Book Reviews
Book Review of: Bombay Mumbai – Life is life, I am Because of You

In his autobiography, Amin Sheikh tells the inspiring story of his struggles and his successes with a simplicity that is heartwarming

 

There is no dearth of inspirational stories in literature - some long and eloquent, some short and powerful. In Amin Sheikh's autobiography - Bombay Mumbai – Life is life, I am Because of You, and the beauty lies in its honesty and guilelessness. 
 
Last week, we published an article about Amin Sheikh and his journey from a street child to a published writer and entrepreneur. In this book, he tells his story in his own words. It is simple, unpretentious and sincere. At the very beginning of the book, Amin pays a tribute to the city that both destroyed him and gave him everything he has today – Bombay. “Without Bombay, I would not be here...Bombay is the magic of dreams, of unconditional love to serve everybody, no matter who, whether big or small.” 
 
His story begins from the time he was five years old - a happy childhood in the company of his parents. Things began to change from the time his mother decided to leave his father and live with another man, taking little Amin and his two sisters along with her. From here, he traces his journey – the abuse at home, his decision to run away, the three years he spent living at a Railway station, the friends he made and the struggles he faced, his time at Snehasadan (an institution that fosters homeless children), his first job, his first independent venture, his first trip to Barcelona, and finally, his first book. 
 
He doesn't feel the need to hide anything – not the time he slapped his little sister in a fit of rage as a teenaged boy, not the time he and his friends thought it would be fun to steal the belongings of other patients in his hospital room, not the time he secretly drove the cars he was only supposed to wash. It's possible to see where that courage comes from; his life has been about learning and he grew up to be a man who is sensitive to the pain of others. He even forgave his mother for what she did to him; he even bought a house for her to live in. He takes pride in who he is today, and vows to help others in need have the opportunities that he was lucky to find.
 
In this book, Amin takes his time to thank all those who helped him in life – the ones who loved him, the ones who taught him, the ones who befriended him. He reminds you not take anything for granted when he coveys his gratitude to every single person who has ever been his friend. Not just that, he also refuses to hold grudges against those who were unkind. 
 
Amin Sheikh has never received any professional training in English. Always one with a keen ear, he learned English on the job in the years he spent working for Eustace Fernandes. He wrote this book not just to tell his story, but in order to raise funds to set up his dream Library Cafe – 'Bombay to Barcelona'. His many friends from all over the world have helped him edit the book, design the cover, publish the book and promote its sale all over the world. It has already been translated into two foreign languages. Also, by the time you get to the end of the book, the inclusion of Barcelona in his ultimate dream will be unsurprising. He was awestruck by its beauty and vigour the first time he visited it back in 2003. With his subsequent visits, his love for the Spanish city has only increased. 
 
Though the heart of this story is in Mumbai, its universal appeal is indisputable. Perhaps, because the story is heartwarming, and told with so much love. It is a story of rising and shining against all odds. Despite all the upheavals that Amin has been through, the tone of the book is unfailingly hopeful and positive. This is not a book to be read for its literary merit, it is to be read for its touching story and the fact that your contribution would help Amin come one step closer to realising his dream. His dream cafe - 'Bombay to Barcelona', will provide employment opportunities for children just out of orphanages and foster homes. It will also serve as a platform for other aspiring artists to showcase their talent. 
 
To, help Amin realise his dream, you can purchase his book Bombay Mumbai: Life is Life, I am Because of You available exclusively at Kitab Khana in Fort, Mumbai. You can also write to him at amindreamsteam@gmail.com and he will send you a signed copy.
 
Amin will also be present at the Moneylife Foundation's 5th Anniversary Celebration on 7 February 2015 at YB Chavan Hall (Nariman Point, Mumbai). You can meet him and buy your copy of his book for Rs300. To register for the event, please click here
 

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COMMENTS

SookieSkipper

2 years ago

Many go through the life Amin did when he was young. But only handful manage to pick themselves up and be what he is today. For that he deserves all the praise and success he is getting.

All the very best to him!

Helios & Matheson: When Regulators Fail To Work
The Helios & Matheson story is a chilling reminder of the deep rot in our regulatory and enforcement structure
 
Last week, our news site put out a detailed report about how Helios & Matheson (H&M), a company whose net profit had jumped 35% to Rs 74.12 crore (after providing for interest on all borrowings) for the four quarters ending September 2014 (against corresponding period the previous year), was unable to pay salaries and had not been repaying fixed deposit-holders.
 
Moneylife readers know that we have been writing about H&M’s failure to pay back fixed deposits (FDs) since July 2014 when the advance cheques issued by it had bounced. But the stock exchanges, which mechanically verify news reports, apparently don’t bother to read such signals or question the declarations made by H&M. However, investors began to panic and the stock price dropped 3% on 21st January (after our report was published) and another 12% (to Rs66) on 22nd January. 
 
What is rather shocking is that the share was quoting at Rs78 until 19th January and it continues to hold firm at Rs66, even when employees are tweeting about not being paid and the notice for a winding up petition has been served on the company by unpaid depositors. 
 
In the buzz that followed our report, we discovered that H&M’s investors were not only senior citizens lured by the offer of a slightly higher interest rate. They include a retired foreign banker and a well-known doctor who had FDs in the company, while a sharp Harvard Business School alumnus expressed relief that he had managed to sell the stock before it crashed 12%. 
 
“Is this another Satyam in the making?” they wanted to know. Well, we don’t know. That is because all those who are supposed to check, verify, audit, regulate or provide credit ratings have not done their job. What we do know is that a profitable company should not have problems paying salaries or refunding FDs. Documents collated from several FD-holders show that the company’s cheques have been rejected for ‘insufficient funds’; in many cases, the cheques had been stopped by H&M.
 
Saytam was cleverer. It used to delay paying its vendors, who never went public about the company’s tight finances until after Ramalinga Raju famously confessed to fraud. 
 
I first began to write about Helios & Matheson in early 2006 over its controversial acquisition of vMoksha, an IT company, promoted by one Rajeev Sawhney (who brought in the funds) and Pavan Kumar. Mr Kumar a high-flier in the IT industry then, who was also on the board of Infosys and went on to join Scandent Solutions, another strange company that sneakily bought over all the lucrative software contracts of the scandalous and defunct DSQ Software and got itself listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange through a reverse-merger evading full disclosure of its antecedents, as required in a public offering.
 
Mr Kumar sold vMoksha to H&M in a funny-money deal. H&M ostensibly paid $19 million for the purchase, of which $15 million was seemingly paid out, but as much as $13.5 million went back to H&M in the form of a loan transfer. The loan itself was fraudulently obtained by Mr Kumar for vMoksha, from State Bank of Mauritius based on nothing more than his personal guarantee and that of the chairman and managing director of H&M. Both the guarantors were resident Indians and the Bank did not bother to obtain clearance of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The deal, however, caused the H&M stock to soar from Rs100 to Rs500. This is just the broad picture of the many legal violations in the deals. 
 
Rajeev Sawhney’s story was brought to me by a wealth manager of JM Financial Services who thought media exposure would lead to a serious investigation. Stacks of documents were available and provided to all the regulators by Mr Sawhney—the Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI), RBI, the Enforcement Directorate, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the stock exchanges. 
 
Everybody did a little bit of investigation that only established the veracity of Mr Sawhney’s charges but would not initiate action. SEBI went a step further; it slapped countercharges against Mr Sawhney and quietly closed cases against him and H&M through the controversial ‘consent order’ route and payment of money. Since many entities are forced to opt for consent agreements, to avoid decades of harassment by SEBI, nobody was any wiser about the truth. Mr Sawhney then filed litigation. But every time he won, it was contested. H&M took its appeal all the way to the Supreme Court where it was finally thrown out and the apex court reverted proceedings to the Bombay High Court. The litigation still remains inconclusive. 
 
At a time when prime minister Narendra Modi talks about ease of doing business, this is a chilling story about India’s excruciatingly slow legal system that can deny justice even to someone like a wealthy Rajeev Sawhney, who has the resources to knock on the doors of every court, investigation agency, regulator and ministry, without making any headway for almost a decade. 
 
The H&M story shows that companies can get away with fake disclosures. Regulators will tinker with reporting requirements and make them more and more onerous, until it is difficult to do business. But they will avoid the focused work involved in a random verification, or one based on market intelligence. In fact, over the past few years, SEBI chairman UK Sinha, has made it a virtue for SEBI officials to avoid any interaction with the market, leave alone seek market intelligence. And, yet, more SEBI officials are facing CBI investigations than ever before!
 
If regulatory failure was one part of the H&M story, the other was its active promotion by a cabal of market-players, including institutional investors, and a careless rating agency. Consider this. In 2013, our best-known rating agency, CRISIL, gave H&M the highest fundamental rating of 5/5 ignoring H&M’s questionable past and the cases pending against its promoters. In October 2014, CRISIL downgraded H&M’s fundamental rating from 3/5 to 2/5, over three months, after its interest and redemption cheques to depositors began to bounce. And, when it has already stopped paying some of its employees, CRISIL still said the fair value of the stock was trading at Rs91 at one time. 
 
It also said, “At the current market price of Rs134 per share, our valuation grade is 1/5, indicating that the current market price has strong downside, since it had to repay deposits when they matured or before 15 March 2015.” CRISIL did not wonder about the trick of giving false confidence to depositors through advance interest and redemption cheques which were bouncing. It called it a temporary liquidity issue. It also produced a rating report which, when you cut through the gobbledygook, essentially said that H&M was in deep financial trouble unless it finds someone to give it funds. The rating agency was happy to believe the management’s story of outstanding receivables without wondering if any of it was true. The stock price of such a company cannot remain so high unless it is actively manipulated. 
 
Investors who stand to lose money, if H&M fails to pay, have got together under the banner of ‘Depositors N Shareholders of Helios and Matheson’. They are also urging investors to send their complaints to the SEBI chairman, director CBI and director inspection & investigation at the ministry of corporate affairs. But will it be of any use to investors, if all these agencies refuse to act quickly to protect investors’ funds or pull up those who failed to do their job? How will investor confidence ever be restored if regulators allow investors and depositors to routinely lose big chunks of their savings?
 
(Sucheta Dalal is the managing editor of Moneylife. She was awarded the Padma Shri in 2006 for her outstanding contribution to journalism. She can be reached at sucheta@moneylife.in)

User

COMMENTS

manhar kothari

2 years ago

we depositors of Plethico Pharmecuticals ltd would like to file winding up petition.This is because plethico fails to refund FD amount nor paying any interest.
if any one can guide us as how to proceed it will be a great help

vswami

2 years ago

admn.
why all the 19 comments posted as of now are not displayed for viewing?!

if any t4cdh . snag, pl look into and have it rectified promptly .

vs

anitha

2 years ago

In India, for financial related cases People are not getting their money back because in this case itself CEO and all arrested and they came out by taking bail and enjoying happily. After 10 years they will put him in jail for 2,3 years and leave them but how people will get their money back.

anitha

2 years ago

I am an ex employee of Helios & Matheson and worked for a client Bank of America. They have not paid my salary and some other Bonus components around 100000/- and PF for 2 months. We don't know what we have to do to get our money back. Even Labour Commissioner Dept. is not helping.

Ajit

2 years ago

i want complete writeup on Helos&Matheson for last two years.pl.send me the same. Ajit . My email adress " vikyajitvasant@gmail.com

Shakuntala P Shetty

2 years ago

Respected Sirs,

Could u please do a similar indepth study on ybrant digital just like this and as u did several years back on concurrent india. Thanks very very very much in anticipation.

Ankit Choradia

2 years ago

Ihave sold my share holding once i read about h&m on moneylife and found the rating by its empoyee at glassdoor which was very poor

R S Murthy

2 years ago

Boost is the secret of my energy - We are seeing this dialogue in several ads from Kapil Dev to Dhoni. Similarly Viswanathan Anand also appeared giving explanation forthe cause of his mental power. Aiswarya Rai and LUX soap.
If any one uses these products and do not get the results advertised, who is the regulator that will comde to their rescue.

Jaswinder Singh

2 years ago

Are NEESA and PHADNIS groups also up to something like this?
That's what I have heard and it's extremely unfortunate that Government & it's authorized agencies are neither actively taking any action nor providing the common citizens any comfort by informing them of potential course.

Hemant panchakshari

2 years ago

The story of Elder pharma. is also similar. A well established export house for calcium suppliments, incurred losses sold its major product shecal to torrent pharma. Has not been paying matured fix deposits, and now the interest warrents have also started bouncing. Share is quoting at 137 as of today(03/02/15).

manhar kothari

2 years ago

I would like to ask money life reader to be care full in giving deposit to Plethico Pharmaceuticals ltd.This company has not paid matured fix deposit.
My two lacs are due.
Even they have stooped paying interest against live FD since April 2014.
Would request money life to investigate this company.

REPLY

Hemant panchakshari

In Reply to manhar kothari 2 years ago

Plethico started accepting fd's when it went into losses. Investors should take care while investing, and see whether company is making profit or not?

Kalpesh Shah

2 years ago

Unitech and Plethico are also on the same path as Helios & Matheson.

mm sundram

2 years ago

sebi cannot take any kind of action. my proven complaints against the collusion of the nation wide large stock exchange and the brokerage have been put into cold storage. i even forwarded to the WTM of sebi Mr Agarwal with ultimatum but still the same has been not looked after by the sebi. my rti applications were also not attended by the pio properly. now the same is in the appeal stage. for each and every thing we have to go for the Court then why should we have the SEBI? will the chairman look into this. i cannot spare money as Mr Sawhney,

vswami

2 years ago

Even on a quick read, the horrid story as narrated makes for a mind numbing true life adventure, - to call it a misadventure may be inappropriate for, such is the ORDER of THE DAY.Every so styled 'authority' has in recent times got so much used, almost by force of habit, to keep talking (babbling!) about "good governance"- not using ever or never think of, conscientiously so, prefix of 'better' or 'the best". On the flip side, there has been a growing feeling, whether, instead, a reverse direction has been, as a matter of convenience/ease of practice, opted for-i.e. bad >worse>ugly!

In the present context,one, though provoked,shudders to even remind self of the new company law,- considered in knowledgeable circles a half-baked legislation (if not a still-born), much less venture to visualize what it has in store for the next generation.

Vaibhav Dhoka

2 years ago

Bilcare Ltd and Neesa leisure Ltd are other such in this bandwagon.

What’s Really Happening with China’s Great Firewall
China is blocking three services Golden Frog, Astrill and StrongVPN, which provide "Virtual Private Networks," or VPNs to view otherwise-censored content 
 
Three popular services that allow users in China to view otherwise-censored content have experienced outages over the past few days, a sign of increasing government efforts to limit what Chinese users can read on the Internet.
 
The companies, Golden Frog, Astrill and StrongVPN, which provide "Virtual Private Networks," or VPNs, have all publicly acknowledged experiencing problems. The problems seem to affect students and personal users. It does not seem that large businesses have been affected. An employee working in the Chinese office of a large American financial firm confirmed to ProPublica that their corporate VPN still works.
 
Such VPN services were not previously the subject of blocking, and became popular ways for tech-savvy Chinese users, especially young people, to circumvent censorship.
 
Astrill's message to customers specified that the VPN disruption is limited to iPhones and iPads, which are not as prevalent in China as they are in the U.S., and the Washington Post reported that Astrill's service "still functions on laptops, albeit intermittently."
 
According to Reuters, "Almost all foreign and many domestic companies in China use VPNs to conduct business relatively unimpeded by disruptions to web services. The services that have seen disruptions recently are widely used by individuals, largely affecting mobile devices."
 
Last November, ProPublica began tracking whether the homepages of 18 international news organizations are accessible in China.
 
Censorship in China isn't limited only to whether Chinese users can access foreign websites. It also dictates what they can and can't say online, especially on websites owned by Chinese companies. In 2013, ProPublica published 527 user-posted images that were deleted by censors at Sina Weibo, China's closest equivalent to Twitter. In an effort to discover what causes a user's posts to be censored, ProPublica also found that the lives of users or their families were sometimes threatened because of material they had posted online.
 
More about the Great Firewall: Every day since Nov. 17, 2014, ProPublica has been testing whether the homepages of international news organizations are accessible to browsers inside China. See the results.
 
Courtesy: ProPublica.org
 

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