The Taj stood there- looking over the Arabian Sea- as a stark witness of India’s rise from the undermined slavery, to the independent uprising; from confused identity, to unwavering self belief; from rusticity, to sophistry. In early twentieth century a rich Indian businessman, after being refused entry into a five star hotel because he was non-white, built The Taj Mahal Palace in reply to the British who were the then rulers of India and looked at Indians with disdain. Today the twenty first century Taj having survived the infamous terrorist attack; having added The Tower Wing- which was another structure to its right- equal in capacity, hospitality, and luxury; and having established a brand name for itself world over was hosting two young entities who contributed to the economic uprise of India in their humble ways.
Ajay Sinha, CEO and major stakeholder of IndiaTech Ltd. was one of the younger fat cats of India. One reason for India’s robust economic growth was providing cheap IT solutions which, if otherwise taken from a software conglomerate would make it unaffordable to many businesses. Ajay was one brave entrepreneur who founded IndiaTech with just few friends and their meager computer systems. Now the company was a multi million dollar baby. One of the main reasons of company’s success was Ajay’s unshakable faith in its purpose in face of unrelenting adversity. He knew from the start that it wasn’t an orthodox business enterprise which, after some resistance, would emerge as victor or perish depending on its fate. He knew he would have to work for peanuts initially if not for no returns at all. It would be only after addition of cohort of cheap developers will the company taste success. But taste it will.
Today however, this positive entrepreneur in his mid thirties was rather pessimistic. He was due for a meeting with Fly India Airlines over a maintenance contract. Fly India had provided wings to India. It had an elaborate network across Indian geography and beyond and was the most preferred carrier of corporate elites for the sheer luxury it offered to its passengers. IndiaTech had been maintaining Fly India’s IT for five glorious years. But suddenly the airline considered Ajay’s company incapable of handling such a critical responsibility.
After recession hit the world economy most foreign clients had slipped into their shells postponing all development plans and withdrawing maintenance contracts.
Ajay was in desperate need of this contract except for one thing; he didn’t have the cheap labour anymore. Most software giants had dropped their prices and brought them more or less in line with Indian companies and IndiaTech after delighting over enormous success for over a decade had lost most of its dedicated workforce to newly emerging software companies. The airline was already negotiating terms with another software company which was a sister company of the airline’s itself which only made the matter worse for Ajay. But somehow if he could sustain the contract for another couple of years he could see his company through these difficult times.
Ajay dressed in a black business suite for the meeting and was accompanied by his senior manager. “Needless to say you are looking elegant sir” said the sixty year old manager. Ajay accepted it with a nod; he knew the compliment was not fake. He was indeed a handsome man and used to getting such compliments a lot. He was tall, fair, had a perfectly slanting cheekbone and jaw line. His fluffy disheveled hair were only fitting and made him look much younger than he actually was. But that hardly mattered at the moment.
The two men made their way to the sea-facing regale where meeting was held. They were received by representative’s advisers. They were brought to sit with the host and a quick round of introductions was made.
“So how does it feel to be CEO of a multi-million dollar company at this age Ajay, if I may call you so?” asked the suave and beautiful host. Aliya Ranawat, in her late twenties, was young daughter of airline’s owner. She was an MBA from Harvard and had recently been appointed as the junior manager of the company. Along with fair complexion, tender built, and big eyes she carried with her resolute authority which fully justified her post in the company.
But behind her flattering compliments Ajay could sense pitiful scorn for a CEO who was going to lose his business soon. “Of course you can,” grunted Ajay with the sternest face he could make.
Aliya continued, “So you somehow managed to bring us to the table despite our repeated denials”.
“I failed it seems”, replied Ajay “after five years of immaculate service that we provided, your company didn’t even so much as cared to send a senior manager, you know”, Ajay conjured an artificial hesitancy, “ I expected someone who could really take decisions”. Aliya’s soft demeanor disappeared in thin air as soon as she heard this. Rage began wreaking havoc in her senses; she could barely restrain herself from throwing the wine in her glass on the face of her guest. She clinched her teeth. Her lack of control was palpable on the table. “Tell me what you’ve got?” she said glowering at him.
“Our company has stood by yours for five long years. We have provided you with quick and reliant services and I believe we are very much capable of doing so for the next couple of years. And keeping in mind the fact that SCS is offering you the same services at ten per cent lower rates, we are ready to offer you that much discount” Ajay presented his argument. His manager nodded in agreement.
Aliya quickly responded, “Mr. Ajay you know our company too well to believe that it cares about your discount. We place much value in reliability and security of our data. Your company might have been reliable in the past but not any more. We have come to know the fact that you could retain only thirty percent of the employees you had a year ago.” Aliya looked straight into Ajay’s eyes, she took a brief pause. “Yes Ajay, we do know a good deal about your internal affairs. After all one should know well whom he’s dealing with, doesn't he? Although you have been able to maintain the strength of your employees but most of them are new recruits from local colleges, cheap substitutes of the workforce that originally served us. Secondly the company to which we are turning to is a sister company of ours which assures us more that our data will be in safe hands”.
“And lastly if you look at the figures, our company has grown five times in last five years while yours- in terms of employees and revenues- has grown only twice and that too in first three years. From last two, your company has stagnated Ajay. You were unable to keep up with us.” Aliya rested her argument and gestured so by keeping both her arms on the table. An awkward lull was created in the place.
Ajay waited for a moment to seep in and get settled, he finally spoke “I am impressed, you have pretty good knowledge for someone who hasn’t spent much time in the company” Ajay opened up while offering his argument which further irritated Aliya. He called her a ‘new comer’ which indicated that he still was taking her for granted. She was mad at the thought of not being taken seriously. She already owned the company, that’s what she thought. She had never been taken for granted before. How could someone reject her position so blatantly? She secretly fantasized Ajay longing for her. She couldn’t take her eyes off his neck and chest which was his only exposed skin in the suite.
Ajay’s words brought her back from her fantasy “I am sure you are too knowledgeable to deny the fact that my company has played a role in success of your company. Your IT was slow, expensive, inefficient, and costly all at the same time. We streamlined your codes; we upgraded your machines and made your system user friendly. You cannot shy away from the fact Ms. Ranawat that your company couldn’t have done this without us”. Ajay was getting aggressive as the meeting proceeded.
“And we’ve have paid you accordingly for your services Mr. Ajay”, Aliya snapped at him, trying to insult him softly in an attempt to get an upper hand. Ajay was quick on the response, “but not as much as you have benefited from us. Remember, your company grew five times but ours only two.” Ajay completely took her defense apart. She was rendered speechless. She just wanted to run away from this.
“This conversation is over Ajay,” she began wrapping her things and gestured her advisors, who didn’t prove to be of much service tonight, “you cannot cut deals today whining over the terms of yesterday.”
“This meeting was a sham, you had already made up your mind even before it began” Ajay began to winced in an attempt to make her talk again. “Have a good evening!” Aliya said while chaining her purse without any expressions and without any eye-contact. Finally she rose from her chair.
“You cannot do this to us,” Ajay lamented while watching her leave the table, she never turned back. An emotional upsurge began enveloping him. It cannot end like this. He had worked very hard making this company and he couldn’t just watch it die. Something needed be done, something needs to be done.
Aliya took an extended shower. It had been a long day for her. After a stressful day in office she had been disparaged by an IT firm CEO, much smaller than the company she would be inheriting in the future. It was too much of an insult for her. She couldn't take the word '' out of her mind. That bastard challenged my authority she thought. The more she hated him, the more passion it induced in her. She increased the pressure on shower to take her mind away but couldn't stop fantasizing Ajay begging for her mercy, asking for forgiveness, reeling under her authority; imploring, to make love to her.
Aliya finally gave up and turned off the shower. She wrapped herself in a towel without caring to dry her body. She climbed on the bed without switching on the lights; she was too scared to face the world tonight. Aliya had been an insomniac after her mother’s premature death and wasn't used to sleep before late in the night, in fact early in the morning. She groped around the pillow for remote control; she remembered that she had put it there before leaving for the meeting which anyway didn't go very well for her. After some effort she found it.
As soon as she switched on the TV she was aghast watching a silhouette construe under the light of the television. “What in the world…” she blurted trying to exercise some authority over her stalker who cut her short. “If you would keep quite and just listen you would know you are safe” said the man extending his hand into the light, pointing a gun.
She clenched her towel which was the only clothing she had, she could sense some familiarity in the voice. The stalker walked into the light revealing himself fully, in his impeccable black business suite.
“You son of a…” as soon as she recognized his offender, she felt some respite. She had judged him well, he couldn't harm her. He had too much conscience for that. “How did you manage to get in” she questioned him in fury. He chuckled “I have some influential friends in the Taj, and don’t bother about complaining after I leave, we have took lot of pain ensuring that it looks like some hallucination of yours.”
“What do you want” at gunpoint, she was still very authoritative. She got off from the bed, alert, looking for way to outsmart him. She clenched her towel tight and adjusted it to cover her curvy bosoms.
“I want you to just listen to me. You cannot just abandon my company after using it for five years. As I said you cannot deny the fact that you couldn’t have reached here without us.” Ajay was gasping, he couldn’t catch his breath. “You cannot do this to us. You have to make sure that we get the contract for next two years. My managers have all the documentation ready. All you need to do is just convince your bosses over the phone to sign this contract. As soon as they agree my manager will present the papers to them. Until those papers are signed, you will be my hostage”.
“I’ll never be able to convince them over the phone, they will want to wait till tomorrow morning in any case” replied Aliya, still wrapped only inside a towel. Television was the only light present in the room apart from dim moonlight which came from the large window that also gave away cityscape.
She could see the images in her mind somewhat come true. Ajay was in front of her, helpless, pitiful. But as the images materialized, so did the passion.
“I have all night” replied Ajay.
Aliya started moving towards him, “Ajay you are not in right state of mind, and you don’t understand I will never be able to convince them over the phone. They would want me to discuss in person over this.” Aliya inched closer, she was now standing right in front of him; Ajay firmed his grip over the gun, focussing on the aim “I am afraid you will have to die then” it was an unconvincing threat.
She started stroking his arm with one hand and gripping her towel with the other, “you cannot do this Ajay, you don’t have to do this”. She concocted her expression to show how anxious she was feeling in front of him. Ajay could no more ignore her fair, wet body. Sweet fragrance of her soap had completely enveloped the room; Ajay was feeling his grip over the gun loosening.
She started caressing his cheek her bosoms started eking out from the loosely held towel. It barely covered them now. She finally let go of the towel and held Ajay’s face in her hands, naked. Their nose was touching each other’s; their eyes locked; they could feel each other's breath.