Krishna Vishwanath, lord of a corporate world that was the pride of all those who were part of it, envy of its competitors at home and overseas as well as the object of Ajay Dalpat’s desperate take over bid, had seen some heavenly sights but none could match this. Or, so he told himself.
It was almost as if the Great Painter had decided to be at his best today, picking up brilliant colours for his composition: a stark gray for the cloud canopy, various shades of green for the tall pines on the hill-sides, shimmering golden streaks for the sunrays that slipped through a small gap and radiant white for the rain drops.
The i-Pod – thank God for modern technology – had magically flown in Shiv Kumar Sharma with his santoor and Hariprasad Chaurasiya with his flute to provide the perfect background score. The maestros had come together to create heavenly music in a concert just for Viswanath to listen to as he watched rain wash the Kandyan hills.
He reached for the tea pot to pour himself another cup but realised he had drained it a half-hour ago and had even asked room service to replenish the supplies. But then room service in these parts was notoriously slow in the best of times and the torrential rain would only make it slower.
Many memories came flooding back. Some were monochrome. Others were sepia tinted because of the time elapsed between the events and now.
The hiss of the rain made him recall the time he had been fondly called Vishu. He remembered his grandfather breaking down in silent tears and then slipping into a coma as one night’s rain had left the entire delta under an expansive sheet of water. The storm off the coast dumped water and drove the whole area to years of debt, insecurity and stress. And to think that Pongal had been round the corner and the village was looking forward to the harvest, a bounty was on the cards.
The rumble caused by clouds in argument overhead reminded him of the time his class-mates in Engineering school had branded him Vishwa. He remembered going on a romantic trip with his mates – they first waited for the monsoon off the Kerala coast and then chased it all the way into the heart of India.
He could not stop recalling the single most colourful memory though it had been 15 years since. He had been trapped inside his car that rainy day and faced two choices – either wait for help to arrive and curse the callous carmaker, the careless garage and the world at large or, he could wet his feet and get on with life.
He recalled an intense debate raging between his mind and his heart. Indeed, it was not just about whether he should stay in the car or move out but also about whether he should sell the printing unit that he had set up with such passion or sink further in debt and hope that he could turn the corner sooner than later.
The heart had almost won when he turned the ignition, more in desperate reflex action than with hope. But, the car coughed a bit and cranked into life. He had proceeded but a short distance when he saw the little fellow on his bicycle, soaked to the skin but pedalling with all his might against the howling wind and the swirling waters.
Something in Vishwanath made him roll a window down and call out. “Arre ruko, main tumhe le jaoonga (Hey! Wait, I will drive you).”
The young man didn’t need a second invite, parked his bicycle by the kerb, locked it and was quickly loading himself into the car, the leather seat covers getting a surprise drenching. “Sir, my name is Vikram and I would be thankful if you can take me home. My father’s out of town and mother’s in great pain,” the lad said.
The roads were, predictably, deserted and Vishwanath was able to negotiate the flooded roads without further mishap. He had barely parked by the roadside when he heard the cry from inside the lad’s home. It was the cry of a new-born. Instinctively, he arrived at his decision – he would not sell his printing press and would fight to stay alfoat.
Now, the years of being Vishu and Vishwa were long gone and he was the head of a printing and publishing empire. Now, as he watched the rain over the Kandyan hills, he experienced a tranquil that he had rarely felt. He had not noticed that the i-Pod had gone silent, let alone realise that the telephone had first rung inquiringly and then thoughtfully stopped. The hiss of the rain and the thunder were non-existent.
The only thing he could hear was the cry of the new-born. It was the cry of life. A call to celebrate life. Indeed, it was time to go and keep Dalpat away from his empire.