A Man of Character

On July 4th, 1976, Anil Jethmal celebrated the U.S bicentennial  with his family in downtown New York City.  Several tall ships from all over the world sailed into New York harbor to commemorate the event.  To this day, Anil recalls the feeling of patriotism and pride that he and his family shared that day.

However, it was something that his father did that stamped an even more indelible and enduring sense of pride on his then 11-year old son.  The South Street Seaport saw over 1 million revelers that day.  To Anil’s mind, each and every one of them littered the streets early and often that day…..bottles, soda cans, paper bags, napkins, etc.  Everyone seemingly committed that offense that day…except for one.  Anil’s father walked a block and a half in ankle deep garbage to throw away his napkin in a garbage can.  Anil’s mother chided him for doing so when there was garbage strewn about the streets everywhere.  His father smiled, but said nothing.

This is what Anil Jethmal’s father did that day and that is the way he lived his life.  Metaphorically speaking, even though there may have been filth, deceit and corruption all around him, he would not contribute to or collude with it.  He always did the right thing and he never beat his chest when he did so.

When closing out his fiscal accounting books the previous year, Anil Jethmal’s father discovered that his bookkeeper had overcharged a client in error several months earlier.  He told his bookkeeper to issue a check to the client to remediate the error.  She protested, reasoning that it was not necessary since the client did not notice and never would.  Anil Jethmal’s father firmly and immediately repeated his instructions to issue the check.  That was the essence of the man.  He did the right thing, even though no one was watching.

Unbeknownst to Anil’s father, his son was watching.

A father himself now,  Anil Jethmal often casts his mind back to his own father to help provide a blueprint on how to be a good father and a good person as well.

In his entire life, Anil never once heard his father tell a lie….even if it was “harmless” or convenient.  His father never, even once, yelled at him.  Even when reprimanding Anil, he explained why he was doing so in almost dulcet tones.  To this day, Anil views that restraint as a leading, if not defining, characteristic of being a good father.

In fact, Anil Jethmal’s father never really had to yell.  His actions spoke louder than any words possibly could.  And while, sadly, he is gone, his example endures, making Anil want to be a better person—–if, for no other reason, his own children may be watching.



Book Recommendations for Investing in Stocks

When The Winner’s Circle II: How Ten Stockbrokers Became the Best in the Business was published in the mid 1990’s, Anil Jethmal saw his account base expand rapidly practically overnight. Many of his clients would ask for additional book recommendations to learn more about stock market investing. Over 20 years later, Anil’s recommendations then are the same as they are now.

lynch buffett

For the novice, Anil Jethmal recommends:
One Up on Wall Street
Written by Peter Lynch, famed former head of Magellan Funds at Fidelity Investments, the book emphasizes that individuals should buy stock “in what you know”. As an example, Lynch recounts that his interest in Dunkin Donuts stock was based on the fact that “he really liked the coffee”. After analyzing the stock, he took a sizable position in the company. His investment yielded over a 1000 % return. The concept is that an individual, in his or her daily life, will spot a trend or see an opportunity well before a Wall Street analyst might.
The Magellan Fund, under Lynch’s leadership from 1977 to 1990, averaged an annual 29.2% return…more than doubling the S&P 500 return.

For those with an intermediate understanding of financial markets, Anil Jethmal recommends:
Security Analysis
Written by Benjamin Graham and David Dodd and originally published in 1934, the philosophy within those pages still hold true today. Not a quick read at over 700 pages, the overriding theme is that one should look for value in stocks with a large margin of safety.
A professor at Columbia University, Graham gave student Warren Buffett an A+ in 1951. And, to this day, Buffett applies the Graham/Dodd criteria to every investment he makes: “The basic ideas of investing are to look at stocks as businesses, use the market’s fluctuations to your advantage, and seek a margin of safety. That’s what Ben Graham taught us. A hundred years from now they will still be the cornerstones of investing.”

For those who have an advanced understanding of financial markets, Anil Jethmal recommends:
Along with the two previously mentioned works, the best thing one can do is to read lots of financial statements (income statements, balance sheets, 10Ks, insider transactions, etc.). There is no book that can replace going to the source and analyzing the actual numbers.

Let Sound Sleep: A Sound Approach to Healing

When Anil Jethmal tells people that he contracted typhoid at age eight while living in India, he gets a variety of responses. Some shudder at the ominous sound of the word typhoid. Typhoid, Anil retorts, is nothing more than bacterial food poisoning – very treatable. Most people, however, are particularly aghast at the notion of his having to deal with what they perceive to be a serious illness – in an Indian hospital.

Anil Jethmal is amused at both reactions. In particular, his amusement emanates from the false presumption that Indian hospitals are vastly inferior to those in the US.

To that point, forty years later, what Anil remembers most about his weeklong hospital stay was the luxury and serenity of the Indian hospital. His well-appointed and placid room overlooking the Arabian Sea had all the bearings of a world class luxury resort. Anil Jethmal’s doctor explained that that was a part of the healing process.

The opulence at the hospital was not simply extravagance for extravagance’s sake. Indian philosophy in healthcare stresses that, in addition to medical attention, the body can best fight off illness if it is well rested and is in a pleasant area free of germs. Human physiology, they reason, knows best how to heal itself. The white blood cells in our bodies know exactly what to do and where to go if disease is present.

This may all seem extremely obvious, even to a layperson. Yet, anyone who has had an overnight stay in a US hospital knows uninterrupted sleep is a virtual impossibility. Moreover, most of these hospitals are festered with germs. In fact, oftentimes hospital policy denies access to children under a certain age, due to children’s natural lower immunity and thus their heightened susceptibility of being afflicted with an airborne illness.

In such an environment where rest is difficult, patients’ white blood cells are not optimized. Worse, the limited white blood cells that a patient has to combat illness, now have to fight a war on two fronts- the germs within the body and also, the germs in the hospital.

Anil Jethmal recalls having a conversation with his US general practitioner about the paradox between the intent of many US hospitals and the physical condition of the very same facilities. Far from being offended by the comparison, he offered his own explanation.

US hospitals, he theorized, besides trying to help with patients’ medical needs are also corporations in the business of maximizing profits. One of the success metrics for a hospital is profitability per square foot – hence the incentive of hospital owners and administrators to opt for close quarters. The close quarters, unfortunately, compromise not only a patient’s rest, but also, the germ free environment that is ideal for a patient. This dual compromise leads to longer hospital stays – and thus higher billings to the patient’s insurance company.

Clearly, from a patient’s standpoint, a more restful stay with a shorter recovery time is preferable. However, both concluded their robust conversation wondering whether from a profit standpoint, an eastern medical philosophy is preferable. While such a resolution might seem quixotic, it is certainly worth a look.
By the way, eight-year old Anil Jethmal recovered quickly from his bout with typhoid, had a very pleasant hospital stay and, after asking, was told that the hospital bill was very reasonable.

Two Weeks in December 1971

In December, 1971, Anil Jethmal was 6 years old and living in Bombay, India. He remembers the sirens that would wail in the middle of the night and he knew what had to be done. India was at war with Pakistan. The sirens were notice that enemy aircraft were approaching the city. As his parents would light a solitary candle for illumination and then turn out all lights in the house, Anil would gather his black opaque construction sheets of paper and start taping them onto all the windows in the house.
This was the plan of the Indian military. They reasoned that if the enemy could not see light emanating from the city, it would thwart their military efforts. Perhaps they were correct. Within a period of two weeks, Pakistan conceded military defeat to India.
During those two weeks, daytime was a very different experience for a young Anil Jethmal. Both his parents and he had friends who were Hindus and Muslims. Yet, even during the tension of war, they maintained amicable relationships with their Muslim friends and acquaintances.
Reflecting back on those two weeks, a much older Anil Jethmal, recalls the absence of social tension in Bombay, and indeed India, between Muslims and Hindus. True, this was not a war waged upon the premise of religious ideology. It was a war to liberate the people of Bangladesh from an oppressive Pakistani regime. Still, the absence of hostilities among the citizenry during that period was especially remarkable when one factors in that Muslims have an ancient history of aggressive proselytization.
Moreover, even the Indian government, in the Simla Agreement of 1972, as a gesture of goodwill, returned to Pakistan over 5700 square miles of territory it had gained in the war.
Forty-five years later, Anil Jethmal wonders if there are any lessons to be learned from this conflict for global society at large. In an age where there are so many religions, races and creeds at odds with each other, and tensions running so high, Anil can’t help but think back to those two weeks in December 1971. While he yearns for a like resolution, he has, like so many, no practical suggestions or answers.