On Scammers and Schemers

It was towards the end of last century I was in Calcutta and a colleague called me on my 16 rupees incoming mobile and asked if she can use one of my free airline staff ticket to ferry her boyfriend. Very graciously, I said, Yes! It was illegal, and surely, we were all discovered and there were some inquiries etc.. Well, the story passed over my head.

Towards the end of my stay in Calcutta at the start of the new century, another colleague started pinging my pager. Yes, now I was on pager because that 16 rupees incoming mobile had drowned me in debt in the bottom of the Hooghly.

This “idiot type” chain-smoking colleague, the son of a philandering airline pilot, was adamant to invite me to “Scoop,” an idyllic ice-cream joint near an old Calcutta river. He said he had invited a couple of his colleagues, which later turned out to be mainly air-hostesses. I have interactive problems with girls as I’m more prone to deep isolated living. Nevertheless, his constant entreaties made me concede. Besides, I loved “Scoop,” particularly the scenic views surrounding it.

The evening came and went and I had scoops and double scoops and probably some more. After all, it’s not many times that anyone has given me a treat. Besides, a captain’s son could definitely afford the costly get together.

( Out of almost 30 years of me paying for others drinks and dinner, there has been only one colleague who treated me and insisted of paying the big bill each time. Ironically, he is a much reviled, Sindhi.)

Towards the end of the junket, the “idiot-type” chain-smoking colleague pulled me aside, to the far end of the crowd and whispered, in a very polite and gentle manner, that – unfortunately he has got only 100 rupees but the bill is some 3000 odd rupees. I, being an enthusiastic double idiot, definitely paid. But the credit of the outing with the girls was all his. It took me some time to realise that I was set up – hoodwinked by someone who everybody in the workplace considered an idiot.

Recently in my blog (here) I have written about an ongoing scam done by Indians, which even found space in the New York Times (here). Most of the scammers hitting America are sitting in Calcutta, Salt Late. I had lived and schooled in Calcutta and learnt swimming at Bidhan Nagar Swimming Association, Salt Lake. The scam done from the same city and same place is like my house raided.

Also, it brought back many memories of me being scammed in the same city.

Nearing Y2K a strange colleague joined our workplace. At that time most of us were young with some lots of hair on our heads. But this guy wore a wig. And, later he “wigged” me too.

This is how it happened.

The new “wigged” colleague was a scam-master. He spoke on the phone to people in multiple voices. He had solutions to everything. He found out the needs of people and the company and he fulfilled it. He had the energies. If the company needed a transport organization to ferry airline crew, he created it. Got some ramshackle cars from here and there and got a company going. I needed a bed, he got me. I needed a TV. He got me. And yes, I did pay pretty high.

As these were happening, another colleague sold me his old Maruti 800 for 1.15 Lakhs. That 1988 model jalopy was sick and repair-ridden. But it did some tricks which I was unaware of that time. My car, my 16 rupees incoming mobile and my job, which was rated high at that time, along with my big spending, was my status symbol in Calcutta. Girls of the workplace fell for me. Two of them were daughters of big shot airline pilots. One of them indirectly proposed to me. But I knew my reality.

Oh! how I wish I would have been a scamster. Today I would be flying the big jets.

Instead, I’m still single and scam-prone. But anyway, there is more to the story.

One day in a fit of alcohol I drove my car atop a road-divider. The ensuing fuel leak made me abandon the car on the side of the road near Science-City, Calcutta.

Who do you think will help? Yes, the Wig colleague.

But, he did not give it for repairs. Instead, he pawned my car to a car mechanic with who he was indebted to and expected me to clear his debt. As I came to know later, the “Wig” had scammed many and owed lots of money. Days passed without me getting the car back. Finally he was forced to take me to the spot where my car was and I came to know the bother. The mechanic refused to release the car till he was paid what money he gave to the “Wig.” I don’t remember clearing any debt but I did pay for the repairs and finally got my car out.

Things which reach a boil has to finally settle down or spill over. If corrections don’t come via growth of sense, they come via onset of bad finances.

For me, it was the latter. I’m allergic to some food, dust and good sense. The old car for which I had shelled out over a lakh, I sold it back to the same person for a pittance – rupees 10,000. Today, when I look back, I see that, had I invested another lakh, which I had, I could have got a brand new car.

But, alcohol and bad sense do not beget new cars. It gets you overpriced old cars and two cows, one is behind the wheels. The other cow story I leave for another day.

Scams are not only what others do it to you, but more of what you do it to yourself.

Wild Tales – Amazon prime

This 2 hour movie is 6 distinct stories. The first story begins even before the starting credits and immediately grabs the interest for the novelty of its plot. The remaining 5 will not disappoint too.

It’s Spanish subtitled in English. The meter of spoken Spanish is fast and may distract the listener from watching the subtitles to read, but a bit of assertive focus by the viewer will help the read.

The production value of each of the stories is very high. The pace of the screenplay does not falter in all 6 of the stories. The picturization and music supports the screenplay. Some of the background music is very catchy and I used the app Shazam to capture it. And finally, if so much of the movie is good, can acting be far behind.

Spoiler alert – The movie endings are abrupt and cathartic.

Vivekananda – Action Monk

A cartoon was recently posted in The Print, a shot of that is posted here:

The words of Vivekananda, in the cartoon above, is an understatement. If Indians today, particularly those nationalistic kind, happen to read Vivekananda and understand his views on India and Hindus, they will not like it one bit and may campaign to rub out all SV Roads in India.

Vivekananda’s views on Hindus are pretty contemptuous, if not insulting. The only redeeming factor is, he labored throughout his life to get the “Hindus up to speed.” And he has written about his plans in his innumerable letters.

He considered Hindus to be misers, imbeciles, selfish, and a waste.

He said, “Don’t-Touchism” is the true religion of India and not “Hinduism.”

After reading his two compilations of letters, “Vivekananda on Himself” and “Letters of Vivekananda” I have come to refer Vivekananda as the “Action Monk.” If Vivekananda wouldn’t have been a monk, he would have definitely been an entrepreneur of some sort.

Many of Vivekananda’s letters are fire, and vile and bile on the state of Hindus and the Hindu religion and practices. It’s a wonder that most of those letters are still available and in print. Had he wrote that today, he would have been Trolled out of India.

Besides the virulent nature of his writings in personal letters, there is also equivalent nature of compassion and an absolute trust in the “True Hindu” religion. But the aspect of religion were only reserved for the West and the well-fed. For India, he got people to go out across the country for education. His “First Principal” was to get people out of “Indolence” and into “Activity.”

Also, what one gets from his letters are his plans to develop a network of influences and to set up offices, establishments and institutions everywhere to forward his ideas. He displayed one key trait of an entrepreneur – his ability to raise funds.

His networking with rich and the powerful, and mostly ladies of America, (and UK) also got him lots of support and disciples, many of them followed him back to India and also managed his “Ashrams” and offices in India as well as abroad.

Vivekananda came into prominence on 11th Sep 1893, with his speech in Chicago. He did not waste this instant popularity and parleyed his newfound visibility into gaining further contacts and influences with the rich and the powerful and the benevolent. For the next 7 years it was nonstop networking and fundraising. Out of his busy schedule he also found time to write several books. He made known his intention for writing a book in a letter saying – he should not leave the US without leaving behind some “documentation.”

Vivekananda was obsessed with “failed state of Hindus” and his plans were to galvanise the “dead mass of Indians” into action. In this he showed absolute confidence.

Vivekananda died in 1902, just short of 40. His “kickass” manner may have worked because the new century gave birth to new leaders in India and a new kind of activism. Vivekananda says several times in his letters, referring Indians as great misers who never gave money for anything constructive. But when Mahatma Gandhi arrives in India from South Africa on January 1914 he found a different India. Every one of Gandhi’s prayer meetings were also fund raisers and Gandhi was never short of funds.

The Action Monk may have done his magic.

Vivekananda scope was huge. He bought Hills and acres of land, in India and abroad, to setup his “Math.” One of them is in Kolkatta – Belur Math – my favorite place.

Links to Reading materials, PDFs and Links
Download “Vivekananda on Himself” HERE
Download “Letters of Vivekananda” HERE
Access “All Volumes on Vivekananda” HERE
Link of “Vivekananda Speech in World Parliament of Religion 11th Sep 1893” HERE

On Privacy and Surveillance-05, some random thoughts.

Ah! A period of lesser surveillance. Or whatever is known as sneaking. Breach of privacy may not actually result in actual breach but it can also mean “threating to breach.” Or, lives likely to be noticed and then discussed among others, which does not include the self. A breach of privacy may not be any actual breach at all but it may even mean manufactured stories, concocted tales, repeating enough times to denigrate an individual or groups, societies.

But privacy breach cannot be avoided. People will talk. Humans are curious. If folks know you then they cannot not know you. The reality is, the onus of one’s safety is on oneself.

It would be best not have a personality which is fodder for wild gossips and eventual denigration. For people would love to denigrate because that is how they assert. That’s the lingo. Everyone does it. Even me.

But wisdom entails not falling victim to it.

Life does not make everyone a rock-star. Rock-Stars are privileged to live their lives openly. Ordinary individuals should dress their behavior and their lives properly. Curtains go up and down only for actors. Spotlights are for actors. Ordinary people are spectators, audiences, on-lookers. The ordinaries should love the curtains and detest spotlights.

When one is walking in the jungle (of life) it’s wise to keep one’s mouth shut and the steps tentative, to not alert the predators (the people, which includes the self).

That ‘… the Meek shall inherit the earth’ has to be lived and failed to be believed.

Scammed!

It’s 8 o’clock on this Christmas day, and I’ve spent the whole night non-stop watching a YouTube Channel. It’s on scams and most of the scammers are Indians. They operate from Kolkatta, Pune, Amritsar and hit targets in the US. The victims are old and the gullible.

What’s horrendous are the scammers put-on American accent which any Indian can catch as very Indian. As calls are going through, one can overhear in the background sometimes, those Hindi “Madarchods” (Mother Fuckers). Invariably, when their bluff is called, the conversation ends with a series of Madarchods.

Scammers have short term interests and they are low on compunction. There was a conversation where a scammer was asked – How do you sleep in the night? Don’t you have any shame? Well, this question is a waste. How does this questions help those who have lost their money, even when some random scammer may have lost sleep or is shameful?

The profession of scams is probably as old as prostitution. In life, even if everything goes well, one is likely to get scammed at least once in his lifetime. Howsoever clever you are, there is always one better in the market. And, howsoever dumb we are, we always search for a greater fool. And we find one. Life is the best broker.

There is a saying – You can’t con an honest person. But the modus-operandi of scammers in this case is the testimony to the honesty, goodness and helpfulness of scammed.