Sunday, April 19

Dream Merchants

I am a frequent visitor to a local coffee shop. This air-conditioned coffee shop is a premium outlet. One can enjoy anything and everything in coffee here. With the strong aroma of coffee in the air, it is the place where many come to talk, listen and make a deal.

I often get to this coffee shop with my pack of books and the laptop. Settling in a corner, I sink into my world of reading and note making. The conversations from the nearby tables can be noisy. In such moments, I let go my concentration. I let my ears wander into the heart of nearby tables. (Eavesdropping is an art!). Often, these conversations are ‘proposals’ for teaming up in a multi-level-marketing effort. Upon a hot cup of coffee or a sweet glass of milkshake, long deliberations take place. I see clean-shaven and office dressed listeners glancing across flipcharts. The proposer shares about the power and the glory of creating a large binary chain of under-levels. What more, he shows them that this is an endless abyss of long stories of profits. Then the prospect walks away. I do not know what happens later. Maybe he becomes another link in a extensive chain of dreams and wishes. Maybe he goes to web and try to figure out where he stands. Maybe he is confused and finds it difficult to say "Yes" or "No" to a new acquaintance. Nevertheless, for sure, life goes on.

Years ago, I got an unassuming invitation from a very close friend of mine to attend a ‘business meeting’. "Abby, don't ask what and why. Just come!" Dev said. My best friend is calling me for a meeting…. well, I have to make it. Therefore, I rushed. I reached the local hall just in time to grab a chair at the back row. The hall was packed full. Passionately, I wanted to locate my friend. I rolled my eyeballs to every nook and corner of the hall. Soon, I caught him on the stage. He stood dressed in full-sleeved shirts, smart trousers and sparkling shoes. All through the 8 years of my friendship, I have never seen a Dev like that: dressed as an executive, beaming with confidence and eyes glittering with a conviction. I wanted to know how Dev had reached there. The next 1 hour passed like a minute. The guest speaker was from Singapore and was 24 years of age. Speaking about the explosive opportunity of the e-business, he told the audience about the great wealth that was awaiting each one of us. “Grab it!” he said. He spoke of his ‘rags to riches’ story. What astounded me was his closing statement, “I am retiring soon to play golf the rest of my days,”. After his address, I saw young men and women shouting and clapping. “He is truly a living relic of capitalism!” I thought. A standing ovation of the whole crowd was electrifying. For a moment, I thought I too was a million dollar man. Around me, some of the people were holding hands and calling themselves a team. Others were posing for photographs with the speaker. Then another speaker took over the podium to introduce some liquid detergents, floor-cleaners, toothbrushes, briefs, vests …. then another speaker wanted to prove that those products were world’s best of its kind…and then it went on and on. Soon, for me, it was time to go home. As I was leaving, I looked at the crowd. I saw in them two types of people: one whose eyes are dim with confusion and the others, whose eyes are glittering in greed!

7 years have passed. Time went so fast! Today Dev bikes to his office. He has earned enough as a Central Government servant than through any ‘level’ business. Last time I saw him was in a supermall. I was afraid to ask him where he stood in those complicated ‘levels’. Where are his up-levels and his down-levels now? His mentors seem to have vanished from his life. For me, I lost a good friend (Dev is shy. He has kept away from me since his multi-level-marketing debacle). I lost 5000 rupees. I also lost some good dreams.

Today, as I sit in my favorite coffee shop, I enjoy the flavor of God grown coffee. Like the steaming cappuccino in my hands, I know that life is a cup of God-given-realities. I also know that those realities are to be encountered, enjoyed and lived. I leave all the rest of my beliefs in the hands of God and walk my destiny with a smile.

What happens to all those liquid detergents, floor-cleaners, toothbrushes, briefs, vests and ….and the list goes on and on…. What happens to them all? I’ll forget about it. I’ll leave them all in the hands of dream merchants

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