This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Tuesday, 27 November 2012


(From Jan 2007)

I have this tendency to attract swindlers. No idea why. Maybe it's my face.
I still keep on getting Nigerian letters in my mail, when no one else I know does, any longer. Then on at least two occasions in my life I let myself get consciouslyswindled – I’ll tell you about them, and then you will understand why. Both times were almost the same, too. The first time was when I was a student in Lucknow – right outside my college a guy accosted me and said "Do you live around here? I came from the village for an interview for a job, but I find the place shut and my pocket has been picked. I desperately need some money to go home and I have none. Tomorrow, I promise, I will come and return your money." I knew he was having me on – but on the off chance (the infinitesimal off chance) that he might be telling the truth I gave him all I had – forty rupees, which then was about a dollar and a quarter and is now less than a dollar. For a student (and you know that all students are always poor) it was a considerable amount at the time. I asked him, "How are you going to return it to me?" while knowing perfectly well he had no intention of returning it. He said "You write down your name on this note" – hell, it was one of the two twenty rupee notes I had given him! – "And tomorrow I will come to your college and return it to you." And I saw him disappear with my money and smiled at my own stupidity.
A year later, in the same city, I was standing at the bus stop when a man came straight up to me with the same story – the identical same story. This character had – he said – no money at all. I told him I could not help him – I’d heard this tale many times before. Without waiting to hear me out he turned on his heel and jumped into…a taxi. No money, yeah.
Many years later, I was walking on the street of my own hometown when a character came to me with the same story – this one just needed enough money for a ride on a truck to his village. I knew here was another crook, but, just in case he was telling the truth? I asked him how he would repay the money, but all he said was he would be on this street every day and I could find him here. Still, I gave him twenty rupees – as marks for effort in lying. He was better than the first character, made no ludicrous promises of seeking me out. So, total loss – sixty rupees. Not all that much.
Once when I was working in the Ramkrishna Mission Polyclinic in Shillong there were these two guys. One was my patient. They came straight out and asked me if I would be interested in buying "rare coins" from them of which they had no idea of the value. Or at least I could lend them some money with the coins as security. Yeah, right. I smelt a rat straight off. I told them they ought to have them valued. I even told them, "Bring them around tomorrow and I’ll take you over with me to a coin dealer for valuation." Sure. They, quite predictably, never turned up again.
Then there was this kid a few months back in my clinic who must have thought I was a real idiot. He came with a few friends of his who parked themselves in the waiting room. I had made a crown for him. He was supposed to have it fitted and pay me that day, and he knew this and he knew how much. He was the son of a central government official of some species and would get reimbursed treatment expenses. So, after I finished, I wrote out the usual receipt. But then he sys "Please give me the receipt, I’ll give it to my dad, he’ll get the money from the office and he’ll pay you." I said, of course, "Nothing doing. I don’t work like that." Didn’t give him the receipt. Promptly he went to the ATM in the same building and got the money. When he returned, paid me, and left with his receipt, his cronies in the waiting room all burst out laughing at him. He must have had a good plan – get the money, keep it for himself and his buddies, and palm his dad off with my receipt. After all, there was my signature on an official receipt that I had received the money. What dad would have believed me over his son? What dad would have publicly accepted (whatever his private belief) that his son was a swindler and a fraud? I wouldn’t have a legal leg to stand on.
Why do I attract these characters? Is it genetic?
I have a maternal uncle who has a very superstitious wife and a son who is an epileptic. The woman was appraoched by two "snake charmers" who claimed there were snakes in her house. Sure enough, they brought out two snakes. I don't know the species, but I'm sure they were large but harmless rat snakes. And I'm as sure as can be that the guys planted them beforehand, "salting the mine", after having done a recce. After having thereby gained her confidence, these men said how they could cure...epilepsy.   Of course she jumped at the offer. So these guys said they would have to worship, for a And still the penny did not drop!
They came in the morning, and the gold (all the ornaments she had) were, as instructed, stitched up in a pillow case and given in their charge in a sealed room where they did whatever they did around a little fire.
That night, when they handed the pillowcase back and vanished, the woman and her husband opened it up to find the gold intact. They then stitched it up again. Every single day for the first five days they opened it up every night, found it OK, and stitched it shut. This was pretty much a chore. Also, although the men had made it a condition that they must not be spied on in the course of their "worship", they had spied the first few days – and found nothing suspicious. Just two dirty men burning incense and chanting who knows what. So by the end of the week they had tired of the nightly restitching of the pillowcase and the spying, and had stopped both. Then on the sixth evening, the penultimate day of the "exorcism" of epilepsy, my aunt (sad but true, she is my aunt) was told by the men that they would be coming at noon the next day and she should be sure to lay on a grand feast for them. The stupid woman did. She laid on a real bash, and waited, and waited. No sign. By late afternoon it finally occurred to the duo to open their precious pillowcase…and find a load of worthless costume jewellery. Serves them right.
OK, so she isn't a blood relative...but her husband is. And he is a devotee of some guy who claims to be able to predict anything and change anyone's fate...yet his own two sons are unemployed layabouts.
Some people are incurable.   

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