Oct 29, 2008

Episode ei8ht

If you are new to this story, do not start here. Go to the Index and Introduction page.

, Warney was assuming charge. 'I'm sure Muthu, and maybe even some others, will try to hit on you in there. Junta are drunk, and you are more popular than you think.'
'Really?', Preeti had been a little reluctant to get back to the party when she was in this kind of blue mood, but Warney had been adamant. But she was already feeling better, and was getting back to her usual sharp, perky self. 'You think I don't know how "popular" I am around here?! I have grown up being "popular" everywhere. I can handle it.'
'I'm sure you can. But at this time, you don't need any of that shit.'
Preeti was silent. He'd made his point.

'We go in there, you stay with me. We'll dance together. I'll make sure no one tries anything silly.' He paused. 'Don't misunderstand me. I'm not trying to be your boyfriend, even if it looks that way to others. I'm just being a friend, and I'm looking out for you.'

Preeti was touched by the consideration the geek was showing, way out of character. 'I know, Deep. In case you haven't realized yet, I trust you. But are you cool with people thinking we're a pair? We won't be able to keep it up very long.' And then you might look silly, she didn't say.

'I don't care right now. You're my friend, and this is what's needed.'
'Besides, I think I'll quite enjoy having everyone jealous of me for once', he added with a big grin a few seconds later.

They went in and danced together, deliberately keeping away from everyone they knew. They looked good together. He started off with some Bhangra, and she matched his moves. Then she led with some salsa-jive-type stuff, and Warney kept up with some improvisations. Soon, they were encircled by people applauding and cheering. They really looked damn good together...


'Deep, Preeti - both of you please come to my cubicle.' Shubh looked serious, and impatient as usual. Our "couple" had no idea what this was about - they weren't working together on anything, and weren't aware of recent leads. Whatever it was, it was serious and was probably going to mean a lot of pressure for the next few days.

'There's a conference in Singapore - Consumer Banking in Emerging Markets. It's going to be attended by all the big guns from the world over. KVK has been invited to deliver a talk. Since he's going, we all also need to send some good entries for the conference, and hope that 1-2 from ICICI Bank get selected. I want you two to work on one entry.'
Warney and Preeti were taken by surprise, and neither knew what to say when Shubh looked at them.
'Any ideas? Come on!'

Warney spoke after thinking for a minute. 'Shubh, we've recently conducted that survey and I've also done some face-to-face interviews with customers. The big finding was - they don't trust private banks. Even though we offer better products, professional service, higher interest rates, multiple-channel access though high-end technology - they don't trust us with their life savings. They keep some amount with us, which they can easily access through debit cards etc., or to cover their loan repayments, but not the life-savings.'
'So you're saying that's a big challange in developing markets - educating customers and changing their mindset. Interesting.'

'In fact - we could even mention other products. Coca-Cola has had problems in India. People say deodorants cause cancer, shampoo damages hair... but we've adopted cellphones faster than anyone else. So, basically, people don't trust Western concepts. We need to create something new to win here.'
'Excellent! But do one thing - start with this background of how people here don't trust Western concepts. Then talk about the challenges this translates into - for Banks.'
'Right, makes sense.'

'One issue', Preeti spoke for the first time druing the exchange. 'You'e talking only about India. Wouldn't it be better if we could talk about something more general - so that it's relevant to the entire developing world.'
'India is almost half the developing world', Shubh cut her, 'and everyone wants to enter India, if they aren't already here. Others have come, but not been very successful. So, we can talk about India only, and that's enough.'

Preeti didn't look convinced. Shubh thought for a moment, then added. 'Do one more thing. Do some research on other developing markets. Look for anecdotes or publications that talk about similar phenomena there. If we can prove that what's happening in India - broadly - is what's happening in other developing markets also, that solves the problem. Then we can have a detailed discussion about our Indian experiences, and assume that it's relevant everywhere.'

'One more thing', Shubh was almost done, and this would be some general gyan.
'This doesn't mean you guys don't have to do your regular work. Business can't be de-prioritized. So, make the extra time for this research. Stay late, or work weekends... whatever. You're young, and this is a good opportunity for you to expand your knowledge.'


'How do you wanna do this?', Preeti asked Warney, as she always did.
'Jaan le lega yeh humari. I did the survey, so I'll start building some material from there. You can start the desk research on other markets. Tumhara hi idea tha. Ab karo!'
'Come on, karna hi hai to theek se karte hain.'
'OK. Today's Tuesday. Let's work on this whenever we can till Friday, and review on Saturday, aaram se.'


Warney and Preeti went through all their material and prepared a document to share with Shubh on Monday. It was 4:30 in the evening. They decided to head off to Mocha at Juhu for some well-deserved coffee.

'I want to go the beach', said Preeti just as they were nearing Mocha.
'Ok. Let's do that, then.'

They went up to the edge of the waves and sat down. Warney thought about sitting next to Preeti. He'd done that in Goa, and they were close enough now. But somehow, it felt too "forward", and he settled down about 3 feet away from her. This was perfectly symbolic for the state of their relationship - two of them were together at the beach on a saturday evening with no one around, but sitting 3 feet apart.

Warney's phone rang. It was Charu, his little-sis.
'Bhaiya, Dr. Grewal and his wife were here for lunch. They've just left. Mom and dad were talking about you and their elder daughter.'
'What? What do you mean talking about "me and her"?'
'Are they out of their minds? I'm not ready for marriage yet. I'm working crazy hours, and my boss is still trying to kill me and might succeed. Why'd they want to ruin an innocent girl's life?'
'Stop kidding. They're seriously considering this rishta. If you want out, better prepare your reasons. I think they'll talk to you at night.'
'But that girl's a doctor. And I'm a young banker, which means a slave. We can't live together. Our lives will have totally different directions. And I've only met that girl once - when I was in class 11. What makes them think we can be happy together?'
'I agree. In my opinion, the misfortune of marrying you shouldn't befall ANY woman. But I'm warning you. Be prepared, and be careful.'
'Ok, thanks chhoti'

Preeti had heard most of that, and had an amused look on her face. 'So, Warney's gettin married?'
'No freakin way! I'm just a kid. I'm sure chhoti's kidding.'
'Yeah yeah! Denial!'
'Screw that. I don't even wanna talk about it. So, do you have any siblings?'
'Nope. I'm the apple of my parents' eyes! Spoilt silly.'
'Yeah right. You're one of the most mature and level-headed women I know.'
'Sweety, how many women DO you know? 4? 6?'
'That's mean!'
'Sorry. Well, yeah - I'm a weird combination of spoilt brat and tough-girl. I guess that happens when your parents dote on you, but give you enough independence to learn your lessons outside. College really toughened me up.'

Her phone rang. It wasn't a "saved" number.
'Hello?'.... 'Hiiiiiieeeee!!!'

Preeti turned to Warney and whispered 'Arjun'. Then she got up and walked away, happily chatting away on the phone...

Continued here


  1. Dude, this episode ALMOST turned into a filler.

    She said, "Faster! Faster! the Lights Are Turning Red.".

  2. I liked the narrative..nice style you've got..this story can be made into a nice sweet lil Bollywood film:-)