Samuel was exhausted, it was nearly 10 p.m and he was leaving his office. He was starving, he just wanted to eat and hit the bed. ‘What a terrible day!’ he was muttering to himself as he got into his old beat up Renault Kwid. He had seen a Chinese restaurant nearby that opened recently and he decided trying it now would be the best option.
It was a small inexpensive looking restaurant for quick meals. It had simple decor with the traditional Chinese paintings and some random symbols of dragons splattered here and there. One bored receptionist cum cashier and only 1 waiter. It was not a place you would come to on a date.
He gave his order and started scrolling through his phone. He saw some updates of his friend travelling to Dubai for work, one of them getting married in a fancy resort in Rajasthan and one of them was working at Google and felt the need to constantly put #googleknowsbest in all his posts.
The real estate business in India was hard, there isn’t any strategy or marketing that can make you successful, it was entirely dependant on your network and getting lucky with the right client at the right time. The respect for agents was abysmal since it was not considered an elite profession and the commissions were shared between multiple parties.
You could hire a celebrity for the promotion of a project to bring in the masses but when it came down to the client writing a cheque for that booking amount, it had nothing to do with the celebrity. Those gimmicks were just enough to get them off their laptops and visit the property.
He had to constantly ensure he was at networking events or getting in touch with the businessmen of the city to source the right inventory to sell. His company was working on a budget villa project which was taking time to sell because of the location being close to a graveyard. Not many families wanted to stay close to a burial ground despite the villa’s appeal.
It was such a beautiful villa, the amenities, the location and the price, every aspect was attractive. ‘Maybe someday when I can afford it’ he thought to himself. He finished his meal and waited for the bill. He was served a fortune cookie with the bill, “Oh it’s been a long time since I have gone to a restaurant that still serves these” he said to the waiter. He opened the cookie and the message read ‘Don’t underestimate your ideas’. ‘That’s funny, I just had an argument with my manager for an idea I had which he didn’t like’ Samuel thought, he shrugged it off and paid the bill.
The next day at work, Samuel was in the cab with his Marketing Head going for a meeting regarding a residential project in the city. They were in the middle of random banter when he decided to casually mention his idea that his boss had rejected. “That’s not a bad idea at all, I think we should bring this up at today’s meeting and ask the client for their opinion” the Marketing Head said to him. By the end of the day Samuel was a happy man, the marketing guys for the residential project approved it and his Marketing Head gave Samuel all the credit for it in front of his boss.
A month later, it was a late night again for Samuel, he decided to hit the Chinese restaurant for dinner again. This time he was conversing with his old college friend Meera, he had recently reconnected with her over instagram. He was about to pay the bill when he realised he had never eaten the cookie. He opened it and it read ‘Confess your love, it’s worth it’, ”maybe I will” Samuel said aloud.
Later that night, he asked Meera out for a movie half expecting her to say that it was too soon to go on a date. The stars were aligned and she said yes. Their date turned into many dates.
One weekend, he told his best friend about the fortune cookies and that they were lucky for him. “Are you trying to say these cookies can predict your future?” “No, I’m just saying the messages have been right twice and I don’t want to lose out”. Just to humour Samuel, his best friend agreed to dine at the restaurant.
The meal was over and they were ready to open the cookies. Samuel’s read ‘Something dangerous lies in your path, stay cautious’ and his best friend’s read ‘Avoid the upcoming journey’. “What’s that supposed to mean?!” his best friend asked him looking annoyed. “I don’t know, maybe there’s some journey you are going to go on and you shouldn’t go?” Samuel responded. “I have journeys every weekend so this doesn’t make any sense!” his best friend exclaimed. His best friend’s parents lived 3 hours from the city and he used to visit them every other weekend. His best friend declared that this was a stupid activity and they agreed to disagree ultimately.
Samuel checked his entire house for any loose wiring, fire hazards, toxic chemicals, gas leaks, etc he couldn’t find anything. He even checked his car and his desk at the office, nothing! Maybe this really was a coincidence and he was taking this too seriously. It was a fortune cookie for God’s sake! It’s supposed to be for fun. He let the incident go and forgot all about it in the next few weeks.
A month later, his Goa trip planning was in full swing. Any Indian would know how the Goa plan works. You plan for months with your friends and right before the trip the dominoes start to fall. Samuel’s manager declined his request for the leaves due to a promo event that was happening at the same time where they had roped in a huge celebrity to pretend like he loved the villa. “It’s Pratap Kapoor we’re talking about Samuel, this is no small guy” his boss said. “Pratap has a 20,000 sq ft villa with a bonsai garden imported from Japan, he’s not relatable when it comes to endorsing a budget home” Samuel protested. “That may be true but he has a huge social media following and the fact that he may potentially own one of the villas will give customers the message that the graveyard is not an important factor” his boss stated ending the discussion. Samuel had lost the argument and the Goa trip.
He loaned his friends his car to carry on with their trip. They offered to cancel it but he insisted that they go, he didn’t want to ruin it. Besides, it was a good time to take Meera to one of those Korean restaurants she had been obsessing about.
It was when he was in the middle of eating his Bibimbap that he received the call. His friends had been in an accident on the way back home. A drunk driver rammed into them, fortunately they were not seriously injured but the car took most of the damage. “We were really lucky that the drunk guy had an equally beat up car as yours” his best friend explained to him, Samuel’s thoughts drifted towards the message his cookie had revealed to him. This is what it was warning him from.
Over the course of the next 5 years, it became a ritual for Samuel. He would eat at the restaurant before any big decision he had to make or if there was any big event coming up. Samuel moved to a different real estate agency which offered him a senior position, with time his commissions became better, he bought a better car, married Meera and he bought the villa near the graveyard.
“I already told you, I am not coming on that trip with your parents Meera” he told his wife. “Just because the cookie said so?!” she asked. “Yes, the message said exercise caution on your next endeavor and I went there just after we discussed the trip, I’m sorry but I cannot go, this is my process and you know it” he said firmly. “You are really letting these cryptic messages get the better of your logical self, it was fun in the beginning but it’s been 5 years now and you can start making your own decisions,” Meera told him, unable to believe her husband relied on luck from a cookie. “No, I trust the process and I would like to stick to it” he said. Their fight escalated and it resulted in him staying home alone.
When Meera was away, he received a call from an unlikely source. The secretary to a local politician, the politician wanted to sell his massive farmhouse in the outskirts of the city to settle some debts that occurred from his political rally. The politician had a bad reputation of solving everything with cash or brute force. But, this was a big deal, if he said no to the politician then another agent would do it and profit off it since word travelled fast in his circle.
“You can inform his assistant that we cannot take this up”. “He lost the election and his boys got into a fight as well that the media picked up so I think he’s bad news. Our agency has a certain reputation so we cannot be involved with certain types of individuals” Samuel’s CEO told him. Despite Samuel persuading him with the value of the property, the CEO refused and the matter was dropped.
Samuel decided that it was time to start doing things independently. He took on the sale of the property independently and asked the secretary to keep it discreet. He stood to make a huge commission on this, this could mean quitting his job and starting out on his own so why give up the opportunity. Destiny had come knocking on his door, he couldn’t just ask her to leave.
He went to the restaurant to get a feel of his decision. While waiting for the food he called his wife to find out if she reached home safe, “So nothing weird happened during the trip?” he asked. “Nope, your fortune cookie was wrong this time. Everything went smoothly, you should have come. My parents didn’t believe you were sick, they think something’s going on with us” she told him. “Yeah, maybe I should have come” he said relieved that the message didn’t come true. “Don’t forget to get the Kung Pao chicken and no cookie for me please” she said ending the call. Samuel mulled over what had happened. Was it that the magic was over? For 5 years the messages had been right but not this time. Meera was back and safe.
At home, when he opened the cookie, it read ‘It’s not too late to back out’. Samuel was annoyed, this was a big deal where he stood a chance to grow his network and quit his stressful job. He went to bed and let the thought stir in his mind.
The commission he was offered was the highest he had ever been offered. There were several agencies and agents working on this property but he had the network of people who would need such a massive area, he could crack it. The decision had been made.
Over the course of the next few months, Samuel intentionally lost a few deals so that he could dedicate extra time to the farm house. Fortunately, nobody suspected anything at his firm and he getting close. Finally after 6 months of effort and negotiating it was sold to a construction company, they were going to build a resort.
Later that year, Samuel was a richer, happier man. He was out in the world trying to be an entrepreneur when he received a call that ruined everything. The construction firm had filed a case against everyone in the land dealing stating that it was a fraudulent deal. They discovered a body in the premises hidden underground and it just happened that the exact spot was being dug up for a swimming pool. This was bad marketing for the resort. Who would bring their families to a place with a reputation of murder? The construction was stopped when the police intervened to do a complete investigation and the legal proceedings began.
Samuel started losing hair and sleep over the drastic change of events in his life. His entrepreneurship journey was falling apart and Meera and his relationship was on a steady decline. He didn’t know how to control it, he was trying to make things work both professionally and personally. Over the next few months he tried yoga, went to church more often and traveled but, it was not enough to solve his problems. He realised the cookie had been right all along but he had gone against it. That was when he decided it was time to go back to the restaurant to get some advice. He was desperate.
He finished his meal when the waiter told him the news. “We’re shutting down this week, they sold the place to a McDonald’s franchise” the waiter said looking ready to move on. “Sold it?! Why do you need a McDonald’s here when there’s a burger place 2 streets away?!” Samuel questioned reeling from the shock. “Well, it’s not a McDonalds. I’m going to apply for a job there as well. You have been coming here for so long so I thought you should know that we’re closing” the waiter said clearing the table.
That was it, his final cookie in this place. He was mentally asking for it to give him some good advice on what to do next. The cookie read ‘Darkness awaits’