The Visionary10 mins 566 10 mins 566
Seeing her skip and prance around in the garden of her brick red house, he knew what status he would accord her when she flowered into a young lady. The decision was prompt and carried foresight. She had indeed turned out to be quite like the demure beauty he had visualized when he first saw her. After a wait of seven long years, the day had finally dawned when he called her at the gate and informed her of the marital proposal.
Her acceptance was wrapped in a hearty smile; every part of her body supplied blood to bring that flush of crimson on her cheeks. Memories of that rainy day poured in: during the first monsoon of their courtship, when he held her hand and said she was the most sensuous girl in the town.
As she grew up, these words echoed in her mind and she began to realise he was correct. The mirror in the bathroom gave ample proof of his assessment. She stood gazing at her reflection. Slithering her hands over her supple breasts, she indulged in romantic sweet talk: my lover has already seen this. There is nothing I could hide from him, there is nothing hidden from him. Sure this tender heart full of love for him was also seen. How perceptive his gaze is, how penetrative his eyes are! Truly a visionary, a man in whose arms I would love to rest.
In all these years she had come to the conclusion that he was the man who deserved her. Though there was no dearth of young suitors showing interest in her now, she chose to repay the debt of those hundreds of visits he made to her street, the hours he spent standing near her house just to admire her when there were no apparent signs of physical charm in her.
It is said that failure is the pillar of success. Is that why Pronoy had built so many? The edifice of success was yet to get a single brick. Not that he lacked sincerity or innovation, but he could not achieve the targets he aspired to. The ability to perceive things, of seeing opportunities where none existed, made him continue with the struggle like a die-hard Bollywood aspirant. He had confidence that he was cut out for big things in life, not to slave away his most productive years by working for others. Ever since he got married and liberalization swept the nation, he saw a bright future for himself and sold Soma dreams her eyes had not dared to touch. He toyed with the idea of being an entrepreneur, establishing a profitable business.
When life proved not to be a bed of roses, he began to look for scapegoats. Destiny was an easy target. He blamed the wheels of fortune that had come to a virtual standstill. As a dreamer and doer, he had forayed into a wide spectrum of business ventures, trying out everything from pens to fruit drinks, from toys to handicrafts. At the end of these initiatives, he ran out of funds. Bitterness stuck in his mouth, and Soma often became his punching bag.
There was little for her to do so she started consulting astrologers to find solutions. One fortune-teller advised that her husband should wear a yellow sapphire – costing around thirty thousand rupees – to bring about improvement in his financial status. Their daughter, Megha was now beginning to walk, so Soma felt the need to save for her education and marriage. Life was not revolving around just the love struck couple any more; they had branched into parents and had responsibilities to handle, a fact that had not yet fully seeped into Pronoy’s consciousness.
More than Soma, his circle of loyal friends comprising the jobless, fawning types rallied behind him. In one voice they orchestrated how firmly they were with him, undeterred by the string of failures: “Pronoy da, we know you will click. Do not give up the fight. We are always with you, ready to do whatever you ask us to do.”
Suddenly a dozen hands rested on his broad shoulders. Such collective support gave a fresh impetus and Pronoy ended up ordering beer and biriyani for all. While masticating a mouthful of the delicacy, he shared with them the new ideas frothing in his mind. After a sumptuous feast they dispersed, promising to offer help any time.
Soma had not become so desperate to use words to spell out her dismay. Whenever he tried to speak highly of his grand plans, she paid little attention. She continued to show more interest in the work she was doing, even if it was something ordinary like chopping vegetables or making the bed. When he had finished his power packed presentation, she let calm descend for a brief while and then waxed eloquent about the young men in the neighbourhood getting jobs in the new factories, the stories of financially successful and eligible men circulated among the women during the gossip sessions in the afternoons. The subtle message for Pronoy was clear: why don’t you also try something like that?
If Soma was behaving like this, it was not her fault. She had waited for five years, a fairly substantial period of time that he wasted in experimentation. Men half his age were successfully employed whereas this father of a three year-old daughter was yet to have a stable career. The future he sold her was nowhere in sight. In the long-winded entrepreneurial journey he had gathered plenty of experience to write a book on How not to become an entrepreneur. A compromise was the wisest thing, the best that could happen in their lives at this stage. After all, that’s how millions of people survive.
Other than destiny, Pronoy held his lack of proficiency in English responsible for his stagnation. “You know, Soma, in this country, knowing English well is a big plus point. My main handicap and hurdle is English. If my parents had sent me to an English medium school, maybe my life would have been different. I will admit Megha in a convent.”
The last line of concern for Megha delighted Soma. She was happy to hear that he thought of a good education even in these trying times. She did not argue by saying that half of the world does not know English, yet it is prosperous.
Pronoy had chalked out a plan so big that Soma had to sacrifice her afternoon siesta to listen in rapt attention as if she were a venture capitalist. At the end of it she had to look impressed. The following day he summoned the core team to his ante chamber and over tea and samosas he made a presentation that had been ‘approved’ by his wife.
He repeated all that he had said to Soma: “This agriculture field has good scope. Chemicals damage the crop and our health. Go organic. Use bio products for crops. Even vegetables have become harmful. Our Green agro private limited will help farmers increase safety, reduce spraying and lower costs. We choose items like potato peels that are thrown away. We will involve scientists in our business model. We are the first in this business. Pioneer. To revolutionize the way agriculture is done. Some tribal areas will be the trial zone. The results will be publicized and word of mouth publicity will give boost to our business. Remember, all insecticide and pesticide businesses in the country will be badly hit. I expect to achieve sales of 5 lakhs in the first two years. And in the next two years, it will double. In five years our growth will be 200 per cent. We will raise public funds and list ourselves on the stock exchange. Build a big head office with several branches and also export our products to foreign countries.”
The way he explained it all appeared to be a cakewalk. Through the prism of reality it was too blurred. However, no questions were raised, no further details sought by the followers who were expected to double up as marketing agents. They expressed readiness to launch forth and took up postings. He assured them that prosperity is not like puberty that comes to all at around the same time. They should stay committed and have complete faith in his vision which is sure to create ripples sooner or later.
The grand plan he had elaborated with agility, met with opposition as soon as it took off. Farmers were willing to experiment but the political class pitched in on behalf of chemical suppliers who imposed restrictions on the usage of bio products, calling it anti-growth, unreliable and harmful for the environment. The handful of people assigned the job of holding camps to distribute free samples to promote the products came home badly beaten. Pronoy was happy that he had come up with such a powerful idea this time that the entire state machinery was up in arms against it. That was an indicator of its potential success.
The maidservants he had employed on a part time basis at the plant set up in the store room had to be disengaged soon after he received threats that an enquiry was to be made into how the product was raised and whether the necessary approvals had been obtained.
Another blow came in the form of his research and marketing team deserting him like rats scamper away from a sinking ship. The team that had so enthusiastically taken it up now had dispersed. They had families to protect and they would not like to further endanger their lives. So they backed out citing personal problems and other domestic compulsions.
He was sad that this country never allowed men with offbeat ideas to flourish. The system itself is anti-growth, with vested interests throwing spanner. This setback broke his spine of ambition. Sitting under the peepal tree he smoked and wondered where his life was headed now. He had lost all his money on this venture which he had arranged quickly in the hope that its success was just a few months away. He had to sell the huge quantities of the products, rather dump it all in the river one fine afternoon.
He kept reminding himself that all great leaders have vision and they tread on the chosen path regardless of whether they are followed or not. He felt he should not give up hope, rather go alone. He was exploring feasible options, searching for scapegoats and face saving reasons, most importantly thinking how he would try to assure Soma that all was not lost, that there was a ray of hope yet.
After he broke the news of the flop business in as easy a manner as possible over the telephone, she was upset to hear it and more upset to hear him sound so relaxed, as if nothing had happened at all. He was one of those men who never reacted or lost nerve, no matter how adverse the situation is. He did not know how he would now manage to convince her that he was made of a different mettle. There was definitely a big confrontation awaiting him once he reached home. He could measure her anger from the way she banged the handset.
Because new ideas were droning in his brain, it meant he was destined to make it some day. He remembered the spider story and braced up. He walked faster and came home, prepared to explain everything, what went wrong this time, the external factors beyond his control.
The door of his house was locked. This was unexpected. He went to the neighbour’s house.
Tapati stepped out and answered before he could ask, “Soma has gone with Megha to Balika Vidyalaya for admission. Come sit, she will be back in another half an hour. Will you have tea?”
“No. thanks. Sometime later,” he politely declined.
He came out of the house, ashamed of not being aware of what was happening in his own household. He wondered why Soma had not told him so, not involved him in the decision regarding their daughter’s future. If she had acclimatized herself to his strange ways in all these years, this was the first time Pronoy had to so. Instead of waiting for her to return and spending the time in anxiety, he proceeded to walk.
He walked the entire stretch of the main road without stopping anywhere, and then took a turn to the narrow, macadamized lane that led to the newly established biscuit factory.