The billionaire woke up in a cold sweat. He fumbled around for his phone in the dark, trying not to wake up his wife. But no.
“My phone… my phone…”
“You must have left it on the twelfth floor as usual. Go get it!”
Grrr. He muttered under his breath.
“What did you say?”
“Nothing, nothing…” said the billionaire, straightening his kurta-pajama. He was a billionaire. He should look the part, even at 5.00 am, he reminded himself, and give up trying to please his wife.
He pressed the elevator buttons.
“Aargh. Nine f***king lifts in this building and all of them busy. What the hell is happening here?”
Stairs? No, he thought. He’d better see who’s going up and down the lifts.
“If those kids are partying again, I’ll…” he didn’t finish muttering this when the lift opened with “Om jai jagdish hare” as the chime. That bugged him even more.
“Maa should stop running my life”, he thought and walked into the lift.
And met his son.
“Yes, beta? Exercise I hope? Those jeans and t-shirt kind of uncomfortable, no?”
“Oh dad. You going up? Or down? This lift is going up. You might wanna take the next one?”
“Well, I’ll go wherever you’re going, sir,” with as sly a smile he could muster. His reflection on the lift mirror told him he’d only achieved a toothy stupid grin. The day wasn’t going well already!
“Just a party, dad, a couple of friends over,” the boy replied sheepishly.
“Okay. Your life. I just need to get my phone now. I’ll get off at the twelfth.”
The boy seemed suspiciously relieved. The billionaire didn’t care too much, though. He had to make that call…
On the twelfth floor, he finally located the phone he was looking for.
“Twenty-two missed calls from this guy! What more must he want!” he said to himself as he unlocked the phone using the secret numbers 4321.
He was about to dial when the twenty-third call came.
“Haan ji. Aap itni subah?”
“Subah? Idhar toh raat hai… ek minute.”
The billionaire heard some muffled voices and the question “hum India ke aage hain ya peeche… are we ahead or behind India?”
He said,“Oh, rehene do… let it be. Yes, tell me why you called.”
“Oh nothing, bhai. Just wanted to talk to behen.”
“Oh nothing bhai… just that she’s been elected to some khel-kud wala committee… what is it, IOC? Thoda doubts clear karne ke the…”
“Accha. What kind of doubts, sir?”
The voice at the other side was sheepish.
“Arre nahin… related to sports only. Ever since you launched that free telephone wala thingie, that Gurgaon-wala Marwari has been bothering me, saying ‘level playing field, level playing field’ or such like. So I thought I might call behenji and find out what is this ‘level playing field’ since she is so familiar with sporting terms… heh heh… woh hain kya?”
“Oh. Is bahane? Kyon, no sports person in your cabinet or what? What about that shooting champion ladka? Or that IIT wala genius?”
“Acha… I have to call them? Okay, if you say so…”
This is too much, thought the billionaire.
“No. I was joking. I’ll tell her to call you. And by the way, ‘level playing field’ has nothing to do with sports. So eventually we will have to talk about this. Anyway, chalo bye.”
Phew, thought the billionaire. Why do I alone have to go through this. Why, maa, why!
But before he could dial, the phone rang again. The same caller.
“Okay what now?”
“Accha… woh kapde?”
“Yes, the designer is working on it, don’t worry”
“Okay… heh heh, bhai, bura mat…”
The billionaire cut him off. He knew that social media influencers weren’t very bright, and couldn’t expect the country’s top social media influencer to be any better.
Now to make that all important call.
He spoke as soon as it was answered.
“How many downloads? A million? I want a billion app downloads. I have already sent for that buffoon’s suit to be made and he doesn’t let me be for an hour. Do you think I inherited all this karobaar to become someone’s fashion consultant? I want those billion downloads. The event is tomorrow. Wake up Sundar if you have to…. What? Okay, wake up Tim Cook too then… You want me to talk to him? Huh? Okay…”
I don’t believe this, thought the billionaire, he’s asking me to work! He dialled Cook.
“Oh hi, Tim. It’s me… Yeah the billionaire… remember we secretly met at Shah Rukh Khan’s party in Bombay? Yes, Mumbai, Mumbai, not Bombay. Sorry… No, that was my son. No, I’m the billionaire… What? No, that was my sister-in-law…. No wait, she didn’t come to the party, no, yeah, that’s my wife, that’s my wife, sorry I got confused heheh… Okay, sorry to call like this, but I need a billion downloads of my app by tonight… Jio… no, not Geo. Jio… What do you mean it’s not in your hands? You own the damn company!”
He regretted that immediately.
“Sorry! Sorry… my apologies. I shouldn’t have spoken to you like that. Yes, I understand. Okay, good night, Tim, take care.”
The billionaire pondered the next step. Should he stop the event from happening? Did his team goof up – did they mean “million” when they said “billion”? Nah. Million is so younger-brother, he concluded.
There was no way to call off the event now, the billionaire decided. He would make heads roll, but first, he had to get the event done with. The suits were getting ready for the nation’s top social media influencer. The billionaire didn’t want a rerun of the last time – the old man threw a fit when he saw his picture in the papers because the jacket was an inauspicious colour! Such a joker! Then the trouble he took to convince his wife to lend the 727 to fly down the whole cabinet. Well, except for the Finance Minister who was sulking about something or the other.
He made the way back to his bedroom floor. The lifts were empty and unused now. Funny, thought the billionaire. Daybreak, and the kids just disappear.
His wife was up. He smiled back.
“What are you smiling at?” she screamed.
“Nu.. nu-nuthing” he muttered. Good grief, he better learn to figure out when she was smiling and when she was frowning, he thought to himself.
At 8.00 am, the billionaire made another call, this time to his team.
“So? What’s the status… what?… okay and on iOS?”
“Only 300 million? What are you guys doing, sleeping? Where are all your digital gizmo-shizmo guys I paid US Dollars for?”
He banged the phone down. Screw these “new age” marketers. Nothing like going back to traditional. Ha, there, you controlled the whole damn thing! And if you can’t fight ‘em, buy ‘em!
He rounded up his trusted communications team.
“Okay, here is the problem. You’ve printed all the stuff with ‘one billion app downloads’ in them? Yeah? Now, listen carefully. We aren’t going to get that number… no, we won’t change the number! You need to come up with solutions, okay? Ring up everyone you know. Ask everyone to think of innovative solutions. Again, removing the number is not the option, okay? Nothing less than a billion will do. Let’s circle back by lunch.”
A few more calls to do – good thing I gave myself unlimited tariff – thought the billionaire as he rang up the fashion designer.
“Arre what news of that old man’s suit? Woh mere peeche pada hai – he didn’t like the colour last time… yeah I know it’s the photograph, but… yeah, I know… but you know how he is, right? He cares more about how he looks on pics, so colour adjust karo camera ke liye… theek hai, okay.”
And his mom.
“Mummyji? Acha, theek hai, lekin Patanjali sambhalna meri bas ki baat nahin. Usko bolo… waise bhi aajkal defence expert ban gaya hai… haan, yoga kaam aayega… okay, lekin bahut mat daantna. Bye.”
Lunchtime. And conference call time. He made it to the office just in time – no way he was doing conference calls on the new mobile network.
“Okay, geniuses, what have you got?”
Many voices spoke, some stupid ideas, some naïve ones. He dismissed most of them and ticked just one.
“Get it done. Wake up people in Texas if you have to. Get it done. Alright, who’s looking after the photographer for the event? I need to brief the photographer. Yeah, personally! Of course, personally! What do you think, I want to hear that guy whine every day that his pic didn’t come out right? You guys have no clue what I am dealing with! No clue!”
“The next time someone suggests that stupid ifluencer platform that popped up THAT MAN as the top Indian influencer… I’m gonna buy that software and sell it to my brother!” he thought as he went to the lifts.
And he waited, trying to remember which floor served lunch. He couldn’t, but he was hungry and his blood pressure was probably up high somewhere. He had skipped breakfast already. He had to risk being yelled at.
He called his wife. “Hello?” he said, very gently.
“Yes? Which floor are you in now”
“Never mind. Lunch is always on the ninth floor. (sigh)”
“Thanks, dear… you know me ver…”
Bang. The phone must have travelled a distance. How many phones must I buy, thought the dictator billionaire. What’s a man to do?
Finally, D-day. Fifteen minutes to D-time. The chopper with the VIP influencer was in the sky. Any minute now. The billionaire went over the drill. First, the VIP would change his outfit to the new one. Then there would be a photo-op with the family and the big banner with the app download number.
He read the number again: 1,272,579,000 downloads.
Aah. 1.2 billion downloads of his app, and changing every few seconds. The boys did a good job. But the billionaire didn’t become a billionaire by being naïve. He called up the number labeled “Digital Guy”.
“So what’s this number? The man who is going to hold up the banner is definitely ask me if it is iOS or Android… as if he knows, but anyway… okay. Okay, so this is the actual meter? Oh it’s your own script? Waah, you are a genius… never knew you guys could write a script with real-time data so fast… okay, give that guy a promotion.”
Here is the man, resplendent in a new designer bandhgala, thought the billionaire. How happy he looks, he thought as he waved. And quietly withdrew the wave. The man was looking at the… wife. Or the cameras. Whatever, thought the billionaire as he shuffled to him.
The social media influencer was headed toward the missus, so the billionaire strategically and politely put himself in the path.
The influencer said, “Oh sir! Achha… if you don’t mind, I wanted to ask madam about the level playing field….”
The billionaire said, “Arre sir, all in good time. All in good time. First, let’s do the thing you have come all the way from…. Tokyo? Taipei? Oh wherever… take pictures! Post them on Facebook! I know you know Zuckerberg (but who cares). Now shall we? And put that selfie stick away, please, you are back in India now.”
The billionaire, his wife, kids and India’s social media influencer number one, stood and smiled at the cameras for the picture of the century, captioned:
“Celebrating 1,272,579,000 downloads, and counting”
Somewhere in Texas, a coder was nervous. He called up his boss, who was at an event in Navi Mumbai.
“Yes, what is it now?” answered his boss a.k.a the Digital Guy.
“Well the app download number is… well, I picked up…”
“You picked up what, you dimwit?”
“The population tracker figure for India. It’s a mistake, it was on the comp…I…”
“You what! I have to tell this to the billionaire. And by the way, you’re fired.”
The coder’s boss tried to get the billionaire’s attention. He waved. The billionaire, his wife, his kids and India’s social media influencer number one, smiled and waved back.
Smile and wave, smile and wave, thought the digital guy. He could always update his LinkedIn profile when he got back to the desk.
“Such a happy family they are,” he said to no one in particular as he smiled and waved.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any billionaire, social media influencer, botox recipient or digital marketer (poor innocent souls, who would pick on them?) living or dead is purely coincidental (cough cough) and unintentional. Yeah, the humour is absurd, I agree!