How Blue is My Sapphire – 2

How far will you go for what matters to you?

“Buzzingaaa”, yelled Tarang, right at the top of his voice. “Shut up yaar, what kind of moron has a food app sounding like an energy drink?”, Aakaash replied, annoyed. I laughed, “Sure Tarang, let’s call it Buzzingaaa, and “buzz” this nonsense out of Aakaash’s mind. Buzz Buzz Buzzzzzzz”. “You guys are mad, I don’t know why am I even doing this with you. I had to literally beg for money from my dad, do you folks have any idea how hard it is? And he is expecting the money back!!” I could sense Aakaash was about to lose it and decided to intervene. “Ok Ok fine, lets call it EatOrg. We provide healthy meals prepared from locally sourced organic raw materials, EatOrg makes sense.” “Yayy EatOrg!!!!”, Tarang screamed again, Aakaash put his hands on Tarang’s mouth and said “And the first rule of EatOrg – no yelling please!!!”
EatOrg was our dream, our baby. We had spent a lot of our free time in college discussing the problems of farmers – Aakaash’s father was a traditional landlord in the heartland of UP, and he shared with us many tales of the plight of farmers – their struggles with erratic irrigation, apathetic authorities, lack of knowledge about scientific methods to farm, the vicious circle of loans from money lenders on high rates – it was depressing to hear about farmers grappling with such grave problems for years, with no help. Some good Samaritans though, like Aakaash’s dad and grandfather themselves, had taken upon the task of counselling small farmers about their rights and in particular, scientific, organic ways of farming without the extensive use of expensive fertilizers and chemicals for greater produce.
It was while discussing this that one fine day, after Aaagaaz 2011, that Tarang came up with the idea of having restaurant that served food prepared from locally sourced organic ingredients. Tarang was like that, creative, always brimming with ideas, several of which would be crazy. But this stuck with all of us, and we decided to get back to it whenever we could. In December 2014, Tarang came down to Bangalore, where me and Aakaash were slogging in our regular IT jobs, and got us to sit together in a Starbucks to discuss EatOrg. We spent 6 hours together that day, debating everything from name to sourcing of ingredients, office space, designing of website and mobile apps, so on and so forth.

By July 2015, we were live and how! It took Tarang’s relocation to Bangalore, coding marathons nights, shouting matches, and furious pursuit for funding to get EatOrg in the market. But there was stiff competition. All of sudden, everyone was online. We were trying to foray into an extremely competitive space, and the rumors of start-ups closing every now and then scared us. It was then when the first crack started appearing.”Aakaash bhai this is not done. You do know that we have to have organic ingredients only.” Tarang looked tired, but his voice bore a strength. “Tarang listen, this is a business. We have our VC to answer to. How do you think we are going to scale up to NCR and Pune? We have to make profits, else no one will give us any money to run EatOrg. ” Aakaash sounded desperate, and as if to drive his point across, he said , ” Dekh yaar Tarang, let me put it this way. I took loan from my dad to make this happen, Vaani invested all her savings. You on the other hand had no money in hand, because you had taken loan for your MBA and had to pay your monthly EMIs.” “What do you want to say Aakaash, that I have no say in this because I couldn’t invest any money? This is what this is about, isn’t it? Money!!!” Tarang lifted his favorite 3×3 Rubik’s cube from the desk and flung it at the wall in rage. I had never seen him this angry before.

“Both of you had jobs after B.Tech. I had to go for MBA because I didn’t. And don’t forget, it was my brain-child. I convinced you both, else you would have still been slogging in your lame jobs, fighting for the next promotion or an overseas opportunity.” Tarang’s words turned meaner and meaner.
“Tarang say whatever the fuck you want to, the fact remains that this company has mine and Vaani’s hard-earned money and we have to recover our investments back. This is a business and not a charity. The customers are hardly going to know the difference between organic and non-organic ingredients and once we start making money, we will source raw materials from local farmers also. But for now, we have to tie up with the organic farm our VC has suggested. ” Aakaash was trying to keep his calm, but I could see the lines around his eyes getting sharper.
“You know it pretty well Aakaash that the VC is a money sucker. That organic farm of his is a sham and they employ several laborers at pitiable rates to work day in and out in that farm. But since you want to be a businessman, suit yourself. I can’t be associated with you anymore. Vaani, I am leaving.”
Tarang reached for the door and turned back. I could see it in his eyes, his silent plea to stop him, to reason out with Aakaash as always, to take his side and explain things better to Aakaash. “Tarang, I understand what you mean, but Aakaash has a point here. Let’s sit and discuss, shall we? Let me order two chilled beers for you folks, let’s talk this out.”
“Vaani there is nothing left to talk, you seem to have made your stand pretty clear.” With that, Tarang turned the door knob and left, without looking back.

How Blue is My Sapphire – 1

How far will you go for what matters to you?

This post is the first part of the series “How Blue is my Sapphire”, inspired by the TOI Write India prompt for the month of May 2016. Keep watching this space for more!

“All of us live with our past. All of us allow it to shape our future. But some of us know how to shrug the past. I think that is who I am….”

It was a sultry afternoon, quite uncharacteristic of the Bengaluru I got to know  in past 4 years. I sat in the break-out area of the plush office campus, staring at nothing in particular. My gaze traveled as far as it could – the tall buildings, the flyover, the big banner screaming of yet another app promising to reduce our commute thereby leaving us with more time; but to do what? My eyes went to the building coming up right next to the tech park I was in, I kept staring at the height of it, wondering, if the roads can take as many people this building will hold.

“Vaani, where have you been? I have been searching for you from past half an hour! There is an all-hands in another 10 minutes.”, I turned back at the sound of the voice I had known for 6 years, Aakaash was standing right there, glaring at me. So much had changed in 6 years, and yet it seemed just like yesterday, both of us laughing in the cafeteria at Tarang and his stupid antics, clapping and whistling in the college fest, yelling at juniors to get work done – after all, we were the stars of the college , the key organizers, responsible for our college fest, Aagaaz 2010…

Tarang, he was an anti-thesis of his own musical name. He was the responsible one, the idealistic, always willing to attend that lecture after lunch, skipping movie outings because “It’s HOD’s class, bro”. And yet sometimes, when he would let go of all the imaginary boundaries in his head, he was the clown of the group – imitating one and all with no mercy, cooking up crazy stories, laughing loud enough in the canteen to let everyone else know that we were up to no good….

“Yeah dude, just got a call, no network in this dumb office so came out”, I told Aakaash, who looked at me suspiciously, but probably bought my explanation. 10 minutes later in a small conference room trying to pass itself off as a “hip place”, my mind was simply not willing to focus on the the drudged charts projecting next year’s sales and the expected downloads of our food app, the VC we were trying to attract, the new platform we were targeting. My fingers kept caressing the sapphire set in a platinum ring on my right hand’s ring finger, and my mind kept thinking about the message I received this morning…

“Vaani, can we please do something about the decorations? The college looks like there is a funeral tomorrow morning and not the first day of fest!” Aakaash asked me, standing in his khakhi 3/4ths and supposedly white-turned-brown t-shirt, with those green slippers that I hated with all my guts. “Yo, leave that to me. I got my army setting up camp in the girls’ hostel. Check it out in the morning, this is not going to look like our drab, dirty college any more. We are gonna jazz it up, and how!” I winked at him, with my characteristic infamous swag, making him laugh out loud. “Fine, do what you want, but remember, no pinks!” “Arey haan yaar, chill kar!” As expected, the,morning after, the college looked festive. And of course there was pink, but Aakaash had too much on his plate to fight with me for it….

“Hey listen, where is Tarang? He was supposed to be back from his interview, right? Who is going to call up the rock-band competition sponsors regarding the drum kit?”, Aakaash had started losing his patience. “He just came back in the morning, you relax, give me the number, I will call them up. Can’t say no to a girl, can they?”, I grinned cheekily at him, grabbing his phone. “Vaani you do realize you cover up for him all the time, don’t you?” “Aakaash he is a friend yaar, Tarang hai wo, you know he is so stressed right now, don’t bug him. Whatever there is to do, I will do it. Just don’t go around bothering him.” “Do what you want Vaani, I am out of this.” Aakaash left, and I called up the sponsors, only to know that Tarang had already spoken to them and the drum kit was on its way…

Featured Image : Google