Lokan was browsing his facebook account. He accidentally came across a piece of information advising the users to be beware of ten different ways of hacking while using the ATM machine. It caught his attention and out of curiosity, he went through the site and collected all information. He was wondering how people dared to lay hand on others bank account and silently wash away their balances completely. His inner mind was debating who was more intelligent --- the one who devised a hassle-free mechanism to withdraw cash from ATM or the one who was able to hijack the mechanism and usurp the system and swindle the money. He also had a small doubt whether such information illustrated in this facebook could really be true or just imaginary. The organisers of facebook could have deliberately manipulated and written something to arouse the interest of browsers so as to increase their base of shares, followers and likes.
His vagabond mind turned quirky and he felt that he should try out one or the other hacks as suggested. If it was all fake instructions, then even he could scribble a few suggestions and caution people and create waves.
“Let me try and satisfy myself.” He decided. He read the entire set of hacks and ticked a few for trying out. Those few tricks he read again and again, almost memorised them. He went to the nearby ATM and waited in the queue. He made a preliminary check-up of surroundings before he could launch his maiden attempt. He even let go others who were eagerly waiting for their turn. He made sure that he was not unduly drawing attention from others. Soon his turn came. He went in with a thundering heartbeat pumping blood faster and faster. His adrenal rose up. He tried and succeeded in controlling his anxiety and nervousness trying to show up.
He stood before the machine, slowly lifted the secret panels and inserted the piece pf paper as was told in the facebook. He came back complaining of a problem in the machine and asked the next man to proceed. The guy came back with his unsuccessful attempt as money could not be withdrawn. Immediately, Lokan went in and tried his trick. He removed the paper which he had planted earlier. The machine started rolling out the notes as demanded by the previous user. He was thrilled. The hack trick was working. Just then he realised that the CCTV in that room was capturing all that was going on there inside the Kiosk room. He was afraid of being caught.
He immediately went out and called the guy who left earlier. He feigned to be a good Samaritan and told him that he should have waited a little longer and collected his cash. “Only problem with the machine was that it was a bit late in delivering. Thank God! I was there. Had it been somebody else, he would have simply vanished with your hard-earned cash. Check your money. My small advice to you better the check the balance in your account.”
The guy could not believe himself. ‘Can there be anyone like this even in these days!’ He in his excitement, over-reacted and thanked Lokan profusely. He asked “What about your transaction?”
“Oh! I lost my faith in this machine. First, it failed to work for me. Then in your turn, it was delayed. What’s the guarantee my withdrawal will be safe? So, I changed my mind.”
Lokan left the place. But in the heart of heart he was happy that he escaped unscathed. But the urge to try the hack trick elsewhere with due care and diligence (of covering the CCTV) was there. He went to his friend Suman and explained his hackathon and convinced him to be a partner in crime with due share in the loot. The two together set out with their amateur heinous plan.
As planned, first they would see if any CCTV was in operation. If none, then all the better. If there was one, he had to cover the lens by a cloth or some paper with multiple folds, so as to make it inoperative. Once the ground was set, then their game would start. In all they made three attempts. Having amassed sizeable amount, they took off. They had to flee from the town and escape to safety.
“Suman, first let us leave the city. Take a room in a hotel, divide our share and part our ways and remain absconded for some days. Keep watching the reaction of those ‘scapegoats’ who gave us a bit of their fortune. We can go back to our places only when the ripples of our adventure have subsided. Be careful. We have risked a lot. Prudence is only in remaining safe and scot-free and not getting caught.”
Suman left with his share of loot. Lokan went to a jewellery shop and purchased a gold necklace for his girlfriend Deepalakshmi. His imaginations ran high. ‘It will be a befitting gift for this Diwali cum Lakshmi Pooja. Truly a golden opportunity for me to see her getting delighted with this golden gift.’ He ensured that the jewel box was kept safely in his suitcase under his clothes. At times he thought of calling her and telling. But the suspense of offering an unexpected gift would be lost. ‘Better wait. Let her call. Then we will see.’
Deepalakshmi, got a message on her mobile phone. It was from her bank. As usual a warning cum alert message. The bank alerted their customers that they should exercise all precautions while using their ATM card or credit card. PIN number password should never be shared. Never forget to collect the card. Check the balance in their accounts frequently and ensure that only valid debit entries were in the passbook. Any fraudulent entry irrespective of amount should immediately brought to their notice for proper action.
The last few lines about invalid debit entries, she thought were something new. Her bank and its ATM were close by. She went there in person to update her passbook and also ensure that all was well.
Due to heavy rush in ATM Kiosk, she went to the bank. Unusually there was some clamour and chaos. Some policemen were also there. From the crowd, she understood that the lady officer went to load the ATM machine. Then having done that she inspected the room and found that the CCTV was covered by a dirty cloth. Immediately she shut down the Kiosk and hung a board which read in bold letters – TECHNICAL ERROR. SORRY FOR INCONVENIENCE. Then she informed the police about the plausible dacoity. Exact amount of loss was yet to ascertained. And she added that so far there was no complaint. But the officer was wrong. There were customers who had gathered there to lodge complaints about unknown withdrawals from their accounts. Because of police bandobast they could not approach officials. They waited impatiently.
Policemen left the bank and headed towards nearest petrol bunk where there could be a CCTV. Their guess was right. They thought that the thief or thieves would have decamped with their loot and surely gone to a nearest petrol bunk, get their vehicle’s tank filled up and proceed on their long drive. They saw from the CCTV that two men on a motorbike came in and got the tank filled up. They did not wear any mask or helmet and their faces were clear in the CCTV. The police took some useful information from the bunk boys and ran in pursuit of them. They went in the same direction of those two men.
Deepalakshmi understood and got the clue for unusually long alert message from her bank. Amidst all chaos and confusion in the bank, she somehow got her passbook updated and luckily there was no fraudulent entry. She felt pity for those who lost their money due to frauds, particularly in this festive season.
While glancing through the forwarded WhatsApp chats in her mobile phone, she came across one message going viral. It was about someone praising a guy who handed over full amount of ATM withdrawal due to belated transaction by the machine. She was wonder struck. There was one guy who swindled others cash and here was one who returned in toto. Two extreme cases!
In the TV also the breaking news of the day was about safety of ATMs and it became the topic of hot debate and discussion. In one of the clippings she found a faint resemblance to a man who looked like Lokan’s friend Suman. She paid attention to the programme. She could not confirm if he was Suman or someone else. She wanted to call the police and draw their attention to that guy. Before that, she must ascertain his identity from Lokan. She also took a snapshot of that fellow to show him. Then she phoned him.
Lokan was waiting for a call from Lakshmi. When she called, he packed up and proceeded to meet her. He was in a very happy mood. He whistled and hummed happy notes on his way. Happily, he was going to meet his dear girlfriend. He was planning to offer his gift in a dramatic romantic style and see her reactions. In stead of a red rose it will be a gilt-edged red box. Soon, he was at her door step. She called him in and showed him the snapshot and asked him to confirm. He was aghast on seeing him in a TV chat show on ATM safety.
All his heighted spirits got dampened on seeing it and withered out. He wanted to show her his gift and make her happy but, she showed him something different and killed his senses. Hiding his innate shivering and nervousness, he gave her the Diwali gift. She on the contrary extended a very cold receptive sentiment. She somehow sensed that it was purchased out of some ill-gotten money. She demanded the source of such huge amount. Lokan was not on any assured job nor had any substantial savings so as to make heavy purchase. It raised doubts on his integrity. After long drilling and threats of reporting the matter to police, he admitted to having committed the crime.
What more now! She could not stop herself. Deepalakshmi took her chappals and rained blows on him.
“Take it, you scoundrel. This is my Lakshmi Pooja offering to you. How dare you thought of presenting me something you bought with stolen money? I don’t have to call the police. They are already hunting for you and your highly talented CCTV crook. Till then take some more gifts.”
She started giving left and right. He cried. “I did all these Lakshmi, only to give you a befitting gift for this Diwali and thereby impress you. I never cheated anyone, nor will I ever. I surrender before you. Please pardon me.” With folded hands he pleaded.
By then the police came rushing to their place and along with them was the other fallen guy, Suman. Lokan pleaded again. “Please don’t desert me. Give me a chance to reform. I promise upon the true love I bestow on you. Please, please accept me as a refined fellow.”
She said, “Come out clean first. Then we will see. Let Goddess Lakshmi bestow her wealth of Honesty and Integrity on you. Keep offering Pooja in the jail also.”
Police took him into custody. When they were about to leave, Deepalakshmi requested the police to serve mild ‘Lakshmi Pooja’ on him, as she had already dealt with him heavily so that he would spill the beans and acknowledge his crime. The officer smiled at her and nodded affirmatively. He too was watching the scene when she was in action while Lokan was repeatedly pleading for pardon.
Lakshmi Pooja came and gone. It made a huge difference on Lokan.
He will never forget a Lakshmi Pooja. Never, never.
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