Episode 7 – The Last Ditch Effort

Raunak Singh was convinced that the Mercedes had to go. They couldn’t afford to take chance with another driver. But he was not convinced if that was the right thing to do. More than a month had passed since that incident with Tukaram. But every time he looked at Lajjo, he felt something missing in her. She didn’t say anything but Raunak knew that things were not all right. In fact, he had a problem with her not saying anything.

“What do you think Lajjo? Should we sell the Mercedes?” Raunak asked Lajjo one night hoping to understand what was going in her mind.

Lajjo said nothing for a while. Raunak decided to wait some more.

“I don’t know,” she said after a while, “Do whatever you think is right.”

That’s not an answer! Raunak wanted to say. But he kept quiet. He knew he was not going to get any answer from her. He also knew that even though, inside her, she wanted the car to stay, she now had no reason to ask Raunak not to sell it. He knew that she couldn’t ask him to get another driver. And this fact distressed Raunak more than it distressed Lajjo.

Raunak sounded off all his friends and acquaintances that his Mercedes was up for sale. Even though all his friends sympathized with him at his extraordinary misfortune of getting two rotten tomatoes, nobody actually showed any interest in buying the car. Instead they tried to convince him that just because he had got two rotten tomatoes, all tomatoes were not necessarily rotten.

This frustrated Raunak even more. Did he go about telling others what they should do or shouldn’t? Did he tell anyone how to live their lives? No! If they didn’t want to buy the car, so be it! But they had no right to lecture him about his beliefs and decisions!

One exception to this rule was Mandeep, his most valuable customer and friend, with a branded clothing line of his own. Mandeep had not only abstained from participating in the “Raunak-don’t-sell-the-car” suggestion scheme, he had not offered his comments at all. In fact he had been a silent spectator throughout Raunak’s hunt for a driver. For a good friend, that’s strange!

But before you start suspecting Mandeep’s intentions and accuse him of having any hidden agenda, let us disclose that Mandeep was silent and aloof by nature and not by design. Stoicism was in his DNA, handed over to him from his father, who was famous in their family for being “the opinion less patriarch”. Almost nothing evoked either his ire or his delight. Like father, like son!

Raunak knew this very well. So he never got perturbed by Mandeep’s lack of opinion. In fact, that was the primary reason why Mandeep was his best friend!

Raunak also knew that Mandeep was a connoisseur of luxury cars. Over the last few years, he had acquired a Lexus, an Audi, and recently, a BMW. So he might not dislike the idea of adding a Mercedes to his collection. Raunak decided to broach the subject when they met next.

“Mandeep, as you already know,” Raunak started, “I’ve decided to sell my Mercedes. And it’s been three months now and nobody has shown any interest in buying it. So I was thinking…”

Raunak stopped for a moment, hoping that Mandeep would show some interest and ask him what he was thinking. But Mandeep being Mandeep, kept quiet, and kept looking at Raunak patiently waiting for him to complete his sentence. Raunak got the cue and continued, “I was thinking if you would like to buy it.”

Still no reaction from Mandeep.

“I mean you have three great cars!” Raunak continued further, was driving home the point. “And a Mercedes would probably complete your collection.”

“Hmm,” Mandeep finally spoke.

“So…?” Raunak was doing his best to get something out of Mandeep.

“Well, I guess I can buy your car. It’s not used much.”

“Precisely!” Raunak showed his delight by almost getting up from his seat. “We have hardly used it. It’s just sitting pretty in our garage!”

“Hmm.” Another moment of contemplation. “But…”

Oh no! Not the “but!” Having the experience of a salesman, Raunak knew very well about the dreaded “but”. This single word has the potential of derailing the biggest of deals! He always taught his subordinates to be extra careful of the dreaded “but”.

“…but why do you want to sell the car in the first place? I don’t think you should sell it.”

Mandeep had done the unthinkable! He had given an opinion. It was a blow Raunak was not prepared to bear.

“Everybody’s been telling me the same thing! I thought at least you would understand me. But you also?”

“I don’t know about others, Raunak,” Mandeep said, quietly. “But as far as I know, your problem is not the car. Your problem is the driver. Being a rational person I would say you need to fix the right problem.”

“But haven’t I told you everything?” Raunak said, getting irritated. “Don’t you know what happened with my two drivers?”

“Yes, I know. And don’t mind, but if you got wrong drivers, the fault lies entirely with you.”

“What?” Raunak couldn’t believe his ears. Instead of helping him Mandeep was admonishing him! “How come I am at fault?”

Raunak and Mandeep

“Simple. You didn’t do enough background verification before hiring the drivers.”

“Background verification?” Raunak asked, with a frown.

“Yes background verification. Or rather, professional background verification.”

“And how do I do that?” asked Raunak, in full confrontation mode.

“Have you heard of JantaKhoj?”

“JantaKhoj?” Raunak asked, “What’s that?”

“Hmm.” Mandeep sighed.

What happens after the “hmm”? What is JantaKhoj? Does Raunak sell his car? Find out all in the concluding episode, next Thursday.

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