IshkIshkIshk Prod Story 5

Next morning we flew by helicopter to Thyangboche, which has the world’s highest Buddhist Monastery at 14000ft. It was a 10 min journey, but very dangerous one. We had to be moved from one peak to another with a valley in the middle. But the pilot was having lot of problems in landing safely due to awkward wind currents. Dev Saab spent money very lavishly on this leg of the shoot. Other than actor and technicians, things like reflectors and wooden stools too had to be carted by helicopter at an exorbitant cost. We reached here after the sunlight had faded. So the shooting was to start next morning. In the night all of us had some basic dinner with a little rum. There were no beds, only sleeping bags for us on the floor of an enclosure made of wooden planks. The room resembled more like a large box of wood. On my right was Premnath and left was chief assistant director Vishwa. All of us were protected against biting cold and whistling winds by our usual woolens, sleeping bags and the strong Nepali Khukri rum. I can never forget Premji’s thunderous snoring. He had hit the sleeping bag earlier than me so he had no chance to experience my snoring. When everyone snores in a room, it is better to be the first to hit the pillow and doze off; late sleepers have to face the terrible music. The glass of water next to Premji was vibrating due to his snoring and strong winds.
In the morning my eyes opened due to spreading brightness warmth of sun. Premji picked up his glass of water to drink, but could not. The water had frozen. He peeped into the glass, held the glass up side down and then shook it. He then felt so amused and excited that he went on screaming and showed the glass to everyone. He ran to Dev Saab screaming, ‘Devi Devi look what happened to the water.’ He called Dev Saab ‘Devi’ affectionately. Even I was stunned to think how cold it must have been at night. I am sure it must have been the layer of rum that saved us all from freezing.
But due to excessive cold I had a technical set back. My recording machine Nagra did not work. It would go ‘forward’ and ‘rewind’ but not record or play. Dev Saab gave me dirty looks all through the day. He hates people sitting around jobless. Any ways all I could do was to ask the direction assistants to note down exact dialogues that actors spoke, for being of help during dubbing of these scenes. We shot here for two days. On the second day after the shoot we had to start moving back to Everest hotel at Shyangboche. And this time all of us were not going back by helicopter. Mainly junior technical staff was going to trek back and some basic equipment would be carted on Yak backs. Shekhar and I too decided to go with them. For this return journey we had to go down about 1km into the valley and come up again near the hotel.
This walk would also become a part of my unforgettable experiences. Due to our (mine and Shekhar’s) much faster speed we were gradually going too far ahead from the main unit, which incidentally had local guides along with them. We took it for granted that when the right path will come we will easily know it. On the way we met Hersh and some others trudging along on Yak backs. Waving at them, we left them far behind. Shekhar is very fit and he was a good 10 min ahead of me too. I could see him only on the straight part of a mountain, but he would vanish from sight if there were curves. So we both too became lonely in that wilderness. Supposedly there were no wild animals; but as I went around a tight curve suddenly I noticed a Yak in the middle of the narrow path. He was looking at me directly. I had not met any Yaks, so I didn’t know if they are friendly or not. Since I was all alone, I could not take any risk. I climbed up a good 100 feet above the Yak and came down ahead of him. Those were some anxious moments. It was getting dark now. We had to negotiate the distance fast to get back safely. We were not equipped to be in the open at night in such a cold place. Luckily we found a couple on traveling on the same route. Somehow we managed to convey him that we want to go to Shyangboche. To our horror he said it is been left behind. The man pointed a near vertical mountain on our side and said climb up and go back. We were on a very narrow path with a near vertical mountain on right and that 3000ft deep valley on the left. We looked at each other with shock, but managed to conceal our fears. We started immediately. There was no time. The climb was so steep that it could give you vertigo. There was no path. We had to place our feet on raw mud and rocks very gingerly. I had to very small plants or even grass to keep our balance. Everything behind us looked like a deep valley. Any slip and we would not be able to stop on the path too. With the last drop of light our fingers grabbed the edge of narrow flat path to our hotel and then stood on it safely. As if on cue we hugged each other, pumped our hands and were overwhelmed with evaporation of fear, anxiety and exhaustion. We felt as if we had scaled Lhotse.

IshkIshkIshk Prod Story 4

After we returned to Fish Tail Lodge from Dhumpus, Dev Saab was informed that film raw stock running low. He summoned Production Controller Hersh Kohli. Hersh called Mumbai and discovered that the shortage was quite serious even in Mumbai and we may have to stop work for a few days. Due to stringent permit rules, things could not be moved easily. Dev Saab thought for a moment and said ‘get it from Hong Kong’. Hersh started preparing to leave for Hong Kong. No production can take 100 people on outdoor location and not shoot. In the mean while Amit Khanna borrowed some film negative from other producers in Mumbai and managed to send it. But soon the situation eased and all was well. Amit Khanna was the production executive operating from Mumbai. Hersh had an assistant Kumar Butani, who became very friendly with me, as we stayed on the same floor of the hotel. Hersh had to do a lot of flying between Pokhra and Mumbai. CAD to Dev Saab was Vishwa. He had been associated with him since ‘Teen Devian’, which was unofficially directed by Dev Saab. He went on to become producer and director later and made ‘Bhalamanus’ with Randhir Kapoor and Neetu Singh and ‘Mere Baad’ with Anupam Kher and Rakhee. Other two direction assistants Ravi Berry and Vimal Chopra are not in films since long.
We had come with two cameras (both Arri-IIC) and two Nagra (4.2 and III) on location. On Fali Saab’s camera we had an attendant called Jahangir Chowdhary. He was also Fali Saab’s nephew. Jahangir would later become a hot shot cinematographer himself, after completing his ‘photography’ course from FTII. Nasikar was a Nagra attendant. Perhaps he felt a little odd about the job he was doing here. He used to be our electronic-lab assistant at the Film Institute. He died later in Mumbai due to problems of excessive drinking. I also remember some friendly light-boys and spot-boys like, Mohan (who became lights supplier and did very well), Dilip, Natthu, Anand and Allauddin.
Next important location shift was to Shyangboche, which falls on the way to Mount Everest. Fali Saab did not come here with us. A much younger D K Prabhakar did this schedule, who was the second unit cameraman with us. Later on he would take over from Fali Mistry as Navketan’s cameraman and would do very competent job in ‘Des Pardes’.
We flew in a small Cessna airplane to ‘Lukla’ and landed on its Barbie Doll airport. From here we had to trek to Namchi Bazar, a well known village on higher Nepal. It was 24 hour trek. We stayed the night in tents. Sherpas carried our stuff, pitched up the tents and cooked dinner. It was very sexy night. There was dinner around the bon-fire, songs and naughty jokes were contributed by Shekhar, Kabir Bedi and some girls. Shekhar sang a parody, ‘Aao Bachcho Tumhein Dikhayen Ladki Solah Saal Ki…’ Early morning we all started walking. I realized I was very good mountaineer. Shekhar, Kabir and me reached together at the home of our host at Namchi Bazar. We stayed the night again here but under a roof. In the night Shiela Jones asked Kabir if she could use his hair brush. He said ‘sure’, then hesitating he asked ‘do you have dandruff?’ She felt offended and said ‘certainly not’. Offering the brush to her he said ‘well I have’ and we all had a hearty laugh.
Next morning we trekked to reach hotel Everest View at Shyangboche (Altitude 13000ft). Hotel Everest View is owned and run by a Japanese family and is the last chance for the trekkers to be under a roof before the climb to peak Everest starts. My room was on the side of the hotel. The wall near my bed was all glass. They did it on purpose. You could see the Lohtse Himalayan range from here. And to my left was the peak that is the dream of every mountaineer to conquer – Everest, clear, beautiful and right in front. On the other side of the glass had cold howling wind and snow piled up on the ground touching the glass. I got a practical crazy idea; I pulled down my bedding from the cot onto the carpet touching the glass wall. It was such a lovely experience to be safe in a comfortable room and look at the snow two inches away from my face. I have a capacity to look at things in a different way. The dining hall of this hotel too had the most amazing picture postcard view of the Everest. I remember it was a moon lit night and the entire wall facing the peak was made of glass. Almost full moon graced the clear sky, snow on Everest looked a shade yellow due to moon-light; a few clouds were hanging on its right side. This is one of the few sights that have not faded away in spite of 33 years that have gone by. If it was today all I would do, would be to sit quietly and absorb the visual in my being. Here during a busy day, Dev Saab received a telegram from his PR agency called J S Designs, informing him that his previous film ‘Heera Panna’ had released to full houses. But on our return to Mumbai we would all realize that there was not much truth in that message. The film had amazing music, but fared average on the box-office.

IshkIshkIshk Prod Story 3

After a marathon schedule of 42 days & nights, we were given a welcome change. There was no night shooting on November 19. We all were blessed due to Zeenat’s birthday on this day. So, in place of Nagra, amplifiers, lights and camera, there were drinks, dinner, conversations and most importantly relaxation. I am sure for this break the unit must have genuinely wished and blessed Zeenat. I sat in the company of Fali Mistry. He was beginning to get very fond of me. Although I was in awe of him, I was enjoying listening to his stories from the nostalgic past. Fali Saab had been around for a long time. His first film was Dilip Kumar’s ‘Udan Khatola’. He had also worked on my all time favorite ‘Guide’. After dinner Fali Saab was rotating his large goblet of brandy and talking to me about finer points of drinking. Similar relationship was developing between me and senior actor Nadira. She would affectionately insist on me that I call her ’mom or mamma’. She proved it beyond doubt when she took care of me for seven days, when I fell very ill due to some stomach ailment. She made my bed in her room and did not allow me to step outside. My assistants had to manage the show in my absence.
It is a fact that whenever there is an outdoor shooting, the unit members have returned home as friends, for life.
After a while we were moved to a village called ‘Dhampus’. But there was no village in sight. Dhampus was all mountains and valleys providing a great back-drop all around. Reaching here was very tedious. Fali Saab was on a pony because the climb was rocky and very steep. When he reached up, he was panting very heavily and looked mortally scared. I was quizzical. He kept his hand on my shoulder for support and said leaning heavily, ‘Aaj Main Bach Gaya’. He told me that his pony had stumbled and slipped on some loose rocks. So he got off the pony and had to walk up a part of the climb. Fali Saab was nearly 6ft tall and was a very heavy man too. He had health problems associated with being over weight, like diabetes. He used to be careful about his diet. Although Dev Saab trusted and needed him totally, I would still think, it was very bold of him to come and shoot in a place like this.
Next to a heavy set frame of Fali Saab, Arri-IIC camera looked insignificant. One night during the lighting of a shot Fali Saab saw a pretty foreigner chatting with Dev Saab. With a smile he called me by his side and started looking here and there. He took out a small comb from his hip pocket and combing his hair he casually mumbled to me ‘Dev Ke Saath Woh Chhokri Kaun Hai (who is that chick with Dev)?’ I said, ‘Koi Jouranalist Hai Fali Saab (she is a journalist)’. He said, ‘Achchhi Hai (she is pretty). Dev Ko Kahan Se Milti Hain Itni?’ I was enjoying the trust that was building between me and a very celebrated senior technician.
Later everyday after shooting in Mehboob studios, he would give me a lift in his Mercedes or Nadira in her Triumph. On some occasions they even waited and looked for me too, if I was late. Fali Saab had also started sharing some semi dirty jokes with me. He would laugh heartily after telling one. He also shared some of his private past with me. He once took me to a Parsi lady’s home in Bandra for a cup of tea. After we left he told me in his car that she was his ex-girl friend. He bragged to me once about a big heroine coming to his hotel room.
Fali Saab had an assistant called S R Dabholkar (no more now). In Dhampus I had a massive fight with him. He tried to act smart with me when I was in my tent and 4 drinks high. That was a big mistake he made. I screamed and hurled abuses at him. After the fight he went away and I ended up drinking almost an entire bottle of rum – neat. That still stands as is my record binge. Next day during the shooting of the song ‘Chal Saathi Chal’, Fali Saab told me that I had gone way out of control and Dev too was listening to your screaming. I must have felt bad for it, but nothing could be done then. In Dhampus the sun would go behind mountains very early. And because of slower film speed, it was difficult to get right exposure. But the light would be enough to play ‘Gulli Danda’. Our carpenters had made Gulli Danda from a little branch of a tree. So I along with few light boys and Vijay-Oscar would play our hearts out to an audience of Dev Saab, Zeenat and Fali Saab with other staff.
All of us had to wake up very early for a ticklish reason; to make potty in outdoors. I remember one dark morning I was headed towards a bush in the dark when I noticed a figure resembling Zeenat. I of course promptly changed my direction to find another bush. One evening on this location would go down in my life as extra special. We all sat around a small fire and everyone managed to convince Dev Saab to sing something for us. Without much fuss he sang ‘Jahan Mein Aisa Kaun Hai’ by Asha Bhonsle from ‘Hum Dono’. He sang very well. It has been my favorite song since then.

IshkIshkIshk.Prod Story 2

The film had a large star cast. Shekhar Kapoor and Zarina Wahab were introduced in this film. Shekhar and child actor Padmini Kolhapure were newcomers who would go on to become very prominent personalities in future. Until then Shekhar had been a practicing CA in London. Padmini was a child of about 8-9 years. Other major actors were Premnath, Nadira, Iftekhar, Jankidas, Sudhir, Birbal, Trilok Kapoor, Madhup Sharma, Maruti, Ranjan and Nana Palsikar. Shabana Azmi and Komal (who later married Shatrughan Sinha) too were fairly new in the business. Shabana we all know has reached pinnacles of fame in various fields. Dev Saab had also selected a group of 12 pretty young girls to play as a group of trekkers in the film. Most prominent among them was the established model Shiela Jones.
In the morning of ‘day one’ as our raft was half way, we noticed Dev Saab pacing up and down ready with make-up, dressed in green leather pants and yellow shirt. He was shouting at us telling that we were late. Shooting started with scenes of Premnath, child actor Satyajit and comedian Maruti. It is late morning in the scene. Premnath is mad at sleeping hotel workers (child actor Satyajit and Maruti). Satyajit was supposed to have overslept, so he was to be woken up roughly by Premnath. Premji (Premnath) said he will do a direct take without rehearsal. He came screaming from far, shook up Satyajit roughly and perhaps even slapped him. Satyajit was not expecting so much energy in the scene. He got very scared and after the shot he developed fever and was sick for 3 days. He also brandished a knife at Maruti and he too seemed mortally scared.
Later during night shift we started playback sequences of songs, ‘Mujhko Agar Ijazat Ho To’ and ‘Kisi Na Kisi Se’, inside the large circular dining hall. This restaurant had glass windows all around it and a fire place in the middle. During the song shoots all twelve model girls, Zeenat Aman, Zarina Wahab, Padmini, Shekhar, Kuljit, Gautam Sarin, Nadira and Premnath participated. We shot that night and every night till about 2-3am. After pack up all of us would rush to wrap up the equipment, in order be the first to take the raft. The second round would delay you surely by about 15 min. Initially a hotel boy was assigned to pull it for us; but soon it was clear that he was not going to get any sleep doing that job. Thus soon enough unit members themselves took it over. For the young technicians of the unit, it was quite enjoyable too. In fact my selection to be a part of this film was done with my age in mind, then 23 years. Navketan’s earlier recordist Mr. J M Barot was quite senior by then and could not have kept up to the rigorous physical demands of this film. Mr. Barot was associated with Navketan until their previous film ‘Heera Panna’ and has had a long association with them. I was told that Dev Saab had a meeting with his close associates on this point and Gogi Anand had suggested my name to him. I will thank him forever for trusting me and linking me to such a famous personality and his esteemed banner.
Dev Saab loves to have energetic people around him. He likes to see his people on their toes, full of energy, rather than sitting around and looking dull. And I fitted the bill. I would say that hiring me for ‘Ishq Ishq Ishq’ was as beneficial for Navketan, as it was for me. The shooting schedules and locations were so strenuous that older technicians would not have survived it. We shot, two shifts a day, i.e. day and night for 42 days without break. That is ample proof of the tough shooting, we had. We slept only between 3am and 7am. For me it was a little worse, because I had got hooked on to drinking. Me, Vijay and Oscar (choreographers) would drink like devils and eat our cold dinner from the restaurant at 4am, everyday! I survived this physical abuse since I was a tough 23 then.
For a few days we shot at another pretty location called ‘Tibetan Camp’. I did my first shopping of Nepali trinkets, copper medallions, beads etc out of my daily allowance of 35 Nepali Rupiyah. We shot scenes of flashback with Premnath and Zeenat Aman. Zeenat had to insert pieces of cotton pads behind her cheeks in her mouth to look different. She played Premnath’s wife (she dies later) and her own mother with this look. Other actors in this sequence were Iftekhar, Ranjan and A K Hangal. Mr. Hangal played a Hindu priest. He did similar roles of a priest in three more films with me later. ‘Kalabaaz’ was another one, yet again with Dev Anand and Zeenat. All the locations that we shot on were totally unexplored by any other camera. As an assistant recordist I hadn’t traveled much. I had just been to Goa once (for ‘The Witness’). Nepal looked so pretty to me. I also had this excitement in my chest that technically I was in a foreign country for the first time in my life, never mind without passport. Navketan had made I-cards for all of us and that was enough.

IshkIshkIshk.Prod Story 1

On Oct 21, 1973 an Indian Airlines flight bound for New Delhi was preparing to take off from Mumbai. Nearly half of the Caravelle aircraft was occupied by the unit members of to be launched film, ‘Ishk Ishk Ishk’ being produced under the banner of Navketan International Films (P) Ltd. The ambience was vibrant with loud excited voices, handshakes, high5s and hugs. Most of the people knew each other. Dev Saab (Mr. Dev Anand) the actor, writer, producer and director of the film was in his usual high spirits. He was walking briskly down the isle to ask his unit members individually if they were comfortable.
My anxiety and nervousness had peaked as my life’s first airplane flight was about to take off. Airplane’s various changing sounds had been making me nervous. I was trying to occupy my mind by finding faces of known actors. I found Jeevan, Premnath and Nadira. But mainly my eyes and mind were on this phenomenon called Dev Anand. I wanted him to recognize me, since earlier I had been an assistant in ‘Darling Darling’, staring Dev Saab and Zeenat Aman. The film was directed by his nephew Gogi Anand (now no more). But Dev Saab’s energy level in the airplane was at its legendary level; the level which has been recognized by the entire film fraternity. They say when Dev Saab is on the sets of his own movie no one can walk along with him; Dev Saab does not sit; Dev Saab never goes back to makeup room unless it is lunch time… In Oct 1973 he had just turned 50 and was oozing with youth.
The plane landed at Delhi and the unit was accommodated for an overnight stay in Oberoi and Lodhi Hotel. Next morning a Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation (RNAC), Boeing-737 took us to Kathmandu and then took a connecting RNAC Avro to Pokhra – our final destination. This 48 seat Avro, was full of the film unit entirely. When the flight was about to land at Pokhra, I looked at the landscape below and got very nervous. It seemed to me that there might be some kind of emergency since the aircraft was descending directly into a field. The plane went straight ahead and landed smoothly on a seemingly unprepared surface. Pokhra had such a basic airport. I was told that before a flight landed here, they blow a siren to alert the shepherds to drive their cattle away from the air strip. While the helpers were collecting our luggage and we just walked off, crossed a narrow road and entered our hotel. As easy as that!
In the meanwhile another caravan consisting of two trucks and a bus load of technicians had left Mumbai a week in advance. It carried all the hardware stuff like lights, camera trolleys, cranes, electric sockets, stands, cutters and other related stuff. Dev Saab’s nephew Hersh Kohli, the production controller of Navketan was traveling with this unit. They too reached in time to meet the other unit. This road journey must have been real fun, though surely a bit long.
A third unit consisting of the Art Director, T K Desai, his assistants and carpenters had been at hotel ‘Fish Tail Lodge’ since the end of September, at least to construct a set in the premises of the hotel. The set was a large two story wooden house. Production had agreed that after the film shoot was over, the house would be handed over to the owner of the hotel, Fred Barker. So the house-set was made really very sturdy and good looking inside out. It had many fully functional and decorated bedrooms for Nadira & Premnath and their daughters in the film, Zeenat Aman, Zarina Wahab, Komal, Komila Wirk, Guddi, and Padmini Kolhapure.
Entire unit was accommodated in four different hotels. Technicians like me, twelve model girls and equipments were in Annapurna; Shekhar Kapoor, Gautam Sarin and Kabir Bedi were in Hotel Crystal, light-boys etc were in another place and senior actors and cinematographer Fali Mistry were in Fish Tail Lodge. Here again I noticed Dev Saab was going to each room in Hotel Crystal to check if all his actors were fine. Dev Saab is very pro-actor director. I was introduced formally to him as the recordist for the film in the passage of the hotel. He knew me but it was the first time that we were going to be dealing with each other directly. He said ‘hi Arun, very good’ with a firm hand shake, patted my shoulder and carried on to check other rooms.
Fish Tail Lodge was one of the main locations for the film shoot. In the film this hotel was christened as ‘Seven Sisters Inn’, as its owner husband and wife team of Premnath and Nadira supposedly had seven daughters. Hotel’s entire landscape was the set for the film; the rooms, restaurant, lawns, even the kitchen. It was such a pretty locale. The hotel had various structures scattered on a large area, with Fewa Lake along its length, snow-clad mountains in the background and clear deep blue sky. It was about 20 minutes drive from our hotel. Vehicles had to be parked at the edge of Fewa Lake, as the road ended there. So to reach the hotel, a narrow part of a lake had to be crossed by a flat bamboo raft. This raft was tied to both ends of the lake with ropes. You had to pull the rope to drag the raft to other end. The raft was about 10×10 ft, square, so not more than 10 people could stand on it. It was a beautiful way to cross the lake and kept pollution away from the hotel premise.

Story of a story

Many years back I had written a story called, ‘Reason to smile’. I did not blog that time. So it was lying there in my computer’s D-drive. I felt the story had turned out pretty nice. Unable to contain my excitement, I mailed it to some friends. I expected some will surely write back with a few encouraging words. I received none. Obviously for all practical purposes story was much different. As bad luck arrived in the form of a strong virus; my hard disk got infected badly and had to be junked. And I had to get a new one. I had already told the repair man the data was of utmost importance to me. So please somehow retrieve all my data to the new disk. I didn’t have much ‘text’ data but surely a lot of photographs were there. They were very important and had a lot of value, as well as cost! Well, because back then I used to shoot pictures on 35mm film camera. They had to be developed and printed. And whatever pictures were on the computer were scanned at a nearby cyber café. So you can see, cost of negative, cost of developing, cost of printing and then cost of scanning. Sounds like a scam today. So I was saying that the pictures on the HDD were actually expensive and if he did not manage to put them on the new disk, I will have to get them scanned all over again…

In 2004 December I started blogging. My first blog post was on a site called as ‘blogcity’ and my first post was about the death of my close friend, Pradeep’s father. It had exactly 5 sentences. I was quite happy that I had started blogging and my first post had a real serious topic. Soon, I got a chance to show it to Pradeep, the friend of mine. He was so excited! He read it twice and then called his wife and said ‘look, everything it written here!’

But this ‘story in question’ was 7 pages long and it could not be found in the new HDD. That was a bit too much to take. Around the same time my brother visited us. I told him about my loss. He said show me, I will try to find it. He knew something about retrieving lost data from the disks. Cyber forensics, I think that’s what they call it. Well, he did find a lot of other random stuff, which I didn’t even know was missing, but for my ‘Reason to smile’. There was no way that I will be able to write the entire story all over again. I knew the plot and the scenes by heart; but I had no patience, nor inclination, not even will, to rewrite it.

Enlightenment! I realized I should check my mail ‘sent box’. It has to be there. I had sent it to at least 4-5 people. So, it will take some time to go back and more back to find the right mail, but it will be surely there. And then I will download it back on my folder and then… Well dreaming too much of good things is not good for the good fortune. I signed in, clicked on the ‘sent items’ and went directly to last section. It wasn’t there. I came forward, nothing, one more step, still nothing… ooops I realized it was so utterly stupid to do that, because, I did not have ‘gmail’ then. My first email account was with ‘yahoo mail’ that had been shut long ago, also due to too many viruses entering my system; thanks to mail spams and bad spam filters. Oh my god. This is certainly the dead end. Somehow I was refusing to let go of the two fold problem. One I kept brooding that I couldn’t find it and second I was in no mental state to rewrite it; barring of course if someone put a gun to my ear. Yes it was that bad. During my weeks of worries I had another minor enlightenment and that was I knew to who I must have sent the story. Promptly, I wrote to few friends requesting them to please check their past mails and see if anyone could trace my ‘Reason to smile’ and if they did find it then kindly mail it back to me. Phew and I left it to non-existent, almighty. Now I had no more options to explore. This truly was the last one and if this does not work then it is the dead end…
I don’t know after how long, but one of them sent my story back to me. I read it once and then once again. I felt there is something not the same… finally it dawned on me that it was written so badly that in present moment I could not find it as exciting as I did earlier. Few days back finally I decided to rewrite, ‘Reason to smile’…

‘Sushmanjali’ – an initiative by ‘Nation First Collective’

I remember around 4 years back Akashaditya Lama had called me and 7-8 others for a meeting in Oshiwara. It was to figure out if like minded ‘nationalists’ belonging to cinema or any other art form would be interested in forming a group. For me it was a big opportunity, because it was the first time my nationalism was a qualification and requirement. I felt very excited, and soon we all met regularly (every month). We would talk about various incidences in news and discuss how some vested interests twist the colour of what happened. We thought people need to see it from the right perspective and why ‘what was in news was not right’. Our meetings would end singing full version of ‘Vande Mataram’…
We named the group “Nation First Collective”. We realised we all should contribute little amounts to cover-up for the cost of tea and samosas. Then we willingly started annual contributions…
On the way we did some projects, like supporting Major Leetul Gogoi, who had tied a Kashmiri ‘stone thrower’ in front of his Jeep… We got noticed for that ”. We were firm on ” Indian Army!…
Well, we have a come a long way, putting together, ” a major online event in memory of Late Sushma Swaraj on her first death anniversary (6 Aug 2020). It has an unbelievable list of dignitories from various arts and cinema fields; heading the list is Shri Prakash Javdekar, Minister of Information and Broadcasting.


This show is the culmination of hard work, coordination, dedication and technical excellence of Nation First Collective, Sanskar Bharati Poorvottar and Sanskriti Ganga Nyas.

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)