It was supposed to be a surprise. Or a suspense. Whichever one wasn’t creepy. One hour was the time frame. I was supposed to present myself at the remote location in one hour. Yeah, right, I thought. With this traffic, I can make it just in time for a perfect sunset. Three in the afternoon on the roads of Bangalore is like being killed and transported to Hell and made to push a huge, heavy wheel for no apparent reason, with a red, pointy-tailed, French-bearded individual who laughed demonically for no reason and lashed you with a whip every now and then, with your sweat dripping off your face and crusts of dirt and tar sticking to every part of your face. Well, almost.
I was stuck in each and every traffic signal on my way. The location was called BTM Layout, and I was cursing the fellow who’d called me there. My mind back to the phone call I received that morning, while I waited for more than ten minutes at a junction where a truck was stranded in the middle of the road with two-wheelers peppered around it like seasoning on a horrendous Christmas dish.
“Hey Nikhil,” said the idiot over the phone.
“Hey dude,” I replied, silently wishing he’d never called. I hated this guy, and had tried to distance myself as much as possible from him. But, as you probably know, some people just don’t get it.
“Listen, this is important,” said the Idiot. “Can I meet you today? This is really important!”
The Idiot had called me after a gap of almost three years and this is how he opens the conversation. As I said, some people….
“Yeah dude, tell me,” I said, sounding as indifferent as possible.
“Can you come to BTM Layout at three today? Please man, this is important!”
“Whoa!” I said. “Why should I come there? It’s a Sunday, if you remember? I’m trying to relax at home.”
“Please Nikhil. I wouldn’t call you if it weren’t important. Please come to the Shopper’s Stop in BTM and call me. I’ll pick you up.” No matter what I tried, he wouldn’t give in. I finally agreed to meet him.
“Thanks a lot, man!” he said.
“No problem. This better be worth it.”
“Oh, it is! It is! Don’t you worry. Just be there at three and I’ll pick you up,” he said. “So, how’ve you been these past few years?”
I smiled. “Bye dude. See you at three.” And I hung up. It’s not that I’m an anti-social animal, I just hate this guy.
So here I was, stuck in inching traffic on a blisteringly hot Sunday, in the middle of nowhere, about to meet this Idiot, when I should’ve been at home, my feet up on the couch, leaning back in my sofa, watching the French Open finals with a chilled coke in my hand. Ah, life mocks me. I can’t help it.
I reached shopper’s stop in one piece and my bike groaned to a halt as I parked her, and the engine trickled as it cooled. I loved my bike. She was a work of art. She belonged in a museum, under the “Tools of the Neanderthal” section…
I called up the Idiot and told him that I’d reached. It was two minutes to three. I sat back on my parked bike and waited for the Idiot. He came there two minutes later, running, and hot in the face. He’s a weird looking guy – tall, balding and a thin hairline mustache. And his eyes were a constant reminder of his inborn idiocy. He was always an idiot – slow to grasp things and concepts and slower to understand them. Now, he was working for a software company. God save software!
“Thanks for coming, dude!” he said.
“No problem,” I said. “Ok, what’s this all about?”
“Listen, I’m into a scheme where you can make lots of money in a week. Up to twenty thousand in a week! Are you interested?”
You can imagine what went through my brain. I looked around for a sizable stone to bash his head in, but refrained myself. Too many witnesses around. I could never make it look like a suicide.
“What?” I asked, incredulously.
“Yeah man! This new company is giving away money, dude. I asked you to come here because I want you to attend a presentation, which the company is giving. They’ll explain exactly how you can make the money. It’s quite simple, dude. And I get a referral fee is you sign up.”
“What?” I asked again. I was beginning to eye some really nice stones.
“Yes,” he said. “Follow me.”
He led me to a hotel which was behind the Shopper’s Stop mall. Lots of people were hanging around the entrance. “These are all my colleagues,” he said.
“Ok,” I said. I was really annoyed now, as most of the people there had the same idiot look in their eyes. I wanted to run away from there as fast as I could. He led me into the hotel and into an air-conditioned conference room, where there was a long table, made of cheap woodwork to match with the cheapness of the wood-paneled walls. Lots of people were sitting around it and there was a white board on the far wall, with a guy standing in front of it.
“Guys, this is Nikhil,” said the idiot. They all waved at me. I was asked to take the only empty chair in the room. I felt like the newest inductee into the Idiot Club of India.
The presentation started. Two minutes into the talk, I hated the idiot all the more. We were supposed to pay thirty thousand rupees to join the company, and then go out and refer more people and convince them to join the same charade. Every time one of the poor idiots joined, we would get a commission. And just to show that the company believed in proper “motivation,” we would be given a gold coin once we pay them the initiation fees!
I frantically took out my cell phone and messaged my friend to call me so I could get an excuse to get out of the place! He did, and I walked out, telling the Idiot that I had to attend the call. I went out, took a deep lungful of refreshing polluted Bangalore air and told the moron that I’m going to work. “I’m not interested, dude. Honestly. I think it’s not going to work. You want my suggestion, quit!”
“Hey, it’s ok dude. It’s really your choice. Are you sure you don’t want the gold coin?”
I wanted to bash his head in so badly, but I summoned all my inner strength and held back. I hated him.
“Bye, dude,” I said. “Don’t ruin my Sunday again.”
As I drove back, I thought about the scores of people fooled in this quest for money. Greed had blinded them so much that they could believe anything. Who could get twenty grand for referring a few people? Seriously!
I went back home and splashed my face with cold water. I switched on the fan, lay back on the sofa, put my feet on the couch, held my coke tightly, and switched to Star Sports. Roger Federer had just won the first set. I settled back with a contented sigh, when the power went off.
Life mocks me.
Sometimes, when I hear real hard, I think I can hear the crack of a whip and a demonic laugh…