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PostPosted: 23 Mar 2010 23:12 
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This thread has over time served a host of great writers, and in turn has been served by them. Indeed Vivek Ahuja, Singha, Dileep and Shankar have made their mark on BRF. As such, the pedigree is enough to make any prospective writer quail, though we saw with Sudhanshu's post that there is still quite a bit of zest around, though the number of posts are petering out.

Meanwhile, all that writing, in turn, gave me an itch to write, and thanks to Dileep's, encouragement and support, I have decided to take the plunge. Please note that this is yet only a plunge, and I do not know if it will be a swim, a bath, a sink or jump running back from the waters. Writing the story is going to be a journey for me and I will myself find out what it will be based on my ability to write and imagine and on the feedback it gets from the forum.

Also note that this is not going to be strictly a war scenario, in fact almost certainly no war, even if there is some action, it will be more like a Spy story in Dileep's genre, but then again we shall see.......

So here goes -- Dance of the flamingo


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PostPosted: 23 Mar 2010 23:13 
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Dance of the flamingo -- The beginning

There are places in the world where the feel of power is palpable, the very air seems to throb with it and it permeates every inch of space. To feel it you do not have to be a believer in the occult, or in magic, neither do you need to have the fine sense of an empath attuned to the emotional and mental state of people around you. You don’t even have to be an intellectual with a finely developed grasp of historical patterns and biorhythms , not even need have a knowledge of the times past that have visited the place. In fact you probably don’t even have to be human to feel it, it is just there the power, raw, primordial and unmistakable – and New Delhi is such a place.

The architect of New Delhi seemed to lay out all the power of an eternal nation, even if yoked to the services of The empire, in a Yantra of power; laid upon the even more ancient mandalas of power and prestige, of wealth and culture, of the recurring capital of Bharat, since the time of Indraspatha. With the India Gate at its very center, the rays of power radiated out in the Yantra of power made by stone on earth. The sand stones of Rajputana themselves steeped in power so deep that even a single piece of it would radiate it, when laid out in the artful mosaic on the blood drenched floor of Delhi earth were the invocation to Shakti herself. The patterns of India from time immemorial singing in every piece of carving and ornamentation; songs of joy, of creation, of eternal lament of loss and subjugation, of power, of rage, of fear and of redemption and hope, the city personified a song to the Devi, to Katyayani, and if you happened to be at the center of it, you would hear it.

Sq Ldr Manvendra Singh heard it and felt the sensation run through his blood, as it always did, every time.

With his eyes closed and a deep sigh, he swung the haversack on his back, and prepared to step out of the Bikaner house, away from the bus in which he had yet again made the journey from Amer to Delhi. Bracing himself for the bitterly cold sensation of a early winter morning, he settled on a brisk walk to Akash. It was in any case a much better way to soak in the feeling rather than let it be spoilt by taking the three wheeled yellow and green clatter bug hideously out of place in the above fabric. He had walked here before, many times, and as always the images from his tumultuous life tumbled though his mind in a collage of the past. However this time, it was only fleeting, for one he had now the mental discipline of an officer, and as for the other the anticipation of the coming meeting kept all his thoughts focused on the future, sharp as the cold of the morning.

In the fifteen minutes or so that it took him to get to the Officers mess, he took in the many forces contingent milling about the circle around the gate, rehearsing and preparing for the republic day parade. The sense of natural power further heightened by the presence of real corporeal power of the world, present in all its glory and disciplined yet restless, The images weaved themselves in and out of the mixture of the foggy gloom and some light from what must have been a sun rise, if only the Vivswat could be break fully through the strange blanket over the land. A believer in omens that spoke to him, he felt the rush quicken, and set his jaws for what he was sure was coming.


Last edited by Sanku on 24 Mar 2010 21:42, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: 23 Mar 2010 23:13 
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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 2


Akash was up.

Given the occasion, people were already moving about in the otherwise unwelcoming combination of the unearthly time of day and the inclement weather. Clad in Grey woolen battle jackets; smart and distinguished looking men and women walked up and down the lobby. The sense of purpose and quickness of movement seen in every soul bustling by, with erect frames and a cocky swagger, the officers and men of the Air force provided the counterpoint of energetic bustle in the warmth of the mess compared to the cold purposeful war machine outside. This was the place where the human side of the Indian solider came though and what could be seen, was comforting to behold.

He walked slowly though the crowd, startling the receptionist when he presented himself. The receptionist who a veteran of many years, even if civilian , of the most human side of the Forces, puzzled for a moment on how to place the man in front of him. The bearing and the manner clearly suggested the forces, along with straight back even if slightly stooping game leg. The manner also said -- officer. Yet he was dressed in civilian clothes, with a beard which clearly no regulation would account for, looking something out a old Rajsthani painting.

“Sqn Ldr Manvendra Singh, Aviation research labs” – the introduction shook the receptionist out of his bewilderment – “Sir yes Sir, Wing Cdr Manna had asked me to expect you, he wanted to make sure that there would be no confusion on your arrival Sir. I have your room ready as instructed, I have been told to inform you that, you have till 11.00 AM to rest and refresh Sir. At 11.15 please make yourself available at the lobby, I have been told that some other officers would then meet you with further details.” The desk clerk busied himself with formalities of identification and registrations, again puzzled over the card presented, which was that of an retired personnel of the Air Force, but didn’t wasn’t the guest supposed to belong to some research lab? In any event the identification appeared to be in order and since his procedure called for filling in details as per the card and as such he proceeded to do that. He had been around long enough to know that not all that was passed on verbally was committed to records and most of it meant to stop with the person whom it was told to, there are things in the forces about which it is not a good idea to be too curious about and given that this was Delhi, it would not have been possible to follow up every juicy lead, so mentally slotting the visitor as “important”, the clerk proceed to let his mind wander to other things as the plans for the weekend at Kotla stadium while he mechanically went through the motions of filling up the forms.


Last edited by Sanku on 24 Mar 2010 21:43, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: 24 Mar 2010 21:41 
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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 3

Akash, had changed. From the last time he was there as a young man invited for the summer ball, the building made in the Raj era on the lines of a Anglo-Indian Lutyens Bungalow had morphed into yet another sandstone feature of the power patterns of Delhi. Once the grounds had stables converted to overnight accommodation for pilots flying in and out of Palam; now it was fine specimen of Indo-Mughal-Rajputana-Raj architecture, a sprawling complex over 6 acres; with neat manicured lawns and elegant winding staircases. Of course the Air force eccentricities still stood out; the lobby had the nose cone of a Mig 21 projecting though the belly of twin staircase; creating a startling effect in the otherwise elitist club atmosphere of the mess. “Well, the air force will need to show its mark some where” the Sq Ldr chuckled to himself “Especially since the NDMC had them remove the birds outside on the lawn, complaining that they did not fit into the aesthetics of NDMC area!! Thank heavens that they at least left the ones in Vayu bhawan alone”.

Collecting the room keys from the reception, he moved up the very same stairs, wondering at what kind of room he had been given, given his appreciation for some of the finer things in life. This despite having been a soldier and trained for the hardships of combat, not to mention the bigger hardship of living with the MES’s and GoIs idea of aesthetics, , probably an anachronistic harking back to the older time before he was man. Even then, he was surprised by the class and quality of the room when he let himself in. He had heard that the Akash was now a fine establishment, but he clearly had not expected a suite with sitting areas done up in deep leather couches right out of a English country home. Not to mention the view of the expansive green lawns from the windows. Clearly the room was one of the few usually reserved for very senior officers and other dignitaries who stayed in the mess. Certainly something far above his position in the behemoth that the GoI was. It was now the turn of Sq Ldr to puzzle at the turn of events. Granted he was now officially a director in the scheme of things, yet this certainly was opulence far beyond what the penny pinching Babus splurged on apparatchiks of his level. To be asked to visit and stay in Akash; a throwback to his old life; when he could more easily access the facilities attached to his current organization was in itself unusual; as was the request to identify himself only with his older identity card, yet mention his organizations name to the clerk. He had not given too much thought to any of it before, because he was used to the way that his organization indulged in all the little games of secretiveness, with middle aged paunchy balding Indian scientists play acting spooks with great glee, imagining themselves to be characters cut from the cloth of Shri Bond himself. Yet this was more than the usual fun and games that went on his slightly crazy outfit. This was more than secrecy, this was in its own way, yet another invocation of power. A deep and lesser seen one than the basic raw power out in the streets of Delhi. He shivered slightly, paradoxically now that when he was out the cold. This was not a omen any longer. This was something which was actually happening, in reality, here.

Once again his mind raced through his entire set of experiences of the past, but this time it was a directed search, looking for answers – Who? What? Why? Where? There was much in his life which was extra-ordinary by most standards, and yet in a ironic way, there was nothing in his life which he could single him out for being an iconoclast, his eccentricities were few and deeply personal and his life was one free from blemish of any sort, a straight arrow. Nothing he could think of in his life was layered by duality of conflict, the sort of thing which could perhaps stand out as a possible reason for the surprising extra-ordinary turn of events. The few minutes of fast and furious thinking turning up nothing; his mind returned to natural self; the training kicked back in, clearing his mind and leaving him unstressed even if alert. He decided to relax and enjoy the experience now that he was in middle of it anyway, after all, how often did someone like him get pampered like GoI royalty? He smiled to himself, kicked off his loafer like jutties and prepared to settle in, for next few hours anyway.


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PostPosted: 25 Mar 2010 17:40 
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Thanks Dileep, thats my intent too a post a day, right now I am also trying to build up a buffer of posts to use on off days as well.

So here goes next

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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 4

It was clearly a morning for unusual events, Sq Ldr Manvendra mused to himself as the Indica taxi carrying him turned into Zakir Hussain Marg from Mess gate. To begin with the officers who were now escorting him to his destination were themselves in civilian clothes, although their very valid identity papers -- which they had insisted on showing him – marked them as serving Sqn Ldrs. What did not need to be shown to him but was equally clearly valid was that they were Garuds. Apart from the very brief pleasantries, both of them stayed silent, one taking the seat next to the driver and another settling down next to him. They had said little, barely that he was supposed to come with them for the meeting that was scheduled that day. They did not find it necessary to even mention their destination, or the nature of the meeting, let alone clear his questions, by now many, not the least of which were about the funny instructions so far, including officially being on leave and in Delhi on vacation.

As the car went past the C Hexagon, he felt the familiar sense of the city’s power projection, weaving though its strands as the roads he travelled in. Akbar, Teen Murti, Shanti path and then passing on out of the power matrix to the “other” Delhi, a rich cosmopolitan city no doubt, yet in the end like any other city in the populous parts of the world. This was getting even more curious, clearly he was meant to go to a place not in usual official structure of Delhi. Yet he could not be trusted to make his way there himself without an escort, and why Akash then. The questions were getting a little too persistent to ignore any more. Meanwhile he realized with a start that he had begun to lose track of where he was, lost as he was in his own mind, and the car was slowing down, turning into a parking lot of one of the many community markets which dot the upscale Delhi neighborhoods. “Shall we get a Coffee to freshen up Indra, before we do your Delhi shopping” One of the Garuds casually asked, as they prepared to dismount. “Indra”; no one had called him that in years, many years now, not since his grandfather had passed away, and that was when he was still a child playing in the villages of Eastern India. Not Manav, what he ended up getting called in his official work places; not Sq Ldr Singh, the more formal address, but Indra, just Indra, spoken in a way that clearly meant to convey purpose of meaning. Certainly not accidentally chosen by that Garud officer on the spur of the moment.

Manav paused to take a deep breath, it was falling into place, all the various questions and things that were puzzling him, at least seemed to fit into a pattern – he was being given sent a message. A message which said – WE are powerful, WE know you, WE exist in the places of power and its arms, yet WE are not bound by them alone and restricted by them. WE are something else. Yet WE are legitimate. Legitimate enough to get the Principal Director of the center call him and suggest to him to proceed on leave and while at it spend some time in Akash, where some old friends of his would look him up. Legitimate enough for the Indian Air Force to pass the message down its hierarchy to take good care of Manav without asking him too many questions (or leaving a trace of the care taken, as he would later find out) Legitimate enough to get two officers of the Garud to pick up a friend from the Mess to take him for a whirl. He was being prepared for something, that much was clear to him by now, a calling card presented, an interesting calling card without any physical trace whatsoever. Yet the question remained, WHY? Why go through all this trouble, so the folks were really powerful, good, but then call him into South Block for a briefing and be done with it – and there could be only one answer to that. This was a briefing that could not be done in the South Block, or at USI, or at the bar at the Akash, or in any of the many restaurants that dot Delhi. Something was going to happen here which was off the records, not merely official records, but also records of public memory. It could not have been chanced that any one might see what was happening. Yet there was need to tell him that this was also linked with the stands of power flowing in the city, the part of the power of the Yantra, living for a while outside it.

He squared his shoulders and hummed a tune under his breath; “Yes Kapil, it is a great day to catch some sun and coffee, why not”; and the trio proceeded to walk down the path to the little market café, now talking, about this and that, the conversation suddenly flowing like between long lost friends. Not surprisingly however, once the trio lost themselves in the bustle of the market, one of the Garuds remarked, “hey why not walk a little further, I know a little shop which sells just what we have been looking for” and taking the lead, walked the others out of the market and into the lane between the houses. This was a sleepy and leafy corner of the locality, the houses still from the very first construction of the area, medium sized but well separated houses, cracking a bit with age and a lot of them unlived in. The lead Garud suddenly turned a corner and then walked into a compound with an unlocked gate, walking down the driveway, he proceeded directly to the parking, opened the door from the parking to the house and was in. The others followed him in naturally.


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PostPosted: 26 Mar 2010 19:55 
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Thanks again Dileep, actually the credit for my writing should go to you, in more ways than one.

Thanks Bose babu, VikasRaina, Rupesh, vsharma and KrishG. I appreciate your comments, they have helped me feel positive about it and I built a buffer of three posts now.

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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 5

The house was simply built and at least 50 years old, probably from the time when Delhi was being settled by refugees coming in from Punjab and Sindh, from parts of undivided India which would later disappear into the hell hole of Pakistan. Its exterior reflected both the physical age, as well as the preferred style of people who would have built it, once rich but now much poorer businessmen trying to recapture some of the lost glory. Trying to squeeze in a garden, a garage, a driveway, a verandah and rooms all in the little 1000 sq mt plot, a mini Bungalow to compensate for the hundreds of years old havelis they were hounded out of. A house steeped with love and care, and sadness of loss. It tugged a string in Manav’s heart somewhere, for he too was familiar with notion of loss, intimately so. But the house was now abandoned; the fortunes of the old owners must have changed drastically, either for exceptionally good or terribly bad, to just leave alone such a large property in an expensive part of the town. Probably the children had grown up and migrated, to UK or USA, leaving the old relatives to fade away with the changing time, clinging on to piece of land which to them was dearer than life and perhaps holier than it too. The house stayed behind, a expensive piece of real estate, retained as an asset and flaunted as such in champagne parties by its inheritors. A shrewd investment by the clever new generation, an investment into the rising India, and an excuse to wear the India connection on their sleeves when it could help, perhaps to be able to attend that charity fund raiser by the charismatic new senator who was destined for bigger things. Manav felt an unfamiliar sense of bitterness in his usually positive mind, he wondered if he was not being a little sentimental about just another house, needlessly extrapolating the histories of many such other houses to this one.

In any event, the house was perfect in every way for folks who wanted their actions to stay unnoticed, the very character of the house seem to make it fade away from human notice, sort of occupying the twilight of material space, lost in the perpetual dusk. The outer yard and walls were overgrown with babool and kikar along with many weeds, and also old creepers now gone wild. The garage and driveway too were full of weeds, with any spare space filled with inches thick layers of dust and the leaves from the trees on the outside lane. It was not a place which would catch anyone’s attention, even if one was especially looking for interesting places. However as Manav stepped inside the house, the change in the atmosphere was immediate. Not that the interior of the house was very different in construction or materials, it continued the same sense of age, loss, simplicity and nonexistence. Yet it was clean at least, unlike what was outside, also the doors and windows from the inside were in better care, the paint not yet cracked off, and an overall sense of preservation as opposed to sheer neglect outside. Interestingly the many glass panes of the windows and French doors, were painted – at a casual glance it would look like it was caked with dust, yet clearly it was an applied paint of some sort, if you could call a mixture of earth, chuna and glue as paint. The effect was of stepping through a door into another world, another time. Manav realized what Alice must have felt like, with the world seeming to merge into a black and white movie from the fifties. The Garuds and himself stood out in the picture, and he felt as if he was trespassing on some private memory, breaking into a sanctuary of lost spirits.

The three stood still and silent, into the passage they had entered, for a few minutes, and Manav realized that his escorts too were still unused to the transition that the portal effected. Then the lead Garud moved forward and knocked on one of the many closed doors in that passage. Although Manav could have taken a bet on the house being completely deserted, the knock was answered. An infinitely old man had answered the knock, coming across as a retired fauzi, despite the age. He smiled and moved aside to let Manav enter, and asked his companions to wait in the usual room. Having long moved past the point of independent choice on this trip, Manav mechanically followed the direction. Closing the door behind him, his latest minder walked him to the frugal seating in the room they had entered.

“Aap chai lenge Sir”*, his minder asked, as Manav shuffled uneasily around, not quite up to sitting down just yet. “Tea”, that was a welcome word, something familiar and real to hold on to in this wonderland. “Yes please”, Manav replied with visible relief, glad both for the offer of tea as well as for the sound of normal human speech from his minder. He had half expected the old man to bound off suddenly, screeching “I am late, I am late”. “Aap batihye Sir; mein Karnal sahib ko ittala kar deta hoon”**, the man said, in clear Awadhi accent, adding to the feeling of reality, with known and definite parameters.

Left alone Manav had a chance to look around the room that he was now in, it was probably the dining room of the bungalow, now converted into a little office cum discussion area. There were no files or stationary in the space arranged like an office, but there was a laptop, one with the largest screen he had seen so far. The dining table was pushed to one side, the chairs arranged next to it. Light refreshments were arranged on the table, in keeping with the frugality of the environs. The wall next to the sitting area was kept clear of furniture and instead had a projection screen on it. The projector itself was on the center table of the sitting area. All in all there would be about four or five pieces of office equipment, apart from the food arrangement. The place seemed functionally ready, yet an setup which could be rolled into a large backpack and moved out in two minutes if the need so arose. Having found his bearings, Manav felt a little easier. It would have been too much to expect from any one to be comfortable given the experience so far; yet considering everything, he felt as ready as anyone could be; for the next twist which was sure to come.

* Will you have tea Sir?
** Do have a seat while I inform Colonel Sir.


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PostPosted: 27 Mar 2010 21:44 
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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 6

It was not long before his host walked in, “All right then”, Manav thought, and stood up to greet the senior officer. The man who had walked in from a door on the far side of the room, strode towards him, and shook his hands in a firm grip. “Welcome Sq Ldr Singh, please sit down. I apologize for the manner of your invitation here, but I am sure you understand, there are some things that must with done with due.... caution. Please do sit down, Indra, I may call you Indra, may I not? I suspect it may be the right way for me to address you after all” -- the man said with a smile. The Colonel had a distinct charm, an upper crust public school accent, and a manner which suggested unfailing politeness and old world chivalry, yet the brief encounter so far was itself enough to display the sense of easy authority which carried distinctly through the sophistication. “A Iron fist in a velvet glove” Manav thought to himself as he sat down, the “Colonel” joining him across the table. “I would like to assure you however, that we are not responsible for all that has been happening in your life recently, at least not in the sense of causing those events to take place. Oh yes we certainly arranged for your accommodation to be upgraded, we felt that we must make some amends for the difficulties we would be putting you through, but your coming to Akash itself was not our doing.” Manav continued to listen politely, he had a feeling that at this point of time, that was all that was expected from him anyway.

“Ah yes, but I am getting ahead of myself am I not” said the man, who, if ever, was a “Colonel”, must have reached that rank quite some time ago. “Where are my manners? Introductions first!! I know you, so we can dispense with that part, and you would have some interest in knowing who WE are, I am sure. Manav smiled in spite of himself at typical understatement so favored by the officers in the British mould of the old. It was also not hard to notice that the “Colonel” had simply bypassed the question of who HE was. “I am sure I myself would hardly interest you, being as I am a old man of indeterminate age, as you would have already evinced. Most people who associate with me in this line of work like to call me Colonel, although quite frankly I cannot fathom why, so I suppose you too would like to call me that”, the Colonel continued, eyes completely focused on Manav to the exclusion of all else, but apparently oblivious of his reactions. “Now that we have gotten that out of the way, the more important question of who WE are and why are imposing on your time, when you could be having the excellent beer which Akash serves, instead”. Almost impatient with curiosity by then, Manav was faintly irritated by the interruption which happened in the form of the tea service finally making its appearance. The old fauzi minder had walked back in, with a metal tray with a china tea service. “Ah tea, capital, capital. I hope it compensates somewhat for the beer. Will Darjeeling do?” Without waiting for an answer the Colonel proceeded to pour the tea, handling the tea service with great reverence, “a cube of sugar and dash of milk?” Taking the cup from his senior, Manav felt a mild irritation at being treated like a goongi gudia*, “Why ask if you already know my tastes?” but this too was left unsaid – naturally.

“The problem is, it is not easy to say who we are”, said the officer with a sad tone of voice, “We do not have a name as a group, and we are not even sure if we are an organization. At best we can be called a meeting of kindred spirits”. The senior man stopped to sip his tea, and appeared to be lost for a fraction of a moment in another thought. “As such since we are not any of those things, we cannot be a activity sanctioned by the GoI, which as you well know has a penchant for fixing everything under a formalized structure, something we free thinking folks abhor” his attention now back fully on Manav. “Yet we are fully funded by the GoI, and even the tea which is now served is paid out fully by the GoI”, said the Colonel, considerably cheered up by the thought. “The best part is, none of the money is diverted or black funds or anything so abhorrent . Oh don’t get me wrong, we not necessarily very moralistic, but then all that is not good form, a very crude Americanism, liable to get detected rather easily. This is a much better sport. The Govt. works hard to encourage many cultural and social activities; and we are nothing if not cultured and our social conscience is second to none. So we help out. In any case most of our circle is any way employed by the GoI in one capacity or another, so you can consider our activities as a bit of voluntary overtime towards community service.” The tea cup drained, it was put it back on the table. “Another?”, taking the empty cup from Manav’s hand who had been listening in rapt attention, fascinated, his host proceeded to pour him another one.

As Manav started on his second, his host motioned to the minder who had been standing in a corner of the room, who proceeded to turn off the lights, darkening the room considerably. Reaching out and turning on the projector, he carried on, “given that we are so amorphous, I can not quite myself say who we are, however I can show you some of the things we have managed to achieve”. As Manav watched the screen came alive with images, a series of photographs here, short news clips there. It took some time for him to figure out what he was looking at, but when he did, it took his breath away.

*goongi gudiya – mute doll.


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PostPosted: 28 Mar 2010 16:21 
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Thanks everybody, that is a lot of high expectations, its making me a little scared. Rahul M, I would have posted one more since YOU asked for it, I saw that post too late though.

A lot on this thread owes to discussions on BRF. As I suppose would be clear to the older BRFites, as such I need to keep peeping into other stuff to keep the imagination going. I however do note the point, I will try and reserve more time for this thread and the story. IF I manage to develop sufficient buffer, I intend increasing the post count to two per day (or larger posts). But I need to develop the story enough for that. As such I have a very small buffer right now, the minimum I need to look ahead and provide feedback to the prior already parts of the story, a self correction mechanism, before it gets committed.

Thanks a whole bunch for the participation, and today a little earlier in the day than usual. Is today's installment.

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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 7

There was a photograph of a Ilyushin , with turbaned soldiers in olive green disembarking from it. Then a picture of bodies, with the remains of the same uniform on them, the background indicating a village in tropical setting. Pictures of clips of demonstrations against some peace keeping force. So far nothing unusual, however then there was something which was not seen before, a grainy video of two men in distinctive striped camouflage talking. A rotund man whose face was clearly visible, and fear and tension was writ large on it. The other man whose back could be seen was trying to soothe the agitated fat man. The fat man relaxed, clearly the fat man seemed to trust the other man to a great degree. The man who was soothing the fat man helped him get into a Jeep, with the person who must have had the camera getting in from the rear door. A while later, the Jeep stopped and the other man jumped out, the car had run into a ditch. The fat man too got out, now frantic. Suddenly the other man pulled out a gun and pointed it at the fat man. There was a moments stillness, then the fat man slumped down. The other man raised his hand to signal, and troops which were so far hiding in the jungle moved out and surrounded the vehicle, there was jubilation amongst troops and firing in the air. The other man looked at the camera smiled, walked away into the jungle and disappeared.

The clip changed, there was what appeared to be an official residence in a tropical country. Two men, clearly politicians were arguing about arms sent to a terrorists organization, one of the man slammed down a photograph of the dead soldiers also seen before and walked out in disgust. The other man shook his head and made a phone call. There was a snippet of the first man addressing a election rally and a photographs of him lying dead in a pool of blood, shot dead. There was shortly afterwards another clip, which covered a person trying to make his way through the crowd towards the other man in the second clip, there was a explosion and bodies could be seen falling. The clip then gave way to a photo of the death ceremony of the man targeted. Although the pictures were old, and the clips crude and grainy, it was clear that the two people in the second episode were from the same country as that in the previous one.

There was then a photo of jawans in khaki, dead and being carried out on bamboo poles, one man each to a pole, strung like game. The photograph changed to that of a meeting of a paramilitary organization. Succeeding photos were of firing and general mayhem in that gathering. Shortly afterwards there were photographs of many of the personnel of that organization being shot by a firing squad. This time the clip was relatively clearer, it featured a middle aged lady, sitting behind a grand table on an ornate chair. She was in discussion with a senior and distinguished man sitting across the table, a South Indian by appearance. Repeatedly the man referred to threats to her life and to her country, he was urging her to crack down upon certain groups, the name Fazlur Rehman was stressed many times. The lady unwilling to accept what the man way saying. She was a little hesitant and worried at the prospect of carrying out what was being suggested. The man put the photographs of the firing and mayhem on the table, circled a few faces in the pictures and gave a single page of a printed and signed order by what appeared to be the name of the man who was just being talked about. The lady’s face hardened, whatever she had seen seemed to have firmed her resolve. It did not bode well for the man whose name was taken, and shortly afterwards there was agreement on the remaining policy issues.

The clips were replaced by a still picture of a crater in desert soil, the picture staying static, and providing a context to a conversation on the audio.
“But I can’t, I promised, I swore an oath”
“To whom Sir, to whom”
“I am sworn to the Govt, I cannot”
“But the Govt is not greater than the people”
“True, but…..”
“You know better than us what is being planned don’t you”
“Yes…”
“You promised that you will stand with us when the time came, that was another oath you swore”
“But how, I just can’t go out and say that all that we had been saying for last 10 years was not true”
“You will get an opening”
“How”
“You will get a leading question”
“Who”
“Bharat will help, someone will talk to him”

The show carried on in this manner for few more minutes, covering times new and old, in one instance a case older than 1947, the repertoire varied, some covering bills in the parliament, to more scenes of violence and blood, but each time an aspect of the very public event never seen before, a new perspective. A surprising insight and then some.


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PostPosted: 30 Mar 2010 00:40 
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Thank you by my honored ancestors Mr_Li, I appreciate it. Also note, that flamingo's are migratory birds. I was studying their migration patterns as well, when Rahul M very caught me and brought me here.

Meanwhile... the next episode.
---------------------------------------

Dance of the flamingo -- Post 8

The Colonel cut off the projector. The minder turned the lights back on. Silence filled the room and claimed it for its own.

Manav shifted uncomfortably, the room was silent, both of the older men were quite, looking at him intently. There was no indication from them on what was to come next, after being led by hand for better part of the day, to be cut loose, all of a sudden, was overwhelming. After some time, when the elder men still continued to stay silent, it became clear that this was his cue to now speak. The spokesman of the “group of kindred spirits” has had his say and the group was done with their shock and awe tactics on him. It was now his turn to display his mettle; would he hold firm and navigate the situation correctly, or would he turn into gibbering wreck looking for a door, or perhaps reach for the nearest heavy object? He carefully considered his options, turning them over in his mind, correctly surmising that his opening gambit would be a decider of what was to follow, he therefore decided to employ strong measures needed for such a situation.

“Could I have some more tea please, and I would very much like Assam if you have any?”

The change in Colonel’s expression told him what he needed to know, the silence had been broken well, and the ice along with it. “Haan Sriman, mein le kar ata hoon”* the minder smiled and left on his own accord, taking the tray with him. The Col. smoothed his impeccably creased trousers, and crossed his legs, looking a fraction less battle ready, a mite more relaxed, waiting for the next question with a pleasant anticipation. Manav took his chances;

“Do you really mean to say that these acts have all been your doing?”

“Mine, no most certainly not mine, but then I suppose you mean our doing don’t you? Well, strictly speaking no, in nearly all the cases these actions have been carried out by people who are not from amongst us. They have been done by others, for their own reasons, own motivations and in many cases for narrow selfish greed and passion. If you were to seek to link any of the actions to any of us it would be impossible. In many cases the actors have themselves had no contact with us, even considering many degrees of separation. In fact often enough we ourselves do not know how or by what mechanics do many of the events happen or even know in advance what would happen for certain. Yet it would not be correct to say that many of the outcomes are not to our liking. Neither would it be honest to claim that we have not taken actions and steps which have affected the outcome, in cases shaped it even.”

“I do not wish to sound naïve Sir, so would like to say to upfront that I do understand that morality in the narrow sense of the word has often enough no role to play in the scheme of things were power is the currency of trade; however just what is your position? Clearly many of these actions would not be condoned by the GoI in principle and some will run afoul of the legal framework. Certainly it could be argued that some of these go against the interests of the Govt for certain, and perhaps even interests of the nation. So where does that leave you? Is not what you are doing, fraught with chances of back lash by the GoI itself? Yet you claim to be working within the ambit of GoI, a claim you have already taken some pain to demonstrate”

The old officer chuckled; “Indra are you asking us about the morality of the enterprise, or the practically of how it functions in co-existence with the Govt?”

That took Manav by a bit of surprise, the old man was incisive, you had to give him that. Meanwhile the minder had returned with a fresh pot of tea, and this time he welcomed the interruption, a much need breather to take in the rather complicated dialogue.

“Ah thank you for the tea again my friend! Indra, would you be so kind as to do the honors please. I would like to see what you can do with a strong brew.” Carefully watching the various proportions that Manav put together in the cup, the Colonel continued; “To be fair, I should answer both. The practicality part is rather simpler; as I said before, we rarely DO anything, most of the time we just learn, and listen, and off and on we talk. Now that’s not such a bad thing is it? We are careful to never break any laws or rules even when doing those simple things; for example very few of us would ever break the official secrets act when we talk, even between ourselves. When we listen, we do not hold back any of that information from GoI, in fact we take extra pain to ensure that our knowledge is indeed logged with GoI in some way or the other, officially. Yes, it is not that we tell everything to GoI, they do not know every little thing every one of us is doing, for example no GoI source would show that I am talking to you. No GoI source would show what the two Garud officers did on their off day. No GoI source would know the existence of a clip I have put together from various sources. But what of it? If you were to go back and report on the meeting and the circumstances of it, what would be put together which would be incriminating? Seriously speaking? So you see we aspire to, to use the allusion by someone extremely highly regarded by us, follow the example of the fourth avatar of Vishnu. We live neither in dark nor in light, we neither act or remain inactive, we are neither present nor absent. We are neither insiders nor outsiders. Yet our vengeance, when visited, is terrible.”

Manav stayed silent, this time a silence born of genuine choice, waiting and wishing for the old man to carry on.


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PostPosted: 30 Mar 2010 20:58 
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Thanks Klaus, those are some detailed inputs, and though I may not be able to use them directly, I will try and pull in the basic idea that you have there. :wink:

Manish, there will be some equipment included, I am still trying to work out which one makes most sense in the story, I will see if Tejas fits in.

Bala, I am looking for a bigger canvas of scale, but frankly that idea will probably not happen, at least in this story. Wont fit in. :(

Thanks rohit, its a relief we wont be debating on this one here :mrgreen:

Tanaji, almost right, but not Rajiv Gandhi.... :twisted:

-------------------------------------------------

Dance of the flamingo -- Post 9

“The morality bit is much more tricky to do, but far simpler to put in words. In short we have a simple value system, we value our nation above all else, and we value our own individual understanding of the concept of the nation and what is good for it above the rest. We then value the rules of the GoI mostly as a corollary to our second value. We care for naught else.”

Manav stirred, “Well, you are playing God, I see, may I then ask Sir, why are our Gods so weak? Why is the nation beset by so many troubles? Where is your promise of restoring Dharma when the need arises? Surely you are not self satisfied yet, or are you?” Too late he realized that his tone was that of petulance, he felt a little lesser for it, in the context of the Vishwarupa that he had just been witness to.

“No Indra, we are not lord Kalki, we sometime wish we were, but as its stands as of now, we are not. We are a handful of dreamers, most of us are old and fading. We are extremely limited in our scope and move very carefully hence mostly very slowly. We spend years trying to create the conditions for a leaf to fall, and when it does, we don’t know if it will fall close enough to save the drowning ant. We therefore move rarely and only when we are convinced that it is of supreme interest. I suppose I did overplay my hand a bit and made it sound grand. Well I did need to catch your fancy did I not, as I am sure you understand.”

Manav, felt a genuine respect for the person sitting across him, “Well Sir, I suppose it is now time to pop the question then, what was the need to impress me, why am I here, what purpose of national interest do you seek me to fulfill”

The Col seemed to be a little embarrassed by the question, “That Indra, I cannot say, for I truly do not know. My part was to effect an introduction and so I have. However it is not merely nicety that we had in mind when we chose a room for you in Akash, that room is one of the most secure rooms, off limits to RAW itself. You will receive a visitor after dinner tonight, he will take it forward from this point.”

Manav interjected, “But Sir, you are assuming I have signed on.”

“That is a good point Indra” the Colonel said with a smile, “Well there are two points that I was about to come to, but it appears that you are finally beginning to get a bit restless to get out here, eh. Firstly the gentleman who will come to visit you does not know about us, in fact he does not even know that you will be expecting him. He has been worried about some things in his independent capacity and we just persuaded him that it might be a good idea to talk frankly with you as were going to be in town. So as such you don’t have to sign on to talk to him. All we are trying to do is to is create a condition where you take his word seriously. That is the primary reason that we have told you far more than you needed to know, in a sense we are trying to prove our capability and use that to vouch for him. In any case, even if that man asked you for meeting and if we did not interject, you would hear him out, that much is certain. In any case I would request you to meet him anyway. I believe even if nothing comes out of the meeting as a direct action, it would be better for all if the meeting did happen anyway.”

The Colonel continued on his monologue; “However what you do need to do in order to sign on, is to just not tell him of our meeting. Please rest assured, this is indeed your choice, of your free will. If you were to instead tell him, or any one else, that may cause certain minor complications for us, but we would recede in the background for a while and recover. It may however be a strong blow to your poor visitor, who would not be expecting this, but that is a entirely a personal emotional matter. I will like to assure you once more, that whatever you do, we will not pressurize you or you do not have to worry on the account of any malevolent act from us. However that time is till tomorrow, if you talk to that man, hear him, and promise to help him out without talking about us, we will assume that you have indeed signed on, and in that case we shall treat our association differently. As I said, if you don’t wish to continue the association with us in any form, you just have to say NO, to one of two things, before tomorrow.”

The Colonel stood up, Manav followed suite, “You do not have to contact us, your actions will tell us what we want to know, and we will make the arrangements to meet again if and when necessary, which may actually be never, even if you go along with the requests that have been and will be made of you, but then we will see. For now your friends are waiting for you to do some shopping together I believe”

They shook hands and the colonel strode out. The meeting was over.

* Yes Sir I will get the same.


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PostPosted: 31 Mar 2010 22:08 
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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 10

It was already beginning to get dark once again, as the three Sqn Ldrs spent time shopping in the community market. They bought little of very many different items of various sorts, as if the idea was to pick up as many bags from different places as possible. The three chatted amongst themselves about shopping, but never really did talk about anything of consequence. As his new found friends waved Manav goodbye in the porch of Akash much later, he realized that he did not know anything about them other than their names and their service numbers. “Well I just hope no one questions me too carefully about my friends” he grinned to himself as he returned to his room, laden with bags. The first thing that caught his eye as he entered the room was a slim white envelop of high quality paper, his name neatly printed on front. Manav picked it up and placed it on the console, carefully closing the door behind him. He did not immediately return to the envelop but instead first stopped to carefully consider his room. The room was just as good as he had left it, but this time Manav was significantly less enthusiastic about the quality of the room. He instead devoted his attention on the nooks and the crannies, looking in and behind each dustbin, taking down the mirror and examining its back, combing the carpet, running his hands over the wall, examining the light fittings and the telephone set. Having spent nearly half an hour in the exercise, it was clear that there would be nothing unusual in his room which he would be able to find. Possibly there was yet a setup, but without specialized sweeping equipment he could not confirm whether he would or would not, end up a lead actor of a grainy clip.

Stowing away the bags in the cupboard, he focused on the envelop. A single sheet of paper was enclosed within, printed. It said, “Dear Sqn Ldr Manvendra Pratap Singh; Greetings; I am a fellow retired officer of the IAF and a well wisher. While I will introduce myself more properly later, when we meet, at this point of time please excuse my not being able to sign the letter in my name. Considering the gravity and the urgency of the situation, let me come to the point immediately. I propose that we meet, tonight at 10.30 PM, and I will be at your room for the same. I understand that this is a very unusual request, but nevertheless, let us make it happen.”

Manav sighed, it appeared that no one needed to ascertain his views before drafting him into meetings, and his independent sense of decision making had disappeared for good measure. He was being presented with a series of fait accompli and he had been going along with them. Why didn’t he stop to question? Resist? Walk away? He shook his head to clear it. Clearly the players were skilled, quite skilled and knew how to seize initiative and run with the ball. Reflecting upon the day, he thought back at leaving with the Garud officers, whatever made him do that? Because the receptionist had mentioned that his Principal director had said that? He had taken it at face value without question, but was it indeed his PD who had asked him to meet the Garud officers? Or was it someone else behind it? He needed to know, much would depend on it. He picked up the phone and dialed.

Wing Cdr Manna’s hearty voice with a Bengali accent came on line, “Hey Manav, good that you called, you seem to have forgotten about your cell phone on vacation naughty boy. Accha listen, there have been developments…. Thanks for room and all? But I haven’t called them yaar, didn’t you make the reservations at Akash yourself, you did right, you are also getting forgetful like our scientists baba. Anyway did you really think I was so fond of you that I will ask you take vacation and go to Delhi too? MoD was planning a special assignment for us, and we decided on your name, but they didn’t know when it would happen, so I was asked to position you in Delhi in preparation, but I couldn’t tell you about it you know, all very hush hush, top secret. Today itself the news has come through that it is on, so placing you in Delhi worked out the best. You will get a fax tomorrow from me cancelling your leave and sending you to MoD for a meeting. They will take care of the details later, and don’t worry about travelling to Delhi on your own money, we will reimburse, and anyway you did get to spend time on your own for a week before this didn’t you. Where did you go? Visiting your mother! Now that is a good boy. Chalo have fun for the evening, tomorrow you are back on work, and I have tons to do for this project too!!”

Manav, placed the phone back on the cradle. So WingCo was not in the game, or at least on the surface, but by now he wasn’t sure if he could tell. There really was no way to know for sure, and it appeared that he was again on his own. It was curious that the meeting asked for by the MoD and his being contacted in the morning had happened simultaneously, there was a good chance they were connected, but he would not find out if he did not go ahead with the meeting tonight. As Manav pondered on the issue, his curiosity slowly regained the upper hand over irritation at being treated like a puppet on a chain. After all he wasn’t careful the first time when he went with the Garuds, now that his carelessness had gotten him in the muddle, he might as well play along for a while. At least the previous mistake also resulted in some context for the new meeting that was being imposed on him. He wondered idly on how would he have reacted to the letter had the morning not happened?.


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PostPosted: 01 Apr 2010 16:50 
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KiranM :wink: !!

-------------------------------------------

Dance of the flamingo -- Post 11

Manav stood in the window of the room for a long time, gazing outside, eyes unfocussed on the lawn, while the day’s events played themselves out in his mind. He was tired, and having not had a proper meal since morning, very hungry. The mild refreshments that his hosts had served him earlier in the day were poor substitute for lunch. He decided to eat, Akash had a reputation for chicken in brown sauce and he decided that he could think just was well while eating, perhaps better, since the food could act as a pick me up. He started getting into his mess dress, looking forward to a dinner with his fellow officers after a long time, when he realized that running into past friends and acquaintances was perhaps not such a good idea at the moment. Very reluctantly he changed into street clothes once again, settling to head instead to the Pandara Market for a stab at the famous Tandoori chicken there.

For the second time in the day Sqn Ldr Singh walked though the dark Delhi cold, past the eye of power, which at this time of day, had turned a monolith of light in the gathering fog. This jaunt itself was not half as pleasant, with the buzz pushing down on him in contrast with the way it had charged him up earlier. He walked a little slower, with measure steps, more purposeful, and with a heightened sense of alertness, acutely aware of his surroundings, noticing every car which went by, every pedestrian, every shadow. This time, the same distance took a little longer to walk and seemed even more so. The dinner itself was short and a quick affair, but nevertheless took long enough for the fog to have congealed and drowned out nearly every feature of the land, and Manav walked back to the Mess, grateful for the lack of visibility that the conditions provided, protecting him like a mother’s womb.

Struggling with himself, Manav decided to at least listen to what his visitor might have to say. Though the disciplined structured mind of solider-scientist desperately wanted to pick up the phone and talk over the matter with his PD, or perhaps someone more senior in Vayu bhavan, a part of him could not shake off the Colonels image. His authoritative demeanor, the strong sense of belief in his task, his care and insistence on what he would have liked Manav to do – and -- as he thought about it, the hint of sadness that pervaded the entire proceedings. Manav’s instincts refused to accept that the man he met could want something which was not in the best of interests. He knew that the choice he was making was not to just push away a final decision on the whole affair. As it looked right now, the meeting would only suck him in even deeper. Right from the instant he had stepped off the bus in the morning, he had a sense of *something* coming, and that was when he was expecting quite a different sort of meeting, one set up by his PD with his old friends, the meeting which had been preempted by the MoD decision. He was sure that if he didn’t walk out of the coming meeting he would be committed, he felt it in his bones, at the same time he felt that this was something that was needed from him and he must do it. His inner voice was by now insistent, and he could not but give in. He picked up pace, he wanted to be back well in time.

At precisely 10.30, the knock came, as Manav opened the door of the suite, he understood why his visitor did not risk putting his name on paper. Manav stood aside to let the Air Cmdr enter, there would be no need of introductions at all this time, Manav’s visitor already knew of him, and the Sikh officer who had just entered was too well known for him not be known to Manav. His trademark blue turban and stark white and flourishing facial hair were seen often enough on national television for him to be recognizable to most Indians interested in matters involving country’s security. The erstwhile head of the foremost think tanks set up by the Indian Govt on defence and strategic matters, he was a well respected person across many departments. Though he had aged considerably by now, and was leading a semi-retired life - rarely appearing in public, his word continued to carry tremendous influence on active decision making in the highest echelons. It was indeed high honor for a Director of a research lab to have the Air Cmdr visit him in person. Manav wondered just what had he done to merit this amount of attention, as before, he could not think of anything again.

Completing the formalities of welcome, Manav settled his visitor and busied himself with the duties of an host, the Air Cmdr patiently waiting while Manav poured out the drinks and brought them over. Still the Air Cmdr did not directly move on to whatever was the pressing and urgent topic which had necessitated meeting in this manner, he instead spent some time small talk, chiefly remarking about the room, making Manav worry about what his answer would be if pointedly asked about what he was doing in a suite such as this. Thankfully for Manav, that question never came, and the Air Cmdr finally satisfied with whatever he saw of the Sqn Ldr, leaned forward in his chair and got to the point.


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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 12

“Well Sq Ldr, have you heard the story of the boy who cried wolf too often?”

“Yes Sir, I believe it is one of Aesop’s fables, if I am not mistaken.”

“No, no, that’s quite right son, it is a foreign tale, but might have been written in our country itself, given how we seem to be living it out.”

“How do you mean Sir?”

“Well you are probably too young to know or remember, but there was a time in our country, where the entire political discourse was dominated by a single point – the foreign hand, it got so ridiculous that at one point of time, one of the MPs with a sense of humor, Pillo Modi as I recall, came to the Parliament with a board around his neck – I am a CIA agent.” Said the Air Cmdr with a chuckle.

“I see sir, so I take it that was system was the boy and the foreign hand the wolf?” Asked Manav gravely, not quite sure where this was heading.

“Yes and no Son” said the Air Cmdr with a smile, “yes there was fear of others meddling, but at the same time, the cold war was its peak and both great powers were slogging it out in Delhi as much as they were elsewhere. However the Indian govt, caught in the middle, did not want anything more than to be left alone to take care of conducting elections and running the five year plans. It found the power play a irritating diversion which it could do without. Its sensitivities combined with lack of experience in handling these matters blew it all out of proportion.”

“I see Sir, so what you are saying is that with time, the country at large started taking the matter lightly, a bit of joke or a political ploy to justify lack of action.”

“Indeed. Meanwhile other happenings caught up with the nation and we forgot that we needed to worry about the issues of Trojan horses in our establishment. In fact after the country opened up it swung to the other extreme, and as you see, we could have foreigners reconnoiter our military establishment and take photographs without any one raising a eyebrow. It become fashionable for semi-informed and quite vacuous media people to pooh pah any such concerns as reactionary elements. If only they knew who close they were to our Chinese comrades of old in their behavior.”

Manav was beginning to get the drift, “So there are serious attempts to compromise the secrecy of GoI, if I understand you correctly”

“Attempts to compromise? My boy that would be a understatement. You remember what that ex-minister wrote in his book about a high level mole in PMO subverting the Nuclear tests? Well that was quite true, though sadly it ended up as a political issue, branded as crying wolf in the manner of past.” His voice dropping nearly to a whisper – “and that son, was then, now things are much worse.”

The Air Cmdr paused, letting Manav digest what he had just said.

Manav straightened up in his chair, not liking the conversation a bit. He was by nature a straightforward person, and his life and not produced in him any particular interest in or liking for conspiracy theories. Yet it had come from one of the most admired men in this field, and he in his own mind was looking at a extraordinary unfolding of events. Despite all that, Manav could not but feel a bit let down. “All this for a lecture on political picture in the country?” Manav mused, he could not bring himself to take it all very seriously despite the images of the morning still quite fresh in his mind. This was most anti-climatic.

“Well Sir, I am sure you are right, but if I may ask, what does this have to do with me? I am not a political person, neither am I high up enough on the ladder to be exposed to or have a impact on these…. Issues. I was a solider till recently and for the last few years have been a project manager in a Govt lab. I do things that I am told and I do them well, but that is the extent of my powers in effecting the system. I must confess, I do not see what you could possibly want from me or how could I help.”

The Air Cmdr nodded, “Yes son I understand. That is why I am here though. Tomorrow you have a meeting with MoD.”

Manav started, he tended to forget the world of power had different dynamics.

“You must not do what they ask you. Accept the assignment, but fail in doing that, that is the right thing to do. For the country”

Manav was totally flummoxed, he had been told by one of the more influential people in the GoI establishment that he must not do GoIs bidding, and a very shadowy bunch of people had taken enormous pains to drive home the message that *this request* was important. He had to fail in his assignment, deliberately, just that, and why? To what end? Was it departmental politics? National politics playing itself out using establishment pawns? To ask this of him when he did not even know what the assignment was, something in which he could have failed anyway, even if none of this would have ever happened, just because things do go wrong sometimes.

The Air Cmdr was perceptive enough to read Manav’s expression. “Sqn Ldr Singh, yes, that is all that I have to request, and no, I cannot tell you anymore, it would not be good for me to do so if you were to not go along with my request – but more importantly it would not be good for you if you decided to. I also understand that you are not likely to be convinced by any more words, after all you are intelligent enough to understand that a completely made up yet believable story could be trotted out, and there is no proof that I dare show you. So I do not seek to get you to do things because I have convinced you, that is not my purpose. My purpose was, firstly, to give you some context on lines I don’t expect you normally think on and secondly let you know that your assignment is very important. It may not look so on surface when they give you that, but I want to tell you that there is a lot that’s riding on it.”

After a stopping for a sip of water he continued “In short you could say that I came here only to warn you, to be careful. That is all that I can hope for and as events unfold, I hope the warning stays in your mind and you would notice things that you would normally never do, maybe you will make connections on your own and decide on the course of actions which is best for the country even if not for the project at hand. Quite honestly pressing you will be counterproductive and this is the limit of my powers on the matter.”

Having said his piece, with a perfunctory goodbye, Manav’s visitor left.


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PostPosted: 06 Apr 2010 20:35 
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Thanks gentlemen!! Here is the next part.
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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 13

Manav awoke with a splitting headache, he was mentally and emotionally exhausted. The previous day had left him completely drained, yet at the end of the day there were only open questions and no answers to any that had been raised. To make things worse for him, the passing of night only had the effect of adding to those. The Colonel had mentioned that there were two ways out of the whirlpool that was drawing him in, one was of course to not go along with rest of the day, avoid meeting the visitor or share the earlier occurrences with him or others. This he had not been able to bring himself to do, preferring to plunge in rather, yet where did that leave him? The other option of opting out, by not accepting his visitors request had simply never materialized, since he was never given a opportunity to make a choice, but in its place, all he had was a warning. He didn’t even get a chance to opt in really, since he still didn’t know the task at hand. The day of reckoning had come and gone, and he was not even tested! So what exactly what his status with the Colonel then, Manav wondered, what would be their association now?

“It would have been nice if I could get the day off” Manav wished, as he prepared to head out, “I really am in no shape to be at Defence ministry today”. Heading down the stairs, he checked at the reception for messages, and sure enough there was a official signal cancelling his leave with immediate effect. There was another envelop bearing the logo of Raksha Mantralya, it included a copy of the signal he had just seen, as well as a request to present himself in Room number 101, of the Y annex to the office to principal secretary to Raksha Mantri, South Block. It also instructed him to be present at 9.30 sharp had reminded him to carry the invite for security clearance. He looked at his watch, he had just enough time for breakfast, and today he did not have to worry on the account of an explanation for his presence at Akash. “Thank god for small mercies”, muttered Manav under his breath has he made his way to the dining hall. Looking through the contents of the envelop at the table, he found a pass for a day’s entry to South Block and a small unofficial post it note, written out in neat handwriting. It informed him that the ministry had arranged a transport for him, which he should be able to easily locate in Akash’s parking lot, it also provided for the Car number and drivers name. Returned to his natural habitat, the Sqn Ldr relaxed inspite of everything. For a while his cares lifted and his attention shifted from running after answers to riddles which refused to unravel before him; to chasing the remaining bits of what was perfectly done sunny side up, with his fork. He had a but a little time before he needed to move, but he made most of it.

As his lumbering white Ambassador heaved up the Rajpath, Manav sunk back contended in rear, enjoying the vista of the Presidential palace looming before them, growing in size and grandeur as it came closer, filling up the entire horizon by the time the car drew up next to South Block. Somehow, he never tired of the art work, every column, curve and arch topped by decorative sand stone sculptures of all manners and sizes. He had by now put aside all other thoughts aside, deciding to be in the present and take things as they came. It appeared to be a good choice of action, recommending itself to him strongly on the merit of also being the only possible course of action. Arriving at his destination, he was struck by how the security of the seat of power of the Indian Government, was by now abhedya*. Short of someone trying a stunt with a long distance weapon, there was no way for the usual Jihadi to make much of dent anymore. The first rank of the three tier security ensured that no car or person loitered about for a moment more than necessary at the first barrier. They were either quickly passed through or moved away. The second tier did a much more through search, id cards, metal detectors, frisking, the works. At the third level, passes for visitors, valid only for a day, were checked, with the regulars making their way through a second channel. The mechanism had been put in place by people who had dealt at close quarters with suicide jacket bombers, would be martyrs with Kalashnikovs, madmen ramming explosive filled trucks, the full range that the wonderful world of terror had to offer. They had learnt their lessons well, and it could be seen in their work, protecting the nerve center of Indian state.

Clearing the security, Manav stepped yet again into a different world. Protected and cocooned, the ministries seemed to have continued unchanged since the first day they started functioning. The columned broad corridors with lofty ceilings stretched away for miles, with people ambling about them at peace with themselves and the world. A few hurried individuals could be seen rushing about, but they were remarkable primarily on account of their rarity. To Manav’s recently soothed nerves, it was powerfully hypnotizing, he pushed himself to make his way to the meeting room before the siren’s song got to him.

*impenetrable

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Meanwhile one tangential allusion in this post, deeply hidden -- 72 of the choicest to the one who gets it. :P


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PostPosted: 07 Apr 2010 17:13 
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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 14

The meeting room was tucked in a far corner, and for good measure guarded specifically by two CRPF constables armed with Insas rifles. Manav presented his credentials to the men who respectfully returned it to him after examining them and crosschecking his name on a list. This in itself was quite unusual, and on a normal day, would have set a bell ringing had it not been for the overload of extraordinary events already. The meeting chamber was typical South block affair, a long meeting table, ceiling installed projector, screen, whiteboard, pointer devices, a sideboard with tea and biscuits, set in a large, spacious and yet musty room, with yellow walls and white false ceiling of sound proof material. A tower a/c stood in a corner gathering dust. The room was empty but for another man, whom the Sqn Ldr had not met before, he was lost in a file he held and did not take realize that we was not alone any more when Manav came in. Manav preferred not to disturb the man, and instead walked to the sideboard to help himself to some tea. Shortly before the scheduled time, four men walked in together, of them, one was in uniform, the strips on his coat sleeves marking him for a Air Marshal, the others dressed in ill fitting formal grey suites favored by the senior civil servants to the extent of being their unofficial uniforms.

The men who had come in did not notice Manav at first, their attention caught by the man who with the file, who judging by their reactions, was an a fairly important person, the newcomers busied themselves with greeting him, paying little attention to Manav still. The group was joined shortly by two more men, one of whom Manav knew well. Dr Sahasrbuddhe was the scientific advisor to RM, and in that position, also head of DRDO. He also had the ARL reporting directly into him, through WgCo Manna as its head. Dr S, as fondly known in DRDO, regularly attended ARL’s project review meetings, and knew not only its PD but also all four of its directors, and was somewhat fond of Sqn Ldr Singh as well. He was clearly unhappy, being harangued by the other man who was with him, also in the civil servant uniform. Despite the distraction, Dr S immediately saw Manav, unlike the previous set of people. Breaking the civil servant’s tirade, he addressed Manav, “Good that you made it Sqn Ldr Singh, let me introduce you to the secretary for defence finance, Mr. Khandelwal.” The little rodent faced man was clearly upset at the rebuff and shook hands with Manav with great displeasure. Manav felt a immediate dislike for the man and reciprocated the feeling. The larger group turned towards them, their little talk interrupted, Dr S used the break to continue “I guess we are all here, should we start the meeting?” An older man broke away from the group and took charge, “Certainly Dr Sahasrbuddhe, let us”, he said walking to the head of the table. The others took their places around the table.

“Let me do a round of introduction for the benefit of Sqn Ldr Singh, who may not have had a opportunity to meet us before.” The senior civil servant started, his tone a little supercilious, not very happy at needing to make introductions for the benefit of an out of inner circle, junior flunkey. The speaker turned out to be the Defence Secretary, with the important man being somebody high up in the PMO. As Mr Vinay Mathur rattled off the names and positions of the men around the table, Manav felt his sense of well being evaporate. He felt a like a very small deer, accidently caught alone at the watering hole with a herd of tuskers. At least yesterday, the two gentlemen had seemed more real, shorn of their weighty designations and preeminence in the government hierarchy. They may have been senior and powerful in their individual capacity but had interacted with him as their equal, two men across the table. Here, the entire might of the Indian state seemed to be on display, weighing down on him. He couldn’t say that he felt very comfortable. This despite the fact that only one person was glaring at him.

“Gentlemen, as you know the Russians are playing hardball again on the FGFA project, and we are sending an empowered group to Moscow to sort out the issue. We have also decided that Sqn Ldr Singh would be best suited for the role of point man for this, given his background. This meeting is to discuss the various goals we want to achieve and the parameters the group will work under. The final proposal goes to the RM TODAY and its execution starts tomorrow.” The defence secretary continued, “The aircraft itself is ready, both sides have completed their development, enough components from each side for the prototypes have been produced and assembled, the prototypes tested and found to be exceptional in it their performance. We have exceeded all hopes we had from the partnership. Yet we cannot move towards the serial production of the aircraft because the Russian refuse to share the critical technology in their part of the development. Till that happens we are stuck.“


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PostPosted: 08 Apr 2010 15:36 
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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 15

“And just what are these critical pieces we can’t manufacture without?” Asked the important man from PMO.

HAL’s chairman spoke up, “The detailed blue prints of the fuselage are with them, as well as plans for assembly and manufacture from various components. Although we have been providing many components for it, including advanced composites that the Russians lacked, we can’t make the beast till we have plans.”

“Can’t we reverse engineer it from the few prototypes we have locally?” This suggestion by the commerce secretary came as a bit of shock to most present there.

“Not right now we can’t” Dr S chimed in before the matter could go too far. “It would take too long, damage the prototypes and put a full stop to all the developments we are using those birds as test beds for.”

“Not to mention that it would cause a total scandal and end our relationship with Russian more likely than not”, the soft spoken IFS man muttered sadly. The def sec nodded in vigorous agreement.

“Hmmph, we have friends who could help, after all what good are products we can’t make.” Com. Sec. interrupted them “And what good are relations with partners which are so weak.”

The Air Marshal was by now livid, “These planes were needed yesterday, the Air Force has been asking for Govt intervention to sort out the matter for 3 years now, we just can’t understand why the issues exist, what is the problem that can’t be sorted out?”

The Def Sec nodded to Manav, “Perhaps, Sqn Ldr Singh, as Director of liaison and integration at ARL, our mission mode node center for FGFA effort can explain.”

Manav had been answering this question for some time now, it rolled off automatically. “Sir, the Russian’s are using the in principal agreement we had for the development phase as a model for further work. The initial agreement called for a 50:50 division of work and funds, the Russian are of the opinion that it should be continued further for manufacturing as well. They are willing to source 50% of the components from us by value, but insist that they continue to carry out the final integration and airframe manufacture as they have always done.”

The Air Marshal was puzzled, “That sounds fair to me, why can we not just let the old model continue?”

The accountant jumped in “No No No we can’t let that happen, that agreement was only for development as we all understand, we can’t use the model for manufacturing, It does not match the cost model we have and we have been over this before with Ministry of finance, there is no more money coming, if we follow this model, our entire procurement will be jeopardy, we have already allocated significant funds for the long distance heavy lift aircrafts, we can’t do this”

This Air Force officer had trouble controlling himself, “We went with the strategic lift aircrafts only because we were tasked to prepare for power projection, this was never meant that we would sacrifice basic needs for it. Why worry with power projection when we don’t have power?”

Manav thought that he would better clarify “Well that is just a negotiation position, the Russians are willing to transfer the manufacturing under certain conditions, their concern continues to be IP protection first and foremost. They will be ok if HAL agrees to work under closely guarded conditions with full responsibility”

It was the turn of HAL’s chairman to be unhappy, “We can’t do that without jeopardizing our current commitments, we have the manpower to an extent, but we will need to set up new lines for this project and hire more people as well. I need my expansion plans approved if we are to do that.”

Mr Kandelwal flatly refused, “That is out of question. There is no money for expansion. We can’t fund it.”

“In any case the Govt has taken a policy decision to not sink in Govt money on high ticket defence manufacturing PSUs anymore. The DPSU situation is blowing up out of control. We need small lean industries, we also need to get in money through FDI and develop private industries. And we have people who are willing to step in and do it for us. We don’t need to toe the Soviet, I mean Russian line. We have to follow the new defence production policy” The commerce and industries secretary was clearly in a combinative mode.

The Def Sec interjected, “True, but please remember we have clauses to bypass the obligations in case of national security requirements, we just invoked it for heavy lift purchase, and if this is not a prime case of that requirement, I don’t know what is.”

The Air Marshal was almost pleading by now, “We need those aircrafts for our doctrine gentlemen, cant we let the Russians manufacture the airframe, in the interim, while we sort out the matter?”

The PMO official stood up, “Thank you Mr Mathur, thank you gentlemen. I believe we have all made relevant points, however the PM has tasked me to ensure that the decision sent to the RM is line with the overall Govt vision, and does not run into further discussions at cabinet committee for security level on account of MoD taking a stand which would be difficult to justify in there. Clearly if such a stand is taken it would cause further delay and the Air Force will not like that Air Marshal Mehra, would it? As such it devolves on me to form the role of referee and make the final policy decision. I have been charged to take up that responsibility if such a situation arose.”

Now fully in charge of the matter, the special representative continued, “As you well know our PM is a firm believer the power of free trade based on open borders being good for the benefit of mankind, as such, he is already quite upset with the Russians for sticking to old methods and not participating fully in market based dynamics. The Navy pushed through the Vikramaditya deal, but that was the final straw, we need the Russians to understand that we have evolved to better systems and are not going to indulge them in Govt to Govt based discussions any more. They should be prepared to put up the money and compete as a private player if they want to do business with us. Also surely the FGFA is a bit of overkill for us at the moment, the MMRCA purchase will hold us well for quite some time. There is no particular hurry to jeopardize policy and vision for a single item. Lastly, the PM feels that military power is a crude and ineffective method for achieving goals. He has found diplomacy and balancing the various factors as a much better method of achieving national goals of lifting the nation people out of poverty. We do not wish our policies designed for those goals to be derailed by spending money on less than critical items. You must realize, this is but one of the many things that make up a nation. Perhaps important to people in the room directly tasked with it, but at a higher level we need to think of the greater good.”

“I have therefore decided on the following plan of action, we shall do the following –
1. Under the current contract, the prototypes belong to us, thus we are free to do what we want with them. I want the Industries ministry to immediately work towards a plan for manufacturing them in our country, if need be we can invite others with the needed expertise to achieve it. If we make it India we will not only save money, we will also be able to draw in more money through external investments. Our people need jobs. Jobs!
2. The Ministry of defence will immediately send a delegation to Russia, as planned before, and the Sqn Ldr Singh will lead the team. This will be all as decided earlier. Except that the goal shall not really be to work out conditions under which manufacturing happens, of course that shall continue to be the stated purpose, but the real goal will be to act as smokescreen for Russians while we pursue plan A. If we get some more tech out of them or dilution of stance great, but this shall be basically so that they don’t throw a spanner in the works.

I will leave it to the individual Secretaries of the various ministries to work out the details of their parts. Thank you again gentlemen I now need to leave, there are other pressing matters to attend to.”

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thanks Amit!!


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PostPosted: 09 Apr 2010 21:29 
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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 16

Nodding good bye to the remaining group, the commerce secretary left on the heels of the last speaker, quite possibly they had to attend the same meeting at PMO. The embedded finance person in MoD stood up and addressed the Def Sec. “Thank you for the invitation Sir, it appears that my offices will not be required for this task, so with your permission I will take your leave?”. Manav saw Mr Mathur get unsteadily on his feet, he shook hands with the finance man and once he had left, collapsed back in his chair. Dr S was sitting with his head in his hands, looking quite disturbed, he saw his visions collapse around him. The foreign secretary, treated as a side show in any case, had left without a word, and was not missed. Of the four men other than Manav in the room, only the Air Marshal continued to remain calm, earlier emotions gone, he was given a fait accompli and had accepted it. His mind moved on the planning that would be needed to make sure the IAFs could meet its goals taking into account a delay in FGFA acquisition, an interminable delay by the look of it. He cleared his throat to get the attention of the secretary. “Mr Mathur, since most of the participants have already left, I suppose that the meeting is over? Or do you have anything to discuss with us, after all this was your meeting, and we should know from you, shouldn’t we?” The Air Cmdr could rubbed in bitterly. The Def Sec looked up with a wry smile, “Ever the wit eh Mehra? Since we were kids too! No I suppose you better get back to the Chief and let him know what happened. We will be sending the minutes file later for your signature. Mind you I will probably talk about our part and couch the role of Commerce Secretary as being tasked for exploration of indiginisation of manufacture in context of joint research or something like that. Make sure the Chief has the correct picture though. We will talk about the ramifications with him later.”

Manav stood up to see the senior officer off, the Air Cmdr caught his eye and walked to him. “Sqn Ldr Singh, it’s a pleasure to meet you, I had heard of the good work you have done in making sure the FGFA development saw fructification with great jointmanship between us and the Bears. Of course your latest assignment is a little different; making sure you fool them this time, but then we are soldiers eh, we do as we are told and do not question. Best of luck to you Manav, make sure you do carry out the responsibility the country has laid on your shoulders without fail.” The Air Cmdr patted his shoulders with a smile and then we gone. Meanwhile HAL’s chairman had folded up his papers and was preparing to leave, the meeting officially over now, he too looked forlorn – but like the Air Marshal too he expected the decision to be a done deal – people like him had made their carriers out of navigating their organizations through the whims of the political leadership, they knew resistance was futile and adaptation was a better strategy. Shortly, the room was empty but for Dr Sahasrbuddhe and himself, and eventually rousing himself Dr S got on his feet and left taking Manav along with him.

“I hope you understand what this means don’t you” Dr S asked Manav.

Manav was not sure, “I don’t fully understand all the ramifications Sir, to be honest, I do understand that this will jeopardize the cooperation on the FGFA project itself, and also is bad news for ARL since pretty much all our projects need flying prototypes at this stage, as many of them as we can, with as many flying hours possible”

Dr S, nodded, “Yes, of course, those things are there, but I fear that this incident may have far greater consequences in intergovernmental affairs than it appears on the surface. I have been around long enough, and I would tear up my experience certificate myself if the matter does not escalate. Just how much I shudder to think. This certainly is not a going to be a project only matter most certainly. I am not sure if the PM has been properly briefed on what can the possible repercussions be.”

By this time they had reached Dr Sahasrbuddhe’s car; “Well, you have a tricky assignment, I guess I can’t help you much, even if I would like to, but do take care of yourself, I think you are going to attract unwelcome attention soon enough, not only from foes but from *friends* too. I can pray though, and I will pray that the gods look after you.” With that benediction Dr S too left.

Manav stood to one side watching the car pull away, having been left at an loose end, he considered returning to Akash for the while. Though the turn of direction had been too sharp for him to be given a detailed brief, some things were falling into place again, at least he now knew what was the assignment he supposed to fail at. But in what exactly, fail in fooling the Russians? How would that help, other than probably creating more bad blood and jeopardizing the project further, if it was not already dead in its current shape with the decision taken? Travelling back towards Akash, another perspective to his very ambiguous briefings began to form in his mind. Clearly the need to avoid overt association was a given, as was the need for secrecy, in addition the reasons why he was not given clear *instructions* was because things were left up to him to do. Truly, he was not a agent of a manifest destiny living out a script, but an trusted team member, who given the information needed was left to chart his own course in his own peculiar circumstances. Not being fettered to look back for guidance at very unexpected turn and linking his actions to others, but making his own choices based on his own wisdom. “A very Dharmic approach, no doubt”. The thought was pleasant and the contrasting approaches of the manner he was tasked in, between the two days, was beginning to influence him towards a certain set of actions.


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PostPosted: 12 Apr 2010 21:04 
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Sorry folks I sincerely apologize, didn't mean to delay.

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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 17

So preoccupied was he that he never realized when he had made his way up to his room again, completely oblivious to the world around him even song of the city went unheard this once. Back at his room, Manav thought it best to spend some time alone, gathering his thoughts. Sunk deep in the couch with a beer in his hand, he mulled over what should he do in the current situation. While he was still not completely convinced by the extra-official persuasion, at the same time, the reactions of various people still in their official duties, some of whom he looked up to , to the assignment that he was given, was compelling support to that which was said by those outside. The more he thought about it the more he could not bring himself to ignore the need to do something. As he grappled with various contrasting pulls, ideas begun emerge out of the manthan*.

He did understand that the PMO has the defacto supreme authority in the Indian setup, and if indeed the PM was thinking along the lines that was indicated it would appear that the course was already set. However at the same time they had a mandate from RM before the meeting started, to find a way to resolve the issues holding up the manufacturing, and it had not ceased to be a mandate to MoD still. Granted they now had a preferred solution from the top, but this still left them enough space as a sub unit to try alternatives to the same if they could do it without directly getting in the way. After all there was no guarantee that the preferred solution will indeed fructify in the necessary time frame and having a back up didn’t hurt. In any case his cover for the main operation was to pretend to be working hard to sort the matters out, and thus if he was *really* working hard on sorting things out, that would any way be the best way of serving the overall goal too. And If by any chance in doing the cover job he really did it so well that it becomes a good solution, then they may even have a wonder drug which would avoid the side effects of taking steps as had been dictated. Now of course there were unique challenges, first of all the basic issue of negotiations with Russians was top secret, on top of that the PMOs methods caused even more secrecy about the overall plan. To succeed at what he would try, it had to remain secret from even the high powered group to which the PMOs plan was not secret to. So effectively the secrecy was so high that he had to keep his intentions to himself alone. This in turn mean that he was not going to get any support from the GoI in general, although he could get some requests through if he could convince the machinery that all he was trying to do was to pretend to Russians. The constraints therefore were clear, and this was a very difficult problem to solve in the first place. Of course for him as an individual there was no way to ensure the large amount of funding and support needed for manufacturing at HAL or to obtain permission to get into any agreements with Russians about joint manufacturing. In short, for an individual it appeared to be a impossible task, he might as well attempt the swargrohini trek in this Yuga and hope to reach heaven.

For him though, the situation did have one redeeming feature, he was not truly alone. Whether or not the circle of kindred spirits was in direct contact with him, irrespective of the fact that the option of drawing immediate material support from them was not available to him, he was certain that they were indeed keeping a eye on him. Perhaps more than an eye even. It would not even be a surprise if one of the people at the morning meet were part of the circle in some way. That to an extent certainly made his situation less god forsaken, but he was not sure if he was ready to invoke the spirits right now even if he could. It was one thing to act according to ones conscience as a independent officer, and quite another to get into a planned action with people whom he had no business involving in such matters. Trying to work out all the possible permutations and combinations of possibilities created by the situation, Manav’s head hurt, even the nonlinear dynamics of vibrating aero structures appeared quite simple compared to what he had to deal with now. Not finding a perfect solution which would satisfy all the variables, taking small steps at a time seemed to be the best option, with the hope that the future would show a path to walk on further. The most critical thing that he needed was time, he was aware that if reverse engineering process was started in a significant manner, its fall out would close every other course of action. He really wanted to make sure that he chose the right side to back and desperately wanted time to have some clarity. He picked up the phone and got to work.

“Hey Subba, it Manav here, do you remember the couple of Chinese spies in the neighborhood, the ones you really have wanted to bust for a long time now? Well as you know they have been trying to penetrate the ARL without too much success, and we had been feeding them junk to ensure that we know exactly where they are. I think the time has come to expose their little jig. You see I shall be travelling to Russia almost immediately and would probably be there for a long stay, since I was the one handling the disinformation, we can’t risk the rats to have a free run in my absence. What if they actually got something useful? I am happy to know that you think that’s great, hmm do I want the bust to not make news? Yes I agree that your career would get a solid push if the thing got splashed all over the place, and I suppose you would want to catch them at something big, something to really put them away, wouldn’t you? But in that case you have to promise that my name would never appear anywhere, otherwise I would be in trouble. No records of my role, no talking about it nothing. To the world it must be that you caught some rats as they were trying to get away with the cheese. All your regular police work, with the foolish defence types not knowing how much trouble you saved them from. You would like that too? Sure thing then, I can arrange for them to be fed real information for a change and then you can have them exposed. In fact make sure this hits press before the official records reach seniors in Delhi, I bet they would be just dying to get credit for this up here.”

A much happier Manav returned to his beer, he had already setup the termination procedure for this side game early enough with his staff back at the lab. He just needed to ring one of them and say the word, the dominos would fall without a trace of his involvement. Now that was a good man, Kartikeyan, immediately reporting the Chinese touch made, which let them play the double game without anyone knowing about it outside the three of them. He was pukka** that the brouhaha resulting from the expose would lead to immediate Russian response, from an already paranoid team from that end. There would certainly be more Russian at the site and a clamp down. He fully expected that the Russian intelligence would also start sniffing around to counter further attempts, and then they may in due course detect other things as well. “If this did not block the release of the prototypes outside ARL I would eat the blooming old old peak cap, without pepper.” Manav promised himself.

That achieved, he drained his beer, slumped back and was soon snoring gently.

*churn
**sure


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PostPosted: 13 Apr 2010 21:56 
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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 18

The mobile had been ringing for long time before its vibrations roused Manav, WgCo Manna didn’t appear to be in a good mood.

“Ke holo tomar*, Why don’t you flush the bloody useless piece of junk down the toilet Man”

“Sir yes Sir, sorry Sir”

“Are you at Akash? No one is picking up the phone on your number?”

Manav stared groggily at the fixed line, LEDs glowing red, multiple missed calls registered, “I am very sorry Sir, I had dozed off, the meeting was a little….”

WgCo Manna nearly choked at the other end, “You were sleeping…. Hey Bhagwan, tumi kichoo**; do you have any idea of what is going on?”

“No Sir, sorry Sir, I have been at MoD all day Sir, not plugged in at all Sir.”

“Turn on the goddamned television and look for yourself, that bloody Banshee is screeching her head off.”

Manav turned on the TV and tuned in to Banshee’s channel, Subba had done his work well, it had barely been three hours, and a national TV crew was already covering the main gate of ARL, the maximum limit to which they could go. Bland cuts of the gate were interspersed with those of a police headquarters, where Subba was strutting around looking important, barking some instructions around, clearly enjoying himself. At the TV studio, the Banshee was wailing on about the sorry understanding of the need to secure national secrets by Government scientists.

Barely suppressing a laugh, he cleared his throat, and gravely said, “I say Sir, this doesn’t look too good.”

“Damned right it does not, thanks heavens none of our men seem to be involved, but that’s not going to stop *that thing* from flinging mud would it. This is bound to get political attention, I will have to answer so many questions, stupid ones too…” WgCo sighed. “To beat it all, the Russians have already been trying to get hold of me and my secretary has been fobbing them off. Oh why aren’t you here, damn it? Handling them is your job!!” His fury blown, WgCo Manna was positively despondent in the aftermath.

“Err just what were these blokes trying to do?” Manav asked innocently, nudging the discussion in different direction.

“They had put in some taps on a network cable and were sniffing information. God only knows how the taps were installed, but thankfully, the CID chap assures us that he had the buggers under watch from day one, apparently he was waiting till they got some data he could catch them with. So no damage has been done looks like.”

“Thank Bhavani” said Manav with genuine feeling, glad that the ruse was working.

Suddenly changing the topic, WgCo asked, “Dr Sahasrbuddhe was on line earlier, briefing me about the meeting, so is that true?”

“Um what Sir?”

“That we are planning on showing the bear the middle finger?”

“In a sense yes, Sir”

“Well I don’t know what came over GoI, trying to be all ballsy suddenly, not in character, don’t you think?”

Manav hemmed and hawed and WgCo moved on, “Well, Dr S has worked with the Def Sec to pass me the outline for your trip, a bloody junket now frankly. I will mail you that with any additions I need to make and other documents on your official id. Although frankly I expect you will really be in hot water. With this incident, the Russians would be really prickly. I don’t know how much you would convince them of our good faith in normal circumstances, and now they will just distrust everything even more.”

“And how do you think it will impact the project Sir” Manav delicately tried to find out what the Indian project manager for FGFA thought about the whole thing.

“Frankly, I don’t know, there seem to be too many cross currents running about, personally I would be happier if we could just do the bloody thing ourselves, yet there is something about the whole episode that smells fishy to me. Well we shall see!! I know that the old man is really distraught, though I can’t figure out why. What the hell does it matter, who we collaborate with under which ministry as long as we can keep a hold on the project? I think these strategic types really lose it after a while! Anyway his problem not mine.” Concluded the WgCo with a sense of finality.

“Get to Metcalf house tomorrow and meet Dr S’s secy, she should have it all fixed up for you to take it forward, and if you see the bloody Banshee in that soul less city anywhere, punch her in the face for me, not deserving of chivalry that female, no Sir” Fuming again, WgCo Manna was gone, probably to avoid getting found by Russians by staying in one place too long.

*What happened to you.
**Good lord, you anything (unsaid – know not)


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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 19

The skies over Montgomery County were bleak and grey, a different grey than that of the firmament over New Delhi. This was grey of extreme cold, of the kind that New Delhi did not know. In a building set off from lake side, warm yellow light could be seen streaming out of its small heavily curtained windows, a diffused contrast against the all enveloping darkness enveloping the world. Heavy snow lay over the wood and brick construction, a sprawling old mansion standing alone in the snow filled meadow, with a barn at some distance. The barn had a water tower adjacent, a railed walk way running around the circular structure. It was an idyllic picture, of nature and man in harmony, the sort of setting which made it to tourist brochures. It was picture of perfect peace, or would have been, had it not been for the men with the guns also in it. In white snow parkas, carrying white sheathed automatic weapons, men could be seen guarding the isolated farmhouse, if the viewer looked really carefully that is. Not too close to the main building itself though, roughly in a circle of half to one kilometers, a perimeter patrol passed by guards at vantage points, nearly invisible in white on white in the snow. The sniper on the water tower though was little more visible, the dark metal railing cutting into the white on white. A single man in a brown jacket and leather boots sat in the porch of the building, sitting with his legs up, smoking, relaxed. The door he sat outside led into a large sitting room with a warm fire blazing at the center.

The men inside did not seem to enjoy the sense of security and well being that being ensconced in that sumptuous well guarded country house should have given them. While one of the men was sitting quietly in a large padded sofa the other paced about restlessly. “Calm down Donald, nothing has happened as yet which should worry us.” The patrician old man commanded his much younger companion, who stopped moving about and stood still. “Sir you know that the Russian are moving to Hyderabad now, this is not good, and the Chinese presence may be more than regular espionage.” The white haired man did not return Donald’s gaze, he instead looked out, watching the snow gently drift down, thinking. The younger man stood silent waiting for a response. “Donald do you know that plans don’t go exactly as per script all the time don’t you. The random factors of real world do play a role in queering the pitch, the important thing is, are we ready and able to react to the change such that the overall goal is not disturbed? If we are on such a weak wicket that a single bouncer takes us back to the pavilion we may as well not be playing. No I don’t think we went in with such poor bench strength. We just need to send in the next batsman.” His brow still furrowed, the younger man protested, “Your lordship, this is not cricket, and don’t you think the happenstance is a little suspicious, happening so soon after the first move? What if it is not just a random factor, but a well orchestrated pushback?” This amused the old man no end, “Don’t be funny, Donald, pushback? By who? Remember the decision and execution of the policy is being done at the highest levels in Indian system, this is a matter internal to their system. Who will push back? In any case we had stepped up the surveillance on the core members of team who would be involved in the decision making and our observations show nothing strange. All the top guys are doing exactly what the finch said they would do and the meeting bore that out, the warbler reported that too. They are doing this nearly of their own accord, they think that this is the right thing to do.” Donald wasn’t fully convinced, “We were not tracking one of the junior officers at that meeting, also it is possible that the Chinese found out through their own channels and actively tried to block the move.” The peer was by now tired of soothing the young man, “Let me get this right, are you saying that the Chinese would rather have Russians more active inside India and let them work closer? They may be unimaginative, but they are not daft for Christ’s sake. As far as the junior officer is concerned, you are in charge of the actual execution are you not, do you need to ask me what to do? Get on to him, track him, know his every move and if need be you know what do to. He is the Indian points man with Russians now and a lot will depend on how he does.”

Donald Ramson stiffened, he was not used to being ticked off, not since he had left the farm anyway, and it had been a long time since, a very long time. People did not tick off deputy directors of his organization, especially the deputy director of National Clandestine Services responsible for special activities division. He would have bristled had it not been for the man sitting opposite him, the cold blue eyes of the Baron held him and he decided to let go of the matter. “Certainly my Lord, I think we may be trusted to take care of the matter without needing the help of our cousins’ across the Atlantic just this once.” Deputy Director Ramson said smoothly, the hint of sarcasm not escaping the Baron. “Come Donald, surely you wouldn’t let a old man offend you, would you, after all we need to work together in a harmonious manner and all that eh old boy”. Ramson grimaced, the words of deputy secretary of state were quite clear in memory. He was not going to let his personal prejudices effect his work, he was a professional, the best the company had, otherwise he would not have gotten here at this age. “Certainly Lord Manningham, I understand the need to work together, and I do appreciate your insights into the Indian system and psyche, after all you people are old hands at this aren’t you.” The Deputy director knew what tickled the Baron, he had looked up his new Comrade, and as with everything else, he was thorough. “So what do you propose we do in addition Sir, just keep a eye and let it play out as planned before?” The Baron’s suggestion was not one he had expected, “No we need to do make sure the breach happens well in time, we cannot afford a delay, whether or not the developments are accidental or not. You need to do your bit to ensure that the previous timelines are adhered to, I will leave it up to you to carry out the task, as you said your people can be trusted, and I do trust them, after all this is your real job, and not trivialities like keeping tabs on a minor official of a third world country, the rest of your organization is quite capable of doing that anyway. Let me know of what you come up with, and in case you need help from our blokes, don’t hesitate to call, this is too important for interdepartmental rivalry and such things.”

The deputy director nodded, turned on his heel and left, his manner more military than the Baron would have liked of a man in his position. “Ah I suppose it can’t be helped, they have as much of the Saxon in them as much as they have our Anglia’s heritage. Makes them stiffer and less appreciative of the subtle games of statecraft. Too direct, too direct….” Replaying his oft repeated thoughts, the thoughts which always visited him whenever he needed to work closely with the country he was a guest of. His views were shared by others in both countries as well, and that’s why his kind were still so valuable, despite the real power having passed on from their hands a long long time ago, he had not been assigned merely for political oversight, he had another job to do in these circumstances and he would was determined to do it well . He was driven even more by his firm belief that their numbers were dwindling rapidly and they needed to stand together lest they be overwhelmed. He reached for his mobile, it would be early morning at the other end, the right time to begin working.


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PostPosted: 15 Apr 2010 21:36 
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Thank you very much folks, this is harder work that I expected and the encouragements go a long way!!

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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 20

Aeroflot flight SU534 of was running over half a day late, the fog in Delhi had caused an absolute deadlock and the weather conditions in the Moscow were not helping ease the situation either. The Boeing 767 landed heavily on a freshly cleared airstrip, kicking up a minor snow storm in its wake. Sq Ldr Singh heaved a sigh of relief, he was looking forward to getting out of the cramped aircraft into the open. He turned around and grinned idiotically at his colleagues, the two MoD officials who had been deputed to his team. The team which was supposed to appear to find the solution while in reality waste time. “That really shouldn’t be too difficult given my team” Manav thought caustically, “Even if this wasn’t my real goal, my team would have effortlessly achieved the same end. No wonder they didn’t feel it necessary to let anyone else know what the real game was.” Keshav Prasad, from the finance department was shocked to see the Sqn Ldr smile, Manav had been scowling at rest of his team since they were first introduced, he grinned back with matching fervor, glad to see signs of life in what he thought was a cold military officer. He hurriedly shook the other civil servant awake from his vodka induced bliss. Shri B K Pandey had got a rare chance to drink to his heart’s content without worrying about his wife’s reaction and had wasted no time in making the best use of the opportunity. Unlike Keshav though he wasn’t too concerned with Manav’s friendliness or the lack of it, in fact the only thing he was really concerned about was his plans for Moscow. Barely up when the deboarding started, the officer from the department of defence production needed to be helped out by his two fellow travelers. However despite his condition, thing were not too difficult since as soon as they walked out into the arrival lobby, they were hailed by an Indian embassy staffer who was waiting for them at the other end. The embassy man quickly took care of the details, arrival of Indian military personnel now a subject of well practiced protocol between the Indian embassy and the Russian airport officials.

Helping others load the luggage into the boot of embassy’s blue number plated Lada, Manav caught a glimpse of a slim blond Caucasian male. For some reason he seemed to have a dull recollection of having seen him before, perhaps at the airport while they waited the long hours for the flight. In itself that was nothing out of ordinary, as there were any number of blond Caucasian males who had shared the wait at the airport with them, yet his presence upset him in way he couldn’t explain. Perhaps it was surprising to see a fellow traveler out as soon as their group with official passports, or it may have been the fact that whenever Manav caught sight of him, he seemed to disappear before he could really see him. Once again before Manav could fix him mentally, the man was gone, blending amongst the burly Russians, fish in water. Manav stood near the car, undecided but the man had moved on and standing about like a fool was not to going help. Making a mental note to think about the matter, he got into the car striking up a conversation with the staff member driving them to the embassy, from where they would head out to their hotel later in the day.

Manav was intrigued to know that they were being shepherded to the embassy itself first, he expected to be left on their own for rest of the day before reporting at the Sukhoi headquarters for later discussions. “The Defence attaché’s office wants to brief you on about Russia Sir” Came the explanation by the embassy staffer. Manav was not convinced, they had been briefed before, and the embassy itself did not get involved in prescheduled visits unless something unplanned came up. He wondered at the urgency, given that they had been out of contact with the official machinery for less than a day. Too tired to think about what was coming, he decided instead to just look out and enjoy the drive, he liked being in here, even in winter. It took them over an hour to get from Sheremetyevo to the Indian embassy in the heart of the city. The embassy was a beautiful heritage building on Vorontsovo Poly, just outside Bulvarnoye Koltso or Boulevard Ring, built first in the early 19th century, it retained style of its last major remodeling toward the end of the century. A fine specimen of the pre-revolution aristocratic Russian architecture, it quite easily competed for the position of the most beautiful Indian embassy anywhere. The team was dropped off at the embassy entrance, with instructions to go in and meet the Deputy Defence attaché at once. Stopping for a while to use the overnight guest rooms at the embassy to freshen up, the team trooped upstairs to meet Commodore Uday Prakash. They did not have to wait long before they were ushered inside by the attaché’s personal assistant, and Manav felt good at being not the only man in the room with a luxuriant facial growth for a change. The team had barely settled in his office when Cmdr Prakash jumped right into the briefing.

“A warm welcome to Moscow to you and your team Sqn Ldr Singh, although you may find the weather cold. We have been informed in advance of your mission and MoD has sent up the request that the Indian embassy help you in every way possible towards your efforts and you can rest assured we will do that. Please feel to tap us for anything you need, either information or a material requirement. Though you will be staying at a hotel given that we don’t have enough residential facilities here, we have arranged an temporary office for you in the science and technology wing, two rooms actually, one for Sqn Ldr Singh and for one for your associates.”

Manav was impressed, this was better support than he had known being provided to the delegations like theirs, he did not have to make up the enthusiasm in his voice “Thank you very much Sir”

“But of course that is not the sole reason that I had asked for the meeting, there is as you would have guessed, there is another reason, New Delhi has sent up another set of instructions” The attaché passed a file to Sqn Ldr. Flicking off an imaginary speck of dust from his golden braids, the Commodore continued, “That file has a letter which MoD received from the Russian government early today morning, it outlines their new policy decision towards joint partnerships, they have announced tighter IP protection measures. Starting now unless a systems IP is fully purchased by the partner, they will be obliged to purchase the system from a Russian approved agency itself, which has the IP rights given or purchased from the Govt. This is now true for all IP originating from any Russian organization. They have effectively cut of the license manufacture route going forward. Oh and before I forget, they have strengthened their laws further to act against countries they feel are flouting their IP.”


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PostPosted: 16 Apr 2010 14:52 
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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 21

Commodore Prakash looked sympathetically at the stunned men in front of him, it was not too hard to understand what was going in their minds. Manav recovered first and asked, “I see Sir, do we know or are we told what brought about the sudden change in their policies, it may be because I am directly involved in the FGFA project, but the timing appears, a little too close to be purely a coincidence.”

Cmdr Prakash, got up from behind his desk and started pacing on the carpet, “I wish I could assure you that this was coincidence and your project was inadvertent victim of overall policy changes, but I am very well aware that FGFA is not a minor distraction for the Russia. As much as I dislike the thought, the chances of linkages is high.”

By now, even Shri Pandey was fully awake, “But Sir, why would the Russians change the rules so late in the day, we were expecting a good faith negotiation, what does this say about their intentions?”

“Either their intentions Pandeyji, or their knowledge of ours.” Cmdr Prakash fixed Manav with a pointed gaze. Manav shifted uncomfortably and Cmdr noticed, “But don’t worry, I do not believe in speculation, I do however believe in knowing exactly, and that being my job, I will work towards that. Meanwhile you are on your own in charting a course. I have no further instructions to give you.”

Wishing farewells, the three men proceeded to file out of the room, but it appeared that there was one last thing that Cmdr still had to talk about, “Sqn Ldr Singh, can I have a minute of your time in private please?”

Manav, stopped and returned to his seat as his team mates left. “Yes Sir?”

“You seem to have friends in high places.” Cmdr Prakash, remarked dryly as he handed his a single plain sealed envelope. “This was in a letter addressed to me, with a request to hand it over to you. Came marked top secret in the diplomatic mailbox. The only piece of such mail I have seen in my tenure without the sender marked at all.” Then with a pause for effect he continued “Wonder how such mails get into the bag?”

Manav took the letter from the Cmdr, “Yet you passed it to me Sir?”

Cmdr Prakash, grinned “I may not have been a hot shot pilot Sqn Ldr, but I am not a complete fool either. There are parts of GoI which do their thing and don’t publish it, I know better than to ask. It certainly seems like a assignment you have got here and if you get back channel help, I am not going to hold it against you.”

Feeling quite unequal to both the task and the faith that various parties had shown in him, Manav could do little more than accept what was said quietly, much as he would have liked to correct the Commodore. He mumbled his thanks and left quickly to eager to see what the envelop contained. Making his way to a guest room to be alone for the moment, Manav opened the envelop to find a single small piece of paper inside. “Amravati @ (7495)-783-7535”. Manav smiled to himself, carefully folded the paper and slipped it in inner pocket of his jacket and went rejoin the group in the staff canteen for an early dinner.


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PostPosted: 19 Apr 2010 17:20 
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Thanks Baj, yes they were meant to archtypical babu's.

Thanks Bala,I am teetering between a story and a novel, naturally, I end up writing a extremely slow moving story with too many details, then edit and shorten it to keep the pace going. I do worry a bit about it becoming too slow already for those who may not be hard core BRFites (though I am primarily writing it for my forum friends in a sense)

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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 22

Commodore Prakash had arranged for them be dropped off at their hotel, which turned out to be a service apartment in neo-russian-soviet style block of service apartments on Kutuzovskiy street, off Trete Koltso* about 20 minutes from the embassy. Leaving the luggage in their rooms, the men gathered around the dinner table over a complimentary bottle of vodka, to discuss what their approach should be in the changed circumstances. The developments had stirred even Shri Pandey who was now fully involved, his earlier plans for nights about town shelved for the moment “Well if the license production route is off, that makes our lives easier then doesn’t it.” Keshav looked at him quizzically, “What do you mean Pandeyji, I thought our efforts would have been to persuade the Russians to continue the well established old model, and iron out any difficulties in this case.” So far taking him for a boozed out Babu on a junket, Pandeyji’s colleagues were surprised by the insight he displayed next “Haan Keshav bhaiyaa**, your boss gives us no money to expand and wants us to handle everything in the world, if that is easy, I will take hard was only, thank you very much.” Manav interjected, “Which is?” Pandeyji replied with equanimity “We should obtain the IP from the Russians.” Keshav found the proposal hard to digest, “We will need to ask MoD for permission to take that line forward, also costing the IP is a very cumbersome protracted and time taking process, none of us are qualified to do that, this is totally new territory, and this assumes that GoI would be willing to pay for it.”

The discussion went back and forth on the same lines for better part of the hour, and Manav saw that it was not likely to converge and the decision would have to be his. He would have very much liked to not have to make a choice so early, extremely alive to the fact that he would not be able to reconcile the two differing demands on him at this rate. “Very well gentlemen, I personally like the proposal of getting the IP, however the it is beset with challenges, I propose we don’t make it the opening gambit. Let us start on the Russians with another offer first, which was our backup plan, let us propose a price model for purchasing from the Russians, and instead of hard cash, let us try and make exchange offer of sorts with them. Exchange of components for FGFA, some other equipment from MoD stables, or whatever we think we can entice the Russians with.” Quite aware of the hollowness of the approach that he was asking for nevertheless the team dived into fleshing out the contours of the proposal for the Russians and went to bed only when they realized that they had barely a couple of hours of sleep before they would need to be up for the next day.

In the dark bitterly cold and snowed out morning, the men decided to take the famed Moscow metro to the Sukhoi head office on Polikarpov street, which was only 10 minutes away from them along the third ring road. The Indians labored to the station, not used to walking about in the conditions, which to the Muscovites though this was just another day, and a heavily padded crowd thronged the rail system, the metropol’s population on its way for regular work. Waiting for their train to pull in, Manav *felt* something once again, this time though he did not look around immediately, preferring to wait instead and confirm if his intuition was correct. His companions had not noticed, they were still too overcome with the newness of the city to have any degree of situational awareness, and Manav appeared to join their conversation, his real attention focused on looking at what he could see from the corners of his eyes. “There is he again” Manav nearly blurted aloud, and sure enough as always, his instincts were right. The Caucasian male was somewhere there in the background dressed in a grey coat, mixed with a group of Russian waiting impatiently, almost invisible in the mass of nearly identical grey coats around him. To the casual eye it would appear that he was a similarly restless daily commuter, and despite everything Manav would have himself been convinced that there was indeed nothing more to it, if it had not been for the fact that he kept stealing surreptitious glances towards the Indians, whom no one else seemed to pay any attention too.

“Russians? But why? Just on matter of principle? Or did the Chinese caper cause it to happen? Or GoI? Or…?” Never a easy assignment, this was decidedly not turning out to be a fun trip for Manav, he shut his eyes and cursed all the ill begotten people who were haunting his life. Fighting back a deep urge to buttonhole the man and sock him in eye, Manav willed himself to relax and carry on normally, it was imperative that it appeared business as usual. Thankfully for him, their train pulled in moments later, and they fought their way in carriage along with the rest of the waiting crowd. Manav however hung back a little, pretending to be overwhelmed by the rush, and the man too held back waiting to make sure that Manav indeed got into the carriage before he pushed himself into the next compartment at the very last moment before the doors hissed close. Once in the car, hardly able do anything in the cramped conditions anyway, he had to wait before he could trace the man again, but when they disembarked at the Begovaya station, he could neither locate the man nor confirm if the tail was indeed broken.

*Third ring
**Yes brother Keshav


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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 23

As they made their way to the head office, Manav considered his options, of all the possible people who would want to keep tabs on him, the official machinery of GoI seemed the least likely candidate, there were two MoD people with him anyway, and the chances of them too having been approached by other interested parties was low, he thought it best to let the defence attaché know. He went to the nearest public phone, not sure if he should use his mobile.

Commodore Uday Prakash’s voice came across clearly on his phone, “Yes Manav, did you start the meeting yet? No what happened? Yes this is a secure line.” As Manav shared his observations over the last two days, the Cmdr listened attentively. “Yes I understand and I agree with your conclusions. I will need to discuss with the appropriate folks here on what a suitable course of action should be. I don’t want to let them know that we are on to their game before we find out who they are. Meanwhile we have a electronics intelligence detachment from RAW here, I will ask them to sweep your apartment, also I had already activated our sources to get information on the Russian policy changes, and it appears that we would need to talk. Come back here after your meeting and we will talk more. Meanwhile it appears we may have a internal leak as well, so let’s not put down everything formally just yet, the fewer people know about it the better.”

Rejoining his comrades they proceeded to make their way to the headquarters, where they were expected at the reception by Sukhoi officials. This time the usual bonhomie was missing, the mood somber, and as the Indians were ushered the to the meeting room quickly, Manav understood that the Russian Govts. missive has had its effect at this end too. The Indians quickly laid out their side of the proposal but as expected none of those was met with any particular enthusiasm. The Russian team was at pains to point out that any exchange could only happen after the basic framework issues were sorted out, Manav appreciated that well, but with his hands tied all he could do was to sidestep the issues and try and hope that somehow a solution would come up. Most part of the day went about without making a headway, with both sides repeating their stated positions. As the session ended there was sense of bitterness and futility, even Igorr Fedoseev, Manav’s counterpart and by now a very good personal friend of his could not hide is surprise and dejection. Manav was hoping to a have a informal chat with his friend to try and seek answers to the developments and find a way out of impasse, but Igorr had walked out as soon as the meeting ended, not waiting to hang around and say hello. “Perhaps just as well, best to get the inputs from the embassy channels before talking to the Russians” Manav consoled himself, “Pandeyji, Prasadji, I have been asked by the Defence attaché to meet him post the meeting, I would be heading their right now, do any you want to come along? No! Yes I guess you would prefer to see some of the city when you have the time. In that case I will see you later at the apartment.” In the 25 minutes it took him to reach the embassy, Manav was eager to see if he could find a pattern in the random background noise, but the ride was a smooth affair, without any activity which would suggest that he was being indeed followed. Paying off his taxi he went in to meet the Defence attaché, who was waiting for him. “

Hello Sqn Ldr, any luck with the negotiations?” Cmdr Prakash was eagerly hoping to hear of progress, and Manav regretted having to disappoint him; “Not so far Sir, but we are working on it.” Manav couldn’t bring himself to give any false hope, and the message was not lost on the Commodore.

“I see, well perhaps the news I have may explain some of it. As it turns out, no one in the Russian establishment seems to know what brought about the change of policy by their government. The seed appear to have been sown by the Head of international military cooperation in the ministry of defence, Boris Solovyov, who is a personal favorite of the minister. He used his influence to get the matter pushed through. Now in normal course of events something so important as this would really need deliberation at the level of President and the Prime minister, but in the context of the policy of hardnosed go-it-alone that the current administration is so fond of, the Defence ministry was able to build a case around the current lack of enthusiasm of India to continue as a long term partner.”

“Well sir the attempts by both countries to redefine the relationship in the evolving circumstances has been going on for some time now, a trigger would still be needed for this particular case” Manav quizzed.

“That is right Sqn Ldr, the Russian defence ministry seem to have suggested to their President that the Indian intentions could not necessarily be trusted.” Said the Commodore with a sad voice, shaking his head what he thought of as needless and misdirected attack on the long standing relationship.

Manav could barely believe what he just heard, “But, but how, why? Surely the allegation would have need to have some basis?” he probed desperately, trying to establish links.

The Commodore grimaced, “I don’t know why for sure, no one in the establishment of either countries is aware of any factual basis on which the case was built. We do know that the matter is very recent though. If the news is real, I shudder to think how they found out with enough proof, and if it is not, that possibility its own devils. In any event, on the Russian side this was not a well thought out move by their institution either, seems to be a quick pushing through by the very top.”

Even without having it spelt out the parallels were not lost on Manav, though the additional data was only adding to myriad possibilities and the resultant confusion. He changed the subject “And what about my new friend Sir? Where does that take us?”

“Well your apartment is bugged, that we have learnt and we have let the bugs stay. These chaps who went is as repairmen also report that your apartment is probably under visual inspection as well. But other than that we don’t know anything yet. The counter espionage chappy here is playing this very close to the chest. You are supposed to let your team know that they are under observation and take all the standard precautions, but that is the extent of my advise at the moment. If the spooks tell me anything else which I can pass on, I will do so, but I fear that as far as we are concerned we may never hear anything more.”

With that the discussion veered off into speculation on the identity and motives of Manav’s latest admirers, much of it idle, till the Commodore realized that he was getting late for dinner. With suggestions on possibilities of where to have dinner, he left the embassy leaving Manav feeling very alone in by now empty old building.


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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 24

The days following the first meeting with the Russians played themselves out much in the same way. The apartment denied to them for meaningful conversation, the Indian team spent most of their time at their office in the embassy. Off and on they would meet with the Russians in what was to become a predictable rerun for them. Manav’s attempts to talk to Igorr were also stymied and no particular news came forth from ARL either. The prototypes were still there, but it was not certain how much longer would the extra attention that the Russians had on ARL would stay, and if they started pulling their people back, that would probably set off its own set of chain reactions. While the MoD officials were not too perturbed at having a extended stay in Moscow, and spent time painting the town red, Manav’s conscience continued to trouble him. Though his actual assignment was getting along splendidly and at this rate he would probably get a commendation of sorts at the end, he could not bring him to accept this was what he wanted.

It was to the Indians just another day of the same routine, and the ennui had begun to set in. In his office in the Indian embassy Manav sat at his desk fiddling with a pen, rereading the old files, he still could call the number Colonel’s associates and sent him, but he had decided against it, not being any wiser to factions involved in the power play. His laptop playing a old Hemant Kumar tune, he was beginning to wish that he be called back and put on a productive assignment, any assignment. Bored to death, he decided to grab some coffee, and decided to head down the street for a old fashioned café that he had developed a liking for. As Manav sat down at his preferred place after ordering at the counter, waiting for the coffee to come, he noticed a attractive lady with distinct Slavic features sitting a little distance away. She was toying half heartedly with unfinished cup of coffee and Manav had a distinct impression that she was *waiting* for something or someone. As he looked at her, she caught his eye and smiled, and Manav despite not exactly being a young stag himself, was flustered. Manav tried looking elsewhere, feeling rather awkward in the absence of a particular point of interest he could pretend looking at. He sneaked a look back at the café and was positively alarmed to see her walk towards him, he half rose in his seat, not sure himself if to get away or to politely greet her, when the waitress came by with the coffee and he plopped back in his seat, checked.

“May I” and without waiting for Manav to answer she joined him at his table while Manav was still nodding a yes. “Please don’t be so upset Sqn Ldr, I am not going to eat you” She said softly, in perfect English with a mere trace of Slavic accent. “Err sorry about that” Manav was mentally kicking himself for behaving like a school boy, “I wasn’t expecting…. company”. “And I am sorry to intrude on your quite moment alone” She continued with a nod, with Manav wondering if he detected a dash of humor in her voice, “but it was imperative to make contact in a circumstances that may appear to send, a different message, to those who may observe.” A little more composed, Manav nearly smiled at this “Indeed, and we may even succeed if I had any idea just what I was playing in the drama”. The lady took out two small cards from her purse and slid them across the table, “In a city like ours, there are many men who visit, often lonely, and there are many women, perhaps like myself, who would like to correct that situation. It is usually a mutually pleasing and profitable exercise, of course it falls upon the locals to make the first contact with the strangers and thus soothe them. We could be like them if you would like”. Manav looked at the cards, mildly scented and distastefully pink, decorated with suggestive embossed patterns, the cards carried a name, a number and an address. “A very upscale locality and secure when inside” The woman added, making a small gesture with her fingers. Manav turned over the cards, on the reverse of one were the words , “Visit her please, and destroy this card” with Igorr’s signature and the seal he used to mark official correspondence. Manav looked at the lady and licked his lips nervously, in turn she merely smiled seductively and rising in her chair kissed Manav slightly on the lips and walked out with a wave. Manav stared after her, watching as went away gracefully swaying as she walked. He put the cards in the inner pocket of his jacket, “that would fool anyone”

On his way back to his office after the coffee, Manav wondered just how he would make any move without being observed by god only knew how many parties. By now he was sure Indians were also keeping a tab on him, a direct result of his own actions. He kicked himself once again, wishing that he had the foresight to not involve the Indian intelligence in the matter too, the last thing he wanted was to get pulled up for visiting “a house of disreputable character” as he guessed the charge against him would read. “But how was I to know, but how was I to know… There is no way to get rid of that possibility or is there?” As Manav tore up Igorr’s card and flushed it down the toilet, he could not bring himself to destroy the other card, and the germ of the idea that had formed kept coming back to haunt him. “I must not, I should not, this does not make sense, Oh Bhavani” Manav struggled with his, by now overwhelming, impulse to follow up on method that was suggesting itself to him. It was then that the two MoD people walked in the room; to find Manav sitting at his desk with his head in his hands, muttering to himself. “Sirji, we keep telling you, you work so hard. You can see no one cares for what we are doing back home. Why do you burn yourself out? Join us at least tonight, there is this nice cabaret and they serve excellent vodka Sirji and very cheap too.” Keshav Prasad was distraught at the condition of his senior, whom he had begun to actually like and respect. Manav looked up, touched by his compatriots concern and his attempts to help, in his own ham handed way. “Please carry on gentlemen, you know me, I will just be a wet blanket, you guys are better off without me” As Manav waved his friends off for their evening soiree, the words that Keshav had spoken came back to him, they had touched him deeply, in more ways than one, and it had in the end tilted the balance. His mind was made up.


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PostPosted: 22 Apr 2010 12:16 
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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 25

“Pranam Indra” the voice came through from the other end, “we have been waiting, you did take your time didn’t you.”

“Are there Indians looking too?”

“But of course, you invited them there, surely our countrymen are not so inept.”

“What have they found out?”

“About you, nothing, about your new friends, whatever they could and needed.”

“And?”

“And nothing, there is no reason for them to do anything, at least yet.”

“Who?”

“You are on a public phone Indra.”

“How?”

“We will work out something.”

“I could use some lone time, I am tired of their attention”

“*You* want that?” a chuckle “That is easy, they were about to pull back on their own by now, we can hasten the process.”

“When?”

“Patience is a virtue, and in any case you seem to have a lot of it” the voice was mocking him, “but give us 48 hours, starting now.”

“And others?”

“Plan around them.”

With a click the phone went dead his sweat soaked clammy hands, Manav had been sweating despite being outside on a very cold Moscow evening. He had done it, the die was cast.


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PostPosted: 23 Apr 2010 16:57 
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Thanks Nitin, I dont think of it really up front, just make it along as I write!

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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 26

The next two days were really hard on Manav, jumpy and jittery throughout, he fully expected to be accosted at any moment. On one occasion when Commodore Prakash wanted to see him, Manav nearly died before he met the senior man, eventually realizing that he was agonizing over nothing when it turned out to be to merely invite him for some “ghar ka khana*” In the end Manav could barely believe that the forty eight hour period had elapsed, turning out to be possibly the least active period of his trip so far. The promised second contact from the circle had not happened still, and Manav was left with by now familiar sense of anti-climax in his dealings with them. He gave himself another half a day for good measure and when he was finally sure that enough time had passed, he made the contact.

“ello” A sensual voice at the other end crooned.

Manav reread the card to be certain, “Err Liliya please.”

There was a silence for a moment and when the voice came back on, it was tad warmer and almost purring “Yes, yes certainly un moment please”

After an uncomfortable silence for what appeared to Manav to be an eternity, <> voice came on line. “Dear Manav, what a pleasant surprise, I was beginning to worry that my charms are passing.”

‘Eh oh, nothing of the sort, it’s just so unusual for me, and you are so ethereal that it took me some time to react, you know”

“Ah dear boy you are making me blush, surely you don’t want me to feel warm and that too when you are not next to me?”

The *play acting* was turning out to be delightfully easy, “you only have to give the word, love”

Manav could have sworn that the giggle was real, “You know where to find me, and I am always there for you, but give me some time to get ready, say 5.30?”

“I can’t wait but I suppose I must a little longer” said he with a emotion which was real, if for more than one reason.

“The wait will be worthwhile hold on to that till then” With that alluring promise Liliya disconnected, leaving him counting the minutes.

*home cooked food.


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PostPosted: 27 Apr 2010 22:15 
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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 27

The location of the tryst was a famous suburban locality near the Sheremetyevo, for the most part Manav’s ride retraced his path from the airport, starting from the very heart of Moscow, cutting across the garden ring, his path intersecting the inner ring through Teverskaya ulitsa. He travelled through much of Moscow down the Leningardsky prospect, before turning off a little before the airport. Though he had left directly from his office he had been careful to bring about a set of evening clothes he had changed into before leaving. As he waved his taxi off with a tip, he looked very much the part of a man about town, dapper, shaved and perfumed. Turning around to face his destination, he was taken aback at the magnificence of the building that was before him, set back in a largish grounds of its own, surrounded by tall brick walls the driveway barred by a large wrought iron gate. The gardens were remarkable even in the harsh climate and fading light. “Looks more like pleasure house of a nobleman” Manav felt the essential similarity with similar buildings in his part of the world, which in itself shared nothing in common in architecture, climate or flora and appeared far enough to be perhaps on a different planet. Striding up to the gate, he pressed a button on a softly gleaming metal plate, set in the wall next to mail box next the gate. A small light glowed within the small voice grills on the plate.

“Yes please, how may I help you”

Manav understood enough Russian to understand the question, but not enough to answer in it “Liliya, please”

The voice appeared to be mildly surprised, “And you would be her visitor from India?”

“That is correct, I am Sqn Ldr Manavendra Singh” Manav said has he held up his Passport towards a oval crystal protrusion at the top of the plate.

“Thank you Sir, could you please wait a moment”

It was a good five minutes before the plate spoke again, “Sorry for the wait Sir, Welcome in”

With a click a smaller wicket gate next to gate swung open, which had escaped Manav’s notice so far, covered as it was with moss, the brick patterned wood seamlessly blending into the wall. As he walked in through the door just wide enough to let one person in at one time, the door swung back close behind him. Stepping softly across the soft snow he walked up to the main gate and pulled a heavy bell cord. In a moment the door opened to reveal a sumptuously appointed entrance lobby, a smiling young hostess standing inside, with warm yellow light streaming out, inviting against the white cold outside. Once inside the young lady closed the door and helped him out of his coat, “I will take care of it” she said with a smile which almost caused him to choke. “Follow me please”, having put the coat away she beckoned and led Manav, who was by now a little giddy, up the stairs from the lobby towards a room deep within the mansion. “Normally we entertain our guests for little while before they settle in, but given how keen you are to be with Liliya, I thought you might want to get to her straightaway” the hostess said stopping near a double door of fine Russian Birch. She ushered Manav in through the door, caressed his arms lightly and with that acting as a good bye, was gone.

Liliya was inside, lounging indolently on a chaise, clothed in a dark evening gown sharply contrasting with her pale skin, which was cut in ways to show much of her body as she moved. She had applied a makeup unlike the first time he had seen her. She looked , if it was possible, even more stunning than the vision who had brought him up to the room. Manav nearly staggered over to her side, blood meant for his head flowing much lower down his body. They sat there for a while, Manav looking agape at her and Liliya smiling gently at him, a little amused. Liliya decided that she would probably have to be the one to break the silence. “Dear Manav, flattered as I am surely you remember you are here to for reasons other than to look at me?” A tinkling voice brought him back to reality, he realized he was probably slouching a bit as well, he straightened up and made a attempt to get back in control “Hello Liliya, thanks for the invitation, a beautiful place you have here.” For all his pains he was rewarded with a light hearted laughter “Not my own Dear, but before we chit chat, why did you get friends along? That is so rude, did you think we were going to mess you up? Oh we might still but not in the ways your friends would be able to help with, and if you did why leave them out, it’s so cold outside, we can make sure they are warmer”. “But it could not be, I made sure, that they were pulled back!!” Manav sprang from his seat, the blood back in the right place in an instance. Liliya got up much more gracefully and headed towards a flat screen in far corner of the room “Well they certainly don’t seem to be in the mood to let you out of their sight.”


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PostPosted: 29 Apr 2010 00:25 
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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 28

The screen was divided into four quadrants each showing the same picture taken by different spectrum cameras. It showed two men talking hidden behind a foliage on the far side of the road. The color picture showed nothing but bushes, but the thermal imager and light collation devices marked them clearly. Manav eased slightly “They don’t look like Indians off hand.” Liliya confirmed, “Yes, they appear Nordic, pretending to be Russians, but we Slavs can tell.” She jabbed at the screen, “Not your friends then?” Manav hesitated a bit before answering “Not that I know of, but these days I am so much in demand, it’s difficult to tell.” Liliya smiled at his attempt at innuendo, “Well then certainly not ours either, in that case we shall just let them be there through the night shall we? That will be their reward for interrupting our soon to be warm tee-ta-tee. I will let Igorr know that he might want to find out about your friends too.” As she sent a message from her phone, Manav realized that he had forgotten all about Igorr, wasn’t he here at Igorr’s invitation in the first place? “Umm wasn’t he also supposed to be here?”. Liliya stuck out her lower lip petulantly, “Why am I not good enough, you want more spice? Of course not silly, that would have given the game away wouldn’t it” She jabbed at the screen before turning it off. “No I will have to do I am afraid. In fact that’s why I am here, what did you think otherwise?” Liliya was toying with him, but Manav didn’t mind it at all, after a long time, he felt secure, it was good to be the watcher instead of the watched.

She walked him back to the chaise lounge and handed him a vodka cocktail as he made himself comfortable. Picking a piece of cold cut from the platter in front of them, Liliya gestured to Manav, “Only the freshest ham, and some chicken” Manav smiled and attacked the plate. Liliya meanwhile had straightened up in here chair and continued more formally, “As is with everything in the world and particularly our version of it, nothing is exactly as it looks like. Of course this place is what it appears, but for some of us, it is really a very comfortable mask, as well as a tool to achieve ends. You will be surprised how often persuasive charms have helped put heads of states in a benign mood before a major summit, not to mention a great tool for entrapment and inducement for those who want their payments in kind rather than cash.” Manav nodded, getting the picture. With that bit of context, she moved on to “As things stand, what has happened is that there is a declared schism in our government, one part of the it managed to convince Premier to take the course of action which is now hindering your path. However there is another group which does not think that policy is correct. Igorr and his organization are backing this group. In turn they have managed to seek certain concessions, they have been told that they can sidestep the new regulations, if the Indian make a compelling offer.” Manav interrupted, “but they did not think it appropriate to raise this formally with us?” Liliya was almost apologetic, “You have to understand, the case is being built that Indian bona fides are questionable. Thus the expectation is that the Indians have to put up something on the table before Igorr’s people can push the case politically. Even then, the matter looks difficult, but without it there would be no hope.”

Manav sipped his drink thoughtfully, “So the unorthodox route was chosen to tell us?” He could not help feeling that this was a ploy to encourage the Indians to start off from a much lower negotiation stand, a subtle emotional blackmail. Liliya continued, “Yes there is no other option for the time being at least, not unless other means are found to neutralize those who encourage a anti-India view in the administration.” Manav tried to keep the coolness out of his voice as he pretended to be genuinely interested, “And just what does Igorr expect in terms of a compelling offer? He didn’t give you a dossier of any sorts for me did he?” Liliya refused to take the bait, “Sqn Ldr, Igorr has a high opinion of you, irrespective of his personal friendship. The only intention was to pass on the message. Truth be told, I don’t think anyone really knows what is a compelling offer that will work, or what your country would be able to make. You will have to work that on your own.” Manav paused for a instance to take in that piece of information. “So you went through this entire complicated exercise just to tell me this?” Liliya shook her head, “Of course not, we want to make this a constant channel for discussion which cannot be had formally. This is also a place where you can seek assistance if you so wish, of any sorts, and of course, anything that you want to try here is on the house.” Liliya added with a wink returning to her previous coquettish manner. Manav grinned “Really, anything? Can I have both the message and the messenger perhaps?” Liliya threw her head back and laughed, “Well Sqn Ldr really getting ahead of ourselves here are we, didn’t I say I wasn’t on the offer.”

With the discussion over, Manav wanted to head back as soon as possible, however Liliya did not think it was safe, especially considering his tails, who were still there, albeit at different places. Manav agreed and prepared to sleep overnight, a little more time was not going to change the impact of his presence here if was going to be found out. Liliya left soon enough after making sure he had all he needed, but Manav stayed up for a long time after, propped up by humongous pillows on the bed, he went over the discussion and considered carefully what kind of offer could he come up with would work. Between the GoI’s stated position of looking at the matter from a economic perspective, and of Russian approach of using this as a test case for government to government interactions, there was no way out. Manav thought aloud “No way unless a third party could be brought in, with a different perspective and different via media. That should help, and anyway didn’t the commerce secretary allude to friends helping”. So needed to find friends of his own who could help, and if the kindred souls could not find them, no one would, “tomorrow then” and with that thought he finally fell asleep.


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PostPosted: 10 May 2010 18:52 
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:oops: :oops: :oops:

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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 29

Manav did not see Liliya in the morning, though the arrangements for breakfast and transport back to the embassy were all made for him. Once again the only person he saw in the house, either at the breakfast table or as he was escorted back to the main door was his petite hostess of last night, nearly as much of a vision as she was before. This time though he didn’t have to walk to the gate, a car was waiting for him at the porch which whisked out to the main street even before he could get his bearings let alone try and see if his friends from last night were still out there. Back in his office at the embassy, he first called up Wg Cdr Manna to ascertain the state of affairs back at his home nest, which as he expected were slow. He quickly followed it up by a roundup of discussions with the usual suspect at the embassy, here too things were business as usual, confirming that there was nothing new he was missing, he started on the next steps he had in mind. There was one more thing that he needed to do though, before he committed himself further, he wanted his mentor’s blessing, he sent Dr Sahasrbuddhe a email requesting a personal discussion. Even before Manav could turn his attention to other matters, the phone rang, it was Dr Saharsbuddhe, clearly he was as eager to talk as Manav himself.

Manav spent a long time on the phone with the man who was his guide, philosopher and friend, none of them went into the specifics, but Manav was deeply concerned about the consequences of his actions and they ended up with a discussion on morality in general with tons of references of the Bhagwat thrown in for good measure. To Manav’s surprise, Dr S himself was not averse to the idea of trying different ways to break the deadlock, he seemed to be fine with a flexible approach towards implementation of orders, making it much easier for Manav, whose value system was still dominated by the more rigid outlook shaped by his background. There was one more aspect of the matter though, after all the matter was not just about philosophy.

“What happens back in India after I make my proposal?” Manav asked the older man “Does all hell break loose? Will they let the matter be taken forward or will they move to cut me off?”

“You know India Manav, even if all hell breaks loose, as long you are careful to be within due processes, it will be a sometime before it will actually start taking effect, and on the other hand we will try and *manage* the situation at our end too. In fact once you start, let me know, I will start taking steps to support your case.” Dr Saharsbuddhe replied firmly, clearly the old war horse that he was, the idea of a bureaucratic wrangle did not daunt him.

“Thank you Sir, I have some more homework to do, once that is done, I expect that I will ask you for help on specific items”

“Sure young man, may Shri Vithalla smile on you”

With that benediction, the conversation ended, and Manav put his mind to thinking about the best way to make contact with Amaravati once again, he needed to make his way to a public phone and do it innocuously, not a easy task in the era of mobile phones. He had made up his mind to walk about near the Kremlin in the evening and try finding one there, when there was a knock on the door. A embassy staffer dropped by and handed him a packet, “For you Sir, delivered by someone from the Tea board.” Manav examined the package, it was a beautiful wooden box, a cube roughly 6 inches a side, sealed with wax and a stamp of Tea Board of India. “Darjeeling?” Manav read the marking on the box, marking the contents for first flush orange pekoe from Makaibari estate. “Very nice, but what does it really have?” Manav cracked open the seal to find a string drawn jute bag inside which contained tea but also a cell phone, a small slim device, buried inside the tea in the bag. Manav switched on the device to find himself in possession of a local Moscow number, with just one number called from it.

“Very well then, at least I won’t have to knock about in the cold”


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PostPosted: 11 May 2010 16:14 
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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 30

“Pranam Indra, we thought you might want to talk to us more often” the characteristic calm voice which represented Amravati’s said by the way of the greeting.

“I need further assistance” Manav said perfunctorily.

“Of course.”

“I need to find at least one, and if possible two or more Indian firms to register themselves for defence production, I also want GoI to allow them same status as DPSU when it comes to partnering with other nations for defence production”

“Right, anything more specific?”

“They should be able and willing to put the money needed to buy intellectual property and invest in manufacturing of the FGFA”

There was a moments silence at the other end.

“Well Indra, don’t you think that’s might be a little difficult to do.”

“Even for your people?” there was a trace of taunt in Manav’s voice.

“We are not gods Indra, as you well know, but we will try, are you sure there is no other way?” the voice remained calm as before.

“I have thought hard on this, this to me appears to be the only possibility at the moment” Manav said soberly.

“In that case we shall do what we can, I am sure somebody somewhere will have favors outstanding that they can call back in.”

“This won’t work merely by coercion, the people involved must be motivated.” Manav knew he was asking for too much, but then they should have known when they roped Manav in.

“You are right of course, but then we are merely nodes, let us see what mother’s children can do for her once the word goes out.”

“Thank you, I hope I am doing the right thing.”

“We all hope that Indra, and we will pray for that.”

“Well then I need something soon”

“Sure Indra, we understand, we will call you back, and oh do have the tea, it’s the finest, I believe you will like it.”


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PostPosted: 12 May 2010 11:59 
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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 31

It was still very early in the year for infiltration to restart, especially in the Gurez sector, the passes in high ranges of Pir Panjal were still covered in snow although the very first breaks in snow were beginning to be seen. Major Harindranath Parmeshwaran led a company of Para commandos through the snows into the deeper reaches of the Cheerh forest, they were for past three days tracking a group which had entered from Pakistani occupied side of the Jammu and Kashmir. Though Gurez was not part of the Kashmir valley, either geographically or ethnically and linguistically, it was one of the preferred entry points for the part of Pakistani government which operated under the cover of non-state actors, being remote as it was, peopled only sparsely by shepherds and few cultivators. For the Para’s this was search and destroy mission, triggered by an intelligence input from one of local tribesmen of fresh tracks of a six person strong group. Beyond that very limited knowledge there was little information to go by, but that was often the case in the slow war that raged around the year for over two decades now. Starting from the nearly obliterated trail, over the last days they had seen the signs of their quarry getting stronger, Param was quite sure that they were close to end of the chase.

Although the body of men under him was large, Param had them scattered in a thin and distributed line covering a wide flank in small units of twos, such that given the terrain and the weather each of the unit was for the moment, alone. As Param crested a ridge with his buddy the side of the mountain fell away gently towards a small valley hidden in the folds of earth, a breathtakingly beautiful small lake lay within, around it a small clearing in the forest. A roughly made two story house of wood and stone added to the perfectly beautiful picture, warm yellow light streaming from the little cracks in the closed doors and windows of the house, the chimney smoking little puffs of white. Major Param immediately flattened himself to the ground, his buddy following suite, almost managing to bury themselves under the thick snow on the hills. As they burrowed in Param mouthed a single sharp command, which was picked up by the microphone strapped to his throat and transmitted to the earpieces of his unit. Though nothing could be discerned, Param knew that in the general area, men would be likewise flinging themselves down and getting their bearings.

As the company halted where they were, Param took out his night vision scopes to examine the structure that lay ahead, the pair scanned the house around the lake, their efforts finally rewarded. The terrorists had taken over the abandoned residence of a local who had chosen to move to the city for the winter months. If the men equipped to the level of crack Alpine troops could be called *mere terrorists* that is. Dressed in white camouflaged winter clothing, with weapons wrapped in white clothes, night vision goggles around their neck, two men roamed around the valley, going up nearby crests once in a while to get a better view. “Two guards, the other four must be inside.” Param said softly to himself and rest of the company, he transmitted the map grid reference on his handheld device to others while he continued to describe the location. It took his team roughly half an hour to form around him, forming a rough semicircle around the little valley. Param charged his second in command with setting up a field of fire around the house with the light machine guns that the company was carrying with them. He wanted to make sure that none of the rats escaped their hole should they decide to make a run for it.

With all the preparations done, at Param’s signal, the company started moving close to the house, he wanted his men to surround the building as closely and they could before the alarm went up, and if everything went well the boys who were marking the sentries would ensure that it would not come from those two. As the Indians crept down the sides of the hills, Captain Mullik noted that one of the sentries was being dispatched at close quarters by quick knife work; he reoriented the sniper team to focus on the remaining sentry. It turned out that decision saved the life of the young Naik marking the other sentry. As Kamble lunged towards the remaining guard, knife flashing, the ground beneath his feet gave way, the snow covered rotten branch that he had stepped on splintering under the weight and sending him tumbling down. Alarmed, the guard spun around , his gun up in a fluid movement, ready to fire at the hapless trooper, but Kamble’s swarthy face in white snow was the last thing he ever looked at as two 7.62x54 caliber rounds from the Dragunov opened his skull and chest; spouting blood like a punctured bag, the bearded man collapsed without a whisper even. That however was the last silent act in the violent drama being played out. As he fell, the dying man’s finger continued following the last command the brain had sent to the muscles before it went off line, loosing of a burst in the snow, the sound reverberating around the valley.


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PostPosted: 13 May 2010 21:06 
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Thanks guys, geo-pol and all that is all right but we are jingo's after all :wink:

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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 32

Every one froze for a instance where they were, and then scrambled quickly to the nearest cover, for next few minutes, the valley returned to its peacefully quiet, shrugging off the last noise as a minor disturbance to be ignored. The deceptive calm did not last long though, the house had come alive, clattering with activity, meanwhile Param ordered his men to continue closing in, which they did, much slower now, lunging from a cover to the next. This phase too didn’t last long as the Para’s started taking fire from the house, however unlike the usual Jehadi tactic, not a volley of heavy random fire in the general direction of troops, but directed specific short bursts, well aimed towards those breaking cover to move ahead. Param heard Mullik’s voice in ear “Not your usual JeM types Sir. Permission to use the Karl Gustaf’s” Param grimaced, this was bad, he didn’t want to lose any of his men yet he was not sure whether his targets were the only people inside the house, at this stage he could not authorize heavy weapons, not until they had tried other methods first. “What do the thermal imagers say?” Mullik replied, “Cannot be certain Sir, but there are more than four people inside, at least eight to twelve. All but two also appear to be fighting.” Param swore, “shit, shit, shit, and we can’t stay here too long before someone gets hit.” He gritted his teeth and made the call, for him his boys came first, each and every time. “All right Ranjan, take out the first floor.”

Captain Mullik passed the order down to the team with the launchers, he himself took on the role of marker, firing a tracer at the windows with his night scoped rifles, and the support team followed the lead to fire the rockets through. Three rounds quickly went through three different points of the first floor, and the resulting explosions smashed the top floor of the house, flattening it completely, sending up a shower of burning debris around the Para’s who crouched back, having already moved too close to the building. Captain Mullik was not satisfied though and had the destroyed building raked by bursts of LMG fire for good measure. Param held back still though, he did not want to lose any one in trying to storm the building, and was willing to lose the advantage of the confusion, if needed there were more rounds of the 84mm. As it turned out, those rounds were not needed after all, most of the work was done by the quick use of heavy weapons, the majority of the opposition was on the first floor for strategic advantage and had perished with the structure of the building. There did remain a few fighters in the lower floor (two as the Para’s later found out) and they held out for some time, keeping the Para’s back using excellent tactics, combining the use of precise fire along with rapid relocation around the house to keep the Indian’s in check. The Para’s took four causalities, none of them fatal though, before they managed to move up close enough to the building using a combination of smoke and suppressing fire, and once they were at the door, it was all over in quick succession.

Major Parameshwaran ensured that his men carried out a slow and though search of the entire area soon after, he did not want a Jehadi springing up from death to spoil the perfectly executed operation. There final head count was of 14 men in total including the sentries who were outside, six of them the infiltrators they had been tracking, clearly distinguishable from the others by the quality and quantity of their weapons and other gear, as well as the built and health. Major Parameshwaran could have sworn that they were SSG types by the look of it, but of course there was no identification to authenticate that. The others were more the standard firan wearing Ak 47 wielding scruffy Jehadis, that is all others were like that but two. The remaining two were not combatants, they were hiding in the basement under a trap door, and had fired clumsily from their revolvers at the Para’s when they had broken through during their search. They had received a full volley in their faces for their troubles and had now joined their fellows on the ground in the trampled dirty snow outside the house.

The Para’s milled about, double checking the debris, setting up a perimeter and salvaging what they could from the house. Major Parameshwaran walked up to the line of dead and ground his heels next to the cache of recovery at their heads. Before him lay the some of the usual pickings of the victors of the low intensity conflict; communication devices, Ak 47, Sat Nav sets, special rations, ammunition and maps; the likes of which the Para’s were only too familiar with, the Pakistani’s had even stopped trying to bother to hide the markings on ammunition by now. There were more interesting spoils in this round, the trademark tools of the craft of the SSG, Steyrs and Heckler and Koch rifles with the best night vision devices in the world that the money could buy. Ordinarily this in itself was a spectacular catch in the deadly cat and mouse game that Indian Army played around the year, yet as Param sifted through cache he realized that there was something really big this time. The SSG did not insert itself so obviously in this instrument of Pakistani Army, not often anyway, and to his luck, the reason was also embedded along with the executors of the operation. One of the non combatant although had his faces blown apart, could still be vaguely recognized as leading lights of the pro-Pakistani groups in the valley, the other Param did not recognize at all, but appeared to be civilian official of some sort, although he had probably crossed from the other side. “Wow this must have been the real mustard” the Major whistled to himself, “we have busted a secret political meet, facilitated by SSG no less.”

It took some time for Param to find what he knew must have been there, paperwork for the meeting, there had to be, no political negotiation worth its salt would be done without some signed papers changing hands, secret as much as it may be. In the leather carry bags of these two, buried inside tons of general memorandums of support and such, there was a well protected sheaf of papers, bound in a file. Param couldn’t believe what he was looking at, this was beyond what he expected, even under the circumstances. Major Parameshwaran looked up from his crouching position over the bodies, two of his men were standing around with his buddy, looking at his actions with detached curiosity, he looked around – Captain Mullik was busy elsewhere, directing his men on post operation activities. He caught his buddy’s eyes and nodded once, with a bond forged deep that was all that was needed to communicate. The young lad gestured to his colleagues and moved out a bit, turning their backs when at a distance, forming a unofficial picket around him. Param put the file in his back pack, this was for his buddy in Mil Intelligence, he had no idea how the bugger was excepting this to show up, but he was right, it had shown up, and he was to take it to him first, before it was released to regular IA channels, his Colonel would understand.


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PostPosted: 19 May 2010 13:45 
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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 33

Keshav Prasad whopped with joy, pulling the pile of rubles towards him while Pandeyji looked on glumly, “You sure are on a winning streak Keshav” Manav slapped his comrades back. At a lose end, the Indians had taken to passing more of their time at the apartment with cards, playing for small stakes. Pandeyji’s paunch had grown with many bottles of Vodka that had been polished off, but Manav retained his form, religiously working out at the embassy gymnasium, surviving mostly on tea that had come with his phone. The tea had almost run out but the phone had not been used again. He had however made a trip to Liliya’s place once more, passing on to Igorr a very tentative outline of what he had in mind, his Russian friends had in parallel started pursuing the idea at their end, carrying out their groundwork to prepare the case. “Oh Manav Sir, I forgot to tell you, I had a letter forwarded from MoD today, some regular policy updates from the commerce and industries ministries, with a note that we might find them useful. I looked at it, but don’t understand what use it is.” Manav was yawning and it took some time for him to realize the import of that one innocuous statement. “Umm Keshav, you didn’t tell me earlier?” Manav probed delicately, “Where was the time Sir, it had come in only when we were leaving today” Keshav replied nonchalantly dealing out the cards, “usual departmental updates, hardly important.” Manav pursed his lips, “So we get to see it tomorrow?”. Keshav looked up puzzled, “What’s the hurry Sir? You see what’s happening, what difference is it going to make, anyway if you are really keen the report is in the bag, but at least finish this one round?” Manav held himself back and went through the motions of the round, even with his image of a eager beaver, it would not do too be too curious, and after all it may be nothing really, as Keshav was sure it was.

The round ended soon enough anyway, and the two MoD folks chatted on at the table, discussing their plans on return to India, which seemed imminent with MoD sending signals for a suspension of negotiations in near future in light of lack of progress. Manav meanwhile had moved to the sitting area of the apartment, reading the extraordinarily boring dispatch, a bulky compendium of facts, figures and updates over last three months which some subcommittee had found of interest to publish as highlights. Checking and double checking each a page and paragraph for hidden ideas or messages, Manav pored through the tome, increasingly frustrated at lack of success, angry with himself at getting his hopes high too soon. With nothing to show for the three hours spent on the effort, he threw the book back on the table disgusted, and at the same instant realized that he had not yet seen the covering note. Hastily rummaging through Keshav’s bag he found a three page crumpled sheet, with the first as described by Keshav before and also stapled to the main note, two pages of addendums to the mind numbing piece of work that he had just finished looking at. With full throated curses to all and sundry, Manav looked at the sheets to find staring at him the information he had been so keenly hunting for so long.

“List of additional entities recommended by the joint subcommittee on Promotion of Private Partnership in Defence Production, under the aegis of Defence Secretary and co chaired by Addl. Secretary of Ministry of Commerce”

“ AlphaNumerix solutions – Approved partners for Defence simulation and software products”
“ Northern Lights – Approved partners for solutions in the space of captive power sources”
“ Quick Connect India – Approved partners for solutions in data links and associated communication equipment”
“ Bharti Vayu-abhiyantriki Sanghraha – Approved partners for Aircraft system integration and component manufacturing”
“ Madras Rubbers – Approved partners for procurements of rubber based solutions including tyres”
“Agni Rodhak – Approved partners for advanced firefighting equipments”
……………..

Manav stared at the list bleary eyed, not sure if it was the Vodka combined with the tiredness that was making him hallucinate. So much time, trouble and effort and reward had come so simply, in an unexpected manner, unheralded and with nary a fuss. It was now his turn to whoop with joy, inaudibly though, he not wanting to wake up either his sleeping flat mates or alert the watchers to his joy. The covering sheet had contact details of the subcommittee to get further information and to Manav, also a chance for Keshav Prasad to earn his pay.


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PostPosted: 21 May 2010 15:45 
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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 34

Keshav was surprised to be woken up so early in the morning and even more so to find Manav insistent on their moving to the office, Pandeyji couldn’t be roused though and Manav left him alone to follow later. Once at the embassy Keshav was put to work on finding out details of the new entities who had shown an interest in defence production and check if any of them would specifically like to be involved with this project. To Keshav’s surprise, he received the answer from his ministry in less than an hour, a reaction time he had never seen in 14 years of service, he showed the response to Pandeyji who had by now ambled in, looking for views of the grizzled veteran. “Hmm, now Manav will want us to write a proposal based on this too, hain? Theek hai chalo phele hee likh lete hain*” Pandeyji said, chewing on one of the paans that he kept himself supplied with, magically, even in Moscow. “So he sees something here” Keshav thought, and pulled open a spread sheet on his computer.

Manav was flabbergasted when he walked back into the office after setting up a meeting with Liliya, of the surprises that had been the part of his journey, the last thing he expected was to see a full fledged excellent proposal from these two. Pandeyji was sitting over a print out of the same, looking a bit like a mother hen hatching a brood, as Keshav excitedly walked Manav through their proposal, with a section each for Indian and Russian establishments. He had no words to say, the proposal had foreseen nearly every contingency that he could have thought about, he did not know how it had happened, but for some reason the team happened to have came on a the same wavelength. Manav signed off on the proposal, but before sending it to MoD he sent it officially to Wing Cdr Manna, asking for feedback and suggestion on the tentative proposal, of course the real intended recipient was Dr Sahasrbuddhe, who was marked a carbon copy. As Manav expected, a approval with strong words of encouragement was in his mail box before his direct boss had even checked his mail. Dr S also asked Manav to focus on pursuing the matter with Russians in parallel as he worked on the Indian side of things. That was all that Manav needed for the moment, and immediately got on the phone to set up a meeting with Sukhoi. With the basics out of the way, it was time to make his way to Liliya’s lair, a prospect he looked forward to, and not entirely for purposes related to his dedication towards his work.

Manav spent a large part of his journey to the House, as he had taken to mentally referring to Liliya’s place, thinking about what it would have taken for the kindred folks to pull off the list that now formed the bedrock of his efforts, it would probably be a very interesting story in its own right, if it could ever be told. At the house, he received the customary warm welcome and was with Liliya in her room in a trice, where he was greeted with a brush of lips against his cheeks, a harmless gesture but one which sent a shiver running down his spine nevertheless. Liliya was already informed by Igorr of the upcoming meeting, and so Manav did not have to set the context for her, she also seemed interested in what Manav’s plan were, the warmth contrasting with her pervious cool professional manner of a messenger.

He handed over an anonyms sheet with the gist of their proposal to the Russian, with the details which would be critical for Russian to buy into. “There may be a breakthrough finally, the paper here has all the details that Igorr’s friends would need to be prepared for the meeting. This is my good will gesture, a return proof of sincerity. If Igorr is serious about it, we can run through the entire set of formalities in a day or two worth of meetings and have a agreement for our respective governments approval.” Liliya took the documents delicately from his hand, brushing away a strand of hair from her face, causing Manav to swallow. Despite the initial awe wearing off, he was still a little groggy in her company, especially if turned close, he cleared his head and tried to concentrate on what she was saying when she caused him to do a double take “Ah Manav ji, yeh to bahut accha hai**”. She grinned at him at continued “Well I understand you picked up some Russian, so I thought I might return the gesture, social graces after all.” Manav did somewhat resent the feeling of being less than self composed that came over him in her presence, but he knew that he had only himself to blame for it. “Thank you Liliya, yes it is a very nice, we put in some effort into making this happen, and thank you so much for taking the trouble to pick up Hindi, I do appreciate that.” There seemed be a shadow of disappointment that flashed across her face, “You *appreciate*; well I am glad for that at least, anyway I will have these sent to Igorr at the earliest, I don’t know how quickly and how well he can respond since that is a area I don’t really have a insight in, but I am told to convey to you that the basic idea that you had offered last time, was liked in principle. I therefore expect that if it is based largely on it, there is reason to hope that the details would also work out soon. You will find out tomorrow anyway I suppose. Excuse me for a moment while I have these sent and when I return I have some information that you may more than *appreciate*”



*Ok then let’s write in advance only.
**Oh this is very nice respected Manav


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PostPosted: 25 May 2010 01:39 
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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 35

Manav watched Liliya walk away, back arched, body a little tense, and wondered what had he done to deserve this response, when she returned, more her normal persona with a self possessed cool charm. “So Dear, ready for a bit of shock?” She asked, playfully running her fingers around the sash of her dress. Manav decided a bit of flattery might not hurt, “Ah dear, from you any shock is a cool balm.” Liliya gave him a dry look, clearly Manav was not doing it right, whatever it was that was expected. She continued, mildly stern; “So do you have your friends with you waiting outside again?” Manav waited for her sit down on the opposite chair before continuing; “You do know Liliya, don’t you, that they do not follow my wishes, as such I cannot even keep a track of them, only once did I glimpse one of those, if it was not for your help I would not have ever known for sure.” That bit of contrite speech seemed to soothe her a bit, “You didn’t pass this information to your people?” Manav decided that perhaps being completely truthful might not be the best course of action right now, “Well I did suggest to them that there may be people following me, they promised to look into it, but I don’t know what came of it, you know how these things are, don’t you.” Liliya nodded, “Yes, I certainly do, meanwhile we found it important enough to pursue the matter and we think we know who it is, would you like to know? Or would you prefer to wait to find out from your own people?” Manav considered her words carefully, “No; I will take your word for it, I trust you enough for it.”

Liliya looked into his eyes keenly for a moment, unsettling him, “They are Finns” She said briefly. Manav was incredulous, “What! Why?” Liliya continued staring at him, “You don’t know, really?” Manav shook his head, he didn’t have to pretend innocence in this count. The focus was getting positively unsettling, after what seemed to him be forever, she replied, “Yes, Finns, that surprised us too, it took us some time to follow the threads back to the puppet masters. I can’t say we were surprised by who it was, though what intrigued us was their keen interest in you.” Manav cocked his head and looked at her questioningly, she obliged “Americans of course, who else has the wherewithal? But it’s not a educated guess, we found out, we know.” It was Manav’s turn to stare, “Interesting, but the question remains, why?” Liliya got up started pacing the room, “We don’t know, but as much as we have been able to find out, it has nothing to with us, it is you they are interested in. This is most unusual, and to many of us Russians, mildly insulting too.” She stopped to smile at him, “So used as we are to the single minded focus of Eagle has our affairs.” She stopped to pull out some photographs that she showed him “Our surveillance of their surveillance of you; though it seems you have been a good boy after all.” Manav was thrown off by the last bit as she continued not noticing, “As I said this is not espionage for technical intelligence, embarrassing as it to us, the effort does not seem to be towards acquiring any secrets of the project itself.” She stopped pacing and sat down again, fixing him in her gaze once more “Do you have any idea why YOU would be so interesting to them? What have you done? What past do you carry? Are you here on a mission which is not what we have been led to believe you are on?” Manav shook his head dumbly, which was true, he did not know, yet it took an effort on his side to not let show a hint of any of the many undercurrents that were swirling about.

Liliya sighed, “And as if you would tell me if it was eh? Don’t worry, this is not a interrogation, this is merely a good will gesture on our part, to reciprocate your efforts. As long as it does not directly impact on a Russian interest, we will let this little game be, in any case we have it all mapped out. No sense in raising a alarm” Manav silently marked how similar the thinking of the practitioners of the art was, “And what about me? Any idea why they are interested in me?” Liliya stared at him again, “No we don’t, and that’s why I asked all these questions, there may be a lot riding on it, and whatever you could tell us would help us move ahead, for your sake more than others actually, for all our sakes.” There was a tinge of emotion in her voice, Manav wondered whether it was real, or a part of her wonderfully scripted projection, “Trust me, I have no idea what the whole deal is about, and I am here on a single mission, which deals with the project in question. No more no less. I am as lost as anyone else on why the Americans would be interested in me particularly. I thought of myself as a fairly small fry, a cog in the machine, surely there are more interesting people to be interested in, I really cannot say what the matter is.” Manav protested with vehemence in his voice, born of passion of having truth on his side, as well as the anger at the unwanted attention. “So far I had not put too much thought on the matter, I thought I was caught in the cross fire of the usual fun and games of the world, but it seems from your reaction that there is a particular personal interest?” Liliya confirmed the half asked question, “Yes, there is no doubt, this is more than just keeping tabs on what is happening, your actions seem to be directly the ones that are crucial, for whatever reason.”

The conversation suddenly ended, replaced by a uncomfortable silence after the highly charged exchange, Manav could barely focus on the present, still coming to terms with what he was just told, and despite his promise at believing Liliya, repeatedly wondering about the reality of it all. Liliya had resumed her restless steps around the room, apparently preoccupied, but stealing a glance at Manav from the corner of his eyes every so often. When Manav did not seem to emerge from the trance that he seemed to have lapsed into, Liliya moved to break it, and poured him a shot of Vodka, “Go on, you need it, it will help.” Manav snapped out abruptly and moved his hand in a start, knocking the glass back, and spilling the content over her. A wet stain formed on her gown, the chilled vodka seeping through her bosom, the cold having its natural effect. Manav stood up hurriedly and tried to wipe away the moisture with a handkerchief, rather awkwardly, before Liliya could get over the surprise at the accident. Given the nature of the materials, all Manav succeeded in doing was rubbing a piece of silk on Liliya’s bare collar bone, with him running it more over the exposed skin above the neck of the gown rather than on her breast where the wet had by then seeped in, making the cloth translucent, showing off the effects of the chilled vodka ever so clearly. Manav would have probably continued his comic actions born of misplaced chivalry, had Liliya not gathered her composure and gently placed a restraining hand. She wasn’t upset, on the contrary, the innocence on display touched her deeply, acting on her fondness for Manav born of previous interactions. She sighed again, very differently this time, and pushed his hand to where the wetness really was, although it was not lost on either of them that it would do nothing to repair the damage, nothing for the patch really.


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PostPosted: 25 May 2010 22:34 
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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 36

The meetings went far better than Manav had hoped for, since Igorr had known what was coming in advance, he was ready with all the right questions and took the lead in guiding the discussion. Keshav and Pandeyji filled in with the rest, he had to just ride along, nodding gravely at crucial junctures. With the affairs playing out all right on their own, his mind kept floating away, going over the events of the morning, memories of waking up at Liliya’s, of not being alone when he woke up, a very comforting feeling after a long time. He went over the conversation he had with Dr Saharsbuddhe, of news of Defence Secretary’s acceptance of the plan, of their hectic parlays to take the matter forward at the PMO. He sighed and settled back into his chair, flying once more over Tibet, real life testing of the latest they had, of a enemy fire, of getting back in, floating down on a parachute. “Sir, if there is nothing more from your side we have all the actions items we need. Sir??” He was shaken out of his reverie by Keshav’s gentle nudge, feeling a little guilty, he scanned the paper that had been placed in front of him, it was to a T, as previously scoped out. In a single day, they had broken two months of deadlock, Manav looked up to find Igorr smiling at him from the corner of his lips, he returned the smile more fully. “Yes these are all that we need. So we take a week to pursue the details at the end of our respective governments, and if all goes as planned we have a tripartite meet next, along with representatives of the private party from India which would be participating?” The Russians nodded acceptance, and after all these months, invited the Indians to a post meeting vodka session, their usual gesture of warmth, which Manav had enjoyed many times before, but not on this trip. The Indians accepted gracefully, there would be time a plenty to work, and you did not snub your hosts by refusing. The Indians were literally carried back to their apartments by the drivers the Russians had arranged for them, after a evening of matching their hosts drink for a drink, the Indians were barely there, given that their hosts themselves were drunk. As Manav hit the bed, he could barely remember having sent the papers of the meeting back to MoD, having reassured himself that he had checked all the items on his list, he let the fog overtake him and sank into nothingness.

The morning however was not very forgiving, Manav could remember each drink he had last night, the memory registering as a knock in his head, a drink coming back every two-three minutes. Given the number of drinks he had, he felt that his head was probably throbbing faster than his heart this morning. While it was obvious that Keshav would not be joining him for the better part of the day, Pandeyji was up, unperturbed, sitting at the dining table wolfing down a banana. Manav looked at the watch and groaned, all of last evening had delayed Pandeyji by at most five minutes from his schedule. Pandeyji belched loudly and beamed at Manav, for once his cynicism replaced by a look of approval. Manav didn’t want to think about whether it was due to his efforts at work or at the party, in fact he didn’t want to think, he probably could not even if he wanted. Manav returned a wan smile, and gathering his coat stumbled out on the street with his colleague. Despite the excellent weather, Manav found walking to the Metro station far tougher than any time before. He took a deep breath as the light for pedestrians to cross the road turned green and walked forward with a determined effort. He had barely taken four steps into the road when he felt a massive push be a strong pair of hands. With him focusing inside his head, he was taken completely by surprise by the sudden move and was thrown headlong across the road, and hit the sidewalk flying. With the shock releasing a burst of adrenaline, the instinct born of training kicked back in, and instead of passing out he scrambled back up, the broken teeth forgotten, the blood streaming from the his face ignored.

There was no sign of his assailant, him being the only moving object in the frozen tableau around him, the cars had all stopped, the people were quiet statues, looking horrified, not at him as he expected but at a bundle of clothes some distance from him. Manav followed their gazes, and for sometime stood there gaping, then in a flash he realized what he was looking at. With a cry of fury and despair he lunged towards it, and was there in a second. He turned the limp form over, it was all over, it had probably been so in the same instant that he was thrown away. The face was smashed beyond recognition, the legs askew, the neck broken, arms akimbo, the grey coat soaked wet, Manav felt a sticky warmth on his hands, rapidly drying. He cradled the body in his arms, his mind, of its own accord, travelling back to the same experience on bitter evening on a Himalayan glacier. He threw his head back and roared, his eyes bloodshot, beard soaked red, forehead radiating heat. He gripped harder and roared once again, and again, and again. Till the world snapped back into activity and rushed at them to help.


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PostPosted: 27 May 2010 02:16 
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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 37

Manav stood on the tarmac, head bowed as Keshav oversaw the loading of the coffin into the hold of a Russian Military Il 76 heading to Delhi. Commodore Prakash stood by in full uniform, looking on straight, his usually charged face impassive. “I suppose there is no information on who hit him, Sir, is there?” Manav asked haltingly, his jaw still stiff from the treatment. “No Manav, we do not know, but this is Moscow you know, it is not unheard of for hit and runs to happen, unless you have something to tell us?” Manav ignored the pointed question, pretending to wince in pain instead. “I blame myself Sir, I was too badly hung over to be in my senses when it happened.” Cmdr Prakash looked on as the hold door swung back up, the Russians helping Keshav get away, who had been reduced to a sobbing wreck. “Yes, the witnesses mentioned the same to the police, they also seem to think the car was headed for you and Pandey pushed you away, but you don’t think that do you?” Manav looked up to see the Ilyushin pull away from the apron towards the runway, “No Sir, I think I was hit by the car too, only that it was a glancing blow”. Cdr Prakash looked sternly at Manav, “You do know that this could change the way the matter would be approached? Pandey could get some sort of gallantry award, if the investigations showed deliberate hostile intent, but this version would end up as a unresolved hit and run in the police files.” Manav gritted his teeth, which still raw, hurt like a pieces of searing hot iron. The pain was welcome though, it helped him steel his resolve, “I am afraid that, this is all that I can add Sir. I was badly hung over.” Cmdr Prakash nodded, “Have it your way Sqn Ldr, of course the fact that you were under surveillance before was purely coincidental as well. I must say I don’t buy a word of it, but this is not my domain, the intelligence chaps will do their own snooping, however if you don’t help I don’t see how they can make much progress either. Meanwhile I suggest you stay on a bit of medical leave for a few days till MoD advices us on a future course of action. You will need the time to heal anyway. Stay at your apartment, rest, don’t go out if unless really necessary. I will send someone over to provide a bit of protection, and oh that goes for your friend Keshav as well.” Manav opened his mouth to protest, this would wreck everything, “Sir we have meetings next week to work for.” It was all he could say, to seem against the idea would just raise hackles further. “The Russians will sympathize with your condition Sqn Ldr, they are not unreasonable or heartless. I will have them informed of the accident and the consequent delays.” Cmdr Prakash dismissed the matter lightly, of course his reasons for delaying the matter were quite different, yet the alibi was perfect, there was no reason for even the paranoid Bear to take offence at a very legitimate request. Commodore Prakash motioned to a staff member who walked up to Keshav, who was still sobbing, standing alone at a distant and walked him away. Another Indian had by then joined Manav at his side, “Sqn Ldr, this Lt Dhan Singh Thapa, he will be responsible for your care for a next few days. Please cooperate with him in his duties. For now I think we are done here, Good day gentlemen, I will keep you informed of further actions if any.” Nodding to the two men Cmdr Prakash turned on his heel and walked away, leaving Manav alone with the Lieutenant who helped Manav out of the airport to the car.

Manav kept looking out of the window of the car as it drove them to their apartment, pointedly ignoring his companions. He was furious, to be caged at the moment when he badly wanted to go out and talk to Amaravati, to talk to Liliya, to call Dr Saharsbuddhe, to make those who had perpetrated this act pay. Instead, it was he whose wings had been clipped, but thinking back on it, he couldn’t really talk about it at all, could he. That would just help the agenda of those who wanted him dead, not that they didn’t have a fair measure of success already. He cursed, silently, he could only hope that this would blow over without too much fuss and he would be able to pick up the threads again, no worse for the delay. That was the best he could hope for, that would have to do for the revenge, perhaps that would be enough, after all they were not able to make the Chinese pay either, he thought. The bitter thoughts kept raging through his head and they reached back and was helped into the apartment by Lt Thapa, who was extremely courteous towards Manav, despite his overt hostility. Manav realized that Lt Thapa was good sort, a through gentleman doing his job, but yet he was his warden and being a prisoner was difficult to reconcile to. He tried to smile and shuffled back to his room, with his limp very pronounced now, the old injuries aggravated. Lt Thapa looked on sadly, though young he too knew what the loss of a comrade meant. He busied himself with little things, wishing that the times were different and had met Manav on different terms, to perhaps share a drink and swap jokes common to all serving men.


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PostPosted: 02 Jun 2010 01:35 
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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 38

Donald Ramson’s eyes blazed with fire, the people around moving back to give him a clear space in which he paced, his anger barely in control, even his rough hewn Pathan bodyguards flinching as he moved past them. Tariq Ahmed was badly sweating, he gradually tried to inch his way out, hoping, that preoccupied as he was, the American would not notice him leave. He had nearly made his way out before Ramson saw him and Tariq Ahmed froze and nearly wet himself, he cursed Col Imran for giving him this assignment, till then a pick of the lot that these dangerous times offered. “And what do your people want now? I suppose none of you can find the way to the bloody loo without us holding your hands eh.” Tariq gulped, this was not the fawning treatment from Americans that he was used too, “No Sir, umm Col Imran wanted me to tell you that everything on our end is proceeding as per schedule, Sir.” Tariq lied effortlessly, at least that part came naturally to him and he was good at. He would square up with Col Imran later. Ramson fixed him with a steely gaze, “Yes of course, barring the little issue of one of couriers not returning.” Ahmed protested, “Sir, Sir, that is under control, one of the units had come under fire from Indians and aborted mission. We have replaced it with another.” Ramson spat, “That is not what we know from other sources.” Tariq Ahmed knew that Ramson was buying it, he just needed to turn on the charm a little more, “Yes, we know that Indians wires a buzzing with reports of a big kill, but you know Indians, their Army needs brownie points, they keep picking up Kashmiri’s to provide the bodies to make good their claims, we had sent in SSG, and these were trained in your country, you don’t have to worry Sir, just relax.” Ramson had stopped pacing, his breathing little more regular, “Well it is going to be your funeral buddy, let Col Imran know that if any changes need to be made the time is now, any later and it would be too late, and let him know that everything is fine from our end too.” Tariq Ahmed nodded vigorously, relieved at getting off the hook and missing the slight ting of cruel sarcasm at the statements end in the bargain. He stumbled out, eager to put as much distance between him and the American as possible, looking for a quiet corner to take a swig from his rapidly depleting hip flask, which was going to be empty soon, if he didn’t get out of Waziristan quickly enough.

Donald looked at the door through which the Tariq Ahmed had exited and cursed under his breath, “vermin, foul pig, Pakistani”, he looked up to see his loyal Pathan’s smile at him, evidently the feeling was shared in the room. He made a low bow and gestured at the door and the three men filed out of the mud hut, bowing at him as they went. Donald walked up a rickety staircase to the top floor of the two floor hovel, where his command center was. On the higher floor he quickly peeped from the gaps in wood of the boarded windows to check that the guards had moved to their position and were out of earshot. It was a long time since he had worked in a alien land alone, with not a friendly voice for many hundred miles. He realized that probably half the people in the village would happily slit his throat if they knew that he was actually an American, let alone a secret operative, and felt as one of the adventurers of the old. The thought buoyed him no end. There was no getting around to it, for a job so important, if only one person could be inserted it had to be someone with sufficient political authority and complete knowledge. He reached for the satellite radio set and dialed the code.

“Good morning Baron, I trust the weather is turning?”

“Indeed and we may yet have a pleasant summer, but then what do the swallows say?”

“Well the Pakis are assuring us that all is well.”

“But of course you have other inputs to share? The tone of your voice tells me you are not convinced”

“Indeed, all the available information does not square up certainly. On the other hand the arrangements on this end are proceeding very well, and there will be no issues in the launch, I have myself seen to that. There will also be no traces back, that is ensured as well. The question is now when to launch, and you must be aware of the latest reports from Moscow.”

The clipped accent of Baron felt as cold as the dry winds blowing in through the cracks, “Quite so Deputy Director, it seems that you people have a undeserved reputation. You could not eliminate one piece in Moscow. Pray tell me, did you find out anything about him at all? Apart from his interest in a whorehouse?”

Donald Ramson, gripped the table tightly, “No Sir, I am afraid that nothing about him was unusual, as far as we know, he was not aware of the surveillance on him either. The only thing of interest he has done is to visit the place. And no Sir we have nothing to pin on him on that account, it is a place run by Moscow Mafia, very upper crust and very secure, we can’t breach it without alarm bells ringing all over the place, and there was no reason to. The streets of Moscow are better help, he was just lucky.”

“Hmm, you do know that this wrecks everything don’t you? The proposal that had been sent to the Indian MoD has blocked any chances of alternate plans for that project. I am told it is rather good, it can be delayed, but almost impossible to stop without creating a massive conflagration. How in Lucifer’s name did he come up with it? There is no chance that you would know that either wouldn’t you?”

Deputy Director Ramson stayed quiet, there was nothing for him to say.

“Brilliant!! What a complete and total snafu, isn’t that a nice American term Donald? Snafu! Can’t you blithering idiots do one thing right? What do you expect to be done now? Tell your peachy bottom lads to waddle home and go back to doing what they do best, I am sure there are more of your GIs around there somewhere for them to foam over!! Gah!!”

Donald waited for Lord Manningham to complete, once he was sure that the Baron was done and he had his full attention once more, he spoke “There IS one more thing we can do.”


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PostPosted: 10 Jun 2010 17:18 
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Dance of the flamingo -- Post 39

Lt Thapa was dozing fitfully on the sofa, his feet up on the center table, when the phone rang, he shook his head to clear it and picked the phone “Sir, Yes Sir, right away Sir.” Returning the handset to the cradle he once more shook his head and looked at the wristwatch, “4.30?”, before he could move to wake Manav up, he saw him limp out of him room fully dressed. “Good morning Sir, you knew that we are expected at the Embassy in an about half an hour?” Lt Thapa puzzled. Manav just shook his head in reply, “Didn’t sleep”, economizing his words to save his strength for the unexpected. Lt Thapa nodded, “Just give me five minutes Sir, we will leave together, I believe my relief is also here” and disappeared to freshen up and pick up his instruments. At this early hour of the day the drive to the Embassy took no time at all, and they went directly up to Commodore Prakash’s office where Lt Thapa ushered Manav in, wished him good luck and left. Cmdr Prakash gestured Manav to one of the seats across the table and handed him a cup of tea as he sat down. “How are you feeling Sqn Ldr? I may have been a little harsh yesterday, I do apologize for that.” Manav was surprised, he fully expected more flack for being irresponsible and unforthcoming. He replied slowly but politely “Not a problem Sir, you were right under the circumstances. I am fine, but not fully fit as you can see, and can barely speak.” Cmdr Prakash looked sympathetic, “Of course, and I would not have pulled you out of bed so early if not for further developments. MoD has sent word that they want you back immediately, the developments over last few days have been too rapid to be of comfort, hence they want a full discussion to understand where we stand.” Cmdr Prakash looked keenly at Manav for his reaction, and he had to struggle hard to not show any, “Yes Sir, I suppose they have already factored what is the message we would be sending if we suddenly pull back.” Cmdr Prakash didn’t reply immediately but thought about it for a while, “I must say that I would not have recommended this particular course of action, a week or so of delay while they cleared matters would be one thing, but this…..” he let the words trail off and stayed quiet for another moment. “But as it happens these are the orders. However I have also been given to understand, unofficially of course, that there is some, shall we say, lack of consensus on how to proceed between some senior Babu’s, the Defence Sectary needs you there to help strengthen the case that he is building to push this through.” This Manav could buy, he was fully expecting pushback, the hidebound system did not take kindly to change in plans, especially rapid ones at those. “I meanwhile will engage with Russians directly to explain the sudden change. I will have to probably beat on the topic of Pandeyji’s demise more than would be good form, but since that’s the best card we have, I will have to play it often.” Manav could see that Cmdr Prakash found the idea odious, but was standing firm none the less. Cmdr Prakash pushed a packet across the table to Manav, “Your formal orders and ticket for Morning flight to Delhi*, you leave immediately, directly from the Embassy, one of the chaps will escort you to through the immigration.“ Manav smiled, so he wasn’t out of woods just yet, “Yes Sir.”

Getting to the Sheremetyevo early in the morning was not as difficult was in the other hours of the day, and Manav found himself being escorted through the emigration even before he could think through the latest developments. As Manav shook hands for farewell with the Embassy staff member who had escorted him through the emigration, he realized that he was finally alone after last many days. Making his way to a quiet corner of the waiting lounge, he pulled out the cell phone with the Russian number and made the call.

“Pranam Indra, we are glad to know that you are well.” There was nothing in Amaravati’s voice to indicate that anything had ever happened.

“I wanted to fill you in some details, I think it is important that your people know all the bits.” Manav had decided that he needed to pass on his experiences, just in case.

“Certainly Indra, but this still may not be the most secure medium, the best course of action is to meet the colonel again.”

“So you know I am heading to Delhi”

“We do know some pieces, Indra, including what really happened during the accident.”

Manav relaxed, at least some parts he didn’t have to worry about. “All right, but take care of Igorr, he had helped.”

“Understood”

Although on the phone, Manav had retained some amount of situational awareness, although that was not for anything more than unwelcome company of fellow travelers. He now saw something from the corner of his eye which caught his attention; “Please hold on, don’t disconnect, there may be something around.” Without switching off the phone, he slipped it back in his jacket pocket, picked up a paper from a stand and pretended to read, just in time in for a group of Russians to turn the corner.

*No such flight exists today, merely a figment of my imagination.


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