Sunday, May 10, 2015

Fall to rise

                                   "I am not infatuated that easily", declared Kris nonchalantly. What would have seemed arrogant if spoken by any other lad seemed just believable as spoken by Kris. "In-fact, I am hardly infatuated. So it kinda felt like the ideal way to  have some chilled-out fun.", he tried to explain his situation to his good friend of 10 years Samantha. "Ya I know. No girl could keep your interest up for long enough", she quipped. "You know that is not true. I never said they would not sustain my interest. Only they fail to elicit it romantically that I do not get infatuated to the degree of falling in love. Maybe, I love being aloof. Maybe I am scared of commitment or whatever. But the point is that if I ever met a girl who could blind side my judgement, all this would go for a toss and I would before I know create my make believe world of love", exclaimed him to a rather disapproving stare from Sam. "Alright, Love is real. It is not make-believe. But it just doesn't happen to me. Now you should be empathetic for me rather than judge me for I am deprived of the sweet nectar of life!", chuckled Kris playfully. All Sam was able to manage was a sigh of disbelief not bereft of amusement. She knew that Kris was one with a golden heart. Confident and mostly alone but with a heart of gold. And she really wished he could find some love in his life. Or all the love in the world as he deserved it. But she was also sad for him at some level.
       But that was not really the point at that moment. The talk was about the rather queer job he had signed for. It was odd she felt but strangely humane and friendly. The crazy world of internet and apps she thought to herself. "Why did you ever sign up for this one really?", she demanded a sensible response from her friend. "Its a great way to spend weekends. Who does not enjoy human company which is friendly and novel?", he spoke in a most convincing manner which Sam believed. She believed in her friend. And what was more, she thought he had a noble intent behind taking up the task which he refused to talk about in a characteristic fashion of his. He wanted to lessen the pain and heartache of those girls she thought. He just wanted to do some things that could enliven his heart at the same time. And helping others was right on top of that method as she knew it. That he had been blessed with  movie-star looks and a charm to match those, only meant he could do the job effortlessly, something that was again on top of his priority. "Do everything with a style and as effortlessly as possible. In-fact do only things that come most effortlessly to you," he had advised to her ever so often. So it was futile to convince him of letting go of the dubious but potentially noble cause he was embarking upon. "Just round the corner," he interrupted her train of thought and she took the smoothest of turns to stop right at the gates of the establishment. "Nice lawns and the poolside," she exclaimed. "Its got to be a pleasant sight if people are to enjoy some charming company," he quipped closing the door. "I'll see you in the evening then and you better be not complaining about this one still," he urged her declaratively. "We will see about that," Sam claimed and drove off into the distance on the sunny breezy day.
                 "Here we go finally", Kris murmured to himself to ease his nerves and trudged through the stoned pavement on the middle of the lawns. He headed straight to the reception in a brisk pace lest he start second guessing his choice. "Only men who turn the most stoic of heads and have a charm to go with the looks need apply," the advertisement had declared in bold typeface. He could not do without reading into it then.  And that started a series of discussions with Sam and other friends about whether he should apply for it or not. Some of his friends had supported the idea and even encouraged him to go for it but Sam had been over-protective and thought the idea was less than dignified. Somehow. But it was a curious prospect nonetheless and she had to give in eventually.
        "It better be as good as I have projected it to Sam," he thought. "Hello there. I am Kris Mahogany. I am here for the chival-mate engagement. Could you please check for my schedule today." smiled Kris as he requested the person at the reception desk. "Sure, Mr Mahogany. Is this your first engagement?," the reception-lady tried to evade any boring moments as he waited for her to run her software tools. After-all he needed to be furthest from dull that morning and through the day. That was the lifeline of the business. "Yes it is actually", said Kris in a matter-of-factly vibe. "Here you go Mr Mahogany for today. You shall be with Miss Rosalind for today. She has already arrived and is waiting on the table by the pool-side. You shall be accompanied by our crew now to be introduced to her. Be on top of your game and have a great time," she chuckled. "Sure, thank you," smiled Kris part nervous about the task he had endeavored for. "All in goodness' name", he murmured again. He tried to create a mental picture of Miss Rosalind. Possibly had had a terrible heart wrecking break-up with a long standing partner a few weeks or even days back. Could be a little low on IQ but sweet if a little needy. Could be a little bitter and demanding. But that was what he had signed up for. To be good to even the most bitter and grumpy of fellas. He was up for the challenge. After-all he believed he could brighten the day for anybody and get them happy. Also, it was one of the most effortless tasks he did and most nonchalantly and that was what he loved about interacting with people. And if  it possibly made some heart-wrecked soul happy, it was even noble he thought. After-all, chival-mate promised cheers and happiness for emotionally-wrecked women who wanted to feel like princesses again, even if for just one Sunday. Or more. It was too bad that only the ones with the moolah could afford it. But a charming escort to treat them with chivalry and make them feel like the only person alive in the world was a priceless prospect. And the one most needed just after a real-life partner had dumped them or vice-versa. The scars could not be removed alright. But the pain could be lessened and memories of being pampered-by relived. So, not very surprisingly, a lot of women had signed-up for the Sunday-only 11-5 service. There were exceptions if people were travelling on Sundays like this day when they had kept the engagement on a Thursday. The dinners had been precluded from the dates lest either of the parties start getting some romantic notions. It was a professional setup and they had a job to do after-all.

                                                                          Chapter 2

           "So how was the date. Did she reject you?", Sam tried to annoy Kris. "Nice try," he tried to bask in his own professed glory. Kris had had the natural charm and confidence in his college days and beyond that made him a successful flirt and never out of female attention and affections. In-fact, the girls had always liked his attention. "Girls are driven by attention as boys by attraction"  was his famous tagline in college. "Take one of those two away and nature would not be able to propagate its plan of human inhabitation at earth by bringing people together for life. As they get into a relationship, men may crave for the approval and attention as well. But initially women just are mostly looking for attention. This is also the reason for so many heartaches for men when the women eventually turn down the advances. She was just interested in the attention for the time-being and not perennially from that guy ". That was definitely true for Kris.  He was the alpha who the most difficult woman wanted to talk to even if subconsciously. His confidence came from his talents and the fact that he was amongst the most easy-on-eyes faces on the campus. And he did not act irresponsibly with those gifts. He could be uber-confident and snob-ish if the situation demanded, but was amicable to boot.  So rejection was not what Kris Mahoganey was used to in dating life.
   "Actually it was a great few hours I had. She was smarter than I thought. And sweeter for a near-time breakup she has had. Managed herself pretty nicely." explained Kris. "Looks like you like her," Sam tried to be annoying. "Nice try again,", Kris had already gotten over his day job. "So whats the point of these meetups or arrangements after-all? Cant these girls find like real partners and get into real relationships?" Sam tried to sound unimpressed. "Well, thats the whole point. They are in a place where they really dont want to be in any serious relationships. In-fact most of them momentarily have started to doubt if they ever would find Love. And its only natural to have those self-esteem issues after a recent break-up. Who wouldnt want to be pampered like they were when they were in those real relations. Without the fear of any attachments or future prospects after a day well spent sipping mocktails in the shed by the poolside all the while being amused by people they admire in the looks and manners department. And you know how quick witted I could be.", Kris said almost innocently. "Yes, but its so artificial. Who are they kidding? They have just gotten heart-broken and they are never going to feel the same about that one. A scar is a scar," Sam was adamant there. "But hey, they do heal overtime with a little outside help. I can tell you that." claimed Kris matter-of-factly. "Really!",  Sam showed her nerdy self for that moment. "How would I know? I got a stone heart right?", Kris wasnt one to miss a good sarcastic one ever.
                            Later in the day, while on his bed, Kris actually wondered although. "Were they deluding themselves? Those girls? Were they better off facing the reality of their lives? The reality which pointed that they were alone then on. At least for the time-being.  But then he realized yet again as to why he had signed up for it in the first place. If he could for a moment make them believe that they were not really alone, that would negate the gloomy feeling of hopelessness in them. And they could latch on to it from there on. So he believed that with true compassion, empathy and good manners, he could bring that entity back into their lives - Hope. Which was all that one needed to keep moving. And that was all that was to life in his opinion - to keep moving with a few people around you who cared. Helping each other as much as one possibly could and make the burden that much less and make the journey that much more bearable. Maybe someday, he would need a embrace of warmth to go that extra mile and he just wanted to lush his Karma bank. Selfish much, he thought and chuckled ever so slightly. But he himself eluded the more important question.The question that whether there was Love - all the compassion, hope and friendliness notwithstanding. Was the prospect just of making one's journey bearable with friends and other known entities? Or was the scene about a eventual blissful existence in Love. Full marks to the people who helped each other. But not so much for the providence he thought if that were the case. He wanted to believe in the prospect of eternal love but his experience himself would preclude that. So he just let the subject pass - easy as cream. Like always, he concluded that it was not very important to analyse and conclude about it. As long as people would carry some empathy and compassion, the journey would be bearable and people would live peacefully. The romanticizing could be left to the more imaginative. And he had one good week to pass before he would be ready for his next engagement. So he could take it easy in the ensuing period. He had a drive planned for the time after-all. In all this, the question about Love was sidelined as usual.

                                                                      Chapter 3

                     "Only a free man could love", surmised Peter philosophically to a disinterested Kris who just nodded in approval. "Yea man whatever works for you", he quoted back. "But I am not that free to love that purely", he replied in a more pedantic tone. "You sure?", Kris was part mischief and part curious. "Yea, I mean I am free for most part and can love more earnestly than the average Joe. But you are freer and could love more I reckon. Free from any petulant wants. You know the real deal. And there is a reason for that" expressed Peter in the most banal of manners. But that was enough to get Kris disoriented and flabbergasted. Despite the barrage of verbal volleys Kris had hurled at Peter for the best part of a decade, he had respected his intellect and even genius if one may. And for him to declare Kris a better man in any respect was equal parts flattering and nerve-inducing. And as the point in question was the topic of "love", his emotions were magnified many times over. "Are you kidding", was the surprised response he could muster in a elongated tone. "Dont push your luck buddy," Peter said.
  "'Alright alright, you mean I am gonna be better in loving huh? Did you just meet me and dont know my views on the subject? Dont you know how people call me unattached and stuff?", Kris sounded reasonably confident in his assertion. "Yea so you are the most unattached person I know. But that has got nothing to do with Love.," said Peter in the most stoic of voices as if the subject of the talk was too mundane to elicit his interest. "What do you mean?", Kris was going more anxious with the passing minute. "Are you that dumb or you have stopped using the grey matter? We are not talking about infatuation or self affirming relationships here. We are talking about good old Love and you are perfect for that." Peter sounded more nonchalant than his usual self which was disconcerting and annoying for most. "Yea that Love which you fail to even define for me now. So yea thanks for the flattering and nice try." Kris seemed to gain lost ground with a confident tone. "As you say my mate, but you know what I mean or you would know it anyway when the time comes", Peter had the slight smile on his countenance as a mark of his amusement and rejoicing with the mystery. "I have to leave anyhow now for the tuition I am set to deliver to the boys.  So I would see you later.", said Peter and rushed off the room in a jiffy. Like Kris, Peter was one who valued self affirming action more than just a pandering to the norms of the society for the heck of them. At-least the ones without any moral or humane overtones. like career and money. He had quit a glittering career road-map in a boutique investment bank at the wall street after amassing enough to sustain him for many years and account for his insurance. He knew that with an end to the living a banker's life would come a phase where he could manage his expenses in a much controlled manner and lead a simpler life while also investing his money appropriately to take care of his needs. He thought the only way you could get creative in the Financial services sector was by designing a fraud. End of the day, it was just loaning money and doing some interest on it or at the max some stock market or bond market analysis. Throw in some commodities and currencies, you got a decent mix of jargon and work, but it was still something that represented a limit in imagination for an individual. "This thing is not real. You know at one point the share of the financial services in the whole of the economy was much less. It was considered just a enabler of the other businesses and now it has become a full-blown business in itself. Of-course that is a result of some great innovation as well. But sometimes you feel, it needs to be reduced a little bit." was what he had said to Kris often. But he also credited finance to help in new venture and endeavor. "Only if they did it in a more humble way".
                                         He anyway had started enjoying teaching young children with a glitter in their eye and a passion to learn math. He had attended the same ivy league college as Kris and they had known each other for long and had even been good friends for more than a decade. Peter had a few regrets and Kris was not one of them. Not by a fair margin. He admired Kris for his generosity more than anything else and Kris held him in equal high regard. It was safe to say that they were two men of peculiar likes who were not amused too easily and liked each other's company. They were what people would call "friends". But they were more like brothers who had found each other's support. "Love is not here, not there buddy. It just Is. And it takes a guy like you to realize it after the longest while," was his last comment before he left the room leaving Kris more bewildered than before. But also flattered and lit up with energy as he knew that anything that had been said by Peter had to carry some weight and ought to be taken seriously. And none would mind being attached or connected with something like Love. In all this however, Kris reminded himself that it was only Peter's insistence that caused him to believe in the least  bit that he would find love in his life as he himself had stopped harboring such dreams a while back. "The novelty fades out and as reality sets in, it gets awkward," he often had quoted to  Sam and Peter both individually and when they were together. This had elicited the same response of a blank stare and a dry retort from Peter: Do you even know what love is? Most people can sustain the feeling of love for some period in time. The steam is lost after a while. Sometime it lasts while the physical attraction lasts. Sometime it lasts till you subconsciously admire the person's qualities. It goes on and off based on various mental assertions. But the mental assersions fail it eventually. Then it needs something more affirming. And that requires some depth of character and similar intensity. That makes me feel you can fathom and hold it" Peter had a hint about what he meant there and Kris thought it was all crazy talk. But then, it was Peter talking.


                                                                        Chapter 4

         "When there is love, things get better and progress is made. There is patience. Good things happen over a period of time, there are smiles spread through the time, there is care and when it is just a case of casual flings, you tend to recall those memories with a hint of wastefulness  of time coupled with a creeping laziness and lackadaisical-ness which results in purposelessness mostly. And there is less smiling agreement and more proving who the smarter one was. That results in breakups mostly. Does that make any sense to you?", asked Kris to Sofia as they prepared for their final exam in the university. "Thats an amazing answer. Full marks", Sofia was impressed and gaped in amazement.

          Kris and Sofia had been together for two years now and it seemed as if they could not get enough of each other. Kris had become emotionally dependent on her more than the other way round. It was just the way it was.Sofia and Kris were the most popular people in the college individually for varying reasons and their being together created some kind of a halo around their relationship. They were the fancy couple and Sofia loved every bit of it. Kris was also gunning for a scholarship for an ivy league MBA as he was top of the class and was cruising with his maths. And Sofia did not complain one bit. She was quite a digger for the high-life. She herself did not lag a lot behind in her academics or achievements but she was more likely to enjoy the finesse of sophisticated living with a panache than really make it to the top herself. But she had varied talents. Kris was particularly fond
of her focus on what mattered and attention to detail - traits that he did not possess in abundance. Beside that, she was an excellent cook and her garnishing had gotten many a souls in fanfare.
 It was right to state that Sofia inspired Kris in whatever measure he needed it. Or at least he thought that way.
                         But all of that had seemed a distant memory from another era to him now. Sofia and he had grown apart in their years together. He realized that she dictated too much about what he needed to do. And a lot of it was with regards to financial goals. She was by no means a gold-digger, but her focus had seemed to be increasingly on money matters and how much he should earn through the next five years, or the decade or two decades if you may. The focus and attention to detail that he had liked so much in her earlier seemed to be a suffocating mix to him now and inspired doubt in his mind about her true self. She seemed to desire the movie-star lifestyle without putting in the hard yards so to say. Her confidence had transformed into vanity that sometimes hinted to him of a certain insecurity and a shallowness of thought that he had not felt ever before in their years together. All in all, it was not a hard choice for the two of them to part ways. Or so it appeared to a casual onlooker. It had resulted in a fundamental change in Kris'es outlook on human relationships.
          The change had been gradual over the years without him realizing that it was working its way in his mind.  But the trigger happened with their breakup when he rationalized things fairly quickly. But Sam knew that  it had been a work of many years that Kris had changed his thinking process which was a direct influence of Sofia's. A sense of mistrust had grown inside of him regarding relationships that was still not directed towards any malice in one's disposition. He had come to believe that it was just not possible for two people to selflessly work for each other over the course of a lifetime. Being the good person he was, Sam concluded, he did not even put a blame on Sofia for a change in her expectations. He would rather find a fault with himself or with the two of them collectively which resulted in a direct disbelief in Love. Since Sam had been with the two of them for almost all the period in their relationship, she constantly thought about it even after the two had split a long while back.

                                                                         Chapter 5

                              "Pack your bags and be ready in 20 mins, we are leaving", Kris announced ascending through the steps leading to the verandah at the front door of Sam's house where Sam, Peter and Amanda were sipping tea and coffee. Amanda was Sam's co-worker at the registrar's office. "Not so fast buddy, hold your horse and we are not 20 somethings anymore might I remind you," quipped Peter. "Yes we are not, only if we allow ourselves to feel old, grumpy, vicious and done," said Kris in a fast manner while still gesturing for them to get going quickly. "And we can become 20 somethings again if we just try to have some easy time together. Come on guys, its not like we dont have jobs or something. This is a long weekend and as pros working very hard through the week, you guys deserve some easy-time. " concluded Kris. "And hey Amanda, you are welcome too if you are not feeling 60 something yourself," chucked Kris. Amanda just smiled as she was a pretty introverted person. "Even if we want to have some relaxing-time, what makes you think we will answer to your whims and get ready for your plans in 30 mins," Sam tried to appear astonished. "That you do not have any plans for the entire long weekend - both of you I mean, dont know about you Amanda. And that you would be bored even more without me around." Kris had a clear point made there. "And where are you leaving for," Amanda chipped in eventually part for participating in the conversation and partly to allay her curiosity about where they might go. Not that she harbored any designs to join them, but she was just plain old curious. "Oh, dint I mention. We are going to the good old Vegas," Kris dint want to sound too dramatic. "Oh, why am I not surprised or even excited for that matter. You gotta do better than that. I am not interested in alcohol and partying anymore. I want a more real and quieter life exactly like I am having here and now. Tea works perfect for me." Sam seemed little impressed. "The reaction I imagined. But we are not going there for the drinks or to get drunk. Yes, we may have the occasional tipple. But we will have some CASINO fun. POKER, BLACKJACK and all the other ones. I have made the lodging arrangements. I know you guys want to go so stop wasting all our time" Kris tried to close the discussion with an air of finality to his talk. "Not gonna happen like that," Sam sounded dull due to the confusion that reigned. "Oh yes, we are going. I shall see you in the evening. At least I am giving you 3 hours. So see you guys all packed and raring to go when I get back. Viele Danke," Kris let his German ancestry throw in some weight to get everyone more willing and excited. "Ah, he should be in an ecstatic mood or else he would not suffer us with his half-assed German," Peter tried to reason and confirm his agreement. "Whatever it is,"  Sam also conceded to the program as Kris had thought all-along.
                                         On second thoughts Sam liked the idea. It was a long weekend and she was already feeling bored the very first day. The choice of the destination was unimaginative she thought to herself, but then she knew how much Kris loved a few card games. And he dint get invited to a lot of POKER nights in the valley, mostly because most of his buddies were in New York and he did not know a lot of people in the valley. And he missed the game every now and again. It also suited his personality she thought. Wit, try to be in the game, read the situations and your own standings and when you have had enough participation and fun, just get ALL-IN with a good chance to win and a thought of having had a good game if you lost even - although he tend to win on his ALL-INs as he played the game by numbers and probability and not on chance and hope. And he did know how to play against his opponents and could fathom their moves. He was good at reading people on POKER tables like that although not as much in real life. To be fair, she could do well with a holiday herself she thought. And she did not know of any other place to suggest. At least she couldnt think of any at that point which was what mattered. Peter had known from the very start that he would get on with the trip as he was not one to shy away from some good old fun. So the plan was made and before long the trio got-on into Kris'es rented convertible ford mustang and lost their worries there.

                                                                            Chapter 6

          "I like this drive from our city to Vegas. Its barren landscape and yellow soil. It feels like you are headed for some mean fun. Reminds me of POKER.," Kris had started to come on his own after a few hours hour's ride to Vegas. "I will have some drinks on this tour. I will end the dry spell," declared Peter. "I dont think its the best idea to loose your sobriety Pete, You are fine with your lattes," Sam tried to temper Peter's enthusiasm lest he get carried away. "Yea Mommy, Ill do as you say, retorted Peter.
Sam was eased by the answer that indicated that there shall be less revelry and more of relaxing-fun in the days to come. She sensed that in Peter's answer.
                       "Talking about the scenery here - Napa, The Yosemite National and the good old death valley - I think this very humongous scape has inspired our forefathers to venture into the unknown and build things. The Europeans are bound to get lazy what with the beautiful sceneries and the cobbled streets with nice halcyon evenings. They cant help but sip tea and have the cookie. And the good flow of the tourists from all over the world adds to their laziness-woes. But we, we needed to earn a living and look what we have achieved. All thanks to the desert princess." Peter was having his share of fun by indulging in his reasoning about stuff and humanity's timeline as usual. "But man, you know what, Thus boogie is for real and nothing left for me to do but DANCE" Kris just ended the conversation abruptly and put on the stereo. He was ALL-IN for DANCE and  JAMIROQUAI's canned heat seemed just the right number for the moment. "ALL these bad times I am going through, just dance." Kris started humming the lyrics. Soon the other two got caught up as well. "But then my chance to get to Heaven slipped.
I used to worry about the future
But then I throw my caution to the wind.
I had no reason to be care free 
No no no, until I took a trip to the other side of town"

The beat was just fast enough for the trio to get their spirits moving and the bodies in tandem. Peter had always approved of dancing one's way out of stress and jammed feelings. He had read about lord Nataraja - the king of dancers who performed the ultimate cosmic dance.
  That was the point when they really transformed into their younger selves, ready to own the tricky streets of the town of glitter and zest.
      "No Caesar's palace for us I guess" Pete mumbled as he walked into the lobby of their hotel. "The Mandalay Bay is as good as any in my book buddy. Besides, I am in for more of casinos, restaurants and shopping than staying indoors which I reckon is Sam's idea of fun too. Right Sam?"  Kris canvassed for her vote to which she nodded. "I am on for a trip to the downtown before anything else. I want to see the neon lights and the golden glitter" Sam started to get expressive. "I am all energy inside of me. Dont go by my calm exteriors. They gonna sense I have arrived in the town soon" Pete tried to sound dramatic. But our Hotel even if it is not the most expensive of places, boasts of a big CASINO floor. And I am aching to try my luck at the card game for far too long guys.  So forgive me if I dont want to spend too much time in the sun or beneath the sky. But we will start with the tour of the downtown, have an early dinner and head back. You guys could rest and I would start my thing with the CASINO folk. sounds legit?" Kris wanted everyone on the same page. "Alright, alright lets get ready quick." Pete closed the deal for them.
        The city glittered like gold-linings had been spread across the scape as the night set in. After the swift but exhilarating tour of the downtown Vegas and a full blown dinner, Sam had a contentment drawn across her countenance that made Kris feel relaxed too that others had started to enjoy the trip that had been put up in place in such a rush. He silently thanked the providence to have sent his way such fabulous friends that he had. As of Pete, he knew he would enjoy himself anyhow.
         "You sure you dont want to join me at the table" Kris inquired Peter hoping he would shift his plans to rest his body by a couple of hours. "I am not up for it man. Not tonight. You kiss their rear for me." Pete tried to infuse some excitement and adrenaline into Kris'es psyche. "But why would you be doing as much POKER as you do when you generally have a bad word about gambling?" Sam tried to engage in one final conversation before crashing into sleep. " "Because, POKER is not gambling. It is probability. You really do never bet on pure luck. You make calculated moves and if you are any good, you know what you are doing sensing what everyone else is doing. Its a great exercise in human psychology. Once in a while you go ALL-OUT but thats fine as you gotta take the odd bet in life as well. Its not like you play just on bets. You just play through the times doing your best with what you got and when you sense you have played enough, you could just do that ALL-IN and feel fulfilled either way. But of-course you must have the virtue of patience. You cant just throw in money all the time. You need to sit by the sidelines more than  you play the game through the hours.  But that is fun itself in my opinion. Its like life then. No big gambles, just hanging on and one final push every while.

                 Free parkings were a constant feature all across the city. Of-course the authorities made up for all that in the expensive menu at the restaurants and a lot more in the casino business, but they were still a refreshing change for someone travelling for the first time. Even the trams that took you from one place to another were free. That way, you could avoid the heat of the summer sun while having a good view of the town during the day time. Also, these trams connected various casinos as well. So it was something like casino-hopping that was feasible if you were a big-time enthusiast. "Th business I learn is just 50% of what it used to be in 2005. Can you imagine that? It is still so crowded. Tthese company conventions add to the pressure. Why do corporations encourage this practise of holding conventions here? Must be easy to sell to the bored employees to attend another meaningless sojourn of corporate wastage" Peter chipped in with an expert comment as they tried to pass through busy streets hobnobbing with the fellow travellers. "That must have been some crazy time. And look at the heat. This really is a desert." Sam complained in a hushed tone. "Lets take a seat in one of those restaurants which have mist thrown over regularly to cool the air down. That way, we can sit and have an outside view" Peter suggested which was an idea that Sam liked despite the heat that had bothered her through the morning. But it was nothing compared to what Kris would react to the elevated temperatures of the summer sun. He was of-course late for the party that morning for he had had his exploits in the casino late into the wee hours of the morning. He had excused himself from joining them early in the morning. "Lets first buy that water can from one of those vendors selling the ice-cold water." Sam suggested to which Pete obliged.

                                                                       Chapter 7

                            "Visiting the Hoover dam was a long-time wish for me. Thanks to you, it is done with now." Sam tried to sound thankful. "Well, I thought we should see the source that powered the glittering city. Glad that you guys liked it." Kris said although it was only Sam who was in the car with him on their way back as Pete had decided to stay the course and make a few excursions through the Colorado river including the Great Canyon. "You know it was ten years back that I visited Vegas. A cards nut like me did not visit the place for that long. The fact is, I got that busy.", pondered Kris. His work in the consulting industry while providing him a career and a safety-net, also tried to make a different person out of him. He just did not belong there. But thanking was due for Sam and Pete for being there for him. Kris was pretty vociferous on the return journey and spoke without inhibition. Sam really felt good about that if a little amused about his monologues. But she knew he was capable of that. She felt that she had a glimpse of her old friend for a moment. "You know Kris, you have been a great friend too all along. Dont beat yourself up too much for not being there always for us as you claim all the time. We understand that you had a career-call to answer to. And it is in a way good that you lived that life for a while. After all you had the degree and the smarts", Sam tried to reconcile the story. "Well, at least you are smart enough to know that", Kris tried to poke some fun with the banter. They had a laugh about that one like everything else on the trip.
                                      That Peter was now in active company of Kris meant that Kris had someone whom he respected to hear from. "I think we just need to earn enough so as to sustain a place of shelter, basic amenities of life and a healthcare plan for our retirement so we could lead a life of dignity. And I could do that in a million other ways without living a life that I did not belong in. Without being an impostor. And I hurt myself the most in doing that. And it had started to eat into me. More than that, I could not find a way to express myself in that line of work. And that is a very suffocating and even poisonous prospect. And I did it because I tried to keep up to other's expectations. People who did not really understand what they wanted in their life in the first place. So I was even being used in that sense. But you know what, I should stop now. All in all, it has been fine." Peter had once confided in Kris.
                   "Wow, you really told a lot in that breath. Try to be more expressive like that more often. At least to us who know you very well. I am sure, you feel much relieved now. And as far as this decision goes, you took the right call. Even money-wise. You would not have made it to the top in that world anyway because you could not be that manipulative or vicious. And there is no telling what else you could produce if you put your mind, energy, focus and time to any other talents you possess. So we are all good here." Kris had replied to show solidarity with his friend's decision.

                                                                       Chapter 8

                "Oh, what makes you think I would ever agree to this one and why should I?", asked Tiara in a voice of disbelief and a little bit of curiosity. "Oh because you will and because you need to get your bearings right and start pitying yourself a little less and feel normal", S retorted.  "And this is your idea of accomplishing that? When did you become so impossible and dumb?" R deliberately tried to sound mean.  "Yea, miss nobel prize, do better than judging so fast you know. This is the age of driver-less cars and things are not so simple. How about that for an intelligent reason?", S managed to retort  "Whatever" "Ok listen you have to do this. You have spent enough days pondering over what could have been and how did it end on this one. And as your friend, let me tell you that you are not thinking straight. You are a much better person than you have made yourself out to be and much more independent and you ought to have much more in self-esteem.", S tried to reason with Rr so she would lend an ear to her.  "But can you imagine such a thing? Meeting a bunch of stranger men and dating them by way of paying them? Can it get more hideous", R had a tone that did not betray her disapproval or even loath.  "Oh god, you are wrong on so many counts. One, you dont meet men you just meet a man and it is as good a date as you could possibly think of. In-fact, if it was not for the generosity of these men, you would never get to date a guy like that. They dont do it for money. They do it out of empathy and compassion. They want to make you feel good because they feel content and good in their lives and dont have the gene of arrogance in their DNA. So they turn to spreading the love if you may.", S sounded like the hurt had been personal. "Oh, so now they are doing charity?", R said in a way to express her deep skepticism about the case. "I would want to punch you on your face,  but I will amuse you here. Yes, they do it for want of helping you. They dont need your company. They are so sure of themselves.  In a bubble of their own. They have that art of reading your mind so to say and with their special talents and visual attractions, can make your mind free for the time. They are so effective because they come from a place of service and not need. Now you want to tell me that it is not possible? Where is the belief in the explorers you had?", S was hopeful they were headed in the right direction. "Oh, so now they are gods" "Angels I would say." "And you would know all this how?" asked R in a voice that sounded suspicious.
                              "Yes, you got it right. I have used this service. Even if I had not had a break-up, I convinced them that I needed to use the service. I wanted to feel pampered and good about myself. And lucky for me, they relax their norms on this side. So I can vouch for the guys there. They are truly altruistic and are motivated by utilizing their gifts for making people happy. And why should they not?", S sounded more commanding than ever. "Still, it is risky business" R tried to display the nervousness she was experiencing in her heart. "Yes only if you fear falling for them within the span for a few hours you get to talk with them. Because, as much as it hurts you, they are not going to fall for you. That much is certain. That is their training. Heck, its not even training. Its the criterion. Dont ask me how they make sure of that one. Buy I felt that the guy who was talking to me, definitely was in his bubble happily and no mortal force could burst that. Maybe, that was the source of the extra charm and dreaminess but it works every single time. Dont get any idea, I went only once and came out a winner. So I am asking you to trust me and ease your brains and psyche for a day. Now be=ring in your card and we will make an appointment for the weekend" "Hey, not so fast" "Why?, what are you doing this weekend? Nothing. I know of it. So please do me a favor and give me back my friend who was the most sure person I knew and I would love you forever for that.", S kind of sealed the deal with that one.


                                                                     Chapter 9

          The cabin Kris sat inside was replete with posters and little memorabilia from the world of silicon valley internet cosmos. They were not as much for the purpose of inspiring Kris as they were for motivating the younger members in the team. To get them dreamy about the whole thing. That was the best way to get the youngsters to focus on the difficult tasks at hand when they would lose steam. Nothing like a One-picture inspiration. Kris had been there a long time ago and appreciated the need to instil lofty dreams in the psyche of the talented. It is that seed which when sowed deep fructifies in a long-enough timeline. That does not happen with everyone he thought but he was fine with some frustrations and results than no inspiration at all.
                 He had a bunch of tabs opened on his laptop. There was the traffic-analytics tool that helped him keep tab of the numbers on a hourly/daily/weekly basis and all. He went into that tool when he wanted some straightforward numbers or when he had no clear idea of what his next work-item was. Then the tool became his research-haven. He then deep-dived to gain insights that he himself dint know about. Talk about the unknown unknowns. And that was what he felt he stood for. He would be the guy who would unearth the gems that no-one imagined about. And that could happen only when you work hard and intensely with data that was raw and not structured into presentations. When he would walk those numbers and sleep those numbers. Then and only then in a faint future vision he thought, one little insight would dawn which would change the game for them .or at the lest it would be a valid innovation. He had done that in past and felt he always was able to do so when he applied himself to it. And that was the magic he had come to believe in and aspire for. He often said that life needed its magical quotient for everybody.
                    Kris had found that magic in his work. He was still not the guy whose picture was splattered on the newspaper articles.  But he was the guy whose opinion counted. He had not devoted his time to making big contacts and networking his way into money. But thats the time he had devoted to hone some real skills. The skills that the ones in the money then needed to get some worth from that money in the new age. This was no feudal economy anymore that one could keep on amassing wealth just by way of investing capital straightforward. Now one needed real smarts to get the returns. That was where the entrepreneurs had become the blue-eyed boys in that ecosystem. Then there was the marketing tool which helped him decide with investment was giving a better ROAS - return on ad spend - and by how much. He would just increase the signal on that one from time to time. This was what made Kris different from the average boss. He handled the micro details himself on a pretty regular basis. His meeting new clients and potential investors meant that he could not devote the kind of time he would have liked on these activities. But he still managed to sneak into the important insights by spending that one hour every now and then with great intensity and thought that other CEOs at his station failed to. This was a direct result of his self-assurance and a incredible degree of belief in his own qualities and abilities. He was just always to the point directly without beating around the bush and wanted business side of things to show up.
                     His tech-team had great deal of respect for him even when he had not been a coder through his younger days. He had learnt computer programming in school and college and knew the fundamentals of the OOPS methodology. However, through the dint of his hard-work, he had taught himself enough that his tech-team considered his talk as important in even technical discussions. He knew which portals to go to for understanding the latest bits in the tech-innovation. Then he would show the tech head in his team about that one and sometimes it was news for the tech team as well. Kris had repeatedly started to be on the front-lines of discovering the new important stuff coming out from the tech bandwagon that would make or break future products at any given time. And Kris being at the business end of these developments made sure his team was winning. He was ready to get into the next detail-level of the tech challenges as and when required and if the time permitted. Kris had become the CEO who was at par or better than the individual heads in his team across departments. And that was no mean feat. He could now sail the ship in the direction he wanted with the full force of all the captains in his team. And this was a pure gold situation for investors. That was the reason so many of them wanted to get share in his business.
                        But none of that made Kris a pedantic and nerdy CEO. He had the exact opposite personality laid dormant in him when he dint need it. But when the time demanded, he could be the presenter who would silence a room full of experts into agreement and sell whatever he believed in. That ability of Kris to nurture multiple talents in him over the years and bring them to fructification meant he was destined for greatness in his career. It was much like the character of Harvey Specter from suits who demanded awe naturally and people just wanted to be appreciated by him. This led them to perform couple notches above their punching category. And he actually transformed into that character while at his office miraculously and showed more ruthlessness in his dealings. His more tender side rested dormant in that period. And this did not affect his demeanor outside of work by a bit where he was as supportive of other's needs as a good moral person would be. The ability to detach at will while at work signaled a deep respect for his work and his belief in getting the job done. People also sensed that his hard-nosed behavior was not personal and he just wanted to get the best done for the company. If that meant that it would be harsh for some from time to time, he was ok with it as he knew sooner or later they would be needed to take the game up by a notch or two. And they should be ready to do that if they aspired for the goodies that a glittering career offered . But that was not all in any case. He was considerate enough to have granted one of his team-members an extra month off after he baby was born.  When others tried to hide behind company policy, he took it upon himself to dig deeper into the issue. After he was convinced that the situation demanded some external support and help from the company, he made the decision in a flash. He did not do it to endear his people as he firmly knew that any sycophancy  was bound to run out of favor in the longer run. He would lose the respect and trust of his people and he was not willing to do it ever. He did it because he was not stupid. He understood when people were being lazy and needed a firm hand and when they just could not help the situation and needed some help. And he was vindicated in his call as the member outperformed her entire team after she joined back. It was just pure straight-talk and common sensibility that he practiced that was the source of his command over his team. It was such an easy and straight idea but tough enough that most bosses failed to employ it in their workplace. Just another of his masterly traits from his playbook. The only complication from this situation was that he lay alone at his perch. He really had no-one who could empathise with his issues and problems. For everyone else, he had a great life which made him an arrogant professional or a friendly acquaintance depending upon who the recipient was. He had routines different from anyone in his personal life and hence challenges and situations different from others as well. And this made him a very singled out person or a lonely soul depending upon the time he found himself in.

                                                                       Chapter 10

                         "Tell me more about this venture of yours - what do you call it again? Diva", Paul enquired. Kris had been all but fatigued with explaining the same thing over a zillion times to as many people. "Well, it is called Divi for starters - part Diva and part from the word Devi which has roots in Sanskrit. And then we convey a woman who is independent and commands respect and is intelligent. That is also how we position our brand. A female only community where they share fashion and home-decor insights and products. Things that they can share with their female friends which they want any tips for. Or feedback. At the click of a button on their smartphones. We bring "window-shopping" to your mobile phones. And then we have a whole possibility of social commerce going. And we are available both on android and the itunes store." said a much relaxed Kris. "But whats the secret sauce?" enquired Paul consistent with his probing nature. He had come to become senior partner at one of the world's top VC firms not just because he had contacts. It was because he was enamoured by the consumer internet. More so by the apps in recent times. "Well, it is just that women do not have a clear-cut destination when it comes to a community on the app-store for their fashion and home-decor requirements. We have instagram, pinterest and a lot others. But none cater to specifically women." Kris answered. Kris then went on to present the 14 slides he had created. Some people believed 14 slides were few too many but Kris had an opinion that an in-person ppt ought to have the important ones as a meeting was more than just an in-mail ppt. The person had agreed to meet in person and he ought to come prepared and ready to grasp some ideas from the ppt.
                              "How big a team do you have Mr Mahoganey?", asked Paul after the presentation was over. "Six people including the EA", answered Kris in a straightforward manner. "And how much traction have you generated?", Paul tried to get into the details. "We havent marketed the product yet aggressively. So we have limted downloads. But the people who have downloaded it use if many times over in a day. They open the app for 3-4 times in a day and spend about 20 minutes per session which is at least 40 pct higher than an average e-commerce app. So that indicates that user-generated and user recommended content has its takers in the day and age. There is a viral component to the word-of-mouth publicity too. About 25 pct of our users have recommended our product in their close-circles", Kris tried to make a point with the statistics. "So why is there this hurry to raise capital. I see a lot of entrepreneurs trying to boot-strap their companies and sustain handsomely", Paul tried to muddy the waters. "Good for them. But I am not in it for making a living out of earning monthly paychecks. I want to create a tool of assistance to help a majority of women find awesome stuff. And that needs best design and best in category coding. I can go out and create a team of such experts and work out of a village. But that would not create the kind of brand for our company among college graduates that I want to. I dont intend to be a bottom-line player. I wasnt to work on the top-line. That needs marketing, branding and some active employee engagement. So I dont want to be on the sidelines. I want a part in the mainstream. Infact I want to define the mainstream." Kris rested his case with an assertiveness that made Paul gasp momentarily even after years of such presentations. He was accustomed to only nervous entrepreneurs who understood technology and were too condescending to their firm in return of the capital they hoped they would raise from the firm. But Kris was clearly not a rookie or a second-fiddle player for that matter. In-fact he had got Paul thinking about some of the assumptions he had had. That was the classic Reality distortion that people experienced while around Kris. They just were persuaded so clearly by him that they for a moment started thnking as to how they had had certain beliefs for as long as they had had them. Not that Kris was wrong, but he had an effect that caused people to question their long lasting beliefs. "Besides, if something can happen, it will happen quickly in the day and age. And if something is dragging, there is a great chance it will drag-on forever drainging all your energy and money. Just like a bad relationship.", Kris sealed his argument in a characteristic fashion that had people dumbfounded mostly.
       They had another half an hour in talks which left both of them in high-spirits about the possibility in creating a company around the product and the vision.
                                           Kris had been dabbling with consumer internet for more than an year now. But he found a new-found passion in this area. Something he had missed in the world of consulting. He was not meant to be in that industry as there was very little use of imagination and creativity. All that mattered was contacts and more contacts. The leadership qualities that Kris had found application as well, but they were not the go-to qualities sought in the industry. And that was something he did not want to do solely at that stage in his career. So with due respect, he bid adieu to the glittering world of management consulting.



                                                                         Chapter 11

       "I once heard someone say this about true love: It is a mixture of friendship, appreciation and happiness. And I have not found it easy to trump that one myself in such lucid terms. So it may not be as complicated afterall. We as people become complicated and that leads to all the complications I reckon. Sometimes we cant shower love and some other times we cant take it. The second one may happen more when ego has accumulated to unrealistic proportions and I think this one could be handled much easily if a person is willing truly to lead a better life. But that one does not apply to you my dear. You are very much capable of loving and accepting it. You just are scared of losing it. So you really dont want to experience it in full force as the memories might haunt you. But you know what, that is only because you could find people who would appreciate you generally everyday. Like you really do not feel alone. Not everyone is so lucky. So they really easily settle for someone who appreciates them a little. And then on the effort sustains the relation. But one thing that is pretty funny is that ironically the very love that you experience in quantum so to say from people has precluded you from experiencing it in more realistic and permanent terms. Dont be like the rockstar who gets the love of a billion people that blindfolds him to the real love which is sustainable. The love of the masses is like the winter snow. It has its time but is bound to go away. Its beauty howsoever enthralling is ephemeral and melts away into nothingness. You need something more concrete and stable my friend." completed Peter his monologue to a flabbergasted Kris.
"You make me feel like my life is over and also as the biggest ass there is. I am not like that. I dont take others' feelings for granted. Heck, I never ever hurt someone's feelings. So what do you mean in saying that ironically I would end up like a rock-star. I am not even dating man. I am not dependent upon the affections of someone for my daily happiness. I am content with you guys as friends for company." kris tried to bring some sense to the discussion which according to him had lost track. "yes man, you are not fooling around. I would give that to you. But you still are getting in your shell. And that is not good. It maybe not because you have been casual in your relationships, but certainly you need to feel some kind of a yearning for someone I am saying. Specially someone like you who could at any turn in life settle for someone admirable but not necessarily someone who would love you. Or you may not love her. So the point of my whole story here is that someone who catches women's attention so easily like yourself should take note of the fact and always remember that you must never take these affections as trivial. I know you have a right mix of intellect and heart to not make that kind of mistake. But as a friend, I need to warn you nonetheless." Peter was matter-of-factly in his assertions there.
"So what are you suggesting? What should I do after-all. I cant go out on a mission of finding love when I do not entirely believe or know what it is in the first place. I know of compassion and friendliness and do strive to achieve that. But what love is, I have no idea anymore." Kris tried to take the easy way out on that one. "You do very well know it buddy. You just wont admit it." said Pete to which Kris interrupted with less than complete control. "Admit what. huh, what do you mean?" Kris had his eyes widened and his expression convoluted. "You know it well", Pete tried to buy an easy way out. "Know well what, huh Pete. say it", Kris was getting to be overcome by a mix of frustration and anticipation. "That you made a mistake the first time round.." "Not again Peter", Kris interrupted with stress on his name. "That you made a mistake like a normal person in choosing her the first time round. It is that simple Kris. Your ego which raises its head on this one occasion. Get rid of it. It is not worth it mate. I am not saying that you have found someone who you have let go because of the ego as yet. But that is precisely the point. I dont want that to happen to you in future. I am afraid that in future some-day, you may find someone who you would not hold onto because of this ungodly stubbornness of yours. And that is a day I would feel very bad. So do me a favor and just move on from the past. It was not perfect. The time you spent was wasted in a sense. That was not the best person or the relationship you could have had. Accept that you were fooled by your mind and move on mate." Pete had a sternness of expression on his face that exuded confidence in the fact that he had put across his point.
"Look, I am not interested to talk about this stuff with you anymore. Would you do me a favor and let me be. Please?" said Kris with a voice that sounded arrogant which was actually a cry for help. After a pause for a moment or two Kris said goodbye to Pete and left for his apartment.

Chapter 12

Kris was his usual self that morning as he moved past the pool side to his allotted table to meet Ms Tiara. At first, he noticed her from a distance. But did not quite notice her. It was a bit of a haze. He even for a split-second lost focus on her because he was not really in a habit of being attracted by one person. But again his attention was brought to her. She had a commanding presence. She looked and sensed in control of herself - a truly independent woman he thought. But his skeptical self dubbed her as a little self-centered in his mind.
But she had to be an overall nice person. It was safe to say that he took a liking to her as he approached her.
"Hello, I am Kris. You must be Miss Tiara. Good day to you", saying so Kris extended his right hand for a shake. She got up with a smile on her face. "Hi, welcome to the table", was all she could manage still trying to seem more in control of the situation than she thought she was. But in a strange manner, her initial anxiety had given way to anticipation. That was the effect Kris'es amicable disposition and a certain generosity of spirit had on people more often than not. Not because they may have been acquaintances from a past life necessarily, but just because they sensed each other's compassion and friendliness, they instantly connected with each other so to say.
"Nice and sunny day this", Kris tried to get the conversation going straight-away. "Yes, I like it sunny. Keeps your spirits going I guess", Tiara spoke with a lengthening of words to end and slightly increasing the pitch as she ended the sentence. It was anyone's guess as to whether it was because she started to feel nervous and getting an approval of Kris or just a plain coincidence. "Is this your fist time this meeting here?" asked Kris with a 100 watt smile. "Yes, it is. My friend wanted me to definitely do it." Tiara was more in control of her talks now than just a while back. "Nice to have you hear. I am sure you would like it. In-fact, I better make you like it for my own good." Kris finished with a chuckle which induced a laughter in both of them. They had hit it off from the start. If they had been in high-school, they would have thought it was love at first sight there and then. But they knew better. Or did they?
Within the first half an hour, Tiara has started to smile more than her usual self. And she was not actively aware of the fact. But that was because she was relieved that the idea was not a complete bogey. Kris was also comfortable in her company. He was even attracted to her smarts. She really sounded intelligent and in control of her life and situation. He was even doubtful as to why she had decided to take up the day with their service. But then he knew it was part her friend's insistence as well. Also, smart people could react to different situations in a distinct manner. So not necessarily that she would be as positive in a situation when she would be reminded of her times with her previous partner. But Kris knew better than just to imagine things when he could ask her about her life. "So dont mind my asking but what do you do for a living? Let me take a guess. You seem like the creative types but also someone who knows the nuances of doing business. Your demeanor is a mix of a starry-eyed artistic enthusiasm and a controlled disposition. Maybe an editor in a publishing house?" asked him with a hint of playfulness in his voice. "I am impressed. In-fact, how did you do it? they dint ask me about that in the form I submitted so I am sure you did not know it beforehand. It is impressive much." Tiara felt no hesitation in a little praise she gave him. "Well, I like this thing about trying to make people out through their demeanor. And if you do something by way of really enjoying it and also paying the required attention, I think you get good at that with practice." Kris shuddered his shoulders. "Impressive yet again. I am impressed", Tiara could not betray her admiration. But that was just that - admiration. In a parallel universe, she could have harbored a thought or so of sizing him up as a potential mate. But not then and not there. Kris was on the other hand, happy to be there. He did not struggle with any un-reconciled thoughts as he was just speaking fluidly. The drinks and snack had arrived and the talks were getting more and more interesting. What was there to think about and ponder? Nothing at-all. Or that was at-lest what he had thought sub-consciously.

Chapter 13

Kris was waiting for his drink to arrive at the bar alone by the side of the fire-wood pizza stand. The setup was partially covered on top with open space at the sidewalls and a wooden roof that covered about nine-tenth of the area. He was a regular at the joint but this was not his regular place to sit everyday. Actually, he had come visiting the place after a while then and decided to sit at a place which was not his regular position. Half way through his drink, he turned around to have a view at the back side of the space out of boredom. He suddenly noticed the moon shining effulgently in the sky. It was a full-moon day and the silver light permeated the whole of the night sky forming a great contrast with the sillhoute of the trees at a distance. The clouds at a distance from the moon, looked - if they were beings - to be specially grateful for bringing their existence to the world in the dark of the night. The hue that the clouds wore was soothingly mild but intense.
Kris was for a moment awestruck. He actually turned for a moment, to glance at the interior of the joint which was glittering with the night lighting. He noticed the inverted bottles hanging from the ceiling forming beautiful patterns. There were flowers and small trees at a distance and the cozy wooden furniture lay like everyday. But all of that he sensed appeared less beautiful for that moment. Of-course he was used to the view and thus there was no novelty there. And he would definitely get bored even of the soothing moonlight if he were to bask in it every night. But for that evening, it stood out as the imprint in his memory.
For that moment in the evening, the worldly pursuits felt like trivial to him. It appeared as though everyone, in their childish pursuit of owning happiness at their will, were negligent of the natural bliss that the skies were pouring forth. He sure would not be able to hold to that consciousness for long he knew and nor was he meant to he thought, But he still was happy that he could embrace and imbibe the scenery like he did that moment as it was not his first instinct earlier. He was not much of a feel person he had always thought specially when it came to nature and the soothing sceneries. He thought his analysis inside of the mind always precluded any such inspirations. He used to not like that thought a lot. But he appeared to have developed inside of him, that faculty now. It was progress for him he thought. His vying for a life among people had started to pay he thought.
But he was also aware of the vastness of possibilities that this change in him could indicate. He was transforming as a person or maturing he thought. He liked the second idea better as he was a little scared of thinking himself as a changed man from what he was five years back. Either way, he was changing his disposition and that did not feel bad in any manner. And then his mind was reminded of some other changes in his life. The new idea that he had started to work on and the funny or bold vocation he had taken upto. It was as amusing as challenging. And in dude course of time, he recalled Tiara. He could instantly feel a string positive vibe upon that in himself. This meant something definitely. He had consciously managed to keep her away from his thoughts as it was merely a business engagement and he was not supposed to make friend with his clientele. But he felt like his psyche had already separated her from the others as being more than just a part of his work-life. He had forged a strong connection with Tiara for sure. And he felt a little bit scared at that prospect instantly. He did not want to delve in that. He knew better than that. It would not take him anywhere as he was not interested in forging any new relationships. He thought he had some tough questions ahead on the professional front anyway. Even if he wanted to challenge himself emotionally, he could not do so. He had to get back on the track professionally. That seemed like a very good excuse to him. But that did not preclude him from thinking about how smart Tiara was and how she carried herself with a charming dignity. And part of her self-assurance came from the fact that she was very easy on eyes too. But what was the point of all that he thought. He had gone through the emotions earlier. It was all destined to come to an end definitely. That was how the good old world was. Otherwise, why would his time with Sofia have come to and end. There was a time, he could not have looked past her. She seemed better than perfect. She defined a new perfect every-time he lay eyes on her and spoke to her. But that did not make it eternal. The feeling came,stayed and then left. And it was a relief when Sofia herself asked him to move on with his life as she had decided to. He had felt like he had stopped lying that moment. The hypocrity he felt he exhibited with every day together with her. And it was such a relief to accept that he was not in a relationship with her and not even loved her aloud. He wondered why he did not do it much earlier. But then, he did not do it even then. Sofia was the more pragmatic one and her actions ended the misery for him after making him miserable in the first place. He had convinced himself then, that if this could not work out nothing could. And that one notion had guided much of his emotional life for the time after that. "It should be just a very attractive woman with a great personality filling the vacuum in my subconscious. A passing phase. Nothing to spend time pondering on." concluded Kris.

Chapter 14

"So you want to thank me now?" asked S naughtily demanding an answer from Tiara. "You must be delusional. Thank you for what really?", Tiara tried to downplay. "Oh my god, that means you o want to thank me but cant. Your response cleared it for me sweety. But what is this story. What happened with you that has got you so defensive and nervous my dear. Who did you meet after-all", S sounded as if she had understood it all. "What are you talking about. You imagine way too much. It was just a normal encounter. Why would I be nervous about that one", Tiara shrugged her shoulders with a unconvincing smile on her face. "I dont buy it for a second. Tell me his name.", she demanded. "Whose name?", Tiara tried to be disinterested. "You are just proving otherwise my dear with your denial tactics. Your escort's name", S finished with anticipation. "Oh, one Mr Kris Mahoganey I think.", Tiara spoke with a calm demeanor finally. "How did he look and speak?", S got excited as if Tiara had just confessed about her love for Kris. "Looked OK", Tiara tried to underplay everything about the meeting. "That means great."S retorted. "whatever", Tiara conceded ground. " "Did he invite you over or something?" S started to think more imaginatively. "No, what do you think the professionalism is for in the rules book. Besides, I am not interested.", Tiara tried to convince S while at some level talking to herself in all that. "I dont buy that. You want to meet him again. This has gone much better than Ii expected really. And why am I not surprised. Such things are bound to happen and rightly so." S sounded a little bit philosophical. "You need to take a chill-pill" Tiara said while moving the flower-vase around. "But you need to face your feelings and yourself. If you like that guy, meet him again. He is bound by his employer's tenets. Not you. And it will be a shame if you did not." S made no bones about his opinion. "Oh, hold that thought dear. I am not going to approach him to meet him again. I would never do that. But, I cant help it if they set me up with him again." Tiara tried to talk with her back facing S so that her less than characteristic confidence did not make her position apparent. But it was not needed for S to watch Tiara to come to the conclusion. "Oh my god, so you will be meeting him again. You checked the box that you wanted to match-up with him the next time round as well. And then you did sign up for the next time as well. I am really interested to see this person now. What could have elicited such interest in you. Now dont mess around and tell me the whole of the thing",S demanded a straightforward explanation to which Tiara had no other option but to concede to. It was very apparent to S that she had some kind of an interest in meeting Kkris again.
"Ok. Look, I dont know if I did the right thing by registering for the coming weekend as well, but I wanted to because I felt very light-hearted after the conversation with him. He has a manner that eases you. Something like comforting. I think he is just a very good person and generous too. So maybe it makes me feel secure in his company. So I decided to give it another try. But please dont think that there is any romantic angle to it." Tiara tried to tone-down the situation as much as she could. "Well, kid yourself as much as you would want to. But you have started to like this guy and you should consider yourself so lucky for that. I mean this is a chance you cant let it slip through your fingers." S was getting more and more excited by the moment. "You are getting too happy for nothing. Its just small-time dating." Tiara again spoke with a calm on her face which meant she believed in what she said. "Well, we will see about that in time." S said in a slight sarcastic tone. "But for now, we need to get you prepared for the second date so that you get to meet him another time and outside of this environment" S was making designs already." That is not going to happen as he is a thorough professional. or more than a professional, he believes that he should keep up the promises that he made. So I am skeptical that it would come to pass" Tiara was finally opening up. "well, atleast now you are being honest with me" S was one never to mince any words which wa why Tiara liked her so much in the first place. "Look I dont know what the future holds for m in life, but I cant complain if something or someone is making me feel happy and normal after all the issues I have gone through this year." Tiara tried hard to not visit her last years. "Dont think as much honey. Just go with the flow and I would hope that it bears very good results for us." S had started to sound compassionate and caring for the first time in the whole of the conversation. "For now, I would take a bath and then some rest as I have a tight schedule to keep myself through these ew days of the week." S was suddenly reminded of her work as well. It was then that the two of them took leave from each other's company. But S left with a happy feeling about the whole thing.

Chapter 15

"So tell me about yourself. More than your state and where you grew up. Something that relates to your motivations, thinking or something really important to you", Tiara started to open up with Kris. They had already eased into a steady conversation after quarter of an hour together in the afternoon. And she had his attention one hundred percent full and square. "You want to know about my motivations. Let me think about those. Oh god, what are my motivations. Am I devoid of any inspirations?" , Kris said while fidgeting on his seat with a silly grin on his face. "Are we going to answer seriously", Tiara bend her head slightly while gazing with command and smiling the least bit. Kris would respond to that kind of graceful elegance. "Well, I can tell you I was motivated by proving a point that I was smart enough during my days as a high-flying consultant. And I did win a few good bets then. I was not exactly motivated to impress my peers and bosses. More to prove to myself. It is like you know it almost 100 pct. But 100 pct is sealed only after it is sealed 100 pct. And you have to prove it by doing. And I was motivated to stand out from the crowd. Ambitious that way you could say." Kris spoke while fixing his gaze at a distance which made Tiara realize how he had deeply connected with the past then. She was impressed by his candidness and intensity for that moment. But she was also curious as he had been addressing everything with a allusion to the time past as if he had changed now. Or something had. "Are you not anymore motivated like that?" she said. "Not exactly" "Why is that so" she continued the interrogation. "Hmm, I think I got fed up with the intensity thing. This proving is a fun thing to begin with but it also quickly becomes a dangerous entrapment. Everyone and you yourself expect to win it every single time. There is less celebration in a win than there is disappointment in an anticipation of a loss. And that is mostly inside your own head. I mean you could not run away from it. If your drive and motivations are negative, you stand captive to them. And believe me, I could not bring myself to motivate myself through love of people or life in that profession." Kris ended with a smile that told her how satisfied he was with his choice. 
"So now you want to do something else" Tiara tried to bring the conversation to present which she knew Kris had wanted as well. "Yes, something related to people. Something where not everything is a stated certainty and is not just a matter of who could do it faster and most accurately. I mean where is a semblance of fun in that. Fun is when there is a problem that has yet to be defined." Kris concluded.
"But enough about me I guess. You have started to sound like a shrink. You should tell what drives you. Of-course its not a barter game we are playing but still, you can answer that one cant you?" Kris lightened the air in anticipation of the talk ahead.
"As you know, I am an economist - an aspiring Economist. I used to work at an analytics firm. But then it became too much time with spreadsheets working formulae on data that really dint bear much meaning. I have ninja-level spreadsheet skills if you would like to know." she chuckled. "So now you aspire to be a ninja-Economist I guess. And I would not bet against it knowing you as much as I have come to. "Kris was just getting along. Tiara sensed a hint of appreciation in that and blushed a little. "Staying with a friend I guess." asked Kris. "Yes, she is such a darling but a painful darling. In-fact she persuaded me to come and visit this place. She had come here earlier and had liked it." Tiara finished her logic. "Do you like it then?" Kris enquired. "So far so good. From the website however, it feels a lot more different. I could not fathom what to expect after I read about if from the site. But this, this is different." Tiara had a slightly confused expression on her face which clearly defined that she had had a surprise of sorts from what she had come expecting. "You mean to say I am not as good as they promised. Did I not open the doors for you nice enough?" Kris tried to move the conversation forward. "No, its not like that. In-fact I am more comfortable this way. Just meeting as friends or just two people." Tiara finished her sentence abruptly with a hint of stutter. "I should tell you something as well. This is like my fourth association at this joint. And for me, it seems more real or different as well. Earlier, I was very formal with the clients. We always had good times but we never got talking. Talking like this that is. I guess our thinking or what they call the frequency matches. So this is a pleasant surprise for me as well. Clearly, there are no rules that forbid a matching of thoughts here." Kris spoke with a hint of dry humor. All this while, Kris was thinking as to why he was being as chatty as he was. He was a little embarrassed by that. The afternoon had given way to the golden shades of early evening and they had had their lunch amid the chit-chat and the occasional serious talk. That was time of day that Kris enjoyed. The unforgiving sun gave way to a promise of soothing light. And it was still a lot of time for doing anything of worth. And he felt happy with the conversations as well. In his earlier engagements, there were times every once in a while when he wanted to leave and only professional commitment led him to stay. But this time round, he was enjoying himself thoroughly. If anyone wanted to claim that they loved their job, they couldnt claim they liked it better than Kris at that moment. "You know, they do allow you to walk out of the establishment every once in a while if you like. Would you want to go to the beach and stare at the waves maybe?" Kris expected an affirmative answer and was relaxed. "Yes, I am kind-of getting too used to this joint anyway. I will drive!" asserted Tiara to which Kris nodded in simple agreement - "I am happy to ride along." They parked their vehicle by the shade of the trees by the side of the road where everyone else had. "I hear that Italian joint in the distance is very good here. I did not have a heavy lunch anyway. You care to have some rosetto?" Kris enquired. "Its good, I like eating by the sea-side. Makes me feel much alive." Tiara clearly was sold to the idea. "Alright then, lets pretend this is the mediterranean sea." Kris chuckled. The place was a rickety establishment in terms of the building. But that was the point. They did not spend too much on the walls and the roofing - it was mostly a shed. But the chef and his team were much seasoned. "I have had my share of Cheese with the Italian. So I would have a rosetto. You made a choice for yourself?" Kris asked Tiara folding his menucard. "I will have Pasta with white dressing. And since I do not drink by the day, some Sprite would do fine for me. You want anything to drink?" Tiara asked him in courtsey. "I will have the same. I will call the crew here." with a pause Kris waived his right hand and called for the Asian guy. The beach itself was moderately crowded. There were kids making mud-houses. A few early joggers and a few guys relaxing sitting by the side of the crashing waves. There were few couples as well seemingly trying to soak-in the serene vibe of the vast ocean. Some of them would even catch that vibe into their relationship. But Kris was much chatty that evening. Tiara took a long while to open up to people. kris however, was unpredictable in that department to say the least. He may have come across as a tight-lipped snob to a few people and to some he just took on the trustworthy side of his book, just like that. And Tiara was getting there fast.  
"So tell me Tiara how a girl like you is not with someone. I am sure, you get a lot of offers every single day to get on dates. A lot of men outside the joint would love to chivalrously spend time with you. You do not need to exactly come to the joint for any self-esteem issues. I am not saying that anyone who come there have those. But they sure are vulnerable." Kris wanted to be more thorough in his questioning so as to make Tiara feel more comfortable but his practise in one-liners was making it very hard for him to talk too much in a go. "I told you my friend persuaded me." Tiara said quickly. "Yes, but you were the one who walked down that gate in our good joint." Kris was not looking for easy answers. "I may not have any self-esteem issues. But I still need to feel a positive vibe in life. I would like to think life has and the world we live in has a positivity in it." Tiara explained her position and got in a position that hinted Kris that she had said what she wanted to about that. So he let the thing go. But he liked what she had said. And that also summed up her disposition in life to him. "And now that we have you talking about yourself, let me probe further", Kris said folding his palms together. "How do you spend your idle time. Please dont tell me that you watch Economists talk about the recession on youtube. Going to your favorite channel as soon as the notification comes. Even if you are on youtube on your free time, I am hoping there is some band you like to unwind with." Kris diverted the discussion to her likes and hobbies. "I do not much watch the Economics videos on youtube as I have to attend those seminars from time to time, but something tells me you do or at any rate, used to watch those in your time." Tiara had a mischievous sparkle in her eyes that felt like she had finally got Kris at something. "You are perceptive, touche. I am impressed. I need to up my guard while around you for sure. You are not like other women I have met.", Kris raised his hands in a posture that hinted his acceptance of defeat. Things that had not happened in years were happening fast for Kris in her company. He had tried all through to just play along without thinking much. But surely she was not in a habit of giving into people's wits as easily. He would not have said the word "Touche" in his adult life ever if one really probed. Maybe it was her likeable and attractive personality, but Kris for a moment had given in to her charms. "Thanks for the complement. But dont feel too exposed. You gave me all the pointers I just was paying attention I guess." Tiara was getting increasingly playful. 
"So I need to prevent my guard from loosening any further that means. Point noted. But now quickly onto you. What do you do when you dont work or run errands at home. No more clubbing I can sense." Kris gave her a point to start. "I was not much of a club-goer anyway. Never a groupie that way. And did not like to find my dates on the club-scene. The guys I met there were either lackadaisical or too arrogant for my liking. Barring a few nice and funny lads I talked to there, I was not interested in any others" Tiara spoke with a blank expression on her face. "You never met me in one of those clubs then. You would have changed your perceptions." Kris allowed some of his characteristic self-assurance shower forth. Maybe he needed to gain some lost ground after-all. He was not much used to play second fiddle in a conversation for much longer. "I am sure you would be wasting your time chasing blondies and not me if we ever sat on the same club's turf", Tiara teased him a little. "I gather you have very easy expectations set for me. I could be more than just a pretty face lady" Kris was not one to back away from an honest challenge. "Oh, so you have no doubts about your appearance. Ill give it to you. But I have yet to hear something really engaging maybe. So Ill not be too quick to give you marks on the smarts." Tiara shed any inhibitions to try and sound confident. "Well then spend some more time and you will be enlightened I hope" Kris could only accept the challenge with a hint of caution. But this was a new situation for him. Someone who had made him to stop and think. And after an hour at the joint looking at the waves and the vastness and serenity of the Pacific ocean, they decided to call it a day. They got back to the joint where Kris took his car and they both went their separate ways.


Chapter 16

On his way back from the joint however, Kris was in a thoughtful mood - pensive even. He had been at the joint for more than two months and it was for the first time that he was really looking forward to the Sundays - he had had three meetings with Tiara. And he had even asked her to join him by the seaside. It was one of the places Kris went to for clearing his head and getting his thoughts in order from time to time but always alone. Did he want to share his thoughts with Tiara already? He did not know the answers clearly yet, but he was starting to get concerned with his affinity for Tiara. He had been at a place in his mind after his past relationship had ended which probed him for answers. He did come out with those but that had shut him down as well. And whatever it was, it was peaceful. And he liked that because he liked to be in control. Not out of any sadistic or bossy tendencies. But because even people expected that of him maybe. There was the occasional idea he got about what he would be doing ten years from thence but it was easy to brush-off. But this one was not. He felt that he could not let go of Tiara someday just because their professional engagement had ended. He did not care much about the job - it was mostly a distraction. He was getting on track with his new vocation around mobile products anyway. But what he cared about, was his own peace of mind. He had found that he naturally could be aloof - not lonely so to say - just aloof. He liked to make friends and spend time with them. But he almost never let people get too close to him. Peter and Samantha had been exceptions and he had anyway known them for more than a decade each. So it was really different. But outside that sphere of the three of them, he had good friends who he liked to spend time with but not get too close to any of them. But it was changing fast with Tiara. He had already started to trust her. She was that good. Why would he not trust such an elegant and smart woman. What would she do to hurt him or his feelings anyway. She was self-sufficient, had terrific ideas for her future and was even pretty and caring. He would certainly grow as a person and have a good time just by being with her. But that was a notion that cast a dark cloud of disbelief in him. "What if it would not work out?" he had asked himself out loud sometimes in the past. But this time it was different. In-fact he dared not allow himself ask that kind of a question as it would hint some affinity. He was only now starting to pay attention to his own interest in her. And he found himself defence-less on that one. He did not have to try even slightly hard in the past, to shrug of any attraction to any woman. There were plenty of reasons for him to not go ahead with those relationships. They were mere infatuations and distractions for him. He felt like he would anyway be fooling around in those relationships. That they would merely stop him from devoting his time and effort to his mission in life. Not like Jim Gordon's sure, but he still harbored strong opinions on how things needed to change or evolve. He wanted an active part in the functioning of stuff around him. For that, he would need to be focused. A relationship like in his past could get him deviant from his liked way. 

Because someone like Sofia also had strong inclinations about how things needed to be in their life. But even if his partner would not be as controlling as Sofia, he would still be distracted. And after a while,expectations would grow from the other side, to demand certain things from kris. Perfectly legitimate things but those which would need him to sacrifice his ideas and lead someone else's life. This was the one thought he did not bring himself to be comfortable with. And he believed that something like that would cause his association to end like it did the last time around. But all that was from his past ideas. He had not met someone like Tiara before that. Someone who could be inspiring to him so he would wake up every day more alive and more raring to do what he believed in. She had cast a spell on him despite his efforts to be relaxed about it. Maybe he had been too relaxed about it and in his assurance that no-one could breach his inner sanctuary, had let her slip in. And that was not something he regretted as much as he would have liked to. And that was the most worrying sign. He had started to get astray from his goals and be pondering over her thoughts as if he were an in-experienced youngster who did not know better. "Maybe she is not as good as I think she is. But why does she need to be perfect. Whoever she seems to be, is what a man could expect as a partner. And he deserved to be happy. But what if she would change in future and try to control Kris'es thinking. That was not worth the while. He did not need anyone then at the cost of his mission in life. Maybe 10 years from then, he could think of a easier life as his energy wore down. But at that point, he was at a optimum point of experience and energy in his life. And with some good discretion, he could be successful in achieving his ideals. That is something that had always got him excited and throw in all his energies into the task at hand. And that had led to some very welcome changes in his life from work to friendship and even reading habits. He could not risk all of that. So maybe he would wait for some more time and settle for a sweet and determined person like Tiara at a later point in his life. But what if he would never find someone like Tiara again in his life. And it was there that he realized he was deep in trouble. In all his experiences before, this question had never stopped him from moving ahead. None he had met before had seemed to be special enough as to make him think that he would never find someone like her. And here he was worrying about not finding someone like Tiara again which a perfectly reasonable argument it was. "I am done." was his instinct. He did not want to ponder much on that then and decided to go for a movie with his friends instead. He would just need to check with them if they were game for it or else he would go watching it by himself. For the first time in a long while, he had started to act less than sure of himself. It was none's guess as to what lay in store ahead.

Chapter 17

Most of the men and women trudge through their daily routines without much conviction or confidence. Then there are the likes of Kris who walk with an air of self-assurance that is awe-inspiring. He never had to second guess. He was always sure of himself. That was the fundamental quality to which people around him responded. And he created an inspiration for the people around him in the process. The kind of "reality distortion field" that is associated with Steve Jobs while he convinced people to join him in his missions to change the way people use technology. Thats the undefinable charm or force of personality that differenciated leaders from everyday folks. The everyday folk who like a hero trudge through the life without huge dreams or aspirations. In a way, who make compromises every hour and make a way of living around that. They are accustomed to that mediocrity of thinking and do not hold themselves to too lofty ideals or aspirations. They in turn get an opportunity to blend-in with the crowds. No answering the critical questions for them. They have the luxury to be guided by the common denominator.
And this was exactly the reason why it was so difficult for Kris to come to terms with his less-than-perfect self-assurance. He did not know how to deal with it. His style and life had been near perfect. And he had near perfect answers to every kind of question that was thrown his way. That always came from his well of assurance. It was a cycle that was propagated by itself. Not anymore. Now he had discovered new vulnerabilities in his mental canvas. There was a breach he sensed in the water-tight thinking machinery. He was less-than sure of his methods and philosophy now. And this was not a good sign for a leader of his calibre.
There are two parts that drive one's excellence at work. One is the technical aspect which one learns sooner or later depending upon the aptitude. And then there is the undefinable and intangible which is defined by words such as vision, experience, intuition, discretion and so on. And this for Kris went hand-in-hand with the self-assurance he felt in his being. There was that deep and strongly-hinged belief that he would take care of whatever would be thrown his way that guided his work. And that helped him innovate and challenge the norms like no other person dared. That was the leader in him. But not anymore.