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What it's like to be swindled and looted, and not hold a grudge

December 31, 2012, 12:35 am | This story has an Influence Score of 1558

By riazhussain


Yaqoob was born in a poor family in the Southern Punjab. He began his career as a helper at a sweets shop. There, an accident burnt his body when boiling oil fell over on him. Then, he went to work in an auto rickshaw workshop. As an apprentice, he not only had to do menial jobs at the workshop but also the home chores of the owner of the workshop. He was not taught the skills that pertained to the workshop. He was a young man with courage and ambition. All these difficulties could not deter his ambition. He wanted to go ahead in life. He had high dreams of progress and a better life. But, he disliked dishonest practices of making money. He believed in honesty and knew that better days come with time.  

Then, he started working as a mason apprentice. He learned the associated skills and became a professional mason. He started working as a mason on daily wages on different construction sites in his own natives place. He married early in life. His wife gave birth to five children. It was difficult for him to support his family with the wages he was earning. So, he was in search of better prospects. His friends suggested to him that he should go abroad. He wanted to see the world outside his own native land. 

He went to work as mason in the Persian Gulf. But, of course , there was no royal road to success in the desert. He had to do the job of a manual laborer.  He remembers that the construction company's pick-up truck  would take them to the construction sites in the desert before dawn and would bring them back to the city after the sunset. He had to carry loads of cement on his back from the ground floor to the top of multi-storey buildings in the scorching heat of the desert. After working there for some years, he came back to his native lands and started a small marble business with the help of his brother, who subsequently died of heart attack in his own arms. It was a great loss. They had been together since childhood. Now,  he had to do everything himslef. 

In the morning he would spend time in his office. In the evening he would practice sports. He was fond of body building, weight training, wrestling swimming and singing songs.  He used to participate in wrestling and bodybuilding competitions.This routine went on for years. 

Time and again, he would go to purchase raw marble from the mountains. He got fond of sight-seeing. He travelled far and wide in his country exploring the natural beauty of the landscape. The frequent journeys made him an astute and vigilant traveler. But, this vigilant traveller got conned one day.

Once,  it was a blazing hot day. He was in the city of Peshawar; he wanted to go to the city of Lahore. When he reached the bus station, people were standing in queues at the ticket office of the bus station to get their tickets. As, he moved to the queue for Lahore, a well-dressed man approached him. The man gave him money and requested him, ‘I am not feeling well . I cannot stand in the queue. Could you please buy a ticket for me ?’.  Yaqoob took notes from him . When his turn came, he gave money for the tickets of two people and received two tickets for two adjacent seats in the bus for Lahore.

When the passengers boarded the bus, the man came and seated himself next to him. The bus started and set off. The man started chatting with him about different things. They talked about common interests. He gained his confidence. People sitting around them thought that they were friends. When the bus had travelled for 2 hours, he took out a juice box and began to drink from it. He took another juice box and offered it to Yaqoob saying ‘freshen up yourself, man!’.  Yaqoob declined but the man insisted that he should take the juice. Yaqoob reluctantly took the juice and began to sip the juice. After a few moments, drowsiness began to prevail over him. In one and a half hour, the drowsiness gradually changed into unconsciousness. He had become totally unconscious. The person sitting next to him was waiting for this moment. He stealthily took Yaqoob’s wallet along with its contents, emptied all his pockets, got all his belongings and got down from the bus at the next stop. The other passengers in the bus did not notice what had happened.Some passengers were sleeping, the others were listening to music with headphones or lost in their thoughts. 

When the bus reached its destination, Lahore, all the passengers vacated the bus but Yaqoob was still lying unconscious on his seat. The conductor of the bus tried to wake him up. Yaqoob was unable to wake up. The conductor had to make him vacate the bus. Yaqoob was not in his senses . He fell down from the bus on the muddy ground. The conductor hired an auto rickshaw for him and made him sit in it.

The driver of the auto rickshaw asked about Yaqoob's destination or address, the latter barely mumbled a few words about the address of his friend.  As the auto rickshaw moved on, his body shook and swayed under the influence of the tranquilizer that the swindler in the bus had given to him in the form of a juice box. When the auto rickshaw reached the address, the driver asked Yaqoob to get down. But, he was still lying unconscious in the vehicle. The rickshaw driver took off the wrist watch of Yaqoob as fare and made him sit on the road.  When the friend came home, he  was thunderstruck to see Yaqoob's clothes spoiled with mud. He took him home. Yaqoob remained in that state of unconsciousness for two consecutive days.  

Thus, Yaqoob had shown the thief kindness by standing in the queue for him . He had bought a ticket for him. But, this kindness cost him his wallet and other belongings. The swindler had used Yaqoob’s kindness against him. What happened to Yaqoob happens every day to thousands of people across the world. We read news reports about such stories everyday in newspapers. The Daily Times of Lahore (October 18, 2010) reported  ‘on average, four to five people are admitted to different hospitals in the provincial metropolis daily after falling prey to swindlers at the general bus stand or the railway station. A number of victims are brought to hospitals unconscious after they are fed with tranquillizers by swindlers to deprive them of their precious belongings’. The report further said , ‘High doses of sedatives such as benzodiazepines, barbiturates, morphine and chloroform are also used as intoxicants in some cases’. The reports also cited the words of one of the victims in this way: ‘Kashif, a victim, who was being hospitalized at Mayo Hospital told Daily Times that he took some food from one of his fellow passengers at Lorry Adda two weeks ago and fell unconscious. “I found myself at the hospital bed when regaining my consciousness,  my money had gone,” he said’. Mail Online UK (July 19, 2012)  reported before the recent Olympics,  ‘Britain is in the grip of a pickpocketing epidemic as Eastern European gangs descend on London ahead of the Olympic Games. A surge in sneak street thefts means more than 1,700 people fall victim every day – an increase of nearly a fifth in only two years’.

Pickpockets , swindlers, thieves , crafty people , dodgy characters,  tricksters or whatever word we may use for them,  lie in wait at crowded spots, congested locations and tourist attractions not only in the cities of the developing nations but also in France,  Barcelona , Madrid, Lisbon, London and Buones Aires. Bus stations, hotels,  AMTs, train-ticket offices, museums, restaurants, subways, airports are the places where swindlers can work easily. They look for perfect people and perfect opportunity. Tourists and travelers are their easy prey. Pickpockets may come in the form of children, women, bystanders and stranded tourists. At times,  they work in teams. They distract your attention by bumping in you , asking you about directions and starting a meaningless argument with you, while their accomplices empty your pocket. The swindlers appear on these spots as bogus social workers, travellers, officials and business men. They befriend you and offer you water, juice, ice-cream or other eatables which have high doses of tranquilizers. At times, the victims die because of overdose. When they work at markets and shops, these swindlers soil currency bills in tranquilizers and intoxicants. When a shopkeeper takes the money in his hands, he becomes unconscious and the swindlers flee with the cash. Some people who have gone through these terrible experiences let their pockets bulge with decoy wallets or they keep their money in special waist bands. They leave their important documents and valuables at safer places.

Years after the event, Yaqoob again had to face the criminals. One day,  he was working in his office with one of his sons, four robbers stormed his office and put their guns on the forehead of his sons and demanded cash. Despite being a well-built and healthy man, he could not do anything in front of the guns. He did not want to lose his sons. Helplessly, he gave the cash in hand.  He made a report about the  the robbery in the nearby police station. He protested on the roads along with the members of the local trade union.

These events, despite having brought him loss of hard-earned money, did not succeed in dissipating his hope and courage. As he smiles Yaqoob says, ‘the swindler and the robbers took away my money but they could not rob me of my courage and passion for hard work. The swindlers and robbers must be in jail now or if not in jail, they must be looking for new prey, while I continue to help my people with my work and skill. Now, I have more than what I had yesterday’.

Today, Mr Yaqoob is a rich business man.  He is a kind man who helps the needy and poor. He helps poor people get their daughters married and he helps penniless children get education. He says, ‘I give money to people who need it. But these small acts of charity give me happiness which I cannot otherwise buy with money or cannot get by piling up bills and notes’.






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