Story Telling Experiment No. 1

The Scam

The solution struck me quite suddenly, rather like an older brother who whacks you on the head when you’re engrossed in your favorite show on Cartoon Network. Of course it didn’t laugh and slap it’s thigh, but then ideas rarely do. Also you couldn’t get up and whack him back because, for one thing, he’s much bigger than you and for another, you’ve been needing to pee really badly for about an hour now, so if you got up, you’d need to run to the bathroom and so miss the part where Dexter foils Mandark’s evil plans with a little help from Monkey and the Infraggable Krunk. Damn older brothers, they should be put up for adoption at birth. I remember one time…

But I digress, what was I talking about? Oh yes. The solution. It struck me quite suddenly. If a solution can be said to strike. Rather like lightning, but not made of electrons and not quite so jagged. Silent,
not-all-that-fast lightning, which didn’t really light up the night sky.

I reached for my notebook. On the book’s cover was written in large, rather ambitious letters “Shriram Raghavan’s Plans to Become Tremendously Rich”. Until now the notebook had been empty. Now turning to the first page I wrote;

The Problem

How to get tremendously rich                                           

The Solution

Steal someone’s identity and use it to get a credit card. Then use the credit card to draw lots of money from the ATM.

When you really think about it, what is an identity anyway? A nose, a mouth and eyes. Maybe a strategically placed mole, a wrinkle or two or the absence of them. Perhaps you stand out if you have really big ears or really awful teeth, but on the whole people do tend to look rather a lot like each other. Especially if you haven’t done anything which has put you in the papers. Consider for example, how you would have described Dr. Manmohan Singh, if he wasn’t the Prime Minister. Small, mousy looking eyes, peering through square outsized glasses, the whole enframed in a rather scraggly beard and a large blue turban. Surely there are loads of people who look like that? Also, bend your brain around this, if he shaved his beard, took off his turban and removed his spectacles, would you recognize him?

Having thus reduced to black on white, my solution and having ruminated once more upon its utter simplicity and infallibility, I did what any great general would do on the cusp of his greatest campaign. I proceeded to expound upon it to my able and trusty Lieutenant.

“No, I certainly will not steal somebody’s ID card!” Babita said in an outraged voice.

Of all the responses I had anticipated, this was not one. What I would have expected is for her to ask for clear, precise instructions and then go about carrying them out. But you know what they say about men and mice. Or is it weasels? Some rodent, that much I’m sure of.

Babita Mascarenhas wears large square glasses (rather like Dr. Manmohan Singh’s, come to think of it). These lead people to assume that she is extremely smart. This however is not entirely the case. But she does have two important characteristics. She is my oldest friend and she works at Infosys.

What does one do when one’s trusty lieutenants fail to carry out one’s orders without murmur? What for example would Napolean have done? Pan to Hohenlinden. The year is 1801. Napolean has just ordered General Moreau to attack and to his, Napolean’s, surprise and consternation, he, Moreau, has refused. Would not he, Napolean, then stick his right hand into his, Napolean’s, waistcoat and have him, Moreau, shot? Of course he would.

But I can’t have Babita shot. For many perfectly valid reasons. The most obvious one, of course, is that Bangalore in April is no place for a waistcoat.

The conversation started out conventionally enough;

“Look at me” I said.
“Why?” Babita said.
“Tell me what you see” I said.
“You have a booger” she said.
“No seriously, describe me” I said.
“Skinny, dorky looking, untidy hair, humungous nose” she said.
“Shut up, I do not have a humungous nose”
“Yes you do, Pinocchio”
“Shut up”
“You shut up, booger face”
“You shut up, four eyes”…

So anyway, by and by I asked her if there was anyone at Infosys that looked like me and she said that she couldn’t think of anyone off the top of her head. (What she actually said was “You are so ugly that if there were two people who looked like you, the world would explode.”)

By the time I had explained to her the modalities of stealing identities for the purpose of obtaining credit cards, she was looking quite incredulous and when I elucidated the seminal role that her humble persona was to play in the proceedings, her outburst; “No, I certainly will not steal somebody’s ID card!”, would have daunted any but the hardiest souls, among who’s number, I am glad to say, the raconteur of these events counts himself.

Have you ever argued the relative merits of autocratic rule when compared to unbridled democracy with a black Labrador? I have. I can tell you that Babita clearly had much to learn from Garfunkel, not just about the finer points of apologetics but also by way of the proper deferential attitude that one exhibits in the presence of  those endowed with a superior intellect.

If you ever pass by the Infosys Complex near Electronic City in Bangalore, your senses are immediately and aggressively assaulted by miles and miles of blue glass held up at various gravity defying angles, by the miracle of modern engineering and the gooey sauce of Indian entrepreneurship. And what do you think you find swarming up these craggy, shiny edifices? What do you find creeping out every hole and cranny and nook? Spilling out of every crack and fissure?

People. Hordes of them. Enough of them to re-enact the battle of The Somme twice over. Simultaneously. Herds of people who used to block up the only road to Electronic City until eventually, they had to build a whole road on top of the original road, just for them. Simply stacks and stacks of computer programmers, all of them doing… well, whatever it is that they do.

It is easy then, to imagine my smirk of derisive disbelief at hearing the infidel Babita babble on about how difficult it would be to steal somebody’s ID card. It’s not like I was asking for the moon. All she had to do was find somebody that looked like me. Then surreptitiously purloin his it. Her mulish refusal to carry out this simple task at my behest understandably caused some friction in our otherwise easy going relationship. To wit, I have not spoken to her for almost two days.

But it matters not. Was not Galileo sentenced to drink hemlock for saying that the earth goes around the sun? Or was that Socrates? Or Copernicus? Anyway, the point is, one must soldier on in the face of persecution by lesser mortals.

Already, from the cavernous depths of that unfathomable, 1 trillion gazillion gigaflop device between my ears a new solution is emerging. Not even the simple Babita can deny it’s sheer incredible awesomity.

I reach for my Notebook;

The Problem

How to get tremendously rich                                           

The Solution

Steal someone’s identity and use it to get a credit card. Then use the credit card to draw lots of money from the ATM.

Seduce a rich man on a train. Murder him and throw his body overboard. Then make off with his cash and valuables.

And now to find Babita…


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