“God damn it.” Vishwas couldn’t stop cursing his bike which exhibited tantrums like his ex-girlfriends.

“Someday I’m gonna dump you in the junkyard.” Vishwas kicked his bike for the last time in despair. Luckily, it started this time and he rushed to the office he was already late. 

Vishwas worked in the back office of the Marketing and Sales department of one of the leading brands of cosmetics. Hardly in his mid-twenties, Vishwas, a young, energetic introvert boy. Chasing his ever evading epic dreams of becoming a billionaire landed him in the City of Dreams, Mumbai. Mumbai, where people from all corners of India came pursuing their dreams and work sweat on the brow, till they get a breakthrough. His ancestral home was in the small town near Baroda, where his entire family resided. 

Soon after the graduation, Vishwas felt fortunate to have got the job and thus switched from learning to earning. His job was quite simple without arguing and haggling with schmucks, the kind he had always preferred. 

Though Vishwas Kept the wolf from the door with his current job’s meagre salary. He felt that he had been deprived of the much desired hi-fi lifestyle. He couldn’t save much to secure his future and hold on to the reins of his dreams which seemed to be slipping off. His Dad was a retired class 3 government servant with a basic pension. 

It was month’s end and Vishwas gonna have a loooong day at the office, to which, he was already very late. Coaxing, cursing and bitching about the bitch of a sputtering bike Vishwas tried to zap zoomed through the busy back streets of Mumbai to avoid the rush hour traffic.  He reached his office in the mid of the city and got back to work. He had to verify the stocks and then needed to pass the report to the warehouse for physical verification. 

By the time, Vishwas left the office, it was past 9 p.m. As usual, his ride bitch was twitching and jerking emitting weird abusive sounds in return to Vishwas’ derogatory attitude. Finally, tired and exhausted from kicking and abusing, he gave up and began to drag his heavy ass bitchy bike. 

Vishwas’ dream of money raining from the sky was intervened by a brand new sedan car that came to a screeching halt next to him. Vishwas lost his balance and jumped off the road to the pavement. His heart had almost leapt out of his mouth. 

“Hey, Vishwas… What’s up buddy?” Pratap stepped out of his car and walked to Vishwas, who was still struggling to get over the head reeling shock. Pratap and Vishwas had been classmates in the school. They had been the “so-called friends” in school as the bond of mutual trust and love had never evolved between them.

“Hey Pratap, long time no see man. How the heck are you?” Vishwas recognised Pratap and extended an unwilling hand for a handshake that would leave marks later. Pratap hugged him tightly instead and patted his back.

“I am in top-notch bro. What are you doing here with this dead and beaten up bike?” Pratap asked pointing towards Vishwas’ bike which lay off the road. 

“Ah! Don’t ask man. It has been driving me nuts since morning.” Vishwas replied cursing his bike as he reared it up on its wheels and tried to yank it back to the parking lot of his office building.

“Seems like you have had a looong day. Let’s have some coffee.” Pratap helped Vishwas with the bike and both walked to the cafeteria. Vishwas touched his hip to feel the thickness of his wallet. He was sceptical whether the pucker faced bills in his wallet had enough bravado to retort the amount inscribed on the handsomely printed coffee bill. Pratap stole a quick glance at it but didn’t react. 

“So what are you doing?” Pratap asked as he gestured the waiter to get the menu card.

“Nothing much bro. Trying to make some difference in life.” Vishwas replied without revealing to Pratap that he was a boring nine-to-fiver.

“By doing 9 to 5 job…?” Pratap’s tone was quite sarcastic. Vishwas gave a lopsided smile with his eyes on the menu card, screening the price of coffees. Nothing seemed pocket-friendly to him.

“Let me do the honours.” Saying so, Pratap took the menu and ordered coffees for them with salad. Vishwas was busy calculating the bill along with taxes that would be added to the final bill.

“You say how’s your life going? Seems you are minting money.” Vishwas leaned back and asked admiring the costly watch, mobile, Armani suit and Lumber Jack Shoes Pratap was adorned with.

“Yup, in fact, I have got a lot of money to burn.” Pratap winked and lit up his imported cigarette with the zippo. Vishwas eyed Pratap’s each and every prized possession with a keenness of child.

“And your Dad’s medical store is the key to it?” Vishwas seemed to recollect his thoughts before speaking.

“Nah… Medical store is small-time shit. My Dad manages and handles it. I am not interested in small potatoes. I have my own business.” Pratap released rings of smoke in the air.

“What is it?” Pratap’s success piqued Vishwas’ curiosity. His demeanour radiated hints of an aspiring millionaire in his waking steps. 

“It’s a big game, boy, a real game.” Pratap played with his zippo, making the cling sound with it.

“Okay, I get that but what’s it about?” Vishwas’ curiosity was killing him. 

“It’s an E-Commerce business.” Pratap replied stubbing his half-finished smoke. Vishwas understood that Pratap was not going to give the game away so easily. He stopped kicking in the dirt. They had their coffee and kept reminiscing their school time memories. Pratap dropped Vishwas back home in his car.

That night, Vishwas kept thinking about the business that Pratap had mentioned, E-Commerce. The Fancies of Pratap’s lifestyle lured him to know more about it. He too wanted to have a luxurious and lavish lifestyle. After all, he too dreamed to have a gravy train.

Soon, Vishwas started to lose interest in his low paying job. The worse part about his job was, he was shifted to the warehouse, where he needed to maintain the physical stock too. It was tedious and laborious task with no increment on his existing pay scale.

“This is not your fucking back office job, you get that damn straight? Either you do what is said or get your ass hell outta here.” Sanjay, Vishwas’ senior shouted at him due to a minor glitch in the stocks list at the warehouse.

“I am sorry sir. I’ll be more careful next time.” Vishwas replied keeping his head low. 

“You better be, or find a new job for yourself.” Sanjay stormed out of the small room, which was the ‘so called’ office for Vishwas in a not so cozy warehouse. 

Frustrated Vishwas walked out once Sanjay had left the warehouse. It was not at all his fault but still, he had to bear all the acrimony of his seniors. Humiliation and meanness had been rubbed into his daily life like the holy rituals of a priest of a high order.

He was sipping tea at the tea stall outside the warehouse when he saw a flashing new BMW pass by him. Pratap’s image flashed at the back of his head. Vishwas decided to call Pratap and ask him if he too could join Pratap in his business. He dialled Pratap’s number but the call went unanswered. He dropped him a text.

“Hey, buddy. Can we meet this weekend?” 

Vishwas finished his tea and got back to his work. He began to eagerly wait for Pratap’s reply. Vishwas was back at his place. It was past midnight when his cell buzzed. With groggy eyes, Vishwas checked who was calling him at such wee hours. It was Pratap.

“Hey bro, sorry for calling you so late. I was actually busy in a meeting.” Pratap spoke lighting his smoke.

“Ah! That’s fine bro. I was waiting for your reply before I dozed off.” Vishwas was now sitting quite alert on his bed.

“So why you wanna meet me?” Pratap came straight to the point.

“Can we meet and talk about it? It’s related to the business.” Vishwas carefully picked his words.

“Okay, I am going out of station tomorrow. Will be back by day after tomorrow. We can meet over dinner.” Pratap replied taking a long drag from his enthralling cigarette.

“That’s fine with me. Just give me a call when you are free and I’ll be there to meet you.” Vishwas lost all his sleep with the fresh shot of adrenaline. Finally, he will get a chance to talk with Pratap.

“Cool, will drop you a text about the rendezvous point” Pratap ended the call. 

After a day’s long wait Vishwas received Pratap’s text for dinner. It was one of the famous continental restaurants in the city. Vishwas was all set for his tryst with destiny. He had already left his office a couple of hours early.

Vishwas took the cab as his bike was still impaired and he couldn’t get time to get it repaired. He reached the restaurant and scanned the tables for Pratap, who had not arrived yet. He fancied it would be better to wait outside for Pratap. 

The restaurant manager walked towards him and asked Vishwas to be seated at the already reserved arrangements made by Pratap. Vishwas was surprised with the way Pratap had managed to pull strings to reserve the table and the class one treatment received from the manager and the waiters. 

He sat consciously at the table reserved for them. The waiter served him an appetizer and left without any further questions. Being nervous, Vishwas began to fidget with his cell. His anxiety was taking a toll over him. 

Pratap walked in and flung his car keys towards the security guard to park it. The manager immediately rushed towards Pratap, greeted him and guided him to his reserved table. Pratap now seemed to be a person of substance for Vishwas.

“Hope I haven’t kept you waiting for long. These business calls sometimes drive me nuts.” Pratap shook his hand and both settled down. The appetizer for Pratap was served immediately. 

“No, no, absolutely not, buddy. I just came, few mins back.” Civility dripped naturally from Vishwas’ mouth.

“So what was the thing about the business you wanna talk about?” Pratap asked sipping his appetizer and eyeing Vishwas’ body language from the corner of his eye.

Vishwas took a deep breath and narrated, how his job sucked and how he too yearned to be successful like Pratap and live a lavish, extravagant life.

“What do you expect from me?” Pratap asked leaning back with crossed arms on his sofa.

“I was thinking if I could join you in your business of E-Commerce, you talked about the other day?” Vishwas kept his fingers crossed under the table.

“I would surely like you to be on my staff but to be true we don’t need staff. We all are partners in it.” Pratap spoke and waited for their dinner to get served. Once the waiter left, Pratap continued.

“You can join me as a partner with some investment.” 

The colours of enthusiasm started to drain out from Vishwas’ face on hearing word INVESTMENT. It pierced his hopeful heart like a double-edged dagger. He had not anticipated it.

“How much is the investment?” Vishwas asked in a faint voice. 

His hopes were still high but without the money to invest, his dreams seemed like mist disappearing in the presence of sunlight. Pratap smiled and dug into his salad. He loved toying with Vishwas’ mind and emotions.

“You have to understand the business first. After that only, you can decide whether you’ll be able to join us or not. And…” Pratap left his sentence in the air and sipped his Mocktail.

“And what?” Vishwas leaned forward with zest surging through his voice.

“You can join us only after my senior partner agrees to it.” Pratap replied with pursed lips. 

“So what should be done for that?” asked Vishwas. A glimmer of hope still present in his eyes expressed his dying desires were rising again.

“I’ll do one thing. Tomorrow, I’ll meet my partner and will talk about you. We’ll discuss and based on the outcome, I’ll give you the call.” Pratap got back to gobbling back from his plate.

“Ya fine, that will be a huge favour bro.” Vishwas’ lips curved into a smile. 

They both finished their dinner and Pratap discussed briefly the business. The business is kind of MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) where one could attain membership by paying the decided amount. Against that amount, the company will give an international holiday package. The real game starts after one becomes their so-called partner. One has to bring more clients and make them join the business. The commission will be paid once the client is bagged (10 percent of the client’s amount). 

For the next few days, there was no response from Pratap. It all amounted to rise of anxiousness and curiosity in Vishwas.

Vishwas tried to get in touch with Pratap a couple of times but as usual, his calls boomeranged to voice mail. Frustrated, Vishwas dropped a text to Pratap regarding the meeting with his senior partner. 

It seemed to Vishwas that the game of his destiny had somehow managed to push the pause button and to wait patiently was his only option. Finally, Pratap got back to Vishwas, who was very much relieved when Pratap’s name flashed on his mobile screen.

“Hey man, where have you been? I tried to reach you a couple of times.” Vishwas asked curiously.

“Sorry bro, I was out of India for business. Just came back yesterday evening.” Pratap replied sipping his coffee at his senior partner’s office desk.

“Okay, so how was your meeting?” Excitement boomed in Vishwas voice. Pratap’s imagined Vishwas standing outside his office and talking to him.

“Like always, it worked out the way we wanted. Anyways, I had a talk about you with my senior partner and he has agreed for the meeting.” Pratap finished his coffee and walked out of the office.

“Wow, that’s great bro.” Vishwas’ excitement knew no bounds.

“But let me tell you one thing. He will first ask you in and out of everything about you. So better be prepared and answer to the point rather than beating around the bush.” Pratap’s voice was stern.

“No problemo. When’s the meeting?” Vishwas was on cloud 9.

“Tomorrow, late evening. I will text you his office address. And come prepared for everything. This is a lifetime opportunity for you boy.” Pratap lit his smoke and took a long drag.

“I will, like never before. Can’t miss it for anything in the world.” Vishwas almost jumped with enthusiasm surging through his veins. Pratap ended the call, stabbing his half-done smoke before walking inside.

“So is he ready?” The senior partner asked Pratap, leaning back in his leather comfy chair. 

“He is frustrated from his life. I think he will.” Pratap replied with a wink and they both shook their hands.

Vishwas thought for a while about sharing the new business opportunity with his Dad that had just dropped into his lap. However, he dismissed the idea on second thought. 

“Once things are finalized and I have a clear picture, I’ll talk with Dad.” Vishwas said to himself, tapping his cell phone at his jawline.

For the rest of the night, Vishwas kept himself preparing for the interview cum meeting. Excitement and anxiety deprived Vishwas of his sleep. 

Since the first light, Vishwas couldn’t restrain his restive soul from checking his cell. Keeping himself confined to his office room, he avoided walking out in the warehouse. Around lunch break, Pratap texted him the address and wished him all the best. The meeting was scheduled at 7 p.m. Vishwas took half day’s leave and went home to get ready for his brighter future.

The office was located in one of those posh areas. Ordinary souls hindered themselves from lingering there. It was one of the best business complexes in the city. Vishwas straightened his shirt and tucked it properly. He assessed himself arranging his looks in the side rearview 3wmirror of the car parked outside before walking in. 

Once on the premises, he gave a call to Pratap. He was waiting on the top floor for Vishwas and waved a hand from the corridor. Vishwas was now standing in front of Pratap, nervousness seeping through every vein of his body.

“Ready?” Pratap asked as he held the door open for them to walk in. 

The initial pleasantries were exchanged once they were seated in the cozy chamber. Coffees were served before the discussion started. 

Baljeet Yadav aka Bobby, the senior partner of Pratap commenced the meeting. He was adorned with a heavy gold chain and a thick gold bracelet. His clothes appearance and jewellery betrayed his so-called tag of a businessman. Even a fool would run the other way rather than being confronted by a Mafia. However, Vishwas shook hands and sat opposite to him expecting to make a crackling deal to change his future forever.  

Vishwas felt a bit jumpy with Bobby’s personality looming large in front of him and the way he glared. Bobby’s eyes screened Vishwas and it made him apprehensively antsy making him shift in his chair. 

“Why do you want to join this business?” Bobby asked in a guttural voice. It bewitched Vishwas in a horrifying way. 

Vishwas took a deep breath to calm his edgy nerves and began. He narrated everything about his dreams and the type of life he longed for. He also mentioned his present job and qualifications as the only obstacles in accomplishment of his dream life.

After fifteen minutes, Bobby started his routine questionnaire. They kept on discussing the future prospects of MLM. It seemed to be the only booming bailout business to become a millionaire in five years.

Vishwas was all ears and excited too at the same time. He could see his future coming to life. This business of E-Commerce was like a potent potion for mankind’s eternal secret called successful life. In all these discussions, Pratap retained himself as a mock spectator, observing and judging  Vishwas’ reasoning, perception, emotional quotient and body language. He went out a couple of times for his smokes. 

Once done with his explanations and checking the time “I think we should head for dinner.” Bobby spoke. Pratap nodded and they three headed for the dinner in Bobby’s BMW 5 series.

Over the dinner discussion regarding the process of being the partner was discussed at length, the legal documents and all other proceedings.

“How much capital do I need to invest?” Vishwas asked keeping his fingers crossed again under the table.

“If you go with the minimum amount, 4 lakhs is the amount you need to invest. And you’ll get the international holiday package of worth that money.” Bobby smiled and dug his fork into the salad.

“4 Lakhs…?” the words felt like a sucker punch. He lost his appetite.

“Just 4 lakhs boy. And you’ll be getting 10 percent commission of the amount that every client invests.” Bobby winked and smiled. After chewing his bite, Bobby continued.

“Look at the bigger picture. You’ll be a millionaire in just 5 years. 5 crores or more in just 5 years. 4 lakhs is not even 1 percent of what you’ll be earning.” Bobby kept his fork aside and leaned forward to make his words reverberate in Vishwas’s head.

“No doubt in that sir, but I still need to have a word with my Dad regarding the finance.” Half heartened Vishwas replied. He knew that his Dad won’t be able to help him. He still hoped to give it a try.

Next day, Vishwas took a day off from his work and went home for the weekend. He sat with his Dad and discussed the new E-Commerce business. Vishwas explained to his Dad how he could be a millionaire in just 5 years. He was pretty worked up with zest tapping every part of his body with the adrenaline working its way hand in hand with his blood flow. As he kept explaining to which his Dad listened to everything with great patience. 

“Hmmm… Did you check the documents of the company? It’s registration papers and all the legal stuff which is of utmost eminence?” Vishwas’s Dad asked taking a deep breath and leaning back in his old wooden relaxing chair.

“Dad… They will give us everything once I become a partner. It’s simple and these people are very genuine. They don’t need any partners right now. In fact, it’s me who insisted on joining them and so they are making the space for me in the business.” Vishwas strived hard to convince his Dad’s orthodox mentality.

“Son, I have seen this world more closely than you. There are always genuine people who play such dirty games. And this sounds like a Ponzi scheme to me.” Vishwas’s Dad was clearly able to see far beyond Vishwas could.

“Dad, it’s not like that…” Before Vishwas could complete his sentence, his Dad interrupted him.

“If they are so genuine and they don’t need any partners right now then why they are doing it for you. Considering the bits and pieces you have given me and contemplating your relationship with Pratap I remember accurately. You two were just mere acquaintances to each other nothing like blood brothers or close chums for life.” Vishwas encountered a very valid question fired by his Dad.

“Cause I told them what I want to be in life. They are already accomplished, billionaires. There is no harm in it. Good people do exist in this world, DAD…” The discussion was turning into a heated argument with Vishwas loosing all his ataraxy.

“Son, I just voiced my experience, rest is your decision. Moreover, I’ll suggest to check every legal paper and then proceed. In regards to the financial terms, you know very well, I have pin money with the meagre pension and can’t arrange such a large sum.” Vishwas’s Dad got up and trudged out for the night walk. knowing that Vishwas was not going to consider his words.

Frustrated, Vishwas left the same night for Mumbai. He felt angry, lonely and disparaged. He kept staring at the dark sky of night glittering with the stars and his eyes shimmering with tears outside the window of the bus. He silently prayed for his stars to shine brightly in this dark night of his life.

After thinking a lot about what to do about finance, he came to a decision, to discuss the problem with Pratap. 

“Yes, I’ll call him tomorrow itself and will talk with him.” Vishwas took a deep breath and tensed mind and tired body lulled him to sleep for the night.

Next day was Sunday and he was in no hurry to go to his work. He dialled Pratap in the morning and asked him that if they both could meet.

“What happened?” Pratap asked stretching his back as he got up from his bed.

“Nothing much just wanna discuss something personal. You mind if only the two of us catch up for a while today?” Vishwas didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag yet.

“Okay, will meet you at the cafeteria near your office.” Pratap yawned and replied.

“Cool, I’ll be there in half an hour.” Vishwas said exhilarate anticipation in his voice and ended the call. 

Vishwas was at the cafeteria, waiting impatiently for Pratap. An hour of wait for Vishwas to see Pratap walking in the cafeteria seemed like eons of eternity. 

“Sorry bro I kept you waiting. It’s Sunday and I enjoy my leisure time.” Pratap winked at him and gestured the waiter to serve them coffee.

“So what was the thing you wanna discuss?” Pratap asked sipping the water.

“I talked with my Dad for the finance but you know the situation. Dad doesn’t have any ready money and my job has forced me to live from hand to mouth life.” Vishwas spoke with a heavy sigh.

“So how am I supposed to help you out in this?” Pratap knew what Vishwas expected from him. 

“Can you adjust some loan for me?” Vishwas spoke biting his tongue, not sure, whether it was the correct move.

Pratap leaned back in his chairs and thought for a while without taking his stare off Vishwas. Their coffees were served. 

“I cannot arrange that but…” Pratap kept his words deliberately hanging in the air, making Vishwas curiosity to take toll over him.

“But…?” Vishwas’s sinking heart searched for a ray of hope.

“I can talk to Bobby about it. He also owns a finance business. Maybe, he could help.” Pratap took the sip of his mocha and licked the foam from his upper lips.

“That will be such a great help bro. I won’t forget your favour till I die.” Enthralled, Vishwas just didn’t jump from his sofa.

“Hold on, hold on… I can’t assure whether Bobby will agree but I’ll try my best.” Pratap paused to sip more of his mocha and continued.

“And remember one thing clearly Vishwas… You’ll have to pay the interest against your loan.” Pratap said in a flat stern voice. 

“For sure dear, just convince Bobby to aid me financially. Please…” Vishwas had begun to pleading like a dog afore its master. They finished the coffee with some more talks about E-Commerce.

“I’ll give you the call once I have talked with Bobby, till then, hold your horses.” Pratap winked and left in his car with a storm of dust crawling behind. Vishwas took a deep breath and exhaled out all his anxiety to calm down his racking nerves.

The next two days, his enthusiasm was also clearly reflected at his workplace. Whenever his boss scolded him for any rhyme or reason, he smiled politely and kept working. His life as a salaried man seemed soon to be a past life. 

After a couple of days, Pratap called Vishwas and said.

“Bobby has agreed to finance you but the rate of interest is higher than the market rate.” 

“That’s fine bro, with our business, I will be able to pay any interest.” Vishwas was floating on air.

“Fine then, Bobby will call you in the evening. Go and meet him at his office. I won’t be there as I’m busy.” Pratap gave thumbs up to Bobby who was sitting in his chair in his office.

As scheduled, Vishwas went to meet Bobby in the evening and the ‘terms and conditions’ were discussed. The loan that Vishwas borrowed was given to him as a business loan with the third party and no name of Bobby in the documents. They signed the legal documents and shook the hands.

“Welcome to the club boy. Your time to shine starts now.” Bobby patted Vishwas’s back. 

For the next week, Vishwas was trained for four hours every evening. He learned to bag the clients and how potential leads could be converted to the clients.

The only minor detail kept in the dark was that Vishwas would get the commission only after he logs in 6 clients. Till then, he would get no commission. 

TO BE CONTINUED… 

Written by: Hemang
Sketch: Paranj Sankdecha

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