FUCKED UP BEYOND ALL RECOGNITION

Friday, April 4, 2008

ICE CANDY

My name is Sanjay Ramaswamy. Though there will be millions of people who would have never heard of me, I am sure there will be thousands of people who know a lot about me and at least a few hundreds who are inspired by me. I was after all, one of the richest men on the face of this planet.

I am a success, in every conventional connotation of the word. It has been that way ever since my very birth. My dad used to tell me how I was one of the healthiest babies the doctor had ever seen. Born into an upper class aristocratic family, I never had to undergo any sort of failure in my childhood. The best schools , the best colleges , branded clothes , custom made footwear and of course , the silver spoon were all part of daily life for me . I did my schooling in a very posh boarding school atop a hill station and my family used to fly down to meet me every month. A truckload of goodies were normal expectations on these visitations. A protected childhood it was .As soon as my schooling was over, I was packed off to Britain for my graduation, and then, the States for my post graduation. I was my dad's lifetime achievement, his showcase trophy and heir to his kingdom, Sanjay Industries Private Limited.

I spent two years learning the ropes, patiently waiting for my chance on the throne, which I knew would come to me. With a business degree from the Sloan school, I was all set to take over the company on my 25th birthday, when my dad signed over everything to me. All 3.2 billion dollars worth of property. For those who are weak on exchange rates, it converts to approximately 12800 crore Indian rupees. Ours was the only company in the Indian top 10 richest companies which was completely privately held. And it was not too far away when it would become the richest in India and break into the world's top 10. India was the perfect setting for me. Cheap labor, gullible people and a corrupt political system. I went from strength to strength and as I foresaw, I soon became a household name in India. I was the employer of close to 900,000 people and contributed graciously to the campaign chests of almost all the political parties. I traveled in custom built limos and pricey private jets. Vacations were spent on private islands, with preposterous yachts to play with. But I was not happy. As with most stories, this one too, involves love .

Akhila. Akhila Yadav. The one and only woman I ever really loved. I've had numerous flings with ravishing females, but most of them were behind my money and the strings attached to it. Akhila was the one who slapped me in front of a thousand people for flirting openly with her. The only one who told me exactly what she thought of me .The one I lost my heart to, and the one I never tried getting it back from . I couldn’t. She was Rakesh Yadav's wife. Married to a dynamic IAS officer meant she could get away with saying most things to most people. Rakesh being the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister's only son only added to her liberties. But the most people did not include me. I could have destroyed both her and her husband, and her dear father-in-law couldn't have done a thing about it .But even as I was watching into her angelic green eyes, I knew that I would have destroyed myself in the process. That's when I knew nothing would ever be the same again. But I refused to believe it. I couldn't stop myself for a woman, after all. I was Sanjay Ramaswamy, India's richest business man, and still in my thirties. I drove myself harder and harder after that, never leaving sight of Akhila along the way. I knew where she went, what she ate, what she bought, even her perfume labels. But the one fact that she was not mine and never would be served as a bed of thorns on which my life was being spent. For the first time in my life, I prayed to God. Sitting alone in my ridiculously large office praying, I cried.

All the crying and the numerous gods were of no immediate help for my quagmire. Slowly, though, the wheel of time took over and I all but forgot about Akhila. The boardrooms and bank accounts took over, but I was not the same happy go businessman I once was. The company was now worth ten times what it was when I took over. Newspapers flashed my name every day. I became tabloid news; even page 3 stuff .I was linked with n number of pretty damsels. Some affairs were true, but most were non-existent. The relationships were mostly physical and expensive gifts and silent threats made sure none of my private secrets were spilled out. Life moved on. I bought more companies, made more money, got into and out of politics. Every move of mine resulted in success. But I was not happy.

I knew I wouldn't find happiness in the rat-eat-rat world of business and politics. I had to get out. Only, no one cared to show me the exit. I waited patiently, knowing I would find it someday, somehow. And I got ready for it. Exactly four years back, Sanjay Industries went public. The IPO was a historic keynote in Indian business and a blazing success. I sold all my shares but one and stepped out of the organization with around 40 billion dollars. And nothing to do.

I started traveling, going from anywhere to anywhere with no fixed schedules. I started off with jet hopping from one country to another, but none of the infinite luxuries money could buy brought me satisfaction. It was not until I saw a show of Kalari-Payattu in Kerala did it hit me how little I knew about my own country's cultural heritage. So, next came all those exotic places in India. Cottages which came at one lakh rupees a day to local bachelor mansions at thirty rupees a night, ridiculously expensive massage treatments to one rupee shoe shines, exquisite escorts in historic palaces to cheap prostitutes in road side pubs -India sure was an eye-opener, and knowing about my homeland bought me some sort of consolation. But I still was not happy.

She was buying an ice candy for another kid. The kid was wearing only a pair of dirt-streaked shorts and no shirt to protect him from the scathing sun. Rough hair, bare feet, bruises all over the body and a million watt smile on his face, I felt jealous looking at the kid. For the first time in my life, I looked at another human with envy in my heart. My glare moved from the kid to the girl and I realized the kid was actually in a better physical condition than the girl. She couldn't have been older than thirteen or fourteen. Somehow, I knew for a fact that the ice candy stole away all of her pocket money. But she had a grin brighter than the kid's and was happy, while I was not .The traffic signal turned green , and my driver revved the Audi away ,but the scene I saw at the signal near the Dharavi slum in Mumbai etched itself onto my mind . Like an i-pod on repeat mode, I kept rewinding and forwarding it until I got frustrated of my own unhappiness. In this dark hour of utter desolation, the truth of it hit me like a tsunami. And I knew what I had to do to become happy.

That was the birth of Operation India Tomorrow. Forty billion dollars was a lot of money to give away and my precious education came back to help me in using the money properly. I put all my expertise, connections, political clout and the media to aid my efforts at educating the under-privileged kids of my country. In three years since then, we have come a long way. More than a thousand schools, close to a hundred colleges, not to mention the extensive Student Placement Network in place to make sure the kids don't join the unemployed. Being unmarried and no big family to boast of, I put all my self into the project and received back more from it. Seeing each kid smile in my schools made my heart flutter. Their parents bowing to me in respect made me feel real self-importance. We have taken more than a tenth of India's uneducated children away from the list. More than a third of the orphaned babies nowadays find their way into some or the other of my orphanages. I have managed to inspire enough people to join the organization, and spread their love among the less fortunate. I have raised India's hopes of become a truly prosperous country. But more importantly, for once, I am happy.

Throughout my journey of life, with mostly ups on a constant down, I have realized that only one thing matters. Your Happiness. Money, women, power may bring you happiness. But it's very much possible that they may not bring you happiness as well. That small girl buying an ice candy with all her money for another kid turned my life. From darkness to light, from listlessness to sanctity. She didn't realize it, but she was buying education for all her fellow faceless children living under poverty across our country. The world even, if by God's grace we can do it. And I am happy.

14 comments:

[NpoWEr] said...

This post "AWESOME" ...proved yourself again.. love your writing dude. Hats off. And style.

PS: Shared on Google Reader.

Mrunal said...

this is brilliant.... its really extremely well thought out...

but i was expecting you'd explore the sanjay-akhila front a bit more... you made akhila seem important, but she seemed to have no part in sanjay's final decision... his decision seemed to be more a result of the girl buying the ice-candy...

also from your (new) title, one gets the feel that you wanted to portray the girl as the main reason for sanjay's decision; but then in that case, there was no need to introduce akhila at all.... you didn't have to make her be the reason why sanjay was unsatisfied with his life... that one seemingly trivial ice-candy incident could have been enough to change his life forever.....

Pavan said...

@npower......thanks man .
@mrunal....thanks to you too . Regarding Akhila , the main reason I introduced her into the story was because I wanted to make it seem like I was inspired by Anton Chekhov's About Love .
To other readers as well , this piece was written as part of an assignment for an english course I am doing and there were a few constraints that it had to be inspired from the course material .
This story is inspired from About Love and a poem by G.M.Hopkins , "The Windhover" . It's a short poem which will surely be worth your time . Do read it .

Mrunal said...

ok, on reading my comment again, i realise it was too 'putting-down' type!!

its actually a good story pavan... so dont be discouraged by what i said! i know you wont be, but still.... its the first time you tried to write a short story, and it is great for starters! the first one i ever wrote was not even half as good as this! so its very very good for a 'first-time'.....

keep writing.... i'm positive you'll be great....

goldhawk said...

First of all, in the introduction…you say that millions of people might not have heard of you…but then later you say that you’re a ‘household’ name.
And, well, I couldn’t quite get the relevance of the love story in between. Akhila, a character had been built…but it was avoidable. A lot of matter dedicated to the character, which I think could have been cut short.
Instead, you could’ve dedicated more words to the ‘Ice Candy’ part of the story
Still, all in all, I liked it. :)
That’s all I can say, with the limited knowledge that I have.
Keep it up!

Pavan said...

@goldhawk , in the first place, thanks for commenting .
I meant millions of people around the world and a household name in India . I should have mentioned it perhaps .
Akhila is in because I think it will impress the english prof. that i could take inspiration from two altogether different works and write a single short story from it . :)

Riya said...

We did The Windhover in my English class two weeks ago actually, and I'm not sure I see how this relates to the poem...
But on the whole, this was very well written. Not the most gripping content- I've got to be honest, but great writing. Occasionally, I felt like there was an adjective overload- but nothing serious enough to detract from the overall impact of the story.
Looking forward to reading more of your work in the future. :)

Pavan said...

@riya ... well , yeah...I should have glorified the ice candy scene a bit more .... i just took the basic concept of small things,great beauty concept and modified it into small scene , great impact idea.....

Riya said...

And Sanjay Ramaswamy- wasn't that Surya's character in Ghajini? :P

Pavan said...

@riya
yes indeed ..... somehow couldn't think of any other name....

koni said...

nice story. considering this is your first short story it certainly shows potential.....and the emotional overtones were effective, a bit of tightening here and there in the narration is required...but the idea is clearly conveyed...to be honest i was half-hoping it was akhila buying the boy a candy... would have made the whole thing fit really better..anyways that's just me...good effort. keep writing.
ps- "...an eye-opener, and knowing about my homeland bought me some sort of consolation." I think here "bought" needs to be corrected to "brought." :)

forever said...

ohmygawd

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kartik said...

extraordinary ..... havent read something so good ... for a long time ....

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