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.