“Vikram, how’s it going?”
“Raman, all good, by god’s grace. Hope all is well with you too?”
“Yes, yes! Chalo*, see you later.”
Bidding goodbye, Vikram smiled. Lighting the diya*, he prayed to Laxmi Maa*. She was everything and it wouldn’t do to invoke her wrath. Vikram had been running this electronics shop for the last six months and stayed on the mezzanine floor of the shop itself. He was now familiar with all residents of the neighborhood.
Soon, Lakhi Didi* walked in. A widow with a teenage son, she stayed nearby.
“Vikram Bhaiyya*, my mixer-grinder isn’t working. Please check.”
“Yes, Didi, I will check and let you know by evening.”
In the evening, Vikram told Lakhi Didi that it would cost Rs 2000 to repair a part in the motor.
“That’s too much! I could buy another one in that cost.”
“Exactly Didi! Just what I wanted to say. Why don’t you check this new model that came in two weeks ago? This food processor can do everything; chopping, kneading and grinding. It’s doing very well in the market and if any problems Didi, I am always there. It is only for Rs 4500.”
Lakhi Didi’s eyes had lit up seeing the new gadget, but she was crestfallen at the cost. After a lot of haggling, they finally agreed at Rs. 3800 and Lakhi Didi walked out satisfied, new food processor in hand. Vikram turned to his Laxmi Maa and bowed down. It was all thanks to her.
He had the gift of the gab and cashed in on it. Experience said that within three months the food processor would crash, but by then he would be gone. By now, he had sold many such faulty items to the residents ranging between Rs.3000 to Rs. 30000.
Yes, he knew they were faulty and in anywhere between three to six months there were problems! It was his partner Raju, who was the procurer and he, the executor.
Sooner or later, the residents would realize that they had been conned and would land up at his door together. But he would be gone. A new city, a new identity! It was time to hustle while you still could.
His only fear was being caught by Inspector Sinha, who looked at him with suspicion every time their paths crossed.
In the next ten days, business thrived with more sales. Until a few disgruntled customers started knocking on his shop’s door. Vikram realized that time was running out. He decided that it was time to move on from here.
That night, opening the door and suitcase stuffed with cash in hand, he stepped out noiselessly. And there right in front stood his arch nemesis, Inspector Sinha, leaning nonchalantly against the wall.
Raising his eyebrows, the Inspector smirked and asked, “Hello! Is it me you are looking for?” Slapping handcuffs onto Vikram’s wrists, he broke into a dry, mirthless laugh.
And Vikram’s worst fears were confirmed. He knew there was no escaping now.
Chalo – Let’s go
Diya – Prayer Lamp
Laxmi Maa – Goddess Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth
Didi – Elder Sister (often used to address an older lady)
Bhaiyya – Brother (often used to address an older man)
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