My Personal India Scam Tale

#1 Jun 9th, 2011, 21:29
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  • elad403 is offline
#1
It may not be a million dollar scam leaving me broke and helpless, but it was a real emotional blow for a first timer anyway.
Quite long, but hope you'll bear with me and like it in the end

It was upon my first couple of days in India, in the Paharganj Main-Bazaar, about 6 years ago.
I got out of my hotel and wondered aimlessly through the bazaar. Sure enough and soon enough a boy approached me (seemed to be 13-15 years old).
It is now that I remember him, seconds before approaching, quickly conversing with another boy, departing him and coming towards me.
The usual set of questions were being asked, questions I was not yet accustomed to.
I was also not yet familiar with the known fact that every local initiating an interaction in these parts of the city is surely and 100% after your money.
Here I would add that of course not all my interactions in Delhi were of that nature.
I met some people who were really interested in a true interaction, but of course these were not initiated within tourist spot territories.
Anyway, this boy starts his set of "which country, how long in India etc." questions and in between tells me about himself.
He's from a village in Rajastan, visiting Delhi with his school class to see a cricket match. He than asks me whether I would like him to show me some places

around. Of course I would! how generous of this young boy
The first spot is a small temple. I don't think it was more that 5 minutes walk from the Main-Bazaar. I am shown the various deities, rituals are vaguely

explained, some money is handed to a poor looking guy at the entrance and on we move.
The boy is now pointing to a "travel agency", telling me I can get anything I want booked there. I actually did need a train booked to Kathkodam, so I entered.
The sleazy son of a *&$^ of a "tourist agent" is showing me his acting skills as he conduct a fake phone-call with a ticket booking office,
only to learn that there are no available tickets for a whole month ("a whole month!?!" he cry into the speaker).
Obviously, he can arrange for a special taxi blah blah blah. I say no thanks, but so as not to leave without a purchase, I ask for the "Train at a Glance".
He had a filthy copy which he generously sold me for Rs. 300 (which I pay, not knowing any better, and not before he tore the part of the cover which stated

the actual price of Rs. 30).

You have to realize that these are my first days in India, I don't know any better, I don't know yet how sharp my instincts should be,
I am not in-tune with the place and I don't know yet how little trust you can show here.
Also, it is early Sept. and I am sweating my b r a i n s out. Heat and sweat are not physical conditions I cope well with...

Anyhow, on with the guided tour, all along which the boy tells me his life story, his dreams and hopes.
It is all very emotional, VERY well played, very real and very sad.
The long working hours at a local restaurant for nickles and dimes washing dishes and cleaning the floors;
The difficulty waking up for school and staying up through the day;
The high hopes of one day being able to escape this endless cycle of poverty and misfortune; on and on.
The boy was a real actor. He was touching me deep down inside and I felt really sorry for him.
This was an encounter so close, so blunt, it was the poverty I read of before arriving, speaking to me first hand, having a face and a voice.
Next stop - a textile emporium (obviously). I ended up buying a shawl, a bed cover and a pair of traditional pants.
I never used these pants, but the shawl and bed cover were of my most useful purchases in India (not money-wise, since I have no recollection regarding the

number of zeros the price consisted of) (but I do remember taking my credit card out due to the high price).
After the textile emporium came the offer of a guided rickshaw tour. The boy have a rickshaw-walla friend who will gladly take us around town (I guess he saw

how easy a sucker I was and all the endless money-making possibilities...).
(The fact that this kid knows his way around Delhi so well and having friends here although being from a Rajastani village did not baffle me than...)
He called his friend through a pay phone and came back with the news that his friend is at an auto shop or something like that.
Seeing the kind of effort this little guy put himself through and hearing his life story I offered to buy him launch.
To my surprise he declined.
It is than that he "popped the question": would I be so kind as to buy him several school books?
His family is so poor and the books are so expansive and his dreams and hopes and aspirations... I said yes.
I felt so good I can repay him in some way, and what a just way at that.
the first real 'wake-up you jerk' call came when I learned the bookstore was about 5 footsteps from were we sat.
We walked in, there was a short conversation between the boy and the clerk,
a pile of books was being picked from different shelves and a price was announced. '800 rupee, sir.'
This was the second wake-up call. This one sent new streams of sweat down my face and spine. I felt trapped. but also so base.
I bought him the books and we stepped out. I confronted him and shared my worries. Is he telling me the truth?
Are these books really for schooling?
Will he not return them for the money once I'm gone? Is he being honest with me?
His reaction, along with his countenance made me feel like a low scumbag.
How could I question this little saint, this little poor kid?
He told me he would immediately go back, return the books and give me back my money.
I felt torn within. I told him it is alright, he doesn't have to do it.
We departed than and there.

My actions that day haunted me for days. I couldn't stop analyzing, trying to come to a conclusion -
was i helping a poor kid or just being a plain sucker for a young but talented tout?
Several days later I met at a Debu Chadhury concert a friendly Punjabi kid who invited me to his home.
I was being introduced to a lovely family, being generously fed and shown around town,
including my first Paan experience (:
Sitting with this family, I told them my story and my conflict.
They told me it was definitely a scam. The boy could not possibly be paying for his school books.
Certainly not THAT kind of money.

I was not missing that Rs. 800. I felt like being... I don't know how to put it... conscientiously raped.
That incident left a scar which did not heal throughout my trip. I never forgot that boy's childlike and innocent face.
After some three months, I was traveling with a friend who tried to re-shape my perspective regarding that boy:
'Think of it that way,' she said. 'you gave a relatively insignificant sum of money to a human being who obviously need it more than you.
Think of how helpful this sum was to this boy's family. It was a generous and a noble act on your part.'
This attitude actually helped me to make peace with my actions that day and I learned to accept it.

That is until I bumped into him several days before my departure, almost six month after I've seen him that first time.
It was around Gole market. I turned around although the input of spotting him almost bypassed my consciousness.
I was so baffled and amazed at his appearance, so pissed off by it actually, that I fumbled for words for quite some time.
He looked like a million $$$. Greased flowing hair, expansive looking jeans, shiny shoes, classy shirt and a golden ring for almost every finger.
This was a whole different person. Where is the innocent poor kid? where are the village boy clothes? the kind look upon his face?
I didn't know what to do.
I am not the kind of a guy to punch someone in the face.
Grabbing his arm and calling for a cop? Plain yelling and screaming at this scum?

The conversation that followed was quick and meaningless. There was nothing I can do.

Me: 'hi, do you remember me?'
He (you can tell he doesn't): 'um, yess... I think I...'
Me: 'I bought you some books some time ago for Rs. 800. We met at Paharganj'
He: 'Oh! yes! I remember you! How are you? What are you doing here?'
Me: 'what are you doing here?'
He: 'I'm here for a cricket match'
Me: 'Really?'
He: 'Yes'
Me: 'I think you're a liar.'
He (baffled and insulted): 'Me? wh..why do you say that?'
Me: 'Because. You are a liar. But it's O.K. Don't worry about it.'

And with those words and a light pat on the back I turned around and walked.

I had the most amazing time in India and I miss it greatly.
I will be visiting again in Oct. and I can't wait to get to Delhi and experience this mad and beautiful city again.

Elad
#2 Jun 9th, 2011, 21:44
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  • DaisyL is offline
#2
Thank you for sharing your story, Elad. It may be very helpful to someone else who will be arriving in India for the first time. I'm really glad that your friend gave you a different perspective of the situation. I know it's not pleasant to feel you've been taken advantage of, but as you said, you were new to India and hadn't heard about the scams. I'm glad that you aren't being hard on yourself.

I'm also very happy to hear that you had an amazing time in India and still want to travel there. I hope that your next trip is very enjoyable!

And welcome to IndiaMike!
#3 Jun 9th, 2011, 22:13
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  • elad403 is offline
#3
Thanks for your reply Daisy,
I just wanted to link here to this very interesting blog and story told by Nick Irvine Fortescue who also posted his story here in IM,
and really gave me an important insight into the world of these people, these seemingly faceless Delhi touts.

@
#4 Jun 9th, 2011, 22:57
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  • Nick-H is offline
#4
To a greater or lesser degree, it is all part of the experience.

On and off, it goes on being part of the experience too. Only last week, my [local] wife made a car park guy accept Rs5 instead of the R20 he asked for ... and no, he didn't give us a ticket.

Elad, I think you were treated to a great show (I can just see that guy and his "Whole month?") --- and it was worth every rupee you paid for it.

Thank you for a wonderful story.
#5 Jun 10th, 2011, 03:28
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  • edwardseco is offline
#5
I'll go with Nick's comment that its part of the experience. Man, you are even more free with your money than I and I get roasted by by my significant other for that. No matter..
#6 Jun 10th, 2011, 03:58
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#6
Elad, your story comes straight out of a bollywood movie scene! Glad you got a chance to meet & talk to him again.. that's rare.. in the movie guy#2 would have been the good twin.. who lost his sibling in a fair or a crowded place when young.. and the story goes on... you have narrated it so well...

Am glad even after the bad experience.. you had a great time & will be visiting again! Enjoy your next trip and looking foward to reading about it!
mom
#7 Jun 10th, 2011, 05:57
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#7
Hey,
Thanks so much for your comments. I'm glad i managed to communicate this story.

Quote:
Elad, I think you were treated to a great show
I really like this point of view. It was a great show indeed and it lasted my whole trip.
There was a really interesting 'first day in India' account here by someone who got back for a second time after about 7 years,
thinking as the saying goes that 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks' and lo and behold, did he got scammed ,
So... I'm keeping my head open for new shows
#8 Jun 10th, 2011, 07:50
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  • vandy is offline
#8
Not only First Timers get Fleeced, I have been to India numerous times and got Jipped on my last trip just last year by a Tuk Tuk driver for 500rps in Bangalore.And this was after I gave him a reasonable tip.

I ran out of time to catch up with him, but I will catch up with him when I return and looking forward to seeing his face when I do I have a very good memory for faces.


vandy
#9 Jun 10th, 2011, 09:18
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  • Keith H is offline
#9
Elad,
That story pretty well sums up 'Delhi for first timers'. We got much the same travel agent experience there but were a little more on our guard; none the less it is a difficult situation to be put in, I guess, and leaves you feeling... well, I'm still not sure. Foolish? Duped? Inexperienced?
Until one has experienced it and taken the learning into the next similar situation we are all still open to the scam.
#10 Jun 10th, 2011, 09:38
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#10
I got the same treatment second morning in India. A Fortune teller approached me & started to talk as I walked along the street. He was tall with a turban & well over 6 feet tall. He started to tell me things like my zodiac sign, age etc. He was incredibly accurate & it was all sort of surreal to this newbie.

Finally I slowed down, stopped & was about to go into a shop when he asked for money. I said for what? He said for his consultation blah, blah. So I pulled out my wallet & handed in 50 rps or something. Then he started to scream. wave his hands, & throw in a handful of loud F bombs. A crowd had suddenly gathered to watch the negotiations. I dug deeper into my wallet & handed over a 500rps note. He thanked me & walked away.

Fast forward about 9 months later. Same guy approaches & starts his speil about having my fortune told. I recognize him instantly & keep walking. He persists & keeps following.

Finally he says 'sir, I would like to tell you some things about yourself that you do not know!?' That's when I turn around & shout 'Let me tell you 'your' fortune first - your $hit out of luck today'.


True story. Revenge is best left as a cold fortune cookie.
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. ~
T. S. Eliot

http://www.derekgrantdigital.com
#11 Jun 10th, 2011, 09:41
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#11
That was hilarious Peak! And what was the 'fortune teller's' face like?
#12 Jun 10th, 2011, 10:04
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#12
Quote:
Originally Posted by arindamdas View Post That was hilarious Peak! And what was the 'fortune teller's' face like?
I looked him right in the eyes - he was definitely taken back by the timing & tone of my words. Never saw him again - the game ended in a 1-1 draw.
#13 Jun 10th, 2011, 10:37
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#13
I want to put up a huge placard at the arrival hall of all international airports in India:

"The guy you see in the street- especially in areas like Pahargunj- is never your friend."
.
This is computer generated drivel. No signature is required.
#14 Jun 10th, 2011, 15:27
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#14
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeakXV View Post I looked him right in the eyes - he was definitely taken back by the timing & tone of my words. Never saw him again - the game ended in a 1-1 draw.

That's a good one!
Reminds me of the "ear-cleaning-walla" in CP. He tried it once with me, tried it twice, but third time he approached me in CP I yelled at him "YOU are the one who injured my ear last time!!!!" and kept walking. just managed to see the shock on his face. Never had trouble with him again.
#15 Jun 10th, 2011, 20:07
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  • pacman is offline
#15
Live and learn. Can't stand Delhi myself, but actually spent 3 days there this yr as my girlfriend wanted "to get a feel of the place". She did, though it was Delhi-ites who did most of the feeling. Have heard hundreds of scam stories - want my advice, just stay away. Indias a beautiful, wonderful country, but she will bite your ass if you stick it out there.

Om Namah Sivaya

P
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