A tribute to women in honor of the International Women’s Day…

My dad was in the Indian Navy with a regular 9 to 6 job. He was able to afford us with luxuries (at the time) like VCRs – the videotape players that

VCR, the recording and videotape player in the 80'shad recording facility in the 80’s, at a time when people did not even have television in India. We had a scooter in the early 80’s despite a 2-year long waiting period to get one.  Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 9.27.03 AM

In those days, this waiting period was a big hindrance when marrying your daughter, because the groom always wanted a scooter and not even the richest could move this roster any faster. Yet almost all weddings had a new scooter as the first gift. So, how did all of them manage to get so lucky?

Certainly money couldn’t push the roster because there was limited supply of these luxury goods at the time. So who was this person who managed the key dowry asset?

It was almost always the mother of the bride. From the day she got married, she saved everything she got in her wedding until her first child was born. If it turned out to be a boy, only then would she take her exotic doily out for a lavish dinner party on his first birthday. The boy was a low risk, high return asset, in her portfolio, which would bring high ROI. So, showing him off, feeding him well, and educating him were all wise investments for the family.

On the other hand, if the first-born was a girl, the resource manager in her would kick-in immediately. She would invest in short-term insurance plans, college education investments, which would be repurposed to book an immovable asset such as bed, scooter, home or car, for the daughters’ potential groom. She would also invest in gold assets, an integral part of any dowry package, depending on the number

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 9.28.20 AMof daughters. She would maintain a pool for each daughter and hedge this pool based on her daughters’ assets. Darker daughters warranted more gold assets than the fairer ones. She would keep a close watch on her daughters’ market value, like any good fund manager, and hedge her assets with every spike on the weight scale, or pimple outbreak.

While my dad’s investments were geared to providing us tools for education and entertainment, our mother’s priorities were different.

I remember times when we had money crunches, but were able to maintain our lifestyle exactly as before, be it meals, amenities or daily necessities. My dad may have been the financer, but the portfolio manager was my mother. She would walk further to find a grocery store with a sale, to reduce investment into commodity investments like fruits and vegetables. She would keep track of the gold prices even during such difficult times, to stay ahead of the market in making timely investments.

Almost always she spoke like a true investor, for example, her jewelry had to be pure gold – no stones, no beads, because if that fetches a much better resale value. My mom was also like a small business owner at times, so along with her maid, she would cook meals for every guest every year for our birthday bash in a span of 36 hours. She planned the project, right from working within a tight budget, considering her guests’ dietary restrictions (and our myriad choices), and delicate timelines required for the very complex dishes she chose to prepare. This was the time when other financiers, my dad’s friends, would come and evaluate the portfolio manager – my mother. She would be dressed in all her gold assets, the ones she will polish and give to her daughter. She was also showing off her life skills since “a good cook mother always led to a good cook daughter”. This is an area where we did really well because my sister knew nothing, and we still managed to ‘sell’ her for 19Bn USD purely based on her chatting abilities!

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Like banks, families in India do not have the capacity to maintain multiple risk pools or have unlimited capital, so our failures and loses are colossal. However, like banks, our parents do have to attract us with interests, customer service and ROI to see them as legit authorities to heed.

I think Mothers’ Day is a day where we cannot neglect the contribution of a mother, one who manages all of our portfolios and grows our assets. I respect all those men and women who are great mothers to their kids, who will fulfill their kid’s desires all the time and still find a way to fulfill their own.

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