Kaale hain to kya huaa... - The Honest Truth By Ajit Dayal
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Investing in India - Honest Truth by Ajit Dayal
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8 FEBRUARY 2013


The questions, wrote the agitated reader, were asked in Hindi and you were answering in English. Hindi is our national language.

The reader of the Honest Truth was reacting to a recent interview on CNBC Awaaz where my pathetic Hindi skills were on full display and - as agreed with the interviewer - I would switch to my comfort zone and respond in English.

Yes, my Hindi is really bad. Decades after moving on from school I would still wake up in a sweat from a nightmare where I had failed a Hindi test and was forced to repeat a year in school! Hare Ram! That is a result of studying in an English-medium school and bunking my Hindi homework to play in the fields. Yes, we had green spaces in Bombay before the real estate developers did their seven-rounds and tied their business knots with their politician friends! Sometimes I rise to the challenge and try to overcome my phobia of Hindi.

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A few years ago friends of mine, who run a school in north India, invited me to accompany them on their annual visit to their school. Happy to get out of the beat of big-city travel, I readily agreed. On reaching the small town, I was told that there was an Annual Day and, since I was the Chief Guest, I would have to give the welcoming remarks. You guessed it - in Hindi!

I was paralysed. And I refused. It was an awkward situation. The programme had been printed, my name was on it (though without my consent!), and I was there - and I was not speaking. But I stood my ground. The function began and the children carried on their various performances with the sheer magical joy that comes when enthusiasm blends with innocence. I felt guilty: the students did not know who I was, but they had a name of a Chief Guest - and they knew that Chief Guest was in the audience: silent and invisible.

I leaned over to my hosts and announced: I would like to give my talk in Hindi.

Minutes later, I was on stage and - a few minutes later - I was back in my seat.

My talk was in simple Hindi but, apparently, it was powerful (it was about being good and doing good, a message that my father's teacher imparted to my father when my father was a student). But, no, I have never headed back to that school again and duck the invitation from my friends by saying (truthfully), "I would like to, but I am travelling."

Letting India down?

But the comment about me speaking English on a Hindi channel deserves attention, not only because it shows my weakness in Hindi, for it also shows the perception we create.

Did the comment about Hindi being a national language and my inability to respond to it have a hidden implication: maybe since I do not know the national language, I was not to be taken seriously?

If I spoke in shudh Hindi and said all the incorrect things, would that have been acceptable? We have thousands of people who speak Hindi correctly - but they say and do bad stuff.

Or if I wear manifestations of my religion on my forehead, rings of supernatural power on my fingers, and adorn garments of simple cotton - is it then okay to mislead people with false statements and false actions? Hmm, we have thousands who have successfully done this, too. And still doing it.

Do we have to study at Harvard or IIM or IBS - or any MBA school - to prove that we are smart? Does topping our class in school or college prove that we are superior? Or do actions of goodness speak louder than all the academic credentials we carry in our pockets?

Is working for a large finance company a sign of success - or a sign of a willingness to corrupt the system? Hearing proud fathers talks about the jobs and careers of their successful NRI children, it is obvious that the measurement of money success overwhelms any value system they may have tried to inculcate in their children.

Well, you know my views - expressed in English ☺ - on many of these matters.

And, to prove that being kaala does not stop me from being a dilwalla, we have plunged headlong into music and charity.

I cannot read a single note of music. I cannot play a musical instrument (I can massacre a few taals on the table), and I cannot sing. With all those defects, we started the National Streets for the Performing Arts (www.NSPA.in ) as an effort to bring some smiles back to people lives and to give musicians a chance to earn a steady income. People love it. The "established" music circles are not sure what to make of this disruption. Indian classical musicians sitting on a chaddar at a train station singing to a hurried and unrefined uncultured audience?

And I know very little about the NGO and charity space. But I do know it lacks transparency. Yet there exist many well-meaning charities who would like to improve their organisational skills and deserve your donations. So we have launched www.HelpYourNGO.com. Many NGOs are excited about what we plan to do but some NGOs are demanding to know why we are putting up information on the HYNGO web site? Well, we responded, this is publicly available data. Are they trying to hide something?

No, it does not matter what language you speak. You can disrupt traditional practices and help those who are ignored.

And it does not matter what your grades were in school, or which classes you bunked - or how rich you are (Table 1).

Table 1: How you rated the various business groups on fairness and ability to run a business without government favours.
Rank Group/Founder Score Pass/Fail
1 HDFC 187 93.5%
2 INFOSYS 185 92.5%
3 TATA 172 86.0%
4 WIPRO 169 84.5%
5 MAHINDRA 147 73.5%
6 BIRLA 130 65.0%
7 BHARTI 111 55.5%
8 PANTALOON 83 41.5%
9 STERLITE 73 36.5%
10 AMBANI, Mukesh 71 35.5%
11 ESSAR 59 29.5%
12 AMBANI, Anil 57 28.5%
13 ADANI 51 25.5%
14 MALLYA 50 25.0%
15 DLF 43 21.5%
Source: responses from 37 readers

You don't have to be Indian, in some sense, to love India - for there are many "Indians" who are destroying India.

What matters is whether you are a dilwalla.

And, yes, I really should practice my Hindi and learn some music.

Maybe then the mutual fund industry will understand my persistently irritating message of doing what is right for the investors and finally change its tune! ☺

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Disclaimer: The Honest Truth is authored by Ajit Dayal. Ajit is a Director at Quantum Advisors Pvt. Ltd and Quantum Asset Management Company Pvt. Ltd. The views mentioned above are of the author only. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and has not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author, Equitymaster, Quantum AMC and Quantum Advisors do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. Please read the detailed Terms of Use of the web site. To write to Ajit, please click here.


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6 Responses to "Kaale hain to kya huaa..."

manu

Feb 11, 2013

It has become a fashion to show that we are not knowing our own language and to justify that in so many arguments. Here we are receiving people from all the nooks and corner of the world coming to this GREAT country and learning our languages like Sanskrit, Hindi and others to understand the meaning of the books of the respective languages in its right perspective although the English translations are available for everything. It is not a question of ability but the willingness to have the knowledge of our languages. Every developed country have the pride in speaking in their own language. Take the examples of Russia, Germany, France, Japan etc. It is a shame for our country that our own citizens are ashamed of our own language and feel pride in speaking in the Foreign language. May be it is due to prolonged period of slavery to the foreign country. But it is a serious and disturbing fact that we are still not out of mental slavery after more than six decades of the so called independence.

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SARABJEET

Feb 10, 2013

PLEASE BE INFORMED THAT HINDI IS NOT OUR NATIONAL LANGUAGE . IT IS INDIA'S OFFICIAL LANGUAGE .IT IS NOT RASHTRA BHASHA BUT A RAJ BHASHA.WHEN THIS KIND OF MISINFORMATION SURFACES FROM WELL EDUCATED AND INFORMED PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND MIND YOU , YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE IT SHOWS HOW INDIAN MINDS HAVE BEEN CONDITIONED. AS FAR AS SPEAKING IN HINDI IS CONCERNED YOU WILL BE BETTER OFF SPEAKING IN HINDOSTANI THAT IS MIX OF ENGLISH HINDI URDU PUNJABI ETC AS LONG AS IT IS UNDERSTOOD BY THE LISTENERS RATHER THAN BEING A PRANTU KINTU MAN LOOKING FOR RIGHT HINDI WORDS FOR TRAIN, PLANE, AC, TV, RADIO, MOBILE, TELEPHONE, COMPUTER, CINEMA ETC ETC .IT IS MOST IMPORTANT WHAT YOU SAY.ALWAYS SAY AS USUAL THE HONEST TRUTH

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Rattan Kumar

Feb 9, 2013

Correction: My brain was asleep when I said Pradyumna in my earlier post when I should have said Ashwathama - my apologies.

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Rattan Kumar

Feb 9, 2013

Dear Mr.Dayal,
Sidenote: I'm as bad as you, had/have the same nightmares. Settled in Bangalore. On the rare occasions I've had to speak in Hindi here I've been praised for my language!!! So, good language or bad, don't worry, if it's from the heart, it'll be understood.
@Dr.Malpani: Yes and no. For plain speaking people, it's a tautology. Unfortunately, there are many ways to 'disguise' truth without lying - please refer to Mahabharata and Pradyumna's death for one of the most famous examples.

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vrarunachalam

Feb 9, 2013

dum sadhaa sootchnaa hai dum nahee lavam laynaa hai
atkal viyaapar aak maheena kaa karoo hai gee

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Dr Aniruddha Malpani

Feb 8, 2013

Dear Ajit,

Isn't the truth always honest ? Isn't the phrase, Honest Truth just a tautology ?

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