There is no denying the fact that money really can buy happiness. Beggars smile on receiving 15 taka. A mistress smiles when given a 1500-taka box of chocolates. A public official smiles after receiving a 15,000-taka gift of cold hard bank notes. A genuine, crinkly-eyed smile denotes happiness. Money buys that happiness. In this day of instant like-fuelled gratification, we want it now. But the quick way is almost always a scam. Take another person's misery and turn it into money.
We want to step onto fortune the way we step onto cow dung: completely unprepared and without any effort. We want to stumble upon it, look both ways to see if anyone noticed and pocket it. Much like that accidental bonus grade in school that you do not want the teacher to re-check.
The scam here is to lure people with something amazing and hush-hush. The scam artist shows a magnetic coin (quite popular now) or a bundle of dolla-dolla bills that he has come upon. The thing in question is precious; people want to kill for it, and countries may even want to wage war over the acquisition. At the very least, Margot Robbie would want to have dinner with you. Or so you are to believe. The person who has brought it up to you is a random, trusting stranger who doesn't know how to dispose of the good fortune. Would you like to help for a cut? This is not good fortune smiling. This is good fortune showing all its gold teeth.
What usually follows is that the scammer convinces the victim to take the precious stuff or dollar bills for a fraction of the cost. But hush, got to make the transaction quick. At best, the victim gets a soap wrapped in cloth. Worst case, victim is mugged in a quiet, trusting location of exchange.
Accidental money transfer
I am surprised this even works. People with e-cash accounts on their mobile phone, such as Bkash, fall prey to this. But phone shop operators say people end up sending money almost on a weekly basis and then come to complain. What happens is someone sends a fake text message stating a certain amount of cash has been sent to your phone, mistakenly. They then call to plead upon your kindness to return it by paying to the same number. “A least send half, keep the rest?” Yeah right. Trust no one, not even your ailing grandmother if she asks you to forward money without due cause.
All that though bows out to municipal contracts for road and sewer repairs. One such contractor once showed me his recently purchased car. It was a lovely earthen shade of red.
“Much like the beautiful red dirt of this area that I help relocate to other parts of the area,” he explains. His love for nature translates to ripping up our neighbourhood streets any chance he gets so we can appreciate the beauty.
I live in Lalmatia. It is a rather quiet, dull, sleep-friendly neighbourhood in Dhaka. Roads were rather narrow. You could park two cars on one side and only manage to have two more cars pass through. Which makes it quite wide, but not really; people thought better of that.
They dug up the roads a few years ago and placed a four-foot wide footpath on one side. This year, they dug it up again—fresh footpaths and all—and placed two wider pathways on both sides of the road. Now if a car parks on one side, only one car can pass through the remaining empty space. As for the footpaths, no one ever really uses them because of the holes.
All over the world, mobility is key to urban design. We try something a little different. We constrict and restrict. Cars and rickshaws can no longer travel freely. Traffic jams are massive in a neighbourhood that was always free. And that is great. Nearby shops are booming. People are selling more juice and dust masks than ever before. Country is making bejillions through the sale of natural gas used to power all these cars sitting in traffic. All so that the neighbourhood people who never really walk, now have footpaths to walk on. But they don't because couples sit on them and exchange class notes.
But the bottom line, if you want to get rich quick, dig up our roads for buried treasure. It's the only way you won't go to jail if caught.
Ehsanur Raza Ronny is a confused dad, all-round car guy, model car builder, and cartoonist. He is also Editor of Shift (automobiles), Bytes (technology), and Next Step (career) of The Daily Star.