Lure of the Lucre

Lure of the Lucre

The door of the cubicle was firmly closed and the key turned. Rajan inspected his surroundings. It was minimally furnished with a 2-tierbunker bed. He was accommodated in this setup with no roommate. The toilet facilities were common for the entire dormitory. There were several dormitories in this minimum-security federal prison. He sat on his bed and his entire past rushed past in his mind’s eye.

* * *

Rajan was born in a poor household. His father passed away when he was month’s old. His mother was a seamstress and earned her living by catering to the stitching needs of the neighborhood. The priest of the parish kindly diverted much work her way. 

Rajan was a precocious child. Rev. Francis was impressed with his brilliance and let him use the church library. When Rajan was ready for nursery, he put him in the prestigious school run by the diocese, with a complete fee waiver. Most of the students were from affluent families. Bullying Rajan was their favorite pastime. They pointedly referred to his “slum background” to humiliate him. 

One day, a group of spoiled brats were gossiping over some snacks in the schoolcanteen. Rajan was sitting  away from them all by himself. One of the boys shouted boisterously,” Hey, you slum dog! You  must be starving. Have something on us.” He threw a 500 rupee note at him. The rest of the girls and boys broke into raucous laughter. Humiliated, Rajan left the canteen with tear-filled euyes, letting the currency drift away.

Rajan did not sleep that whole night. In his mind’s eye, he was counting currency notes endlessly. A shining dollar coin danced before his eyes. Rajan promised to himself that the only objective in his life will be to earn money, money, and more money. This obsession ruled his life from then on.

Years rolled on quickly. His natural brilliance and single-minded devotion landed Rajan as the head of a prestigious brokerage firm on the NYSE. 

During one of the charity banquets, he met Rita, a girl from Assam. She had a brilliant academic career and was employed by a prestigious NGO.  An electric current passed through Rajan’s entire body. For a change, his heart ruled over his mind. After a whirlwind courtship, they were married. In time, they had two adorable children, doing well in exclusive academic institutions. He had a mansion in New Jersey, accessible to downtown Manhattan. He had properties all over the world. He had box seats in theatres, and sports events in New York. London and Paris. He sat on the management councils of several prestigious Business Schools. 

He had truly arrived.

Rita tried to slow him down and warned him that his obsession to earn more will get him into trouble. Rajan had lost all sense of propriety. He often quipped, “Morality is the lack of opportunity” and believed in this adage without any reservations. Rita silently withdrew into herself and busied herself with social work.

He started cutting corners and was emboldened to skirt dangerously close to illegality. His ability to get away with anything made him rash. He formed a close business relationship with the head of a financial powerhouse and a corporate bigwig who sat on the boards of several multinationals.   Together they exploited inside information and made obscene amounts of money.

All good things must come to an end. All the three of them fell afoul of SEC. Rajan was slapped with a 5 million dollar fine and sentenced to a 2-year jail term.  

* * *

Rajan was assigned to work in the prison library. He did a lot of introspection on his roller-coaster life.  18 months passed by in a flash.  Rajan was released on monitored house arrest .

During the two months of house arrest, he grew close to Rita again. Time hung heavily on him and with Rita guiding him, he studied philosophical works and grew great interest in Rita’s humanitarian work.

After two months, Rajan was releases from house arrest too. He swore he will never get back to corporate world ever again. He had finally realized money is not everything. Their children were well settled in their respective rewarding careers and raised their own families. 

With great degree of brainstorming and planning, Rita and Rajan established a foundation for the areas Rita was passionate about, Child and Maternal health in third world countries. 

Rajan had found true peace finally.
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