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. "you want me to define love for you.. I will amuse you.. There are two kinds of love.. One which causes you to do your duty.. And this love is noble.. It sustains the world.. This is the first and foremost focus in your life and should guide your actions. and then there is the love that gives you the strength and hope to perform those duties. it ennobles your spirit so you can perform those duties. so a perdon who receives this love is most likely to perform frat feats of acts.. It shall be easiest for them. others can perform from a place of sacrifice but something tells me that there would be glass ceiling in that case howsoever high.. But if there is a person who has received genuine love in life is put to task they can perform tasks which you and me can not even imagine.. Or me at least. 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 8who 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?" Tiara 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 Tiara 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", tiara 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?", tiara 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 tiara 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" tiara 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. He also believed that data in itself was not sufficient to deliver amazing pathbrraking ideas.. An intuition was needed. but the data served as a rudder.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. Also, one must feel that the other person represents the qualities and thoughts that you care for or relate to in life. Like if your life was devoted to those ideas through that person, you wouldn't mind it really. This is how married couples in edm marriages grow into love. when they facilitate each other in the tasks that matter most to them. Over time.And I have not found it easy to trump that one myself in such lucid terms. Finding that person could be easy or difficult based on the qualities and expectations, but still that connection exists. So it may not be as complicated afterall. We as people become complicated and that leads to all the complications I reckon. The closes I ca Define love is with the example of the wind.. You cant see it but you can feel the effects.. So love is bound to bribg it's own positive effects and you can rest assyered of the presensce. 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. Besides, you were just kids in college riding on the high. You had not grown into the people you would become eventually. 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

"It is like oxygen for them buddy. This validation. They consider themselves as some kind of an island. A perfect one and they are somewhat correct in that assumption. From time to time, some validation for this notion is required which is only human and hence they like to get some compliments. This is the reason you see so many older ones trying to prove a point. That they still have it with them. This island notion gives women their power and strength. The more she is confident about her preeminence, the more is she an independent awesome woman. And she is looking for an equally awesome island of a man or even a park if you may. Now that analogy I read on WhatsApp of all places, is worth a mention here. A man was like a mobile phone scanning for any available wi-fi connections so to say. A woman however was like a device which would connect to only a particular network. What it means is that a man would mingle with any available woman and not the other way round. There are of cource exceptions on these but the general rule applies" Chuckled Kris. "So buddy, her affections for you as a friend come from a place of humanity and generosity mixed with care and not because she fancies you as an equal island. There is no wonder she was surprised at your declaration of romantic interest in her. Now if you do not like to play along in the friend zone game then go ahead and find other friends. But make no mistake, she is not going to feel anything for you till the time she sees you as that island she is hoping to hitch with. And credit to her that she did not play any tricks on you all this while or any mind games. I don't find any flaw with her attitude." Kris counseled his flabbergasted friend. Kris hadn't met Sofia and had just joined the college. He was the carefree guy who was gaining in popularity by the day. His success with women meant that some of his friends canvassed his opinion for relationship advice. "But maybe she would change her mind if I continue to be helping her and care for her which I do", Matt tried to garner some positivity in the conversation. "She could eventually look into my genuine love for her". "That is where women are different from us men my dear. The clarity of thought that they possess is something you can not imagine about. A lot of men trudge through life as a haze of thoughts and emotions without generating a lot of conviction about most things they do. Not so with women dear. The calculation is cold and the clarity is precise. If she had any inkling of any future possibilities with you - near future that is - she would not have been as blunt as she was. She does not see you both together. Period. Yes, you may work upon your personality and come out a changed man she may like or any other worthy woman may like. But that work needs to be done. So the best course of action for you is to be as clear in your thinking and improve upon yourself in myriad ways for your own satisfaction more than anything else. Some woman or the other if not her would then fancy you based on your newfound qualities and confidence. This is nature's drama at play buddy. Nothing personal about it. The subconscious rules here. She cares for you and likes you but does not envision perfect progeny with you. That is because she intrinsically thinks her DNA trumps yours at the moment based on the traits you possess. Increase that quantum and nature would prompt her to start looking at you in those terms." concluded Kris in a most matter-of-factly manner. "So what should I do", enquired a quizzical Matt. "Go read a few good meaningful books and increase your knowledge. Or maybe learn a musical instrument. It does not matter what. Do what you may like to do but in a constructive manner. Sulking here or watching more movies would not help. Action is the only solution dear. Do not be ruled by the charms of one woman my bud. Focus on yourself and you shall be fine by hard-work. Thats everyone's salvation eventually." Kris concluded with a philosophical argument. "I hear what you are hinting at" Matt observed. "would think more about it" said he and bid adieu to Kris.

Kris was a naturally amicable person. But he did not suffer fools gladly. That was because he sensed that a person should know their place else they would assume a better pedestal and set expectations according to that. And that was not good for anyone in the longer run. This attitude of his sometimes prompted people to think of him as a bit of a egomaniac. But the truth was that he was always the first person to lend a helping hand to someone in need. He just did call a spade a spade so that there was no confusion in the dynamics. But the people who did not pretend then developed a liking for him knowing that he did not mean any malice or did not look down upon them. Many a girl liked the fact that he could engage in long meaningful discussions about things they cared for. They did not complain about the fact that he was as easy on eyes as he was as well. Plus he had some other talents to boot. All in all, he had found a following among his peers very quickly. But he knew that he had to focus on his studies more than the social life as he had career ambitions. He realized that a man's worth could be settled much easily by his career success. Sure there were other complicated parameters which could determine a man's life's worth other than career success, but this one was a much simpler and straightforward method. Plus, he had the brains to achieve it so he did set a bar for himself. Life had been pretty exciting for Kris and he did not shy away from the hard work required to keep it that way.

Chapter 13

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 herer.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.
Tiara was definitely very beautiful. She had a chiseled face that bordered at even making her look mean. It was not something Kris had not managed to notice. She was among the women he saw every once in a while who made him stop in his tracks. Happened not very frequently. He actually could not recall when he had met such a beautiful girl and had had a conversation in the past. But Tiara definitely had the personality to match. And that combination set her apart from the vast majority. This gulf was evident in every manner of her's. The way she spoke, smiled and even interacted with the crew. She had a very gentle yet commanding presence. Maybe the gentleness afforded itself because people were just as willing to play along as she pleased. They would be waiting for the next advice from her to act upon in a way. But that was only because she had the elegance and sweetness in her disposition that people would strive for. A woman of her calibre would have been extremely vain or on the other side just like she was - a portrait for respectful elegance and beauty. And Kris was responding to those characteristics.

Chapter 14

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 due course of time, he recalled Tiara. He could instantly feel a strong 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 15

"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 16

"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. So define me your motivations in one sentence. I would like some magic to be created.. Go on elaborate. I like to believe that there is design in this creation. that nothing is random as it seems. And then you want some results.. You see the results from a distance always.. Like how magically a director found an actor.. Or a coach found a prodigal batting talent from the streets. and then you think is that thing possible with yourself.. That would be so affirming. something where you can sense and see certain incremenral factors coming together to form a whole. and the entire journey and struggles are then vindicated. there is magic and mystery together. it's like you sense god's plan.. 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 17

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 18

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 differentiated 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 newfound 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. He had the doubt that had never before sprung its head in his life. And he could not afford to have it. That was because he had a responsibility and commitment as a professional. His other stakeholders had deep faith in his calibre and he could not let them down. His organization was just into the growth stage that if handled properly could lead to final value generation for the stakeholders. But that meant immense hardwork and dedication. That meant that people around him considered him as their leader and would be ready to put in their best efforts for his ideas. He had been able to achieve that level of command and faith earlier because he himself believed in his ways perfectly. But now he himself felt less than self-assured. And that people would sense. They would sense it in a snap. He did not even want to pretend otherwise. But this would be totally unacceptable and completely unbecoming of him. SO what did he need to do. The easy way out was to close any hint of doubt. That would mean effectively blocking Tiara out of his life. If he could not do it as a natural reaction like in past then he could definitely do it as an act of will. She was just a person. And a person was not the goal of life. Or so he thought. But that would also mean running away. And that would also mean not exploring what could be. Tiara could just be the soulmate he was yearning for. He found his thoughts inadvertently follow the scheme and consume him. And this was exactly the kind of leadership deficit he wanted to avoid. He could not afford to be rudderless. He had to find some answers. And he had to find those soon. But not that day he thought and got back to work for the time.

Chapter 19

Kris believed in assuming control in a situation. Someone could have blamed him to be a control freak and he did not object. Not because he though of himself to be one but because he did not have the energy to dispense to explain his situation. He thought he was just a perfectionist of a kind. And he liked to give a 100 PCT and avoid a feeling that something more could have been done. Just that no stone was left unturned in any pursuit. And till a time that he believed that a person engaged with him was in that zone, he could not let go of a situation. But there had been times when he had delegated tasks and not bothered checking about them till the completion because he got an assurance that the person in charge had aligned to give the best shot and his pushing was not required to enhance the deal anymore.
And he had decided to exercise the same control back. He had cleared the heap of binded papers that had littered his desk over the previous week. He logged into one of the analytics tools to deep-dive into the data. And after a while he did feel a bit of a liberation. For a while he was with his world of analysis and numbers. He was even spotting the outliers and creating hypotheses. He was now noting down the pertinent points on his notepad. After a while, he even sent a calendar invite to his team members for the next day to discuss on one of those points. He enjoyed the cup of tea at the pertinent time. and also the cookie that he bought from the cafeteria before reaching the vending machine. He was finding his routines back. And with those, the mojo as well. He often recalled his younger days. when his concentration powers were other-wordly. He could unearth the concepts and understand to a conclusion about any puzzle. But the myriad experiences and thoughts in life more than a dozen years later meant that he could not achieve the results with the same MO anymore. But the results needed to happen still as much if not more. So he had decided to make it an artistic pursuit than a scientific study. Then he could trudge through his work in broken routines with a cezzane like long-term motive. PAul cezzane unlike his contemporary Picasso had taken a lifetime to deliver his masterpieces. when everyone was flabbergasted, he was sure of mining his treasure eventually. Part of the issue was also the fact that the task now was to define the problem statement unlike earlier when the problem was known and the simple task was to understand the solution. There was no haze or pioneering required. So naturally what was now needed was an artists' temper. and Kris could be an artist when the call beckoned. In-fact scientific study had somewhat had its day with him already.
Historically science was about pioneering but now it had become fact checking. Boring and unimaginative. Only for people who had a clerical disposition he thought with suspicion. Thus he had carefully chosen an area where the intelligence to explore and find out problem statements was valued more than solving a know problem in the least possible time which became a mercenary job eventually. The problem solving skills were valued in his industry for sure but more valued were the vision and intuition that went with defining new problem statements.
Among other things that drove Kris to excel in his field was a desire to give back to the society. He was content with what he had got from the world and felt an urge to be fairly reciprocative. And his internet venture was a way to make the kind of money that would facilitate him to make a difference. Apart from the talents and utility of his being a potential multi-millionaire, he also had the flair to carry the goods. A very rich person without much of a personality of a Bruce Wayne was not an ideal suitor for that wealth. But Kris could be charismatic if he needed to. And he was fairly sure that once he hit the big-circuit with one success, he could mint some good money and keep the machine going.

He also had a great method to get the work done by his team-members by inspiring them. He did not need to sermonise them ofcourse. He just had the ability to align them to the purpose when the need was there. One of the reasons was that everyone knew that he did not bull-shit around his way in the working hours. He always cut to the chase and said stuff that made sense. His diverse knowledge meant that he had the facts ready for most of the discussions that happened on the floor. Also, his being solid on his opinions and reasoning meant he engaged people. So people generally listened when he spoke. And that was the big small reason why he was slated to succeed. People often forgot that the success of any organization came down to its employees alignment to a goal. Great leaders were capable to align the most smart of the folks towards their vision. It was not a small feat. That needed the belief of those people to be true on that leader. And that needed a certain integrity along with the intelligence and vision in the leader. Otherwise the best of the lot would just fritter away into the vast corporate sea. To that extent, organizations were personality cults. And the investors had backed Kris for the very same reason. They believed that a team of great internet professionals could rally behind him. And that was a talent and its burden Kris couldnt forego.
                         He had also worked very hard to reinvent himself as and when required. He knew that he could be a good people manager any day he wished to. That was because he genuinely liked people and they responded alike. The more important task for him was to get technically sound in different domains of work. He knew he would be required to deal with experts across the domain as a leader. Marketing, technology, operations, content and everything in between. And the best way to gain the respect and trust of these experts was to be an expert of a sort yourself. They would respond to his people's manager definitely but that may not be enough to inspire them to achieve great feats. They needed to feel a connect with him and for that they needed him to understand their situations. Also, as a safety guard that would help him identify if someone tried to ever take him for a ride or give him wrong impressions about the tasks. And he wanted to learn the tricks of each of those trades hands-on. That needed dedication and a willingness to burn the proverbial oil. Sometimes people around him felt that he was being a micro-manager. But those were the people who had not worked with him. The guys he dealt with felt as if he was just engaged and wanted to enrich their collective experience. What it meant was that he was not passive. And that was what the investors expected out of him when they doled out those cashflows and tranches of money. There could be a myriad of ways how a founder could be engaged and active in their companie's daily affairs. And Kris chose every single of them. And the effect was actually contagious. The good ones in his team had picked the enthusiasm. And the second-rung did just enough to not be dragging the company down. It was after-all a company of seventeen people and every single one of them had an effect in its performance. One thing that Kris had achieved in a relatively short duration thus was to win the trust and faith of the good ones in his team. They were best in their areas and it was a task to win them over. It was value created in itself that they were now working collectively to direct the company in Kris's vision. It was like the captain of a great sporting team with superstars. From the outside it felt as if it was a cakewalk to be leading that group with assured wins. But the fact that these egotistical people did not listen to any tom or harry was a fact overlooked often. And to get them to work together in a private enterprise was another difficulty altogether. Every single one of them could be running a business or a private company of their own if they determined to. But it was a tribute to the leader in Kris that they decided to give his company a shot. And this was not a trivial matter as Kris understood it. 


Chapter 20

"You know a fact I know? I know of at least one very accomplished Nobel prize winner who believes that the stock markets are just too involved and random to be predictable. He says like many others that all these complex mathematical models that are supposed to deliver the predictions really hold not much water. But still you see that thousands of very smart professionals make their living out of building these models." concluded Pete with a clasping of palms that signalled his perfectness in asserting. "So where are we getting with this?" questioned Kris. "It means that you need to take things easier. When a simple thing like a companie's stock is not that simple after-all, how could love be. You need to not overthink this." chuckled Pete. "That does not make any sense this comparision you just made" Kris tried to play down the intensity. "No, it actually does. Here I am telling you that very smart people do not believe and understand things and how they function. Because there are very smart people on both the ends of the spectrum in this stock debate, so one set is bound to be wrong. But still no one could tell which one is wrong precisely. Maybe because none is wrong actually. Maybe things are not that clearcut always. So we can let it go easy from time to time." Pete was overpowering Kris's logic yet again in the matter of Love. "You cant equate the markets with something as personal as Love", Kris protested. "Why not, both the ideas are from this world and both even involve sentiment. Human behavior and emotions" Pete argued. "But one is very personal and the other is about collective emotion" Kris tried to make a comeback. "Yes a collective emotion which is often determined by a collective conscience in the sense that one event or the other is said to determine the behavior. But again, that is not the point. The point is that there are things in the world which are more complex than determining the solution to a complex calculus problem. And they are complex because there seems to be no answer to them which is precise. Like the question of a dream. Noone could assert the reality of a dream. They do not exist really. But again, during that duration, they are as vivid as the real life. This is in-fact one of the logics I read in an ancient spiritual text from the east. So the argument was that like a dream was not here or there but somewhere in between, so was the game of life. Also, the same school asserted that knowledge ended in a siuation where love dawned and beyond yhat devotion happened. but even beyond that devotion was the tea of the ultimate love.. So ve46 accomplished schools of philosophy have he$: love at the highest pedestal.But we need to cut the analogy to just Love in the present scenario" Pete said sipping his Latte which had by then gotten cold. But he enjoyed the sip nevertheless as it had coincided with a perfectly timed argument he had made. "And you are trying to confuse me with a barrage of words and dreamy stories" Kris tried to make an abstract argument subconsciously. "And it is working I reckon" Pete said in atone which meant he would not take it for an argument. "Whatever you mean buddy, this is not straightforward" Kris tried to divert the talk form a focus. "Yes, it is not. But thats why it means you can conclude this one so soon. I mean you to give it more time." Pete tried to move along in the more constructive domain. "You know thats not happening mate. I do not have time for this. I need to focus on work. I can afford to be distracted. And these thoughts are distracting if I let them build a sanctuary inside of me." Kris was opening up. "Then do not let them distract you. That can happen if you do not make a bet with yourself about winning everything you set to achieve. et this one just flow. Do not try to control it. I know you havent failed much in life and want to believe that you are going to win situations. But this is not a situation that can be won. Not by talent and not by hard-work. These may be helpful, but the ultimate thing is about devotion and dedication. And not keeping any expectations. There is no win or loss in this. There is only a win if a connection happens or had happened. That is it. There does not need to be a conclusion. Like the cycle of oceans and rivers. It never ceases to flow and never concludes."Pete concluded with a very sharp and pertinent conclusion. This got Kris thinking. Something struck him there. He was not completely sold, but something caught his attention. And he felt a very slight bomb go off in his head that released some pent-up emotion. He thanked Pete mentally and then decided to show his gratitude openly. "I think you may be getting somewhere here. I will think about it. Thank You for the discussion" Kris put his right hand on Pete's shoulder in a fashion that let Pete know that he had struck a cord.
Kris and Pete had earlier talked about how he had decided to shut her down from his active thought. Much to Pete's anticipation and frustration that was. Kris also knew that it would not go very well with Pete that he had taken a backward step. But he definitely wanted to hear Pete out on that one. It was something he knew had to be done sometime. And he decided to make it sooner than late. That was testament to Krise's closeness to Pete. He considered Pete's opinion on such an important matter as vital if not indispensable. He knew it would mean risking a bit his newfound peace of mind as it could muddy the waters again. But he was ready to make a calculated move. Besides, it was just an opinion. And an intelligent opinion at that. Also, he had decided apriori that he would not take any steps soon based on one discussion. It was going to be his switch he turned off and on. He would go back to the mode of work as soon as the rendezvous ended.
And he dint mean to get into any change of plans still. But he had had an idea to work on. The idea of continuity. Of a constant churn. He did not figure how exactly it applied in his equations. It dint occur to him as to how he was going to pragmatically deal with his situation based on that notion. But something in his subconscious definitely found a completeness in that thought. It was not something he had heard about or thought for the first time. But the application was pretty apt on this occasion. Perhaps something in him told him that it was Ok to be in active search and activity without reaching an everlasting destination.
After a brief discussion on the game that was played the previous weekend, they parted ways. Pete was confident that he had been able to put the message across. He was after-al in the business of teaching. And if a person of Krise's calibre could enrich from his thoughts, it was very satisfying for him. He was somewhat flattered at the idea. Kris was a stubborn soul he knew. He was not going to be convinced about anything in a single talk. However, if an idea found some sense in his scheme of things, it was of some merit. And it was worth mentioning again to whosoever would be interested to listen. It was reward-enough for Pete. Kris on the other hand drove past the bridge and parked his car at the seaside cafteria. He enjoyed a long meal by himself and not thinking much in the interim. He had a sense of calm after a turbulent few days finally. He did not want to probe much deeper and just enjoy the brief sweetness. He decided to keep up to his initial decision to not haste into any kind of an action and just keep on doing things as he had been in the previous week. It was not a perfect plan but it was one which moved time and was not anything hastily designed. He finished his meal and drove past the highway in a most smooth drive enjoying music on radio as he drove. The day had been a productive one both at office and afterwards. And he sensed a relief about that in his psyche. Productivity was important to him as that was the residue of the daily churn. It may not be achievable every single time but he thought it needed to be cherished nevertheless whenever it was had.

Chapter 21
Tiara did not sleep very well the previous night. It was not the nerves as she had been to such presentations numerous times in past. It was probably the hotel room which was so different in the look and the feel from her bedroom. The mattress was also much slacker in her bedroom. It could be that or a handful of other reasons she thought. She took a shower and readied herself into the breakfast table before anyone else was there. There was something about the breakfast brunches in these hotels that she liked immensely. Maybe it was the assortment of fresh fruit cut and nicely laid there that indicated a very healthy start to the day. Or the furniture that lend a majestic start to the day. She never tried to probe deeper and was happy to just feel good and play along. As she drank her flavored milk, she saw from the corner of her eyes, a couple more of the delegates pour into the room. And soon enough, the buffet table had a line of sorts. There is a time window she thought when everyone seems to be grearing up. And it was an occasion to gear up as well. There would be eminent economists from around the globe sifting through the conference days and even making their own speeches if not presentations. A total of 4 Nobel laureates were expected to greet them in some way over the next three days. There would be professors from the best universities. Littered among the crowds would be participants from the investment banks of renown, consulting groups and even some consumer-facing internet companies. And Tiara had got a 5 minute presentation to make herself. On the very first day. It was a fixed-income conference and the discussion centered around the interest-rates globally. It was not a very novel area to talk about but one that had garnered enough interest to call for such a huge gathering. These were tough times everyone agreed. The economists were baffled. But at some level, every economist also knew that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. If you would take an economist as a scientist, this would be their magnum-opus experiment. These turbulent times. Because all the theories were tested in such times. And debunked too. Every global financial or economic crisis gave out its own luminaries. People whose theories came out good in those times. The tougher the crisis, the bigger the name. So as much as the folk wished such crises never happened in the world, they couldnt think of a better time to be more enthusiastic about their profession. Everyone wanted to know their opinion on the subject. There was a celebrity cult around the most famous ones. People swore by them and considered their opinion as gospel truth. Economics was not a perfect science, but it had its intricacies and the practitioners had spent enough time to develop some intuition and spoke about what they thought the future held. And the one with the right idea was like the magician who everyone revered. Only time could tell, but they still needed to spill out their thoughts now. 
Tiara did not have a theory or any mathematical model to showcase. She was not in the league yet and did not have the time to make detailed presentations. She just had five minutes in which she was supposed to demonstrate her findings from the past years interest rate and inflation data regarding the correlation or a lack thereof. It was just the simplest of exercises that had been conducted from times immemorial. No novelty in there. But the conference was of such global import that she would not have amused herself into thinking anything more. She would be one of the youngest on the stage that day. And that was an exciting prospect in itself more than anything else. 
The conference auditorium was not much at a distance from the hotel. That was the thing about big cities like NYC. There were enough five starts in the city to accommodate the tens of thousands of visitors every day.And yet everyone could find their destination close-by if they were willing to spend, And her company was more than willing to sponsor her. They would get a mention in the print too. Good business sense. Her cab moved swiftly and she found herself in the hotel lobby asking directions to the conference auditorium.After she got the pass and the pin attached to her identifying her, she moved to meet Nancy Stewart who would provide her with her number on the schedule. She reached the table where Nancy sat with a nameplate identifying her. "Hi. I am Tiara Goldsmith. I have a presentation in the post-linch session. Can you please give me the time-slot details." Tiara enquired. "One second Tiara. Please let me check into the schedule." said Nancy and sifted through the papers. "Here we are at 3:05 PM. Its from the left entrance. Please meet Mr Ken Doswell on the backstage area and he shall guide you about the etiquettes to approach the dias. Have a great day." Nancy cordially handed her over the documents detailing her plan of action. Tiara thanked her and approached the stage area. This was finally happening. She started to get the feel for it as she saw the stage for the first time. This was her first presentation in the big league. A general onlooker would not even notice her, but the people who mattered in her career progression would take note. This was a testament to her hard-work and great work-ethic through the years. The publications she had made over the years in research journals, the endless number of meetings with the research-firms. The post-work hours into these extra-scheduled wrok areas. The youtube channel she had launched which had a decent number of subscribers. And the regularity with which she posted videos there. Every single event had led her to the point of culmination here at the conference. This was the final acknowledgement from the professional community that her opinion mattered in whatever measure and she could be a potential voice in future. Whatever the timelines. Many a nobel-prize winners had made their first impressions through this conference. 
Engulfed in the maze of thoughts, she spotted Mr Dawson and introduced herself with the stack of papers she carried. He was a thorough professional who could sleepwalk his way in these situations. She was a bit eased by talking to him. He politely guided her to her seating area and explained in great detail and lucidity about how the events would unfold that day. "You have the presentation at 3:05. Thats the best time-slot in my opinion. People are back from a happy-lunch. And they have criticized enough from the pre-lunch session. SO they are willing to make amends and balance it out. They would clap more than the average. So you dont have one worry in the world miss." Dawson smiled. "Well, that is great news then and your help and insight is greatly appreciated." Tiara chuckled. She sensed a bit of the nervous energy fritter away and found a sense of ease in the new environment. Perhaps Dawson had such a small note prepared for every participant from every time slot. Perhaps that was his training. Or maybe he spoke the plain facts as he had experienced. Only he would know and it did not matter. As Tiara had had the good effect on her. 
The conference started on time and the dignitaries eased through the speeches. There were not any great revelations made but people did throw in the odd-insight that got the attention. It was not supposed to be a time when people would present any cutting-edge work or theories. It was a mildly social event that had a scientific overtone. Lunch-time approached and Tiara had her fill to keep her going without going overboard. And then finally her name was called-upon. In a most pleasant turn of events, she found her nerves gone the moment she started to trudge her way to the dias. And this was a very familiar feeling she had. She always got calmed when the moment to demonstrate her skills arrived. Perhaps it was the years of hard-work and her preparation. Or it was her innate natural self-confidence. Or it happened to beginners who had nothing much to loose on that platform. She did not overthink but sensed that she felt in control. Now she just needed to keep it simple and not blunder away.And she would be fine. She did not need to be over-ambitious about the outcomes and just get the job done. She already had the feeling that she owned the stage. With that confident step, she charmed the audiences through her numbers and before she knew it was over. There were no overboard applause and no surprise elements. It was just elegant and calm. Just stylish and effective. She was satisfied with the effort and knew his bosses would be too. She would not be the main news talking point as she was not supposed to be. But the odd dignitary would have noticed her and would identify her the next time they met in a conference. And that was the kind of social status newbies expected to earn from the event. She mentally thanked the people who had helped her put this piece together. Both from research and the logistics angles. She was grateful that the event had passed with ease and she could take a few days easy then. It was also a relatively new city and she would do good to explore with his college friends who resided there. With all these happy thoughts, her life was in as perfect a place it ought to be.

                                    Chapter 21

The mood was upbeat on the floor.  The website had been launched aand the community was showing good sign of cohesion  aand traction. The marketing budget was under control and the ROAS metric looked promising. The good point was that the user generated content that Kristen had bet on was coming off .  Not only was the technology slick which had made Divi a great user experience product,  but the efforts Kris hhad put offline had paid off.  His belief was that to build tthe initial traction among the community, they had to gear them up in real lives.  So he hhad spent considerable effort in organising events that he estimated would interest the community. And his team had shown great energy led by him in inspiring the participants to engage.  Slowly but surely they were coming on board.
          The customer support function had registered decent activity over the previous month which was a great indicator of customers taking upto the product.  The transactions were steady and there was anticipation that there wwould be an upward in flexion point.
        It just felt to be the right time to launch the mobile App.  So the development was slated the begin soon.  Kris hhad hired a guy for the two most popular platforms each. And the two guys hhad joined that week.  They sseemed to have gotten off pretty well with the team. Kris was involved in the discussions around the architecture aand design of tthe apps. And have was liking the discussions more and more.  He had a technical streak and liked to delve deeper than required if he could find time.  And he was finding time for this one.  He was reading blogs about the fresh developments on that front.  He was also watching  videos of experts on YouTube.  Over tthe previous few days he had seen some great comments written about a database cum hosting services called firebase .  It had been acquired by the tech behemoth and was work in progress recently .  But Kris was getting an Idea that they had evolved into something much more.  He dug in deeper.  And he was not disappointed. The behemoth had invested heavily and strategically into the platform and had made a full suite of integrated analytics  and marketing with hosting aand database available to the developer community free.  This had repercussions. Great leverage and ease of development could be had if the product was what it promised to be.  In any case,  the matter needed further probing. And he  called for a meeting with his tech heads early next day. He was happy that he had been  looking up good forums for even technology which he may choose to ignore. His tech team was competent but they were prone to missing this link specially if no one had yet adopted the tech. And he had not required them to be researchers either. But his own research  bent meant that he had potentially stumbled upon gold.  If what he thought was correct,  he has saved the company some money and just made the product more agile and marketing friendly. And he had saved his team some rework too. If what he thought was  correct that is. He fancied his odds in that  case.
                      He went straight to the android guy who he had sent the meeting invite recently. His curiosity had gotten the better of him.  Hey Mike,  did you   check the meeting invite I just sent. Yes I accepted it.  Cool, so you know the subject. Did you  check the features of firebase already.  Frankly speaking,  no.  I just started to dig deeper. Did you know about the release they made in the IO.  No I did not Know. It seems to be a good find. It did actually. It will be very helpful actually if you could Comeup with a thorough analysis of your own tomorrow. Hope it's a worthwhile exercise. I definitely think it's a great next step. From what I have read so far it looks great to me and maybe we go for it.

. . That evening Kris had the best of moods. He had contributed ahead of the curve and outside of his expertise. He considered this to be his duty and also the kind of culture for research and innovation he expected to build in his team could be delivered thorough this approach. If such enterprise was embedded in the DNA of an organisation it was bound to go the distance generally.. Only time could tell.

......... .... ......        Chapter 22

So you are in love. And I am the one you need to thank it for.. Said S.. Are you completely out of your mind exclaimed Tiara.
It had been a great weekend for tiara generally.. The fatigue of the travel and presentation coupled with the meetings with longtime friends and acquaintances in a new city had made a couple days of restful sleep a very welcome change. Everything in the last few days then had gone perfect to the plan. But Tiara had a sense of unfinished business. She had attended the weekend rendezvous at chivalmate and had not found Kris there. And that had bothered her. She initially did not think about it and brushed it aside but as the days progressed she had to confront her thoughts. Why would she be bothered about Kris not being there. It was silly for her to think about that after the engagement was over. Maybe she wanted to share her experiences in NYC with a fellow professional she thought. But that did not make too much sense as she had spoken about that with her fellow workers. She concluded she wanted to meet Kris. What for, she could not point a finger at. It was then that she decided to confide in S regarding the fact. And A had not disappointed her with her reaction.. She had envisioned exactly the same reaction. It was not hyperbole as far as A was concerned. She had to go over the top else she wouldnt be herself. I just am telling you that I want to meet this guy.. You don't need to stretch your imagination here. Am I stretching it. When was the last time you were eager to meet someone. I am not eager. Right that is why you came to me in a beeline. Ok I may be curious to know what he has been upto. I am in a habit of conversing with him about my week. So you could have waited for him to turn up the coming weekend. What if he did not. We don't even have each other's phone number. Stupid rules. See, now we are getting somewhere. The what ifs. And we know what prompts the whatifs.. What is that.. Either your company is firing half the people or you are in love. OK I am leaving. Alright I will not say the word again but you have to accept that you like him. I dont think so. OK then I am leaving now. You are impossible. OK I may like his style. I am still going to leave. Else say the right thing. OK, with the little info I have on him, I like him. You had to add that caveat. I did. OK now focus on what needs to be done. Thats what I have come to you for. We need to get his number. Impossible. They will fire him or me or both.. They can't fire you. So they will not give the number. So we go the company route. Meaning? You know where he works right.. He owns a small company. Perfect. Tell me the name. It's a product. It's called Divi. I don't know the holding company. That will do. I know his name. You shall have the number. Promise you will not do anything stupid. You mean crazy. You bet. Please don't make him hate me. My guess is he is in love with you madly too. Shut up. OK this stupidity for later. Focus for now. What will you do when you get the number.  I thought you were to advise. I am just thinking out aloud.  You can't come across as needy or clingy as we know it.  And a phone call from no where would just do that.. That is a tricky one. Something we will have to device the perfect ruse for. This is good.

      Later in the night, Tiara lay on her bed thinking about all that had transpired in a very limited length of time. A sudden wave of terror struck her. She chided herself for getting into the situation. How could she do this? How could she be thinking about a relationship and stuff. Her belief in LOve had been shattered relatively soon. How could she allow herself such a misadventure. She at once felt embarrassed. She felt like the naive girl who did not know the first thing about social dealings. The more she was thinking about the issue, the more confident she was getting that it was all a mistake. And with the passage of time, she got a fresh idea in her mind.  She realized she had not partaken in this adventure for Love. It was just a distraction. Like a movie or a vacation. It was a chance occurrence. That Kris and she had so much in common and the fact that she felt a connection established between the two of them was a fact after the incident. She could never have assumed it. She met hundreds of men every year and engaged with them. That Kris and her were going to resonate so beautifully was a thought she could not have had apriori. So there was no issue of carelessness or foolishness. But there was another issue. And a bigger one. That of trust. That of rekindling the emotion of overlap. Of two people. Of letting down the guard. It was a binary choice in her mind. Either you remain cold and do not allow a person in and torment alone in solitude when it happens. Or you open up and be at the mercy of the other person's whims. And it was classic once bitten twice shy. Or maybe a hundred times shy. None of it made sense to her. Her heart had been in a torment and a million tiny pieces just a while back. The thought of Love had seemed as alien in those moments. She could not believe as to how she could fall in love after that phase. She actually was confident that noone could pierce through her shield anymore and hence was not worried about falling again. It was not even a shield she formed. It was nature's expression of practicality and reality over foolish imaginations and romanticisms of love. It was hence as real as nature itself. She just had stopped believing in love. That was the end of story. So, it must be something else. It must be her mind playing some tricks to fill-in the vacuum that had been left after her relationship had ended. It was some sleazy trick that it was playing upon her. So she need not be concerned with it. It was a temporary phase and would pass. Kris was a flawed person as everyone else and it was a combination of factors that had caused some infatuation in her. And it was not something to be bothered about. She did not need to sweat about it. The next pertinent question then was he regarding her efforts to get that phone number. If such was the case, she should not engage in the childish maneuver. She needed to quickly tell S that her plan was as lame as it was when she was in college and they needed to stop. The distraction was over and it was time some real practical life set in.

........................ Chapter 23

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The contours of her face had some kind of invsible strands that enthralled. Or maybe it was the well of nurture that radiated throug her eyes whih gave her the other wordly look.