Work from Home

-Telugu Original by DrK.Geeta

-English Translation by Madhuri Palaji

Surya is coming home early. When he saw that our daughter and I were in a deep sleep, he woke me up saying, “Chintu, Can you make some tea for me?”

“You call me ‘Chintu’ lovingly and then you are asking me to work? Why don’t you make that tea?” I said trying to go back to sleep.

“Nothing doing – If I leave you like this, you will follow India timings forever sleeping during the day like this – “

“Ahhh!” I woke up irritatedly going to the fridge and said, “By the way, there is no milk. Why don’t you go and bring some?” 

“You too come along. We’ll go together.”

“Why do you need me to bring milk?”

“Do you think this is India? You should go and bring the groceries from tomorrow. I am coming home earlier now because I’ve less work in the office. Come, let’s go!”

Looks like I can’t get away. He saw me sitting in front of the mirror with a serious face and asked, “Hello! We would’ve come back by now. Are you ready yet?”

“Come on, let me do some touch up and apply some lipstick. Why are you laughing, though?” I asked.

“Nothing. Just wondering where your sleep ran off to.” he murmured.

I said, “What?” and he immediately replied saying, “Nothing!”

Nidhi was walking with great enthusiasm. Within ten minutes, Surya said, “Walmart, there it is!”

We could see Walmart about two to three traffic lights away.

“At Walmart, they sell gallons of milk in big plastic tins. It is the biggest supermarket that sells from milk to televisions. Still, we can find the products cheaper than many other stores. Do you know.. you will find as many Indians as you will ever see anywhere else!” Surya was talking continuously.

Though we didn’t have much to buy, he took me with him to explore the entire store showing me around. I love shopping. Still, I pretended to be angry saying, “We came to buy milk.”

“Ya, Let’s skip tea for today. We will shop a little, eat there and leave,” he said, indicating McDonald’s near the entrance and I agreed instantly.

I was walking slowly looking at kids clothes. Surya went ahead to the electronics department.

“Are you new here?” I heard English with Indian accent.

I looked up. I saw a young girl wearing a punjabi dress through the racks and felt excited. 

In the meantime, I saw Surya coming our way showing a cordless phone. I introduced him to my new friend. 

She turned and called, “Surya!”. Her husband came to us and shook hands with my husband introducing himself. 

That girl and I laughed because both our husbands’ names were the same. 

She said that her name is Babitha, and that it’s been four years since they came to America from Orissa.

“Where are you working?” Both men started getting acquainted.

“Do you work, too?” asked Babitha.

“No, I don’t. I used to work as a teacher in India.” I said.

“I, too, worked for a bank while we were in India,” she said.

“So it’s the same for you here, I believe,” I said.

She shook her head and said, “No, Work from home!”

“How?” I asked.

Her husband interrupted then saying, “Please don’t mind. We need to leave quickly.”

That woman said, “We’ll meet again soon” and took my phone number.

Next day, as soon as Surya came home, he said, “I got a call from the man that we met yesterday. He asked if we have any interest in doing business.”

“What kind of business? By the way, we don’t have any money to invest. You already took half of your salary in advance to buy the car.” I said.

“I said the same. But he said there is no need for investment.”

I gave him a questioning look.

“I, too, didn’t understand anything. Let’s see what it is all about. He asked if they could visit us for an hour after Sunday lunch and I said okay,” he said again.

“Oh, Why don’t you invite them over for lunch?” I said.

I said that but I started to worry. We didn’t even have a chair for the guests to sit at our home. We came with four suitcases. Small apartment. Half of the salary goes for paying the rent. We didn’t have enough money to buy anything unless we get our next paycheck.

Babitha pampered Nidhi as soon as she came as if she knew her from a long time.

She stood in the kitchen while I was making some tea. “You were working as a school teacher in India. Aren’t you bored here?” she asked.

“It’s all new to me. I am feeling relaxed.” I replied.

“Here, have some tea,” I offered him the cup. I saw that they two were discussing something very seriously and so, I took Babitha inside. Nidhi brought the photo album and started showing the pictures.

An hour passed by very quickly.

“Pardon me for making you sit on the floor,” I apologized to them while they were leaving.

“Everyone’s homes look like this when we first arrive in this country. There is no need to apologize. We are partners now, soon, you will be able to buy everything, what do you say, Surya?” he said smiling.

Surya nodded his head in response.

After they left, “What is it?” I asked, curiously.

“He didn’t say what is this “Business” during the entire conversation. Moreover, he said, he would bring Raj, his head and that Raj would explain everything,” 

“What is this suspense, strangely?” he said again.

“What can I say? They look like good people. But make sure you find out more details just to be safe,” I said, thoughtfully.

Surya said, “Nothing to worry. He works as a software engineer in a reputed company. Don’t bother.”

Babitha talked very nicely with Manha. They became good friends. After they left, Nidhi asked, “When will Aunt Babitha come to visit us again?” 

It felt like I was the only one thinking negatively and I was so embarrassed. 

“By the way, apparently, Babitha also is a postgraduate like me. We talked about many things. She said it is sad to be living far away from parents. She said she works from home, here and makes about two hundred to three hundred dollars. Sounds like a good deal to me,” I said shaking Surya who was lost in thoughts.

“Weekly two hundred to three hundred dollars means ten to fifteen thousands according to Indian currency. It easily comes to fifty to sixty thousands a month. That means, we can make the money that we should pay towards our housing loan while working from home,” I said again.

When real estate was doing well, we took loans to buy land and house assured that we had a good software job. Though real estate is not doing so good now and the rates have fallen, monthly installments and interests remain the same. We have to pay almost fifty thousands towards those loans.

“What do you mean by work from home?” asked Surya.

“Didn’t you talk with him about all those things? I assumed that you know everything,” I said.

“No matter how many times I ask, he didn’t say anything about it. What is it, by the way?” he asked again.

“I didn’t ask what kind of work it is,” I quickly said, but composed myself again and demanded, “I think it’s some computer job. How would I know about those computer things?”

“Oh, come on, Priya! You are well-educated. You can’t just say computer work. There are millions of different kinds of computer jobs.”

“See! I had no idea that there are so many kinds of different computer jobs,” I was about to argue when Surya gave me a funny look.

“That’s okay. He said he would come tomorrow, right? We will ask the details then,” he said.

After Surya left for the office, I sat in front of the computer and searched for “Work from home”.

I also registered my email id on a website. Surya was right. They are countless. I wondered what Babitha’s job was among all of these. I received about ten to fifteen emails by noon. There was one attractive email among them.

When Surya came home that evening, I told him with great pride, “I got another opportunity.”

He held his head in distress, “You should not be giving your email id to random websites,” he said, “What is the opportunity, by the way?”

“He behaves like he is the only one in this whole world who understands computer works,” I thought to myself irritatedly but I told Suya proudly, “I did nothing foolish. He is sending a check in advance. I will start working only after that.”

He quickly sat beside me and asked, “Come on, show me the email.”

An artist from London is selling his art pieces to someone in America. Since the postal charges cost a lot to send each order separately from there, he will send them in bulk to us. We have to deliver those packages to the concerned person from here. The artist would pay us a commission of 10% for this. He is sending the payment check he received from the buyer to us in order to build trust. We can keep a hundred dollars from that check as an advance. We should send the rest of the amount through wire transfer. He is sending us money in advance even before we start the work so that we can trust him. That is the gist of the email.

“At least you didn’t give him my name and email address. Did you give account numbers?” he asked fearfully.

“No, I gave him only my name and address,” I said.

“Okay, let us see if we really get the check,” Surya said after thinking for a while.

Next day evening, Babitha, Surya brought Raj and Lakshmi along with them. The new couple are telugu people.

Initially, we all talked in English.

After hearing me talking to our daughter in Telugu, Lakshmi asked, “Are there more Telugu people here?”

I noticed that she is talking very respectfully. So I asked, “Where are you from?”

I felt extremely happy listening to her answer.

“We are also from the nearby village. Very close to your place,” I said.

After listening to me, “Why didn’t you mention this before? I went to the village sarpanch’s daughter’s wedding in that village as the groom’s friend. Are Nandi street and the sweet shop in the village center still the same?” Raj asked.

“No, not at all. If you visit the village now, you can’t compare at all. The entire picture changed after a flyover was built there,” I replied.

“I was mentioning about my visit ten years back,” Raj talked some more about the village and the village attractions and finally said, “so, now we are relatives, too.”

Lakshmi was wearing fashionable clothes and good makeup. She looked slim like a heroine from North India. I couldn’t imagine she was a Telugu girl until I talked to her.

“Let’s come to the point. Can you please give me a pen and paper?” and Raj asked us to observe.

He drew a line dividing the paper into two parts. He wrote ordinary people on one side and extra-ordinary on the other.

“Listen carefully. Why did we come to America? Let’s talk frankly. To earn money, right? There are two types of people who make money here. One belongs to this category and the other to this category,” he showed the two partitions on the paper.

“The money ordinary people earn by working very hard for over twenty years, extra-ordinary people earn it in just five years,” he said and then explained the differences between those two for about half an-hour.

“Let us come to the important point now,” he said, “You might have a question that we cannot be extraordinary without risking. But it is not that difficult. If you join hands with us, you can earn without any risk.”

“For you to reach from this point to that point,” he spent another half an hour explaining what kind of efforts to be made to become extraordinary people.

We both didn’t understand what he was telling from the past one hour. He never said anything about the “business” until now.

I couldn’t wait anymore and asked, “Can you please tell us what we are supposed to do?”

“Excellent question,” he said, “Can you get me some water?”

I brought tea and snacks for everyone.

“You both please be ready tomorrow evening. There is a meeting in San Jose for the Bay Area. Hundreds of partners come to attend that meeting. You will understand much better if you come there. The President will give further details,” he said.

“Don’t worry. We all are from the same place. This is hundred percent risk free. You will get to know tomorrow,” he said after seeing the suspicious look on our faces.

“By the way, Surya, they are still new to these surroundings, right? You pick them up and bring them along,” he told Surya.

“Okay, see you then, we have a lot of pending work,” he wished us in Indian style by folding hands instead of shaking them like he did initially.

Lakshmi said, “Your daughter is very active. We’ll see you again tomorrow. You and your husband, please wear official clothes without fail. It’s a very big conference.”

Next day, I wore a nice lady’s suite and high heels and got ready by five O’clock. 

Surya came home and was surprised to see me, “Wow! You look great. What’s the occasion?” he asked. I reminded him and he said, “Yeah, right. He called me again a while ago. I don’t like these suits and all, though. I will come like this.”

Babitha and her husband came within the next thirty minutes and picked us.

We crossed ten miles in ten minutes on the freeway. We wondered when we could drive like that. We entered a huge lobby in an expensive five star hotel. Babitha remained outside and said that she will look after our daughter. Nidhi agreed happily.

They took us to the front row. There were already some people being invited on to the stage as ‘successors’. Each couple was going on stage, wishing everyone and coming back.

Raj came in between the program and said, “What is this? How can I introduce you? Your husband came in very formal clothes.”

“That’s his style. He doesn’t like wearing suits. Anyways, why do you want to call us on the stage?” I asked with surprise.

“Okay, maybe another time,” he said and left in a hurry.

Then, a middle–aged man came on to the stage in the middle of huge applause and started talking, “People are two types.”

“I know what’s next, “Ordinary people and extraordinary people”” I was telling Surya secretly and we heard exactly the same dialogue.

We both laughed. He gave a speech for one hour telling the same thing in multiple ways leaving everyone clueless.

But he cracked a few jokes and entertained the audience, so, everyone paid attention to his speech. 

“Dear students from the audience,” he finally said.

That’s when I noticed that more than half of the audience were youngsters who came from India for the studies.

They brought us applications asking us to become partners. We finally stood up and came out. We understood that we were becoming members without knowing anything. 

Raj came to us asking, “What happened? Where are you going?”

I told Surya to tell him frankly. Still Surya felt a little embarrassed and started saying something.

“Surya, The two hundred dollars you are paying now is only for the membership. Once you start selling the products, you will get your money back within a month. From then on, you will make a lot of profits,” Raj said.

“What products?” Surya asked with a big question mark on his face.

“I will send you the link tomorrow. You first pay for the membership,” he said.

I understood that Surya is not able to say anything and said, “Raj, we couldn’t understand any of this. We are new here and we cannot pay so much money for the membership.”

“At least you pay half of it. You can pay the remaining some other day.”

“What about fifty, or twenty five?” he asked again when I shook my head in disapproval.

“We will go home and call you,” Surya said without looking at Raj, took my hand and quickly walked towards the lobby.

We took our daughter and came out of that place. We had no idea how to reach home at nine in the night. There are very few buses here that connect with all routes. No auto rickshaws, too!

In the meantime, Babitha came running after us, “Wait, let us drop you. It will be difficult for you to go home at this hour. There is no transportation,” she said.

That’s true. We had no other option but to take their help.

No one talked during our ride. Nidhi slept immediately.

While getting down, “This Sunday..” he was about to say something.

“We won’t be home this Sunday,” I politely told them.

They sent a link to their products the next day. The products in that link were not sold anywhere outside. Don’t know who will buy those products. We understood that this is purely memberships chain business.

While we were still forgetting this story, within the next week, a check for five hundred dollars came in my name. 

I called Surya and informed him.

“Don’t encash it yet. I heard that this is a big fraud,” he said.

That evening, he read out to me information online about the experiences of people who became victims of such frauds.

“We will lose completely if we encash such checks to our accounts,” Surya explained.

“I don’t understand,” I asked in confusion.

“We encash the five hundred dollars we received. After the money is cleared in our accounts, we deduct the advance of hundred dollars and wire him the remaining four hundred dollars. Wire transfer is equivalent to handing him money personally. As soon as he receives money, he will withdraw the check.”

“How is it possible? What happens after the check clears?” I exclaimed.

“There lies the secret. Banks usually pay without completely verifying the checks. But if the sender takes it back saying that it is a false check, the bank demands the person who withdrew the money to pay it back along with a penalty. But the person who receives the money through wire transfer won’t have any problem. Once the payment is done, we won’t get out money back. That means, in this entire transaction, that person makes money easily and escapes. We will be the losers by the end.”

My head felt like spinning. How people cheat others to make money! They are able to succeed only because people like me who believe these frauds and are greedy to earn money without working hard. Technology is supposed to be useful in the system but some are misusing it for cheating others.

Though I felt sad, initially, for falling for such a scam, I felt little relieved for coming to my senses sooner than later.

“Chain marketing is also one among the list of these kinds of frauds. The members will get their money back only in two ways. One by selling the products, and two by joining members. Since nobody can do the first, if they join five or six members, at least then, they will get back the membership amount they paid in the form of commission. That is why they try to join people like us.” Surya continued to talk but I couldn’t hear anything.

After that, they called us again after two weeks asking, “We are going to Los Angeles and we have two extra tickets. Would you like to join us?”

“It will be best if we stay away from them,” I said.

Next day when I called India, a relative asked, “Is it true that people earn a lot of money ‘working from home’?”

Though it means something entirely different, Surya couldn’t answer him and pretended to be coughing to avoid.

I kicked the trash can aside to prevent Surya from finding the pieces of the check I tore and threw. 

Evening rays are falling diagonally. There was plenty of light even at seven in the evening. 

“Let us go for a walk,” I said.

One or two were walking outside. A couple of Americans who didn’t know us, crossed us and said, “Hello!” with a smile.

“People here are very friendly. I wonder why Indians do not acquaint and engage with new people like the people here do,” Surya said absent mindedly.

“How can they laugh when they have such bad experiences?” I answered.


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