Section 292

March 23, 2009

Kalpeshbhai had wanted to be a smuggler when he was growing up. In the movies of the 70s and 80s, the villain would always be a gold smuggler who would have an exotic lair, many henchmen, and a moll who would do cabaret dances on command. Kalpeshbhai was attracted to the lifestyle immediately.

Kalpeshbhai also knew that while the gold smugglers of the movies performed such basic mistakes as sending their henchmen to fight the hero one by one, he would go one step better and just get things over with by shooting him. That would take care of the main disadvantage of being a smuggler which was that somehow Amitabh Bachchan or Vinod Khanna always brought you to justice. Kalpeshbhai had no such intentions. He planned to be India’s biggest and most successful gold smuggler. In fact he dreamed of a time when Manmohan Desai would be inspired by his life and make a movie where Ajit played a gold smuggler who would eat dhokla and khandvi instead of biryani. It was a constant preoccuptation with him. At his accounts tuitions, while his cousin Sailesh would disappear around the corner with Savita Patel for fondling and giggling during the breaks, Kalpesh would sit at his desk, daydreaming about bringing in huge consignments of gold.

Unfortunately things did not work out for Kalpeshbhai. Not only did Manmohan Desai and Ajit die before he got the chance to become a smuggler, but the Government of India itself legalised the import of gold, making smuggling a pointless activity. He could always have become a drug smuggler instead, but he had also seen The Godfather and had decided never to do that. So he finished his B. Com. and started helping Saileshbhai in his electronics trading and honeymoon package tours businesses instead. However, his dream of becoming a criminal mastermind never left his heart.

Kalpeshbhai did not realise that it was in his destiny to become a smuggler after all. The first step came at Saileshbhai’s honeymoon resort in Alibag for couples who could not afford to go to foreign. Saileshbhai made every attempt to provide the appearance of foreign, including morphed pictures of the happy couple in front of the Eiffel Tower, and iPods along with receipts from Sim Lim Tower; but the lady honeymooners would still grumble that they were not able to do all the shopping they could have done in foreign. Saileshbhai was conscientious about customer service, and would always ask what he could do better, but for some reason the ladies were never forthcoming.

Kalpeshbhai then had the bright idea of asking their old friend Savitaben to help out. Savitaben conducted interviews with the honeymooners before they would leave Alibaug, and after a week explained to Saileshbhai what the problem was. Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code made it illegal to import, sell, exhibit, or purchase a wide variety of merchandise in India, so the good housewives of Kandivalil had to do their shopping in foreign.

It was then that Kalpeshbhai realised that he could become a smuggler after all. He immediately flew to Bangkok, and spent a fortnight in Thailand meeting contract manufacturers. By the time he returned, Kalpeshbhai had left heavy cash advances for the production of a wide variety of silicone and latex items, moulded into interesting shapes, and some even motorised. Not to mention leather items, metal items, and water soluble cellulose with added flavours. He also found a ship owner who was keen and eager to ignore such absurd paperwork as bills of lading and customs invoice, and would unload directly onto a launch off the coast of Alibag.

On his return, Kalpeshbhai firmed up the marketing end of things. Saileshbhai’s honeymoon resort was of course a firm customer, and Savitaben agreed to sell his merchandise on a retail basis through discreet word-of-mouth and referral advertising. Word of mouth spread very rapidly in fact. People all over Mumbai had realised that marriages were made not in Heaven but in Malad, and could always do with a little help. They rushed to Savitaben to purchase the marital aids which Kalpeshbhai had smuggled in.

Kalpeshbhai is a very satisfied man these days. The unfulfilled demand in Mumbai means that he can charge enough to cover the costs of purchase, Coast Guard and customs bribes, and shipping, and have enough left over to furnish his home as ornately as an 80s movie smuggler’s lair. And while he has not yet fulfilled his ambition of capturing Amitabh Bachhan’s ma, behen, and maashukaa and tying them up in his lair, he is happy in the knowledge that he faciltates the tying up of other people across Mumbai. And although Manmohan Desai is dead, he is reasonably sure that Madhur Bhandarkar will make a movie about his career sooner rather than later.

Recession Honeymoon

February 4, 2009

Saileshbhai had been able to get some good out of a bad situation since he was a boy. In those days, his mother used to insist that he drink milk everyday though he hated it. So he would take the glass down to the housing society’s playground and give it to the Kapoor’s Alsatian Jupiter. The Kapoors, who were Punjabi, thought they should have a big dog with a pig name. Pluto was the smallest planet and fit only for Pomeranians. Anyway, after a week of this, he became friendly with the Kapoors, and Cuckoo Aunty started calling him up to have Maggi. In this way the young Sailesh turned milk into Maggi.

He continued to get some good out of everything his whole life. He had bad marks in maths in Class IX, but this meant that he joined maths tuition classes along with Savita Patel, who allowed him to squeeze her breasts. Three years later, Saileshbhai couldn’t get into Narsee Monjee for his B Com. So he enrolled in the nearby Thakur College and used the time he saved commuting to start his business doing wholesale trading of electronics. Now Saileshbhai was the biggest distributor of iPods and Sony Handycams in the Western Suburbs.

But even the current recession had Saileshbhai stumped. Business had dried up. People were so busy paying their home loan EMIs and credit card bills that they were no longer buying consumer electronics. He would lie awake, wondering what good could happen now.

After a month of sleepless nights, Saileshbhai had a brainwave and got into the package tour business. He catered to honeymooners who had to economise because the recession had wiped out their demat account balances. He offered two weeks in Singapore and Penang for five thousand rupees, All Countries of Europe tour (Jain cuisine available) for twelve thousand rupees, and East-to-West America Las Vegas Special for eigtheen thousand rupees.

The competition was stunned. They couldn’t understand how he made any money at those prics. But the honeymooners poured in. The tours were a roaring success. And the honeymooners recommended Sailesh Honeymoon Travels to all other newlyweds they knew.

Saileshbhai had understood his target market. He knew that honeymooners didn’t want to travel, but to show their relatives pictures of themselves in foreign. So he sent them not on Amazing South Africa Tour, but to a guest house in Alibag where they were left to themselves to do whatever they felt like. Being honeymooners, they usually didn’t leave the guesthouse much. Two weeks later, he would drop them off to their homes (Free Home Pickup and Drop!), along with a photo album with their photos morphed in front of the Eiffel Tower or Mount Titlis. He also tied up with the Original Equipment Manufacturers in Dharavi for the I♥NY souvenirs and the Merlion keychains. And he offloaded his electronics business inventory to the couples who wanted to show that they had shopped while they were abroad.

Eventually, the India Tours and Travel Journal interviewed Saileshbhai to undestand how he offered such incredibly low prices. Saileshbha smiled and said that he was always able to get some good out of bad. He never revealed anything more.