* * *
“When are you getting married Ky?!” These days, Anu texts him with her question. And her prank-playing boy was never far behind with a retort.. “It’s tomorrow mamma, didn’t you get my Evite?!”
This time, the reply was puzzling. “Mom, I am moving to New Delhi at the end of the month. I will call you to catch you up with everything tonight. I promise! At work now, love ya”
Anu Gopichund was at work as a Manager at WellPoint in Buckhead, a suburb of Atlanta. Kyle was 800 miles away in Austin, TX. And, to imagine him move away 8000 miles for an unknown period of time..? She was a nervous wreck until the phone rang at 9pm.
“Monu! What’s going on..?? Is this one of your I-will-right-everything-that-is-wrong-with-the-world campaigns?? Are you permanently moving to New Delhi?! You know dad and I have never lived in India and we can only give you superficies about anything on the lifestyle of what you are about to adapt! I will talk to a few of my friends who live in Janakpuri, West Delhi and set you up!”
“Mom, are we going to be talking in hyperbole here?! Let me layout my plan and then you can spell your objections all over it! Sounds fair?!”
He waited a few moments in the silence, “Guys, my company is now 40 employees strong including me.. And I have some great news to share! The standalone piece of software that I wrote to help writers to publish their works on the internet is now being tested at major News publishing houses for its performance to be plugged into their internet engines.. If this works out, I will be able to renegotiate a deal with WNN (World News Network) on a potential buy out of my company.. Their original offer 18 months ago was for 3 million dollars.”
“They have asked their newly acquired division at India to be beta-tested for 6 months. And we took them up on their offer, because if it passes this life-cycle, they are planning to launch it in 193 countries where they slowly acquiring offices. And depending on how it fares, we might have a winner!”
“Mom, it is a great professional opportunity not to mention a chance for me to explore India at leisure! ….. Mom?!”
Vikas sounded cheerful as he assured his son, “You know her, she is all teared up now.. And the minute I put down the phone, she will tell me how she has been proud of you since the day you were born. And to hear you now, we are just overwhelmed at the moment beta, that’s all.“ (Translation “beta” – son)
Ky wished his parents a good night and ended the call.. As he did, he heard a faint, “God bless you honey!” at the other end..
The moment Ky landed at the Indira Gandhi International airport, he was taken! For all the news about the dusty roads, the often collapsing flyovers, and the last-minute face-saving tactics of the Indian Government that successfully launched the 2010 Commonwealth Games a few months ago, he was only seeing gorgeous marble floors and stunning female airport attendants all along his walk to the waiting taxi..
“Mr. Kyle for WNN”, the placard read, held by a seemingly lefty person. When Kyle introduced himself, the man smiled and said, “Namaste Sir, welcome to India! I am Ramesh and I will take care of you.” Kyle ushered his team mates into the waiting car – the three others he had extended the offer to come along with him to pursue this high-profile deal. Along the way, they got out of the car, danced and even took pictures of the boisterous procession of people surrounding a local politician and his entourage.
The juxtaposition of modern Delhi and the harmonious blend of rickshaw drivers in it was a sight to be beheld. At 2:30am, the city was mobile as if it was just about 10pm. As Ramesh summed it up, Delhi was capable of living up to anyone’s expectations.. A secure day life, innumerable job opportunities, a vigilant crime task force, a thriving tourist interest, the proximity to the Taj Mahal, and the night life for people looking for it in the right places!
An hour later, driving into the high-rise apartment complex at Gurgaon, Richie, short for Richard Clark asked Ramesh, which of the 30 national languages he spoke at home. “Telugu, Mr. Richie”
Ky smiled to himself as if a connection that was 1000’s of miles long was made. His mother would be happy to know he was in familiar company, as she would put, her “own” people?! An observation from her that almost always brought a chuckle to him and his father.
“Kyle Saab Ji, Katrina Kaif ji ki ghar dikti hn yahaa se, jab unka Sallu bhai ke saath chakkar chal raha tha”.. Ramesh was in high spirits as he showed around the place.
“Kya bol rahe ho, futte marte ho kya tum?!” Ruchita Sinha pointed out jokingly to Ramesh.
“What is he saying Ruchita, you don’t have to crack code, your job is to translate everything that people say around here.. Ha ha” Josh Ellar, the guy with the Midas touch when it came to acquiring contracts, was now eager to learn Hindi in 24 hours.
“Aaram se bolo bhaiyya, samajh nahi paate hn itni Hindi ek saath” Ky said as he explained to his comrades how a sizzling Bollywood actress lived just blocks away from their apartment.
On Monday, they got to the office at 8:30 am. A well-dressed, polite gentleman provided them with their access badges and escorted them to a 9th floor lobby where they were quickly stripped off of all their bags, because it was company policy to leave everything personal in pre-assigned lockers before entering their offices. Ruchita managed to sneak in a breakfast bar, while the idea disturbed Richie profoundly. In spite of being amused at their peers’ bewilderment, Kyle and Josh had to bring in the quorum to think of their immediate task at hand.
A multitude of handshakes later, the day turned out to be a great productive one! As they wrapped up, a senior member from the office suggested that they should explore a local bar/lounge for the happy hour. Happy hour at 9pm, they wondered, but they were eager to check out the night life too.
The Atrium Lounge they walked up to, two blocks from their office looked promising. This place is mentioned in the night life section of the Lonely Planet’s Delhi: A Capital City, Josh mentioned as he walked in.
The place was dimly lit, with lights synchronously turning on and off with the music. As Kyle turned away from the bar for a brief second, he met face to face to with her.
“Kyle, meet Shruti Singh, she was recently dubbed as South East Asia TV’s sexiest news anchor. And we at WNN say that she is more capable in her area of expertise than many of the Entertainment gurus twice her age are.” Rajendra Pandey, the client manager spoke.
“Hi Shruti! Call me Ky, please”
“Oh come on Raj, thanks! Hello Ky, it’s a pleasure to meet you in person!”
As he stood there talking to her, he asked her if she would care for a drink.
“One Virgin Margarita on the rocks for me. Tonight, I am my own Designated Driver Ky, so I have no choice.”
“And also, you have to get home earlier because you have to reply to your Twitter fans, right?! Kyle, do you know that Shruti has more twitter fans than Bipasha Basu.. She is not only hot in person, but hot in the Social Media circles..!”, commented someone.
Her dark hair and brown eyes in the misty club lights, made her ethereal. Her well-pleated trousers with a tucked vertical striped white shirt, sleeves folded to the elbow, seemed to be the only thing that made her real. It was riveting to see a great looker with brains to match them. And true to her persona, she seemed to bring vivacity into the conversation. And as with every night on TV where she spoke and everyone else listened, tonight she spoke and Kyle listened.
As days went by, the office at Gurgaon received great reviews for the launch of Kyle’s software on WNN’s India network. The sound quality, the high-definition resolution of media within the articles, the fonts, the crisp editing, the feedback mechanism that seem to engage a lot of the young readers and attracting a whole new demographic of Indians interested in social and day-to-day issues was revealing and encouraging.
Shruti Singh’s home page and her blog were the most popular. She was the kind of New Media anchor that held her viewers captive.. She made them think, for themselves, but for most of the times for others, for the society as a single entity.
One evening Shruti took everyone to the handicrafts expo at The Delhi Haat, a place where everything for sale was exclusively and delicately hand-made by the thousands of craftsmen from all over India. Kyle and Shruti stayed over after dinner and shopping to finish some unfinished business as Kyle put it to the others who were leaving.
“I am 30, and per my mother I don’t have a lot of time left to settle down! I am sure you know what I mean. If not, let me get to the point right away. Are you seeing anyone, Shruti?”
Shruti stared back at Kyle, “Technically I am your boss in the office scene, but outside of work, I am a 33 year old single woman who is a 100% self-made. My father is a Tiffin Wallah in Mumbai and my mother is the most loving woman on the planet. They are the only two people I have.”
“Shruti, I want a relationship with a woman like you who is strong and can hold her own. I want my abilities to be challenged when I am with her. And I am not known to settle for the mediocre.”
“If you are risk taker, I want you to be onboard with an idea that I have. I have had a few months to think through it. And I need you by my side, because I think I might have met my match in you. And in you, I found a man, who will let me dream and accomplish what I long to..”
The plan was going down tonight. She was talking to some movers and shakers in Delhi and around and it was unfolding this Saturday night.
Two weeks after he proposed to her with not so many words at the Haat expo, Shruti was letting him know how she was genuinely interested in him. Her apartment was chic, the colors solid, mostly a mix of blue and brown cushions, rectangular light fixtures and tables complemented the subtle orange walls. In the middle, they had cleared the furniture and sat themselves down on the contemporary rug close to the large open window overlooking the beautiful Delhi street lights.
“You look great with a beard, Ky. It does not go well with your personality, but it sure does with your glasses..!”
“Where does my cell phone figure in the middle of this proposal? Your condition for me to come over tonight was to come with ‘my mobile device’. Are you always this intriguing, Shruti?!”
“Ha, good one..You will know very soon!”
In the high-rise condominium, one by one, her friends and colleagues gathered. They laughed and listened to Mukesh Kumar on LPs. As they treated themselves to the music, the food and the drinks, everyone seemed to have one thing on their mind. Why the “mobile device”??
Shruti moved deliberately from one guest to another, making them feel special and welcome. At one moment in the party, when a majority of them were gathered in the middle of the living room, on the rug, she slowly walked over to the LP player and turned it off.
“Hello guys, thanks for coming at such a short notice! Because of the way media work, impromptu plans work the best. And every one of us is a celebrity in India in our own right. So, I had to be stealthy. We have never managed to get a single autograph from Raveena Kapoor, until today! So, tonight since we have ambushed her here at my apartment, let us attack her and get a picture autographed from her?!”
A stunned Raveena looked as Shruti laughed, “Guys, I was just joking!” The crowd seemed to roar and thrive in the word play Shruti was always known to engage in.
“OK, this time it is for real, I need to tweet right now! And then I want you to speak your mind!”
She reached for her mobile and tweeted,
Will you pay a ‘convenience’ or ‘administration’ fee to get work done in a govt. or a private undertaking? Will you help me LEGALIZE bribes?
Shruti placed the phone on the coffee table next to her after the exact 140 word tweet and continued talking to everyone like she did not miss a beat.
“Middle class in India is now a force that cannot be ignored. If we can move their wheels, they can make anything happen. Forbes says, ‘In 2001-’02 just 13.8 million households had incomes in excess of $4,000 per year, by 2009-’10, the number–at constant prices–has risen to 46.7 million, representing a population of about 200 million individuals.’ And if every one of us, would just go that extra step to pay a fee on top of the nominal fees that we are to pay: to finalize a land deed or register a teenage son for a driver’s license test, I feel strongly that the problem of corruption can be eliminated.”
“Recently I received an email from a frustrated Assistant commissioner of Police of a big city in India. I keep his identity a secret per his request. He noted his helplessness in the world of corruption, and how he is guilty as charged. He lives on a meagre salary of 11000 Rs per month not including the vehicle and grocery allowance he gets. If he was to feed his family of 5 and send his kids to school and expensive colleges, he had to rely on the extra income that came in the form of bribes and other shady deals he overlooked for the bigwigs of his city.”
“Think about it guys, write about it and let us do something for him and countless others who are forced to involve in corruption and bribery to keep their families afloat!”
That was an electrifying, thrilling, magnificently brilliant night for the urban cityscape of Delhi. The one that would rewrite the history of India and how the Indian government and its people agreed on one common goal, the system of bribes was too archaic to still hold its ground in modern India.
As Raveena and countless other celebrities in the room and across India tweeted and re-tweeted her message as a show of solidarity and support to her agenda, Shruti added another million to her twitter fan base in the next 24 hours.
And the next day, on her nightly show, Shruti tooks calls from everyone who called in with their take on the matter. The phone lines were on fire inside the WNN office. People were willing to contribute with ideas, they would discuss how much they were willing to pay, 10 or 20% depending on the type of job, some even called with their own stories of frustrations, under paid – over worked; forced to take bribes to feed hungry mouths at home; but everyone seemed to agree on one thing, all of them were eager to help people who came to them for help. Some even had tips for the government to solve the corruption crisis. It felt like opening a huge container of dormant energy that was waiting to erupt at the slightest provocation!
Over the next 6 months, the states of Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Sikkim ordered sweeping reforms to their administrative and institutional systems. Schools, Banks, Hospitals, Private companies brought transparent changes to their fee structures, ensured employee engagement by hiking salaries on commissioned based performances. The nation was in unison, the sentiments were strong and one, like the millions of candles that lit the ONE sky over Mumbai after the terror attacks in 2008.
Encouraged by the success in the few states that brought about the changes following the great uproar, a public petition E-signed by millions reached the Parliament and countless politicians took notice and supported it crossing party lines and the ball finally rolled. A day that India had long dreamt of was arriving..
Almost a year to date since she last saw her son, while on a lunch meeting out with her team, Anu saw a blinking light on her cell phone indicating a voice mail. “Mom, it is me, Kyle! I was checking to see if you will be free to help me plan my wedding. Talk to you soon, I love you Ma!”
As he called Anu and stepped into his return flight to Atlanta after signing his contract with WNN-IN, Kyle tweeted,
Wannabe_Polymath Kyle Gopichund
* The synonym dictionary says, U4E stands for YOURS FOREVER