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Friday, July 6, 2012

All in the Game

All in the Game
 was a pleasant morning with a mild southwesterly blowing intermittent cirrus clouds across the course. Hiraki teed up a little high and with a smooth fluid swing sent the ball over the ominous looking water hazard, splitting the fairway into two equal halves.
Goooshaaw, Yamamoto-san” shouted Aggarwal. Hiraki’s tiny chest ballooned with pride. First tee-shot always has portentous significance to early morning golfers. ‘A day well began’ Hiraki was smiling within. It was the day he was planning to meet the government representatives; his inner voice must have told him that the deal would somehow go through. That’s when he saw that immaculately dressed gentleman, colour-coordinated from floppy San Andrews cap to his shining black golf shoes, hurrying towards the tee-box.
“Ah there…! You’re just in time, mister Rao”, exclaimed Aggarwal.

Royal N Ancient … RNA, to his friends – Ramji Narayan Aggarwal is one of the oldest and loudest members of the club – always ready to lend a helping hand to fellow members. I looked up midway through my backswing promptly sending my ball sputtering through the lake. An inaudible curse escaped my lips. Hiraki looked at me with a slight nod acknowledging my distress. “Shigata nai” I muttered before tossing the driver to my caddie.
Aggarwal had not taken any notice, he was eager to introduce Rao to his new found acquaintance, Hiraki. “Yamamoto-san, meet mister Rao, an old friend of mine and a great golfer…” Introductions went on for a while with Hiraki’s characteristic bows in response the verbal flood from Aggarwal extolling his worthy friend.
I began to fidget. My tee-shot had not helped my mood much. “Gentlemen”, I interrupted gesturing at the other four-ball waiting behind us. Aggarwal grunted, conceding, as he moved to the ball already teed up by his caddie – it is too menial a task to bend down and tee up the ball – and a louder grunt followed as he heaved his weight behind the shot making the ball disappear into the trees. Rao’s shot that followed was decent, giving a semblance of competition to Hiraki.
My mood had not improved as I dropped another ball short of the water hazard. Another lousy day! My thoughts went back to the previous day – that began with a quaint plea from my son, who needed my help in getting his passport renewed, rather urgently – and my futile efforts to convince the authorities that the child’s trip to Australia to participate in an architectural design competition is of reasonable national importance.
Pillar to post!
Or is it water hazard to sand trap? I cursed once again as my ball faded right into the greenside bunker. “A double bogey at the best,” I said accompanying Aggarwal ambling lazily towards his caddie that had found the ball which appeared miraculously at the fringe of the fairway.
I had no qualms though – it was I that had asked Aggarwal to fix the game with Rao, explaining the predicament of Hiraki, whose firm is the only supplier of a certain cantilevers, deemed essential by the consultants for the superfast roadway connecting the principal cities of the state. At the request of the consultants, his firm had set up a hundred million dollar manufacturing unit and I was instrumental in locating it.
The project is essential for its future viability.
Everything was hunky dory until Hiraki’s predawn phone-call shook me up on the day before. His voice sounded to my sleepy head like a thousand May-day alarms going off at the same time. “The specs vanished in the final detailing document. It must be the consortium…”
My mind continued to wander adding three more bogeys to the card, as the four-ball continued through to the refreshment hut at the fifth tee – a long holdup, two groups waiting ahead of us. Aggarwal continued in his characteristic tenor forcing wit into his praises of Rao, recounting anecdotes from a long string of his feats. Even Rao couldn’t have made his own resume, more effective.
I smiled absentmindedly at the three heads huddled together and moseyed off with my phone to call a certain Ilangovan that can help me with my son’s passport. “Avaru baathroomla irukaamgu. Pinnaale phonu pamdumgo” a high pitched voice replied without masking her irritation.
The sixth hole is a short par three – just a well aimed pitch with a wedge across the water should get a par, if not a birdie. Hiraki and Aggarwal are already two up. ‘But … this is my favorite hole’ I walked confidently to the tee in spite of a wayward hook by my partner Rao. An easy swing and – Brrrrrrrrr – the phone began to vibrate. I was in two minds – to take a shot or the call – and duffed the ball … another ProV into the depths.
“Sawrree saar. My name ees Ilangovan saar”, he began.
“Yes… yes mister Ilangovan. I was trying to contact you for my son’s …”
Teriyum saar. Don’t worry. Tomorrow passport coming saar, gaarentee. Just small fees for polees and my friend in awffees, saar
“Okay … okay” I hung up, getting ready for my three from the tee box.

“Who’s that?” asked Rao with a smirk.
“Some bloody tout”, I replied, landing the ball next to the pin. An assured bogey, and a chance to halve the hole made me eloquent. “In this goddamned country … the processes are so convoluted, they don’t even exist. You know, how much I had to run around to get a simple passport renewed?”
“You’re right buddy.” Shaking his head vigorously, “This country is run by touts. It’s going to dogs for sure. There’s no place for decent folks like us” said Rao, who runs a very successful ‘tender servicing portal’ for government works that provides start to finish facilitation for its clients. And, he had assured my friend Hiraki a complete reversal of the process, of course, for a reasonable fee.

Disclaimer: The story is not a work of fiction and the characters are real and any resemblance to my golfing friends is purely intentional and not a coincidence.

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