Startup species

“But there are already plenty of websites like that in the market!” As far as revelatory statements went, it wasn’t up there with the best of what you could find in religious scripture of the world but Jeevan hoped-not for the first time that it should be enough to convince Arvind.

Arvind stirred what’s left of the coffee in his mug and drained it, licking his lips in the aftermath- he believed that if there’s a sign of god on earth, it’s coffee.

Shaking his head, he said to his friend, “That may well be so  but ours is going to be different, isn’t it? We will have exclusive content- stuff written by experts on the website, video interviews aside from product and software reviews, a forum for the professionals to post their views on the type of software and products thy would like to see in the future, all of that..,” And without missing a single beat, he called out to a passing waiter, “One more black coffee please!”

Once again he turned his face towards Jeevan and shivered his eyebrows-his way of saying, what do you say?

It wasn’t the first time that they were having this to and fro, and Jeevan suspected, neither would it be the last time.

“I don’t know, man,” he said. “Even if the website is as unique as you say it will be, it’s gonna take some significant amount of time before we could establish it as a formidable site. It’s true that with your industry contacts we may well be able to rope in some experts to contribute but it’s still a fact that with our kind of marketing budget, building reputation for such a product would take way too long. Plus, it will be hard to convince an investor for in their eyes, it would be just another website!”

In this vein, they continued. Minutes after minutes and one cup of Joe after the other.

The café was one of the few in JayaNagar which stayed open till 1 in the morning, and since the time Jeevan and Arvind conceived of an idea to start their own business( some 6 months ago), they have become something of regulars here. Jeevan now ordered a cappucinno before continuing the conversation.

As with any night before, the pattern of the conversation was predictable -one of them would say good things about his own idea, the other would nod in agreement only to add a “but” which would be followed by ceaseless statements of reasons why the idea wouldn’t work well.

And right now, they were discussing Jeevan’s ‘pro-entrue’ idea. To be more precise, Arvind was doing his best to kill it before it walked out of the cradle in Jeevan’s mind.

As a senior HR manager, Jeevan has seen enough people to know that the desire to break free from the routine of the daily grind and start their own business is something that a lot of people harbour in their minds. Seeing this as a business opportunity, Jeevan has planned a venture which would enable such wannabe entrepreneurs the opportunities to interact with people who have made the leap and whose businesses were currently running.

They would thus get to know about the ground realities and the challenges of running your own show when you don’t have significant backing. They would even be taken on a tour of different startup’s offices where they would get a ringside view of how things function on an everyday basis in such places.

Arvind liked the idea but he was skeptical about whether there would be enough takers to make it a sustainable business model.

And so, on and on they went, arguing and counter-arguing, sometimes straying to different ideas- like a wrist band for checking your heartbeat(too expensive to make) or a software that would be a universal compiler all programmers can use regardless of which platform they worked on(Too complicated. But Arvind- a software professional for over a decade had a soft spot for this one).

“I am sorry, I couldn’t help but overhear some of your conversation,” the man who interrupted them moved towards them from the next table. Tired with not being able to come to a conclusion on which idea to pick, the two friends were ready to call it a night when the interruption happened.

The man looked to be in his early thirties, the  beady eyes, the chubby cheeks and glazed forehead giving him the appearance of a spoilt brat. However, as a counterpoint his slickly combed hair evoked the style of a foregone era-one in which all good kids combed their hair slick.

His neatly pressed white shirt was tucked in to a pair of black pants- this further bolstered the impression of a good-kid-grown-up. And his speech, ever so polite-as though he were addressing royalty rather than just two other entrepreneur wannabes discussing their dreams in a café in Bangalore didn’t do anything to change one’s view on that front.

The man went on to say that he was a senior employee at what he called as an “Ideas Company.” The firm sold product ideas to other companies, based on “solid market research and the inputs from our product specialists.” After mentioning that their company-which has been in business “for decades” has been the reason behind such successful products as Nestle’s 2-minute noodles and the drink powder, Boost, he went on to say that the company now has a new idea. “Even better, this time we have actually made a few number of the products, which are ready to ship, if any company is interested in the product.”

The music changed in the café- from a soothing reggae track, the transition to an old punk rock song was jarring. While Jeevan took this as a sign of the gods telling them that some punkish dude was just wasting their time, Arvind took it as a sign from the cosmos that the man was going to give them a totally disruptive idea that would shake up the market-whatever market it was going to be-from top to bottom.

So it was that even though Jeevan said to the man, “It was nice meeting you but we’re sorry we have to go now,” Arvind gently placed a hand on his friend’s arm and said to the stranger, “Anyway, what is this idea that you are so excited about!”

The man grinned, but Jeevan noticed that the smile didn’t quite reach the beady eyes. In fact,ever since his eyes fell on that face, he had noticed a peculiar darkness in them-a static and unfathomable darkness as though the pupils held in them a depth beyond anything a mere mortal could imagine.

“Here. This is my card,” The card that the man offered-one to each of them was black as those pupils. On one side was printed a name and a number above which was the company’s name- DISGOVER. “It’s meant to stand for discover and go!” The man would later explain.

At present though, he was saying something else, “The ideas that our company generate cannot, of course be just given away. You will have to sign a confidentiality clause and then only can we divulge it to you. Call this number if you wish to know more.”

**

In a couple of days the friends had both forgotten all about meeting the man with the blackest of black pupils and a strange job. Jeevan had looked up to ascertain what he had already assumed-that Maggi and Boost had nothing to do with any ideas company-at least, according to reliable resources on the net. So the man has got to be a sham.

But Arvind-who believed in such things as astrology and the idea of fate(in fact, his father was a renowned astrologist back in his home town of Erode) one day made the suggestion that they ought to give the man  a call. They were sitting at the same café where they meet every other day after work, after another round of argument which didn’t lead anywhere.

“It’s not like we have to pay or anything. Let’s just hear him out. What’s to lose?” Jeevan heard his friend’s words as though listening from a great distance. For his mind was on something else- that blackness which he saw in those eyes. For some reason, he felt sure that in those eyes were a tranquility beyond what anyone could ever hope to possess. And the more he thought about it, the more he wanted to gaze into that dark once more, a feeling synonymous to how a  devotee might feel about seeing his favorite idol after a very long time.

Also, there was the matter of his impending wedding, which was mere months away. It was his wish to start the business before the wedding, for afterwards, once there are more number of people involved in his life, things could get “complicated” and he might find it progressively harder to follow his dream.

Much as the rational part of his mind told him that the chance of getting a feasible idea-let alone a product from the man with the black eyes was slim, he also sided with his friend’s line of argument: “What have we got to lose?”

And so they called him. It was Arvind who made the call- he was the better talker among the two. He was surprised when the man took the call at the first ring itself, and neither could he find any trace of surprise in the man’s voice, as though he were expecting them to call all along.

And when he told him of their wish to learn more about the product idea, he gave him an address and asked for their convenient time to visit. When the man said that they could visit till 8 in the night, Arvind said they would be there by 7 the next evening.

“We will be expecting you,” said the man and the line went dead.

**

“Wow, I never even knew that such a building existed in these parts!”

Jeevan’s exclamation reverberated within the giant hall which was the lobby. The building was just 4 stories high but standing in the lobby, when one looked up, the ceiling looked to be way higher than that.

Save for the receptionist at the end of the floor, the lobby was empty. And as soon as her eyes fell on the visitors, the woman-with a broad smile and rosy cheeks greeted them, adding, “He is expecting you!”

She guided them to the elevator, got in with them and rode all the way up to the 5th floor where on the farthest corner to the right was the man’s office. The lady opened the door after knocking twice(though no reply came from within) and led them in.

“What would you gentlemen like to have? Tea, coffee or something cold?”she asked before she left.

“Coffee, black!” was the unanimous reply(One after-effect of contemplating about startup ideas is a newfound affinity for coffee, Jeevan has found).

The man rose as they came in and gestured them to take a seat on the other side of the table. Like the lobby and every other space they have seen of this building,the cabin too was sparsely furnished. A glass table took up the center portion, with four chairs on this side and one on the other where the man sat.

He was in white and black, just as he had appeared on that day at the café, impeccably pressed. It was hard to imagine how anyone’s clothes would remain so wrinkle-free after dark, thought Jeevan.

But even stranger to Jeevan was the fact that apart from the receptionist and this man, they hadn’t seen anyone else in the office. Almost all the office spaces were behind glass walls and all of them were empty.

As though reading his mind, the man said, “We work an early shift here-starts at 5 in the morning and ends at 1.” Tapping a long forefinger on the side of his head, he added, “The mind dulls after noon is past. Humans get the best ideas before that.”

There was a certain coldness to the way he said it, as though he was speaking from a vantage point far removed from the closest human habitation.

That put Jeevan’s mind at rest, for that is how businessmen spoke, he has interacted with enough successful businessmen to know that. A glimmer of hope now blossomed in his mind-maybe, just maybe this man would be able to give them a good idea.

And the got to the idea part soon enough. Before that he made them sign the confidentiality clauses,-two identical documents which he produced from within a drawer in his table. The receptionist-possibly the man’s assistant came and placed two black coffees on the table, nothing for the man himself.

Before she left, she gave both Jeevan and Arvind a smile. When she looked at them, Jeevan saw, or felt he saw the same sort of tranquil darkness in her eyes as her boss possessed in his.

Maybe, you get tranquil after working in an ideas company for a while, he thought.

After the formalities were over, the man detailed his product: “It’s a bracelet. An armband, if you will. Once it’s wrapped around a wrist, it can detect, based on the person’s heartrate and certain other parameters, when the person is getting stressed. The band would then start emitting signals, or rather vibrations that would travel along the nervous system and into the brain, soothing the person down.

“The effect will take place in just 2 minutes- like the noodles, you may even call it a 2 minute bracelet!” he smiled before going on, “The technology behind the product is patented and cannot be replicated by anyone for years, meaning you will have a virtual monopoly if you go ahead with this product. It has already been clinically proven on humans and we have all the necessary approvals from the relevant bodies-including the FDA for the commercial production of the unit.

“Of course, we are not manufacturers per se, but seeing how this is something of a special product, we ventured into manufacturing-we didn’t want any second party to screw this up, to be candid; and we have produced a limited number. If you wish to market them, we can hand over the products to you,” he added after just a brief pause.

Both Jeevan and Arvind remained silent for a few seconds. The same thoughts were running through both their minds: Bangalore is filled with people who are stressed out of their heads, day in and out. And many of them are techies who believe that any problem-including the problem of stress created by tech could be solved using another piece of technology.

NextQuest-which was the name of Jeevan and Arvind’s company had their market reach mainly in Bangalore and also in some parts of Kerala- thanks to Jeevan’s father who was a businessman based in Kottarakkara. If they played their cards right, they could make this product a hit, provided….

“But is the product as good as you say it is?” it was Jeevan who said what was on both their minds. “I am sorry if I sound brash but the product sounds to be a little too good to be true. Giving you peace of mind in two minutes, that too without the issues of alcoholism or drug addiction!” I

f the man on the opposite side of the table got the joke, he didn’t show it. Instead, lowering his head, he pulled open a drawer-perhaps the same one from which he earlier pulled out the confidentiality documents. This time though, it was no sheaf of papers that he placed in front of them.

The bracelet was silvery, but without the hazy glow native to poor quality silver. This one glinted but the surface was smoother than a baby’s bum. Except for a pin pointed black button at its center, the design was unmarred- at least as far as either of them could see. It was the kind of object which spelled the word, “Expensive” in block letters.

“You don’t have to take a decision before trying it yourself,” the man said in his most business-like voice. “But please make haste with a decision. For we are prospecting multiple companies. I would think that a week would be more than enough time for you to be convinced of the product’s utility.”

**

As it turned out, four days was all it took for the duo to be convinced of the product’s efficacy.

But the second time they were in the man with the black eye’s office, one question was nagging in their mind.

There’s no point in beating around the bush, might as well tell him our concerns right away, thus thinking, Arvind said, “The product definitely worked. Both of us are happy to inform you that since we started using the product four days ago, we have been feeling more at ease with ourselves than we could remember in a long time. In fact, Jeeven here has even been able to cut down on his smoking!”

Smiling at the man, Jeevan nodded, affirming his friend’s statement.

“However,” added Arvind, “We do have one concern. This might be obvious but we thought it best to bring this up now than later on. You see, if we take up this product, this is going to be NextQuest’s first product. We have no big marketing budget to establish the brand credentials before venturing into the market. And since the product’s claim is rather high-true though it is, people might be reluctant to buy from a new player. Especially if the product is expensive. And I can’t imagine how a product such as this couldn’t be expensive.”

When he clasped his hands after making his case, Arvind found his arms sweaty. It felt to him as though he was losing something precious through the gaps between his fingers.

The man on the other side but only grinned. He ran his hand along the side of his head-presumably to keep the hair in check though there was no need for that- neither Arvind nor Jeevan had ever seen hair so well-behaved in their entire lives.

“You needn’t worry about that,” said the man.

“We know that the product is good and we are confident that people will take to it-all we need is that first bunch of sales and then the word of mouth would in itself bring enough publicity. And we are willing to compromise on our gains during the first phase to bring about that sales. In other words, even though the price won’t be too low, it would still not be exorbitant. After all, India has more number of people with expendable incomes in their pockets than ever before.”

After a brief pause in which he looked at his two visitors one after the other(Jeevan felt that the man with his black eyes was looking straight into his soul, Arvind was too piqued by the news that the product won’t cost much to take note of the nature of the man’s look), the man added, “And having said that, let me also answer a question that must surely be in both your minds- Why do we approach a startup for marketing such a wonderful product? Well, the answer is simple, really. There’s just too much hierarchy in bigger corporations and it takes ages for those guys to come to a decision. Also, once they have made the big bucks, the mega companies could be notoriously thankless- this we have learned from experience.

“A startup on the other hand, is more passionate about what they do and so have more human elements in their functioning- like gratitude. Not that we demand anyone’s gratitude but we certainly like to deal more with humans than those who merely look like humans.” Once again there was a certain coldness to the way in which he spoke, as though he were looking at the world from a distant vantage point.

But neither of his visitors was too hung up on it this time since they were already seeing the moolah piling up in the bank. The only thing that stands between them and that scenario was how much they will be charged for the marketing rights.

The man with the black eyes put their mind at ease on that front. They would be given the marketing rights at “a most reasonable price.” And when he quoted the price, both his visitors found it to be reasonable, though Jeevan did get into a bargaining argument for the sake of form.

Eventually they agreed to the price- a provisionary document was signed. The document was brought by the receptionist-who-could-be-the-man’s-secretary. She also brought a bottle of champagne. After having a few celebratory  drinks the two of them left. “Once we sign the final deal, you should spend more time drinking with me!” said the man with the black eyes as they were exiting his office.

The receptionist-who-could-be-the-man’s-secretary showed them out of the front door.

Like the previous time, this time too they had come into the office way after their official working hours. And just like the last time, there were just the two of them they saw in the entire building.

In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact that the lady had on a gray set of blazers unlike the jet black one she had on the last time, they could easily have imagined that this was happening on the same day that they came in last.(Both Jeevan and Arvind had come to the conclusion that the man with the black eyes has just one set of clothes which somehow-magically stays clean and well-pressed no matter what).

“Looking forward to a great collaboration!” she called after them.

Jeeven waved before getting into their car.

“Why, you are blushing?” said Arvind once they were both in the car. Arvind was driving. “Don’t tell me you are falling in love with that woman. You will have to call off your wedding.”

“Nothing like that, “said Jeevan with a dismissive wave of his hand. “She is a bit older for my taste.” But there are those black eyes, the thought occurred to him but he kept mum about it, thinking back about the swirling spirals which he saw in those eyes-a whirlpool into which he would have loved to dive. Alluring though it was, it was also representative of some higher quality in the woman-a quality which couldn’t possibly be conceived by mortals.

And that made her worship-worthy.

Jeevan-who at one point in his life harbored the ambition of becoming a journalist was always quite observant. And this quality of his has been beneficial in his career as an HR professional- there are tell tale signs which a candidate’s body language gives off if you are observant, signs that would help save you- and your company a lot of time and resources.(It was his father who discouraged him from becoming a journalist- pointing out how only a very small percentage of them make good money. An MBA graduate on the other hand..)

Now, the habit of acute observation has given him glimpse of strange eyes and stranger things that go on inside those eyes. “Did you notice..” he began but then let the words trail off.

“Notice what?” said Arvind.

“Nothing,” said Jeevan after a brief second. He didn’t feel like sharing his newfound deity with anyone.

**

Back at the building, the woman, once she saw the duo’s car disappear from sight, closed the front door.

Following the general rules of physics, the door shut under the pressure that was exerted on it. However, with the closing of the door something else also happened -something that wasn’t in keeping with any principle of physics known to man- for almost immediately as the door was closed(with a loud snap which reverberated within the hall) the building folded in on itself-layer after layer, floor after floor, the entire material of the  building collapsed into the door, which itself ceased to exist soon after the two persons in the building disappeared into it.

It was as though no structure has existed there in the first place.

**

From being a company that exists solely on paper, NextQuest went on to become a household name in a very short time- just about three months, actually, all thanks to their very first product offering to the consumer, the smart bracelet which calms you down in minutes.

They had hoped that the first lot of products- the ones that were already manufactured would all be sold off in six months time. But by the end of the third month it was clear that they would be out of stock in another month, if not before that.

The media was calling it such things as the “wonder bracelet” and  “chillet”, the latter a shrunk version of the original ‘chill bracelet.’

NextQuest started getting requests from new dealers for the products.

Jeevan and Arvind liked this scenario but the problem was that they couldn’t even refurbish the existing dealers. They got in touch with the ideas company asking them for more products. The two times they did that, they got the same reply from a woman- presumably that woman, that a new lot is under manufacture and will be delivered in a short while.

But nothing came of it.

Once the four months were past and the products were to be found in no store, panic really hit Jeevan and Arvind- especially when fake products began to enter the market in its absence. They called up the man with the black eye’s number again and this time also, it was the woman who answered.

But this time, it was a recorded message that they got, asking them to call again at a different time.

“We cannot let this be!” exclaimed Jeevan.

As per the deal they have signed, the ideas company’s name wasn’t mentioned in any of the press releases or media interactions- the product was presented as manufactured under their own supervision, something that the man with black eyes insisted, also something to which neither Jeevan nor Arvind had any qualms. Who wouldn’t like to project such a sexy product as their own?

But now, the problem was that the inability to produce more would be seen as their own shortcoming-and for a company that’s still building its reputation, those sort of issues are best not to have.

“I think it’s time we paid them another visit” said Jeevan.

It was Jeevan alone who ended up going there. For Arvind was still serving his notice period in his previous company. It was his last week, one that had a crucial investor meeting in which Arvind, as the CTO must convince the investors about the robustness of a software the firm has developed.

The kind of thing that wouldn’t permit one to go with one’s partner on a significant errand.

Although the errand turned out to be to a place that was non-existent.

“Wait, what do you mean the building is not there? You mean, it’s been demolished?” Arvind who just came out of the meeting with the investors in the last week of his life as an employee(or so he hoped) had to whisper hoarsely so that he wouldn’t be disturbing those who were in the lobby outside the conference room.

On the other side, Jeevan wasn’t exactly whispering. In fact, it was very much possible that his voice may carry through the spaces of the building in which Arvind stood more than Arvind’s own voice.

And the more Jeevan talked, the more incredulous things seemed to Arvind, and the wider his eyes got.

“I need to see this. I will be right over.” Poor guy, the combined pressure of the impending wedding(Jeevan was getting married in 3 months time) and the lack of products in the market has damaged his mind!, he thought after he snapped shut his cell phone.

**

“What the fuck!” Arvind’s words floated over the empty plot of land which lied before them, empty except for the few sheep grazing on the shrubs, that is.

“I asked a couple of people around about the building. They say this land has remained empty ever since they could remember- and they have been living here their whole lives,” Jeevan spoke in the voice of one who has lost all hope in life, or maybe has gone without water for a long time- the latter the more probable case.

“How old were these people?” said Arvind. “The ones you asked?”

“Older than a few months which is how far back our acquaintance with the man with the black eyes go,” said Jeevan in the deadpan voice.

“The man with the black eyes? You mean, Dr. Krishna Sadasiv?”

It was only when Arvind said the name that Jeevan recalled that that was indeed the man’s name. But in his mind, he would always be the man with the black eyes.

“Yes,” he said. “But where has he gone? More importantly, where has the bloody building gone!”

To that, Arvind couldn’t make a reply. Instead, he simply gazed up at where the building should have been, hoping that it would somehow manifest.

“I feel like having a drink,” muttered Arvind, feeling lightheaded.

“I second that motion” came his friend’s prompt reply.

**

NextQuest still existed on paper but the company was no more a participant in the market. They made one last effort to bring the product back-by trying to get it manufactured by a third party.

But no matter whom they approached- and they did approach some of the best in the field, they were all confounded by the product’s design.

More precisely, they were confounded by the thin yet stubborn rings with which the bracelet was filled to a large extent. Red in colour and slightly translucent these rings were notoriously hard to break-one manufacturer actually tried to smelt it after failing in all other attempts- it was all Jeevan and Arvind could do to prevent them from doing it.

“We don’t even understand what these rings are made of. It’s like nothing I have ever seen before,” said one of the product-experts in the smart watch field. He kept twirling his old fashioned ‘pehelwan’ moustache but was unable to come to a conclusion.

Jeevan and Arvind were in turn asked about the rings- after all, they were the ones who were responsible for the product’s manufacture-according to the media,  so they should know it.

They were quick to make up a story- about the material being a unique alloy of metals that was specially developed for the product. “Let us get back to you” was the last thing they would say to the manufacturers they approached. At the end of such meetings, the latter would be more surprised than them.

Most of the money which the duo has made in the few months in which the product existed on the shelves was spent on expanding their  market-finding new dealerships and signing them up and also for some advertising budget(and the thing with advertising is that no matter how minimally you do it, it’s always going to cost something). This meant that NextQuest didn’t make much money out of the product sales, meaning both of them might have to join a company as an employee again.

**

“The good news is that we didn’t lose much money either,” said Arvind.

“Yeah, I guess that is good news.”

They were at a park. Since Jeevan was smoking they were sitting just outside the park, on an empty push cart that was chained to the outer fence.

“And the bracelet is still working. Meaning, we won’t worry too much anyway!” If Jeevan got the dark irony in what Arvind said, he took it in good stride, simply nodding his head and blowing a ring of smoke in the air.

The evening air was cool, and through the leaves of the canopy above filtered in crimson light of the setting sun which never fails to make the earth look like an alien planet.

And out of the redness, as if bleeding through from another world, entered the man with the black eyes. Or perhaps, it’s because the smoke from the cigarette got to my eyes that it looked that way to me, thought Jeevan.

But the irrefutable fact was that the man with the black eyes- Mr. Krishna Sadasiv was standing right in front of him, wearing the eternally neat white shirt and black pants, holding a black manila folder in his hand, as though he were just another executive – a cog in the wheel of corporate Bangalore.

Just that and not someone responsible for a product no one could figure out how it functioned, and no one who could make an entire building vanish- like David Copperfield with a bad sense of humour.

Arvind was busy negotiating with a beggar boy who was asking for more than the two rupees that were given him(“I don’t have any more change!” he kept telling the boy but the latter only kept making the motions of eating). It was only when Jeevan tapped him on the shoulder than he turned around, and his eyes fell of the man with the black eyes.

“You!” screaming, he jumps off the push cart. The vehemence in his voice made the beggar boy run away, pulling up his loose-fitting pants that threatened to fall off.

“Before you get angry, shall I suggest that you relax?” As far as tactics for calming someone down went, Jeevan didn’t think that it was much. However, odd as it may seem, the man’s words were enough to soothe Arvind who all but purred like a cat at the feet of its master.

Or maybe it’s the fact that he is looking straight at Arvind’s eyes. There is something in those deep dark eyes, swirling, swirling, swirling like the eternal wheel of time, slowly guiding you to a place beyond time, thought Jeevan.

The man with the black eyes now looked at them both, a faint smile on his face like the shadows at twilight.

“You are no doubt angry about what happened. But I have brought something that would make it up to you,” When he spoke, the man’s voice sounded like the most beautiful sound either of them have heard in their life.

“The bracelets that we gave you did more than just count the heart beats and send vibrations to calm the mind down. It measured a lot of parameters for us- so that we could create a species similar to yours, this new species would be our slaves, you see-much like how you people plan to use robots in the future.”

Neither the crying of the birds on flight to their homes nor the sound of a chaiwalla crying out ‘Tea!Tea!’ suggested that anything of an alien nature might be happening in the vicinity.

Just to make sure that the man with the black eyes was insinuating what he assumed he was, Jeevan said, “And by “we” you mean…?”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” said the man. “My explanation is not so cohesive, is it? I reckon it can’t be helped in these cases. You see, we are from another planet, and we wanted to study your species for the aforementioned purpose.

“And the bracelet gave us more number of parameters than we actually needed. Now, these findings would be of incredible value to the pharmaceutical companies on your world, to create new medicines. In fact, these findings would revolutionize medicine on your planet. Your organization was chosen for the marketing of our product because we had a sample size in mind and a company of your size was apt for achieving that.”

Neither Arvind nor Jeevan was particularly pleased with the cryptic observation about their company size but they didn’t voice their displeasure- they were busy being flabbergasted by the idea that they were probably the first humans to have made contact with aliens.

Pulling out a sheaf of papers from the manila folder, the man with the black eyes said, “Here are some of the findings, extraneous to us, useful for you. On behalf of all the people of our planet,” here he said the name of the planet which neither of the humans would be able to recall later (“It was unpronounceable!” Jeevan would say, “It started with P!” so would say Arvind), we present to you these findings. You can make quite a lot of sum  by selling this. Hope you will remember me when you drink in celebration,” the man added.

After giving the papers to Jeevan, he was about to walk off when Arvind said, “This is not how you actually look, right?”

The alien nodded, saying that he could take just about any shape he wants to, sometimes multiple shapes at the same time- “Like this shape and a certain woman with swirls in her eyes,” this he said, looking at Jeevan,  giving him a smile with his lips pressed against each other.

Seeing that Arvind was about to say something, he added, “And no, this isn’t of course my species’ actual appearance.”

Arvind took a couple of hesitant steps towards him. “Can you..can you show us? Not here, maybe somewhere private!” he added suddenly.

The alien smiled. “That’s something for another time,” saying thus he walked away. Now, the curious thing was, even though both of them had their eyes on the retreating figure, neither could come to an agreement on when exactly he went out of sight.

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