Disclaimer: This Short Story is a work of fiction. Characters in it are imaginary and if they resemble any personality, living or dead, it is purely coincidental.
“So how much did this put you back by?” I asked, turning Vivek’s ‘smart’ phone back and forth in my hand.
“Thirty five grand, dude!” he replied.
My mind went back to the time when Vivek used to clear out leftover dishes in our college canteen.
“They satisfy two of the most important criteria of outside food. One, they are not poisoned. Two, and this is the most important criteria, they are FREE!” he used to say as he licked the remains of some stranger’s Paneer Butter Masala.
Visualizing that image gave me some solace amidst the exaggerated flaunt show that he was putting on with his accessories ever since he joined a ‘big-buck’ job three months ago. I smiled in a wry manner which he mistook for appreciation of his newest gadget.
“Cool right? Wait till you see its features…” he went on as my mind wandered away.
I walked back from Vivek’s house wondering whether I will ever be able to buy a phone like that. I had wondered the same way when he had bought a ‘Pulsar’ two months ago and a Sony ‘Vaio’ a month before that. Being in a dead-end job where income and expenditure were like two openings of a vertical water pipe can do that to anyone, especially when people around you were spending their earnings as if it were their last day on earth. I cursed my job for the umpteenth time in my mind and directed a part of my frustration towards my four-digit bank balance. I turned a corner and halted at the bus stop to wait for the ‘government-appointed’ chauffeur to drive me home. My vehicle arrived and stopped a few feet away. As I made my way towards the crowded entrance, my eyes caught a flashy advertisement on the body of the bus which went like this: “Quickest way to become a Millionaire! Come, learn and earn…” There was a photograph of a suave gentleman next to this caption on the Advertising board. With horn-rimmed glasses, a pinstriped suit, long hair pulled back in a ponytail and a smile that revealed even, sparkling teeth he looked every bit a man who knew the game of finances in and out. I got into the bus and was surprised to see the same Ad on the inside as well. This time I was able to read it in full detail.
QUICKEST WAY TO BECOME A MILLIONAIRE!
Come, Learn and Earn!!
A path-breaking single session seminar on ‘The Quickest way to become a Millionaire’ by renowned Economist Miranad Raichud.
Date: 25th July
Place: Island Grounds
Entrance Fee: Rs 1000/-
An hour that could change your life!
The frustration at the lack of luxury in my life and the abundance of the same in the lives of others around me made me ponder over this Ad. If this ‘Miranad’ fellow has the guts to charge Rs. 1000 per person and the resources to splash around such Ads then there must be something worthwhile in this seminar, I thought. Though I had never heard of any ‘Miranad Raichud’, I felt a positive vibe when I read the name and associated it with his picture. I made up my mind to attend the ‘path-breaking’ session. Even if it consists of utterly futile theories about hot stocks, innovative investments and grand business venture models I will end up losing only Rs. 1000 and not more, I thought. On the other hand, if it indeed turns out to be some miraculous ‘quick-buck’ theory then I could be ‘Iphoning’ in a month or two. This thought made me happy and, as usual, led me to a chain of fantasies which led me a further seven stops away from my actual bus stop. So What? I told myself. I am spending Rs. 1010/- instead of Rs. 1000/-, that’s all.
This time I made sure I got down at the right stop.
* * *
The crowd that had gathered at Island Grounds was quite sizeable. I had expected only the most desperate, jobless people who looked for short cuts to become rich to attend the seminar. Apparently this segment of the population was more substantial than I thought. The crowd that thronged Island grounds easily outnumbered a couple of thousands. There was a solitary counter at the entrance which issued entry passes for Rs. 1000/- (Attractive gifts to be won during the seminar, it said). By the time I followed the queue to the counter and into the grounds, it was well over the scheduled start time of 4 pm.
A huge stage had been erected but all of us were surprised to see that there were no chairs to seat ourselves. Though this was a minor discomfort, the fact that we couldn’t even find a microphone on the dais was something perplexing.
“Maybe the guy is going to use one of those wireless clip-on mikes”, a person next to me suggested. I relaxed a bit at this suggestion and surveyed the gathering once more.
It consisted mainly of people in their 20s and 30s but there were a discernable number of white haired gentlemen in the mix. One guy in front of me was talking about whether he will be able to take the last bus to Gobichettipalayam if there was any further delay in the commencement of the seminar. I didn’t even know that such a place existed. Man, this seminar is quite far-reaching, I thought.
As time drifted by we began to feel uncomfortable. Was this a hoax then? Had we lost thousand rupees for nothing? Just as there began some restless murmurs amongst the audience, a crisp voice came through. It was a well-amplified male voice and seemed to be coming from speakers, though we couldn’t locate the speakers or the speaker.
“Ladies and Gentlemen! A very good evening to all of you. When I placed the Ad for this seminar I never thought of such an overwhelming response. So, I am very thankful to the two thousand three hundred and seven people who have made themselves available for this session.
Now, in view of the sheer volume of the audience, I think I will have to shelve my earlier plans. I have decided to make this session short and crisp. So shall we begin?”
We all shouted ‘Yes’ enthusiastically, while searching the whole ground for the person speaking. He went on.
“As you all know I have collected Rs. 1000 from each of you as entrance fee for this seminar and as previously stated, more than 2000 of you are present here. So, what does this imply?”
The majority of us were clueless while there were some incoherent murmurs here and there. The voice resumed.
“It implies that I am a comfortable Millionaire now. I thank you all and request you to follow my example. Good night.”
* * *
The only silver lining after this was the fact that I had been right about losing Rs. 1000 and no more.