Friday, December 31, 2021




In some versions of Hindu mythology, the Goddess Parvati creates her son Ganesh, out of her own body’s dirt. The name, Ganesh means ‘Lord of the People’ and he is celebrated by the masses at every Hindu festivity throughout the world. As he is the remover of obstacles, everyone loves to celebrate Lord Ganesh. A prayer is offered for him before any other prayer offering can be done for any other Deity in any Hindu Festival[1].

I first heard the story of how Ganesh was created as a child, sitting on my grandmother’s lap during one of these Puja’s. My memories of these celebrations as a child are now sweet glimpses of highlights from an old movie reel. Blurry and hazy but full of nostalgia and warmth. If I close my eyes I can picture myself there. 

    Strings of bold orange and yellow marigolds and white jasmine flowers strung together scallop the threshold of homes in a festive and jubilant welcome to all guests. The sweet fragrance of the flowers and freshly prepared savoury snacks permeate the air and flirt with your senses. Black speakers spaced throughout the compound blast the latest Hindi movie songs of the time.

Outside, laughter and shrieks take turns intermittently while children and even some adults light firecrackers in the street. Oil lamps light up entire neighbourhoods and people parade around in their newly sewn attires all freshly pressed. As the day progresses, you notice a few isolated grease spots from accidental touches to the clothing.  After indulging in the cornucopia of pakoras friend in ghee, warm and fresh handmade samosas, orange laddus and white, spongy rasgullas floating in sugar syrup, it is only inevitable to leave evidence of some of the delicacies you’ve tried on your clothes!

I remember eating mishti-dahi (sweet yogurt) out of a small clay pot, listening to my Grandmother and being amazed by the fact that Parvati (who was more like my aunty living in the upstairs flat, rather than a Goddess) created something, some-one so special purely by herself. As mere mortals we cannot even conceive of something like this, but it did plant a seed in my saccharine-filled body about our ability and capacity to create something out of nothing. This element in the story spoke to me most. And to be able to create something meaningful and valuable that people around the world can celebrate, relate to and that elevates their lives’, well wouldn’t that be a great way to spend my life?

As human beings we aspire to create, be it in the form of a tangible object or an intangible service or feeling. Whether it is building sandcastles on the beach, a snow fort in the schoolyard or a pick-up game of soccer with the kids in the park, it is in these moments that we are bringing and living in joy. Children understand this.

Yet as we grow older, rules, pedagogy and institutional hierarchies come into focus. This, alongside our historical evolution from an agrarian society to an industrialized one requires that we each do our ‘part’ so society can be optimized. There is no arguing that the industrial revolution required creativity and has been tremendously successful as mass production has allowed us to fulfill necessities and luxuries at unprecedented rates and helped to decrease mortality rates and increase our longevity. But there is always a cost for any benefit, and multiple risks embedded into any potential for reward. (As a previous Fixed Income rates and options trader, I fully appreciate this as much of my success has been in identifying the different risk/reward payoffs and how to manage them)

In this case, as many societies saw higher standards of living, others experienced worse livelihoods. It has left some sub-groups alienated and others feeling hollow and empty. Now, as we evolve again from an industrial civilization towards a technological and sustainable society the call for creativity is once again in heightened demand.

The time to respond and create is now.

As sentient beings driving this evolution, our success lies in our motivation; our desire to create our best work to address this moment. If we cannot be motivated from within, our work, our production, our creativity will fall short of its potential.

So, the question then becomes, how do I find or create that fire in my belly? Since I’m talking about fire let me borrow a little from science. I recall from middle school that the fire triangle includes 3 elements. Oxygen, heat and fuel. Put these elements together and you create a fire. (Some refer to a fourth element, chemical chain reaction renaming the shape to a fire tetrahedron[2]). Put another way, if we remove any one of the above 3 (or 4) elements, we destroy the fire. Kill the oxygen, fire goes out. Neutralize the heat, fire goes out.

If we apply this analogy back to us, I see the oxygen as the element that lies within us as we live and breathe. It is who we are and the choices we make day in and day out. The second element, heat, is our effort. It is the proactive energy that we invest towards building and creating. Lastly, the third element, fuel. Our fuel is the stuff we are intrinsically good at or naturally inclined to do better than other things. Some are called ‘natural performers’ or ‘wired towards tech’. Others have photographic memories or a flair for languages. WE all have a few natural talents and so we must use them. (Finding them out and combining them will be discussed in further detail later).

If we work these 3 internal elements together; our choices, our labour and our talents we too can create the fire inside our bellies.

The application of creating something out of nothing but your decisions, effort, and skill, is what I refer to as Creating Your Alpha. It is something we all have the capacity to do, and it brings us great joy in being able to create and share our alpha with the world. It is through this process that every one of us can bring value to others and in turn receive feedback, gratitude and rewards.

There are real tangible ways to figure out your triangle of fire, and physical tactical methods you can apply. We will go through them step-by-step. But before we do, take some time to think about the Oxygen part for you. Who are you? Do you make the right choices for you? How can you tell if you do? We will discuss this next month.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021


Create Your Alpha

Ten years ago I started this blog after a tenuous bout with Shingles. The pain was excruciating as it hit the side of my head near the occipital area but thankfully left no physical damage afterwards. While I was in isolation, I spent a lot of time thinking and writing (when I could) to really filter out everything in my life that was ‘noise’ and focus only on what matters most.

Writing is my outlet. It has brought me peace, calm and perspective and has seen me through much of my darkness. It also brings me joy and has allowed me to be of service to others through my experiences and observations. And so, after being asked by a few colleagues and friends, I’m returning to my blog.

My observations and messages are far clearer and more concise now than when I first created this blog. The increased and continued focus on the things that matter has certainly helped me as has time. It has taken 1 strong relationship, 2 children, multiple mini-career movies and a decade since my first entry. My stories and lessons now are certainly more purposeful and resolute.

Namely, my experience on the trade floor and how I have managed to find my voice and carve out a career within the Capital Markets industry. It is a curiosity to many that I ever chose a trading floor environment, and that I continue to choose it year upon year through the volatility, macro and micro crises, prickly personalities and of course, headline news and movies based on headline news!

I am not your typical Banker. In fact, in a lot of ways I am an outsider; a contrarian. I don’t look or sound like Gordon Gekko. Nor do I have or want to have the persona of Jordan Belfort. I am not tied to upper-class European lineage or hail from a fancy prep college or private school. I am a female professional from simple beginnings of Indian origin, raised in a mixed-nuclear family (a few years joint) who was educated in Singapore, India and Canada.

So how did I land up here? 17 years in Sales and Trading is a deliberate choice and requires consistent effort and results. And my career-path is one of my decisions. I’ve also made a few other purposeful choices to create the life I want to live. I am here because I work everyday to Create my Alpha.

Alpha, as defined in finance is the ability to generate outsized returns. To take this market definition and personalize it, I would say that it is the additive value I try to create everyday to bring forth into the world, be it at work, at home or anywhere in-between. And in exchange for that value, the universe has gifted me and continues to give me exponentially more in return. Health, happiness and prosperity.

What I hope to do through my writing is focus on the concrete steps I have taken to create my alpha and provide strategies and tactics on how you can do the same. Both professionally and personally.

The Capital Markets industry is open and accessible. Especially now. Diversity and Inclusion aren’t just words used to round out a marketing ad. The number of crises we have created on account of being narrow-minded and giving into groupthink is why we need a variety of thoughts, opinions and experiences at the table in every conversation and every level and in multiple environments.

And, this isn’t just about understanding and thriving in Finance. It is a journey inside yourself, to figure out who you are and what you want to bring forth. We all have the potential to create our alpha. We just need to invest some time to tap into it and present it to the world. There are simple, tangible steps to make this happen. And if you learn some financial tips and read some trade-floor stories along the way, it can't hurt? Allow me to be your guide.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Ugly Beauty

Ugly Beauty

Raging waters
Rocky shores
The waves attack
White and wide
Like an ugly army
Invades my mind
My face
My home
My space

Only to retreat
Back to its womb
And the pull is deep
The pull is fierce

Sediment usurped
Secrets of the sand splayed
Across the sparkly shore

The sun shines
No. She radiates
Through the fuzzy grey-blue sheer
A welcome house-guest
Bringing with her a dear old friend
A warm, balmy beauty
Sweeping through the leaves of the palm trees
(The way Rain runs its fingers through my hair)
The elegant wings of an eagle
Glide through the open air

Continuity or consequence?
Doesn’t matter
This is
My home

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Train Station - Jaffna

Waiting for the exit train to arrive

Green grass seeps through the tracks, the cracks
Abandoned by him, forsaken by her
Engulfed by the earth, the sun, the rain, the wind

Life beneath the rails, asleep but not yet dead.
Awaken. Awaken from your slumber
Break the fasteners, the ties, the tread

The machines leave, the voices wane
The lights dim, the footsteps fade

That is the time to rise.

Rise when they laugh. Rise when they sleep.
Rise when they drink. Rise when they breathe.

Soar like the sun aiming for her zenith
Stay like the moon.
Forever present and still

Sway gently with the breeze, bend and vary each passing day
Yet sturdy like the tree – a banyan tree
With roots into the sky and branches deep in the soil

Swallow them whole.
The sly sneers.
The illusive eyes.

Take Judas’ kiss with a smile.
Knowing all the while it is Judas
For he won’t change;
But neither will You.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Keynote speech for York University Finance Club

It isn't that I've stopped writing. I've just been writing different things. However, I have neglected my blog so I wanted to submit this.

I was recently asked to speak at an event for the York University Finance Club. A co-worker recommended me and HR called me and we set this up. I was very honoured to be able to give back to my school in a meaningful way.

I've attached the body of the speech below. I hope you find it useful, particularly the last part because it speaks to my lessons learned over the past few decades! Always open to listening to your thoughts.

Good evening everyone. Thank you for having me here. I am very honoured to be speaking here tonight  as both the Schulich School of Business and Scotiabank have a very special place in my life.  They have both synonymously been a significant part of my career journey.  So to be able to give back on one night to both is a privilege and well…efficient!

I graduated with a double major in finance and marketing but really my interest was in finance. I applied through the Schulich Career Centre and landed a couple of offers. The one I took was with Scotiabank in their Commercial Banking Development Program. I gave it a solid year before I started to think this wasn’t for me. Then another 6months went by and I was sure it wasn’t. About 2 years in I decided I wanted to move into another part of the Finance Field. I just wasn’t sure what. So I did my GMAT and went back to Schulich for the Accelerated M.B.A. Program. 

I took my M.B.A. year to learn about as many fields in finance as I possibly could. I spoke with different people in different professions and read and researched as much as I could. Then I targeted the avenues I wanted to focus on. Knowing which fields I wanted to enter was a function of the content and a function of my values.

I knew I wanted 2 things:

1) To surround myself with really smart people with whom I could learn from.  I was thirsty for knowledge and wanted an environment where that was celebrated; a place where curiosity and questions are wanted, needed even. 

2) I wanted to be working somewhere I couldn’t get bored. I wanted the work to be dynamic, the people to be dynamic, the opportunities to be dynamic.

Everything else I figured would fall into place. 

Enter Capital Markets. Enter Sales and Trading with Scotiabank.

I was in the 2005-2006 Capital Ideas Class at Scotia and haven’t looked back since.  My career has been predominantly on the Trading side.  I started trading Euro and Sterling Swaps as a market maker and was successful at it. That led me to be seconded to a team where I represented Capital Markets in starting up the Emerging Markets platform at BNS. After that, I was asked to join the Canada Swap Trading Desk as one of two market makers.  I traded Interest Rate Derivatives for Canada and the U.S. all through the financial crisis. In fact, my first day as Canada Swap Trader was the Monday after Bear Stearns blew up. It was intense and exhilarating.

As an eternal optimist always looking for the silver lining, I can tell you that as the financial markets collapsed my personal life flourished.  In that same length of time (2007-2013) I got married and had both of my children. My daughter, Ellil who just turned 8 and my son Rohit who will be 5 in December.  

Towards the end of 2013 as the markets calmed down somewhat and the worst of it was over, I was given the opportunity to resurrect the Fixed Income Options Business for Canada. There was a bit of trepidation and uncertainty given I would have to start a business from scratch but going back to my 2 things I wanted (thirst for knowledge and not get bored), there was no way I was going to not give it my best.  Within 6 months I took the business from nothing into positive PL territory and was offered the chance to take over the US Options business as well.  We’ve built out the business over the past almost 4 years and the profitability in the business has grown quite significantly in this time. 

Scotiabank has 89,000 employees worldwide.  There is plenty of opportunity to spread your wings. I have been fortunate to have been lined up with people who have provided me with that opportunity.  And if there was a skill set or something specific I wanted to learn that my current role didn’t provide, I seek it out elsewhere.
That’s how I got involved with Women in Capital Markets, which is a non-profit organization that provides support for women in our industry.  I ran their professional development program and currently sit on the steering committee for the Gender Diversity and Inclusion bringing men and women into the conversation at an effort to increase the talent pool within Capital Markets.

I also sit on a couple of different boards and am involved in aspects of board governance that only sitting on boards can teach.  Again, a room with smart, talented people (who do outrageously different things) but come together to make things better for the community and its people. 

With all this being said, there is plenty of room for my writing, for date nights with my husband, shuttling the kids to soccer and skating and piano, family nights in with pizza and a movie, bigger family celebrations for Diwali and Christmas, hosting dinner parties, girls weekends away in NYC, and afternoon tea and spa time with Mom.

I will leave you with 5 lessons that I’ve learned over the years.  If there is anything you take from my talk today I hope it is at least one of these 5 takeaways. I’ve already started drilling it into my kids, fingers crossed that over time some of it will stick. 

1)      Fall down 7 times, get up 8 (only diff b/w success and failure is the willingness to get back up    just one more time)
2)      Your only competition is yourself (everything else is noise)
3)      Think 6 steps ahead (especially in a world of social media)
4)      Make decisions that are consistent with your values à Know your values.
5)      Forgive yourself. We are not meant to be perfect. We are meant to evolve. Evolve with purpose.
You are all at the start of a very exciting adventure.  The opportunities afforded to you are endless. Living in this country.  Attending a prestigious University, and having access to unbounded information and knowledge at the tip of your fingers.  

Leverage your privilege.  

Work hard. Play hard. Laugh out Loud.

Don’t Instagram your life. Live it.

Monday, August 7, 2017

A modified Renaissance - ITALY – Part 2

Holidays to different locales provide sustenance in different ways. Some vacations de-clutter and relax the mind, while others fill a sense of adventure or accomplishment. Some holidays provide time for families to enjoy each others company and play together uninhibited whilst others are more solitary and feed the inner-self. Italy did it all.
In all honesty, I wasn’t sure what kind of holiday this was going to turn out to become.  11 people. 3 generations.  7 adults and 4 kids all with verbose opinions.  I’m sure we provide a lot of fodder for the likes of Russell Peters and similar artists.
All kidding aside however, the most unexpected and ergo marvelous part of this trip was my serendipitous love-affair with all things Michelangelo. I knew very little of this artist. Probably no more than my what I remembered from Mrs. Lloyd’s Modern Western Civilization class back in High School.  But let’s be honest, Grade 12 was over 20 years ago and details on these types of stuff were at best, fuzzy. 
So let me fill you in on my own transformation or ‘re-birth’ if you will thanks to Michelangelo.  Reason 1. DAVID.  Yes, I know we’ve seen pictures of this on postcards and advertisements and I’m not sure about you but I (and this is really opening up about how ignorant I was prior to this trip) had NO idea that the DAVID that Michelangelo sculpted more than 500 years ago, was the David from David and Goliath. His stance with the slingshot over his left shoulder and stones cradled in his right hand looking into the distance with his pensive glance is supposed to represent the moment just prior to him confronting Goliath.  If you know the story of David and Goliath, you know the meaning. It is the triumph of the Underdog over the Bully.  I’ve taken out the religious context here and really oversimplified things but to me, this is the gist. 
When I walked into the Academia and faced DAVID, I literally stopped in mid-stride in awe of this sculpture.  The only other time this has happened to me was when I was a teenager and went to see the Taj Mahal in Agra.  DAVID is a sight to see.  He is 17 feet in height and is physiologically about as descriptive as one can get with a marble medium.  Forget hair, eyes, contours of his body and facial structure, the man has veins and ripples in his chest that are so humanly accurate you have to wonder about how in the 1500’s a person was able to learn, understand and apply the anatomical elements with such scrutiny onto a marble structure.
Second. The Pieta. Again, one piece of marble to make an astonishing Mary and Christ. He was 24 by the way when he sculpted this. Not sure about you, but I was barely able to walk and chew gum at the same time when I was that age.  We pat ourselves on the back for getting a University education or landing a job.  This guy was sculpting a piece of art that together with his other works forged the course of humanity’s history.  How’s that for jaw-dropping.
Third. The Sistine Chapel and the Last Judgment.  To quote Goethe, “Without having seen the Sistine Chapel one can form no appreciable idea of what one man is capable of achieving.” His work is raw, powerful and controversial for reasons that are still argued about today. But through it all he stood by his work from start to finish and did not waver from his point of view. How can you not admire, respect and be in awe of such a person.

What Michelangelo has done for me is that he has given me hope.  He is a sign of what we can do if we choose to apply ourselves to our craft with utter conviction, hard work and love. If I can learn that lesson at this stage in my life and teach it to my kids at the tender ages of 7 and 4, I think this holiday has paid for itself multiple times over.  

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Breathe In. ITALY Part 1

It’s 7 p.m. on a weeknight, not sure which one since I’m on holiday and I prefer to keep it that way. I’m sitting outside in the backyard on the patio with a glass of Chianti (entire bottle under 5euro by the way. One of the benefits of vacationing in the Chianti region; not by accident I assure you) and my almost 8 year old daughter beside me with her journal and a pencil recounting her day including whether or not she has ‘pooed’ (yes that is correct. Her bodily functions have become a hot topic under the hot Tuscan sun as the time difference and changes in water and food consumption have flipped her up internally.) I’m no stranger to that so there’s been a lot of re-assuring, coaching and feeding of prunes and fibre along the way. 
Holidays are different with a caravan of 11. Spontaneous trips to cafes to sip cappuccino and people watch are akin to hell freezing over as are 5 a.m. hikes up to some hilltop to watch the sunrise.  Both things for some uncanny reason I thought I’d be able to do. I say uncanny; you say ignorant. Fine. I admit it. Mea Culpa. Mea Culpa.  It might not be exactly as I imagined it but there have been a lot of pleasant surprises on the way.
Who thought I’d be on a gelato mission with 4 kids to rank Venetian gelato over Tuscan gelato? Or do a walking tour of Siena through the eyes of a babe? Siena was fascinating. I would go back. Would I say the same thing if it were a 3 hour walking tour with just a bunch of boring adults all pretending to know cute tidbits of the Paleo horse race or the 17 competing contrade’s? Probably not.
There have been some magical moments so far. Driving around in Tuscany is a sight for sore eyes.  Rolling mountains in varied shades of green. Vineyards carefully drawn out on some plots overlooking olive groves that go on for miles.  In the distance, umbrella pine trees sway gently. Strong, sturdy, Cyprus trees flag the landscape reminding you of what Van Gogh may have been inspired by while painting Starry Night. 
It is night now. Kids are all asleep. Another thing about writing nowadays…I have to do it in snippets. The sky is a blue-black freckled by tiny white sparkling specks.  They surround me and glitter as far as the eyes can see.  Above me. in front of me. Behind me. The beauty is endless.  I hear crickets and other little insects in the darkness and the silhouette of the beautiful green Cyprus trees are now a black façade jutting into the night sky.
I let out a sigh and my eyes start to water. I wonder why we spend so many years of our lives shielding ourselves from nature through brick homes and city streets and metallic cars. Then we barricade ourselves in concrete buildings with windows that don’t open and eat food in boxes and drink chemicals with artificial sweeteners.  Then when we realize we are suffocating or drowning, we buy a ticket and fly away.  We seek out remote, old places with trees, and water and stars.  We visit farms and make food with the crops that are grown. 

We seek out nature don’t we? We yearn to go back to the source from where we came.  Because that is where we can breathe again.