When I was a small boy I was fascinated by marbles (Goli in Tamil), and took to playing it with my friends in a big way. From playing for fun, I graduated to playing for stakes. Now, hold on... when I say stakes I don’t mean money - only marbles. Was that gambling? I convinced myself that gambling involves taking chances on unknown factors, things over which you don’t have control. What I was doing is only using my marble playing skills. My parents had drilled into me that gambling was taboo, and was something only ‘bad’ people indulged in. So life, and my marble skills, went on...

Based on this hypothesis, I carried on...from marble to tops (bambaram in tamil) to several card games as I entered college. My conviction about using skills not being classified as gambling continued.

When I started earning, I thought that if I did not enter the share market I would be considered a lesser being, especially as I was a finance professional. My views on what is and what isn’t gambling remained as strong as ever.

I was under the impression that companies issue shares to raise capital for their business, and anyone who wants to be part owner of the business can acquire the shares to get a share of the profit in the form of dividends. Shares of the existing companies are listed in the stock exchange so that people have an opportunity to invest in those. It is thus a simple phenomenon of informed investment, and reaping the benefits of the investment.

At this stage I met this friend. He told me that trading in shares is nothing but gambling. He went on to explain it.

The ups and downs in prices of shares have, to a very large extent, nothing to do with the performance of the company.

One buys and sells shares purely on speculative basis and has no control over the future prices.

In addition to this inherent uncertainty, there are people who manipulate the prices and the gambler (or should I say investor?) is affected by this.

Like in any gambling situation, over a long sustained period, nobody has profited from this venture. There have only been losers.

Finally, what is the skill involved in this? Even if analysing the performance of a company and predicting the future of its performance is considered a skill, how often does this analysis translate in reality in terms of its price movement?

I am now confused. By continuing to trade in shares, am I gambling? Am I thus going against the values my parents instilled in me? Or is it a highly skilful process and a smart occupation.

Will someone please enlighten this soul?