For this Diwali, look beyond pressure cookers, frying pans and 3D TVs. Here is a list of items that’ll last you a lifetime—and these gifts to yourself will keep on giving
Give or take a few, it must have been about 40-45 years ago or so, but the big Diwali gift I received was a new badminton racquet. With something called “nylon guts”, a huge improvement on the previous racket, which had strings made out of natural guts made presumably from the innards of some unfortunate animal.
The old racquet, well and truly retired, was discovered in an even older trunk a few weeks ago. On a whim and a fancy, I took it to a particular shop beyond Ballimaran in Old Delhi run by a man who knew about these things, and asked him to estimate a price on the racket.
Never mind what the racket was valued at—way beyond what I thought it would fetch—but it was the trunk it came out of, a photo of which I happened to have in my camera, that excited him even more.
Because it also contained old magazines and books wrapped in pieces of lace long forgotten, and other stuff, knickknacks collected over decades, yes, but also because the trunk itself now had a value way beyond the metal, wood and rubber it was made of. When I traced its provenance, another surprise—pretty much everything, including the trunk, was from Diwali shopping decades ago.
And everything, including the stainless steel vessels in the kitchen, more Diwali shopping from an era gone past, had pretty much also appreciated.
Fast forward to what appears to be Diwali shopping nowadays, and if you take precious metals aside for the purpose of this article, think about one purchase you make which will not be consumed or depreciate by at least 30% the moment you pay for it... And keep dropping in value steadily thereafter, in many cases reaching a nil residual value in a couple of years?
Matter of fact, the louder and brighter the advertisement, the faster the drop.
So here’s my list of a few items you could purchase for Diwali, not as heavily advertised, but essential to keep in perspective. Diwali is not about throwing money away, it is about welcoming wealth in its many forms, so it doesn’t have to be about blowing up. Hopefully, these are the sort of purchases which will bring you joy, as well as appreciate too.
1) Stainless steel utensils, of all sorts, picked up from any of the traditional utensil shops pretty much top the list. Once you’ve resumed eating out of stainless steel plates, you will give up on using plastic for sure, and may even give ‘China’ glass a pass. Of course, if you can go for silver utensils, then the appreciation and taste are both likely to feel even better.
2) A well-selected painting, or other piece of art, bought after hard negotiations, based not just on the artist’s provenance but also on what you like to see in your home or office. Looked after well, this is almost sure to appreciate eventually, and if you are really so worried about maintaining it, then that is not such a chore anymore.
3) Presenting yourself with a skill-set going extinct. Like maintaining old paintings, for example, since you are building your own collection anyway. It is only when you start looking around for people to maintain your valuable paintings that you realise how much they earn. Almost as much as people who maintain old Ferraris, for example.
4) This takes care, because there is a lot of garbage floating around also, but a good vintage car is a Diwali gift of the sort which will appreciate faster than any other set of wheels. At a modest estimate, you can expect notional prices to double every couple of years, though the joy of owning one often comes in the way.
5) Fractional ownership of commercial property is a new one lately, in an organised way, and still needs very careful thought. This could be a very small share, running into thousands, or much bigger, running into crores, and by a variety of means. Warning—this is a very speculative product, and currently also full of scamsters, so great caution is advised. The time-share property industry gave a bad name to this concept but it may well be time to start looking at the fine print again.
6) Replenish existing equity by adding to the portfolio you already hold or move into equity in a steady way as a mid- to long-term investment. Here it may be important to point out that specific selection of which equity to hold would be based on your own judgement—but spare funds around the festival season or any other time can be moved into this option as a very valid investment.
7) Look around your home and check out expenses being incurred on energy costs, use existing tools on the Internet or elsewhere, or simply commonsense, to see what you can do to reduce these operational costs. The choices are growing by leaps and bounds every day—and prices are flattening out for options like LED (light-emitting diode) lights, double-glazed glass,
motion-sensing switches, solar panels for photo-thermal and photovoltaic applications, and even simple things like ceiling fans.
8) Investments in plants for home, roof or balcony gardens also tend to pay for themselves within two seasons, especially if you take time out to grow selected herbs and spices, which you would buy at high costs otherwise. A lot here depends obviously on the kind of space you have, but in the coming years of high food costs, this is another skill-set which will help survival—if not make you wealthy.
9) Mostly, anything made out of aluminium tends to hold or increase in value— things like stepladders, prams, small carts for moving things around. They are also very helpful for a variety of ‘Do It Yourself’ jobs, increasingly required in and around home, and when they go out of order eventually, scrap value appreciates like with other metals.
10) And finally, any investment made in terms of looking after your health, physical and mental, has an almost immediate payoff. So whether it is heading for that grinding-mill to buy fresh ground cereals, or changing to unpolished rice, throwing out all those sweetened coloured waters and replacing them with natural options, moving to a higher floor for cleaner air, seeking out non-toxic fresh vegetables and non-vegetarian products, discovering the traditional bakery in your part of town which still uses good old pure ingredients—that’s
about the best you can look for in terms of investment.
If you have any other ideas, we at Moneylife would love to hear about
them, and meanwhile, wish you a Happy Diwali and happy appreciation of
your assets. It’s the season, sure, but it’s about welcoming the Goddess of Wealth—not frittering her treasures away.
The ghazal maestro passed away today. It was Jagjit’s single-handed contribution that made the ghazal genre a part of every Indian’s life—and this was at a time when music from the Indian Hindi film industry was melodious, meaningful and with lyrics that we still remember
At 8AM today, one of India’s greatest music icons passed away. Jagjit Singh, with wife Chitra, managed to pull at our heartstrings with hit after hit from the late 70’s to the early 80’s. The ghazal maestro’s accomplishments were made all the more difficult because his was a genre that had to hold its own against some accomplished Bollywood music-composers.
When Jagjit sang “Apni hatoon ki lakiroon me basa de mujhko; kar diya tune agar mere havaale mujhko” (Let me lose myself in the lines of your palm; can you release me to who I am?), the song captivated you—his mellifluous voice could make you forget yourself and think about the times gone by. Almost all his songs were set to tune by Jagjit himself—and he stayed away from the harsh arc-lights of what is now called ‘Bollywood’ film music.
Still, songs like “Tumko dekha to yeh khyaal aaya (When I saw you, that feeling touched me) and “Yeh Tera Ghar Yeh Mera Ghar” (This home is made just for the both of us) which he composed for an eminently forgettable movie (Saath Saath) in 1982—are something special for a generation that was bought up on a diet of music which was not re-mixed, with songs straight from the soul and which sounded rich—even if they were played on an old LP (or worse, a poor cassette tape player).
The death of his young son Vivek Singh in a road crash at Mumbai’s Marine Drive had the Singh couple shattered—hints of which could be discerned in the songs that they came out with after that. But Jagjit and Chitra did not lose to will to live or to sing.
A show like his just cannot go on. The only tribute that we can pay Jagjit Singh today is to listen to at least two of his best albums—‘A Milestone’ and ‘The Unforgettables’. Ghazals don’t get better than this. And none of the tripe being churned out by Bollywood’s Current Perpetual Hit Factory Machine can even come close to the music that Jagjit Singh had produced. Today brings you back to two other fateful days when a number of us came to know about the demise of Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar (over the radio). 10 October 2011 will be another day that we will never forget.
Here’s Jagjit singing: “Yeh daulat bhi le lo (I have no need for money’s filthy lucre): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3Wq4q7Yygg
Here he wants to go back to the days when he listened to his grandmother’s folk-songs about fairies, when he played with boats fashioned out of paper... and where he wants to go back to the days of yore (a recurring theme in so many souls who find that this cruel world does not have any answers for them) and get drenched in the monsoon of his childhood.
Rest in peace, Jagjit Singh. You don’t need a swan song to bow out.
History will be recorded as a world before Steve Jobs and a universe after his demise. America may forget JFK, Elvis, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, John Lennon and Warren Buffett. But the Apple icon will always stand as a figure whose charisma blew away audiences, who was a tech oracle beyond compare—and a person who stared at death at its face, and won the ultimate battle
“When the music’s over, turn off the lights.” That’s Jim Morrison from a different era. That’s the era that Steve Jobs came from. His was a one-act play that will never stop.
The accolades and epitaphs are of course pouring in now from across the world. But almost none of then can do justice to the man who always did it his way—and understood what the customer wants. He overshadowed one of America’s titans, Henry Ford, when he dismissed the market research that the suits had done for the iPad. Henry Ford (in what may be an apocryphal quote) had once said that he did not care what colour a Model T was as long as it was black. But Steve threw the market research for the iPad into the trashcan after commenting on what would go on to become one of Apple’s blockbusters: “It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want.” If this was hubris, many of today’s tech (and marketing) gurus could surely do with a lot of it.
Do we have to name the products that rolled out of Steve’s imagination? The gallery includes the iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPad and operating systems that hit Microsoft (and may lesser players) like a ton of bricks.
Like a few humans who knew that their mortal existence would soon come to an end, Steve Jobs knew that it was coming. “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.” This was his farewell to the company. And maybe only he knew that it was his final goodbye to the world.
“And now, the end is here;
And so I face the final curtain.
“My friends, I’ll say it clear;
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.
“I’ve lived a life that’s full,
I travelled each and every highway.
“And more, much more than this, I did it my way.”
It’s this Frank Sinatra song (My Way) that will be playing in a few million iPods across the world now. And all of us will read Jay Elliot (The Steve Jobs Way) with a sinking heart—and think about what he achieved, and what more he could have done.