Dangerous Methods

Part-3

Kirit Patel and Pratima are sitting in the backseat of a car. The car stopped at Patel&Patel’s head office and he got off. The car sped away with Pratima and soon Sandhya was sitting next to her. Car entered a very swanky gate of ‘Desai Cable World’. Pratima walked ahead and spoke to the reception. They were graciously asked to take a seat in the huge lobby. Glasses of water were placed on the gleaming glass table in front with a question, “tea, coffee or cold drink?” Sandhya wanted tea and looked at Pratima. She did not want anything. Sandhya noticed she looked off color.

“What happened? You don’t look too good.”

“Yes that deal that your husband wanted from us to give us the band of spectrum is troubling Kirit Patel a lot.”

“Why is it troubling?”

And Pratima gave her the explanation in detail, elaborating the technicalities making it impossible for their audit and accounts department to handle it. She added dramatically, “just imagine Vinod Natarajan blackmailed us to sell Patel&Patel’s shares to him at the rate of Re 1! That too one crore of them!”

Sandhya was shocked, “but your share in the market is more than 1000.”

“You are right. That is the main problem. We would have given him entire amount in cash, if he allowed us. We have done it in the past; but this time he was very unreasonable. He knows that it can’t be done and yet he pressurized us. And that is how we had to make a strict contract with him.”

She opened the laptop and showed her the final contract. Sandhya’s eyes popped out reading the language. Casually Pratima added, “See we never had any issues with him dealing in cash. We gave him holidays, cars, wine, women whenever he demanded.” Sandhya’s jaw dropped. “I somehow feel that he is sensing to lose the next election; that is if he gets a ticket in the first place. After all Kirit Bhai also knows people in each political high command. If this shares episode ever gets leaked to them, your husband’s political carrier is over. He is acting like this due to extreme insecurity. He should not be so pessimistic. ”

Sandhya could not take a sip from the tea placed in front of her.

“Madam Sandhya Natarajan?”

She looked at the well dressed man.

“Please follow me”

“Mrs. Natarajan, it is so nice to meet you one more time”, Mr Desai sang and came forward to shake her hand.

“You can call me Sandhya.” She added shaking his hand.

“Why, you don’t look too well. If there is any problem we can meet any other time. Absolutely no hassle.” He picked up the phone, “I will tell them to drop you back.” That’s when she realized, what was happening.

“No, no Mr Desai. I am sorry I was just lost in some random thoughts. You don’t worry about it. I am fine now. Really, I mean it. Let’s get down to business.”

He sat in his chair and told her clearly how she could contribute in their office. There was going to be just a little travel, may be only 4-5 days in a month to New Zealand.

“It is a beautiful place. You will have no trouble handling it.”

Sandhya looked straight at him and said: “Mr Desai, I can start from 1st of next month.” In a few minutes they had a formal contract in front of them. She was to be paid nearly 10 lakh a year with office car pick up and drop. They both signed it and she emerged from the cabin with a victorious smile. She ran towards Pratima waving the sheet of white paper. Pratima hugged her warmly.

Sandhya was not going home today to that stinky and corrupt ambience, called home; but to the club with her best friend. She knew it was too early to drink; but what the hell.

***

Both the women were flying high at 8pm only. With the strength of the job letter in her bag, Sandhya asked in very drunk but determined voice, “what are the options to save Kirit Bhai from the jaws of my husband, Mr. Vinod Natarajan? Give me the full list of them. I want to see where I can help you and Kirit bhai.”

Pratima pulled out her phone from the bag and played the phone conversation between Kirit Patel and Vinod Natarajan recorded earlier. Sandhya was shattered with her husband’s voice. He was behaving like a seasoned extortionist. Oh god, my husband? Is he the reason behind all this money crap? Pratima pulled her for a walk in the empty jogging track. They strolled slowly going over various possibilities. Sandhya found most were not practical and would leave them in difficult long term troubles with government, until Pratima came out with the last one…

They returned to their seats. Sandhya sat down with a thump. She couldn’t believe her ears! How could anyone even think of such an alternate? But as she thought more and more about it, it started sinking in. After all Kirit Patel’s company has hundreds of thousands of employees and millions of share holders. If and when the government finds out about free transfer of shares to someone, hell will break lose! Too many lives and livelihoods were at stake. Patel&Patel will lose their entire reputation in a flash! Yes it made sense… it did.

Now the details of who, how and when, had to be worked upon. Kirit Bhai was ready to support anyone for life who would take up this project. ‘Who’ or the actor was most important, because he/she had to have a very good motive to bump off someone otherwise it will look that he was a hired professional. So finding that person was the major task. It has to be someone who should have lifelong serious grudges against the man; like if a pregnant woman was left in the lurch or took away somebody’s entire source of livelihood… or it could be a deranged or mentally unstable person, who doesn’t know what he is doing. Such a person might be better since even law cannot convict him like it would a normal person. Many criminal have hidden behind the curtain of lost mental balance when cornered in a court.

Sandhya had gone into a shell for many days after that day’s meeting. She was thinking of the kind of sex she had with her husband was so unnatural. He seemed to act as though he was acting in porn movie rather making love to his wife. All the memories of dirty remarks and orders in bed were making her sick…

After two days Pratima called her and they met in the evening, in the same jogging track of the club. They talked for a long time.

First Sunday, after parliament session gets over, was zeroed in. Breakfast time. Sunday morning was most suitable, as everyone is in a lazy and holiday mood, even the law keepers. Sandhya chose her own semi-retarded brother as the ‘man’ for the mission. His mental state, that was against him all his life; was going to be an asset suddenly. There was a lot of discussion in Kirit bhai’s beach house about this. In such a fool proof case, there was no scope of taking a chance. Although Sandhya said she will take care of it, experts made arrangements for tier 2 and tier 3 also. Sandhya was getting eager to get over with her stinking life with a horrible human being. She was also looking forward to her new job, traveling and some fresh air. She had a mission and she knew it. She had to get rid of this uncouth, corrupt and sex hungry man, who couldn’t even perform in bed. He being her husband was not going to stop her.

Sandhya’s brother Prashant had arrived on Friday morning. Soon his classes started. He had been explained over and over where the piece will be lying. He has to be right in front of him, across the table, and when Sandhya didi calls the servant to the kitchen Prashant will do the needful and do it three times. He is going to help his very depressed sister. His family will be very rich after Sunday.

Final day arrived. Official staff was less than normal. Driver was given an off; mercifully he had asked for it. Children will sleep till well past 9am…

Vinod Natarajan was at the breakfast table at 8, sipping his tea and scanning the newspaper. No one noticed an athletic shadow jumped into the compound and hid behind the large flower pots, just behind the dining room window. He looked like any gardener or dhobi. After looking around, he took the red ‘angochaa’ from his right shoulder and wrapped it tightly on his face, leaving a narrow slit for his eyes. Prashant had taken his place on the chair opposite Vinod Natarajan. He fiddled under his cushion, pulled out the revolver and placed it securely on his thighs under his long shirt… Sandhya called out from the kitchen to take other dishes. The servant who was setting plates and glasses left the dining room. Prashant pulled out the revolver and aimed at Vinod Natarajan, who looked confused and dismissed the mad man with serious hesitation. He turned the page of the news paper but kept Prashant in his vision. Prashant’s hands shivered violently, as he tried to squeeze the trigger. Natarajan’s confusion turned into horror as the first bullet hit the ceiling. In a split second Natarajan got up from his chair and dashed towards Prashant to disarm him. Just then the shadow appeared, calmly placed his own right hand neatly on top of Prashant’s and finger on top of the finger on the trigger. And as they had planned 1, 2, 3, game was over. Sandhya and the servant appeared in the dining room hurriedly in a few seconds. They noticed a movement in the curtain. The shadow moved out of the door, went behind the house and vanished. Prashant was still holding the revolver.

On the face of it: Prashant is retarded. He cannot shoot anyone and why should he? The unknown shadow might have done it. As it had moved the curtain while leaving the scene of crime. But no one saw the shadow and the shooting. To add to it there were no other finger prints anywhere, except Prashant’s. After effect: Prashant is put behind bars as he surrendered to the nearest police station immediately. Surrendering guidance provided by Sandhya Natarajan. Getting his bail accomplished by lawyers recommended by Kirit Patel. Prashant’s family gets 25000 every month for killing/ not killing Vinod Natarajan. Sandhya is happy in her new job. She feels very important and useful. Vinod Natarajan’s death certificate was submitted to authorities with a copy of the contract between Patel&Patel and Vinod Natarajan. It accompanied a letter saying since the primary owner was no more, one crore shares were to be transferred back to the company’s official shares ledger.

End of ‘Dangerous Methods’

Dangerous Methods

Part-2

Company Club had world class facilities. Bar, food, décor, service, staff would pop any commoners’ eyes out. Sandhya also had seen a lot in life, moving with her minister husband. But she thought this might beat the best, by a small margin. She was warmly received by Pratima, who escorted her to the prime space reserved for the richest of this world. Kirit Patel was looking bright and talkative in the company of his executives and other business partners. There were also some of the most glamorous women on the table. After exchanging greetings, Kirit Patel introduced one of them as his wife, Sonal and some more and… even more.

As Sandhya took a chair, Pratima sat next to her. Sandhya gave her a thank you smile. The waiter placed white wine in front of them. Kirit Patel ordered fresh snacks. The evening was going by happily. As the glasses filled and refilled, happiness graph in the group turned north. Sandhya met many high profile Indian and foreign industrialists and executives. Some asked her for her background, qualifications and some… “Oh, then why don’t you join our organization, we need someone like you”. “Someone with your personality should be not sitting at home. Send the children to a boarding school and you make your own place in the world.” She was feeling heady with these compliments and offers. After three glasses of wine, she asked to be excused. She made a familiar gesture at Pratima and they both walked towards the ‘Ladies’… Kirit Patel’s eyes followed them…

Around 2am, Sandhya said she wanted to leave. Pratima gestured for the car instantly. After many affectionate handshakes and good nights, they walked off. In the porch a driver was holding the door of a black BMW 7 Series sedan.

After a 20 min drive, they reached the house. Driver rolled down Sandhya’s side of window and security opened the gate. After 2 minutes, both women emerged out of the car laughing, may be sharing a women’s joke. Arm in arm, a bit unsteady on their feet, they moved towards the main door. It was difficult to guess, who was supporting whom.

Sandhya: “Please call me, when you reach home, ok? And shall we keep in touch.”

Pratima: “Of course yes, to both points.”

Sandhya: “I have to discuss a lot with you, especially about some those offers that were made to me.”

Pratima: “You are lucky… charmed so many big guns in one evening. I have been stuck with this company and Kirit bhai for five years now.”

As Sandhya stepped in, she waved to Pratima.

Sandhya: “See you soon.”

She shut the door, stood still and looked up. She shut her eyes as the sound of powerful car engine faded away. She moved to children’s room and peeped in. They were sleeping peacefully. It was past 2.30am. She changed and lied down on her bed. She was wondered what kind of life did Pratima lead. She was not married and was well in her thirties. Women need a lot at that stage. They need male attentions, money, worst of all they need to feel secure and find a so called ‘shore’, someone who might marry them. Sex too is important; but if the man is not yielding to marriage, then it better be with ‘no strings attached’.

Sandhya’s train of thought got derailed with phone ring.

“Oh, so you reached safely. I was waiting for this. I will catch some sleep now. Children will be up at 6.30. Yes I will call you after breakfast. Bye”

Pratima typed an SMS, ‘it will work. Response is good. But too early to decide a final course of action.’ She sent it to a number from her diary.

***

Sandhya was not surprised to see Kirit Patel at the airport with his entire executive team. It was such a big deal, they had to be there. He wished her warmly. She too was proactive with her good morning Kirit Bhai. Vinod Natarajan emerged in vision. He waved out in their direction. Everyone was together. Kirit Patel and Sandhya too waved back.

Kirit Patel: “Sandhya sorry but I will be kidnapping your husband for an hour or so. Pratima will take care of you. Please don’t mind.”

Sandhya: “Oh, I understand. It’s fine.”

Kirit Patel: “But he will be with you for lunch… on second thought we all can have lunch in our corporate office after the meeting. That is, if you are fine with it.”

Sandhya: “Sure, I will be fine with Pratima.”

They let the empty car with red light move first and rest followed it. At a point Pratima and Sandhya’s car changed direction and entered the same club again. We will spend some time here until lunch, Pratima said. Soon after they settled down in the executive lounge with glasses of virgin pinacolada, Pratima’s phone rang. She said can you call me on the club phone, signal is week here? Sandhya was surprised; but understood. She has just met them. They will surely share a lot of information that could not be leaked to anyone. She gestured to Pratima to go ahead and take the call. Pratima gestured, ‘will be back in a bit.’

Pratima took the call inside a private cabin and kept listening and nodding with ‘hmm’ throughout the conversation.

Voice: “You can give her some leads that will mess her mind.”

Sandhya was going through the menu card, when Pratima returned.

Sandhya: “Some important secret? I hope it has nothing to do with me.” (laughs)

Pratima: “You? Oh no, how can that be. (laughing and fixing her gaze on her) Mr. Desai inquired about you.”

Sandhya: “Me why?”

Pratima: “He is stupid you know, he was wondering if you were really interested in his offer.”

Sandhya: “What offer, oh that day in the club?”

Pratima: “He has really taken up for you.”

Sandhya: “I don’t think I am that good. It must be due to my husband’s position.”

Pratima: “umm, I don’t think; because it is not an Indian company and there is a lot travel involved.”

Sandhya: “No way, I cannot travel. My children are small and he would not allow it.”

Sandhya’s phone rang again. She took it and a second after hello, she disconnected.

“Let’s go. They are done and waiting for us.”

Sandhya feels relieved too. During lunch Sandhya sat next to her husband, who seemed rather happy and chirpy. He said he had told his secretary for us see a good movie today, whichever one she wanted.

Gradually Sandhya and Pratima became close friends. Pratima would come over for lunch often to Sandhya’s place when her husband would be out and late in evening they would plan something else. Natarajan did not mind it at all as his wife was with a woman who had a senior position at Patel&Patel.

One day both had gone to the club in the evening. Pratima was working on her laptop, when suddenly she said that she has got some nice photographs to show and clicked on ‘Celebration’ folder. The occasion was the first dinner after Kirit Patel had got the permit for the spectrum. Sandhya moved to the other side to see the pictures.

Pratima: “You see them peacefully, I will just freshen up then we will order drinks.”

Sandhya: “I can order, I know now what you like. You take your time.”

With a smile she started seeing the photos. She featured very prominent in many of them. She noticed Mr. Desai too. She was feeling very important that day meeting rich and famous. In her husband’s circle she met only dirty and corrupt. She thought she will ask a CD for herself too. The folder got over and she shut it. There were many more folders on the desktop. She became inquisitive about folder ‘Kirit Patel.Pvt’. Pratima hadn’t come back yet. She quickly double clicked on it. Her eyes widened. There were pictures of many of her husband’s politician friends and secretary level officers. Most of them were drunk silly and many of them were clinging to different women. She knew most of these men, some of them were in very compromising positions with semi naked girls… she lost her balance when she saw her husband right on top of a woman in a sari, whose blouse was fully open and her breasts spilled out. Sandhya was sweating. She clicked once more to find another, in which Vinod Natarajan’s hand was between a woman’s legs. She couldn’t handle it. There was internet connection in the laptop. She selected some of these pictures and mailed them to her own ID. She didn’t know what she will do with them; but she knew she should have them. She shut the folder. Pratima was chatting with the waiter near the bar and perhaps asking him if any order was placed. She returned to her seat. She had noticed the expressions on Sandhya’s face. She knew her job was done.

Pratima: “Nice pictures no? I will give you a CD.”

They had many glasses of wine and both had got out of control. Her face showed a mix of sadness, anger and anxiety; but she kept her spirits up. She clanked ‘cheers’ with every new glass of wine. Pratima too was drunk. Somehow she kept going to the toilet often.

A little after midnight Pratima dropped her home. Sandhya walked in stumbling. She went to sleep next to her daughter in children’s room. Vinod Natarajan too was very high and couldn’t care less. He thought Sandhya is working her ways to get into international business, which is good for them. She will be busy traveling and he can be free too.

***

Next two days Pratima and Sandhya did not contact each other. Vinod Natarajan asked about her. But Sandhya didn’t encourage the conversation. Same day she called up Pratima and asked if they could meet.

With the first clank of the red wine Sandhya asked how could she get in touch with Mr Desai. “I want to get more details of this job”. “Sure, no problem”, Pratima said. “I will call you in the morning and give you details. I have to find out his whereabouts from his office. Ok?”

Next morning when she was having breakfast with her children, her phone rang. Vinod Natarajan shouted from bedroom “call for you”. A servant went in and got the phone for her.

“Yes I am Sandhya speaking… oh Mr. Desai. That’s very nice of you, calling me personally… yes I do have time… but I need to know a lot more about this Mr. Desai before I… oh that’s great, if Pratima is meeting you, then I will come with her… yes we are very close. Thank you, sir. See you.”

Vinod Natarajan had overheard his wife on phone. “Is this the same guy who owns a cable networks in New Zealand?”

“Yes, he is same. I am trying to see if there is any merit in what he had said earlier. You don’t mind, if I work with them?”

“No no, it is always good to be in the company of rich and influential. But be careful as he is not very dependable with women.”

“How do you know that? Moreover, he knows, I am a minister’s wife. Why would he take such a big risk, in acting fresh with me?”

“I don’t know that; I feel don’t say ‘yes’ to him if you have to travel. But if work is in this city, then you can take care of children too and come back home, to me also. You know what I mean?” “If I want the job, I can’t be dictating my terms. Normally it is the other way. I also feel all my education and ambitions are being wasted. It will be nice to meet cultured and smart people that are around him. I hate people in your company.”

Continued in Part-3

Dangerous Methods

(I wrote this thriller dabbling with politicians, business tycoons, display of money, corruption, use of power and women seeking revenge. I divided it into 3 parts, as I found it bit long.)

Part-1

After carefully wiping the brass name plate, ‘Vinod Natarajan-MP’ the servant entered the government bungalow in New Delhi. Inside, a driver in uniform is dusting a white Ambassador car in the drive way. Vinod Natarajan is on phone, pacing up and down in the verandah. His large rough hand is holding a gleaming cell phone to his hairy ear. There is motion of head nodding up and down along with hmm, hmm. Inside two uniformed servants are organizing breakfast on the dining table, Natarajan’s wife Sandhya is busy getting children ready for school.

A large mahogany board room table in Patel&Patel’s corporate office. A cordless phone is placed on a huge table with speakers on. There are six powerfully dressed men around the table. The phone is close to immaculately dressed Kirit Patel.

Kirit Patel: Sir, I understand your situation. We have always dealt with each other in the best ways possible… i.e. in cash with you and with cheques for your party. But I must say this time your demand seems very illogical… Yes, yes I know that business is big, but we don’t know about the profits, just as yet. Kirit Patel looks up to others, who nod in affirmative.

Vinod Natarajan: what are you talking about? You are doubting profits in communication field? You should not be acting so naive… at least not with me please. You are the third generation in your family business and you all know very well how to make money.

Kirit Patel: I don’t know sir, if it is a compliment or… but this time you are really being very difficult. (Looking at others) If I am allowed to be frank, you seem to be doubtful about yourself in next elections, so you want to collect as much as you can with both hands, fair or unfair.

Some men smirk at this remark.

Vinod Natarajan: (Irritated takes the phone away from his ears and looks towards heaven). See, I am ready to leave. Parliament session is on and after that there are few meetings. And as you know that after two days, I am off to Europe for four days. By that time it will be too late for you to send in application. Now you decide.

Kirit Patel: Sir, this has to be tied up before you leave. Sir, why can’t I hand you over one thousand crore in any form other than issuing one crore shares for Re 1 each! Boss, it is an official matter. It is like me asking SEBI, RBI and ED to come and kill us. We could be banned forever! We must find another way to go about it. Please. Just think of our millions of shareholders at least.

Vinod Natarajan: Umm… that, you think. I am leaving… (loudly) Is my breakfast on the table?

Kirit Patel: Ok sir, give me time till evening. I will get in touch with you.

Vinod Natarajan: Fine, between 9 and 11pm. Thank you.

Both phones disconnect.

Kirit Patel: (talks in an intercom) Hemant please check the replay. Did you get everything clearly?

In a few seconds a voice returns over the intercom, “Yes, Kirit Bhai it is fine.”

Kirit Patel: Good, thank you Hemant. Download a copy of this on my phone, email to our personal IDs and rest you know where to store it safely.

Looking at other company executives, “this time he has put me in a lot of trouble. Problem is that we need the spectrum badly. Actually, everyone needs it, but some need it more badly then others.”

In spite of serious problems created by that impossible Vinod Natarajan, a short burst of laughter was heard. After all a joke told by the boss is funniest in the world. He talked into the intercom, “send Mr. Singh in, he has only a few minutes to show me a way out of this ‘chakravyooh’.”

“Ok sir.”

An elderly Sikh gentle man entered and took a seat with others.

“Let me freshen up a little Singh saab. By that time Manoj Bhai will update you with our most serious crisis until date. Manoj please. And please get some tea, coffee and healthy snacks with proteins. We all need energy to handle this super patriot leader.”

After Kirit Patel emerged from the toilet and looked at Mr. Singh who shook his head sideways a few times showing ‘no way out’ as yet.

Kirit Patel taking the command, “What is the main roadblock in this transaction?”

Mr. Singh: “sir, Re 1/- per share will never work. We will have to compensate the balance Rs 999 per share externally, but on the same transfer account.”

Kirit Patel: “hmm… we know the problem, so let us find the solution. Now no one will talk about the problem and concentrate only on solution.”

Vinod Natarajan’s large frame is spread in the back seat of his car heading towards parliament. He is on phone with his wife Sandhya.

Vinod Natarajan: “How are Shweta and Sharad doing in school… that’s it? 60% is not good… see that Sharad doesn’t miss his cricket practice. I have spoken to coach Archarekar in Mumbai. He will accept him. He is the one who made Sachin and Sunil… I am in talks with Kirit Bhai for some arrangement that will secure our family forever, whether I am an MP or not.” Sandhya keeps adding ‘yes’ in between. She knows if she even raised her eyebrows in a question, he will turn abusive. She can’t take that risk.

***

Mr. Singh: “Sir, we will have to draft the contract in such a way that shares must seem to be in company’s possession. I mean a kind of, ‘waiting to be transferred’. For this there will be few strict conditions Vinod Natarajan will have to adhere to.”

Kirit Patel: “Like?”

Mr. Singh: “Point ‘one’, the shares will be jointly held by two parties, primarily him and second owner will be our own company. ‘Two’, shares will be transferred to his name entirely only after five years. ‘Three’, there will be no nominations from either party. Point ‘four’ goes in his favor, annual dividends will go to Vinod Natarajan in his personal account, being primary though owner.”

Kirit Patel: “That’s a good idea. See now brains are working. What else?”

Mr. Singh: “‘Five’, we must also insist, if Natarajan is ever found on the wrong side of the law, like if any court ever pronounces him guilty of any charge, he will be cease to be part of this arrangement. And finally ‘six’, in least likely case of his death, obviously all the shares will be automatically be transferred to the second owner, as there is no nomination from either side.”

Kirit Patel: “Thank you (thinking) Mr. Singh. Please draft the contract. I am sure Vinod Natarajan too is in a hurry to start earning the dividends of his good deeds.”

A faint smile appears on some faces.

Kirit Patel: “You all can go to your cabins now.”

***

Vinod Natarajan: “Ok listen and don’t talk about it to anyone yet. We might become part of Kirit Bhai’s business family soon… no, no stupid I am not talking about any marriage. Our children are so young… I may be getting a large chuck of shares from them… as a gesture of helping them in their business… one crore. It is fine, with my signature they will be making hundred times more than this… again! You always doubt my decisions. If I lose next election we will not have enough even to run our house… Leaders have to make money for the unavoidable periods of uncertainties… ok hang-up, my BP is shooting… Security post is also here.” He disconnects abruptly. Sandhya has a very worried look as she keeps holding the phone.

A very good-looking woman in her early thirties is listening to Kirit Patel intently and without any visible tension.

Kirit Patel: “As you can see the matter is very complicated. We can take our time. I have told you the points of the contract that we will offer to him… I know he will refuse some points…”

Pratima: “But sir, joint ownership, five years period before total transfer, court order and death must be a part of it.”

Kirit Patel: “Yes yes they are. I am sure he will object to all or at least most of these points. He will never agree to ‘court’ part. These leaders keep having brushes with law all the time. This is the only point which we will use to work as compromise.”

Pratima: “Good idea sir.”

Kirit Patel: “So in such a case what will be your first step?”

Pratima: “As soon as Natarajan is flies away, I will call his wife Sandhya from the corporate office for some authentic but silly reason, like when is Mr. Natarajan coming back… maybe we can send a car to receive him… in case Mr Patel wants to have a word with him has he left a phone number… and very next day send a bouquet of flowers in his name with a gracious grateful note. We will use one of office cars for this. May be I will take the flowers.”

Kirit Patel: “Sounds fine. But just be very soft, discreet and genuine in all calls you make. Always make a reference to previous conversations between people. You could quote, mine and Natarajan’s conversations, to make a point. His wife will talk about it to her husband that will help in confidence building.”

Draft approval meeting was at Vinod Natarajan’s residence at 10pm same evening. His frowns are very prominent. He could not believe Kirit Patel would draft a contract like this! Surely he is the first owner, but co-owner is the company itself! He couldn’t believe his eyes. He was grunting as though there was a bone stuck in his throat which was neither going down nor coming out.

Vinod Natarajan: “What is this? Is this my ‘cut’ or some kind of noose around my neck? Five years to transfer the shares? Then why am I doing you this favor today?”

Kirit Patel: “Boss, sorry we had no other way to do it. It was either we drop the entire game or we share the burden equally. You can’t expect us to risk being banned by SEBI due to transfer of huge number of shares for Re 1 each!”

Finally the draft was signed with most clauses intact except the ‘wrong side of law’. Natarajan gave in to realization that finally it should be fine, as five years was not really a long period. An MP’s term of five years flies off in no time. He signed on the dotted line.

Two days after Natarajan’s airplane took off, a courier service delivered a large envelope to Natarajan’s wife Sandhya at their official residence. Same day a sealed envelope from the ministry was delivered to Kirit Patel’s office, allocating them the band of spectrum they had applied for.

Same evening Kirit Patel personally called Sandhya Natarajan to confirm about the most expensive delivery yet received by her.

Kirit Patel: “Hello can I speak with Mrs. Sandhya Natarajan? Oh hello Sandhya ji, did you receive our envelope?”

Sandhya: “Yes Kirit Bhai thank you sir, I have got it. I will show it to him as soon as he returns. And if he calls, I will inform him anyways.”

Kirit Patel: “Sandhyaji, we are having a small celebration at our clubhouse tonight. It would be great if you could join us for dinner. Since Mr Natarajan is not here I thought at least you could be a part of it. After all it has been fruitful give and take between us.”

Sandhya: “Thank you so much but with children at home… driver also goes away by 5pm when Vinod ji is out.”

Kirit Patel: Oh don’t worry about such petty things. Our driver will pick you around 9 o’clock and drop you back whenever you wish to return. And Sandhya ji, I am sure your children will be safe in one of the most secure houses in the country. Ok?”

Sandhya: “huh… alright, I will be ready.”

Kirit Patel: “See you then.”

He hinted to Pratima that her work starts now.

(To be continued in Part-2)

My Enemies

In today’s time I can’t imagine any country more uncivilized than China. She has always been so uncouth and unpredictable. In late 50s, as school students we used to shout slogan coined by our PM, Pandit Nehru, ‘hindi chini bhai bhai’ (Indians and Chinese are brothers). Then we would be happy seeing the B&W pictures of a chinky guy hugging and pumping Panditji’s right hand. Panditji had convinced entire country that how good our friendship with China was. And what China did in 1962?

China broke that trust by attacking us unprovoked. They occupied thousands of kilometers of our territory! That attack sent Nehru in a state of shock. His face must have fallen badly and his image of a statesman taken a huge beating. I used to sit near my Philips radio and hear the news of how deep Chinese army had invaded inside the Indian Territory. Although I had no idea how far that was. I had no sense of geography then. But I would be very scared in my dreams… chinky men in Khaki shot at me. I would be depressed hearing the voice of radio news reader, Lothika Ratnam on All India Radio, ‘Indian soldiers have lost yet another post to the surging Chinese army.’ And get a little happy if any of those posts were won back next week.

During the 2008 Olympic Torch’s Indian chapter, I heard a new Chinese version of that war. A Chinese foreign affairs person said that India had instigated us by accumulating troupes along the border way back in 1961. So now it means that I had started that war! China is sitting on thousands of square kilometers of my land and tells me that I started the war! If I started then I should be on her land not the other way round. Then Chinese violence inside Tibet also had upset me very badly. And this is the time I decided to take revenge on that fat brag of a country for hurting those world’s most peaceful monks. Khaki Chinkies had grabbed the land and now they wanted to change the life style of the only entirely spiritual country in the world.

China and Burma are the countries who do not reveal anything to either its own people or to outsiders. Citizen there live in darkness and no one knows where their country is headed.
Few years back China has changed its track and has started doing very well financially. All the philosophies and knowledge of Confucius have been buried under the mountains of money. They have never handled this kind of money, ever. That is why they cannot control their wagging tongue and attitude. They are also not used to speaking to press, because saying anything goes on record for keeps sake. They have always been hiding a million things for a single revelation.
Well I have been very upset with China’s current attitude, especially since I met Dalai Lama in Mcleodganj. I came to know many horror stories of Chinese army action in Tibet.
So, finally I decided that I was not going sit and watch all this injustice forever. I started planning how to punish both these bad pennies, China and Myanmar.

I had no option but to seek help from natural-powers. It wasn’t possible without the nature ‘hits’ I wanted to send messages like, ‘This is for saying I started the 1961 war’, ‘This is for killing the Tibetan monks’, ‘This is for calling Arunachal Pradesh a disputed territory’, ‘This is for pushing cheap goods in India’… See these nature nissiles do not operate pishing a button. They just know when to fire.
On May 6, 2008, much before I had imagined a huge wind cyclone called, ‘Nargis Myanmar’ landed there. It carried unwritten but logical messages, ‘This is for the military junta for keeping Aung San Suu Kyi in prison for so many years’, ‘This is for not allowing democratic elections in the nation’, ‘This is for keeping Buddhist monks and press under constant suppression’ and finally ‘This is for not allowing foreign donation to reach the needy after you got hit with Nargis’.
Just six days later, on May 12, 2008, a massive earthquake, 7.9 on Richter scale hit Sichuan, China. All the TV news channels were showing the same ‘Breaking News’. On final count there were huge losses of property and life (almost 88,000 died, 374,643 injured, 18,392 missing). Though I was sad for those 900 school kids. But it can’t be helped, can it? Colateral damage. Point is how would they know that why they both got hit and was there someone wishing for it?

Weapons didn’t even carry any messages with them! Damn!


Mere Mehboob Studios

Mehboob studios has been my second home between 1972-1985! It was a bustling place with film shootings in all its 3 large stages by biggest producers of Bombay then. Stage #3 was the largest in Asia during those days. Its grand wooden wall at the entry still looks gorgeous due to the old world charm.

Red Bus

Normally every big city has a few get away close-by locations to spend a weekend or even for a day picnic. Sometime if a place is very popular, then people who have to travel to that location over and over, need to get creative in order to derive more fun from repeated trips.

For us in Mumbai, the most popular such an escapade is Lonavala. It is rather smallish hill station, but is very popular among people of Mumbai and Pune as well. It is two hour drive from Mumbai and just about an hour from Pune. Mumbai being such a fast paced city, a lot of people drive down to Lonavala to take a breath of much needed fresh air. Although a distance of only 120 km separates Mumbai and Lonavala; Lonavala gets bitterly cold in winters, compared to Mumbai.

From the time we got the first six lane high-speed expressway connecting two cities, people have been zipping across at not less than 100kmph, making the travel time even shorter.

For environment conscious people not owning a car, there are options of numerous buses. Oldest bus service is State Transport Corporation, Maharashtra or ST in short. Its non-A/C simple red color buses weave a very intricate web of convenient routes across Maharashtra’s towns and smallest villages. It is also the cheapest mode of road transport. Thus, it serves the least affluent of the state. At next level come ‘Asiad’ buses; also run by ST, mainly connecting Mumbai with Pune at regular intervals and many more cities. Originally these buses were used during India’s 1982 Asian Games or ‘Asiad’, in New Delhi. These were used to ferry sportspersons and other officials between sporting arenas and hotels. After arriving in Mumbai, name ‘Asiad’ stayed as the name of bus service too. In the beginning they were very popular among regular travelers. They were considered stylish, comfortable and dependable. Although today after so many years obviously they look washed out and shabby compared to new Volvos in-use. They have given excellent service for nearly 30 years. Most of them now are in the process of being replaced with better bodied air-conditioned ones.

Since the completion of expressway in 2002, nobody seems to be using the good old ‘Poona Highway’ or NH-4, as it has been known as, any more. Most of the public and private traffic has diverted itself towards more expensive but faster and smoother express-way, since everyone is always in a hurry to get to their destinations.

One fine day, I was traveling to Pune alone. So, I decided to relive the nostalgia of NH-4. I decided that I would not opt for hurry or luxury. So, instead of a taxi, I took Mumbai’s local BEST bus to Chembur from my locality. Chembur is an important exit point of Mumbai; thus it has a State Transport bus-stand near RK studios. I parked myself at the bus-stop and informed the booking office that I needed one ticket to Pune.

‘Time pass, time pass’, the peanut seller appeared. I bought some. Soon many red Asiads started lining up. Conductor pointed towards a Pune bus and asked me to get in. He said it will reach fast since it is going by the new route. He was surprised when I told him that I want to travel by NH-4, the old route. I did not have to wait much. Soon another red bus arrived. Conductor told me that is your bus. The bus surprisingly had seat numbers and I got a seat as per my ticket. I was traveling in a non-A/C bus after ages. Passengers were so cordial and gentle.

Due to traveling by the new Expressway so many times, I had forgotten the landmarks of the old route. Soon the memories started getting refreshed, as the bus entered a crowded and always unclean, Panvel bus depot. This bus was stopping at every small little village, for the convenience of the poor villager’s destinations. It was entering each bus station for a few minutes and moving out. It was a good opportunity for me to feel all those places all over again, which I used pass during every trip.

Another main nostalgic point was Khopoli. It used to be the most popular break point for passengers. Everyone would halt here for snacks and beverages. From here the hilly region or Ghats starts. So people prefer to cool their cars a bit. Stroking his content stomach, driver announced the departure.

Soon the route became steep and wavy. The hills had started. At one point the road takes two very steep hairpin turns. Then a popular Hanuman ji’s temple passes on right. It is a small temple under a tree. Driver slowed the bus a bit. So everyone can pay their respects by bowing to this popular deity and throw some coins as offering. If you are in a car and slow down, you can get Prasad too.

I realized that the trees were much closer to the bus window. The road was much narrower, but it was in good condition; may be due to reduced traffic. Earlier when this was the only road in use, it was really bad. There used to be very long traffic jams. Sometimes it has taken me 6-8 hrs to reach Pune, in place of usual four.

As the bus neared Lonavala, it reached the top of the hills. It was raining here. I had kept my elbow and face out of the window to feel the rain and cool breeze. Mountains on the other side of the wide and deep valley were dotted with numerous waterfalls. I got deeply engrossed in watching the scenic panorama. I was discovering real beauty in everything that was around. I was able to absorb each view and find playfulness in nature.

There were clouds below my eye level, at the eye level and above too. At a distance, I spotted a small white cloud that had got entangled in bushy branches of a tree. It seemed to be trying to pull itself away but was finding it difficult. Strong breeze was trying to help it; but it wasn’t easy. Due to pull of the breeze in various directions, cloud was changing shapes. Even in total silence, it was a thrilling moment – a highflying cloud held down by a tree and not being allowed to fly away. It seemed like a simple game young kids might be playing in villages. 

The red bus entered first of numerous tunnels. Tunnel was packed with white fog; that felt as if we were passing through a block of white cotton, which easily rushed inside the bus too. Now the clouds were traveling with me, in the bus. Like a dream sequence, everyone looked hazy…

There is no way I could have had so much fun in an expensive claustrophobic A/C bus.

We all have noticed that due to this covid 19 lockdown, earlier normal life has been totally disrupted. As I was editing this I saw the videos of my fast paced life with loud traffic sounds of buses, autos etc. That was normal then. But as I listen to and feel present ambiance, I feel this is so much more peaceful. Of course a balance has to be achieved between peace and progress.

Industrialist Sportsman

On 25 Nov, 2005 at 5am, I left home for Mumbai’s Mahalaxmi racecourse. It was still dark then. I got a bus going to Andheri station easily. With all the inside lights on and my sleepiness yet to wear off, the bus looked so dreamy. From Andheri station I took a slow train to Mahalaxmi. Mumbai has slow and fast trains. Fast ones have limited stops, while slow stop on all stations. There was place to sit; but I decided to stand near the entry to get strong breeze on my face to get rid of drowsiness. After a while I sat down and checked my belongings, mainly my camera, extra film roll etc. I was yet to get my first digital camera then. Mission was to watch a ‘mission near impossible’ by Indian industrialist and sports adventurer, Dr. Vijaypat Singhania (CEO Raymond). He was to fly in a hot air balloon with the intention of creating a new world record. The previous record had been held by the Britain based Swede, Per Lindstrand since June 6, 1988, after touching 64,997 ft in Texas. So Mr. Lindstrand held on to that record for long 17 years! There were not many chances that it would fall easily. Because of this, I knew the importance of this mission; and that is why I did not want to miss the opportunity to watch its starting point. I got off at Mahalaxmi station and came up near the high level road facing the race course. A large area in the middle had been cordoned off. The balloon was being inflated far in the distance. It was so exciting. I took some pictures of completely a new visual of the panorama, a large red and yellow balloon changing shapes in the middle of huge space of race course. Then I took a cab up to the gate and walked in. Race course is for horses to run. They go around it in seconds. But it took me 15 min walk to get close to the balloon. There were placards announcing MI70K (Mission Impossible 70,000) History in the making”. Not too many people were there. Mostly technicians and engineers were working in various areas. Well I could not get much closer; but I took a lot of pictures of the gadgets and the ambiance. To my pleasant surprise the horses came out to practice. Watching them run close by was exhilarating. That meant clicking some more pictures! As the sun came up I got information that take off has been postponed to next day, due to high air turbulence. Well, it seemed that I had reached the racecourse a day too early. I indulged in shooting pictures of those lovely horses doing their practice runs. Later it was great to watch the sunrise from such an open space, and not to forget brisk walking 2 rounds of the course. The walking-track runs inside parallel to the racetrack made for the superior beings. It took me nearly 30 min to do one round. A Walk on the racecourse tack has been in my ‘to-do’ agenda for many years! In fact it was a revelation that one does not have to be a member of the Turf Club to get inside for a morning walk. It is open for all. So I relaxed, enjoyed my walk and then walked out to the bus stop and soon was home for breakfast.

Next day on Nov 26, I was even more serious to reach Mahalaxmi on time, because I was sure that in all probability this was going to be the ‘historical day’. Near the gallery steps they had placed large screens showing the visuals from a multi-camera setup. It was good to watch close up of the capsule and activities around it. The sound track was filling-in the details of Dr. Singhania’s previous records. One of them was flying in a Microlite aircraft from UK to India in 1988. This is record that he still holds. I was lucky to see this tiny plane from close quarters and also meet Dr. Singhania at Pune airport. He had just finished his great adventure then. I found it really very brave. He showed us the pressure marks on his knees due to constantly being pressed against the dash board of the tiny plane. The second record was winning the world air race in 1994.

Near the launch site the atmosphere was electric. There were a lot of people. Most of them seemed to be from Dr. Singhania’s office. Raymond is huge organization and Dr. Singhania has a lot of friends in every field. There were many celebrities. I got a chance to say hello to Dr. Jagmohan Mundhra and Mr. Vinod Khanna (a famous actor and an MP). Mr. Khanna was accompanied by Mr. A. Parthasarthi (an expert on Vedanta). Just before entering the capsule Dr. Singhania waved to everyone. Crowd responded by waving and clapping for long time. The door shut securely. The capsule seemed pretty small. It may have space for just one person to stand or sit on a chair. If it had to take a man to edge of space, it had to be highly technical. Other than life support and flight control equipment, Capsule had advanced communication system. It also was insulated and pressurized to the perfection. Since at its maximum height the outside temperature might be nearly -100C and atmospheric pressure will be so rare that it could kill you instantly. A huge flame was being fired inside the balloon to make the inner air hot. The balloon was now becoming taller and bigger. At its peak its height was supposed to be equivalent to a 20-story building! The take-off time was close. Finally the wait was over and capsule lifted from the ground in a shaky manner as it was still tied to the ground. It was really a wonderful moment. My heart was beating hard. Everyone was clapping. As balloon’s lifting power built up it was untied and allowed to move on its very fateful journey at 6.39AM. The capsule swayed unsteadily for a few moments. Excited crowd cheered and clapped as capsule gained height. Capsule was now just above us all and moving south slowly. From Mumbai’s point of view, it moved towards Peddar road, soaring over tall buildings. Within 5 minutes of lift off I felt that balloon was losing height. I was worried. I watched other faces to confirm my doubt. Everyone seemed worried. There was a young couple next to me who shared my apprehension with ‘oh my god’. Still above those tall Pedder road buildings, I saw a whole lot of flames being fired into the balloon to counter a possible descent, followed by a lot of smoke escaping from top of the balloon. That smoke got me very worried. Kerosene is used for igniting the fire up to a certain altitude. Soon the smoke vanished and balloon started moving higher. Its path curved towards northwest, above the sea and gained good height. People started moving off. I watched it moving fast above the sea. It was looking very small now. Soon tall buildings of Worli blocked its view and I too turned back slowly and decided to take a walk on Haji Ali-Worli road. After witnessing an important event, I prefer to spend some quiet time with myself. Last time it was when I attended the Zubin Mehta show. It helps me absorb the show into my system. I do not feel like coming out of that mood too quickly. There was a lingering apprehension too; whether the mission will be accomplished? If not then I hope Dr. Singhania lands back safely… I walked towards Worli for about 15 minutes and sat down for a cup of tea.

PS: At 8.55 AM Dr. Vijaypat Singhania broke the previous world record of 64,997 ft. And while flying above Ulhasnagar he created a new hot air balloon record of 69,852 ft. He could not touch 70000ft as planned. He said later ‘it was not worth it to endanger life for the sake of 148ft’. So from the edge of space, he decided that it was good time to return home to family and friends. His balloon landed safely near Nasik at 11.30 AM. The record was monitored by the Aero Club of India. It was later recognized by Federation Aeronautique Internationale as an international record.


Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is being held in Mumbai between 4th–12th February 2017. The fest always attracts talents of many performing arts like dance, music, singing and paintings. Many seasoned and upcoming installation artistes also get chance to show their talent… Rampert Row precinct is closed to traffic during these days, though the small street is studded with most popular landmarks like Lion Gate, Jehangir Art Gallery, West Side, Chetna and Khyber restaurants. It is very close to BSE, Museum, Colaba, Fort and entire central business area of Mumbai.