Stuart Temple rushed into his office. He felt alive. Things were looking good. Working at Deloitte had given him an unmistakeable aura. Visiting some of the developing countries was tough. He had to put up with bad food, unbearable stenches, half hungry naked children, and the never ending stream of people he had to meet – each one vying with the other to nice to him…………Deloitte president!!!
Stuart had no illusions about where the respect came from. People thought he was white and influential. This got him more attention than a mini skirt and blonde hair. Of course, the kind of attention varied – people hesitated to touch him, in case they passed on some of their native characteristics him. More than himself, the locals were inordinately careful about keeping him on a pedestal. They were keen to protect him from themselves and they did this with disarming ingenuity.
He considered Venkat, from his recent visit to the capital of India, Delhi. Venkat looked like the most unlikely candidate to represent India at the National government takeover meet. Of course to give the poor guy some credit, he HAD tried to dress formally, with his hair cleanly swept aside with a very narrow comb and a rather clumsy attempt at wearing formal western clothes, with a tie to boot.
Stuart always wondered – if these Indians hadn’t been colonized, what would they be wearing now? Would they have still got bitten by the globalization bug and transited to the western wear? Or would they still be sporting their traditional kurtas and lehngas and cholis and what have you?
It never ceased to amaze Stuart about how many clothes people from the tropics wore. They would wear shiny synthetic clothes topped over by garish jewellery, sprigs of flowers on their hair, overpowering deodorant heavily tainted with sweat and make-up – all while balancing on a scooter with three other people, a baby to boot and a phone at their ears.
Anyway coming back to Venkat, Stuart had realized that the guy was stupid in several departments, but was fairly cognizant about the way the government functioned. Of course this was currently more important to Stuart than anything else. People could cook in their own synthetic stew for all he cared. He had an important task – to get the agreement on a piece of paper with the government of India’s seal on it. This paper could then be used for a variety of manipulative exercises. He could muscle himself into state government offices and he could make demands. Working with Venkat and his kind had taught him that if the people in power stood to make personal gains, then they would sell the entire country for a ha’penny. The personal gains varied – mostly it was money, lots of it. Power came a close second.
When Stuart mentioned all the plush locations that Venkat’s office would be based in, he literally saw Venkat’s eyes popping out. Stuart was barely able to control his urge to pull out his tooth-pick and push the popping eyeballs right back in. If he had, it would probably still have been acceptable, he thought rather uncharitably. He disliked India anyway, but had to pretend to look delighted at the ungainly bharatyanatyam dancing that he was forced to endure at each visit. “This is Indian culture’, Venkat’s colleague would blush. She looked like she was in her early forties, but had let herself go. They only thing that seemed to hold her together was her ego and an unbreakable faith in the superiority of her caste. Every time something went wrong or something demonstrated her meanness or stupidity, he could see her virtually grasping for the proverbial straw of her caste. Her identity intact, she would then be back to effusively enthusing about her culture which invariably included the blessed bharatanatyam.
Today was the second day since he was back from India. It had been a successful visit on all counts. He sensed a pattern emerging from different developing countries – the initial star struck enthusiasm to please the white man, the eager ‘puppy’ lolling of the tongue to assess what was in it for them, the overjoyed exuberance of having obtained treasure troves of power and money beyond one’s wildest expectation and finally the eager willful readiness to sign on any piece of paper that was offered.
Stuart tried to imagine what it would be like to live in a country where one’s decision makers played with stakes that could affect the country for generations and having no control of what was signed off to whom. Luckily he belonged to the group that was at the receiving end of the sign off, which was nice.
Tomorrow he would talk to Megan Ritchie of the World Bank. He could imagine her smiling into the phone as she would say in a husky voice that often rustled his trousers “Great jawb, Stuart. This will hold you in good stead’. Megan Ritchie was true to her word. She always made sure that he felt greatly benefited by the work he did.Maybe he was to Megan what Venkat was to him. Still who cared – his groin felt good and so did his pocket.
Tomorrow, he was leaving for Africa……………….