8 Indian Summer Drinks & Recipes to Beat the Heat

As the mercury rose in an unprecedented fashion as early as in February this year, I have been busy researching on ways to keep my family in good hydrated condition. Apart from drinking plenty of water, what is of importance in summer, is to have a lot of vegetables/salads, fruits and the right amount of salts/minerals added to fluids. Unfortunately, feeding kids with vegetables and fruits is not exactly a successful mission from my experience and hence I thought of trying various juices, shakes and smoothies this time around.

What is given below is not entirely my inventions but mostly influenced by recipes of Indian summer drinks available on the web. However, since I have been making one different drink per day, I got to experiment a lot with various combinations. The theme is broadly around plenty of citrus juices, seasonal fruits and at times with milk products. My favorite flavors like fresh mint leaves and ginger adding that extra punch.

Before heading on to the recipes, please note that, for the sake of brevity, I am not writing these recipes in professional style. Also, unless specifically mentioned all recipes are to serve two people.

So, here you go.

1. Aloe Vera Lime Juice

Last week, we did a round of pruning of our plants (whatever was left there, that is) in the balcony and got plenty of Aloe Vera rinds. While I was wondering what to do with it, I stumbled upon a recipe on the web which I modified a bit to make this refreshing juice.

aloe vera lime juice - summer drinks images

Ingredients: Aloe Vera gel – 2 tablespoons, Juice of two Limes, Salt – ¼ teaspoon, Sugar – 4 to 5 teaspoons, Water – 1½ cups, Ice cubes – ½ cup

Method of Preparation: Pour Aloe Vera gel, Lime juice, Sugar, Salt and about 50 ml of water into the blender jar and blend well for about 20-30 seconds. Add the remaining water and ice cubes and blend further for about 10 seconds. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Tip: Aloe Vera can be mildly toxic if you do not extract the gel carefully. The yellow part or latex between the skin and the gel contains ‘Aloin’ which shouldn’t be consumed at all. If the gel extract is transparent without any traces of yellow (as shown in the picture below), then it’s very safe to consume it. In either case, do not add more than a tablespoon of aloe vera per glass of juice.

aloe vera gel

2. Double Citrus Juice

double citrous juice - juice drink image

Ingredients: Freshly squeezed orange juice of 2-3 navel oranges, Juice of two limes, Water – 1 cup, Salt – ¼ teaspoon, Sugar – 3 to 4 teaspoons, Ice cubes – 4 to 5

Method of Preparation: Just blend everything together in a shaker or blender and enjoy!

3. Spicy Buttermilk

This is something that we used to make back home in Kerala. I just modified it a bit to suit my current taste (medium spicy and mildly sweetened)

spicy buttermilk - indian spicy buttermilk recipe

Ingredients: Refrigerated curd – 250ml, Water – 150ml, Salt – ½ teaspoon or as per taste, Sugar – ½ teaspoon, Shallots / Sambar onions – 2 to 3, Green Chilli – 1 (small), Ginger – ½ inch, Curry leaves – 7 to 8

Method of Preparation: Blend curd, water, salt and sugar well for about 20 to 30 seconds in a blender / mixer. Coarsely crush pealed shallots, green chilli, ginger and curry leaves in a mortar. Add it to the blender along with the rest and blend for another 3-4 seconds. Refreshing spicy buttermilk is ready!

The color of the buttermilk may vary (light green or mild pink) based on the leading ingredient.

4. Kiwi Smoothie

Kiwi fruits seem to be suddenly cheaper in the Indian markets (due to excess import?). I saw them in the More Supermarket for as low as 14 rupees apiece last week and decided to experiment with the same in multiple ways.

kiwi smoothie recipe

Ingredients: Kiwi fruits – 1 (Pealed and chopped), Chilled milk – 1½ cups, Water – ½ cup, Sugar – 4 to 5 teaspoons, Ice cubes – 5 to 6

Method of Preparation: Blend kiwi fruit pieces, Sugar and water in a mixer or blender for about 30 seconds (or until no small pieces of kiwi fruits are seen). Now, add milk and ice cubes and blend for another 15-20 seconds. Pour into a glass and enjoy the smoothie!

Tip: You can add half a banana, while blending the kiwi, to make it an even richer smoothie with a better flavor. Yes, Kiwi and Banana can go well. In fact, I had made that once but forgot to click a picture

5. Minty Watermelon – Lime Juice

Water melons are indeed the fruit of the season. But did you know that some lime juice and ground mint leaves can turn your humble watermelon juice into an exotic Mocktail?

minty watermelon lime juice recipe

Ingredients: Cut Watermelon pieces with seeds – 5 to 6 cups, Juice of 1 lime, Fresh Mint leaves – 8 to 10, Salt – ¼ teaspoon, Sugar – 3 to 4 teaspoons, Ice cubes – 5 to 6

Method of Preparation: Blend everything together (including the seeds in the watermelon) for about 20 seconds. Pour into a glass and garnish with 2-3 fresh mint leaves and enjoy!

Tip: Try another variant by replacing mint leaves with ¼ green chilli while blending! This has more punch in it.

6. Lime – Ginger Juice

This is one of my all-time favorites and this is what we usually offer to our guests in the summer.

Ginger Lime Juice image

Ingredients: Juice of 2 limes, Extract of 1” ginger piece, Salt – ¼ teaspoon, Sugar – 4 to 6 teaspoons, Ice cubes – 5 to 6, Fresh mint leaves to garnish

Method of Preparation: Blend everything (except mint leaves) together for about 10-15 seconds or until the sugar completely dissolves. Pour into a glass and top with mint leaves. You can try garnishing with crushed mint leaves as well. I usually, chew the leaves after I finish the juice ?

Tip: In order to extract the ginger juice, first crush it in a mortar without any water and squeeze out the juice. Then crush it again with a teaspoon of water to get some more of it squeezed. Filter this extract before adding to the blender.

7. Lazy Lassi

This is our good old Lassi that doesn’t need any introduction.

simple lassi recipe

Ingredients: Curd – 400 ml, Sugar – 5 to 6 teaspoons, Salt – ¼ teaspoon, Edible Rose Water – ½ teaspoon (OR Cardamom powder ¼ teaspoon), Ice cubes – ½ cup

Method of Preparation: Blend everything together for about 20 seconds, pour into tall glasses and enjoy!

Tip: Many Rose water brands (including Dabur) that you see in the market are good for cosmetic purposes alone and hence not edible grade. Hence, double check before buying the same

8. Kiwi – Lime Juice

This is another super-refreshing drink for the summer!

kiwi lime juice

Ingredients: Kiwi fruit – 1 (Pealed and chopped), Juice of 1 lime, Sugar – 4 to 5 teaspoons, Salt – ¼ teaspoon, Water – 1 ½ cups, Ice cubes – ½ cup

Method of Preparation: Blend kiwi fruit pieces, Lime juice, Sugar and Salt along with some 50 ml of for about 30 seconds so that a neat pulp is formed. Add the rest of the water and ice cubes and blend well. Pour into a glass of water and consume immediately (If you are storing in the fridge, mix well before drinking as kiwi juice – just like freshly made pineapple juice – will have the fruit parts floating after a few minutes)

Bonus Tip

Convert it into something exciting: Barring the ones featuring milk products, any of the above drinks can be quickly converted into a summer cocktail by adding 30 to 45 ml of your favorite spirit while blending ?

Make these summer coolers at home and let me know how they turned out to be.

10 Small Cap Stocks that offer Significant Growth Potential

About two years back, I had recommended some decent midcap stocks most of which appreciated big time even before the current bull run started. I have been, since, trying to dig out some value picks in the mid cap segment but unfortunately, most of them ran up big time – much beyond their fair valuations. Let me concentrate on some pure small cap stocks this time with their underlying businesses holding very good growth potential and stock appreciation for the future.

Important: You may note that many of the stocks listed below, while still offering value, have run up a bit as well. The markets are at near all-time-highs and hence some of these stocks can go down sharply at some point. Hence it would be ideal to buy them in the ranges mentioned or take a staggered approach. Further, never put a lot of money into small caps stocks – not more than 10%-15% of your overall equity portfolio

 

Small Cap Stock Picks

(Company Name, Price on 18/01/2015, Buy Price Range)


1. Chaman Lal Setia Exports (80, 50-60)

2. Gujarat Foils (70, 48-55)

3. Goodricke Group (152, CMP and at dips)

4. Goodyear India (624, 450-480)

5. Hinduja Global Solutions (629, CMP and at dips)

6. JVL Agro Industries (20, 15-18)

7. Jyoti Structures (39, CMP)

8. Noida Toll Bridge Company (35, 24-28)

9. Nucleus Software Exports (199, At dips below 160)

10. Stylam Industries (83, At dips below 60)

 

Criteria for Selection

Some of the criteria used to pick the small cap stock mentioned here are:

  • Industry (Excluded Oils, Chemicals, Steel, Textiles etc)
  • Promoters (How trustworthy are they?)
  • Age & Stability of the company
  • Growth Numbers (Top and Bottom line)
  • Dividend Yield (As applicable)
  • Debt on Book (Zero or Manageable debt)

As you know, the biggest challenge for most small cap companies is managing the debt as they usually avail high interest loans. A big chunk of their profit flows out as interest repayment and that’s probably the main parameter that would define the growth potential of many of them.

Disclosure: As of writing of this post, I am invested in JVL Agro Industries. I plan to invest in at least 3-4 of the above listed companies as and when their stock quotes reach the ranges mentioned.

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.

Good luck with your equity investments!

Updates

June 01, 2015:

1. Chaman Lal Setia Exports: Hold

2. Gujarat Foils: Hold

3. Goodricke Group: Avoid/Exit (Growth outlook not exciting, Exit on any rally)

4. Goodyear India: Buy in the initially recommended range only

5. Hinduja Global Solutions: Hold

6. JVL Agro Industries: Hold

7. Jyoti Structures: Avoid/Book loss (No debt restructuring seen, Interest coverage poor)

8. Noida Toll Bridge Company: Buy in the initially recommended range only

9. Nucleus Software Exports: Book Partial Profit

10. Stylam Industries: Buy in the initially recommended range only

August 13, 2015:

1. Chaman Lal Setia Exports: Book Partial Profit (Stock already doubled from the recommended date and tripled from the recommended price!)

2. Gujarat Foils: Hold

3. Goodricke Group: Exited (See previous update) (Growth outlook not exciting, Exit on any rally)

4. Goodyear India: Buy in the initially recommended range only, Hold if you already entered

5. Hinduja Global Solutions: Hold

6. JVL Agro Industries: Hold

7. Jyoti Structures: Exited (See previous update)

8. Noida Toll Bridge Company: Hold

9. Nucleus Software Exports: Booked Partial Profit (See previous update), Hold the rest

10. Stylam Industries: Buy in the initially recommended range only, Hold if you already entered (Stock more than doubled from the recommended date/price)

Note: Due to lack of time, I will not be providing any more update on this particular list. The readers are expected to take further research based action on their holdings.

Idiots in Indian Department Stores

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

On a daily basis we get to see a lot of unethical behaviours in public places in India. Department stores – even the up market ones in our cities – are no exception in this regard either.

The following are some of the common scenes at super market check-out counters in Bangalore and perhaps elsewhere in India as well. On your bad day, you get to see all three of these idiots at once – just like I experienced earlier this week.

IDIOT #1 is being attended by the tardy checker. When he has to pay his bill of around 2000 rupees, he first gives 1000 rupees in currency and pulls out two or three SODEXO pass books in the lowest possible denominations. He then starts tearing a few from each book, counts them, re-checks twice and sees that it’s not sufficient. He checks his wallet again for change, finds nothing and ask his wife – who has already proceeded ahead – for another 200! And you know how long it’s going to take further from that moment. That’s a good 5 minutes per customer, Thank you idiot!

IDIOT #2 is a lady, right behind the first character, who seems to be stocking up supplies good enough for 3 months for all famine hit regions in Uganda. While she’s about to shift her things from the shopping cart to the counter, she gets a call on her smart phone which is lying somewhere in her Santa bag. With great difficulty she finds it, swipes thrice to pick the call and in the process forgets the priority job. When the checker reminds her twice, she relents but with the phone in right hand, starts transferring the shopping cart items one at a time using her left hand. Needless to say, in between the call she pauses the left hand task to pick an argument on the phone. At the end, she almost matches the record set by the first idiot. Wait, is she pulling out the Sodexo passes too? What an irresponsible idiot!

IDIOT #3 is nowhere in the scene so far. But when it’s your turn and when the checker has almost started attending you, this idiot appears from nowhere and utters “Only three items saaar, Can I? “. One can understand if it’s an old person or physically challenged individual but hey, that’s not the case! It’s just another idiot who has not even learned what a ‘Queue’ is forget alone the sign boards there in. And in all probabilities, you must have seen the same idiot skipping the queue at the vegetable weighing/tagging counter as well a short while ago. What a PITA (Pain In The …)!

Thank you Idiots for making my day!

sigh…

Olive Oil in India : What Type and Which Brand?

With numerous olive oil brands available out there in the Indian urban market, one might wonder which brand is good for your specific cooking – salad dressing needs as well as for the use on hair or body. Most importantly, one should know which type shouldn’t be used at all. Well, with this post and my latest 5 minutes video, let me explain what could work for you when it comes to olive oil in India.

(If you are too lazy to read, please watch the short video below)

If the video doesn’t appear on this page, please click this direct link

Types of Olive Oil

Olive oil is primarily available in the following broad categories:

  • Extra Virgin Olive oil
  • Virgin Olive oil
  • Pure Olive Oil / Refined Olive Oil
  • Blended Olive oil or Olive oil (i.e. the blend of Virgin and Refined)
  • Pomace (Avoid!!!)

The above is an incomplete list with different manufacturing processes changing the final outcome of the oil.

However, our primary interests are around THREE types of olive oils viz Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Pure Olive Oil and Pomace.

Without much delay we will shortlist it further by dropping Pomace from our list. Pomace is the type of oil that you SHOULD NOT BUY because it is one of the lowest grade oil that is treated with solvents and undergoes several stages of changes. AVOID POMACE although they are available at cheaper price tags. Many consider pomace oil worse than even your standard refined oils such as Soy or Sunflower oil.

(Premium) Extra Virgin Olive oil

Cold pressed Extra Virgin Olive oil is what one needs for raw (direct) usage types such as salad dressing or dips for your bread/dinner rolls etc. One should only go for premium extra virgin oil that is available in dark glass bottles. Never ever buy your expensive extra virgin oils that come in plastic bottles because the good traits of the olive oil are easily lost when it is exposed to harsh light and temperature.

By the way, the extra virgin olive oils are the best for your hair massage and body massage purposes as well. Just make sure that, they are slightly warmed (not heated) when used for massaging purposes. What I usually do is to heat an empty steel bowl for five to ten seconds, remove it from the flame and pour oil into it.

Pure Olive oil (Refined oil) and Virgin oil

This is the second grade of oil that’s good enough for cooking purposes. Pure olive oil is considered safe because it doesn’t undergo any treatment with solvents. These are filtered oils and hence good for generic cooking purposes.

Virgin oil is good for cooking as well but sometimes slightly more expensive for no reason.

By the way, when people talk about just ‘Olive oil’ it often means either refined olive oil or a blend of refined and virgin olive oils. i.e. Unless ‘Pomace’ is specifically mentioned in which case you have to stay away from the same.
(Note: Please note that any type of olive oil is NOT meant for deep frying or high-heat cooking purposes. By doing so, the olive oil gives up all its good reasons. For high heat cooking and deep frying, something like virgin coconut oil is the best as it holds well even at high temperatures)

Which Brands of Olive Oil in India should you Consider?

Disclosure: Please note that I have no association or business interest with any of these brands, their producers or marketers. My suggestions are purely based on my personal use of these brands.

For extra virgin olive oils, the best brands that I have used are Borges and Leonardo Gold. Make sure that you buy the premium variants that come in darkened glass bottles. Monini Classico is a good brand too. Please note that good quality premium extra virgin olive oil will cost you anywhere between 500 to 750 rupees per half litre. Your salads, soups, cooked vegetables and bread are going to be exceptionally tastier and healthier with the above mentioned extra virgin oils. There may be other brands too that I haven’t tried but I have this habit of going with tried and tested ones only.

For general cooking purposes, the extra virgin is expensive and hence not practical. Most of the pure or refined olive oil brands is good enough for generic cooking. What I mostly use is brands like Ibero, Figaro, Nature Fresh etc and these are usually available at a price range of 400 to 600 rupees per litre (Figaro is slightly more expensive and comes in metal cans)

That’s pretty much about olive oils types and brands. I hope this post is useful to the health freaks out there.

Anti-Nepotism Online Campaign for Loksabha Election 2014

Friends,
We are living in a Democratic country. Democracy provides you the freedom and power to elect the representatives who can make decisions on our behalf in order to take this country forward.

Today, the eligibility of candidates contesting for parliament or state assembly elections is decided based on too basic parameters such as citizenship status, minimum age, criminal conviction status etc. From time to time, the educated citizens in this country have asked for stricter norms such as minimum educational qualifications, upper age bar and so on. However, going by the constitutional rights of the citizens of India, it may not be practical to implement such amendments in the near future.

nepotism in india

Yet another virus that is affecting the democratic process and progress of this country is Nepotism in politics. Favourism granted to the relatives of family members of politicians has reached such a pathetic state where several members of the same family get to contest a particular election (E.g. Three members of the Paswan family contest the forthcoming Loksabha elections). This is so easily done and manipulated by the crooked politicians because the people have no say in deciding who can contest even before deciding whom to vote for. Further, Nepotism is one of the reasons why most of these politicians and their families turn corrupt.

While constitutional changes or even an Anti-Nepotism bill may be close to impossible, we as voters always have the chance to vote out those who run politics as a family business. We have to decide whether 20 or 30 families out of the millions in this country can continue to play with our future, just because they get to contest and win elections by playing vote bank politics, caste-regional politics and other inherited means.

So during the forthcoming Loksabha election, let me request my fellow citizens to do the following.

1. First, enroll yourself in the Voters list and please Do vote on the election day.

2. If you know of any candidate who got a ticket by Nepotistic means, please alert voters and fellow citizens by word of mouth, social media shares etc to spread awareness. There are already many familiar names out there ( Gandhis, Gowdas, Yadavs, Paswans, Karnunanidhis etc) but there may be a lot more that we don’t know; So let us spread awareness by all possible means.

3. Do not vote for Nepotists – especially who haven’t done anything at all for the social well-being or progress of the nation even at his/her lowest capacities prior to this election. Even if they have done something in the past, if you believe that there could have been a better candidate, reject them outright. Please think beyond your political views for once.

4. If you don’t find a suitable candidate in your constituency, please use the ‘Reject all candidates’ button. Let us hope this new mechanism introduced this year is going to work and make things better in the future.

Please share this note with your friends and contacts. Let us send this message loud and clear and work towards a cleaner and truly democratic election process. While for every election, we try to vote and elect people based on our best judgment, let us try to make Anti-Nepotism as the theme for this Loksabha election. Because, uprooting nepotism is one of the key steps towards fighting corruption!

The link to the Facebook Online Campaign is below:
Anti-Nepotism Online Campaign for Loksabha Election 2014 – Facebook link

Thank you,
An Indian Citizen

(Early) Retirement Planning in India – A Practical Approach

Today is my last working day in my fulltime Software career. Yes, I decided to retire at my current age early retirement is nothing bad!of 43 years after careful deliberation and planning for retirement over the last few years. I worked for exactly 19 years in the IT Industry which thought is equivalent to some 30 years of efforts in the Indian context; that is, when you consider the first ten years of hard work and extra hours that we all had to put in during those years.

Nevertheless, I decided to call it quits mainly due to the following reasons:

  • I was kind of getting bored with the IT office routine – while Software still excites me, the industry quite doesn’t anymore
  • I thought I have planned my finances reasonably well till today after initial years of spend-thrift lifestyle. At the moment though, I have no loans, have some decent savings and fixed assets, and I have further plans to appreciate whatever little wealth I have)
  • I do not want to improve my lifestyle or living standards further or better than what it is now. In fact, I already froze my lifestyle some five years ago
  • I plan to leverage on my secondary skills and hobbies in order to earn some income from home. This, at the moment, cannot immediately match the high salaries that IT professionals command – it is more about doing what you like the most and have huge potential to outsmart the IT salaries
  • I see the need to spend more time with my family with my kids (a special one too) growing up – I believe that after certain age, one’s sole goal should be grooming the next generation and giving back all your learning to the society

The reasons may be reasonable but can one really retire so early without having some planning and backup? Well, that’s what we are going to discuss in this post. I am writing this post because I thought it might help a younger guy out there who wants to plan for his retirement. It is very obvious that one needs quite some money to retire and hence it needs careful planning! I shall also share here the little Excel sheet that I made sometime back to help with my retirement planning.

How to plan for your early retirement?

Disclaimer first: I am not a financial adviser nor planner myself. However, based on the personal finance articles that I got to read in newspapers and online over the past several years, I kind of figured out how much money I might need to retire early and more importantly, if that money is not sufficient, how can I supplement it further? (In fact, that’s more like my situation now). In my case, the plan was laid out almost 8 years ago and I kind of executed it more or less along the expected lines. I must however admit that I didn’t fully reach my financial goals yet, and hence it is all the more important to discuss the management of post-retirement savings as well. We will discuss both these aspects in the post.

If you ask me about early retirement planning, the following will be the logical steps involved.

  1. Decide at what age you want to retire from your full-time job; Do that at least 10-12 years in advance so that you don’t miss any wealth creation opportunities.
  2. Project your typical monthly expenses post retirement (without considering inflation parameters; planning tools will take care of adjusting for inflation) and hence the amount you want to retire with for a longevity of say 80 years
  3. Execute your plans to save up that much money – The plan should include foreclosing any pending loans before retirement, a clear strategy for pre and post retirement investment, onetime big expenses etc. Also, do special planning for high-inflationary expenses such as medical (You need a good medical insurance for your family post retirement) and a term-life insurance well in advance
  4. If the return on retiral investment do not seem sufficient, plan for a backup part-time job or go for alternate investment instruments (often high-risk, high-reward ones if you are retiring at a younger age)
  5. Retire peacefully and enjoy those little things in life!

Now, that sounds easier said than actually done but it’s not that easy! Let’s now take a closer look at our planned steps. I shall try to explain these steps in detail using the little Excel sheet that I was talking about (download link below).

[ Download my Retirement Calculator Here ]

Step 1. At what age do you want to retire?

To begin with, you need to make up your mind to arrive at a reasonable retirement age. This has to be done very well in advance. For example, when you are still in your early thirties, you may plan for a retirement at 45 if you are sure of saving up enough. Be careful not to be super-confident here. In my case, I started thinking about retirement about 7-8 years back itself after seeing a few ups and downs in the industry as well as the financial markets. More often than not, people won’t take a retirement call out of fear or social reasons – because it may be seen as a sin by old thinkers!

Your readiness for retirement again can be checked using my sheet. If you are not ready yet, use the sheet again to decide how can you accelerate your investments towards achieving your retiral goals (i.e. the money with which you can retire. Remember to add additional investments for special needs such as kids education or marriage, if such events are likely to happen post your retirement. You may use the third sheet in the workbook for such goals and add up to your systematic investment goals)

Step 2. Project your monthly expenses

This is reasonably easy if you have the habit of tracking your monthly expenses. If not, do the following:

– From all your bank statements, find out your annual account outflow (withdrawals, bills payments,credit card payments)

– Deduct the expense types that won’t happen post retirement (e.g. kids schooling expenses – not always though, fuel adjustments when you don’t commute that often, shopping budget as applicable etc)

– Add any additional expense that might recur after retirement (e.g. medical insurance)

– If there are things that repeat every couple or few years, add those expenses on an annualized basis as well (e.g. family vacation abroad once in two years)

– The resultant value divided by 12 would be roughly your monthly expenditure.

– If you want, more accurate values (advisable) please track your expenses from today itself.

Now, this monthly expenses should be on as-is basis. i.e. if you decide to retire today, how much you will need after cutting anything that’s not applicable in retirement life is this monthly figure we are talking about. Don’t worry about any inflation parameters at this moment.

Step 3. Execute your plan based on your particular sheet

Now, it’s time to take a closer look at your sheet. After entering the mandatory fields of your current age, retirement age and expected monthly expenses, you may adjust the inflation parameter and the expected returns on your savings after retirement. The inflation parameter in Indian conditions can be anywhere between 6 to 10 percent over a long period of time. The rate of returns on your investment can be as low as 3% for savings banks, 7 to 10 percent in long term deposits and 8 to 12 percent typically in equities (and as high as 15-20 percent in certain time horizons in the bull market).

I suggest to leave the longevity at 80 years as that’s typical life expectancy number that one should plan for. The life expectancy in India is slowly going up thanks to advancement in medical facilities and health standards.

With that plan in the sheet, you now know how much you need to save up. You need to document that somewhere and not keep it transient in the sheet (and you forget your planned numbers later).

Now, the preparation steps start. Some of the activities you need to undertake during this 8, 10 or 15 year period is to close all your loans, take care of major one-time expenses or allocate further money for that, and take a term insurance policy at a good age (typically before 40 years and preferably in early 30s).


(Note: As a thumb rule, one should de-link insurance and investments. There’s no point in having an old style endowment policy like the one LIC used to offer. Instead, earmark most of that money into high-return investments and use only a fraction of the cost for a high value term deposit. These days, taking a 50L or 1 Crore term insurance policy is not a big deal!)

Living frugally and investing wisely should be the motto towards the retirement age. Especially, one should go for things that add long term value than disposable/expensive items (e.g. smartphones, electronics, changing cars frequently etc).

No matter what, your end-goal on retirement day should be having that magic figure that you want to retire with.

Some of the wise things to do on retirement is to dispose illiquid assets such as real estate, gold* etc. Also, try to invest 20-25% of your take home salary in equity market (blue chip) and mutual funds prior to your retirement. One good thing to do is to allocate 10 to 15% of your take home salary towards EPF (Pension Fund or Provident Fund) on top of the employee+employer contribution. This comes as a big savior at the end because it’s all tax-free amount that returns at an average of 8.5% over the past several years. It’s as good as getting 12% annualized returns before tax. I was doing exactly the same since 2004-05 and it really helped me!

* By the way, responsible citizens should avoid gold as an investment instrument as this illiquid and stagnant wealth – while giving you good returns – will spoil the country’s economy. Our biggest curse is the trade deficit caused by Petroleum and Gold imports.

Step 4: Special risk planning

Now, what if you slogged it out till your retirement day and you still are not going to make the money you wanted as per the planning sheet? (Don’t worry, that will be the case with most people)

You have to either (1) Go with some high-risk, high-reward schemes or (2) Plan for a part time activity that earns some money to supplement your retirement savings returns with which you can make a living.

(1) is where I disagree with the old school of thought. Yes, it’s ideal to invest all your post retiral savings into risk-free and fixed return instruments AS LONG AS you retired with a handsome amount in your bank. And that’s indeed the recommendation for those who retired rich. What if you didn’t and you are still rather young?

In such cases, you need to maximize your returns from your post retirement money by investing part of it into the equity market. Why? Because it returns like 10% or 12% annually on your retirement savings and you are going to beat the inflation big time.

Also, please note that the risk scenario mentioned here is applicable ONLY when you couldn’t take that risk before retirement. It is always better to take this kind of risky investment before retiring itself, as much as possible.

Negating the bad effects of Inflation is the key to be successful in Indian conditions!

You may compare the two sample screenshots below to understand what I am talking about.

retirement plan - 1
Retirement Plan 1 : Minimal returns on Post-Retirement Savings means You have to save up a LOT!

retirement plan 2
Retirement Plan 2 : Better Returns post retirement means, you need to Save up less

If that’s not your preferred route, you need to definitely do some kind of part time activity that earns money (in my case, that’s the plan!)

Step 5: Happily Retire!

No explanation needed here, but all that you have to do is to go for a good medical insurance coverage, bifurcate your money into the right investment instruments and enjoy life! Because you have done your planning part really well, you deserve to enjoy life to the fullest till the very end!

Early Retirement Hassles (Non-financial)

When somebody decides to retire so early in their life, the biggest worry is to manage and convince the family members. In the Indian context, you will invariably have an argument with your spouse on your decision. Even worse will be the nosy friends and the family people who will be waiting for an opportunity to prove you wrong for not thinking like the most! At any point of time when things don’t seem to go well, you have to remind yourself that your conviction is better than the conventions you see around!

Further, some people might develop boredom and depression after an early retirement decision. That’s why it is very important to find a post retirement activity to keep you occupied and happy. Retirement life is a very good time to reconnect with your family, friends and rediscover yourself. You will also find a lot of time to take care of your health.

The above are some of the non-financial aspects that you need to manage and figure out to lead a peaceful life, after having done the financial part perfectly right!

Enjoy your life!

PS: This article was written in a hurry as I really wanted to post it on my retirement day itself! Any suggestion, corrections are welcome and let me know if the Retirement planning Excel sheet that I shared has any bugs or calculation issues!

Telegram Service to Stop in India: Some Childhood Memories

Telegram will soon be history in India! In fact, practically it was already dead with the likes of telephones, fax machines, mobile phones and e-mail services gradually taking over its place across the past three decades or so. As a matter of fact, I was really surprised when I read the news today that the public sector giant, BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd), still operates this service though only about 5000 telegrams are being sent every day – down from million in the past. To be frank, I had really forgotten about the existence of Telegram and hence when they announced the decision to discontinue the Telegram service in India by July 15th, 2013, I was like ‘Who cares?’. But then, I started to recall a few good old memories from my childhood days where the Telegram service played a significant role in our lives – though not on a daily basis. It was indeed, ‘the fastest and affordable one-way messaging service’ at some point of time in the history after making its debut in the British in the middle of the 19th century.

Telegram in our lives!

Having brought up in a village background, I definitely have a couple of childhood memories to share about telegrams. I am talking about late-seventies to early eighties when I studied in our government primary school which was very near to the village’s own post office. This post office (Dak aur Tar Ghar which later became Dak Ghar alone) was a very old building that leaked during the monsoon rains and it hosted two staff members – A postman and a post master. My first memories about the telegraph equipment are from this Post office where our post master was always busy punching into it. And this mystery equipment produced random ‘tic-tac’ sound that was kind of nice to listen to. The only other sound from that building was his colleague slamming the heavy brass seal on all those letters to be delivered during the day. I clearly remember that both of them chewed Paan throughout the day. The postman’s face is still in my memories though I am unable to recall the face of the post master – the superman – who handled the telegraph.

Most of us – the school going lot – would invariably stop by the post office just to watch and listen to the proceedings inside by standing near a rusted window that doubled as the stamp & envelope vending counter.

Telegram = Either GOOD or mostly BAD news

During that ‘ancient era of telecommunication’, the normal mode of messaging was writing a letter that would take several days to reach the recipient. The senders can procure a ‘kavar’ (Stamped envelope) or an ‘illant’ (Inland Letter Card) from the post office to write and send their letter or snail mails as they are called today. These mails usually included kilometers of writing that oozed affection and everything that had to be conveyed between two loved ones or families since their last communication.

A telegram on the other hand had the purpose of ‘quickly’ communicating a few words across to your people who are staying away in another place – in a different district or state. Unfortunately, this mechanism was used mainly to inform about the events of death (which was probably the only urgent matter then?) in the family and hence the arrival of a telegram was always looked at as a dreaded thing – invariably someone at home would faint as soon as a telegram arrived – even before its content is read out. This aspect of the telegram has been depicted in comedy scenes of many Indian movies and if I remember correctly these important telegrams were sometimes delivered even after regular office hours.

Telegrams always conveyed concise and direct message when used for happy purposes such as wishing people on their achievements, marriage, wedding anniversary etc or even to communicate job offers by companies where there wasn’t much time left to report. However, when used for conveying the death of a loved one, it always contained diplomatic words such as ‘serious’ or ‘unwell’. So if someone gets a telegram that read ‘Grandfather serious, Start immediately’, it usually means that grandfather has already expired. And the neighbors of the deceased could always predict the arrival of someone who received the telegram when a spike of scream originates from the particular house – this can sporadically happen a few days after the death as and when the telegram recipients arrive one by one.

My experience with Telegrams

During my middle to high school days, I used to go to the post office to send ‘grams’ on my father’s behalf. Most of the time, the purpose was to congratulate or wish some of the newlyweds in his circle – typically his past colleagues from his transferable job postings. It was an easy task for me as he would have mentioned the greeting code to pick from the published list, fill it in a small form along with recipient’s address. Sending a digit code that finally translated to a one-sentence message was something that amazed me then. And, my father always used to pick his favorite greeting code that translated to ‘May Heaven’s Choicest Blessings be showered on the young couple’. As a matter of fact, his diary (and most printed diaries then) had these telegram codes printed, on their annexure pages, which was later replaced by STD codes of cities. And I do not even know what occupies that place now!

As I grew, I understood that it was Morse code that does the trick of transmitting these coded messages. When I was in 9th or 10th, a couple of us together built our first telegraph equipment prototype for a science exhibition – Telegraph really played its part in the life of millions of Indians from our generation and a couple of generations before ours as well.

And today, just like many other things from the past, the telegraph is going to be part of history books alone.

RIP Telegraph!

How Indian Highways are Numbered (New NH Numbering System)?

(Just in case you are not aware of) the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways had taken the initiative of re-numbering most of the highways in India a couple of years ago. It was a minor news item in most dailies then but I thought it’s a huge step towards rationalizing our road network names along with rebuilding the infrastructure. The National road grid in India has been getting a good boost ever since our former Prime Minister Shri. Atal Behari Vajpayee’s National highway development project (NHD) started materializing in stages.

Highway System in India

India at present (Feb 2013) has more than 200 national highways totaling to a length of 70,000+ kilometers which is maintained by the NHAI (National Highway Authority of India)

The primary highway grid, as per Vajpayee’s dream project, consists of the following major stretches (picture below) supported by existing highways significantly enhanced:

The North-South Corridor stretches from Srinagar in J&K state to Kanyakumari – the southernmost tip of India. The length of this major road is 4000kms.

The East-West Corridor connects Porbandar in Gujarat with Silchar in Assam and the total length of this road being 3300kms. (Wonder why they didn’t plan it till the boarder including Arunachal Pradesh!)

The Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) is the highway network connecting the four metros in India – i.e. Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. The spin-offs of GQ also connects cities like Bangalore, Pune and Ahmedabad. The total length of GQ is 5846kms.

Most part of the above highways is 4-lanes while 6-laning project is being undertaken in many stretches.

Please note that the North-South and East-West corridors are often referred as ONE i.e. NS-EW corridor

north-south east west corridors
North-South and East-West Corridors

golden quadrilateral India
The Golden Quadrilateral

(Image courtesy: Wikipedia – The boundaries shown here may not be the actual boundaries of India)

Highway Types in India

If you refer to Google map for driving, you must have noticed symbols like AH, NH and SH. The following are the explanations for these respective codes.

1. National Highways (NH): These are major highways in India that provide connectivity to all cities and states. NHs are maintained by the Government of India (i.e. NHAI). As I mentioned earlier, National highways spans over 70,000 kms and even the NS-EW corridor and GQ are formed by many such highways.

2. State Highways (SH): State highways spans over 150,000kms in length and are managed by the state governments to provide accessibility and city/town inter-connectivity within each state.

3. Great Asian Highways (AH): Asian Highways are part of the cooperative project within Asian countries. While in principle, the National Highways in India themselves forms the AH stretch in India, it’s good to understand them from the map’s point of view. You will encounter many places in a map where the highway is referred to as an Asian Highway or AH. In reality though, there’s no separate road network for AHs but they consume the respective major highways in the participating countries to form the Asian Highway grid. You can read more about Asian Highways at Wikipedia.

How the New Highway Numbering in India Works?

Let us come to our main topic now. Until recently, the Indian highways were numbered in a very confusing manner that didn’t provide any logic behind their numbers. However, the Government of India took a major decision in 2010 to rationalize the highway numbers in a way that the number provides some clue about the geographic location and the direction of a particular highway.

Please refer to this circular by DORTH to know all the renumbering that took place.

The logic behind national highway numbering in India is as follows:

  1. All North-South highways will carry EVEN number
  2. All East-West highways will have ODD numbers
  3. All major Highways will be single digit or double digit in number (Read the exception in point 6 below)
  4. North-South highways will increase their numbers from East to West. For example, a particular North-South highway in Central India or Western India will have a higher number than the one in East India. To be specific, now you can guess that NH4 is somewhere in East India where as highway 44 may be towards the west of India while both runs north-south due to the even numbering
  5. Similarly East-West highways will increase their numbers as we move from North to South. By this logic NH1 will be running East-West somewhere in North India while NH 83 may be somewhere down south. Of course, there may be a minor confusion among some roads that may be running diagonally in stretches
  6. THREE digit numbered highways are secondary routes or branches of a main highway. For example, 144, 244, 344 etc will be the branches of the main National highway 44. Please note that since NH44 (NS Corridor) runs the length of the country from North to South a side shoot say 144 may be up north while something like 944 may be down south
  7. Suffixes A, B, C, D etc are added to the three digit sub highways to indicate very small spin-offs or stretches of sub-highways. For example, 966A, 527B etc

So next time when you are driving based on the map or navigation device and when you see/hear something like ‘Turn left to Old NH47’ you should remember that the particular highway is being re-numbered.

I am not sure when the numbering process will be complete but I sincerely hope that they introduce a lot of sign boards to avert any confusion. Also, like in the US and some western countries, it may help if they provide some clue about which direction one is heading at any given moment. For example, 35W means a west bound highway. In India, since the major number (e.g. 35) corresponds to the direction itself, what the road signs or milestones should carry is something like 35-W or 35-E, I think.

Picture References

Wikipedia has a nice picture showing all the re-numbered highways. Please refer to this image link.

For a magnified view of the National highway map in India, please refer to this link.

‘Highways for Life’ is indeed the punch line for India as well.