I decided to write this partly as a sort of cautionary tale regarding a con that is widespread in Asia; but my intention is primarily to explore the state of mind that I found myself in as this particular scam was unfolding. The utter complexity of it amazed me more than it angered me, and I became fascinated with what this kind of situation might illuminate about human nature.
It sounds like a pretty obvious scheme in retrospect, but the events unfolded in a way that was actually quite convincing. My friend and I were invited to dinner one evening by some random guy we met on the beach. This happens quite often in India, so no alarms there. He took us to a beautiful villa where he and a bunch of other guys who worked for the same company were having a get-together. Over beers and delicious chicken I learned that they were in the jewellery business, and that they sometimes employed tourists to make their exports easier. It sounded a bit sketchy, but he certainly didn’t seem to be pushing anything. He casually mentioned that we could meet again the next day to talk about working together if I was interested. Out of curiosity and having nothing to lose, I agreed.
The next day he picked me up and we drove to another location. He introduced me to his boss, who explained everything in detail, how much money I would make from essentially being a jewellery mule, etc. And I never would’ve had to actually pay anything, so I was struggling to poke a hole in their scheme. I asserted that I was up for it, but just needed tonight to pack my bags.
The joy I felt in the back of the car as my would-be scammers (they did not know that I knew, not yet) were driving me back home is hard to explain. It had something to do with seeing behind the emotions the situation might have brought up (anxiety, mistrust, indignation) and simply appreciating this game of cat and mouse that humans play with each other. I was 90% sure at the moment that they were trying to rip me off, but instead of being mad at them I felt amused. Thrilled, even. In the end I scammed the scammers out of their time, a few beers and some food.
But more than that, I think I was excited about the general idea that we are ultimately all part of a whole, like cells in a body, and that the illusion of separation entices us to hurt each other; like the illusion of a game of monopoly makes the act of fucking each other over enjoyable. In reality every player knows that it’s a game, but announcing it as a game would ruin the fun. And I could have felt rage at the fact that the scammers were actively trying to trick me into giving them my life savings; but it would have been the same rage I’d feel if I kept losing at chess. The frustration of being outsmarted. Instead I looked at them with a mix of admiration for the elaborateness of their con, and mockery for having failed their play in the end. And so in a way, lying is great if you’re both lying. Playing along is a joy when you realize you’re playing. I used to think it was a shame that so many people I met in India seemed to be partaking in this game of trickery. But when the game is common knowledge, you can only truly lose if you’re an outsider, unaware that you’re even playing.