Mainstream, 538 pages
Cover art by Pat Evans
The world is a jungle! To find happiness one must find his/her own patch. Gabriel’s adventurous life (actually, a fictionalized autobiography) is the search for a culture, which would accept him. As he travels five continents, his accounts reflect the true picture of society in the late twentieth century. The presentation of the world girdling corruption, violence, oppression, and prejudice are featured in the story.
The elaborate way of paying bribes made my head swim.
“The civil servants of the newly independent nations learned corruption quickly,” Jeff remarked. “I wish they learned their duties as quickly. Can we have a vote on the ten percent administration fee?”
Duke and I nodded.
“There is another important item on the agenda: my man at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs suggested that the Mombasa Water Supply project will come up soon. The City wants the government to guarantee a loan from a commercial bank. Can Broughton Engineering tackle such work?” Duke asked.
“Of course,” I replied.
“That is fine and dandy,” Duke remarked, “I’ll work on Satish. He is an Asian, the chief engineer at the Ministry. He would give me an inside line if the price is right.”
“You will have a lot of competition, because a Danish firm moved in to Nairobi last month. According to the rumors, they have a lot of money, but very little local know-how,” Jeff said.
“Peter told me about Warren Bentley promising a big structural engineering job to Broughton. Can you look into that?” I said.
“I think you should visit Warren yourself,” Duke said. “He doesn’t care who you are, but he is going to make sure of hiring the best structural engineer; nothing else matters. We cannot baksheesh him. I can fix up a meeting with him for tomorrow morning, if you’re ready.”
“I can meet him anytime,” I replied.
“Very well. Subject to your meeting with old Warren, I’m going to schedule your trip to Dar for next week, if it is all right with you.”
The rest of the meeting dealt with Jeff’s schedule. He had many clients from the US and Europe, including a two-week stretch with a director of Warner Brothers who wanted to scout the sites for a major motion picture.
“It is a shame they did not bring the leading lady,” Duke remarked. “I understand she’s a gorgeous blonde.”
“Duke prefers blonds,” Jeff added.
The meeting was over in an hour, and I spent the rest of the day preparing a portfolio of my structural engineering projects. I added a few sketches, thinking it may come in handy at the meeting with Warren Bentley.
At home, I sat on the patio, put my feet up on a stool with a gin and lime in my hand. It was the same drink I always had in Chittagong. I knew I had come to the right place. I had professional challenges, eternal summer, and reasonable salary. I considered myself very fortunate.
The meeting with the architect took place at ten o’clock. Bentley had his office in the New Reservation in a white painted, nondescript, large two-story residence not too far from my house.
The architect was a big man, at least fifty-five years old, with a flock of gray hair, wearing a well-starched safari suit. His office was similar to mine, but instead of the zebra skin, he had a large drawing of the futuristic airport terminal of Nairobi. We shook hands and sat down.
“We’ll build it in a few years,” Bentley said. He pointed at the picture on the wall. “I just won the contest.”
“Congratulations,” I said. “Perhaps we could have a piece of the action.”