(Book 2: Hello, Can You Fear Me?)
Niranjan Theatre was situated in a busy part of town. As the helicopter descended, the sound of car horns and the grumble of vehicles could be heard over even the loud noise of the chopper’s blades.
The craft landed on a helipad a little way to the side of the main auditorium, among the grass gardens that decorated the premises. A small group of escorts awaited them outside.
When Ravi got out, he immediately noticed a familiar face among the otherwise uniformed welcoming party.
Anurag walked up to them with a broad smile and extended arms. ‘Ravi! Subro! Long time, no see!’
‘Who’s fault is that, hmm?’ Ravi embraced the boy, clapping his back.
‘I’ll have to agree with Ravi on that,’ Subro said as Anurag hugged him in turn. ‘Leaving so soon after our little adventure; not even waiting till the party!’
When Anurag straightened, his face was stretched in a smile. ‘I did what had to be done,’ he said. ‘You know that. Somebody needed to make those trips, see to it that everyone involved in the Company’s evil plans was brought to justice. After what they made my family go through, I had to make sure no one got away… Woah! Careful there!’ He had looked back towards the chopper, where Sharmila had almost tripped while getting off. ‘Who’s the girl?’ he asked.
‘Newest addition to our team,’ Subro answered, then whispered, ‘also Ravi’s romantic interest.’
Ravi kicked the painter’s leg. ‘Don’t forget, you’ve returned all my stuff to me.’ Turning to Anurag, he said, ‘She’s my new assistant. Being president of a company is tougher than I imagined. Especially when I’m not qualified at all!’
‘Rubbish!’ Anurag snorted. ‘The people chose you, they believe in you. I’m sure you’ll do great! Besides, you’ve only got to do better than those previously in charge. You don’t have any plans that involve murder, do you? I think you can take the awful company to much better places! So, now, am I forgiven? ‘
‘Of course you are,’ Ravi smiled. ‘We’re just kidding. Don’t get worked up!’
‘I’m really not kidding,’ Subro frowned. ‘You might get Ravi off your case with all the righteous talk, but I’m not satisfied, no.’
‘And what would Your Highness require of me to be satisfied?’ Anurag asked.
‘Haha, nothing much! We’ll drink tonight. Redo that party you missed out on. You’ve got to see Ravi lose his cool after two pegs!’
‘Hey, I don’t…’ Ravi began, but then thought better of it. ‘Oh, never mind!’
‘Alright, that sounds like fun!’ Anurag laughed. ‘But let’s get to the event now, shall we?’
Ravi and Subro nodded.
The painter whispered into Sharmila’s ear and she nodded too, going back to the helicopter to retrieve something. Meanwhile, the boys headed to the auditorium, led by four escorts.
The inside of the venue was just as elaborately decorated as Ravi had expected to find. The walkways were broad with marble flooring that sparkled all over. The ceiling was four times higher than the one in Ravi’s office and sported giant chandeliers of exquisite make. Beautiful tapestries lined the walls, which were in turn etched with delicately carved designs.
Ravi was so lost in admiring the place, he actually walked straight into a man’s back on the way.
‘HEY! Watch where you’re going, idiot!’ the man in brown formals snapped, before stomping off.
‘I’m sorry…’ Ravi managed, but a little too late.
His voice was drowned out by Subro, who suddenly announced, ‘Uncle Silver! How’ve you been?’
Sure enough, the middle-aged man had emerged from one of the side rooms. ‘Oh, I’m quite well, quite well!’ he replied. ‘Though, lately I do feel my age more often than I would like. Still, that didn’t stop me from working on a surprise for you!’ He smiled, a twinkling in his eyes.
Subro reciprocated, ‘Ooh, wow! You always know how to cheer me up!’
‘You spoil him too much, Uncle,’ said Ravi.
Uncle Silver laughed. ‘Maybe, but it’s going to help you out today! I’ve got some new upgrades for the Captura that I’m sure you will appreciate. Now, where is the device? I must install this stuff before the event starts.’
‘Ah yes,’ Subro replied. ‘I asked Sharmila to bring it, but she seems to be taking a while… Sharmila is Ravi’s new “assistant,” by the way.’ He formed air-quotes with his fingers.
‘You had the girl carry your burden for you?’ Ravi scoffed.
‘Sure! I’m all for equality. I have guys doing my work, so it’s only fair if I have girls doing it too!’
‘I believe the correct approach would be to do your things yourself!’
‘Says the guy with the new assistant!’
‘Okay!’ Anurag interjected, getting between the two. ‘Let’s not get carried away here. Ah good, Sharmila is here.’ He looked relieved to have that distraction.
Sharmila arrived, as quietly as ever, the Captura bag hanging from one shoulder. Ravi immediately offered to take it off of her. As he did, Subro passed a comment under his breath to Anurag and the two of them snickered a little, but Ravi ignored them. He passed the bag to Anurag’s father.
‘Ah, good, very good,’ the man remarked, receiving it. ‘Come, Subro, let me show you what these new things do!’
‘Yaay! Cool!’ the artist exclaimed. He followed the man into the side room.
‘We’ll go to our seats then,’ Anurag told them through the door. ‘Join us when you’re ready.’
‘We’ll be with you shortly,’ Uncle Silver’s voice came from within.
That done, Anurag, Ravi, Sharmila and the escorts went on ahead.
They soon reached the main auditorium, which was already quite full of people. The seating was spaciously laid out in a semi-circular staircase fashion, and it was hardly any trouble for people to get to their accomodation. Still, there was one man grumbling about, half the way up, admonishing everyone in his way. Ravi recognised him as the man he’d bumped into earlier.
Ignoring him, Ravi turned to find his own seat and when he did, it delighted him immensely. Being friends of the main performer, Ravi and the others had been given front row privilege. They went there and settled in comfortably, while the escorts bowed and took their leave.
The view of the stage was as perfect as they could have hoped for — smack in the centre and without any obstructions. Ravi could picture Subro’s thrilled face when the painter would see it for himself. It offered an excellent angle to capture the event from.
All Ravi hoped was for Uncle Silver and Subro to finish upgrading the Captura quickly. The stage curtains were still lowered, but he could tell that the event would be commencing soon.
Meanwhile, Anurag used the wait to resume conversation. ‘So, tell me more about your plans with the Captura today. Why this event? Sorry, I’ve been pretty out of the loop recently.’
‘Yes, well, ever since we got the ruling for legalising the device, I’ve been thinking a lot about what to do with it. I believe, for the moment, it’s best to give some reassurances to all the people who supported us. Let them see that their decision was a good one. To do this, I wish to show them different ways in which the device can benefit our society. We’ve already demonstrated how it can bring fraud and malicious activities under check. Now I’m thinking of exploring its use in education.’
‘Education? Then what are you doing at a dance show?’
‘Well, you see, the kind of education I have in mind requires a very strong visual element, at least initially. I believe dance is perfect for this. Currently, if I asked you to imagine a dance handbook, you would think about descriptions in text accompanied by sketches of dance poses, correct?’
‘But what if you could view InstaCopies of a real dancer instead? Not only would that look a lot more realistic, we could take as many InstaCopies as we like without needing to have someone draw it all.’
‘Ah, I see! That does sound good. In fact,’ Anurag paused to consider for a bit, ‘I’d felt something similar, three months ago. When you wrote that article? There was so much of our fight captured in those InstaCopies, I got the impression, someone could easily follow the steps themselves. It would definitely have helped me train, if I’d had something like that when I was learning boxing, back in school.’
‘Exactly! Working on the article is actually where I got the idea myself. So, I’m thinking, we can start off with dance, and if that’s successful, we can do the same for other activities. Boxing, yoga, maybe even cricket! Once people get accustomed to this new medium of learning, we could even explore some less visual activities, such as teaching math concepts and the like.’
‘Hmm, makes sense, but perhaps you’ll need to retain some visual touches to keep the audience engaged. Not sure how, but you know, a drastic change might not be the best idea.’
‘Yes, you’re right. But don’t worry, I’ll plan it properly. We still have time.’ Ravi pulled out his MorsePage and made a quick note in it.
‘Nice! And here you were worried about not being fit to run the company! I think you’re doing a fine job, coming up with all these innovative ideas.’
‘Haha! But the actual business side of things is quite taxing,’ Ravi sighed.
‘Oh, you’ll get the hang of it, I’m sure! All the best!’
‘Thanks! It’s nice to be able to talk about this stuff with someone.’
‘Glad I could help!’
An announcement started then, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for gracing us with your presence. The show will begin shortly. Hope you are all settled in your seats.’
Ravi looked to the entrance, but there was still no sign of Subro or Uncle Silver. He kept checking that way, growing a little anxious as the seconds ticked by.