Martha's big mistake

Published: Sunday, February 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 31, 2004 at 9:53 p.m.

The tragic story of Martha Stewart serves as a stark reminder of the dangerously thin line between frugality and avarice.

In India, they have street shows where the man makes the monkey dance and do tricks for pocket change from passersby. These monkeys are caught in the wild as follows: you take a Surai (narrow necked unglazed earthen pot used to create and store cool water in north India) and put a banana in it. Then you tie the Surai to a tree and leave. When you come back the monkey will have his hand in the Surai trying to retrieve the Banana, you tie a rope around his neck at your leisure and take him home.

All the monkey had to do to get away was to let go of the banana!

So what does all this have to do with Martha Stewart?

Stewart, whose maiden name is Martha Kostyra, was raised in a close knit Polish family in industrial Nutley, N.J., and was inculcated with all the attendant Third World ambition and emphasis on parsimony.

Despite having a net worth of several billion dollars, she decided to sell her ImClone stock on a tip which saved her about $40,000 and got her in a lot of hot water. She has lost more than 200 times the money she saved through her indiscretion and faces possible jail sentence.

Martha's actions should be more properly viewed as Third World frugality. She simply could not stand the thought of throwing away money.

The stock market stands in sharp contrast to common sense. The

schizophrenic advice is to buy low and sell high with the secret hope that your greed will prevent you from taking that prudent action. All poor Martha had to do is let go of the banana!

Coimbatore V. Iswaran,


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