Four close friends were bored with the monotony of their careers and wanted to do something outside their domain expertise. They were encouraged by their wives, career women themselves. They split into two teams of two each. One built a State-of-the-Art stealth boat for the Indian Navy. The other fashioned a cot with extraordinary features for Mariott, the largest chain in the world.
Rajender: He is a chartered accountant. He has been working in a firm for about 15 years. He is well established and is comfortably settled with cars and a bungalow. His wife Sharmila has her own beauty parlor business. His children are well settled.
Carpentry is his passion. He has a full complement of tools that a professional carpenter would give an eye for. He has made several pieces of basic furniture. Whittling is another of his passions and he is proud of several artistic and aesthetic creations.
Kailash: He is a UGC grade Professor of English in a prestigious college. He has written several research papers. He was fascinated with electricity ever since he got a shock poking a screwdriver into a power outlet when he was just a 10-year-old boy. He keeps tinkering with electrical equipment and has made several simple but useful gadgets for the house. His wife Sarala, a news reader on a local tv channel appreciates some of his inventions.
The Plastics technologist
Dwarak: He has a post-graduate diploma in advanced plastics technology from the US. He is working in a multinational company making polypropylene modular kitchen drawer systems and accessories. He is in quality control. His dream is to work with fiberglass. He is tired of supervising a profitable manufacturing unit with absolutely no scope for innovation. Sharada, his wife is an expert violinist and leads a string quartet
The Electronics and Communication Engineer
Gopal: He is a scientist in DRDO specializing in maritime communications. He lost interest when his original design was passed on by his superior as his own. He was just biding his time. Seeing him as a potential usurper of his throne, his boss has been keeping him away from interesting projects and assigning him the most boring, mundane, and routine work. An active social worker running her own NGO, Swarna, his wife is very supportive.
* * *
There are several things common about this gang of four. Each of them had an independent, talented professional as a wife. All the women were very supportive of their respective husbands. They had no wants in life. All material comforts were theirs for asking. Their children were grown up and had their own fledgling but promising careers. The most striking feature about them was that each one was dissatisfied with the way their career graph was going. They all had a burning desire to indulge in their favorite hobbies. They were all located close to each other in a sprawling metropolis. Last but not least, they were close friends since their school days. Since the women too got along famously, they met at regular intervals and made it a point to take hideaway vacations from time to time.
Thus, it so happened once that the four couples took a week-long break in a resort in Alibaug. Over dinner and drinks, as was their wont, the men started complaining about the professional dead end each of them had reached. The women exchanged meaningful glances and Sharmila spoke for all of them.
“When are you guys going to stop whining and do something about your grievances? By God’s grace, we have no needs. Indulge yourself. Take a sabbatical for a year or two. You can even quit your “so-called boring” jobs. Four of you think of something creative.”
Sharada piped in,” we are all going on a shopping expedition the whole day tomorrow. You cry babies sit down and plan on what you really want to do.”
The men were flabbergasted and for once were lost for words.
The next morning, soon after breakfast, as promised, the girls left for a full-day shopping spree. The men gathered over snacks and coffee and plotted their course of action. After a serious bout of brainstorming, Rajender and Kailash settled on a state-of-the-art smart cot. The woodwork would be done by Rajender and Kailash will take care of the electrical part. Dwarak always wanted to build a boat with a fiberglass hull instead of the traditional steel or aluminum one. Gopal suggested that they make it a stealth boat. Indian navy had just released an RFP to build a prototype.
Buoyed by the alacrity with which they have firmed up their objective, the boys started on a celebratory liquid lunch. They knew not how the time passed until the ladies returned and immediately launched a collective tirade for getting drunk so early in the day. All the men, without a single exception, sported triumphant, idiotic grins on their faces for the rest of the evening.
Even though the men tried to be secretive, the women wormed their plan of action out of them. The rest of the vacation turned out to be a no-holds-barred brainstorming session, with girls throwing in several valuable suggestions.
Dwarak decided upon a medium-sized cutter of 25-meter (~82 feet) in length. He acquired a sophisticated boat design software ActCad. Based on his own work at DRDO, he designed stealth features for the basic fiberglass hull and deck. He planned anti-sonar waterproofing. The latest Carbon/Kevlar composite hull and deck laminates will provide the necessary waterproofing besides adding to structural strength. Gopal worked on anti-Radar and anti-sonar features using advanced jamming techniques.
Rajender and Kailash planned on a king-size cot with hitherto unknown features. While Rajender will take care of the woodwork, Kailash will employ his electrical expertise. The cot will have a built-in mechanism to give an undulating effect experienced in water beds. The mattress will be attached and will have a dustproof, waterproof fitted covering, needing no periodic changes. Bed linen available in the market can be used. The mattress will be temperature-controlled and can be adjusted per seasonal requirements and user preferences.
Dwarak was in charge of locating a boatyard that had gone out of business. He located several on the Gujarat coastline. Finally, he settled on one near Surat. In about two months, he got it to working shape and refurbished the old equipment, bringing in new where necessary.
In the meantime, Gopal finished the documentation in answer to the RFP by the Navy and submitted a DPR. He was pleasantly surprised when his proposal was shortlisted and he was invited for a personal appearance and presentation before the awards committee. By this time, a prototype was ready. It was a fully working model, a 30 inches long cutter with all the stealth and communication features.
Both Gopal and Dwarak attended the live presentation. They answered all the questions by the expert committee. The officials were excited about the model since other bidders have come up with only drawings and 3D simulations.
They gave time for the team to demonstrate their craft in their testing facility. It passed with flying colors. The navy was pleased to sanction an initial grant of 5 crores to build a 25-meter prototype. Based on actual expenditure and progress, additional funds will be forthcoming.
The next few months were hectic. Both the naval architects worked day and night, ably assisted by a couple of wizened boat builders retired from the Cochin shipyard. Finally, the prototype was ready.
They were excited to know that the trial would take off from the naval base, INS Dwarka. Dwarak was pleased as punch at the coincidence and claimed it was a good omen. But he was subjected to good-natured ribbing by the rest of the boys and all the girls.
The boat was transported from their boatyard in Surat to Okha by the naval personnel covering the entire 700km journey under the secrecy of darkness.
Inspired by the boatmen, the cot team also decided to build a scale model of 24” x 10” x 10” scale model with full-fledged bells and whistles. Sarala came to know from the travel director of her channel that Marriott, the global leader of hotel chains has advertised seeking a revolutionary concept for a cot for their ultra-expensive suites in their super luxury hotels. The four girls formed a team and handled the negotiations with the Marriott R&D team to secure the commission. Once again, the working model was the clincher. The promoters were impressed with the features, especially the attached temperature-controlled mattress and the undulating motion concept. A prototype was ordered and a scheduled, milestones-based payment scheme was agreed upon.
They rented a discarded workshop suitable for woodwork with good machinery by the edge of the town. Although they stayed in the living quarters attached to the workshop, they had the luxury of home-cooked food delivered by the ladies. The guys in forced exile at Surat were jealous but too busy to take any sort of break.
The woodwork was personally handled by Rajender. He had hired a couple of young carpenters. They had gained valuable hands-on experience apprenticing under a well-reputed, high-priced freelance carpenter, who had retired to a life of fishing in a Goan village. Sharmila’s sister, Charumathi was finishing up her electrical engineering degree at the local IIT. She had a whole semester to do her project in partial fulfillment of her degree. She was more than happy to assist Rajender provided she can base her project work on the cot. Duly approved by her faculty advisor, she enthusiastically assisted Rajender in designing the motion engineering as well as climate control functions.
Well before the appointed time for the trials, the cot was ready.
As required by the authorities, Dwarak and Gopal had prepared a detailed technical manual including all the technical details. The trial was scheduled for a new moon night. The Navy was most interested in its stealth capacities. An experienced crew including a navigator will handle the trial. The boatbuilders would be allowed to be present during the trial but strictly as silent observers. They had made several short practice runs before D-day.
The trial started very well and continued for three hours cruising in the Arabian sea without encountering any trouble. Suddenly, there was an urgent call from the base. The real admiral was furious. He shouted,” your navigation system is bonkers. You are well into the Pakistani territorial waters. Two fast cutters are approaching you. Our radar technician will guide you based on our own communication system. Get out of there fast!”
The next few minutes were hair-raising. Eventually, they escaped and arrived at the base safe and sound.
The Marriott team inspected the cot. The trials were satisfactory. Their marketing head had a brilliant idea. They will give away raffle tickets to their guests occupying the presidential suite of their prestigious Queens, New York branch over a period of one month. The winner will get a free night’s stay at the suite with an opportunity to try out their ultimate luxury bed.
The lucky winners were a young Silicon Valley billionaire Roger and his wife, Melanie. They were as excited as the builders. After enjoying a four-course dinner befitting a veritable royal banquet, the guests retired to their suite. Rajender and Kailash repaired to their room. But sleep eluded them as they were anxious about the reaction of the couple. After several hours of tossing and turning, they finally drifted to sleep in the early hours. The insistent ring of Kelvin, the hotel manager woke them up rather rudely. In a panic-stricken voice, he asked them to rush to the presidential suite.
They found a motley crowd in the living area of the presidential suite. The guests wore a rumpled look. The manager wore a furious look. By this time, the marketing team staying in the same hotel arrived. Roger said in a tired but composed voice, “the bed was wonderful. The mattress and the undulating motion were truly pleasant. We set the temperature to a comfortable 80 degrees and went to sleep. Suddenly we felt hot and humid. The temperature indicator was blinking. The blanket was really hot. We switched off the cot and here we are.”
The carpenter and the electrician wished the ground would swallow them. The marketing chief announced, “we shall discuss this tomorrow morning. Kelvin, you assign your best suite available to Roger and Melanie. We are extremely sorry, Roger, you had such a frightful experience.”
Melanie chirruped,” Oh no, the bed was wonderful. Hope this temperature thingummy can be fixed.”
Kailash and Rajender retired to their room, their heads hanging in shame.
The boatbuilders entered the conference room adjoining the base commander’s chamber with great trepidation. Vice admiral Banerjee was at the top of the round table. There were about 12 people already seated. They were escorted to the vacant two seats next to the chief. They were sure that they would be unceremoniously kicked out of the project. Vice Admiral Banerjee nodded at them grimly and gestured towards the head of communications., who started his report.
“The trial was a disaster in terms of navigational equipment. It failed totally and let us into the enemy’s territorial waters. With two of the most sophisticated US-made cutters chasing us, we were sure to be intercepted and boarded. All of us would have been taken prisoner and the boat with its advanced features would have been the icing on the cake for them.
“But something wonderful happened. The enemy cutters using triangulation almost pinpointed our location. We were monitoring their communication with each other. They were puzzled. All their sensors indicated there was something out there, but they could not zero on it. The mission commander reported to their base commander reported breathlessly, ‘sir, there seems to be a phantom out there.’ The commandant curtly told them that there must be something wrong with their sensors. “False alarm!” he bellowed, ‘Return immediately to the base. There seems to be some suspicious traffic up north. Give up this Fool’s errand and attend to your real duties.’
“We couldn’t believe our ears. We returned to the base without much ado.”
The Vice Admiral smiled and said in a jocular way, “I wanted to string you by your ‘you know whats’, when I heard about your boat going on an uninvited visit to the Pakistanis; then, I heard that your stealth capabilities exceeded our wildest imaginations, I wanted to kiss you both.
To cut a long story short, our navigation team will help you correct and/or improve your system. There will be a final trial thirty days from now. I can informally tell you that you will get an initial order of 10 of these ‘phantoms’. Good luck!”
He then walked away after quickly shaking their hands. There were congratulations, vigorous handshakes as well as a few “Jadoo ki Jappis” from ebullient Punjabi officers there.
After two more days of detailed discussions, the gratified adventurers headed home, still not entirely believing the turn of events.
The next morning, the marketing chief greeted the duo with a cheerful smile. “Wipe the hangdog expression off your face, you two! The trial is a grand success although you nearly fried the young billionaires to cinders. Okay, you can fix the temperature control systems. Our purchase team will give you a trial order of 5 more cots. If they work out, you are sure to bag an order for at least 100 more. If I were you, gentlemen, I shall look for a venture capitalist. Bye!”
The duo couldn’t believe their ears. They were literally walking on air!
The Navy awarded a PPP contract to Dwarak and Gopal. An SPV was incorporated.
Mariott ordered 10 cots along with a sizeable advance. An LLP was formed between Rajender and Kailash.
A surprise celebratory dinner was arranged by the better halves of the 4 x 4.
And they all lived happily ever after!
Team: Ink Slingers
Prompt: Weave a story where the following objects play a pivotal role – a cot and a boat.
Prompt Proposed by Team Wordsmiths Trailblazers
DRDO: Defence Research and Development Organization
NGO: Non-Government Organization
DPR: Detailed Project Report
RFP: Request For Proposal
PPP: Public Private Partnership
SPV: Special Purpose Vehicle
LLP: Limited Liability Partnership
Picture credit: Pietro De Grande (Unsplash.com)