriggle out of the addiction.

He sincerely wished to put of full stop to this evil spell. But, he could not. Only five more minutes left for the opening bell. He went back to the sale orders. Looked at them again. Going by the current market prices, he stands to lose at least 75,000 in the ten stocks, he is holding. But that is just a wish. The damage can be heavy, it can be double than that. He for a moment made calculations about how to manage the loss. His salary and wifes salary are put on stake now. Not just that, the money he borrowed from a friend to pay the school fees of the kids are also put there. If all of it is gone! He felt a shiver down the spine. He wanted to cry for a minute. Moved by a sudden impulse, he cancelled all the sell orders in a hurry. He did not know it why he was doing so. But he did it. May be, inside deep in his soul, SOBB has incarnated as the last hope. Hoping against the hopes, he just wished, if SOBB could save him. It was time for the opening bell.