Continued from “Loss to Order”
Chapter 15, Book One, Artha and Kama, Jewel-less Crown: Saga of Life
Having catered to Sneha’s whims on Ocean Organics, Gautam began to address his fancies about Global Facilitators. Losing no time, he looked around for a couple of soon-to-retire bureaucrats likely to retain their post-retirement influence. And in Mahendra Khanna, the dashing Foreign Secretary, and Sundar Manian, a veteran at the PMO, Gautam found the men who could add value to his venture. Hijacking them as they stepped out of the portals of power, Gautam had put in his papers. Leasing a cozy space at the Connaught Place, he got an exotic touch to its interiors. As though to make his prospective clients feel at home, he hired the pretty Naina Sinha as the receptionist.
With everything in place for the inauguration of Global Facilitators, he sent the designer cards to ‘Who is who’ in New Delhi. Though Mishra had lost his clout by then, he coaxed him to be the guest of honor, reckoning that the gesture would signal his sense of loyalty for all to see. While Sneha colored the occasion with her charms, Naina added ambiance with her carriage. But it was the grey hairs of Khanna and Manian that gave substance to the aspiring lobbyists.
True to their potential, the ex-bureaucrats began breaking the barriers to facilitate the way for the Global into the arena of lobbying. And to Gautam’s gratification, what with the Green Revolution on the cards, dozens of licenses for fertilizer plants were in the offing. While Manian sprang into the South Block for liaising with the concerned ministries, Khanna leveraged the embassy channels to profile the lobbying power of Global Facilitators. Yet in spite of the high caliber canvassing and the focused presentation, Global had no takers from among the front-runners. It was some no-hopers that showed interest for they had nothing to lose, and everything to gain should the new broom sweep well. At that, the grey hair duo ruled that it would be futile to play with a weak suit in a high-stake game. But Gautam saw a rare opportunity on hand. He reckoned that if only they could pull it off for a nonentity against all odds, then that would take Global to the top of the lobbying world.
While Manian felt that betting on an also-ran was not the way to hit the jackpot, Gautam thought the real lobbying was all about making a winner out of the ordinary. Khanna, for his part, said he was curious to see whether fortune favors the brave against all odds. But, when Gautam tended to lean towards the Dutch Kassenbouw, he was quick to point out that as the Dutch had no diplomatic clout worth the name in New Delhi, Global would be left with the Kassenbouw cross to carry all by itself. Manian, on the other hand, felt any ‘me too’ player from the US might stand a better chance for all their effort.
However, backed by his conviction and seemingly prompted by destiny, Gautam went ahead and signed the deal with Kassenbouw for its perceived technical strengths. But, Khanna and Manian felt it was but a desperate gamble by someone who was in a hurry to make a killing. Yet, in Gautam’s enthusiasm to try to make the impossible possible, they could see a long innings for them both. So to keep Global afloat, they began pumping through their every vein to push a couple of contracts into Kassenbouw’s lap.
When it was time for the submission of the technical bids, Gautam persuaded Kassenbouw to insert a novel counter-wailing guarantee for the production delays due to technical snags from design defects. The Dutch went with Gautam for the potential ‘value addition’ of the guarantee clause to their tender knowing that it was a risk-free proposition. After all, theirs was a time-tested process. So Kassenbouw offered to undertake to make good any loss of production in quantitative terms for such period of the downtime.
Armed with this safety net, Gautam goaded his aides to push Global up the rarefied zones of decision making for bringing the Dutch Kassenbouw upfront. But, the triumvirate faced encounters of unexpected kind in the very corridors of power they once straddled like colossuses. Notwithstanding their earlier bonhomie, the labyrinthine bureaucracy was eager to be greased at every turn to smoothen the Kassenbouw passage. Moreover, the Dutch didn’t venture out of their shores for sharing the promotional burden to push their own case. Thus it fell upon Gautam to meet the ever-increasing expenditure from his own resources.
Whatever, at the end of the red tape, Global could find a place for the Dutch in the short list of three approved technologies for the projects on the anvil. But, Gautam’s euphoria was tampered by the fact that it took two long years, and more than half his capital, to reach that tentative stage. Yet, the realization in the right quarters that he had cut his teeth in the world of lobbying gave him immeasurable satisfaction. And it was with great expectations that Global Facilitators began to nurse the price bid submitted by the Dutch Kassenbouw.
Little did Gautam realize that the game would only become fouler near the goal post. Ever since the contenders were identified, the competition got focused what with the authorities raising their demands for tilting the scales one way or the other. Gautam was truly at his wits’ end when the joint-secretary who came to Global’s office to bargain for his share of the booty wanted Naina in addition. Though Khanna had all along put a couple of pimps on call to clear the bumps on the way to the short list that the facilitation should be through their doorsteps didn’t appeal to Gautam’s sensitivities.
But, as Global’s life was on the line, Gautam took it upon himself to bring Naina around to remove the impediment. While her anticipated rejection only deepened his dilemma, the reminder from the enamored had put him at odds with himself. As a way out of his predicament, Gautam toyed with the idea of firing Naina and to gratify the craving with a willing replacement. But, though he saw that as a practical way out, the unethical underpinning troubled his conscience.
That night when Sneha wanted to know the cause of his disarray, he took her into confidence about the expediency of dismissing Naina to extricate himself from a tight corner. At that, her assurance that she could accommodate Naina at the Sneha Travels and find a willing receptionist for the Global addressed his anxiety. While he felt troubled still about the ethics of it all, she said she suspected some of the girls working for her were on call though. So, he allowed himself to lull his conscience when she made the arrangements. Thanks to the replacement’s voluptuous figure, Gautam could cross the hurdle to push Kassenbouw one notch higher.
As the tenders were pushed up the ladder, so the demand for the classy stuff increased. And that made Sneha an unwitting procuress. Coming to grips with her qualms in time, she developed the knack to induce beauties to keep Global’s supply lines fresh and spicy to cater to the high and mighty. Not discounting the efforts of Sneha’s girls, Gautam ingratiated himself to the concerned authorities with befitting inducements. Besides, as he took care to cultivate the media as well, Global could manage a favorable press all the while. And that made it easy for the willing in the power corridors to put their weight behind Gautam. Thus, in time, Global Facilitators’ prospects inched forward slowly but steadily.
Impressed with the progress he was making on their behalf, the Dutch too started throwing in their weight behind Global to up the ante for Kassenbouw. Lobbying no holds barred, Global Facilitators could soon make their client the front-runner for a couple of contracts. And at the penultimate stage of finalization, Gautam came face to face with the dog-eat-dog syndrome of the wheeling dealing.
Continued to ‘Victims of Deceit’