A very strange incident has been happening to me for the last two days and I am sure that I am not the only one who has experienced this!
It happened day before when I was coming back from work with a colleague of mine, M. He was driving his car and we were having a little chat as well. Battling the heavy Mumbai evening traffic, we got on to the Ghatkopar Mankhurd link road. Now for the uninitiated, this road passes thru a slum like area. Its quite a wide road and is used primarily by trucks and motorists who want to avoid the crowded suburban road (which happens to be quite prone to jams, by the way!) So, we get on this road, merrily chatting away to glory and stop at a signal. Suddenly, this guy crossing the road from in front of the car points to the engine and says something like “Sparks”. It just so happened that we were quite engrossed in the discussion at that point and didn’t pay much attention to him. We’d hardly gone a couple of meters when a tall fellow standing at the other end of the crossing points frantically to the engine and says that the engine is sparking. Now at this point, another guy weaving from between the traffic comes around from the back of the car and suggests we take the car to the side and check the engine.
Now me and M really get worried. His car is new. It’s not supposed to have problems and the area is not really conducive to stopping and changing a flat tire! But we do pull over to the side and M switches the air conditioning off. A seemingly friendly guy emerges out of nothingness and tells us once more that the engine is sparking. Now M opens the bonnet and the ‘seemingly friendly guy’ peers in it. M joins him at the front and peers in as well. Apparently, he can’t locate the source of the trouble. That’s when the SFG (seemingly friendly guy) asks him to throw some light into the engine. M takes out his cell phone and flashes it inside. What he detects is a small spark. Then, he comes and switches off the engine. The SFG puts his hand into the engine and M joins him at outside. By this time, a small crowd of SFGs (read 5-6 guys) gather around the car and start peering inside. Inside the car, not inside the engine!!!! M was worried not just about the car but about me too. And I am thinking, there are mobiles, laptops in the car. What if, someone tries to snatch one and run away! Then the original SFG says that we could tape this wire. There is a mechanic available close by. Initially, M said “Haan haan bulao, mechanic ko bulao” But then he decided to risk the remainder of the 20 minute drive and snapped the bonnet shut.
We spent the remainder of the ride in razor-sharp tension and kept looking at the pedestrians to see if anyone else notices the sparks and points them out to us. Apparently, none were looking in the right direction. I also checked the reflected surfaces of the vehicles ahead of us to see if there were any sparks reflecting there. M tried to make some small talk about not wanting to get stranded and how I could get onto a bus and ride home if the car stalled. He even jumped a red light coz he felt the car was stalling. He didn’t want to halt even at a red light, lest the car stop running at all. Anyway, we made it home and after about half an hour, M calls me and says, “Anks, we were just about to be conned! It seems there is a gang operating in that area. They pull out some small parts of the new cars and replace them with old ones.” I was like, Oh thank God there isn’t any big trouble. We had a small laugh about it and then ended the call.
Next day, M relates this incident to others at work and 3 others claim to have been conned in the same way at the same spot. Two people even asked him if there was a female sitting next to him! That apparently is the MO of the SFG gang – they target new cars with female passengers. So that evening when we were getting back, M asks me if we could take the ‘Sparks’ road again. I said, “Why not? This time we are prepared for them!”
And sure enough, when we reached that signal a guy casually crossing the road says, “Gaadi se parking nikal raha hai. Aag laga hoga” and he moves on to the other side of the road. Now M and me look at each other and start laughing. M says, “I happened to glance at this guy. He was standing at the side of the road and didn’t proceed to cross as soon as his light turned green. He was looking at the cars that stopped at the red light. He glanced at me first and then at the car. Then he started crossing the road. I felt like telling him that kal bhi hua tha sparking!”
But this is no laughing matter. The way this gang is conning unsuspecting motorists. I can’t believe that the police or the papers haven’t caught on to this…