I was 38-years-old, when two friends of mine and I went for a boys’ weekend to the Sawai Madhopur Lodge. Those days single malt was very expensive and not easily available. Over a Friday to a Sunday, we finished two bottles of single malt and decided that, by the time we are 40, we should all retire. Our target was to have Rs.5 crore in the bank because, in those days, RBI used to offer 10.5% tax-free bonds for five years.
So, Rs.5 crore, 10.5% meant Rs.52.5 lakh tax-free income. In the ’90s, it sounded like wealth beyond belief. My friends had about Rs.2.5 crore of savings whereas I had Rs.70 lakh. But I thought I was smarter than them and knew better than anybody how to deploy capital. They were 36, and had four years to reach Rs.5 crore, so they would have easily made it, I was 38 and had just two years to hit the target. Making matters worse was that I had hubris — an exaggerated belief in my abilities.
I borrowed Rs.30 lakh from my wife and with a kitty of Rs.1 crore started trading on the bourses on margin. Within nine days I was down to Rs.3 lakh. So not only did I not have my Rs.5 crore, I was financially ruined in just nine days. I calculated that my broker had made much more in commission because I was trading so much. My broker returned my Rs.3 lakh via cheque and, as a consolation, gave me a Cartier watch. I was touched by his gesture because here I was down on the ground and expected people to kick my carcass. But instead this guy gave me gratis a Cartier watch.
I was so touched by his gesture that when his daughter got married three months later and I had only one valuable item that I owned, a Mont Blanc pen, I presented that as a wedding gift. Unfortunately, six months later my watch stopped working and I sent it to Johnson &Co, the authorized dealer of Cartier. They returned it back saying it was a $20 fake. So, my new learning was that never give gifts or advice gratuitously but I had to lose 97% of our combined networth in order to learn that lesson! I have still kept the watch — in mem