Saturday, 7 January 2017

The salesman

The salesman.

After an hour of waiting outside, the receptionist said “You can go in”
 A young pregnant girl was accompanied probably by her husband or her lover.
I went in.
The doctor was washing his hands, after some procedure.
I had been around enough doctors to know that it was a quick scan of the fetus and he might have a vaginal examination also just to check if the head of the fetus is engaged or not. It was a routine examination.
This guy was my client for almost a decade now. He bought the drugs I sold and we had a good business relationship.
This was my third decade into the pharmaceutical sector. I knew almost everything about it.
This was the only industry in India which was growing consistently and rapidly year after year, even with all the controversies over how the big pharma companies exploited the patient, how the doctors prescribed drugs to the patients just for their incentives.
Yes, all of this was true. It was happening. The whole healthcare system was controlled by the big pharma companies.
It was all about money and control. The one who had the most capital controlled everything.
The pharma industry was extremely competitive, because you don’t need a large investment to start off. We can do it small just with a couple of common drugs but the problem was selling it. The big companies could just crush the startups by offering more incentives to the doctors. And if one made an effective, ground breaking drug then they would simply buy out the drug outright or if not they would spend the cash on R&D and make a better drug. It was only matter of time.
 The only way to succeed in this sector was huge investment or a drug which would blow out all the competitors.
It was possible.                                      
I first started a s a rep for a pharma company which was in the early stages, they had made a simple drug for fever and cold. The drug wasn’t a breakthrough with respect to its chemical formula or anything but it was launched when the pharma industry just started to bloom in the country, so they had very few competitors. So it worked. Just in a year they had made millions in revenue and today it was world’s fifth largest drug maker.
I gained a lot of experience, ten years grinding as a sales rep and made decent money but the company didn’t offer any stock options, only incentives which was ok because with that I had to keep selling to make money.
I wanted to build an empire, have my own company.
So with that I started on my own.
I started small and started as a distributor and went for the most selling drugs, the fever, cough and the gastric drugs.
With the contact is developed over the years with my doctors, it worked. I targeted the general practitioners because they were the ones who prescribe the massive amount of drugs.
My company was generating good revenue but then the second year, my doctors didn’t renew my contract. The other companies came up with better drugs and offered more incentive.
I couldn’t do that, because then my margins would be crushed and I needed capital because I was expanding to the other areas like psychiatric, respiratory drugs as well.
My revenue gradually decreased and then I went into loss within a year.
It was a rapid fall, I lost almost all of my savings.
I was in my early thirties then. So I had no other option but to become a rep again.
The next twenty years I worked under the company making the rich even richer.
Now I was fifty-five years old and today I was going to present my product to the first doctor.
The doctor wiped his hands dry and sat opposite to me in his rotating chair.
It was busy day for him and I knew he didn’t have a lot of time or the patience.
His eyes were dry; he was tired after checking on his patient.
I took out my product.
It wasn’t a drug. It was a contraceptive device. I had worked on this product for the last twenty-year s and I knew it would be a breakthrough product and change the way people conceived. It would change the whole process of performing the sexual act.
Realizing that it wasn’t a drug, the doc got interested.
He leaned forward for a closer look at my innovative product.
“Sir, I have made this new product”
I placed it on my palm.
Like any other condom it was folded flat to a small flat packet.
The only difference was that it was much more thin, it was feather light compared to the latest super thin ones.
Just to prove my point I blew, and like a feather it flew away and landed slowly on the table.
“Sir, this…….is the product of the future. This is the future of the contraceptive industry. Sir, I have worked on this for a long time and have this, it has almost no flaws. And Sir.”
I needed to demonstrate it as I explained.
I rolled it out just like any other condom.
“Sir” I ran my index finger along the smooth part.
“Sir, most of the manufactures use latex, rubber or mix it up. I have used the perfect combination of all those and have included the sheep skin also, which smoothens the surface but the drawback of spreading STDs is reduced because of the spermicidal component is have mixed. I have the perfect chemical combination sir.”
“Sir, then the interior” I rolled it inside out.
“There are microscopic groves and ridges, just to give the grip during the friction. This will reduce the chances of it slipping out. No one has this grip sir and no one can ever have it. I have patented it”
“Coming to the exterior” Rolled it back out.
I ran my fingers along the product.
“Smooth as silk sir, you won’t get a grip on that” I held it out for him to try.
He tried pulling it but slipped away.
He nodded and agreed to it.
“Sir, then come the most important part. The rim”
It was thickened portion, the starting point of the condom. The part which rested at the root of the penis once inserted.
“The thing about is……. unlike any other device……. It can be rotated Sir”
I rotated it clockwise and the latex part deflated like a balloon loosing air.
I saw that he was impressed.
“Yes Sir, the size is adjustable. Deflate or inflate” I turned it anticlockwise for the inflation. It kept rotating till the maximum. It grew almost across half across the table.
He took it from me for closer examination.
“Sir, the whole product is patented, all of it. And to top it all. It has a very high contraception rate. Other product offers 98 to 99% contraceptive rate. This is 99.5 Sir. Actually in all the subjects I have tested, no one has conceived but we have kept a 0.5 error for safety.”
He didn’t look at me once, just at my product as if it was his new love.
After about five minutes.
“Well, I have to say. Truly a revolutionary product……”
I nodded “Yes Sir”
“But the thing is this product needs to be marketed. It needs to be demonstrated and all. There a lot of things.”
He was right.
“Just give me some time. I will let you know” He handed me back the product.
He was an honest man, either he would do a deal or not. Never cheat me and also he couldn’t. It was patented.
I just needed his deal. I would offer a decent share for the investment. He had a huge hospital chain and also his endorsement would make me a millionaire overnight.
I went back that day.
Waited for a week. Nothing. Two weeks. Still nothing.
He was out of country. I took it as no deal.
I had an idea, it would cross my ethical boundaries but it would make me money.
I approached a few prostitution rings and asked them to try my product. If they like it, they would order more.
And the clients were all over it. I got the feedback that now the men wanted my product more than the girls. There were instances where they would order my product and have the pleasure alone, no girl. Just alone. My product took the pleasure level to whole another level. It would make the whole experience, the sexual act not just a pleasurable one but also it would spiritually enlighten them just how it was supposed to be.
But the best feedback I got was that the pleasure, the whole experience with my product was in fact better than not wearing anything. My product made the whole sexual act natural again. It was a barrier which destroyed the barrier of lovemaking.
That was the greatest compliment I could receive as a contraceptive maker.
And the orders came in large numbers.
I was making money on something bad. But I wasn’t the first honest guy who didn’t get rewarded for his hard work and turned bad.
And in this, I couldn’t get arrested. I wasn’t running the ring. I was just the provider of the contraceptives.
Legally it was ok. I didn’t want it this way but I was making money and I count penetrate the healthcare industry after so many attempts.
I made a lot of money for about a few months.
Then I got a call.
It was from a huge pharma company.
They wanted to buy my product.
By word of mouth my product had reached everywhere though officially I didn’t start a company.
The sum they offered was huge. I would be a billionaire. The offered me stock also.
I had two choices, either continue like this, start my own company or sell it.
I just took ten seconds to reach a decision. I would sell it. That would make sense.
I could have all the money in the world and just relax for the rest of my life. I was done with grinding it out. God finally rewarded me for my hard work.
It’s never too late or early to start. You never know when your time will come.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The girl child

The girl child.

It was girl. The ultrasound scan clearly showed it. I was really disappointed.
Not because I hated the girl child but because I had to somehow manage to hide it from the parents of the child.
There was no way they would let it come out to the world alive.
Actually any other hospital, it wouldn’t have been a problem keeping in mind the PCPNDT act. The act was strictly implemented by the Government in 1994 for prevention of sex determination during pregnancy mainly to control the epidemic of aborting the girl child which was happening both in rural and urban India. The act was modified many times later, making it safer for girl child by implementing restrictions on doctors and harsh punishments on the medical personnel if they revealed.
A doctor could be sentenced to a year even if he/she reveals the sex of the baby by mistake or due to some error. The act was getting stricter but the mindset of people still didn’t change.
And now I was the victim of it.
I had just been shifted to the Government hospital in this small village and sex determination was a common practice here.
The previous doctors had given up on the ethics and reveled the sex of the child, if it was a boy there was no problem but if it was girl then the abortion was also done. They mad e a little extra cash on that.
It was unethical, unprofessional and a crime but it was happening.
It was the mindset of the people that has to change.
Now I was in that situation.
I was dealing with most powerful family of the village. They were powerful, influential and dangerous.
The father was like King, he had five sons all of them in politics and big time goons.
There was no one who would even dare question me. The eldest son’s wife was dealing with her third pregnancy.
The first were aborted for the same reason. This was the first child and they wanted a boy at any cost.
The wife was six months into her pregnancy and it was a girl. I felt so bad for her.
She was just twenty years old and already suffered a lot of pain, I knew it personally considering I had a still birth once. I didn’t have any kids after that and I got divorced. I felt it was better if I lived alone and saved lives. I was adjusted to this life.  
But for the girl, this was her third one in three years. She wasn’t strong enough to carry her child but the family wanted a boy and they wouldn’t stop till they got one, if not from her then some other girl.
They didn’t care about the girl, all they wanted was a boy.
In the scan room only the two of us.
I wasn’t supposed to tell and I had refused many times before.
But they had threatened to kill me the previous day. They wanted the scan to be done immediately.
There was no way out. I knew I couldn’t fight them.
The men were waiting outside.
I went to the girl “It is a girl” I whispered.
She was heartbroken, she hit her head to the bed as she was lying down and tears rolled down her face. She tightly shut her eyes and mouth, making no noise. She didn’t want her family to know it.
“Its ok……” maybe it was the first time someone actually cared about her.
She hugged me tightly and cried on my shoulders. I understood her pain.
I let her cry.
“Now listen……. don’t tell this to them ok. This is between us.”
She looked at me, her eyes and cheeks red looking at me like I was an angel who was going to save her from the pits of hell.
“I will tell them it is a boy and that the ultrasound report shows it. I will make a fake report”
She wiped her tears.
“But they won’t let my girl live one day as soon as they find out.” She started weeping again.
“Yeah, we will do something before that. I will do something. Just make sure they don’t find out”
Just then a boy entered the room, he was a teenager.
“They want to know if it is over” he asked.
He was their maid.
“No……. we need some time” I said covering the girl.
But he had understood already.
“It’s a girl isn’t it” he found out.
“No….it is a boy. No please go out. I need some time to finish my examination.”
“Don’t worry……. I won’t tell them. I know they’ll kill it.”
He came closer to us.
“She has been like a sister to me. No matter what she was suffering, no matter how much they beat her she never scolded me once. She has treated me like her brother. I know her suffering. She doesn’t deserve to be treated like this. She is a strong woman and I want her to give birth to the girl child and I will do anything possible to make it happen”
Suddenly the door broke open and the brother came in.
“What is happening here.” The youngest and the most muscular one looked at the young boy.
“I asked to inform us and you idiot….” He slapped the boy hard across his face. The slap was so hard that the boy fell to the ground.
He slowly recovered with his hand on his right ear, I noticed blood oozing from the ear.
I could imagine how much they punished the young girl.
“What is it” he asked.
“It is a boy” I said nervously.
“Are you sure” the elder one confirmed.
“Yes, I have the scan with me and the report will be ready in ten minutes”
They all looked at me suspiciously and then the younger brother smiled.
He bought it.
“Finally” he laughed and hugged his brothers.
There were immediate celebrations. Sweets were got there and all were happy. Not one of them thanked the girl who was carrying the child.
“Now take care of yourself. Make sure she eats healthy. That boy is the future of our family” the eldest commanded.
The celebration would continue.
I prepared the reports. They were all fake. I would be arrested and stripped of my medical license if I was caught.
The brothers left eventually.
“Listen just take care of yourself. Don’t let them find out. We will find a solution to this together. I am there for you. Ok” I had made this my life mission to deliver the girl child to this world make sure she grows up to become a strong woman like her mother.
She wiped her face and nodded.
She was temporarily safe.
“We will figure something out. I will do something. We still three months with us to come up with something.”
I wiped her face and hugged her again.
“Just do what they tell you. You will do just fine. Everything will be ok.”
She left to her house.

That night lying in bed, all I could think was how to save the mother and the child from her family.
Maybe the best method would be to escape outside the village. That was the only effective way out of this.
A week later, while reading the newspaper.
I saw a front page photo of a familiar face in handcuffs, arrested taken away by the police officials. The photo wasn’t clear because the photographer was shoved away by the huge crowd which had gathered.
The headline read “A young house worker poisons the most powerful family of the village except a girl”
It was the young boy who worked in their house. He had poisoned the whole family. He was now considered a criminal and by the law he was. He had committed a crime.
He would be sentenced for life or at least many years behind bars.
I could provide some help by saying that they physically and mentally harassed him along with the girl. I had the reports of previous abortions also but it there were a lot of loopholes.
The case would be tough.
But the boy, he sacrificed his life for a girl, in a place where people never considered women at all, their existence considered as a weakness, a burden. This young boy stood against it. He did the wrong thing for the right reason.
The girl was safe now but it didn’t have to be this way. The whole struggle, the suffering everyone had to go through for one girl child to come out to the world, it had to change and that was what I wanted to do in the future.
It was all in the mindset and that needed to change.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

The climb for God

The climb.

Ten years, since i last stepped inside our 200 year old ancestral spirit temple. gush of scorching black smoke and yellow powder struck my face, causing painful tears to roll down.
My mother being very religious and superstitious, even all her five elder brothers were devoted to and worshipped the Family God. Our family God according to them is a deity who has the body of a man but the strength and the face of a wild boar. There was one stone idol of the face of the wild boar with tusks made of pure old, then there was the sword, jeweled head gear, the silk red cloth, about twenty coconuts and banana leaves all placed in the main prayer room. There were many other things which I didn’t know what but I knew they were very important for the God when he would take control over the human body and visit our family and clear all our issues.
And not everybody is able to handle to power of the God, only men who have been doing these practices could do it. For us we had our man and from our family. Distant relative.
He was called Bijju by everyone. He was an old man in his mid-forties, he was a farmer nearby, so he was a strong man. He had a perfect chest but due to his excessive drinking habit, he had a huge potbelly. It somehow didn’t fit with the other parts of his body.
He had long, thin, grey hair which he tied to a bun on top of his head. He chewed tobacco throughout and his teeth were rotting away.
“Hi mama” I hugged my second eldest uncle. I touched his feet for blessings.
“Finally, I am very happy that you have come here. The God will surely shower you with blessings. And in fact you are the next head of this house. It is your responsibility now.” he said.
For now, he was the head of the house and the main person. He had to conduct the rituals and the everything required his consent and also his assistance. With this came a lot a power and responsibility just like any other post.
It was actually my eldest uncle who had first become the head but then many years ago during one of the rituals where he had to carry the God idol across the hallway and wash them with our well water. The powers form the idol seemed to have too much for him and he started shaking badly. He couldn’t handle it. His body was vibrating, he was having seizures and he was the taken to the hospital. He was unconscious for two days. The doctors couldn’t explain it but they said that there was too much neurochemical simulation taking place which cause him seizures.
After that he took a back seat in the family.
Even though people respected him like before but I could see he wasn’t very proud of what happened. He knew people considered him unworthy.
I was future, since I was the only boy from my mom’s side. She was the only girl and I was the next blood.
For the next two hours I met all of my family. It was great seeing all of them. It brought back all the happy times when we used to live together in one house. That was when my grandparents were alive. They were the glue which kept us together but then after their demise all of them shifted to different cities and houses. So we weren’t inn touch like before. And me I went to the UK to do my post-graduation in internal Medicine.
The preparations were in full flow finally when the sun was high in the sky, it was time.
Bijju was ready, so was our family.
A young dark man, he was ripped up presented a cup of water to Bijju.
He poured the water to his hair, let his hair down and cleared off the excess.
Then folding his hands, and touching the ground he went to the prayer room.
He would put all he rings, the crown and then invite the God into his body.
He put on the ring, put the red powder across his forehead. He slowly placed the tusk head on his head, it only covered head with his face still visible. Then finally he took the sword.
He touched it to his forehead and then came out to the huge courtyard where everyone was there.
He stood at the center and we were standing along the sides.
My uncles, my mother, me and the important people at the front.
Bijju stood there quiet and after a few seconds it started.
His legs started quivering, then his hands then his arms and finally he was shaking.
The frequency kept increasing every second, and reached a peak where it was almost seizures. For those few seconds, he was very violent. He threw his arms all around and danced around in very haphazard manner.
He pulled his assistant who was carrying a fire torch with him closer. He needed the het, the energy for the fire. The fire was touching his body but surprisingly he didn’t finch, he kept it close to his chest.
After that he ran up and down the stair of our entrance. He drank about ten coconuts or more. It required a lot of energy, he was sweating like crazy. The floor had become so slippery that he himself tripped over and fell badly but quickly recovered. It didn’t even affect him. Nothing hurt him.
Then finally he settled at the center of the court, the coconut and fire supply was continuous.
He performed the Pooja and now was ready to solve the family issues, like if any one of the member had health, wealth or other issues.
One of them passed on to the guy who would ask it for all of us.
First one was of my third eldest uncle. He had chronic kidney dysfunction and needed a transplant. He was trying for a donor but was having a hard time but now he had two choices, both of them out of country. His doubt was which country.
One was Sri Lankan, other was Egypt. It was relatively easier to get a donor because of my father’s contacts.
So we asked him that. He didn’t even take time and said Egypt is where he should go.
No one objected. Now no matter what we had to do it in Egypt even if it was more expensive and less safe.
Then came a few wealth problems from other uncles. They were all businessmen and wanted to expand their business.
Solution was given to each. One had to go to some hill temple, other had to shave their head and offer gold. It was manageable.
We had a lot of problems in our family.
So finally the God decided to offer a general solution to all of this.
“This family, is encountering very difficult times now. There is a bad presence over the family and it is affecting everyone. So for this there is one solution”
All of us waited.
“First offer me the blood of fifteen health chicken right now”
My uncle immediately ordered it and the chicken were brought. We had a chicken farm by the side of the house itself.
After this, there was a dinner arranged where we would get the best cooked chicken curry. That was the best chicken ever. Nowhere did I taste such chicken.
Fresh, tender, spicy gravy with the boiled rice will always be the best meal for me.
The god, took one of the chicken alive in his hands and then bit off the head with his teeth. Raw. The blood poured out on the floor. The god opened his mouth and drank the blood. The second was ready before he finished the first and this kept going till he finished all fifteen. Blood was all over the floor.
God rotated his head around like he was getting impatient. There were some feathers stuck in his teeth, chicken blood all over his face and body.
“He is still thirsty” the assistant said.
“Get me coconut water” the God said.
Immediately got the coconuts.
“No……Not that I need the water specifically from that tree” he pointed to the famous family tree outside the house.
That tree had been there since my childhood and our family worshipped it. It is considered that our ancestors take shade in that tree and that tree provided our family with all the necessities. So it was very sacred.
Ok, the assistant got ready.
“No, I want the eldest in the room to get it for me”
That was crazy. The eldest can’t walk properly and the God expects that person to climb the tree.
It was crazy but no one questioned.
“Please, do it fast, the God is getting thirsty” the assistant announced.
And the eldest one was my eldest uncle.
He had severe arthritis and was in his early sixties.
“Mama, he can’t. He has arthritis. It is too risky” I told my uncle.
“Yes, but” he knew it was wrong but he couldn’t do anything.
But he decided to try. It was a question of life. It was too risky.
“He is too old” my uncle tried.
The assistant raised his hand to stop talking. The god didnt react. His decision was final.
Everybody kind of panicked. But my uncle was ready. He wanted to prove himself.
I held my uncle “It is too risky for you. Don’t do it. It’s not worth hurting yourself. Let someone else do it.”
“The God has asked me to do it. I have to fulfill his wish, he is thirsty. Otherwise bad things will happen to this family. I can’t let that happen. Don’t worry”
“But your body is not that state to climb a tree. You will injure yourself if you fall from that height. Listen, let me send someone else.”
He knew it was dangerous. He was a very emotional person and I knew he would do it save his family.
HE pushed me aside and walked to the tree.
We all went outside to witness the climb.
Our whole family watched him as he took his shirt off.
It was crazy, our family watching one of us hurt himself.
The people tied a turban to his head and then a cloth attached to his legs for grip.
He used to climb in his younger days but now I knew he couldn’t. Not with his arthritic knee.
He started.
First he hopped on the tree, slipped the first two times but finally found the grip.
The sole of his legs were on the tree and the hands pulled him up as he hugged the tree.
He was doing it fine.
It was good. He slowly climbed to the top.
His technique was good but I noticed that he had to strain a lot with each hop and the tree was very tall.
But he did it, he reached the top.
He raised his right hand and plucked out the coconuts and let it fall to the ground. There was a net placed to catch them.
“Thank God” I was happy.
After ten coconuts, the God raised his hands signaling it was enough.
“That is enough” the assistant screamed.
Uncle sopped plucking and began the descend.
The coconuts were immediately given to the God who drank all of them one by one.
The focus was shifted to the God.
Uncle was still descending; I could see he was exhausted.
He was breathing heavy and hugged the tree tight.
His legs were slipping; he couldn’t get the grip.
“Someone help him” I shouted.
All of them realized that uncle was struggling to come down.
One of the men started climbing up, I didn’t know for what. It was useless, he couldn’t carry uncle down.
I told them to get a bigger net.
But suddenly, uncle lost his grip.
He slipped and fell off the tree.
Directly to the ground.
We heard a loud thud as he hit the ground.
I rushed to the spot.
He had landed directly on his head on hard ground, his skull was broken open and his brain were visible.
He was not even moving.
I didn’t believe it.
My uncle was no more.
This was a preventable accident. I could have prevented it. My family didn’t do anything about it.
Our whole family was to blame for this.
All of us stood around the body, weeping. It was our fault.
The God was finally satisfied with the chicken and the coconut water but we had lost one of our own.
Our superstitious beliefs and rituals had cost us a life of a family member.
We couldn’t blame anyone for what happened, it was our choice.
The God couldn’t bring him back to life.

Peace treaty

Peace treaty. Faint pink light traversed through the clear sky, forming thin rectangular strips across her brown eyes, transfixed at t...