Monday, 22 August 2011

Swindler's List

Now there are a couple of situations in life that warrant an inquisition into the deeper mechanics of chance. Is it possible there might be some divine being..whose sole pastime is playing dice, and subjecting us humans to the random foibles of that game? Or is it just some sort of ticker counter that counts a sort of pseudo luck score, and when you run out, decides to work in reverse. Either way, I landed at the airport here with little more than 800 rupees cash, after having succumbed to parvenu's syndrome, and blown all my hard earned cash on haleem and hash in Hyderabad(alliterations anyone?). And I proceeded to part with a majority of the aforementioned cash (to the gentleman at the prepaid taxi booth), I noticed a foreigner who was, well ,in the process of being swindled. Or, that's what I thought at the time.

You see, most Banarasis here know a smattering of English, something like, "You go..hundred rupees" and so on and so forth. This aids them to a great extent in the swindling process, as most foreigners have neither the need nor the vocabulary required for bargaining. However, this foreigner seemed different, she managed to wriggle out of a (rather obvious) setup, and get into some sort of a bargain. This bargain involved setting up with a taxi for 300 bucks, and as I was paying 680, you can understand me feeling a bit envious. The idea here was, that she had a much shorter distance to cover, than I did, as I had to get to the university which was at the other end of town. Little did I know that the taxi wallahs had come up with a nefarious scheme to maximise their profits.

Now this scheme, rather deviously involved the both of us sharing a taxi, until she got off, and me being, well roughly okay with that. Now the thing is, no such scheme can succeed without melodrama, platitudes, and an inevitable caving in a short while later. So, inevitably, she protested, and what not, most of it falling on deaf years, and after a while was bundled in with me. After taking in the finality of her plight, she decided nothing more was to be done, and smiled sweetly at me as if to say, " Don't take it personally, I just don't like sharing a taxi".

After a short while we got to chatting, and I found out she was not here for recreation, indeed very few single Iranian women are. She was here, more specifically, for a master's law degree. This was strange, and to compound it all, her law degree, the one you get at first, I don't think the term bachelor's applies to single women, was also from India. Osmania University, no less. I think she had made a bold choice coming to BHU, after all, it is in Varanasi, and Varanasi, as anyone will tell you, is no Hyderabad. Her choice, however, was motivated more along the lines of parsimony. Turns out, getting a degree here is far cheaper than in Hyderabad. The fees, the living expenses, are all taken care of here.

Now, this reaffirmed my opinion of most foreigners who come to Benaras not being, well shall we say, well heeled. But what intrigued me was that she would chance coming here all alone, in order to get a degree from a university with a turbulent past. But then again, Iran is not regarded as being the most placid of countries. So it made sense, in a very convoluted sort of way. In any case, foreigners, especially the more financially desperate ones, are made of sterner stuff. And as for swindlers, they had best improve their English, if they are to be as effective as they intend to be.

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