He knew not where to go. From where he stood, there's not a clear path in front of him.
People were hurrying up and down the street. He felt as if he was the only one standing still in the busy street. "One week! That's the most I can do for you. You have one week to sort this out," the bank manager's words were still echoing in his mind. He knew he couldn't ask for more. For him, the manager had been more than helpful. He turned back and looked at the door of the building.
It was the same door that he walked out two years ago, punching in the air in excitement. Top of the world, he felt. With his loan approved, he could finally endeavour to materialise his visions for his business of three years. Amid all the potentials he envisioned, he saw clearly one thing on top, hope of a better tomorrow.
Within the next six months, his business grew in accordance to his five-years plan. He no longer had to sweat through the day. He had seven employees for that, around two brand new machineries. That numbers grew into twenty-seven and five within the next year. Orders were starting to stream in. Instead of trucks parking at his warehouse for loading, containers were blocking the entry of his car into his overused factory premises. Things couldn't have turned out any better.
Being a cautious man, he was not blinded by the exponential growth of his business. Every addition of workforce or machinery was carefully weighed against future orders; every order that arrive on his desktop was checked, double-checked and rechecked against every available credit risk analysis tool. With his conservative policy, he slowly built up a capital reserve. He was confident as his business strode forward. However, as cautious as he was, he failed to foresee the calamity that was coming his way, the speediness of its timing nor the size of its impact.
On retrospect, the fact that he was able to fend off the crisis for six months was proofs of the effectiveness of his conservative policies and his business acumen.
There he stood that day, trembling slightly. Fear had occupied him. Desperation had sipped into him. His mind felt heavy, as were his legs. Every step forward exhausted him like never before. His mind kept wondering if there was other avenue that he had not explored or something else he could do instead of wasting time walking in the street. If only the crisis had come three years late or five years early, he thought. Three year late, and his five-years business plan would have enabled his business to weather any storm. As faith would have it, the crisis arrived at a time when his business was just beginning to find its footing. If the crisis came five years earlier, he was confident he would not have any problems dealing with it too.
Five years ago, he was running his business small with two workers. He earned enough financially. He had all the satisfaction from work by producing a product of his own design. Despite being relatively new in the industry, he had come up with a product that drew praises even from the old timers. At that time, problems of any magnitude were managed with a flick on the nose and rolled up sleeves. Solutions were quick to arrive. What's the worst that could happen? With no obligation, he was ready to start all over again if necessary. But his mentality changed the day his son was born.
He could consume his meals with nothing but bread. He didn't mind doing without the tip of the technology gadgets. He still preferred his car of nine years for transportation. He winced at having dinner at fancy restaurants. But, he wanted the very best for his son in the future. That's when he started to think big.
But, he's not the kind that would look to the sky and complain. Fear found its way into him because he no longer carried the future of his alone - livelihood of twenty seven people he needed to consider. And it was this dependency on him that caused him to drag on instead of making drastic moves to counter the crisis the moments it surfaced. Desperation succeeded in growing within him because it knew that the moment he gave up, twenty seven families would suffer. His guts felt wrenched so tightly he was trembling slightly, a consequence of two sleep-deprived nights and a stomach with no proper meals for two days. His mind was so heavy with his responsibilities it was a mess. Having exhausted all avenues in the last two months, he could feel the wall at the end of the road coming at him fast.
As he strolled along the street, hands in his pockets, his eyes were aimlessly wandering around him. A sign at the window of a grocery store caught his attention and drew him into the store.
He walked out the store with a different expression. The desperate frown was gone, so had the aimlessly gloomy eyes. He was holding a lottery ticket in his hand. If Lady Luck smiled at him, he would be exchanging that ticket with enough prize money to solve his financial problems.
That was the 12th of January, 1998, six months after the financial crisis of 1997 hit Asia.
Eleven years later, he is still holding the ticket, with the number 5011742.
The ticket didn't help him sort out his financial problems in that fateful year. Lady Luck didn't smile at him that day. He went bankrupt during the financial crisis of the late 90's. That ticket, which he has kept for eleven years, had given him more than any amount of prize money could.
He still remembered vividly the calmness that swept over him the moment he exchanged his one dollar bill with the lottery ticket. He is a realistic man; he didn't place much hope on winning any prize money. He never had. But to his surprise, the moment he's holding the ticket, he could think again. Fear and desperation subsided. His mind was again calm and clear as a peaceful lake lying in the centre of protective mountains. Eleven years onwards, he has never forgotten the drastic reversal of emotion of the moment.
Eleven years ago, the night after having purchased the lottery ticket, he was able to go to sleep peacefully again, after a proper dinner. With his peace of mind, he managed to solve the problem of that week. But he failed with the following challenges in the coming months, and went bankrupt. He didn't earn any wrath from his employees. They knew what he went through and how he had kept their fate at the back of his mind. They left the company that year. But most of them came back to work for him again six years later, when he managed to rebuild his business into a considerable size again, and cleared his bankruptcy charges.
And today in the face of another financial crisis, he is calm. Fear and desperation are nowhere to be seen. He is better prepared now to face crisis of any kind in any size. For now, with the image of the peaceful lake in mind, he knows he has a weapon within him to ride any storm - the audacity of Hopes.