Master of bluster, prince of pretence!
Even amidst the Corona virus induced malaise, there is a news that is lightening/spicing up our lives - the dodgy activities of the owner of a hospital. The establishment in question, Regent Hospital, is also closed down after evidence was found indicating that in the name of Corona virus tests, an elaborate jiggery-pokery was going on. This is not the first case where people were discovered to be exploiting the current pandemic emergency to make a quick profit or use the Corona testing as a veneer for unethical acts.
During the month of Ramadan, another group, JKG, which was given the task of testing at the Titumir College premises, was found to be using the Corona testing to conceal dissolute behaviour of its staff.
The head of JKG, reportedly a yaba addict, is now in custody. But, there isn't any end to the range of immoral deeds using the Corona scare as a pretext.
The latest incident of the Regents Hospital led the law plus the media to dig into the rather flamboyant life of its chairman, one Mr Shahed, who is believed to be known in society as a person closely linked to top movers and shakers.
In reality, he has been uncovered as an expert charlatan. Mr Shahed has photos with different influential people of the government, has been invited to speak at TV talk shows and, reportedly, introduced himself as a person with 'powerful links'.
In short, he was the master of bluster. There is actually a very attractive English word to describe the activities of such people: rodomontade.
I see many people expressing shock and surprise at the way Mr Shahed was carrying out his masquerade; the truth is, in current day Bangladesh, there are countless such mountebanks, from the low layers to the top.
To use a common Bangla term: Dhapkirkhela! This means, the more convincing you sound, the better the chance for you to influence others and get the work done.
The gift of the gab and the pyramid of sleaze:
Shahed is a swindler of the higher layers because he owns a hospital, possesses wealth and shrewdly found ways to be present at events attended by recognised VIPs. Then he did what many such impostors do - taking photos with the powerful people to use them or exhibit them in the office. The purpose of showing these photos is to make potential business providing sectors to believe that one has strong relations with the power structure. Naturally, this adds credibility and hence, gives the con man an acceptable social status. In reality, by using these photos, s/he gets preferential treatment in securing contracts for government work.
However, their field of operation is much bigger. The bluster is used to persuade people in believing that the swindler actually has the power to give jobs from the lowest class to the first, arrange visas to first world nations or ensure job transfers from rural areas to the cities.
At the very bottom layer of this pyramid of notoriety are the area based leaders or so called 'PararBorobhais' who drop names of mid level influential political leaders to create an aura of influence. The victims of these charlatans are middle class people who either want to get a visa to go to a middle-eastern country to work or desire small time construction work below Tk 20 lakh.
One step higher we have the flashy car driving frauds who have some political connections but astutely embellishes them so as to make people believe that they can access all layers of society, especially the exalted ones. They claim, almost nonchalantly, to have the power to help in getting visas for first world nations.
These scamsters also hang around at the upmarket bars/five star hotels in the city, move about with attractive women who are either complicit in the scam or are paid employees. The women are not just for turning eyes. At the behest of their master, they often turn on the seduction button to provide the heady and the most ancient pleasures of all.
Just think of Papia and you may get the drift. This city has countless women swindlers who are pretty, smart and utterly ruthless.
The affluent fraudsters also spend to dazzle - rave parties at out of town resorts, unlimited premium alcohol plus the presence of enchanting female companions. They meet potential victims, known as 'marks' or 'stooges' in English and 'maal' in Bangla though of late, the oft used words are 'bhaura' or 'fitting deya'.
In answering phone calls they casually say they are in a meeting with a bureaucrat in a ministry.
Another step higher are the socially accepted wealthy swindlers, who also introduce themselves as patron of the arts. They use plenty of arty farty lingo to impress, drink wine, nibble cheese though won't be able to tell the difference between a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Well, 'arts' actually means producing movies featuring explicit dance numbers, gratuitous violence or raunchy music videos. The women in the films are often asked to work as entertainment providers to seal a big business deal. In most cases, the agreed service, whether it's a coveted visa or obtaining the lucrative tender or recovering the disputed land, never materializes.
Members of this clan have properties all over town, take holidays abroad, usually have veil wearing, devout wives at home and adopt a carefully practiced demeanour of aloofness.
Bluster is the name of the game:
Behind one Shahed, there are countless like him - duping people, exploiting the gullible while performing their myriad acts of deception. The power of the boastful talk has made millions for quite a lot of people. People like these, devoid of any morality, ethics or scruples, are the products of a decayed social ethos where political links, lure of easy money form the basis of the 'Get rich quick' formula.
At all layers, the 'Dhapki' is goes on, one even more flashy and plausible than the other. Many people know this yet they become victims because the well packaged deceit is too tempting to resist.
So, if you are invited by a so called politically linked Borobhai who drives a swanky car, throws around money, talks only in crores and invites you to clandestine out of town bungalow for a weekend of Bacchanalian orgy with the promise of fulfilling your dream (visa, tender, job, film role), then be a little cautious. You certainly don't want to tell your progeny that you were na�ve enough to have been made a Bhaura.
Towheed Feroze is a journalist and teaches at the University of Dhaka