P.P.S. Sambamoorthy (Moorthy to his friends) boarded the flight with a mix of part trepidation and part excitement. The Gujrati was offering him large sums of money to take a look at something, and his Moorthy fell to his insistent charms and regular offerings of cash. It was supposed to be an easy assignment, a quick way to make some money on the side. Nothing illegal he was assured, and definitely nothing dangerous. Prodded by who he called ‘his better half’ – Janaki, he had reluctantly agreed and now as he was boarding the flight this Ketan Vora was babbling of spirits and Reindeer and whatnot.
It was a clear summer’s day eight months ago when Ketan Vora had arrived at his doorstep. Janaki and Moorthy had received him in their Spartan living room, Janaki having shooed off their daughter Lata with an exceptionally difficult problem involving among other things, integrating the cube of sine x (which janaki had calculated, as a mere chit of a girl long ago on a hot summer’s day ) . Ketan Vora was a rich businessman and he specifically oozed money and confidence at this visit hoping to appeal to the monetary selves of the Moorthy’s. He was a gifted speaker, he spoke sometimes glibly, sometimes smartly and had a way of easy assurance about him that had won the Moorthy’s over. He praised the coffee and stayed for dinner drinking copious amounts of rasam and by the night an understanding had been reached.
Twice in the ensuing months Moorthy had placed orders for rare books, unavailable in book starved Bombay and Ketan had arranged for their prompt delivery. These arrived in neat cardboard boxes from New York city and Moorthy got to work. Since that day, Moorthy had spent a lot of his free time researching and learning. He was undoubtedly the best in the field, but his knowledge however was purely theoretical and he wished to be up to date with the matter. Poring through books was never a problem for the pedantic Moorthy, it was getting into the nitty gtittiy practicalities that bothered him. Imagining hypothetical situations he would encounter in the field, drawing out possible responses and building from there on, Moorthy could not do. But Ketan Vora had assured him that he was one of the very few in the world who had specialized in this esoteric branch and Moorthy was filled with a sense of pride that somehow impetused him into preparing better for the event.
The Moorthy’s were invited for a New Year’s bash by Ketan Vora at his plush South Bombay apartment. Janaki retrieved her gold necklaces form the bank locker, Moorthy dressed in his only faded suit and Lata pasted copious amounts of powder on her acne ridden face. The family made a perfect picture of gauche nervousness as they made their way up to the 40th floor in a rickety elevator that had clearly seen better, well oiled days. Contrary to Janaki’s expectations of a corpulent, insular Falguniben Vora they were greeted by an urbane woman in a Prada dress. Moorthy rightly guessed her to be the brains behind the operation. Falguniben maintained a cold silence of her husband’s ventures and was very stressfully making last minute arrangements with the china on the dinner table. Moorthy was introduced to all in the party as the ‘hero’ of the new venture and even Janaki had the grace to blush as she privately imagined how her own cache of diamonds would look like if Moorthy was successful.
Eight days after that party Moorthy and Ketan boarded the flight to Paris. They would then stay at one of Ketan’s obscure relatives’ home in Paris and ride a train across the newly unified Germany to Copenhagen, fly again across the frozen wastes of the Baltic to make their way to their fate, fame, fortune and Helsinki.
Four days ago, Moorthy had watched open mouthed as Ketan whipped out a cellular phone the shape and weight of a brick and proceeded to hand it over to Moorthy to make calls across Europe. This was his moment. Moorthy’s hands shook as he mumbled some French to book the train tickets. He was faintly surprised when the operator replied to his query and Moorthy gained the confidence. Further calls in German, Swedish, Estonian and Finnish proved to be cakewalk. Ketan was smiling inwardly. The South Indian was proving to be a good investment.
As Ketan spent the next few days wrapped in business meetings across open conferences and hushed dinners, Moorthy explored Helsinki like a small child, with infectious enthusiasm and for the thousandth time Moorthy wondered if he was merely an interpreter, but interpreters were available dime a dozen. What made him special?
To be continued..