Thursday, March 3, 2011

Con sense

My maid was sick and her husband brought home a "Babaji" who gave her some dark pellets to cure her. Of her reluctance to give him all her earnings was what her husband was hoping, and of her skepticism was what Babaji was hoping. The latter got his answer right away when she peered suspiciously at the pellets and declared that there was no way she was going to eat goat droppings. But hats off to the rogue, he was caught, but did he blush? did he hide? Never. He immediately proceeded to explain how a goat roams around the whole forest and eats 300 types of medicinal herbs and thus its droppings are actually worth far more than the 100 rupees he was charging.

My guess is this is where we are going to beat the Chinese next. In the pharmaceutical industry. Those poor devils face international censure when they kill tigers, make balms and what not. Then they package it all in snazzy looking bottles & sneakily sell it where they can. Our Babajis just take a short walk behind a goat and sell this wide spectrum drug wrapped in a bit of newspaper (its good for everything, if you go by the notice outside the doctor's tent, it only doesn't cure the whatchamacallit one gets from eating animal waste. You've got to take your bleak chances on that).

If one is not too keen on keeping an eye on the behind of a goat, there are numerous other opportunities. A whole lot of 5 rupee rings set with colourful glass could get a profit of 2000% if sold by a knowledgeable looking guy with a glib tongue. All he needs to do is read your hand and give you the appropriate colour that will guarantee you eternal happiness or your money back (after eternity, naturally). He will, for good measure, make you feel guilty for spending twice that money on a movie, or a piece of butter chicken. This is your Eternal Happiness at stake, dimwit!

My mother is very secular in her disposition to all religious salesmen who regularly turn up at her doorstep (and on everyone else's, just in case you thought they particularly hated her- although they should, she never gives them much more than a curt brush off). The saffron clad one tried to ask her plenty of questions so that he could invent her future appropriately and get something for all the time he was wasting, but got no more than a hostile stare. The cheerful couple who came to give "Good news" were bluntly told, "Yes, I know. Jesus is coming." The poor guys couldn't even sell a Bible to one who knew it all.

No one, however, makes the mistake of going a second time to her mother's place. The ones who turn up on a Saturday to take away your misfortunes for a few coins especially give her a wide berth after she offered to take their Shani maharaj and the misfortunes upon herself. "After all," she explained, "I am an old woman and you've got your whole life ahead of you. Come now, give that to me...." For a particularly pesky "Holy man" who wouldn't take no, or go away while she ignored him and worked in her backyard, she pulled out a shallow stool and said, "You may as well sit down if you wont go away." A year later he breezed in, cursed when he saw her, and breezed out. No more than 15 seconds in all. She's training them well!

Con men come in all shapes of course. On my way to my office one day I was fooled into parting with some cash when I thought I was helping to get a pregnant woman to hospital. A colleague told me that this was a common enough trick those days. A few days later, pillion riding on a motorbike, I saw this group of people pulling the same wool over people's eyes at a traffic light. It was a good opportunity to apply balm on my wounds (no, not the Tiger one, not still thinking of that are you?). I put on my most sympathetic expression and beckoned to the pregnant one. She slowly ambled towards me passing by 4-5 cars full of soft-hearted people who would have easily parted with much more than I was going to. When she reached me the light was about to change.

"Tell me," I asked her solemnly, "Do you have your baby every day at this very crossing?"

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