Intolerance and the Art of Losing Friends on Social Media

1 Dec

Once you had some awesome friends! First, they came from your neighborhood – fondly known as your chaddi buddies. Then you got introduced to more friends during your happy times such as family events, religious festivals or community celebrations. As you grew and joined school or college, you made many more wonderful friends and by the sheer length of our educational system you really got to spend a lot more time with your friends than your parents and siblings themselves. When you got a job, you probably made a few friends at your workplace as well and still more in the new community where you lived with your own nuclear family. Needless to say, most of your friends were from multiple religions and regions with varying social backgrounds and political views; some even spoke a different language than yours!

As you grow older, the maturity level of friendships at different stages of life was expected to improve and the acceptance of the above-mentioned diversity was instrumental in maintaining those friendships. And it did work that way too as most of your discussions were face to face and healthy despite political, religious, and cultural differences. Whenever you thought your discussions went astray or not in the right spirit, you could feel the same and you (or others in the circle) intervened immediately and took corrective measures. And most importantly, you still used all your senses in maintaining relationships!

Then the (Online) Social Networks came into existence which gave you a wonderful opportunity to (re)connect with all your friends from the past and present. Due to the ‘open nature’ of these networks, you discovered new friends, acquaintances and even strangers who eventually became your friends! The technology suddenly became so good and handy. You could not only share photos, audio and video from your own personal life but from other individuals, media or publishing houses too! The concept of ‘viral’ came into play and the new generation media tapped into every opportunity to dig out sensational topics, manufacture news, create #hashtags, and send the same to you so that you can share it with your ‘audience’ (not necessarily friends) as well. You became ‘carriers’ and ‘propagators’ of such thoughts and opinions that weren’t originally yours. Campaign houses, News curators and Content creators rejoiced at your cost. The more sensational the story was, the faster it spread! And you really enjoyed playing your part in spreading it – sometimes even unverified and far-from-truth content too, because you were already bought into a plan!

But you didn’t notice one thing! Your relationship with your friends was somehow getting affected on the Social Media (and hence outside that domain as well) without you having a clue about it.

And how exactly did it happen?

  • On the Social Networks, the difference between your family, friends, acquaintances and the general public was fast disappearing and for you everyone was the same – i.e. your audience!
  • Due to the above reason, you thought your audience would relate to your favorite topics as well – be it related to your Religion, Caste, Political Party, Modi, Rahul, Kejriwal, Beef, AwardWapsi, Khan or Kher
  • You were not really reading your audience with all your senses open (lost opportunity with technology?) and hence your views were mostly one-sided or skewed. You just clicked, touched, liked, shared, and LOLed for everything (and used your brain lesser) with the technology created separation between you and your audience
  • Due to the above mentioned separation, you could strongly tell things that you wouldn’t otherwise tell to someone in your face-to-face discussions or chitchats! You were not inhibited when it came to openly venting your extreme views on sensitive topics such as Religion, Politics, Racism etc
  • Once you were opinionated, you would argue endlessly, would use strong words and would try every bit to convince yourself and your audience that your point of view was always right! You thought you were the most logical person in the world. The Social Media proved to be a great platform for even the shyest person in real life to be highly logical and open! Of course, you were logical – in a set that contained just you. i.e. { you } :)
  • Eventually, your Online Social Circle became a bunch of those of who ‘liked’ and ‘agreed’ with you and the ones who didn’t. The harmless Social Media ‘Like’ suddenly started getting another meaning. Since you ‘liked’ those who agreed with your views, you even started ‘Hating’ those who didn’t buy your views! In short, ‘I don’t agree with you’ became ‘I hate you’!
  • Some of your real life friends who couldn’t agree with you kept quiet, some just ‘emoted’ it, some commented with mild displeasure and some reacted vehemently; And some of them actually started disliking you!
  • Many open facebook groups became war grounds of different viewpoints and private WhatsApp groups of school/college friends became bullying camps!

And the end result – You sulked at work and home, your blood pressure levels raised, your health was at risk and most importantly, you lost some good friends! The funny thing is that, you didn’t even realize your Gods, Religion, Political Party, Modi, Rahul or Khan wouldn’t fetch you real friends or mend broken relationships!

Ever thought what did you actually fight for and what would you lose at the end?

Some Tips for Maintaining the Social Media Decorum

Listed below are not exactly the ultimate Social Media guidelines but some tips that may help you in maintaining your relationships on Social networks.

– Make sure that your posts are relevant and addressed to the right audience – i.e.Your friends, acquaintances, public etc.

– Before submitting each post or comment, double-check your language – not only for grammatical errors but more to see if you are using strong or abusive words.

Avoid forwarding unverified content and twisted facts. These days, the media and the social media campaign houses/publishers of political parties and religions are so damn good at twisting facts and projecting incomplete views.

– If possible, forward the original news than the fabricated versions of the same

Avoid forwarding spreading hate content in public forums (highly debatable topic) even if it may be deemed acceptable to most of your audience. If it hurts even one among hundred, it’s still objectionable!

– Topics such as Politics, Religion etc are best avoided on your School-College-Family groups on Facebook or WhatsApp, unless you have created the group to discuss only those topics

Keep the diversity of your audience in mind even within a single focused target group.

– Before making each comment, make sure that you are being relevant to the original topic.

Avoid following up or replying to your own replies on Indian online news sites. In order to increase traffic to their sites, they will intentionally create controversial topics and sometimes lies. Further, there are so many paid commenters of various religious/political groups working on such sites.

– Use private messaging to deal with those who abuse. You don’t need to go down to their level to win an argument or a point! If he’s your real life friend, you may want to forgive him for a few times, others deserve to be blocked or banned.

Do not stretch each argument beyond two replies. If you can’t convince or win over someone in two or three comments, you can’t win in even 20! In such cases one of them might be wrong too and it could be you! Even if that’s not the case, it’s better to give up as there’s no point in winning on ego grounds.

– There’s no need to click obligatory ‘Likes’ and try to avoid unnecessary threaded comment series such as “Good one -> Thank you -> You’re welcome -> :)” that don’t add any value to anybody.

Avoid following those who spread negativity or hatred even if they are your friends.

– You can still have ‘Social friends’ without following them.

Be ready to ‘unfriend’ acquaintances if the friendship don’t make sense any longer.

Intolerance and the Social Media

So, everyone in India is talking about tolerance and intolerance now. In my opinion, many of the intolerance issues existed in India much before 60 years of Congress rule or 18 months of Modi government. It goes very well back into our history – before independence or for that matter even before the British invaded us, we had our issues. Our ancient ‘Varna’ system, several religions, 1000s of castes and 100s of languages and their numerous dialects were always the perfect recipe for intolerance. It’s just that many of the unfortunate incidents in the past didn’t get any visibility or viral coverage in the old generation media. Now, it’s the exact opposite situation wherein each and every incident – small or big – is spread, participated and reacted by millions of people in no time in the context of the new generation media. Unfortunately, you are being party to the whole commotion, sometimes, without even realizing it. So, who’s to blame here?

If you still don’t understand intolerance, it’s staring at your screen right now! :D

Modi may or may not become the best PM of India! Rahul may or may not quit politics! Khans may produce hits and flops! But lost friendships may not come back to you. Think about it…

Bollywood Movie: The Black Paint (Script)

13 Oct

The Black Paint: Broad Script

Scene 1:
The movie starts with BJP – SS romance in Delhi much like the INC – NCP complicated relationship in the other flop movie.

Scene 2:
The love spreads back to SS’ home in Maharashtra with some beautiful love songs played as filler and their live-in relationship starts. In one of the songs the festival ‘Holi‘ (a must!) is depicted with saffron color powder falling on them as they hug each other. In another scene, they are both seen sending an SS arrow from the SS bow and the arrow suddenly becoming flowers and showering on them as heavenly blessings!

Scene 3:
About an year passes like that. SS slowly starts dissenting as there is no equal opportunity in their relationship! Further, SS starts questioning the “MCP” (not to be confused with NCP) attitude of her dominant partner!
black-paint-on-face

Scene 4:
This scene shows a number of problems in their relationship. Domestic violence fillers, clips from happy and sad times, with occasional flashbacks on post-2014-election scenes in Delhi, sad figure of SS’ cousin (a lone cabinet minister in Delhi), concert cancellation in Mumbai which they intended to go together to fight in the public, festival season meat ban etc are featured here

Screen 5:
SS’ dissent becomes worse as their life moves forward. SS had to resign from her job and remain a housewife without having any say in running the family. On top of having no chance to showcase her patriotism from time to time, her Mother-In-Law RSS had more influence on her partner than she ever had. Patriotism was the main described quality as per her original online matrimonial ad and the primary reason why her MIL initially liked her!

Scene 6:
In the meantime, BJP’s attention now moves to Bihar where he’s fighting a major war! Lots of action scenes are shot here with many Shakti Kapoors ‘casted’ there in!

Scene 7:
SS, once known for her Anti-Bihari stand, suddenly decides to fight the war on her own! (This is a major twist in their relationship as SS starts showing her true intent!)

Scene 8:
SS applies all her irritability skills on BJP despite the latter’s request not to contest against him.

Scene 9:
In the meantime, SK, who had multiple live-in relationships in the past with CPM and BJP (with the blessings of BJP’s Granddad) comes into the scene! This part of the Bollywood script is where an apparently harmless scapegoat (A must in most scripts!) is introduced to the audience! Further, his experience in the other Super-hit movie by name Cash-For-Vote adds value to his scapegoat role!

Scene 10:
SK – in an attempt to get back with old love BJP – decides to irritate SS by introducing a Pakistani in the plot! SK knows very well that SS gets Hysteric and Violent when the word “Pakistan” is heard and will immediately start demonstrating her “Patriotism” in a violent fashion!

Scene 11:
On the plan execution day, SK decides to wear clothes resembling BJP’s favorite colours, but decides to keep an Indian flag too hidden in his clothes, thereby creating opportunity to get sympathy from many angles, with one simple plan. This intent would help him to tactfully take SS – his main rival – out of the picture, while impressing BJP! He knew that the Indian flag will also give him opportunities for future live-in relationships or more suitable roles in forthcoming Bollywood releases!

Scene 12:
In the meantime, SS – in an attempt to impress her followers (and to remain herself significant in the homeland) – prepares some Black PaintRGB(0, 0, 0) as Aam Admi in Bangalore calls it – to throw on SK’s face! The fact that SK is still having a soft corner with BJP irritates SS further! (This scene has to effectively shown various emotions of SS by mixing Love-Hate scenes from the past)

Scene 13:
The D-day arrives! SS and her people prepare!! BJP watches the proceedings closely!!! SK comes out of his house in slow motion and gets into the car to go the Pakistani who’s now in Mumbai!!!! (At this point, the scenes of SS’ vehicles and SK car coming from opposite sides need to be shown alternatively in slow motion – not as slow as the arrows in TV Ramayana coming from opposite sides, though!).

SS people intervene SK, SK pleads innocence but chuckles inside and prepares for the inevitable! And in this fateful 13th scene, SS throws the Black Paint on SK’s face! (accompanied by flashlights, sparkles and sound effects similar to the ones shown when Chota Bheem whirls his Gada!)

(This scene actually shows black paint splashing on a white screen rather than the clothes, the white part zooms out and it’s actually the Indian flag now and the black stain is dripping down on the national flag. A symbolic scene shot showing the current state of affairs! Vande Mataram’s instrumental music is played the background!!)

Scene 14:
This scene is all about reactions from multiple angles with many intellectuals joining the party.

BJP’s Granddad condemns the incident first as SK was one of the brains behind his Granddad-for-PM campaign that he lost in 2009!

– SK decides not to take bath for a couple of days, goes around with the black face and says SS actually tarnished the constitution and unveils the hidden Indian flag!

Digvijay Singh and Singhvi wakes up at the chance to open their mouths, call it foul before going back to sleep for the next few months!

Arnab Dogswamy swallows five nos of Ginger flavoured Vicks goliyaan, alleviates his throat and prepares for the ultimate two-hour-long Guinness record breaking bark in his TV show (This particular episode would feature a special type of fire appearing on the TV screen as Mr.Dogswamy keeps adding some fuel to the fire every other minute)

– SS, the self-proclaimed winner of the whole mess, calls SK Kasab and puts all the blame on BJP and Pakistan!

– BJP leader says both SS and SK should fight poverty than throwing black paint at each other!

Local BJP avatar says this game brought disrepute to the state, much worse than SS’s earlier tantrums like damaging Wankhade pitches or outburst against Cycle Jackson (which subsided after Jackson adequately compensated SS monetarily)

Rahul Gandhi says farmers’ rights should be protected!!!

Scene 15:

“After 4 Years…” is written on the screen.

It’s yet another election season in Maharashtra in 2019. SS is seen campaigning alone! SS unveils several patriotic numbers but nothing seems to be working. Suddenly, SS thinks of something strategic! A live time bomb (actually, the time piece part of the old style movie bomb!) is shown on the screen fully zoomed in (accompanied by an eerie music). SS looks at the opportunity with excitement-filled wide eyes. The time piece glows slowly zooms out and surprise!!! It’s the time piece in the NCP flag!

The film ends with SS and NCP hugging each other and campaigning together happily as the common man looks at them in utter disbelief!

— THE END —

Note: This imaginary script is intended for humour only! It may have resemblance to some of the recent events but rest is pure imagination

Going Antisocial with an Unsmart Phone

9 Sep

(Note: This is the edited version of my recent facebook rant)

It’s more than a month since I went antisocial with my phone! Yes, I decided to break free from the social pressures caused by the phone and this decision was primarily triggered by the misuse of an old smartphone recently provided to my now-teen-son who obviously tried to emulate his parents in terms of the best practices of using a smartphone!

In a sudden attempt to set the right example to him (and prove to the immediate world around as well) I, the self proclaimed role model of my son, uninstalled WhatsApp and Twitter apps in quick succession and then removed Facebook & Google Plus accounts from the phone. This was followed by disabling notifications from all apps except email and text messaging which are like bare necessities for the time being. The phone is now used for basic telephony, text messaging and voluntary reading of news via some apps alone! Of course, there is occasional use of maps, camera, portfolio apps, fitness assistants and web browser – all at will – and hence the phone is not entirely Unsmart yet.

After the initial phase of violent withdrawal symptoms, I must say that the life is coming back to normalcy and very peaceful right now with no urge to stare at the phone all the time or keep swiping on the screen without any particular intent. However, there is both good and bad attached to drastic decisions such as quitting social apps, under-utilizing the phone and turning the clock back by a few years.

The following are some of the positives that I already see by getting rid of social apps and unwanted alerts on my phone.

(+) Suddenly, I am no more hiding from the co-passengers in the lift with the help of the big smartie and even better – I am able to establish eye contacts with them and even smile at them. Wow! I am still social in real life too.

(+) No more weird movement of my index finger along the imaginary unlock pattern of the phone which used to happen earlier even when the phone was not in hand. This symptom was more like those cricket addicted kids doing an imaginary Rahul Dravid style front foot defense with the full-face blade, at an imaginary ball delivered at them. If the phone was in hand, the indication was primarily a sequence of unlocking the phone, swiping the home screens / launching any app, and then locking the phone.

i.e.

while (awake) {
/* for no particular reason */
   thePhone.unlock();
   thePhone.swipe();
   thePhone.lock();
}

(+) Better interaction with the family while at home or away in an eatery, event or outing. The focus changes back to enjoying the moment than capturing and sharing the moment immediately to get likes from the ones who matter less.

(+) There is no more grinning at the phone or romancing with it which used to happen earlier in public places or even while driving. Now, you are more alert without a smart phone!

(+) Not much contribution to those crowd-sourced apps that make money by fooling you into them – Not as many posts, reviews or comments while on the move and such actions, if at all necessary, happens only on the desktop or laptop.

(+) Your Internet bandwidth usage is reduced drastically with some meaningless media/videos (rated ones too) getting out of the way.

(+) Better judgement and ability to distinguish between necessity and nice-to-have things in life. Now, usage of the social media is back in the desktop world alone and hence there’s a fixed time for doing that. Further, no insomnia caused by the connected phone!

(+) Suddenly, the three year old phone seems to perform like a server! Wow, now I don’t need to support China’s economy every three years (every few months for many?) or live with their plastic dumping terrorism.

(+) No more selfies. I was never a selfie fan but I must confess that I might have taken about half a dozen in my whole life. With no immediate sharing possibility, there is no urge to capture even those rare selfies. This may also result in huge savings in the future as there’s no need to procure those Sergei  Bubka like selfie accessories.

Having said all those, I realize that there are some drawbacks as well when you suddenly decide to go against the social flow…

(-) Firstly, you are a friend or relative to someone only as long as you are connected to them socially on these apps. To be frank, I didn’t receive any wish from anybody during this Onam – via call, text message or in person – because I am no more connected and the Onam was celebrated primarily on WhatsApp. Of course, there were many Facebook wishes similar to radio broadcasts which I reciprocated with my ‘likes’. Being antisocial by choice, I coped with it in no time.

(-) You may miss some focused groups that stood for a specific, meaningful purpose. As a matter of fact, two or three WhatsApp groups out of a dozen that I had, before calling it quits, were really useful.

(-) Your decision to reduce mobile usage is effective only if your dear ones and your connected circle take similar actions. It’s sad to see a driver, typically a husband, toiling through the Bangalore traffic while the insensitive ones – typically a wife, teenage kids or colleagues in a pool – in the car contributing heavily to WhatsApp and Facebook traffic through out the journey.

(-) You are perceived uncool and outdated! Your teenager kid might even try to educate you on topics like ‘what is a mobile app?’ or ‘what is meant by software?’. And at times, it is virtually impossible to convince an adventurous youngster friend that some of us – the Software Industry veterans – had actually worked on the first generation mobile applications at a time when many of them were still in their diapers…

and finally…

(-) You don’t get to play an Arnab Goswamy by breaking a news on your favorite WhatsApp group! Now, that’s a tragedy as you lose the chance to play a hero fighting against all injustice in this world. Well, perhaps one can compensate that with some more detailed analysis on desktop social media…

– Yours Truly ‘Antisocial’

(PS: My sincere apologies to those who weren’t informed about quitting my past cool life)

20 Midcap Stocks For Accelerated Wealth Creation

15 Aug

midcap stock picks indiaIt is statistically proven that long term investments in equities (stocks) can outperform any other conventional form of investments or asset classes such as real estate, gold or bank/post office deposits. However, a lot of people hesitate to invest in the stock markets due to a number of reasons including risk of losing the capital, volatility in the stock market, confusion between speculative trading vs investment, and the uncertainty around the companies that they invest in or sheer lack of knowledge to pick the right stocks.

Investing in Mutual funds (Read Systematic Investment Plan or SIP) is probably the easiest and safest route to enter the stock market rather than going for direct stock investment. However, the return on investment can be much higher if you go for direct equities as long as you pick the right stocks and companies to invest in.

An ideal stock portfolio (Read my stock portfolio that I often update) should have a mix of large cap and midcap stocks across several sectors/industries to minimize your risks. However, if you are looking at a faster growth rate you can even think of a Portfolio that’s heavier on the Midcap side if not an All-Midcap Portfolio. Given below, is a list of 20 handpicked midcap stocks in India that I believe should offer significant wealth creation (at least four to five times, if not more) for investors in the next ten years.

My List of 20 Midcap Stocks

Most of the Midcap stocks in this list are those with the proven record of high return on investment (Based on the ROE, ROCE parameters, sales/profits growth numbers etc) over a period of time. I have also included a couple rather new players which I think will excel in their respective businesses and hence offer higher returns to investors. Further, these companies are run by excellent management and promoters too and hence the business health and longevity is not under threat.

Here’s my winner list:

1. Amara Raja Batteries
2. Apollo Hospitals Enterprises
3. Atul Auto Ltd
4. Aurobindo Pharma
5. Avanti Feeds
6. Bharat Forge Ltd
7. Britannia Industries
8. Cera Sanitaryware
9. Colgate Palmolive Ltd
10. Dewan Housing Finance Ltd
11. eClerx Services
12. IndusInd Bank
13. Kaveri Seed Company
14. Kitex Garments (Previously suggested)
15. Mayur Uniquoters
16. Motherson Sumi Ltd
17. Pidilite Industries
18. Torrent Pharmaceuticals
19. UPL Ltd
20. Zensar Technologies Ltd

(Some notable omissions include Page Industries, Eicher Motors etc which have run up quite a bit)

Investment Methodology

Since the markets have run up a lot, putting all your money as lump sum investment can be very risky at the moment. Hence the following is the methodology that I suggest.

  • Make a shortlist of 12-15 of the above midcaps for your investment. Give more weightage to sectors like Pharma, Banking and Auto ancillaries
  • Systematically buy these stocks either by putting a fixed amount per month into buying the shortlisted stocks or by adding these stocks at every market correction
  • Track your investment on a periodic basis for any change in fundamentals of the selected companies. You don’t need to track them on a daily basis as long as your choices are good and have a long term plan with them
  • Periodically (once a year may be) validate and check the sector-wise weightage of your holdings and readjust if required
  • Watch them grow! And do not let the market fluctuations affect your investment decision UNLESS the fundamentals of your invested companies change.

Disclaimer: I am not a qualified finance adviser or portfolio manager. Please consult the experts before taking any investment decision in the equity market. You may have to do further research on these stocks on financial portals, websites of these companies as well as mandatory filings by them before taking any positions. As a disclosure, I have investments in many of the stocks mentioned above at the time of writing of this post.

Related Posts

10 Multibagger Midcap Stocks in India
10 Small Cap Stocks with Growth Potential

Good luck with your investments!

How Restaurant Bill is Calculated in India? VAT, Service Tax, Service Charge Calculation Explained

14 Jun

How many times hasn’t your bloated restaurant bill left you clueless as to how components like VAT (Value Added Tax), ST (Service Tax), SC (Service Charge) etc are being calculated?

Worry no more…

Without complicating the matter much, let me explain how a typical restaurant bill break up is arrived at as per the prevailing taxing norms as of June 1, 2015.

VAT, ST and SC

The following are the rules for calculating VAT, ST and SC.

VAT is typically charged at 14.5% on all food items and non-alcoholic beverages (includes, packaged water, juices, mocktail etc).

VAT for alcoholic beverages and cocktails is 5.5%.

SC is charged at restaurant owner’s will. This can vary from 0% to 15%. This is like an in-built tip and if Service charge is levied, it has to be clearly mentioned in the menu.

ST is calculated at 5.6%. Service Tax is actually 14% and it is applicable on 40% of the total bill (Including food total + Service charge).

ST* = 5.6%, i.e. 14% of 40

Notes:
(i). As per the government rule, the Service Tax is applicable only to those restaurants and food joints having the air-conditioning or central air-heating facility
(ii). VAT should not be levied on the Service Charge part. There are some restaurants who do such wrong calculation practices (See comments section)
(iii). ST* has been hiked to 5.8% after this article was written

A Sample Restaurant Bill Calculation

Attached here is a sample restaurant bill that I recently (after June 1st, 2015) got from our family dine out.

indian restaurant bill with VAT, ST and SC
(Click on the image to Enlarge)

The table below explains how the above bill amount is calculated.

Please note that some restaurants may provide separate bills for alcoholic beverages and the food. In such cases the applicable VAT is different for both the bills.

Particulars Amount
A. Alcoholic Beverages
(330+680)
1010.00
B. Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages
(170+160+260+320+300+360)
1570.00
C. Service Charge @ 10% for this place
(10% of A+B)
258.00
D. VAT for Alcoholic Beverages @ 5.5%
(5.5% of A)
55.55
E. VAT for Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages @ 14.5%
(14.5% of B)
227.65
F. Service Tax @ 5.6%, rounded
(5.6% of A+B+C or 1010+1570+258)
158.93
Total Net
(A+B+C+D+E+F)
3280.13


Hope that explains how the final rounded bill amount of Rs.3280/- is arrived at. Next time, please pay attention to your bill details because many restaurants may not have changed their billing system yet.

Happy Dining!