A few months ago, a former net acquaintance got back in touch with me after an interval of almost three years. You know how you meet people on the net and sort of drift away after a while, don’t you? On an aside, I am sometimes wonder if we drift away  because there is something pulling us away or is it because there is nothing keeping us together? More latter than the former, in this case.

When he got back in touch, it was because he had got involved with a very interesting project which would be very interesting for me too apparently (The italics in the sentence are in the nature of a sardonically raised eyebrow). All agog, I asked for details.

He had begun working with the Indian chapter of a US-based multinational. The company had devoted over twenty years in researching authentic, fool-proof personality profiles of people. Their personality profiling was based on finger- print analysis.

I was intrigued. Finger prints? What can finger-prints have to do with personality profile? How could finger-prints indicate the idiosyncrasies of one’s character or their drive and motivation? Ever the open minded one, I asked him how it worked out.

To be honest, I don’t remember a word of his explanation. All I remember is that he quoted many scientists who has worked for years on this method and was very convincing. I have no hesitation in admitting that it sounded more than plausible and that I was sure he was right in all he said. I had no reason to doubt him- and I didn’t.

After that first conversation with him, I googled Personality Profiling on the basis of fingerprints. I found that dermatoglyphics is the science of analyzing fingerprints to discover sixteen basic desires that drive human motivation and engagement. I found many websites devoted to this work. I was even more intrigued.

In my next conversation, he told me that he was the company’s business head and that his company followed the franchisee model. Thankfully, he didn’t suggest that I take a franchise too or I’d have jumped away like a scalded cat. Instead, he  wanted me to associate with his company as a trainer.

Apparently, there was a lot of training work to be done for colleges and corporates. Besides that, there would also be training required for the franchisees once they began signing up. He also intended to create a separate vertical for life coaching exclusively under me. It seemed like manna in the heaven to me. Loath to look a gift horse in the mouth, I didn’t ask myself where the catch was. Positive thinking and all that, you know? Truly, our covetousness makes blithering idiots of us.

So the unwanting soul

sees what’s hidden,

and the ever-wanting soul

sees only what it wants.

~ Lao Tzu

In reply to a question, he told me that the test costs five thousand rupees and was targeted primarily at the vast Indian middle class which is perpetually petrified about its progeny’s future prospects. The pricing seemed precipitous to me. More than the scientific mumbo- jumbo, the pricing convinced me that the report was bristling with insights so deep as to all but take my DNA apart and wrest its secrets from it before slapping it back into shape again. I couldn’t help asking (nay begging) him if I could see a sample report of the test.

He duly sent it across along with his company’s website URL. Tied up with one thing or the other, I didn’t manage to do more that cursorily flip through the report. I wish there was a kinder way of saying it, but there isn’t. I was deeply and utterly disgusted by the report.

I was repelled by the glossy, heavy pages of the spiral bound, garishly colored report. I told myself that I would read it later (the land of Never Ever) and put it away. As compensation, I visited the website of the Indian chapter. I closed it hastily after barely five minutes of clicking randomly on a few links. It was, if possible, even worse than the report. I began to have serious misgivings but I shushed my intuition deliberately.

The later (vis a vis reading the report) arrived summarily when I was asked to be a part of a training group that the company was planning to conduct for the first batch of its franchisees. I was in for it and I knew it.

To postpone the inevitable, I read the brochure which had accompanied the report. That was a mistake. Far from pour oil over troubled waters, it threw a lighted match over the oil. (Wo)Manfully, I compelled myself to read the report for I couldn’t let myself attend the training without knowing all I could about the company and its operations.

From the word go, the report contributed considerably to multiplying my annoyance. I redefined valiant by determinedly ignoring the garish, crass and shallow content presented to my fastidious sensibilities in pathetic English. Of all the personality profile tests I have ever come across in the past fifteen years, this was the shallowest, the most childishly simplistic test I have come across. The atrocious English was the last straw.

For the life of me I couldn’t imagine an American company- and a multinational to boot- being so bereft of English speaking (and writing) manpower. I went back to their website and clicked on the link to the US site. To my intense surprise I found my email client popping up instead of a webpage. The link was an email ID!

I took the URL in the email ID which showed that the site was the global address of the company on the web. Lo and behold, the global (and hence the original US) site was identical to the site of the Indian chapter barring a few minor changes. The English on the site was as awful as on its Indian counterpart. No, that wasn’t a rat I smelled. It was a colony of rats. All dead. Man, were they stinking!

Thoroughly angry and deeply incensed, I dug up the site registration information for both the websites- that of the parent US company and of the Indian chapter. That’s when I struck jackpot.

Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

~ Edward Abbey

The US company’s website- supposedly in business for over four years- was registered in August 2013 and that of the Indian chapter was registered two days later, also in August 2013. Trying desperately to give the benefit of doubt to my contact, I told myself that I must be mistaken and that there must surely be an explanation. I decided to ask him what was going on. I was certain that he too was the victim of a fraud.

He told me he had no idea how the sites could have been booked within two days of each other barely six months ago. He could answer none of my specific questions with anything but vague generalisations. When I asked him what the parent company did in the US, he gave me some very unconvincing rhetoric about project implementation. He could give me no valid details about the kind of projects the company was implementing. I told him forthrightly that I didn’t think there was any US based multinational in the picture at all. He requested me to let him investigate and only then conclude. I agreed to that.

He came back to me two days later. Yes, he called me himself. I expected him to have disappeared. I was surprised, to say the least. He tried desperately to explain it all away. He tried to gloss over it. He tried to substitute ambiguous words for plain facts. The long and short of it is, he was unable to rebuild credibility. I could no longer delude myself into believing that he was the victim of a fraud.

What horrifies me about this is that my contact was entirely unrepentant. Even after he was caught, he continued to speak to me as if I was a rude child he was trying to humor. The underlying message in his condescending tone was: Are you for real? Do you expect me to feel guilty? Aren’t you being embarrassingly naive? This is how the world works and you’d better grow up fast, you silly woman!

Unable to take his brazenness and thoroughly riled up, I couldn’t help but let him have it between the eyes. The following dialogue ensued.

“I am sorry Mr S. I will not be associating with you”, I said, as offensively as I could.

“Why ma’am?”

“Because you are revoltingly dishonest. To tell you the truth, I would be ashamed to tell anyone that I was associated with you in any manner. I can’t have my name sullied because of you. I wouldn’t touch you with a ten foot pole. You had better take yourself off and please stay off.”

“That’s alright madam. You have the right to choose who you will work with. But I wish you would look at this as a purely business venture.”

When he said that, I lost it completely. I struggled hard to keep a civil tone. To anyone else, my disgust would have been apparent, but this man? He had the hide of a rhino and the slithering oiliness of a venomous snake. I mean no disrespect to either animal.

“Tell me something Mr S, do you realize what you are doing?” I asked.

“Of course I know what I am doing ma’am. I am running a business. Why?”

“Can’t you see how you are cheating people and playing with the lives of youngsters? How on earth do you live with yourself? Aren’t you ashamed? Don’t you feel repulsed by your own corruption?”

“Madam”, he said in a hard voice, “money has no color. I am only trying to survive. If people want to be duped, they will be. If I don’t do it, someone else will. Why blame me? I am just making money, that’s all.”

Just making money?! JUST. MAKING. MONEY!!?

Note: This is a real life, true incident. I cannot provide his name or the name of his company. All I can say is, be careful of con men. The only way con men are able to dupe you is by convincing you that they have what you want and are willing- nay eager- to give it to you. Please be careful before you let you fears arm the cunning of such con artistes.

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