Sunday, February 22, 2009

Greed is good

"The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms - greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge - has marked the upward surge of mankind, and greed - you mark my words - will not only save Teldar Paper but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you"

- Gordon Gekko, Wall Street.

This is one of my favorite movie quotes, immortalized by Michael Douglas as the ruthless Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street.

We often attribute the current global crisis to greed, which is true to an extent. Often people are taught to be free of greed for they believe greed to be root cause of most of the evils plaguing this world (which is partly right!). But then, isn't it the same greed that has made us reach where we are right now, compared to where we were a century ago - for most of the development we have seen has been a result of this greed.

Maybe, Ayn Rand will agree!
___

For more quote from the movie - http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Wall_Street

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Downhill

That was the last of the drink left, and he gulped it down. They had finished it all. Had there been more booze, they would have gulped it too. It was around 3 in night, but then there was still a lot left in the night. The lights in the city below had faded along ago but it still looked beautiful. After all, the beauty of the city was not dependent on light. And from this place, located uphill somewhere amidst wilderness, human settlement was the last thing that could have come to their mind. But in the end, that was where they all had to go to. They walked back to their cars and planned to head back to their hotel, which was some 20 km away at Shimla.

They were a group of 7 people - all college friends out on a trip to Shimla to celebrate the last extended weekend before getting out of the B-School. One of the guys had a car and all crammed into it and headed for the vacation. The owner of the car, Chandru as the fondly called him was too drunk to drive. But he had often been too drunk to drive, but that was never a cause of concern. He was an experienced person in drunken driving. Rest assured he would ensure that they reached their hotel rooms safely.

The safe ride was suddenly halted by a sharp, loud voice which would probably have echoed even miles away in the wilderness.

"Stop"
They didn't.
"Stop. What are you doing?"

One of them barked and blocked the car.

Chandru stopped, despite receiving repeated warnings from Shreya that they were just local goons; goons who treated the local visitors at that time of the day as an ATM, as a means of generating fast cash. Shreya, one of the two females of the group had stayed in Shimla for major part of her life and knew that area very well. She knew that local goons often reached there and harassed those very few people traveling at night. They were 8 of them … probably 9 ... or 10. They had sticks with them. Any maybe inside their pockets was some gun or something.

“Damn!” Chandru thought. “We are screwed”.

Same thought was echoed by everyone, each unsure of what lay in store in the times ahead.

It was Shreya who suggested that place so that they could chill out there on that cliff and have a party amidst nature with full view of the towns they had left below. They had been there since last 4 hours and did not want to leave, but for the stock of booze getting over. They wished to stay in that moment forever but then, there are many moments one wishes that lasted forever. And time always disappoints on this front!

But it was not a time to think about all these when they had a larger problem on hand.

“We are forest officers. How dare you wander into this area at night? Do you have the necessary permit from the government or forest department?”

“No … We never knew …”

“Shut up you bugger … You have encroached into this wildlife area. You know the penalties? You know the seriousness of the crime and the resulting consequences? Let us go to the police station. There only it will be decided what to do with you guys. The inspector sahib will decide. Let them call your parents and then decide what to do”

They went aside to discuss the future course of action, which had already been decided long before they reached there. They were following the same tried and tested formula. But for the group inside the car, it was all completely new experience altogether.

That would have been quite scary – going to police station and all. But they knew it would not happen. They knew that it was the background building for a larger goal – The larger goal being to earn some quick bucks. Two of them came out to negotiate with them. But then, safety was a prime concern. These men could have done anything. Maybe, they all could not even see the next morning.

Damn! How they had landed into this deep shit!

“How much money you need?” Aditya asked as if he was ready to offer a blank cheque.

“See … You can be imprisoned for five years and charged with non- bailable offence."

After a pause he as if saying something prophetic, uttered -

"So it is given that you will have to shell out quite a good sum”

“I know it is going to be a good sum or whatever ... Just tell me how much … I don’t give a damn …”

“There are just the goons … Why are we paying them … Just go away …”

No one paid any heed. There were better things to do.

“Ten thousand”

“Sir, we don’t have that much money … We are students ... We don’t keep that much money”

This statement resulted in a slap, although that mustached goon was quite pleased to hear the word 'sir'. But then, he had to maintained the facade that he was an upright forest officer! Even he was too drunk to realize the details of whatever he said

“Sir, we will pool out whatever we have and give it”

His proposal was also shot down. Chandru and Rohan went aside to negotiate the ransom amount whatever they called it. Each demand was met with inability to pay that much. Finally, after a long round of negotiations they settled for five thousand bucks.

They pooled in the money and somehow managed to reach that figure.

They had some more, but did not want to reveal it, but were ready to shell that out had need been.After paying the money they demanded service charges @ 10%. Hey paid it willingly.

They were too scared to be even reluctant, let alone oppose it. They were amused and scared or whatever the right set of emotions were, as the goon mentioned the term “service charges”.

Finally they let them go after a parting good bye slap, though few of the gang members were protesting not to let these big fish off so easily. But then, group leader always prevails and all were let off.

What a relief!

In their way back, they were still a bit drunk after that hour and a half long break. In few minutes time the first signs of morning would arrive and all this would be just like any bad dream - a dream which they would like to follow; a dream which they would look back to an smile; dream which taught quite a few lessons.

But there were still few miles before reaching the town and catching on with some sleep. As of now they were quite scared and reaching back safely was the only priority. On the next right turn they could spot a few uniformed men. It was some routine check point. They had seen it while going uphill. They crossed it without looking much scared. The policemen smiled as they drove past.

The faces seemed vaguely familiar. But, were they the same people whom they met an hour earlier? Or was it the fear that made every such face appear similar?

Whatever! It was all scary, but they had crossed the final hurdle now. They had nothing to worry about now.