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The Immortal Criminal

  I was sitting at the 'Easy Money' bank waiting for my turn to come while my grey matter was trying its best to convince me to ge...

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Immortal Criminal

 I was sitting at the 'Easy Money' bank waiting for my turn to come while my grey matter was trying its best to convince me to get out of there before I make a huge mistake.

My heart was pounding hard as I was waiting for my turn. I was flipping through my bag to ensure all the necessary pieces were there to make this a successful visit. Two more people and it would be my turn.  As I was fighting hard with my conscious, my vision stopped at an individual while scanning through the environment. He seemed very familiar, someone I met may be? I tried to take my eyes off but the mind kept scanning my internal memory card to connect the dots and answer the curiosity. Could it be? I stood up and moved a little in order to see his face from a clear angle. His features were different but the eyes and mannerisms were the same. This definitely seemed like 'Valaak'.

We had met about 6yrs. ago, when we were both working for the same Insurance company. He was someone who kept to himself yet somehow was very good at networking skills. For reasons beyond me, everyone in our office knew him and liked him very much. We both were from different departments however we always managed to end up in the cafeteria at the same time to have lunch. Slowly and gradually we upgraded our social status from colleagues to friends. GOD knows how I wish if someone would have stopped me from doing that.

He had an unusual habit of keeping a track of stock market especially while having lunch. I say unusual because he was not involved in trading however he was still keen on keeping himself updated with the stock market. He seemed to be very good at it as I often saw him giving tips to people over the phone. I had asked him once why he was not into trading and he replied that his dad had lost a lot of money through trading which is why he is scared of trading under his own name however he mints money by giving tips to his friends and colleagues. In coming months he also had me invest money in trading. I lost a substantial amount after which I also quit trading.

Few months later, Valaak quit the Firm and then we lost contact. I was convinced that I lost money since I was also a bad omen like Vallak. However this notion changed one day when I was having lunch with his other colleagues. Someone brought up the topic of stock market at which I insisted that we change it since I wasn't so good at trading. They asked me why I would say that and I told them about my investment failure with Valaak. One after the other we all realized that we were not bad omens but we were all affected by the disease 'Valaak'. We tried tracing him down but returned empty handed every time. From his family to his friends, from his rented home to his girlfriend, no one knew where he had vanished. Even in the times of social networking it became impossible to locate the fraudster.

There was no point going to the cops as there was no proof that he had committed a fraud. We had opened the trading account under our name; investment was also made solely by us. The only thing we had in our favor was that the trading company which had opened our account had also vanished like Valaak. However there was nothing which could've have connected the two except our gut feel. Months passed by and gradually I had convinced myself that maybe it was not a fraud and it was all a wild imagination.

But today as I see him sitting in front of me, disguised, alone, all the wounds have opened up. I see Valaak get up from his seat and move towards the bank counter. He hands over a neatly wrapped up bundle to the person sitting behind the counter. "Token no. 26" "Token no. 26" the interactive voice echoes from behind as I see Valaak heading towards the exit of the door. I couldn't move my feet. Behind me was a call for which I had prepared hard since last few weeks and in front of me is a call which is only instinctive and has potential to turn out to be a stupid or dangerous call if pursued further.

Before I could decide, I heard the interactive voice again "Token no. 26". Instantly I turned towards the exit and sprinted towards the door in order to ensure I do not miss Valaak. He was crossing the road across the corner. I hurried towards him but couldn't build up the courage to approach him. I decided it was better off if I followed him as I wasn’t even sure if he was Valaak or not.

He entered into a café across the road and took a seat next to the glass wall. He could see the street across from there so I decided to go around and sit behind him. Fortunately the café was heavily crowded and I could sneak in without him noticing me. I concluded that he was waiting for someone since I did not see him order anything. A while later a lady came towards his table with two cups of coffee in her hand. She was wearing a dress which had name of the café engraved on the sleeves and back. Just as I was about to discard her as a waitress, she sat down right opposite to Valaak. She handed one cup to Valaak and started drinking from the other cup. I couldn't see her face clearly so I got up and adjusted my chair a little.
Fair skin, wide eyes, a dot near her lips, it was Valaak's girlfriend. HE HAS TO BE VALAAK.

I decided to follow him to figure out where he was staying. That way I could call up my friends and we all could beat him up and get our money back. After about 20 odd minutes someone from the café walked upto his table and said something to his girlfriend. Seemed like the manager of the café, was asking her to get back to work. She immediately stood up and followed the person. Valaak just stared as she walked back. Few seconds later he also stood up and moved towards the exit. I remained seated and waited for him to exit the café. As soon as he was out of the main door, I sprinted towards the exit. As I was about to get out, someone pulled my arm and dragged me to my left. Before I could figure out anything a man also covered me and pushed me inside a door. WAS I BEING KIDNAPPED?

Seconds after pulling me well within a small room my arm was released. "What are you doing here?" said the female voice. I turned around and it was Valaak's girlfriend. "What did you do? He will get away, let me go." I almost screamed in anger towards the man in the front. He was the same guy who spoke to Valaak's girlfriend a few minutes ago. "Answer the woman." said the man in an authoritative tone. "I am following him of course. I will get my money back by hook or by crook." I answered trying to get sideways from the man standing face to face with me. "What is he talking about? Do you know him" the man asked the woman. "He was his colleague when he was working in NCR. Valaak fooled them with some small time money for fun." the woman replied.

"Hey it was not some small time money. In total he fooled us all for about 15 Lakh Rupees. That is not a small amount. And if you don't leave me in another five seconds, I will call the cops and get you arrested for kidnapping" I was getting irritated as I realized that Valaak must have gone too far and away. "We are the cops and if you don't do as we say we will put you behind the bars for not paying your bill." she said to me while pushing me up against a wall.

"I think we need to follow him for the rest of the day. We still don't know why he is back? He obviously wants to meet me again so I will try and get some more information out of him." Valaak's girlfriend instructed the man. "You are a cop?" I was shocked at her revelation. "Yes, we both are cops my name is Avisha and he is Vishnu. We have been following Valaak for last few years. I got very close to him during his nuisance time in NCR but we couldn't find anything that could link us back to his crimes. And then he disappeared on day only to come back now. He is a wanted mastermind who has turned very courageous. The fraud you are talking about was just a fun activity for him. He is accounted for at the very least 3000 crores of fraud in just last three years and yet we do not have a single lead to connect him to this money or track the money. You really think you had a chance of following him and get your money back. You should feel lucky as we might have just saved your life." Valaak's girlfriend suddenly made me feel tiny in just a few seconds. Suddenly my problem looked trivial against what she had just described about Valaak. He was a wanted criminal and we knew nothing about it.

"Why didn’t you trace the money from his bank account? He surely deposits the money in the bank. I am sure it may lead you to somewhere." I asked turning to Avisha as she was whispering something in Vishnu's ear. "The what? You think he deposits money in the  bank? Who are you, a nine year old kid? I just told you he is a mastermind criminal. One of his kind, the kinds you only get to see in movies or read about in novels. You think he is stupid enough to deposit money in a bank?" Avisha almost jumped towards me with anger. "I just saw him deposit money in the bank. That's where I found him in the first place, Sherlock." I didn't like how she was undermining my intelligence. "You saw him deposit the money? Are you sure about it?" she asked with her voice calming down a little. "With my own pair of eyes. Right across the street." I confirmed and felt a little proud as I realized that they didn't know about the bank account.

"Which bank?" seemed like it was Vishnu's turn to interrogate me now. I realized I had an advantage over them and didn't want to miss it. The thought of Valaak fooling us just for fun was irritating and humiliating. So I decided to make a part of their investigation or at least make an attempt for it. "I will only tell you if you let me be a part of this investigation." I said it in a firm tone trying to hide my nervousness. "That is not possible. We don’t need you tell us which bank. There are only a couple of banks across the road. We can interrogate them individually and figure it out by ourselves. Don’t try to manipulate us."Avisha said sounding mildly frustrated. "Great, so you do what you have to and I will do what I need to do. I am not going to leave him that easily. He may be dangerous and my life might be at stake, as you say, but he has hurt me badly and I will do whatever I can to make his life miserable." I said and pretended to leave the room. I was dragging my feet but it didn't seem either of them was convinced that they would need to include me for I had very little information to offer.

"Did he give the money to someone specific?" a voice came from behind as I almost reached the door. "It seemed like it as he did not give the money to a teller. On my way out I noticed that the counter was accounted to offer a different kind of service." I said and paused for a second. "Look I know I am not going to get my money back but I really need to be a part of this. I just want to see him down on his knees and it will be hugely satisfying if it happens because of me." I surrendered politely as I realized it was a long shot to be a part of their investigation. "Alright. If you can lead us to the person who took money from Valaak in the bank and if he turns out to be a positive lead then we can include you with us temporarily." said Vishnu. I immediately had an adrenaline rush. "That's great, thank you so much." I was excited like a child who got his favorite toy.

"Not so fast Byomkesh. You must recall everything clearly without hiding anything. Tell us from the beginning." said Vishnu spoiling my excitement. "Well I was in the bank for some personal work and waiting my turn at the teller's counter when I saw him sitting across near the entrance. Even though he had his hair coloured and had a beard, I could recognize him instantly." I started narrating. "How did you know it was him?" asked Vishnu. "Well he has a peculiar habit of rotating his thumb across his index finger. When I saw that in an instant I knew it was him." I answered. "What happened then?' Vishnu asked again. "I kept on staring towards him as I recalled the pain he caused me. He was the reason that I lost a substantial amount of my savings and needed a loan even to fulfill my daily needs. Anyways, I kept staring at him when he got up and moved towards the section in front and handed over a bundle to the person behind the counter." I continued further. "What was in the bundle?" asked Vishnu. "I couldn't see it because it was properly wrapped all around. But even from far I could see that the wrapping paper was somewhat unusual." I said as I tried hard recalling. "What is unusual about a wrapping paper?" said Avisha seemingly frustrated.
"I am no expert but I would assume that people would generally wrap large amounts either in a newspaper or a towel or a used paper. But this bundle was kind of wrapped in a paper generally used in gifts. It had pipes and other architectural pieces printed all over. Like the ones kids have. Those small pieces put together to make a tube or tunnel." "you mean blocks" Avisha tried helping for the first time in last 20 minutes. "Yes the blocks. But only of pipes." I confirmed. "Are you sure about it?" asked Avisha. "Yes, absolutely. I was away from him but not that much. It's not a huge bank anyways." I was confident about my memory.
"Anything else you remember?" asked Vishnu. "Only that he got a chit in return. Possibly the teller receipt. I couldn't see it properly as he immediately kept it in his pocket. 

Was the teller an accomplice of Valaak? Was I really working with the cops or were they Valaak's enemy trying to get their revenge just like me?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The GIFT

I was sitting at the 'Easy Money' bank waiting for my turn to come while my grey matter was trying its best to convince me to get out of there before I make a huge mistake.

I wake up with a strange feeling today. It's 18th October, just a day away from a date which is most important for me to remember in order to ensure that my bones are intact; the way GOD intended them to be. I met her fifteen years ago. It was definitely fate and there is no other explanation I could find because of which she would choose me to be her partner. But that story is for another time. Today I am dealing with a problem which is vital for me to solve or else day after tomorrow I am dead meat. Like most men (although they won't admit) I am still madly in love with my wife and would do anything to make her feel special. But the harsh truth is that making someone feel special is directly proportional to having a purse heavily loaded with lots of rectangular shaped paper. This piece of paper has the ability to change the world of a person in a split second.

Throughout my services industry experience, I have learnt that 'Law of Pareto' stands usually correct more often than not (80% of problems arise from 20% of population). Change your perspective and you would know that 80% of the wealth of any country is controlled by 20% of population or may be even less. I happen to be a part of the 80% population which wakes up every day in urge to find out new (and of course easy) ways to mint more money so that they could also experience the style of living the other 20% enjoys. Of course we wake up with the same thought and often go back to sleep with the same. Little can we change eh? Oh by "WE" I meant the service industry people and the others below poverty line. The way I see it, there are 3 vital lines of our country – The Poverty Line, The Taxpayer Line/Service Industry Line and The Celebrity Line. The ones below 'The Celebrity Line' are the rest of 80% which probably need more money for their daily/monthly survival rather than enjoying the luxuries of life.

I was more than aware that I was running out of the green paper and the chances of making my partner feel special on her day were getting slimmer with each day passing. But giving up doesn’t come naturally to me so I continued exploring other avenues through which I may be able to save the day. As I was running out of options, the only thing left was to visit a bank. I was in need of supply and the bank was the source. My partner wouldn't have approved one bit of it but being an emotional freak I took the risk as my intent was to make her day special.

"Token no. 26, Token no. 26" the interactive voice shouted out of its mono stereo channel breaking my thought process. I stood up with shaking legs and stepped forward towards the counter which indicated my token number. This is exactly how I felt when I gave my first job interview. Reluctant steps, thumping heart, no will to go forward yet had to since there was no other alternative. I felt as if I was about to meet my maker. Like Karna of Mahabharata she had all her guards up and shining sitting behind the counter. The pen in her hand was the sword which could make or break my hopes altogether.

"Please have a seat." She said to me politely. Don't put your guard down just because she is beautiful. Remember she is the devil who could rip your heart in an instance. My mind was giving me instructions. I was surely going crazy.

I slowly pulled in the chair and sunk right in it opposite to the guardian of banking galaxy. "Sir, how may I help you today?" she asked politely. "Sir", yeah right. In my opinion, this is definitely one of the most loosely used word in our country. They will address you as Sir, as if you are someone of great importance and they are grateful of your presence. Give them a minute and you are no less than the wrapping paper of a burger which is only useful till the burger lasts with the leaking sauces.

"umm, I would like to, umm, apply for a, ahem, a personal loan." I almost whispered the last words hoping she would completely miss it. "Oh you need a personal loan!!"she almost screamed in excitement. "Hari….Hari….Could you pass me the application form of personal loan. Mr…."

"Pathak…. R K Pathak" I completed her sentence.

"Mr Pathak here needs a personal loan." she shouted out to a guy who was probably sitting all the way over there in the South Pole. I turned around and it seemed like the entire bank was looking at me. They were looking at me as if I was about to commit a heinous crime. It seemed as if even in 21st century taking a personal loan is still considered as low status and is looked down upon. I had never taken a personal loan before so I wouldn't know but all the old rice curry's in the bank definitely made sure that I feel bad about it.

Their eyes were so expressive that for a minute or so I almost felt ashamed of sitting in the bank. "Mr. Pathak, you need to fill up this loan application form. Once you are done, you need to attach self attested proof of income, address and identity along with this form." the guardian instructed from behind the desk.

"Right. I will….ummm… sit over there and fill it up?" I partially pleaded. 

"Yes, no problem Sir. Once you are done you can come to this counter again to complete the rest of the formalities." she confirmed. There's that word again.

I almost felt like a goat about to get slaughtered with the only difference being that it at least takes some amount of effort to catch a goat however I walked in on my own. As I was filling up the application form I couldn't help but agree that the process of getting a personal loan couldn't have been more ironical. I felt like a teenage kid who first has to prove to her parents that she is responsible enough to save her pocket money and yet ask for more because she has ran out of it.

I completed the application form and self attested the requisite proof of my existence and earnings. I bundled them altogether and took a deep breath before walking down the aisle towards the dreaded counter.

"Ah…Mr. Pathak. Have you completed your application form. Sir?" thy lady from the counter asked.

"Yes…this is application form. The first attested copy is of my identity and address and the next three are my salary slips." I carefully instructed the sequence of attachments.

"Oh ho…Sir. Do you live in a rented accommodation?" she asked in a tone which signaled trouble all over.

"Yes, I do." I answered reluctantly. This is the ugly side of getting a loan. They will ask you questions in such a way which will make you feel terrible about yourself. If you are one of those few who like to feel bad about yourself then you should apply for a loan once in a while.

"uh huh…we will need another proof of residence besides your Aadhar card." she responded with a demand.

"But it's a government document. Isn't it devised for situations like these?" I questioned back. The thing is that understanding of value of these documents varies from office to office. While certain government offices will hail this card as the one stop documentary proof, the others will outrightly reject the mere idea of submitting them as documentary proof.

"Sir, we need another proof of residence or else we can't accept your application." she raised her eyebrows and replied with authority, immediately indicating who is the boss. She handed my application form back to me and started attending other customers. I sensed a feeling of déjà vu as this was exactly how my mother in law reacted the first time when I asked my wives hand for marriage. COMPLETE IGNORANCE.

"Mam, I have a salary account in your branch and it has the same address." I tried another attempt for submission of my application.

"Sir, as I mentioned earlier we need another proof of residence or else we can't accept your application. Now if you will excuse me, I have other customer waiting." she discarded my logic and flushed it down the humiliation toilet.

She is being unreasonable. I turned around helplessly but there was no one at my rescue. What do I do now? I can’t go back to my house or else my wife would know what I am upto. I can't leave the process in the middle as I needed the green paper.

THE MANAGER.

Instantly I decided to turn towards the branch manager for his help. I walked up to his cabin where he was comfortably sitting on his throne carefully observing the proceedings. I slowly pushed the door and entered his room.

"Yes Sir, how may I help you today?" he politely asked with a smile. There it was, that word again. "I have a salary account in your bank. I am applying for a personal loan and that lady over there continues to ask for additional proof of residence." I bombarded him with information.

"Sir, do you live in a rented apartment?" he asked. I almost felt as if someone had put me in a time warp and I was back to the same situation again.

"Yes, I LIVE IN A RENTED APARTMENT. 80% OF PEOPLE DO. THEY ALL HAVE ADDRESS PROOFS. I HAVE SUBMITTED MY AADHAR CARD, MY ADDRESS IS REGISTERED WITH MY ACCOUNT. WHAT ELSE DO YOU GUYS WANT?" I shouted out of frustration.

"Sir, please calm down and have a seat. Could you please explain in detail what documents you have provided so I can understand where the confusion is." Manager was putting all his customer service skills at practice. I sat down and explained all the events but this time in a sequential order.

"Hmm…I can see clearly now. I apologize sir. There has been a certain change in demands of address proof and that is where the confusion comes from. Can I see your application form? " he politely asked. I handed over my last hope at happiness document to him.

"How much loan do you require?"he asked

"1 Lakh" I answered

"Well looking at your account, it seems that you already are paying some EMI's to another bank." The manager said.

"Well yes. But that doesn't mean I can't get a loan. Right?" I asked dreading that the response would be not in my favor.

"I cannot comment sir. We will have to verify your documents and send it to our credit team and hope for the best." "Why don’t you wait outside while I send these for further evaluation." the manager politely requested.

I did not have any choice so I got up and went outside. The wait seemed like eternity. My eyes kept following the application as it moved from one desk to the other. I was running late for my office and this process seem to be taking more time than expected. If my request doesn't come through then I am ruined. I was kicking myself for the EMI's on my account.

Those EMI's were not even for me. They were being paid by my cousin who had bought an Iphone on easy EMI's on my account. I thought that what could go wrong in helping a poor kid. May be he needed that set of hardware to impress his female counterparts. So much for being helpful that now it was standing in my way as a major obstacle.

I called up my office and made an excuse for running late to the office. I needed this application to pass through. It was almost lunch time but I wasn’t seeing any progress. I was getting restless. I stood up and moved around the guardian's counter to see if my application was being processed but no luck. I kept strolling up and down the aisle waiting anxiously for my fate to answer my call. I couldn't wait any longer so I walked up to the manager's cabin.

"Any luck?" my question was short but burdened with all my hope.

"Sir, its lunch time right now. Please wait for some time more as the credit team is working on your application. This usually takes time. We understand your need which is why they are making every effort to make sure that your application passes through. If you are busy you could come tomorrow to check the status." Manager replied politely displaying his immense customer service skills.

Tomorrow was no good. I needed to know today and needed the money urgently. So I decided to sit out and wait. It was almost closing time and I finally saw some movements in the manager's cabin. Something told me this is it.

I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed to check my watch. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath. "Ten, nine, eight, seven, six" he was moving straight towards me. Was he empty handed? "Five, four, three, two…

"Mr. Pathak congratulations your loan has successfully been processed." manager announced extending his hand towards me. "You will get your money before 12 noon tomorrow. I hope that is fine with you." he further asked.

"Oh thank GOD." I left a sigh of relief and shook his hand with all the warmth in my body. I was so full of joy that I couldn't say anything to him except shaking his hand vigorously.

"You are welcome sir." He said and turned back towards his cabin. SIR, a word which has been loosely used on me so many times but today I truly felt like one. After all, my wife will now truly enjoy the luxuries of 'Celebrity line' for the next few days during her international holiday.