Story No. 8 : REWARD

Ritesh sets the alarm clock at 5 in the morning. He is to accompany his MD to Mumbai at a financial product launch. Now it is almost 10 o’clock. It is time for him to go to bed and take ample rest before the next day’s hectic program. In fact, the product his company is going to launch is Ritesh’s brain child. He has been in the financial market for the last 5 years and understands its nitty-gritty very well. No more thinking otherwise he will not be able to sleep much tonight. He switches off the lamp and closes his eyes. He falls asleep soon enough.

The alarm bell rings. Ritesh stops the alarm and gets up. Today is his most important day of his life. The company is heavily dependent on his new product launch. If it works, a lot of money could be raised from the market and that would wipe out the losses. If it does not work, a lot of people would be laid off, and who knows, Ritesh may be one of them.

Ritesh did not want to leave anything to chance. He rehearsed his presentation 10 times and got all the financial projections in place. By 5.30 he was ready to go to the airport and called for a taxi. He called up his M.D. saying that he was heading for the airport. The MD said that he has cancelled his trip and instead, the Chairperson would be there. This development was so unexpected that it took him some time to absorb the impact. Ritesh never felt at ease in the company of a lady and that too their Chairperson! He was facing challenges but he had to win as the life of so many of his colleagues depended on him.

Ms. Shilpi, who became the Company's Chairperson very recently on the demise of her father was a stranger to him. Ritesh had seen her only once on the day when she took charge of the company. His thoughts came to a halt when the taxi driver blew the horn to announce his arrival. His thoughts continued even as the taxi raced towards the airport. Before getting down from the taxi, Ritesh combed his hair, set his tie properly and picked up his briefcase. He then walked to the counter. There she was. Ritesh raised his hand and signalled that he had come. After completing initial formalities, they boarded the plane and sat side by side. After a few minutes, announcements were made with security instructions for the passengers. The plane took off.
For a few minutes a stoic silence prevails. Ritesh takes out his notes on the presentation and starts glancing through them. But his mind is absent. He feels a sweet fragrance wafting from the next seat. It is so soothing that he thinks he is dreaming. Shilpi softly asks “Ritesh, are you ready for the presentation”? Yes Madam. You see, Shilpi explains her position, “I do not much understand financial projections but I can tackle human resources to the best of their potential. I have been seeing you for quite some time in our company. What is your designation? I am Manager-Product Development. O.K. Shilpi replies in a matter of fact manner. And how do you find our company? Shilpi continues.

Yes, I am quite satisfied and enjoying the work freedom that the company has given me. You see, Ritesh replies, you might be knowing, the financial product we are going to launch today, is the result of this freedom. Of course other colleagues have also helped me in this venture. Shilpi smiles and nods her head in agreement. Ritesh feels a subtle recognition has already come to him and he resolves to continue his hard work till his company makes a good name in the financial market. There were some silent moments between them. Ritesh could hear the soft spoken air hostess distributing breakfast to the passengers.

He closed his eyes and the aroma of the sweet fragrance Shilpi had applied to her body, slowly enveloped him. Perhaps he was enjoying the proximity of a beautiful lady who was so nice to her. He starts to remember the aunt who used to live next door in his native place when he was a small boy. She was very fond of Ritesh as she had no child and Ritesh used to fill that vacuum. The struggle for existence makes one forget those sweet memories of life because life is not always that sweet. It comprises of all kinds of tests. Ritesh was deeply enjoying those moments of life while the time was flying by. With the announcement that the plane was about to land in Mumbai, Ritesh became aware of his surroundings.

Both of them came out of the plane. The company sent a car for the Chairperson and Ritesh had to fend for himself. Before parting Shilpi offered Ritesh a lift in her car if he did not mind. It was an offer Ritesh could not refuse. The Mercedes Benz is a unique car. The ride to the hotel was a smooth drive. Somehow Ritesh was not feeling free in the presence of Shilpi, not because she was the company’s Chairperson but because she is a lady. Ritesh wanted to get out of her presence but it was not to be. The moment they got down at the hotel, Ritesh requested her to let him go and see a friend of his in Mumbai and promised that he will be reaching the venue of the presentation on his own. Shilpi let him go but told Ritesh to take the car and pick her up on time for the presentation ceremony. Ritesh felt helpless. However he said ‘all right.’

In the car Ritesh thought over the matter. Is Shilpi doing him a favour? It looked like she was. Ritesh feels a soft corner for her. However, he has no time now to think about that. Before him is the presentation to be conducted in front of the Financial Experts and then the Press Conference. He uses his mobile to call his friend, Prashant. He was at home and waiting for Ritesh’s arrival before going to office.
Two friends meet after a long time. In fact, Prashant is from his native place. Ritesh is in Delhi and Prashant in Mumbai. Ritesh invites him to the presentation at 11.00 a.m. Prashant agrees to come to the presentation for a brief period as he is also busy with some account closing work. Prashant’s mother invites Ritesh for a cup of tea which Ritesh could not refuse. Prashant’s mother broached the subject of his marriage but he by passed it by saying that today is a very important day for him, career wise.

He seeks her blessings by touching her feet. She blesses him by saying ‘May God bring success, prosperity and good health to you’. As time was running out Ritesh had to rush to the Hotel to pick up Shilpi. In the meantime, Shilpi had a bath and in her business suit, she was looking gorgeous. For a few minutes Ritesh was dumb founded. He remembered the saying that women are the marvel of creation, she is the blooming flower in the garden of life that breathes perfume all around. How true Zarathusthtra was.

He came to his senses when Shilpi touched him softly saying ‘will you continue to look at me or get into the car’ Ritesh felt embarrassed and quietly got into the car and closed his eyes. To break the ice, Shilpi asked Ritesh whether he was ready for the presentation. Ritesh replied very shortly ‘Yes’ Even now it was difficult for Ritesh to shake off his thoughts of her. Shilpi cheered him up saying ‘Ritesh, you will have enough time later on to think. Now it is time to remember your presentation.' Ritesh nodded his agreement.

Ritesh was very systematic. He had his laptop with him and the presentation was ready in Microsoft Power Point. His job was to explain the product more elaborately and conduct the question answer session. He had rehearsed everything a number of times earlier. He had no fear. But he experienced a different kind of a feeling and he did not know what it was.

They were at the Financial Centre where the presentation was to take place. The Mumbai office had already arranged all the logistics and Ritesh only had to find a computer connection. It was 10 minutes before the presentation. There were about 50 people representing financial Institutes in Bombay and people from Stock Exchange, the brokers, from from SEBI were also invited. The Press was there representing, The Financial Express, The Economic Times, The Business World and other papers.

At 11.00 in the morning the presentation began. Ritesh used all his skills to explain the Mutual Fund his company was launching and the benefits common investors would accrue. He also explained how the corporate world could also invest in the bulk purchase of the Fund @ Rs. 10/- at par. Ms. Shilpi as Chairperson of the Company told the gathering how his father built up the goodwill of the company and she appreciated the hard work done by Ritesh and his colleagues in launching this Mutual Fund. Then the press asked a number of questions and Ritesh replied to them, one by one. The programme ended with lunch for all the invited guests.

Shilpi stayed in Mumbai for a few more days to attend to certain matters for discussion with Board of Directors of the Company. Ritesh had to come back to the Delhi office immediately after the programme. But Shilpi offered his car to drop Ritesh at the airport and wished him all the best.

In the next few days, the Mutual Fund was in great demand in the market and before the expiry date, it was oversubscribed 10 times. Rithesh was promoted to become the Company's Vice President - Product Development.