Continued from “Dicing with Life”
Chapter 13, Book One, Artha and Kama, Jewel-less Crown: Saga of Life - "Vestiges of Prestige "
In his quest for success, Gautam had realized that one needs either to be a pioneer or propped up by a godfather to make it big in life. And in the democratic India who would be better godfather than a senior minister? Thus, Gautam thought of pioneering means to win over a minister.
Realizing that Mohan Kumar Mishra’s relatives were a favored lot at the department, Gautam lost no time in cracking the whip on them. When they tried to bribe their way out, he trumped them with the honesty card. Finding him a hindrance, the irked approached their benefactor for relief. When Mishra’s P.A telephoned him, Gautam made a tactical retreat even as he intensified his search for the tell-tale evidences of the ministerial misdeeds, old and new, in the departmental files.
Having come across many a ministerial omission and secretarial commission, he made a dossier of them all, and waited for the opportune moment. When the news of the cabinet reshuffle was thick in the air, Gautam thought his time had come. It’s the irony of a democracy in that though the politicians strive to avoid scandals; those in power often get embroiled in them, that too at inopportune moments. It is thus, on the eve of the cabinet reshuffle, the politician is known to fear his own shadow.
Using Mishra’s men whom he had soft-pedaled all along, Gautam managed a one-to-one meeting at the ministerial bungalow. Ingratiating himself with Mishra, he said he felt it was his duty not to let the communists spoil the developmental works that were after the minister’s heart. Placing the dossier before the minister, he said he had gathered the information at the behest of his boss who was a known Commie. He made out as if his boss was pressing him to fish out the ministerial wrongdoings. He said he suspected that the dossier was meant for the Marxists to raise hell in the well of the house. Instead of passing on that damning information to his boss, he said, he thought it fit to appraise the minister about the goings on in his own department. Alarmed at what he saw in the dossier, Mishra ordered the immediate transfer of the hapless boss to the Andamans.
On the other hand, privy as he was to Gautam’s honesty, he was impressed with his political proclivities as well. And a gratified Mishra promised Gautam to take him on his personal staff on deputation. Besides, having taken a liking for him, and with Gautam having won his trust, Mishra felt like opening up to him. So he hinted to Gautam in a confidential tone that he was tipped to take over the prized commerce ministry. So, said the aspirant that Gautam could look forward to a promising career in bureaucracy.
Though Gautam was elated at the opening up of the window to his success, soon enough, he began to writhe with the pangs of guilt for having implicated his innocent boss who was nice to him. However, he reconciled himself to the cynical adage, that in life one could rise only by stepping on others’ backs.
As Sneha’s delivery time neared, Gautam was seized by affection and craved to be with her. Thus, keeping his own expectations of the ‘breakthrough’ on hold, he rushed to her with the premonition that he would father a son after all. Seeing her serene in spite of her excitement, he could recognize the difference between the prospects of fulfillment and the anxieties of ambition. And when she delivered their son on the dot, she experienced a maternal joy and he rejoiced in paternal pride. In his state of excitement, he felt as though he were immobile and thus found himself rooted to his wife and son. Insensibly, he felt satiated with the feeling of having reached his destination. In spite of the promise Mishra’s word held, Gautam thought he had no more to wish for in life.
He felt that he would be better off as a salaried engineer with a steady income than venturing into the unknown arena that might jeopardize his son’s future. It was in that frame of mind that he shared his sense of contentment with her. But, obsessed as she was with the poor cousin complex, she was not psychologically shaped to share his philosophy. She felt that parenthood placed an onus on them to ensure that their son would not suffer the indignities of life because of their lacking. And her conviction to succeed overwhelmed his rationale of contentment. And so, he found himself back in the mental overdrive to excel in life.
After Suresh’s barasala that coincided with Mishra’s elevation as the Minister of Commerce, Gautam reached the capital with great expectations. When he called on Mishra to congratulate him, the latter reiterated his promise but counseled patience for the promised posting. But the hoped for call from Mishra never came, making Gautam realize that he was flattered only to be deceived. Curbing his instinct to create a scandal with the dossier, he analyzed the alternative routes to reach the cherished post.
He could remind Mishra about his promise but that might only set him on the garden path of procrastination. And the tactic of blackmail might as well boomerang if Mishra were to choose to bump him off with some hired hand. Thus, having realized that neither pleas nor threats would help, he thought the only way to bring Mishra around was to make him insecure afresh. So, he decided to manipulate the fourth estate to maneuver his way onto the ministerial bandwagon.
Having hit upon the strategy, Gautam thought about the logistics. He began to scan all the dailies at the Delhi Public Library to fathom their editorial proclivities. Feeling the zeal of The Indian Express to expose the ministerial misdeeds than any other, he turned the searchlight on its investigative journalists. After being acquainted with some of them, he chose Bibhas Sen to play his game. Interesting Sen with his table talk and cultivating him in bars and restaurants, Gautam made himself much sought after by him.
Choosing the moment, Gautam dropped enough hints to Sen that he knew Mishra had a great deal to hide from public view. Sensing a scoop, the journalist in Sen was eager for the script to further his clout. But Gautam insisted that he would confide in Sen only after the minister got a hint about the impending disclosure. And to win over the wary journalist, Gautam maintained that only from the minister’s reaction could Sen calibrate the scandal to the hilt. Though not convinced with Gautam’s argument, for the lack of any alternative, Sen went along to hint to Mishra’s media mole about the impending disaster.
The ministerial response to the ‘exposé on the verge’ was on the expected lines. It awoke him from his memory lapse and he remembered about Gautam and the dossier. Fearing the hand of the exiled official behind the impending damnation he thought of Gautam to try to avert the same. Mishra reckoned that if he failed to bring Gautam around, it might signal the end of his own political career. Besides, with his unquestionable intelligence and for the lack of political ambition, he felt that Gautam could prove to be an asset to him in the long run.
Thus, having decided to take Gautam under his wings to cover his flanks, Mishra sent for him and saw to it that he joined his staff forthwith. Gautam, for his part, lifted the incriminating documents as a parting kick to his humdrum living. While the investigative journalist rued his premature disclosure, the grateful politician saw the genre of loyalty in Gautam. Finding Gautam hard pressed for money, Mishra took it upon himself to enhance his status with the slush funds at his disposal. Beholden as he was to Mishra, Gautam called the ministerial bidding and soon became his trusted lieutenant.
When Sneha returned with the three-month-old Suresh, Gautam was on hand to receive them at the New Delhi Railway Station. What with her fullness accentuating her curviness more than ever, he was moved like an adolescent who espies a desirable woman. Oh, how the fulfilled feeling of motherhood flower woman’s body blossoming the essence of womanliness? Finding her at her seductive best, Gautam couldn’t take his eyes off her for long.
When he led her to their brand new Fiat, it was her turn to stare at him in wonderment. As he opened the front door for her, she stepped into the car as if she were crossing the threshold of deprivation. And to commemorate the gratuitous moment, even as she hugged him in exhilaration, he clasped her endearingly. Soon, a gratified Gautam pressed the pedal as though to take her on the fast track of life. Even as her thoughts went back to Karol Bagh, he drove her towards South Extension. It was a dream ride that she dared not even desire.
When he led her into a well-furnished apartment, she had a feeling of straying into the suite of a star hotel. But, as he opened his arms in all eagerness, she sank into his chest in ecstasy. While their long separation pushed his ardor to the frontier, her receptivity led his eroticism to the horizon. As the sensuous setting induced romanticism in their union, her euphoric feeling provided the cutting edge to his lovemaking. Lying fulfilled in his arms, she felt gratified for being in her Sweet Home, and felt sweet about him. Content though she was at having got a foothold on the dreamland, yet he seemed to visualize an expedition to the zenith itself.
Thus, in his quest to cross the borders of mediocrity and push for the frontiers of eminence, he induced her to set up Sneha Travels. He reckoned that her considerable attributes and the emerging tourism would chart the venture on a smooth course. Encouraged thus, she set out to take the travel agency on the fast track, and was on the target straight away. As the commissions from the Airlines came in handy, she opened up her vistas to conducted tours for foreign tourists. Managing her work ably and motivating the staff admirably, she was truly on the Maslow’s ladder of self-actualization.
As she ensconced herself firmly in the world of travel, Gautam was busy networking in the corridors of power. He poured over various Acts that were in force for grasping the loopholes in the import and export laws. Besides, he strived to grope his way into the jantar mantar of officialdom. Moreover, his proximity to Mishra helped him cultivate the bureaucrats and attract the businessmen alike. Having raised his bar of ambition high, he took care not to lower his stature by falling for any graft. But availing his services to assorted characters to facilitate their self-aggrandizement, he managed to worm his way into the influential circles. So, his growing contacts helped increase the clout of Sneha Travels, and that fuelled their engine of ambition. But, in their scheme of things, their son’s growing up period didn’t find a place on board. It was thus that, Suresh was left behind at ground zero to be groomed by ayahs in shifts.
Continued to “Loss to Order”