This was the last thing I expected. I can understand when a pretty girl gets kidnapped by a rowdy for sex (read Sita getting kidnapped by Ravana) or when a rich kid gets kidnapped for money….but me? This was the heights.
It all started with an irresponsible statement by Suneet Manchanda (if you want to send him hate messages, click here for Suneet’s linkedin profile).
Last Wednesday I went to his desk in ibibo for a very innocent, “Good morning!”
He responded: “Good morning, rich guy!”
At this, one of his teammate – a young, aspiring kid who has just finished his MBA and joined ibibo looked up and asked: “Rich guy?” Why?
That`s when Suneet Manchanda let out the irresponsible statement. He said: “Did you know…behind his funny blog he has other blogs on Autos, Cricket, Mobile Reviews etc…which help him earn 100 thousands every month?”
A man (and woman) is always left wondering under such circumstances. I wondered if I should let the ignorance pass by or tell them the truth that it was only a few thousands. Ignorance is bliss, elders have said…so I didn`t open my mouth. Besides, it felt good to be held in awe.
But the problem with an appreciative statement is that everybody holds up their ear to hear your response to the appreciation – which puts you under tremendous amounts of pressure. Should you act humble and downplay it by saying something like “yeah right Suneet! Next you will say that my fingers are insured for Rs 5 crores!” Or should you pump up your chest and say something that adds more value to the pat on the back just received? Something like “Ohhh…this is nothing Suneet. I used to earn 1000 thousands every month before the recession kicked in.
Anyway, I didn`t say anything and walked away with a grin.
While walking away, I did notice a glint in the eyes of Ankur Agarwal & Abbas Zaidi, the two young MBAs who work with Suneet on Tradus.in – ibibo’s bid & buy auctions platform. Back then I didn`t realize that these kids could kidnap me and demand a ransom from my wife Rekha.
I wouldn`t tell you how these two kids kidnapped me. But I can assure you that I didn`t walk into the trap wanting an ‘ice cream.` The gratification they offered was much bigger – a three hour meeting with Priyanka Chopra, all alone.
Once in a stinking lodge, I started to cry. They did try to console me with ice creams and pop corn but their choice of snacks showed their lack of experience in kidnapping adult clients. Beer would have made some sense.
They then called up Rekha and made her hear my cries. I was so glad Rekha didn`t ask for some proof of the kidnapping for they would have cut my ear and sent it across to her. I don`t mind losing my ear but the problem was…Rekha wouldn`t have been able to recognize my ear – she last saw it from close quarters during our honeymoon in Kumarakom, Kerala…in 2004.
Here is how the conversation between Rekha and my kidnappers go:
Ankur & Abbas: “We have Jammy…you are at our mercy now.”
Ankur & Abbas: Do you have a piece of paper & a pen?
Ankur & Abbas: Note down our demands…and don`t try to be smart and go to the police.
I waved to Ankur and Abbas to tell that Rekha knew about the Gurgaon police and she wouldn`t go there. But they didn`t notice.
Ankur & Abbas: “We need twelve lakhs and five hundred and fifty rupees to release Jammy.”
Ankur & Abbas: And a get away vehicle – a Meter Taxi to be sent to the lodge where we are staying.
Rekha: “Is this your first kidnapping?”
Ankur & Abbas: There are two firsts in this kidnapping – first time we are kidnapping an adult. And also, this is our first kidnapping after our MBA.”
Rekha: “Not bad.”
Why isn`t Rekha panicking? Does she think that I am staging this because even five years after marriage she doesn`t allow me to own a credit card? Does she think I am staging this so that I could pay my mother the Rs 10 lakhs she has been asking for to re-do the ancestral home?
Ankur & Abbas: “You have 24 hours to give us twelve lakhs and five hundred and fifty rupees.”
Ankur & Abbas: “You will have to create a profile on ibibo.com, the social networking site your husband works for and send a friendship request to the ibibo ID called ‘Kidnapper007`.”
Ankur & Abbas: “Once you do that…we will send you directions to the place where you have to drop the money bag.”
Ankur & Abbas: “We will call again.”
After the call, Ankur and Abbas bought me masala dosas for the night. And to make up for the promise that I will get to spend time with Priyanka Chopra alone…they rented the movie ‘Dostana`…and left me alone in the room to watch. If only they had untied my hands, I could have switched on the DVD player.
Exactly 24 hours later, they called Rekha again.
Ankur & Abbas: “We guess the money is ready.”
Rekha: “Aren`t you assuming things?”
Ankur & Abbas: “Don`t get too smart…we can be nasty with your husband.”
Rekha: “We don`t have that much money. In fact, I have been asking him to buy a vacuum cleaner for the last four months and he hasn`t been able to buy it for me.”
Ankur & Abbas: “We don`t want to get into your domestic issues. Can you pay that money or not?”
Rekha: “No I can`t. He hasn`t even bought a single gold ornament for me ever since we have been married.”
Ankur & Abbas: “Come on girl…be strong. Pay us just 10 lakhs and get your husband back.”
Rekha: “I can`t do that. He gives away all his money to his mother and we aren`t even left with any to give to my retired parents.”
Ankur & Abbas: Rekha, we have put in a lot of effort and taken a lot of risk and you need to understand that. You need to pay us at least four lakhs and get your husband released.
Rekha: “No way. Where will I go for the money…despite me advising him against it, he spent all our savings on his sister`s marriage.”
Ankur & Abbas: “How about 2 lakhs?”
Rekha: 2 lakhs? If I had two lakhs…wouldn`t I get my daughter, who is nearing 3 years admitted in a good pre-school like Mother`s Pride?”
Ankur & Abbas: “Considering your financial problems, our Executive Board would like to convene and discuss the issue over. We will give you a call in another ten minutes.
Rekha: Just make it quick. The Idea Star Singer contest begins on AsiaNet in another 20 minutes…would be nice if we can finish this discussion before that.
After keeping the phone down, both Ankur and Abbas gave me a look I can`t forget. They then went outside to discuss things over. After 10 minutes of discussion, they called Rekha again.
Ankur & Abbas: We understand your financial troubles and have decided to give you a ninety percent discount and now you only have to fifty thousand and fifty five rupees only.
Rekha: “Trust me, I won`t be able to afford even that. I have a back up in place – I have got my husband to get a good insurance in his name.”
Ankur & Abbas: How is this insurance going to help you in this negotiation? You have no choice but t pay us.
Rekha: “You can`t arm twist me. You can do whatever you want with my husband.”
Ankur & Abbas: “Hmm…”
I didn`t know my wife was Kevin Spacey and Samuel L Jackson rolled into one (have you seen Hollywood movie The Negotiator?) Whatever her intent, she definitely was succeeding. But the million dollar question remained which of the two Ms did my wife prefer – Money or Me?
Rekha: Just out of curiosity…why was your first quote twelve lakhs and five hundred and fifty rupees? Why not just twelve lakhs?
Ankur & Abbas: “Hmm…we spent Rs five hundred on an AC cab to transfer your husband to the lodge. And Rs 50 on renting a ‘Dostana` DVD.
Rekha: “Ohhh…ok. Why talk of what I can`t give…lets talk positive…lets talk of what I can give.”
Ankur & Abbas: “Hmm…that would be nice.”
Rekha: “I can give you five hundred and fifty rupees. What do you say?”
Ankur & Abbas: “Hmm…we will have to call you back. Is that fine?”
After keeping the phone down, both Ankur and Abbas gave me anther look. Did the negotiations break down? Will I be killed? Before I could ask them…the kidnappers left the room for discussions. Again, they came back and called up Rekha.
Ankur & Abbas: “How would you want to give us the five hundred and fifty rupees? We are fine with it.”
Rekha: “You will have to bring my husband home, and the moment you hand him over…I will give you a check for the said amount.”
Ankur & Abbas: “What is the assurance that the police wouldn`t be waiting for us in your house?”
Rekha: “Up to you…either you take the five hundred and fifty or you keep my husband.”
Ankur & Abbas: “Ok…Ok…don`t get angry. We will be there in an hours time.”
They came home, and exchanged me with Rekha for a check of rupees five hundred and fifty. Thankfully, there were no policemen inside the house…for there could have been exchange of fire…and my wife`s wall decorations would have been affected.
I couldn`t face Rekha the whole day. The next day while leaving for office, she asked: “Do you know the CitiBank customer care number? I want to put a stop payment on a cheque.”
I gave her the number…but didn`t ask which cheque this was.
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