Beware of the Dhandabaaj
AASHA MEHREEN AMIN
Aubiquitous character in today's society is the dhanadabaaj, roughly translated as a con artiste although this does not completely convey the subtleties of the term that are lost in translation.
Someone who is called a dhandabaaj does not necessarily have to be a typical swindler or imposter posing as something they are not and duping innocent people, usually extracting a significant sum of money although this is close to the term's definition. The end result maybe the same, although sometimes the rewards are more intrinsic such as international fame or more political influence, but a dhandabaaj is far more sophisticated than your run of the mill con artiste. Those in this category happily give their identities and prove to their audience (harsher people will say victims) that what they are doing is inde ed beneficial and necessary for the betterment of mankind.
Say an NGO springs out of nowhere claiming to bring the light of IT to village youth? What could be nobler? The dhandabaaj in charge of the NGO, let's call him the director, will write elaborate project proposals, take some inspiring pictures of young people working on the computer while looking intensely enlightened by the experience and send it to the right people in the right places of rich, foreign countries. He is so smart that he even gets the local media to write glorifying stories of his project, taking journalists to the spot areas where the mobile computer labs are and telling them that there are 40 more of them in various locations. With limited resources and other deadlines to meet, the journalist takes him on his word and writes the story. Soon enough, many other newspapers pick it up, even an international broadcasting news agency does a documentary on the project. Somebody calls it 'the most innovative project' of the last few decades. Foreign donors, philanthropic millionaires, everyone wants to be part of this life-changing project for the poor. The suave dhandabaaj even gets international recognition, not to mention a few million dollars. He gets away with it because nobody has the time or energy to investigate whether there are that many mobile labs. In reality he has only two labs which can be packed up and whisked away like assembled furniture.
Of course the art of dhandabaaji can spread to anything although education seems to be the most favourite target. Hence the umpteen number of English medium 'international' schools claiming to be affiliated to education systems of various countries. Some of them work like touring theatre companies with a foreign principal (who probably has a few years of teaching pre-school children) and a few foreign-looking teachers who may suddenly disappear when there's a tiff with the director who refuses to give them a raise. By the time the parents realise that the whole thing has been a scam, the child has pretty much 'unlearnt' everything taught in the previous school.
Some dhandabaaji, is blatantly advertised and even then people get caught. When one reads something like 'Guaranteed admission to an Australian University with absolutely no middleman and at an unbelievably low cost' perhaps one should take it with a grain of salt.
An innovative case of this specialised profession is of a young man and a few of his friends who managed to convince a group of pretty, young women that they were an organisation that gave training to aspiring models. They even claimed that they would get these young women into a fashion show. Even when some of the women brought their mothers with them, the boys didn't object. It was only after a month or two that the hapless young women realised that all they were doing was strutting about for the benefit of a few losers who were too unattractive or uninteresting to attract any member of the opposite sex. Although the scoundrels should have been beaten up, the women were too embarrassed and too scared to tell their mothers the real story, to confront them.
From selling products that claim to make people taller to creating organisations to enhance the quality of life of poor, uneducated children, say by teaching them the art of calligraphy, the dhandabaaj is everywhere, waiting for the perfect opportunity to pounce on the next victim.
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