Personal Histories: A series on true experiences
ALCOHOL PUTS me to sleep, cigarettes make me cough and I’ve never summed up the courage to smoke a joint. When people complain about the vices of Generation X, I always feel left out. Being a loner in school or college is one thing; being left out by your entire generation — blows. Which is why when I finally discovered my vice, I was incredibly relieved. Now, when people brandish their addictions, I can smile sweetly and say, “I know what you mean, I’m a gambler.”
It started when my boyfriend, Tariq, showed me an advertisement on Facebook for an Indian penny auction site — spicybids.com. “It must be a scam”, I had said dismissively, “No one would simply give away a MacBook for a few thousand rupees”.
Within an hour, I was sucked in; shrieking, howling, and screaming invectives so foul — simply thinking about them now makes my toes curl.
In my defence though, this site was created by a person who probably has three sixes branded on his skull. The way it works is — each time you bid, you can only increase the price by a rupee. Other bidders have 10 seconds to respond. If no one bids, you can get a Mac- Book or even a stash of 20,000 rupees for as little as Re 1. Or so the site claims. Unfortunately, each bid costs between Rs 22 to Rs 45, depending on the bid package. If you do the math, even if a MacBook goes for Rs 7,000, at an average of Rs 33.5 a bid, the site makes Rs 2,41,500 on a laptop whose market price is around half a lakh.
Never having a head for figures (I made someone else do the above calculation) and caught up in the excitement of the moment, I convinced Tariq to buy a bid package on his credit card. Soon we were a thousand rupees down, with nothing to show for it.
Every 10 seconds — on the dot — I would wail, “Oh god, we are going to be outbid”, covering my eyes and peeping through my pinky and ring finger. But in a flash I would recover my composure and consider bidding on an iPhone or a stash of 20,000 rupees. “But you have an iPhone and you need a laptop…” Tariq would interject. “Yeah, but if we get it for cheap, we can sell it and get the money,” I would explain exasperated. Did I have to spell out everything?
Occasionally, I would have panic attacks. “What if it’s all a scam, what if ‘bawajanoo’ and ‘lovecradle’ are fake bidders created by the site to keep up the illusion that someone is winning?” I would whine. “They might be fake…” Tariq would say, shrugging off the loss with a stoicism that made me want to wring his neck.
But I knew I was trapped, if I stopped bidding I would lose the money I had spent on the bids and the chance of winning anything.
“Maybe we should take a walk, perhaps check on the auction after some time,” suggested Tariq, looking a little pale. The furious pace at which I was clicking his money down the drain was probably making his stomach churn.
I reacted with the horror of a junkie asked to hand over her stash. “What about the MacBook Pro and the 20,000 rupees?” I didn’t mention the iPhone and a Nikon camera that had now been added to the mix.
“We can leave it on auto bidder”, suggested Tariq. An ingenious little spicybids invention that bids on your behalf, spending your money while you eat, sleep, have a bath or go for a walk to take your mind off the fact that you are broke.
Eventually though, better sense prevailed, on Tariq at least, if not me. Gently, he pried away the mouse and in a soothing voice he described fat spicybids executives sitting atop mountains of free bids able to outbid any honest competitor. Slowly, the hold spicybids had on me started waning. Just as I was about to wriggle out of the grip of my addiction, spicybids announced a new bid — on a 100 free bids. I caved.