Books and Beyond with Bound

5.12 Kamal Gupta: From IIT to Wall Street, the gambler who beat all odds

March 28, 2023 Bound Podcasts Season 5 Episode 12
5.12 Kamal Gupta: From IIT to Wall Street, the gambler who beat all odds
Books and Beyond with Bound
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Books and Beyond with Bound
5.12 Kamal Gupta: From IIT to Wall Street, the gambler who beat all odds
Mar 28, 2023 Season 5 Episode 12
Bound Podcasts

Dive into the perilous world of gambling with Kamal Gupta as he discusses and divulges his story. 

Kamal Gupta takes Tara and Michelle through his thrilling journey of counting and gambling documented in his book: “Play It Right: The Remarkable Story of a Gambler Who Beat the Odds on Wall Street”. A real-life underdog tale of one man turning the tables on the casinos and Wall Street without selling his soul to the devil. Find out what it means to make it in the gambling industry. Can one land a job on Wall Street on the bases of their gambling experience? Do female gamblers worry about facing violence? 

Listen in to know the most difficult way to make easy money!

Books and movies mentioned in this episode:

  • 21 - The Movie
  • Anomaly
  • Molly's game
  • Wolf of Wall Street 

Produced by Aishwarya Javalgekar
Sound edit by Kshitij Jadhav

‘Books and Beyond with Bound’ is the podcast where Tara Khandelwal and Michelle D’costa uncover how their books reflect the realities of our lives and society today. Find out what drives India’s finest authors: from personal experiences to jugaad research methods, insecurities to publishing journeys. Created by Bound, a storytelling company that helps you grow through stories. Follow us @boundindia on all social media platforms.

Show Notes Transcript

Dive into the perilous world of gambling with Kamal Gupta as he discusses and divulges his story. 

Kamal Gupta takes Tara and Michelle through his thrilling journey of counting and gambling documented in his book: “Play It Right: The Remarkable Story of a Gambler Who Beat the Odds on Wall Street”. A real-life underdog tale of one man turning the tables on the casinos and Wall Street without selling his soul to the devil. Find out what it means to make it in the gambling industry. Can one land a job on Wall Street on the bases of their gambling experience? Do female gamblers worry about facing violence? 

Listen in to know the most difficult way to make easy money!

Books and movies mentioned in this episode:

  • 21 - The Movie
  • Anomaly
  • Molly's game
  • Wolf of Wall Street 

Produced by Aishwarya Javalgekar
Sound edit by Kshitij Jadhav

‘Books and Beyond with Bound’ is the podcast where Tara Khandelwal and Michelle D’costa uncover how their books reflect the realities of our lives and society today. Find out what drives India’s finest authors: from personal experiences to jugaad research methods, insecurities to publishing journeys. Created by Bound, a storytelling company that helps you grow through stories. Follow us @boundindia on all social media platforms.

Tara Khandelwal  00:01

Welcome to Books and Beyond with bound. I'm Tara canderel.


Michelle D'costa  00:05

I am Michelle D'costa.


Tara Khandelwal  00:07

And in this podcast, we uncover the stories behind some of the best written books of our time,


Michelle D'costa  00:13

and find out how these books reflect our lives and our society today. So tune


Tara Khandelwal  00:18

in every Wednesday to enter a whole new world with a new author. And a new idea. Yes.


Michelle D'costa  00:26

And after three years and 2 million listens, we are back with all factories and five,


Tara Khandelwal  00:31

with hard hitting questions and life changing books.


Michelle D'costa  00:35

So let's dive in.


Tara Khandelwal  00:38

Today, we are very, very excited because we have a special guest who is a little different from the authors, we usually interview on our podcast, because he's a professional gambler turned hedge fund manager. And he's going to be speaking about his journey counting cards in casinos, to a twist of fate that brought him into the trading rooms of Wall Street, which is an industry that you know, I've always been super fascinated what goes on inside the trading room. So all this upfront as an Indian immigrant. So his memoir is called plate right. And today we have with us Kamal Gupta. So welcome to the podcast. Kamal.



Thank you. Very great to be here.


Tara Khandelwal  01:20

Yes. So let's dive deeper into Wall Street. The world of casinos and money. Absolutely.


Michelle D'costa  01:28

Yeah. So you know, come on your book, you know, what actually drew me to your book is the fact that it's about gambling, right. And it's actually also the reason why I kind of put the book down a couple of times, because, you know, it was like, I was kind of, you know, questioning my conscience, because I've heard of a lot of horror stories, that people have lost a lot of money in gambling, right. And it has such a bad reputation. But I've never heard of anyone who has done it, right. And that's what actually pushed me to finish your book. So I want to know, you know, how does one become a professional gambler, like, you know, we all know rookie gamblers, but I really want to know, like, you know, from the first step to the point where, you know, you were treated as a success in the industry, what was it like?



I mean, there is for, I found this to be true in most ventures that I've been involved in, especially in gambling, practice, indeed, makes perfect. I mean, so there are two aspects to this practice and to becoming a professional gambler. The first and the most important aspect is making sure that you have an advantage over the casino. Virtually, like everyone that walks into any Casino in Las Vegas, or Reno, or anywhere around the world surrenders a great deal of advantage. For instance, if you play roulette, you are giving up a 5% advantage to the casino. So no matter what happens in the long run, if you bet $100 or 100 rupees every Illinois risk every round, in the long run, you lose five, five of those 100 on every spin. So if you don't have the advantage with you, there is no hope of playing the game and winning. So the first thing I did was to make sure that the math of blackjack was correct. And I sat down and I have a mathematical background. So I sat down and prove to myself that the math indeed was correct. And if I could play the game well or rather played right, then I had a hope of beating the casinos, because without the advantage, that is no hope. And once I was certain that it can be done. Now the question is, Can I do it. And you know, initially, my initial forays to the casinos were really disastrous, and like, caused me to lose a great deal of self confidence and not to mention a lot of money. But I figured out that the key to success was practice. And what I did, and this, none of my friends saw this, because they just thought I was like going to the casinos and just randomly winning, they didn't see for six or eight months, I stayed in my apartment in San Francisco, and practiced for six to eight hours a day. So it was just nonstop practice. And even after that my first few trips, were not, you know, fun to say the least. But then over time, I figured out that it's not simply having an edge and having practiced enough that you can count cards in a casino. The third very vital aspect is having discipline. And these are all things I learned over time as I was going through my two or three years of gambling, and so a combination of making sure you have the advantage, tremendous amount of practice and then finally having the discipline to stay with the strategy. I would say those are the three key aspects of becoming a professional gambler.


Tara Khandelwal  04:38

Yeah. And I loved in the book you know I love the part where you're to assume these different identities oh yeah to play in the casino. And as you can this identity of this like flashy businessman who are to display all these grand emotions. And you know the book, and when you say you know the math of it. I remember watching this movie You were you know, the protagonist was counting cards. And it was sort of seen as this really bad thing. I think the movie is called 21. Yeah. And there was a group of college students, and they used to go from casino to casino, sort of counting cards, because they were mathematical geniuses. And then there was a lot of violence in the movie, because obviously, the casino doesn't like that you're beating the system. That's not how casinos are set up. So, you know, I read in the book that you were sort of kicked out of casinos, there's a lot of that going on. So were you ever worried about the violence or only once? Could you tell us an anecdote about when you got caught?



Yeah, I mean, it the first time I get caught is in Belize in Reno, and it was a fairly gentlemanly, you know, backing off, I mean, the guy who, and this story is in the book, the guy who the shift manager of Belize kicks me out. And he is, you know, I do have a conversation with him after the whole incident is over, he tells me flat out, listen, we know what you're doing, you know what you're doing, we just can't afford to let you play. You're just too good. So I took that as a small pat on the back and like a backhanded sort of way. You know, they're complimenting me, even as they kick me out of the door. But not every casino that kept me out was that kind of, in general, there was a casino called the Clarion. And I think they're different now, because this is we're talking about almost three decades ago. That's where my act was in like full flow. And in terms of being a plastics Import Export businessman, not a computer guy from Delhi, working in the computer industry in the Silicon Valley, and, and also this crazy, wild and crazy Indian businessman who dressed in really flashy clothes and acted like really emotional and crazy, even though, deep down. All I'm doing is betting rationally and with a very careful and cold and calculate in a careful, cold and calculated manner. And this went on for like more than a year. And the pit passes and the dealers, everyone became my friend, you know, and they would ask me for jobs in my company. And I would just say, Oh, no, no, I'm not. Even though what I did was play blackjack, I mean, but they had no idea. And I would send them postcards from my travels around the world. And it would seem like I was going around the world on business. But all I was doing was visiting my parents in New Delhi. I mean, and but sometimes we go to Delhi, you have to stop in Singapore, sometimes in Zurich, sometimes in London. So wherever I stopped, I would send them picture postcards. This is before, I mean, there wasn't that much email in the very early 1990s. And so they really thought of me as this wild and crazy Indian who was their friend. And it took them a little over a year to figure out that what I was doing was discounting cars, and they were furious. And so when they finally kicked me out, I mean, there was no physical violence, but there was definitely a threat of violence because they came with these two really burly, you know, bodyguards with, they made it very clear to me that they were furious. And if I put up any sort of resistance, I mean, something bad could happen to me. But luckily, I had been bought three more times before that. So I knew on my fourth occasion how to conduct myself, which is just to pick up your chips, cash them, thankfully, the casinos don't take your chips, and then they let you cash them and convert them to money. And just leave. Don't ever put up a fight. Don't argue, you know, you've been caught. Unfortunately, legally, they're allowed to throw you out. So don't give them any reason to do anything worse than that.


Michelle D'costa  08:32

Yeah. And wow.


Tara Khandelwal  08:34

Yeah. Yeah. Just wanted to Oh, can you go back to that Casino? Africa? No,



I never did. I never went, Okay. I've never gone back to any of the casinos that I got barred from



what you know, what


Michelle D'costa  08:46

I'm curious about is common. You know why some people have a passion, let's say they have an obsession with a particular field. And they follow it for some time, right, like, let's say throughout your life, but I find it interesting that you have a tendency to move on after a point, right? So you know, after a point after you spent 27 years in Wall Street after you were a gambler, now you've moved on to writing so I want to know, what is it about writing that actually appeals to you?



You know, I it's one of those things I never thought I was or would ever be a writer. I mean, it was never in just like, you know, working on Wall Street was a route that I've taken that I would never do. So, I mean, things sort of just turned out in an unexpected fashion. I mean, now, in my twin change decades on Wall Street, I had always been a storyteller, but telling stories verbally to people you will know about environments and situations and you know, people that they also are familiar with is a very different exercise from putting a story on paper in words that anyone can follow even someone not at all familiar with the with the financial industry or casinos or anything else. So the reason I I decided, I mean, I had thought for a long time to write a book. But I was going to write an arm's length book about Wall Street, not like a highly personalized memoir, which is what plate write is. And the credit for that goes to my agent, because that he said, listen, to me, You're interesting is far more interesting than anything that goes on on Wall Street. We understand we ever see it through your eyes. But we really want your story. When I first started writing the book, and chapter one sort of wrote itself, so that was easy. But the rest of it was extremely difficult. And it took me the whole book took four years. And I think the first two of those years were spent myself teaching myself how to write, I read a lot of books, just like I had done with blackjack. And on Wall Street, there were no books, really. But I sort of trained myself and that took seven years, gambling is a very lonely profession. And so is managing money on Wall Street, despite again, all the hoopla and the noise around it. Deep down, you know, I even have a line like that in the book that life of a money manager manager makes like that of a gambler is a lonely one. And the same thing is true for writing. I mean, no one's gonna I mean, yes, there's a lot of help with editing and stuff like that. But no one is going to get your story out. I started writing the book, because the beginning was always there, the middle will always there and June of 2018 provided me with a perfect ending to the story. And so I said, Okay, now I need to sit down and write it, then it takes four more years.


Tara Khandelwal  11:27

So what happened in June 2018.



So it was, I mean, I'd been in the financial industry for quite a quarter century at that point, because I started in 83. And now we are in I mean, it's the event starts in spring of 2018, I get recruited by the same gentleman who brings me to Wall Street at water's edge, I mean, life comes full circle, because the individual who hires me on the basis of my gambling skills, 25 years later, hires me, you know, at his startup hedge fund. So I, I go, because I mean, I, I kind of owe him right, because without him, my entire vaulted career would not be possible. And it was a startup hedge fund, which had no capital, no employees, no office space, nothing. They had just a handful of people working. And when we discussed Mike coming over, we met in like a coffee shop, there was like, not even an office to meet. So I said, Fine, I'll come. So I started working for them in very early 2018. And the first desk for any startup hedge fund is to raise money. So he asked me to help them raise money. And I was a little perplexed because despite having worked in the industry, for so long, I had never taken part in any marketing. Even though I'd worked for some very large hedge funds, they do the marketing separate, and I was responsible for managing the money and producing a return on the money, it was somebody else's job to produce the capital. And then I would take the capital and invest it. And it was somewhat intimidating. And it was the first time I've done anything like this. And I sat down and thought about and there was no training or no background, and no guidance about how to go about doing this, just like there was none in blackjack, not on Wall Street. And in writing the book. I mean, I just sort of had to figure it out. And I realized the only thing I can do is tell them my life story, a big part of which was Wall Street, 25 years, you know, and so I just have to go in there, it's an hour long meeting with five or seven people sitting on the other side of the table, and you know, me on across them. And I just started telling them my life story about coming to America, you know, being bored with computer science becoming a professional gambler how that brought me to Wall Street, how I spent seven years creating an investment strategy, and what are the results of that investment strategy work? You know, after one or two meetings, it was clear that investors were fascinated with the story. And one very large investor went so far as to call me the most interesting portfolio manager that they've ever met. And so I had many such meetings in spring of 2018. And I mean, obviously, I can't take credit for all of this, but because there were a lot of other people involved. But I made a significant contribution to the fundraising for this hedge fund to the point that by the time June of 2018, rolls around, instead of trying to raise money, the hedge fund is turning money down because we're massively oversubscribed. On June 1 of 2018, that hedge fund it was called excellent point capital, became the largest hedge fund launched in history with $8 billion under management, like no hedge fund has ever raised more money on day one. And while I was in during those meetings in the spring of 2018, the head of marketing for access point, you know, who also sat in and observe how the meetings went. After a couple of those meetings he gave, he started calling me the closer because he felt like my story brought the whole matter to a close and so I became the last person that the potential investors would meet before they headed out to make a final decision about the investment So that's why the epilogue of the book is fittingly called the closet. Because that was my nickname. And it's also closes out the book. And that was the event when I realized that my story has such impact on people I've never met before. Well, I need to write it down on paper. So that's was the event that propelled me to write the book.


Tara Khandelwal  15:19

And you're certainly a very good oral storyteller as well, because I was fascinated with the whole thing. And so you know, now that the book is out, and it's such an interesting book, are there more books for you in the future?



Well, it depends. I am working on a book to at the moment, and there is a teaser for Book Two in book in place. Nonfiction, no, I cannot write fiction, I can only write about real life experience. It's actually this book will be. It's very, I mean, it's also based on my experiences, but it's a very different idea from play, try it. But they tried to strike memo and story of what happened to me in the situations I was in the decisions I made, and how things turned out. This book focuses on exactly one topic, which to which I devote about two pages, or three pages in plate, right, which is negotiating. And so this book is a route will be, if it comes to fruition, will be a rules based book on how to go about negotiating in your life. And usually, the biggest negotiation that most people are involved in, is negotiating for with a future or current employer. So like when you're negotiating for a job, whether you're interviewing for a job and negotiating for salary or anything like that, I mean, obviously, negotiating is the same whether you're doing for a house or a car, or a job. Over the last 25 years, I've negotiated on behalf of countless contrasts of individuals from behind the scenes. And so I'm sort of taking all the rules that I've used and putting them into 15 or 20 chapters with one rule, getting each chapter of their own, and creating a book. So right now I have a handful of chapters written and I would like to finish the outline of the book. And then it's up to my agent to see if he can get it published or not. And if it doesn't get published, I think in the worst case, I will just finish the manuscript, and put it on my website for people to just read.


Tara Khandelwal  17:19

No, I think that's very useful. I remember, in business school, we are doing a class on negotiation. And another tip that the professor had given is like, don't think of it sort of, like, you know, like, one person loses, and one person wins, but how can you sort of, you know, increase the circle for for everyone else, but coming to, you know, your work on Wall Street, I found it really interesting that you had actually taken a vow, never two or three, because of, you know, the obsession with money. And, you know, you're an IIT and and you're working in computers, and then blackjack. And so I wanted more of an analysis of, you know, the reason why you changed your mind, is there sort of an anecdote that you can narrate for your years on, you know, what was that switch that, you know, from a vow never to work or work on Wall Street to a, you know, decades long career?



Well, that's not the only wow, I broke, you know, I was never going to live in New York City. And it was never going to be a non Indian. And that systematically in the book, all those vows get broken. But the the event that it didn't cause me to break my vow, but it put me on a path to it when you know, in a random visit to New York City, you know, some friends of some friends or friends of mine, who all worked on Wall Street, listened to my gambling stories and said, oh, you should come and work on Wall Street. What am I going to do and don't have any sort of a business or a finance background should come and trade and I thought trade was something that happened between countries before I realized that there's a whole profession called trading. So one of them gave me a copy of liars poker in which page 125 talked about blackjack player ending up on Wall Street. Now, he also got an MBA from Harvard, which I had no interest in getting. So I said, you know, if Wall Street could hire one blackjack player, maybe they'll hire another. So I sent them a resume. And even then I did it mostly on a whim to see if I could even do this. And it sounds strange to say that in hindsight, but that's why I did play blackjack also, I did mostly on offset or self-styled there that can I beat the casinos. You know, I want to see if I can do it. And oddly enough, the first time I get kicked out to me, it's an incredible validation of having beaten them, right. Otherwise, why would they kick me out? And I had the same feeling about Wall Street, you know, after regenerating liars, poker that can someone without any sort of a business background, any interest in finance, knowing nothing, just on the basis of their gambling skills, and they get a job on Wall Street, and that was my entire thought process. When I sent my resume to Merrill Lynch and to Lehman Brothers. and Merrill Lynch rightfully said, We have no idea how to evaluate you. And obviously, Lehman Brothers was a very different story. But it was, I never thought I would get a job. To me, I came to New York just to see if I could do it. And the thought of if I got a job, would I do it or not? Was very far from my mind, because I thought the probability of getting a job was like, single digit percentage at best. But I do get a job offer in like, on the same day, I refuse to give a Yeah, give them a yes, despite a great deal of pressure to do. So. I fly back to San Francisco, I think about it for a week before accepting the job. And that one week made me realize that it's definitely has the potential to be life changing. And I've been gambling for two and a half years or more at this stage. And I feel like I've conquered Blackjack, you know, so I thought, you know, maybe a new challenge would not be the worst thing. So I decided to accept the leaving to this job offer. And then, and this story is told in some gory detail in the book, but it was just miserable. My first two years were absolutely miserable. And I almost leave, never to come back. But I you know, spoiler alert, I do go back and stay for another 20 to 25 years. Yeah,


Tara Khandelwal  21:17

I found it. You know, those first two years, you know, there was so much sort of, you're facing so much harassment, especially as an Indian. Yeah. And it's, it's crazy. And I do have a question about that. But before that, you know, I'm also interested in the ethics because you speak about the ethics of both, like and Wall Street, and that something that you had to contend with. And in the book, you also mentioned, you know, oftentimes at the directive of your bosses, and this is a quote, you're to create fraudulence, structures and in effect, you've said, spin garbage into gold. So how did you deal with this conflict of, you know, wanting to do well, and the job and, you know, all of these things, and then dealing with the repercussions of creating these sort of, you know, instruments, how was it was,



it was difficult, but the one thing is, is there that I, the only way I overcame all the ethical problems that were in front of me, and this is why the book is called play it right. It's not just played right, from the standpoint of the method that you deploy to beat the casinos or Wall Street or markets. It's also played right, as opposed to wrong in terms of the moral sense of the word. So I was very driven, even though I got thrown into situations which I thought were, at the very minimum, highly unethical, if not worse. I knew that once I saw that I was going to extricate myself from it. And that I, because the only thing that mattered to me was the game and the quality of my play. And you know fleecing clients and creating structures that ripped people off was not exactly I mean, those things can make you very wealthy and make it get you paid a lot of money. But I had no interest in that. Just like when I was playing blackjack, I had no interest in the money. Yes, of course, you have to win money to prove that you're winning. But to me, it was all about playing the game. Well, and I even have a line in the book, which is, I think, had figured out during my gambling years that the key to happiness is playing the game. Well, no matter what game you're playing, playing the game well during the day, and sleeping well at night. And to me not sleeping well at night seems like a very simple statement. But it's very nuanced in the sense that, you know, I don't think a thief sleeps well at night. I don't think a crib sleeps all night, I don't think somebody who has too much risk on their books, sleeps while at night, they gave her to get up at two o'clock in the morning and are obsessively checking where prices are in Tokyo. And so the way I went about it is that I only did took actions. I mean, if I was in a situation in which was untenable, I removed myself and that happened several times in the book. And once I finally had control over my destiny, when I had a method and I was allowed to work at hedge funds for the next 20 years managing money, I made sure no matter how great the pressure to take untold amount of risk that I only traded in sizes and amounts and, and manner, which was very highly risk controlled very much like how I played blackjack, and that the chance of mine losing a lot of money was under 5%. And then, as long as I could sleep well at night, I knew from a moral and a method standpoint, I was in good shape. Because you know, everybody has some sort of an intelligent internal compass when they know something is not right. And it will wake you up at night. And I can tell you, you know, even in the worst of times, I've slept, you know, well through the night for 20 years that I worked. So the way I dealt with the ethical conflict was a focusing on the game be removing myself from difficult situations. And finally, not ever worrying about money and trading money as a side effect of a game played well. Yeah,


Michelle D'costa  24:56

and actually you're talking about sleeping well at night cover you You faced a lot of harrassment at your work, right? And just for context for our listeners, so in chapter 10, details, an entire episode, and I was literally on the edge of my seat. And I don't want to obviously spoil it for our readers. So please do, you know, read that in the book. But you know, what I found interesting is see I am I'm from an HR background, okay. And I was really shocked to know that there was no redressal method, there was no way to report, you know, such horrible behavior, right, and something that couldn't be tolerated in today's day. So could you maybe share another work incident, you know, something like that, that would never be tolerated in today's day.



I mean, things really changed in around 2000 or so. And this is like 9394 that I'm talking about. I'll give you an example of how somebody who runs a group harasses a member in the group. And this is not racial, or homophobic or anything like gender based, it was pure, uncut harassment, there was an individual on our desk, I mean, the name doesn't really matter. And he had the same boss that I had, whose story is detail in chapter 10. And this individual, my boss became upset at this individual, because he took too many bathroom breaks. Now this guy is 30, some years old, right? And our, the guy who ran our group instituted a bathroom pass just for him, in the sense that he created a virtual key like a card. And he said, You are not allowed to go to the bathroom without asking me first, imagine how humiliating it is for a 37 year old guy, to need his boss's permission to go not only is permission, but an explicit, you know, card to actually easy to go. And then he has to give the card back when he comes back. It's just insane that this kind of behavior, and this was happening in full view of at least 100 people. And even like the story in chapter 10, happens in full view of the trading floor, because trading floor is a very, it's a vast open space with no barriers, right? Everyone can see what's going on. And, you know, and someone that you're one of the people that I knew, during my water years, he actually called me after reading the book, and he thanked me for writing it. I said, Why? Why are you thanking me for writing, I understand you enjoyed the book, because his wife worked at Lehman Brothers during the same years that I was there. And she was subjected to untold amount of harassment. But there was no mechanism for redressal in the early 90s, on Wall Street, you couldn't, there was no place to turn to. By the way, the same thing is true happens in 2004 in a very different manner. I mean, I might have large, the largest Swiss bank in the world. And I figured out that it's a house of cards, and yet I have no mechanism to redress this. So I call it the Titanic and a house of cards, and I just flee in spring of 2005. And three years later, the bank essentially collapses. And if it wasn't for the Swiss government and the federal reserve in the US, you know, the name of the company that was worth $450 billion, at one point would be consigned to the pages of history. So I mean, you know, there is, in my and this is sort of why I'm working on Book Two, because I think an individual doesn't really have any powerful mechanism of redressing the wrongs that goes on in corporate America, for sure. And the book, too, is written from the perspective of how I've helped, and I only help individuals struggle against large companies, I don't help companies negotiate against individuals, or companies negotiate against companies. I'm only helping David to beat Goliath. So that's the I mean, even plate right has a David versus Goliath bent, right? Me, it's the casinos me against the walls, me against Wall Street firms, and, you know, so on and so forth. So, to me, it was, I mean, it's all about helping the little guy beat with the establishment more than anything else.


Tara Khandelwal  29:01

I gotta imagine, you know, especially as a woman, I've read, there was another fiction book, but it's based on the author's life about a woman in Wall Street, and just can't imagine sort of, you know, the kind of pressure and harassment that even women have to face. And I think that I definitely don't think that I have it in me to be in Wall Street at all, you know, that's what I'm things. And Michelle and I were talking is it, you know, do we have it in us diverse environment? And I'll tell



you a brief story of something that story is not in the book, but something that happened right in front of my eyes, you know, and one of my jobs, you know, in the mid 90s, I had an assistant, you know, who was a woman, and one evening we were both working late. And, you know, around 730 or something, she said, Okay, I'm going home. I said fine. See you tomorrow, and she walks down the aisle. And there is a gentleman sitting the whole trading floor is empty because everybody He leaves a clever block at 730. There's no one there except some guy, you know, in risk management and technology is working on someone's computer. It's not his seat, but he's sitting there. And I see him eyeing this a woman as she's walking towards him. And unfortunately, she had to go past a seat to get to the double doors that lead to the elevators. And but you think nothing of it. And she, you know, is walking and I'm looking at him, craning his neck to look at her. And then he leans his chair further and further back, as she gets closer and closer. And as she passes him, he swivels his chair around. And when he lifts his hand, and gives her a full force smack on her body, sitting there, like, did I really watch this happen in real time? And the next morning, she come and she like, starts, right? looks at him, is about to say something but doesn't. And she collects herself and just walks out. Right. But the next morning, the first thing she asked me is Gupta, did you see that? I said, I saw the whole thing. If you want to make an issue of it, I'll back you up. Like I'm a I'm an eyewitness, right to this obvious harassment. And she thought about it long and hard. And she decided to not say a word, because she knew her welted career would end the moment she spoke her, you know, she opened her mouth, you know, to make a complaint against an individual to which she has, you know, an unbiased witness. And even then, not a word was said, and nothing happened to the individual. I mean, to me, that captures that's great. No Wall Street, I mean, the same thing. And this is why you have a crisis in 2018. Because there's never any consequences for bad behavior.


Tara Khandelwal  31:37

Right? It's it's not what you know, in the book, you mentioned many times that you wanted to quit. And then obviously, you know, from wanting to quit many times to over subscribing, have fun and having the kind of opening that you did. So, you know, what changed? Why did you keep sort of, you know, going back, what was it that



there was only one reason why I kept going back, because I found the game fascinating. It was one of those things that I found the game fascinating, but I found the environment stifling. So it was like a real contradiction, right? The only place for me to play this game, you know, which is called the mortgage market. And it's a fascinating game. I mean, I spent seven years trying to decipher it. And, you know, before I could come up with a method, and I loved playing that game, but unfortunately, the only place I can play that game is the investment banks or hedge funds. I mean, there's no other place, you can't, you cannot play that game sitting at home. So the what kept me going all this time, was the game. I mean, I you know, even raising money for the hedge fund and marketing. Actually, that was the game like I how do I play this for maximum, you know, effect? And I felt the same way about writing a book. I mean, it's a challenge, right? Can I do this? I mean, and that's been a competence, you know, strain throughout my life is, Can I do this? Can I get through it without, you know, really spending months or years studying? Can I, you know, become a professional blackjack player, can I get a job on Wall Street? Can I succeed on Wall Street? Can I write a book? Well, I wouldn't get published. I mean, so most of the things were more about like, Can I do this?


Michelle D'costa  33:14

Yeah, actually, you don't, what I keep thinking about is you need to have a drive that keeps you going, you know, despite everything, you know, so I'm just wondering, come on, you know, what was your upbringing, like, you know, what was your childhood like? And I will say, this risk taking, you know, potential that's in you wasn't always there, you know, since you were a child, or did it develop later on?



I think it was always there. And I think maybe it was a reaction to my parents, because children turn out sometimes the opposite of their parents. My parents are very risk averse, you know. And I went to Springdale School, which is also, you know, detailed in one chapter, you know, in the book. And even though we live, like, a couple of miles from the place in from Spring deals on pusa Road in New Orleans when I go, my parents would not let me take, you know, public transportation because they were terrified. So, I mean, maybe it was as a reaction of that to that. But more importantly, I think it was because I have a mathematical mind. And I understood probabilities. And I realized that if the odds are in my favor, I'm supposed to bet. And as long as I make enough bets that are where the odds favor me, I will come out ahead over time. And that's a constant strain. I mean, it's not just in on Wall Street and gambling. But even I mean, I don't know if you recall, but even you know, I suffered from a certain medical conditions and I was suggested all sorts of like horrible neck operations, which I refused to do, and those turned out to be great. Gamble's, even the wild that I took that I would never marry a non Indian, which I ended up breaking. And it was a real gamble in the early 90s or mid 90s. For me to marry an Italian American, you know, But it was a gamble that paid off very handsomely. And it was a huge gamble for her also, because when we get married, I'm almost jobless, even though I've been on water for two years, but I've left it for a temporary period of time, and she doesn't. So I even asked her, like, in hindsight, like, did you did it? Well, you're not worried that I didn't really have a way of making a living when we were getting married. She said, I figured I thought you would figure something out. Lots of things happen. But sort of I figured out like, a way to get back by just always keeping my focus on the game and playing it well. And that's why I played well doesn't make for a much for a great right title plate right is so much better, because it's also a phrase lifted from Kenny Rogers song the gambler.


Tara Khandelwal  35:45

Yeah, play it right is is a great title, era of understanding and much more. You know, there's a very interesting line in your book, which you say that my parents had given me strict instructions, not to mention my blind pass to anyone in India, you know. And then you also have a quote, which says, the world hates a gambler, but loves a winner. You know, I find that very interesting. And, you know, can you tell us a little bit more about, you know, how your parents reacted to the book? Or not? How your parents react? Yeah, to, you know, when you became a winner, or how did people's perception of you change after you became a winner?



It was astonishing. I mean, and years ago, I thought I should write a book on blackjack only from not so much from a mathematical standpoint. But from the standpoint of how people perceive a gambler, you know, before and after, the before and after is, you know, before, before they know that he's a winner, and after they realize he actually wins. And it was astonishing to me for over two year period, how everyone's attitudes around me, changed not only towards me, because everyone dismissed me as like a delusional GDN read gambler who was using probability theory to justify addiction. I was obviously a gambling addict. And who knows, maybe I was, for a brief moment in time. It's possible. But over time, I learned to become a very cold and calculating player. But the same people who thought I was a degenerate gambling addict, get a year, year and a half later desperately wanted to learn how to count cards themselves. And because, like I said, everyone loves a winner, right? Everybody wants to emulate a winner. And it became clear to everyone. I mean, whether or not that they came on, on the trips with me or not, that I was winning far more often than I was losing. And I think I kept records. And I think, I wonder about 80% of the trips that I made to Reno and Las Vegas, and maybe last, you know, 15% of them, and 5%, were maybe breakeven, which is about how the math works out for how long I used to play on every trip. But winning on 80% of your trips to Las Vegas is an astonishing percentage. And it's a very powerful feeling to walk into a casino and know that the odds are with you. And that given enough time and capital, you will come out ahead. And which is the same method employed on Wall Street, so, so that, I mean, and people can sense confidence, right? I mean, yes, I'm sure over those two, two and a half years, not only did I become a better gambler, I also became a much more confident individual. And people can tell that I mean, especially women can I think it made a dramatic difference to how women interacted with me, people who thought I was a complete loser, certainly thought I was a glamorous, you know, gambler, and even my parents who really was they tried very hard to get me to stop care. It took them a very long time to accept that gambling was the root of my success. And that's why you would want to get married and I've gone legit, I'm working on Wall Street. I've been there for two years. Yes, I've taken a break. And I'm not sure I'm going back. But at least I've gotten the stamp of approval it okay, he works on Wall Street. And even then, when in our wedding in India, when people would ask me, how did I go from computers to Wall Street, I was not allowed to tell anyone that it was gambling, that was the key, because they just could not bear the thought of them. You know, everyone, they knew, realizing that I had been gambling for a few years. And, I mean, they obviously did not like the idea of my doing this at the time. I mean, obviously, in hindsight, now, they're very happy about it. But at the time, they just hated it. And they were no different from everyone else I knew, you know, other than my brother, I don't didn't, you know, I don't know, a single individual who is supportive of my doing this. But then, over time, every single person I knew came around.


Michelle D'costa  39:37

Anyway, I'm really curious to know the audience of your book cover because, you know, I really want you to know, for example, the secrets of the trade. So you know, is it for example, for those people who are skeptical about the industry and would want to know what it's like, or you know, like, Who is it for?



I've tried to write it for a very general rd. Since and this is why the technical aspects of the book have also been written in a language that non finance and non gambling people can understand. Like, my wife is a physical therapist, and she helped me edit the book a great deal, and largely to the point that she could understand the finance parts and the gaming parts, you know, herself without having to resort to some explanatory book or article or something like that. So I've tried to write it for a very general audience. And, you know, when I wrote it, I thought it was only meant for the US, because the story is largely set in the US. But obviously, I grew up in India, and I mean, immigrant. But I was very surprised by how much interest there was in the book in India, and there was like, almost a bidding war between several publishers. And so my objective is, I think the book is meant for anyone who's interested in gambling and finance in like an immigrant journey. And, you know, I wrote an article for the Deccan Herald, which is published sometime in July, or August, called, chasing the American dream as an immigrant gambler. And it's about, you know, taking chances in life, but taking careful chances and calculated chances in life. And, you know, and I, I suffer from a great deal of adversity in the book as well. And how do you bounce back, you know, from and how, you know, resilience is, is a long running theme throughout the book, whereas I get beaten down lots of time, but I somehow find a way of coming back. And it happened to me in the publishing world. Also, I had like a truly horrific experience in my first encounter in the publishing industry. And I'll tell you very briefly about it. A friend of a friend of a friend of mine was a literary agent. And in America, you need an agent before you can get a book published. So I sent her my chapter one, which is chapter one of the book. And she immediately signed me, which was like, literally one in several 1000 probability. And at that moment, this is like, summer of 2019. I feel like I've arrived in the world of publishing because this individual counts on, you know, Obama is one of our clients. So I said, wow, you know, Obama and I separated by one degree of separation, you know, this agent, you know, unfortunately, three months later, I had to fire because she was trying to bully me into writing a book that I did not want to write. So it was like a replay of what happened to me in my Wallstreet years, like the first few years, were just getting bullied, I've been getting harassed. And and in this case, it


Tara Khandelwal  42:31

wasn't. What was the book that like she wanted you to write, she wanted me to



write an arm's length book about Watson, which I thought of thought I was. And she was very clear about one thing, she said this book cannot be a memoir. And because then her reasoning was not because she doesn't like a memoir. She her reasoning was memoirs are not selling. And what was left unsaid was your an unknown, nobody knows who you are, why should anyone care about your memoir? You know, like, the point being, if you have such an interesting story, how come people haven't heard of you sort of a thing was a subtext. So she said, the book cannot be a memoir. And I my position was, what else can it be, you know, there's nothing else I'm really qualified to write. So it was clear that we had a difference of opinion, and that we need to part ways and this was in December of 2019. And I almost almost just like my, after my two years on Wall Street, I gave up writing altogether, and said, You know what, this industry is awful. I have no interest in doing this. And, you know, forget, it was, but then I wait a couple of months. And I said, you know, my fate in the publishing industry cannot be determined by one individual. If I'm going to fail, I'm going to fail on my own, not just because I had a bad experience with one person. So I went back. So I'd working on it started looking for another agent. And you know, luckily, I found the perfect agent. And the funny thing is, the first agent had told me this book cannot be about you. And my agent who's my island currently said, This book can only be about it cannot be anything else. I mean, it goes to show perspectives, you no matter. And so he, you know, was the absolute perfect agent for me. He helped me craft a narrative, he changed, you know, an arm's length book to a very personalized memoir. And he said, we want the backstory, who wants to know what happened in 84? We want to know, you know, all these things that you've been through, and he said, I want to know the story about how you met your wife, because that was also interesting, you know, and he said, You have to tell us about yourself and why you are the way you are. And so, I mean, so my what my publishing career, sort of, you know, is also like my Wallstreet career and my gambling career where initially I suffer from a great deal of difficulty, but then I plow through it and come out okay, on the other side.


Michelle D'costa  44:43

Yeah, I you know, listening to this actually reminded me of a recent, you know, comment that a student had in one of my classes. So she asked me, you know, Michelle do the right things, looking at the demand for it, like



like, as you know, cannot


Michelle D'costa  45:00

Exactly. So what I said was, you know, if you keep doing that, you won't be true to yourself. Right? So I think I think just, you know, writing whatever you want to write and then finding the right person you



present. Yes, yeah. And this is, by the way, this is true, not just in writing, but in life. I mean, you have to be true to yourself. And that's the biggest, you know, lesson in place, right? That no matter how difficult situation, the situations are, that I end up, and I stay true to myself. And even in publishing, I knew that if I got a book, and I was confident, she would get me a publishing deal, because she's a very high powered agent, I knew that I would feel like I've played it wrong. If I stayed with an agent, just because she can get me a publishing deal. Even though she wants you to write a book, I don't want to write, I would rather fail and not get published. But I think the book I want to write, then write something that actually gets published, because the goal is not publication, I mean, publication is the net is like money on Wall Street, it's the, it's the end result, the real goal is to create something beautiful, something that you're proud of. And I knew if I created a book with her, I would not be proud of whatever came out. And I'm terribly proud of slaves. Right. I'm, like, very happy with how the book turned out.


Tara Khandelwal  46:11

Yeah, I think you know, it's so interesting, because there's sort of this fine balance that all writers and editors have. Because I've, I've come from the other side, you know, where I worked at a publishing house and a literary agency. And even now, we sort of help writers get published. So it's very sort of interesting. And the right fit, as you said, is very important. But it's also interesting to understand, you know, how book plays into the market, and how it sells. And oftentimes, you know, those two things have a really nice synergy. And often those two things don't have synergies at all. And that's another sort of organization to take a lead at another time. But I find, yeah, the creativity versus sort of the business element of these things, and just being in a creative business in general, you know, throws up its own challenges. But you know, this has been so interesting. And we've been talking for so long, and I could go on for hours and hours. I could let us we just have a few more seconds left. So okay. What we're going to do is now we're going to transition into a quiz round our quiz round. So I left we shall start.


Michelle D'costa  47:23

Okay. All right. So I'll give you some options, and you will have to pick one of them. All right. On a rainy day. Would you be caught handling blackjack? Or poker? Or hedge



funds? Is none of the above an option?


Tara Khandelwal  47:41

What would you be doing instead?



I would be cooking at home on a rainy day. If I could, you know if I had a choice,


Michelle D'costa  47:51

okay. What would


Tara Khandelwal  47:52

you do? Ah, yeah, I would probably be reading a book very true to form or whatever.


Michelle D'costa  47:59

I wouldn't be I think sipping tea tea. Also.


Tara Khandelwal  48:03

I agree. Exactly. Okay. So which of these chapter titles from your book do you like the most? The Bank Cafe a be in the oven or House of Cards?



I think it'd be in the oven. Even though my wife won't, will not be happy to hear this because the prank deaf is about the first time we meet, I think a bee in the oven. It's such an insane story. And you know, a chapter title like a bee in the oven is like, it makes people think like, What are you talking about? And then that story has to deliver on that promise. Yeah. And I mean, to this day, my wife laughs when we think when whenever she thinks of that story. I mean, and it's detailed in the book, so anyone can read it. But it's just to her. It's like, what were you thinking? I said, Well, you know, I was in America for the first time, a handful of days, and strange things can happen. So I would say I've been the


Michelle D'costa  49:01

one thing you love about America, the politics, or Hollywood, or the food.



Definitely not the politics that I can tell you. Hollywood or the foods so we're down to two choices. Like, um, I would have to pick food because, you know, even though I'm a vegetarian and have been for all my life, I'm like an avid foodie, and I and I love cooking and I love eating and I you know, and what I like is the fact that given America is such a melting pot, you have access to a lot of cuisines and a lot of ingredients that, you know, certainly in India of my childhood, they would be impossible. But maybe now things are changing and the more available, but I like the fact that there's a very broad based menu for the lack of a better word available.


Tara Khandelwal  49:47

And the portion sizes are so big. I remember going to America, Latin America for the first time for college. I did my undergrad there and I've my parents and I went to this restaurant and just ordered They should I just amazed by the portion sizes?



Well, you know, it's like, I didn't put this line in the book. But I've often thought about it, everything is bigger in America, in the sense that the cars are bigger, the houses are bigger, we don't talk in kilometers, we talk in miles, because miles are bigger, you know, the landmass is huge. Portion sizes are bigger distances are much larger. It's just, you know, everything is larger,


Tara Khandelwal  50:25

larger than life. Yeah. And also, my story



would not have been possible in any other country. When because firstly, most countries are not that welcoming immigrants. And despite my failing hardships, I mean, America has been very good to me. And like, in India, like I, when I finished, you know, graduate from IIT Delhi, I had admission to I am the boss, and everyone around me was horrified that I was turning it down to go, yeah, that is, and I almost put that line in the book. But then I figured, you know, when I was writing the book, it was written for a US audience, and I figured people in America would not know the meaning of IMM the bar, I mean, obviously, people in India understand what it means and how difficult it is to get through. But to me, you know, it was another one of those things I had tried for IBM, even though I had no interest in the business world are, you know, corporate India, simply as a dare to see, could I get through? And once I got through, I had no interest in pursuing any further now, which is not true for Walter once I got actually show.


Tara Khandelwal  51:26

I'm actually curious that we mentioned the audience bit a bit, but I'm actually a little curious about, is there a difference in the reaction of your readers in the US and your readers in the India In India? And what is the difference? If any?



That's a very good question, I have to think about how people here have reacted to it. You know, one, the one place with actually I found some dissonance, or between the two sides, were actually my wedding chapters. Like, without exception, everyone in the US, you know, whether they're Indian or not loved the wedding chapters, but for some reason, there were people in India who didn't quite like it, meaning they thought it was sort of like, you know, business narrative breaking under in a Bollywood song and dance scenario. And I said, that is not even remotely my intent, my intent is to show what I was struggling with at the time. And, you know, and you're going to have if you're going to create a personalized memoir, I mean, getting married is a very big part of anyone's life. So how can it not be, you know, given some space in the book, especially because my wife has a great deal of influence over my whatsit career, you know, after the fact. And so, I think that's where some of the differences in opinion happened. Other than that, I think the reaction has been, you know, overwhelmingly positive and the sense that people lucky me think that the book is well written, it moves fast doesn't. And my biggest fear was apart from getting sued. You know, because of all the things I disclosed about Wall Street, which hasn't happened, thankfully, my biggest fear was, I make a lot of statements about Wall Street, about gambling about the world about the financial crisis, you know. And it's all from my perspective, and I was afraid someone will find a logical flaw in my reasoning, that to me, would be modified. And thankfully, you know, book has been out for six, seven months, and no one's called me with a fly yet. So hopefully, I'm okay. There. So the reaction has been actually fairly consistent other than the reaction towards my reading chapters, which, you know, some people bought it in India, only, not here.


Tara Khandelwal  53:36

So fascinating.


Michelle D'costa  53:39

Yeah, and one thing that that stayed with me was the fact that it was not written in the chronological order, right? Because because you often find memoirs written that way.



Yeah, I think the chronological order that was something agent was very insistent, it cannot be chronological.


Tara Khandelwal  53:53

Actually, you don't that's that was really refreshing for me, because I actually don't like it when my mas are in in the chronological order. Because I don't really see by the time I'm invested in a character, that's when I want to know about their childhood, but before. Yeah, before knowing about sort of, you know, all your adventures and before getting invested. If you take me to your childhood, it's not very interesting. So I actually really liked you know, that part of the book.



No, I mean, that's why chapter one, which was the first ever chapter I ever wrote, was written to basically draw the reader in to tell them what the stakes in the story are. I'm an Indian immigrant, even though we haven't talked much about gambling before you read chapter one, you know, clearly, I'm a provision professional gambler. So I mean, an Indian immigrant, who at the end of those four or five pages has to make a pivotal decision in his life. Is he going to come and work work on Wall Street without knowing the first thing about finance or not? So now, if that doesn't grab you, then the book will not work for you. But if that story is, you know, I mean, that chapter was good enough to get me you know, a very powerful agent because she was just hooked in Chico. All that chapter is sexy and seductive, which is not how I view it. But she said, You know, I was, you know, like, the idea is that you have to drop the reader in the middle of the action, you know, and provide me some context, but not a lot. And that's why Chapter Two starts with shortly after coming to America, I made three vows to myself. And now suddenly, when you read those three vows, and my explanation for why I make those three was now in one or two pages, and chapter two, which is by the time you're on page seven, you not only knew what the inciting event is, you also know what sort of a person you deal with. So now you have some context for the surgery that is to fall.


Michelle D'costa  55:37

Yeah, true. True. And another thing I wanted to mention before we move on to our next reading recommendation section, which is another interesting part of the episode, I want to mention that, you know, I usually follow a lot of immigrant stories because I've been a migrant, I was raised, born and raised in the Middle East for most of my life. And the refreshing it was that it was unlike the typical, you know, sob story that that you read right? of immigrants, so Okay, anyway.



Yeah, I was not. The book is not written to evoke sympathy or pity at all. Yeah, I mean, even though I have bad things happen to me. I deal with our Tina.


Michelle D'costa  56:13

Exactly, yeah. Okay. So now we move on to our reading recommendation section. And to just, you know, borrow your own words cover what are the top three sexy and seductive books that you have?



Sexy and seductive books. I can think of one book of the top of my head that I really liked in the last one year, it was it won a lot of prizes and friends. It's a book, I forget the author's name, it's Herve Atelier, or something like that. It's called the anomaly. Oh, I've


Michelle D'costa  56:45

been wanting to read that I would



strongly recommend what is it about AI, it's about me, it starts out as a sci fi, you know, book about where you know, an airliner disappears, then a duplicate appears. And all those people have duplicates as well. But it's really, to me about the path not taken. And for me that has a lot of resonance because a lot of paths are taken, which most people would not take. And it sort of tells you, you know, there's a statement that everyone makes about life, you only live your life once, right? So you don't get to do do overs. But in that book, it sort of shows how a collection of individuals, what can happen if they take two different paths, the same individual. And then, and this is kind of, you know, I found this very funny. What if they come face to face with each other? And that also happens in the book. Yeah, the two for two versions of the same person come face to face with each other.


Tara Khandelwal  57:43

I love I love stories like that other thing, too. I just watched it



talks about religion, and you know, all those other things also in a fairly sarcastic and cynical fashion, which also, I'm gonna say like, yeah,


Tara Khandelwal  57:58

so you're I, you know, I really love all those movies about, you know, gambling and Wall Street. You know, Wolf of Wall Street was one of my favorite movies, because it was just so crazy and out there. And then there's another movie called Molly's game, which



is about Yes, I love that movie. Yeah,


Tara Khandelwal  58:17

there's so much glamour and scandal in all of these movies. So



they overplay the glamour.


Tara Khandelwal  58:22

Yeah, how accurate are those?



It may be accurate from the perception of a viewer, but it's very far from accurate from how it feels like when you're in it yourself. Like whether it's any movie about Wall Street or any movie about gambling, you know, there's a saying called gambling is a very difficult way to make easy money. And I really believe in that. I mean, it's a very difficult profession, and so is managing money in hedge funds. And I think the hard work and the difficulties are almost never shown on screen, because how do you dramatize someone working hard, it's very difficult, it's much easier to show the results of their hard work. And, you know, the every movie needs conflict, Every story needs conflict. And, you know, my working, you know, seven years trying to figure out a method is not conflict by sitting at home. You know, playing blackjack for six to eight hours a day is practice, not conflict. So I think it's realistic from the standpoint of the work environment it depicts and the money involved in the greed and incentives, but it's not realistic when it comes to what the individual goes through when they're in it. And I don't know how you can create a movie that captures that. Yeah,


Tara Khandelwal  59:41

so what is your favorite book or movie about Wall Street?



I mean, I love movies about gambling. I love movies about business world and Wall Street and I especially love movies that are about con games where you know someone comes up with a you know, very elaborate con to you know, fool people. And not necessarily I mean, generally I prefer ones when they're fooling bad people into good losing. But in terms of, there's a movie called margin call about Wall Street, which of all the movies I've observed about what goes on inside an investment bank and on a trading floor, to me that comes the closest in capturing what it is like. So I would recommend margin call.


Michelle D'costa  1:00:23

Awesome. Okay, so I think those are a lot of recommendations for our listeners. And now we come to the last round of the episode, which is the rapid fire out, I'm ready. Awesome. So you can reply in one word or in one line? Okay. Okay. The biggest risk you have ever taken in your life getting married.


Tara Khandelwal  1:00:42

Nice. Okay. One financial advice for writers.



Make sure you read the contract carefully.


Michelle D'costa  1:00:50

Okay, one thing most people say to you when they hear about your gambling past, hard



to believe, I mean, even I have a hard time believing it even though I lived it. Yeah,


Tara Khandelwal  1:01:00

yeah. Okay, how much do you think books should actually cost?



I think they cost too much in America. And I think they cost about a reasonable amount in India. I think. I mean, I think the both publishers have created a beautiful book in North America as well as in India. It's difficult to say, I mean, I mean, I would prefer the books are priced cheaper, so that everyone has access to it, the book in America costs like 25, or $27, which is just too much, I think, I wish it was like closer to 10 or $15. In India, it's around like an hour and five or 600 rupees, which I think is more reasonable. Now, I mean, it's not so much about the printing costs and all that stuff. It's, you know, for publishers, it's a business and it's about profitability. For writers, it's usually about, you know, getting whatever they want to say out. So it's a real mismatch in the objectives. And there are a few writers like JK Rowling's of the world, where the commercial potential is just massive. That's not the case for most writers. I never thought that would be the case for me. So I believe in writing what you want to write about, and you know, whatever happens happens, yeah. Okay.


Michelle D'costa  1:02:12

Oh, where do you write?



That's a great question. I normally, where do I write and when do I write, I always write in exactly one spot, which is in my house, there is an office, which is, you know, near the front of the house. And it's a fairly large room. And to me, it's like the nicest room in the house. And in the office, there's like a very long built in desk, which faces a massive window. So I have a computer in front of it, where I write, and but over the computer, I can look out onto the trees and the yard and the hedges and all that stuff. And it's, I write between the hours of four and eight in the morning. And only between four and eight not because no one else is awake in the house, the time the entire neighborhood is also asleep. And I find that even the slightest amount of noise really disturbs my writing. So I've ever since I started by working on a book and it continues to this day, I wake up at three or four in the morning. And I work till about seven or eight. And then I go about the rest of my day. And doing what I need. And the rest of the day can involve in can use can involve editing and all that stuff. But the actual writing something new only happens very early in the morning and only in that one seat. Nowhere else. It's


Tara Khandelwal  1:03:29

amazing. Okay, so two words you would use to describe your wife.



Incredibly understanding. Wow.


Michelle D'costa  1:03:36

Okay. One biggest similarity between casinos and the Wall Street. Greed.


Tara Khandelwal  1:03:42

Yeah. Okay. One of your classmates was Raghu Rama Rajan. Yes. Are there any other interesting classmates that you can tell us about?



Um, I can't, because I've sort of not staying in touch because my life to go very far due to technical industry. Right. So. And it's funny, just Powell, you know, is in the book, you know, you know, a lot of chapters, I called him before the book came out. And I told him, and I asked him if you want to change his name, because a lot of them names are changed in the book, but some are not. So he said, Just leave it. Because anyone who was there will know it was me, even if he called nick or me or something else. And anyone who wasn't there won't even know what this all means. And the other comment he made was that, you know, I'm so glad you are writing this book, because of all our classmates that came to America to the best of his knowledge and the best of mine. No one did something out there. Yes, there were a lot of very successful people, and they started companies and, you know, worked in technology, so on and so forth, and became some did MBAs and you know, but they were all very conventional paths. He said, like, no one has an interesting sort of drill. So I said, I'm glad that you did this. He said, so I'm not aware of anyone. You know, it's funny, I go and I could have I mean, he went to him. I'm about after graduation. And I mean, I don't know what my path would have been. And I followed him there. But it was another one of those things that the road not taken. But it was a very clear choice for me that was the road I was not willing to take. And I did it mostly on a day to see if I could get out. So unfortunately, I cannot give you any other names of my classmates. And I think five or 10 years later, a lot more interesting people came out of it Delhi especially like netload, Chetan Bhagat, and so on and so forth. And I think the culture in IDs changed. Maybe 10 odd years after I graduated, where it became much more entrepreneurial and, and people willing to take a lot more risks, opportunities in India opened up and going to America was not the only option available to someone who wanted to pursue, you know, a career in technology sales. And things changed a lot in the 90s. And I graduated in the middle mid 80s. And I think things are very different now. Whereas from what I hear the current students and ideally nobody thinks about going to America, they think about everyone has an entrepreneurial mindset, like a what company can I start, which is great, I think, yeah. So I think you'll have a you have a lot more interesting stories coming out of it. In the years after that, I think that has to do with the culture of the country's culture changing the markets opened up and so on so forth.


Tara Khandelwal  1:06:27

It is it is this there's so much opportunity now. Yeah, I thank you so much for this interview. You know, it's been so interesting. It's, you know, the interview itself has felt like a roller coaster, almost, you know, with all of the anecdotes and then, you know, samples of wisdom, so many different topics that we covered. So I think it's definitely been one of our most interesting interviews of the season. So thank you so much.



No, thank you very much. I really enjoyed it.


Tara Khandelwal  1:06:59

So here we are, where the end of yet another journey into the many worlds of Books and Beyond with bound, I'm Tara candy lol.


Michelle D'costa  1:07:07

I'm Michelle D'costa. And this podcast is created by bound a company that helps you grow through stories. Find us at sound India or all social media platforms. So tune in every Wednesday


Tara Khandelwal  1:07:19

if you live, eat and breathe books and join us as we discover more revolutionary books and peek into the lives and minds of some truly brilliant authors from India and South Asia.


Michelle D'costa  1:07:33

And don't forget to keep your love for stories alive for books and beyond.