Ganesha was circling looking for a prey. He always ended up finding one; these days it was tougher than early days where people seemed to fall for cons easily; but these days, there seemed to be smarter people all around; he himself had to become smarter. Earlier he had worked alone without having to split his spoils with anyone;now, he needed to develop a support system, since people have started asking more questions and there are more disbelieving people – he thought aloud, ‘tch… what is this world coming to, where have all the faith and trust gone’ and grinned to himself wryly !
Ganesha always picked his spot carefully – this time, it was near photocopier shop; where there are more business and companies around. Although more and more companies moved to the outskirts, he found the newer companies took their place. In
“Sir… Sir, I need some help, Sir”. “I’m a 2nd year engineering student. I’m from a small town near Hubli, Sir”. The thin-man stayed silent.
“I need some help Sir”, Ganesha repeated; “I cannot afford to buy my books, and hence I had to take xerox of a text book that I borrowed”. As he was talking, he pointed to the text book and the sheaf of photocopied, spiral bound book. “Whatever money I had, I had paid for the photocopy; but my exam fees are due tomorrow, Sir”, he trailed off, with an unsure voice…
The thin-man looked at Ganesha quizzincally. Ganesha felt he is being evaluated and quickly ensured that he ensured that he kept his diffidence and helplessness in his face. The thin-man asked incongruously, “which branch”, which Ganesha answered easily. Then Thin-man threw him off by asking about his first year marks. Ganesha mumbled something that could be believable and kept it just over 1st class. The Thin-man then asked him about his college. Ganesha knew what was coming next – he needs to be careful here. These days most people offered to pay the fees in person. Ganesha learned this the hard-way, when his medicine-scam came undone when the person he approached, spent Rs.400/- on buying medicines for Ganesha that he need not need; but that had taught Ganesha the lesson and he developed a support system around it – a medical shop, where he could return the medicines back but having to forego a 25% cut; a clerk in the college who would collect fees but return the money for a cut. Although Ganesha would like to avoid this, but these days, he needed back-up plans.
He aware that Thin-man was watching him; Ganesha gave the name of the college that was on the outskirts; Before the thin-man could speak, Ganesha produced the ID-card of the college, which could be made very easily from lost cards. The thin man had given it a cursory glance; but Ganesha knew not to underestimate anyone – he held the card out, so that the thin man can study it more. Ganesha could feel that, he had his man, but the thin man was wrestling with something else in his mind – perhaps he wanted to offer to come along with Ganesha and pay the fees. Then finally, after what seemed to be eons, the thin-man asked, “how much” ?
Ganesha took out the letter that he had received from the college reminding him to pay the exam fees before a certain date – it had Rs.1750.00 in it. He quickly added he could cover some of it and he short by Rs.1050.00 – Ganesha had found that not asking for the full amount made the whole story highly plausible and credible. The Thin man took out his purse and pulled out a Rs.500/- and three Rs.100/- and gave it to Ganesha. He was saying – “normally I would have come with you to pay, but today I cannot”. As he gave the money away, Ganesha took the notes with earnestness, thanking the thin-man profusely and asked him if he could meet him here again to give a copy of the receipt. The thin-man waved him way and quickly turned and walked away. Ganesha looked at cash in his hand – the portrait of Gandhi on those notes seemed to mock at him in a smile.
Vikas Rao wanted to take a break from work. He has been struggling with a complex problem at work and wanted to get out to get some fresh air, which was paradoxical to talk about in
“Sir, I need some help”. Vikas looked up to a find a person standing in front him. He looked younger than what his age was perhaps. In the next 10 minutes, Vikas heard the story of Ganesha Gowda who was a poor student from a town near Hubli and was a reasonable student, who wasn’t able to afford for the exam fees and wanted some help; the young man had offered his ID card and the letter from the college as proof. Vikas had studied it, but he was street-smart enough to know that these can be produced. He studied the young man again – there was something about him that Vikas found not credible. He gave Ganesha another look over – there seemed to be something hidden in his pockets, that seemed like a mobile. Vikas knew he could be wrong, but in this case, he probably wasn’t.
As Vikas was wrestling with his thoughts, he went back to his own past. Not much unlike the young man in front of him, Vikas too was from a small town. His father was a typical lower income group and worked in a local office; the money from the work was just enough to make both ends meet; with that money, he could not have sent Vikas to an engineering college. Although Vikas was not an outstanding student, he was a very good and sincere student. He knew that education was way out for his family and himself and spent enough time doing that well. Vikas did secure a good seat in an engineering college, and fortunately for him, one of father’s friends gave him a loan to complete his studies and sponsored some of Vikas expenses. Once he finished his studies, got a job and he went back to his sponsor to return the money. The venerable old sponsor smiled at Vikas and told him to help other poor students out with that money.
That was the day Vikas had made up his mind – that he would sponsor couple of students on his own through their education and would not turn down people who come to him for help for their education. He was not a fool not to know that there were scam artist who used such modes to con people of their money. At those times, he always went back to his ethical blueprint of needing to help; he knew that if he took that excuse of con, he may actually have turned down some with genuine needs too. He also typically ensured that he doesn’t give away money without verifying a few things. However, he knew out of 10 people, 5 could be a con. But he stayed the course, he believed because of those dirty 5, he had made up his mind that the real 5 should not be denied; to some of his friends that was a warped logic. But Vikas believed in the value of education. Even if his money reaches only 5 out of 10, he was ok with it; although he knew he could be conned via this route, he did not want to cynicism to come in the way for those genuine 5 to be helped. In an important thing such as education, he did not want to play the odds.
As Vikas studied Ganesha, he was reasonably certain this guy belonged to the dirty 5. But then Vikas also knew he could be wrong. He took out his purse, took out a Rs.500 note and three Rs.100/- note. Incongruously, the portrait of Gandhi in those currency notes, seemed to smile at him in approval.