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Potpourri

Moneywise

Investors seek excitement in investing
By Shweta Jain

“Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon.” – Peter Lynch

While investing is supposed to be boring—at least successful investing is—we often look at investments for giving us excitement. “Give me something new,” “But this is boring,” are usual phrases that come to mind when we talk about clients wanting some excitement from investments or something to talk about at social dos.
Most of the products that are complex or sophisticated usually have some sort of leverage or something that we don’t understand, which means we don’t understand the actual risks it comes with. And that is scary, really scary! We’re drawn to mystery—whether it’s in books or movies. Now that has been applied to financial products as well. Even the creators of these products do not understand these products as is seen by emails by employees of investment banks who created these products.
Complex products, usually exotic products which employ leverage in developed countries need accredited investors which basically means that people investing in them need a certain net worth.
Leveraged products involve taking on a higher exposure to a product with a lower capital investment while attempting to magnify profits. So if you have INR 10,000, you can take an exposure worth INR 1,00,000. Which means if the index moves up by 10 percent, you would be actually making INR 10, 000 additional on a INR 10,000 investment. Doubled your money?
Inventive or innovative products can help fill gaps in the market leading to more mature markets. People always assume lending to the government to be a safe investment but all that changed with the default by Argentina and near default scenario by Greece and other European countries. Credit default swaps which are like an insurance you pay for protection against default gained popularity during this period.
In India, you have Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs) that have a higher entry limit thereby restricting the product to people who can invest higher amounts. The risks depend on the type of strategy of the fund.
Hedge Funds—market neutral strategies or long short strategies; trying to create returns that are not correlated to or have a low correlation to the equity markets. These structured products often do not have a daily liquidity and are priced based on financial equations that are based on a lot of assumptions; illiquidity and this complexity mean that it is not a straightforward return based purely on market factors.
Financial innovation has come to be associated with destruction, market crashes, and volatility but the primary purpose has been to design products that are solutions to problems and protect the risk.
Move towards innovation in mutual funds—balanced funds. This is an innovation that we like. In a balanced fund, there are both asset classes: debt and equity. The amount of exposure to the asset class is given as a range and the fund manager takes exposure based on his outlook on the market. The tax treatment and the ability to keep a balance of both debt and equity makes this innovation an attractive one.
There are no free lunches in the market—if you’re trying to make returns in the market, it comes with risk. The solution is to understand the risks and returns associated with the product.

Shweta Jain, the Chief Operating Officer at International Money Matters, is a Certified Financial Planner and has been in the wealth management industry for over 13 years. She provides day-to-day leadership to the business and executes specific strategic initiatives. She co-leads the company to hire and retain talent. She is also passionate about educating individuals about handling money and conducts regular workshops with her team.

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Health

Off with his head!

The idea of a full body transplant, though yet an unachieved feat, was mooted from mythological times with Lord Ganesha. From there on, our imaginations have been tickled enough with sci-fi movies. If various news reports are to be believed, then soon a new chapter on head transplant will be added into the aisles of medical literature.

While we are warming up to the reality of organ transplants as a proven possibility, licenses are being granted to hospitals towards transplanting entire limbs. And just then, there are noises that a complete head transplant is soon to be carried out on a person suffering from a severely damaged body. Similar attempts have previously been made on animals with little success. Yet radical optimists hope that the human effort is a triumph too. These are the times when innovative healthcare is the need of the hour.


What is a head transplant?

This is a surgical procedure in which the head of one entity is transplanted into the body of another. Called the Head Anastomosis Venture, this procedure is being pushed as the new age medical innovation that may bring relief for incurably ill people with a healthy brain and damaged body.

As per theory, this will help a person with advanced organ failure get a new frame without altering their memories, personality, and consciousness.


Is it possible to have a head transplant?

Most of our medical innovation is tried and tested on animals before getting sanctioned for humans. Previously, there are records of partial brain transplant in mice. A full head transplant has also since subsequently been carried out in mice and monkeys and sparingly in dogs.

Until recently, a head transplant was only a concept, but given the fusion of technology and medical fields, this innovative feat is assumed to be possible. Optimists believe that post-operation, the patient when brought out of coma would immediately be able to resume basic bodily functions and even speak without any major alterations in the voice.

What is the cost of a full body (brain) transplant?

According to estimates, such a kind of procedure is a big deal. Apparently, a team of 100 surgeons is prepping up to perform the world’s first human brain transplant. Experts opine that the operation may take over 36 hours and cost about 12.6 million USD.


Risks, reservations, and hopes

There are, however, numerous apprehensions about this procedure in the medical fraternity. For starters, this surgery sounds improbable, as the given present technical conditions do not support mandatory repairs on damaged spinal nerves, neurons, blood vessels and muscles.

Secondly, even after such a complicated procedure the recipient does get off the ventilator and make it past 4-5 months; experts deem that nothing less than a miracle. The head completely accepting the body and restoring functions is another hurdle altogether.

Another major obstacle is getting a donor body that matches with the potential patient’s head. With organ donations, medical trials are carried out to see the feasibility with recipients. However, in a head transplant there is no room for trials; if incompatible then both head and body get wasted, and another major medical benchmark comes to a grinding halt for at least few more years. Also, so far, the experiments have been carried out on mice, which are far simpler in functionalities than humans. Monkeys are physiologically the closest, but not as easily available for trials. Many consider proceeding to the human stage a risky move.

Conversely, optimists are also of the opinion that the reservations are natural as this is a first ever attempt and there are no previous comparative scales to evaluate against.

While there is no doubt that head transplants are complicated, in fact, more complicated than brain transplants, it holds hope for many people with terminal illnesses and degenerative muscular conditions. But it will take the brave-hearted to agree to this procedure. In addition to dealing with issues like personal identity, the recipient might land up with a cure that’s worse than the disease.

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Travel

Paradise Regained
Sucheta Kabra

Meet Pooja Kabra, an independent fitness expert, stay-at-home-mother who got me hooked on to her recent sojourn to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The saga below thus unfolded…

Tell us about your visit to the Andaman Islands.

Did you know that Andaman and Nicobar Islands are actually a cluster of about 572 islands? And that only 34 are inhabited? And fewer still are accessible? The holiday was rejuvenating. There’s the famous Havelock Island, its lesser—known sister Neil Island. And Tamarind Camp. Inglis Island too! With Central Jail famous for "sazaa-e-kalapani," to Chatham Island and quite a bit more—it was a crazy week!

Let us begin with Havelock…

We arrived at Havelock Islands from Port Blair in MV Makruzz—a speed catamaran service. Imagine getting into a sprawling place with an immaculate shoreline barely 200m away! Rest and relaxation be damned—we were on the beach in our swimsuits in no time at all. White sands, blue water, clear skies and tropical forest lining the shore. Along with my husband and daughter, we spent over four hours here merely soaking in the pristine beauty of Radhanagar Beach! No wonder, that place has made it to the list of best beaches of Asia. Due to warnings of unusual high tides, we were forced to beat an unwilling retreat back to our room.

…aur kya kiya?

Other than working your tan and eating great seafood, the only other popular activity there is exploring underwater life. The next morning, we flew to a place called Tamarind Camp in a private seaplane—I felt like a queen! This place is not accessible to all and one needs special permission to get here, I was later told.

The sands are soft, satiny white and are studded with beautiful and rare glistening shells. Also, this ethereal place is home to hermit crabs. When you stand on the shores, the sand beneath your feet will practically wiggle!

This was also our first tryst with snorkeling and boy, were we excited or what?! All masked and flippered, the underwater scene transported us into another realm. We spotted greenish-blue parrotfish, clownfish, yellow angelfish and many others that I still fail to identify! Despite our intrusion, they all went about their business as usual.

That sounds breathtaking. Tell me more…

We reluctantly hauled ourselves to another popular snorkeling spot—the Inglis Island. It was interesting to see the water changing colors influenced by the seabed and sunlight. We also spotted many inhabited islands in the waters—just like giant tufts of green cotton floating on the blue sea.

More like an islet than an island, this tract has excellent collection of marine life and has been declared a wildlife sanctuary under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1971. Here we snorkeled more—after the first round at Tamarind Camp, I could brag about being experienced! The instructor finally set us free and adrift for over three hours in the water. The experience was overwhelming—figuratively I forgot to breathe! There are said to be over 135 species of coral reefs in these waters besides other marine life.

Sounds interesting…

The sun here rises at about 4:30 am and by 5:00 pm it is dark. And even before we had time to soak in the reality that we had witnessed that day, the next morning came in extremely early as we headed off to scuba dive at Radhanagar Beach. Post a light breakfast; we had a session into diving instructions and handling of the 10 kg scuba gear. A wave of nervous anxiety swept over, and I had to remind myself that the trip to Andaman Islands was for this very purpose.

The key to a successful scuba dive is underwater breathing and communication. Gradually, we eased into the ocean, including my 10-year old, who got busy getting to know the marine life. And soon, the three of us were at a depth of 42 feet touching the corals and standing on the seabed. It was exhilarating!

What else?

While in Port Blair we visited the Cellular Jail National Memorial and toured the Chatham Saw Mill, on Chatham Island, Port Blair. Set up in 1836 by the British, this is one of Asia’s largest sawmills. It is functional even today.

Food on the islands...

Naturally, the islands are a haven for seafood lovers. And yet, we being a vegetarian bunch had our best meals at the small home eateries.

Spread over a week, the entire trip cost us approximately 1,50,000 INR and totally worth the experience. Now I know why some other travelers we met were on their second and third visits. A holiday in this archipelago is perfect rejuvenation allowing us to return to our fast-paced routine relaxed and saner.

Review

Mentor-Protégée Encounters
Mamta Bharadwaj

Afternoon Girl is a personal memoir of the author and her mentor, the "Dirty Old Man of Indian Journalism” Khushwant Singh. The two were over three decades apart in age but shared a unique friendship, which stood the test of time.

Starting off as "a nuisance he wanted to get off his back," Khushwant Singh soon takes the gynecologist and aspiring writer under his wing. Coming from generations that did not bank on acronyms hastily shared on their mobile phones, the two build a caring and warm relationship over many shared afternoons and numerous letters exchanged. The candor with which the author opens up her heart and life to her mentor in her letters and the restrained but equally affectionate responses received from him over the years (From 1987-2011) make for delightful reading. The meetings between the two are sensitive exchanges with none of the zest and ardor the letters hint at. The ribald jokes with which the author ends each of her letters provide for the quintessential flavor of Khushwant Singh’s much loved and hated column "With Malice.” Since many of the jokes recounted have Punjabi punch lines, readers may be limited or may not understand them fully.

For those of us who enjoyed Khushwant Singh’s personality, this book helps revive his memories. For aspiring writers, this book provides a glimpse of the publishing world and the challenges one can expect to encounter. In a world where relationships are ephemeral, this book brought back nostalgia for an age when they were more languorous. The book also captures the changing seasons of Delhi with some pretty good poetry.

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