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Fiction Short Stories

Meta Hera Pheri

Babu Bhaiya, Raju and Shyam get a taste of the metaverse, in hopes of getting rich. You can imagine what the result is.

“Universe ho ya Metaverse, jab tak paise hain, Hera Pheri hoti rahegi.”

Dedicated to the fantastic team that made Hera Pheri and Phir Hera Pheri happen.

PROLOGUE

At the end of Phir Hera Pheri, Raju got a call from Babu Bhaiya informing him that the guns he had just thrown off the sea bridge were very valuable. The bag of guns remained hanging on to a pillar of a parallel under-construction bridge. 

Though Raju tried to bend over the bridge, the fear of falling into the sea was too big of a risk. He turned around empty-handed and came back to the chawl.

***

With a promise not to fall for get-rich-schemes anymore, Babu Bhaiya, Shyam and Raju are back to the struggles of their mundane lives.

Raju now has a salesman job at a local shoe store. Of course, with his International Talent of Ultimate Student (ITUS) degree, also known as Iski Topi Uske Sar, Raju is overqualified for this job! He wants a job worthy of his stature!

About International Talent of Ultimate Student

Shyam finds a data entry job at a local law firm, one that pays him less than what he deserves, and isn’t even challenging. To make up for it, he starts spending most of his earnings trading stocks, unsuccessfully.

The one earning the most in the household is Babu Bhaiya. On the chawl’s sprawling terrace, he has started planting dhaniya and pudina. No, but he doesn’t sell them raw. He makes chutneys and sells them to all the people in the chawl and the Vada pav stalls nearby. But his dream to start an Agarbatti ki factory in Kolhapur remains elusive, as he spends most of his earnings to bring home more baatlis.

Life is not all bad, though. 

In the last month, they haven’t cooked a single meal, yet had the best Biryanis, Chhole-Bhature, Paranthas, Pasta, and Pizza (which Babu Bhaiya now considers his staple diet), owing to Raju’s skill of finding online deals and Babu Bhaiya’s befriending of several delivery drivers in the chawl.

They haven’t paid the electricity bill in months, but enjoy chilled air from their neighbour’s AC every night. They have drilled a large, inconspicuous hole in the common wall with their new neighbour, Taplu, to divert some of the AC air. 

Taplu replaced Munna Bhai as their neighbour but is no better than Munna. His feuds with Babu Bhaiya around whose clothes should be allowed to dry on the common railing have only intensified over time. The hole for bringing in the conditioned air is Babu Bhaiya’s revenge.

Babu Bhaiya also convinced the Chawl residents to install a big TV in the common area instead of installing it in every home. “Mahine ka hajaar rupaya bill bachega re baba,” he told everyone and collected a thousand rupees from 65 of the 70 homes.

Nowadays, a typical night involves Babu Bhaiya sitting in front of this giant TV with his Baatli, as others continue to come and go. Raju stares into his phone to find the best deals for anything and everything, and Shyam swipes right on every single girl named Anuradha. Occasionally, when Babu Bhaiya is really happy, he shares a few droplets from his Baatli with others, but otherwise, every person has to bring their own.

***

One day, as he’s watching an IPL match on the large TV, Babu Bhaiya screams “Ey chup re halkat, TV tod dega main…” his blood boiling. He rises from his seat, ready to throw the bottle at the TV. The reason – he saw an advertisement for a company starting with “Star…” The memories of Star Fisheries and Star Garage still haunt him.

“Tod do, tod do,” Raju screams and giggles as Shyam and others go to stop Babu Bhaiya from charging at the TV. As they manage to drag Babu Bhaiya away, the ad catches Shyam’s eye. “Starrex – Aaj hi 100 rupaye bitcoin mein lagaiye. Ek lucky investor ko milega poora 1 bitcoin! Toh soch kya rahe hain…” the ad continues.

Nope, Raju isn’t going to fall for lotteries any more. Or is he?

He gets curious about Bitcoin, and soon, the crypto bug hits him. Investing in crypto seems to give people more stable returns than the “21 din mein paisa double” promise of Laxmi Chit Fund. 

Bitcoin is yet another currency, similar to Indian Rupees or US Dollars. 1 bitcoin = Rs 33 Lakhs (April 2022). The difference is that Bitcoin is not issued by any government or bank, but is issued by sophisticated computer programs that solve hard mathematical problems. Hence, bitcoin is called “Cryptocurrency”. The transactions made using Bitcoin are publicly available. So, theoretically, a Laxmi Chit Fund can’t just run away with your Bitcoins.

Raju starts digging into the crypto world and realises that there’s a whole new universe forming here! People are buying and selling all kinds of random digital assets using cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. He also comes to know of the boom of NFTs, where people are selling photos of dogs and cats to earn millions. When Raju learns that someone wrote their own name on a paper and sold it as an NFT for a million dollars, he can no longer resist. 

“NFT” stands for Non-Fungible Tokens. Whoa, sounds complicated, right? But it’s not. Think of the gorilla in Phir Hera Pheri. Based on what we saw in the movie, there’s only one gorilla of that kind! Thus, he’s not “fungible”, meaning he can’t be replaced by another gorilla. A “token” for the gorilla would be like a stamp of proof that he’s the original one, and no one can replace him. Whoever owns this “token”, owns this gorilla. So if “Dhoom Dhadaka Orchestra” wants to make the gorilla a permanent part of their band, they would want this “token” to be transferred to them. 

In the modern NFT world, people commonly sell art (typically photos, videos) as NFTs. It is also not uncommon to see photos of apes, cats, dogs, and whatnot! 

Bored Ape NFT. Source

Okay, enough gyaan. Back to the story.

Soon, the crypto addiction spreads like wildfire, first in the household, and then throughout the chawl. 

While Shyam was previously trading stocks, he now trades crypto-currency. Within the first 7 days of starting, he decides to quit his current job and trade cryptocurrency full time. As he starts hanging out in various discord servers, he meets Anna from Brazil. Soon, he can’t stop chatting with her.

Babu Bhaiya, on the other hand, realises his dream of building an Agarbatti Factory in the Metaverse, making and selling Agarbattis to people online and making profits. He no longer cares about running a physical factory. 

Metaverse is basically the Universe in the virtual world. Think of it as playing a video game (like Age of Empires), where you live a life in a virtual world. You make money, spend money, entertain yourself, and so on. You can imagine Babu Bhaiya having a good time here. 

Raju digs opportunities for becoming a crorepati. Whatever money he has, he puts it into NFTs and dozens of cryptocurrencies. Instead of looking for deals on online products, he now scavenges the internet for crypto giveaways.  As a result, he hangs out on several discord servers full of crypto nerds.

Discord is a communications platform like WhatsApp, but nerdier. Nerds in the crypto world join several “servers” (server is a fancier name for groups), where they chat about all things crypto. Think of people who spend hours discussing politics on WhatsApp. If these same people start discussing crypto, they would most likely do it on Discord. 

This is where he meets Munna, who constantly gives people gyaan on how to make money in crypto. He doesn’t share his numbers publicly, and his own earnings are questionable, but his confidence is supreme.

Raju chats up with him and asks what he should do to become a crorepati when Munna suggests how gorillas are the next big thing. “Invest in a gorilla NFT, and with the huge demand, you’ll have doubled the value in 7 days.” But Raju doesn’t believe him right away.

Raju digs deeper to see a group of NFTs circulating together, in a pack of 3 – “Kele-waala-gorilla,” “cage-waala-gorilla,” and “circus-stunt-waala-gorilla.” These gorilla NFTs are available only in limited quantities and their demand is huge. Every single day, at least 10 owners exchange hands on the same NFTs.

Remember this Gorilla? He now features on these NFTs

When he looks up the rates of these NFTs and how they’ve grown, he is shocked to see them grow from 0.1ETH to 10ETH within a span of a week!

What is ETH? ETH is the short-form for Ether, which is another cryptocurrency similar to Bitcoin. It is based on a different platform called Ethereum, because of which it offers more flexibility to its users on how they could use it. Most NFTs use Ethereum as the platform to record who owns them. 1ETH = approximately Rs. 2,50,000.

Raju’s mind is already scheming. He can’t miss out on this action. He goes to Shyam and Babu Bhaiya.

Shyam laughs out loud. “Bandar ke liye itne paise…” he says. Babu Bhaiya is also in his characteristic mood, “Aisa sab item mere paas mat laao re baba. Abhi abhi factory bada hua hai mera, kal 300 log ko maine meta-agarbatti bechi hai. Ab agla mandir banwaana hai. Agarbatti bechni hai toh mandir toh hona chahiye naa. Fir uske baad…” he continues.

“Socho Babu Bhaiya, agar humne ye gorilla khareed ke bech diye. Aapko mandir banaane ke liye jitna paisa chahiye, utna milega.”

Babu Bhaiya doesn’t reply. 

“Aur Shyam, kab tak tu ye 1000-2000 rupaye kamaate rahega. Bada game khel. Croron mein soch.”

“Ey tu chup re. Babu Bhaiya ye iska koi naya scheme hai. Iski baaton mein mat aao aap. Mehnat karte raho aap. Aapki factory badi bhi hogi, aur aapka mandir bhi ban jaaega,” Shyam replies.

“Ey Raju, croron ka baad mein soch. Pehle tu jaa, khaane ke liye kuch leke aa. Kuch nahin toh anda paav leke aa…” Babu Bhaiya says. 

It’s already late in the night, and the cold air from the hole in the wall makes a tired Babu Bhaiya drowsy. Within minutes, he falls asleep, his computer window still open.

Shyam heads to the restroom, leaving their apartment door open. In their 250 sq. ft chawl apartment, what’s there to lose anyway? As he walks back towards the apartment, he sees Taplu picking up Babu Bhaiya’s dhoti hanging on the railing and throwing it away. He is screaming as if he’s won a war! 

“Ab dekhta hoon tu kya karta hai re. Bada chasma pehen ke tereko jyada dikhne laga hai na, aa, dhoondh abhi apni dhoti. Ha-ha!” Taplu continues. 

Shyam ignores him as Anna is waiting for him on Discord. 

Anna’s chats have a vibe that Shyam relates to! Her bubbly sense of joy, her broken English, and her constant joking nature makes Shyam smile day and night. They’ve never seen each other face to face, but with the pictures she has sent him, his crush has only grown over time. 

While he was earlier concerned if Anna was even a real person or a fake online identity, he’s now convinced that such deep conversations can’t be had with fake people. They’ve even decided to meet in person. But neither Shyam nor Anna have the money to travel so far.

Tonight, she’s in a bad mood because of a man who is pestering her again and again. Frustrated, she finally gets on a video call with Shyam. As soon as Shyam sees her, he realises that she is the Anuradha he’s been seeking. So what if her name is different?

Mesmerised, Shyam uses the opportunity to say nice things to her, flirt with her, and eventually get her mood straight. They both start liking each other’s company a lot!

“Ye Taplu ko kya ho gaya hai? Raat ko kaiko zor zor se DJ bajaa raha hai?” Raju asks as he enters the apartment. As Shyam unplugs his headphones, he realizes that the noise from Taplu’s apartment is too high – “Aika Dajiba, aika dajiba, aika dajiba…” playing on the speakers. 

Shyam looks at Anna awkwardly, explaining to her that it’s a friend who needs something. He gets off the call with her after blowing her a flying kiss.

Raju looks at him with his devilish eyes, giggling. Shyam blushes for a few seconds but looks serious after. “Ey Raju, thode paise jugaadne hain. Brazil jaana hai. Koi tareeka ho toh bataa naa…”

Raju turns away and heads to the gas stove to make egg omelettes. “Ye tere Babu Bhaiya ko pooch. Bohot bada agarbatti ka factory hai unka. Dekh, dekh kaise hans rahe hain…”

Babu Bhaiya is deep asleep. The conditioned air falls right on his body, so he’s wrapped himself up in a chaddar, such that his face is the only part that is not covered. And the wide smile on his face is because of his dream, where he’s imagining life as a crorepati once again.

“Ey Raju, seriously bol raha hoon main. Ye hi meri Anuradha hai, bas iska naam alag hai…” Shyam replies.

Anuradha 1
Anuradha 2

“Ey tu chup re. Tereko itna badhiya scheme samjhaya abhi maine, tab to bada shaana ban raha tha.”

“Koi toh aur tareeka hoga hi tere dimaag mein. Soch na, soch…”

“Idhar aa, idhar aa tu…” Raju says.

“Ek kaam kar, mereko badhiya waala aamlet paav banaake de. Uske bina mera dimaag kaam nahin karta hai.”

Shyam, though reluctant, obeys Raju’s orders as he eats to his heart’s content and then goes to sleep. 

The next morning, Babu Bhaiya is up before Shyam and Raju. He lights up an agarbatti and prays to his computer, before logging in.

As he checks on his factory, he realises something strange. All of his crypto profits are almost gone, and whatever he’s making now is not landing in his crypto wallet! It’s going somewhere else. 

“Deva re deva…” he sighs and refreshes the page a few times. Same result. He takes his glasses off and tears start dripping from his eyes.

“Chhya…” he shrugs. Shyam and Raju wake up seeing him cry, as he heads out to the railing. Taplu looks at Babu Bhaiya from his door, giggling at him, but Babu Bhaiya doesn’t say a thing about his dhoti being thrown off the railing.

“Oh, Babu Bhaiya, aise kyun ghoom rahe ho maano factory mein aag lag gayi ho…” Raju says and starts giggling.

“Chya maayla…” Babu Bhaiya starts, “apna Kolhapur waala plan hi sahi tha…” he utters.

“Arre lekin hua kya ye toh bataao,” Shyam asks.

Babu Bhaiya explains to Shyam and Raju how he’s losing money. His crypto wallet has been hacked, and he can no longer earn any profits from the factory. He has a message from the hacker – If he needs access to the factory, the hacker is demanding 10 ETH within 7 days, otherwise, the factory would never come back to Babu Bhaiya.

Crypto wallet – nothing much to explain here. When you earn rupees, you can hold them in your wallet. A crypto wallet is basically that, the only difference being that it can only hold cryptocurrencies, and not sabse bada rupaiyya. 

Babu Bhaiya is desperate. All that he’s built in the metaverse is at stake. It’s too much work to go back and start from scratch in the metaverse, and building a factory, in reality, is next to impossible.

“Chya maayla tum dono mein se kaun kiya ye? Ey Raju, is mein tera toh koi lafda nahin naa?” Babu Bhaiya screams.

“Agar maine kiya hota toh aapke saamne khada thodi hota! Koi toh gadbad hai, Babu Bhaiya,” Raju responds.

“Babu Bhaiya, main toh bolta hoon police mein jaate hain.” Shyam says.

“Ey tu chup re! Police waale ko khilane ka paisa hai tere paas?”

Shyam stays silent.

“Par Babu Bhaiya, kya pata koi imaandaar…”

Babu Bhaiya screams! “Gappa bas. Usko samjhaega kya? Computer mein banaaya hua factory kisine dhaap liya? Bolega computer game khelte khelte buddha pagal ho gaya.”

“Aap ek kaam karo, sochte raho. Main police mein jaake complaint likhwaake aata hoon.” Shyam responds. 

“Jaane do ise Babu Bhaiya. Kya pata kuch ho jaaye. Mereko bhi thodi der sochne do. Tab tak jaao aap Dabba Baatli niptaake aao.” 

And Raju goes into his pensive mode.

A Pensive Raju looks stylish, eh?

“Abhi jab tak factory ka agarbatti nahi jalega, kaahe ka dabba kaahe ka baatli re baba…” Babu Bhaiya responds and continues to stroll across the corridor. Taplu continues to play loud music that reverberates across the chawl, his happiness over the moon. “Aika Dajiba, aika dajiba, aika dajiba…” 

Babu Bhaiya thinks to himself. “Aaunga re, terepe bhi aaunga. Pehle mereko ye lafda solve karne de, chya mayla roj tere se apna dhoti dhulwaunga bhi, sukhwaunga bhi, aur massta istri bhi karwaunga…”

*** 

“Kya re, police waala kya bola?” Babu Bhaiya asks. Shyam shakes his head.

“Babu Bhaiya, idhar aao…” Raju grabs Babu Bhaiya’s hand and starts dragging him up the stairs to the terrace. “Ey Shyam, jaldi aa naa.” Shyam walks from behind him.

Once they climb up the stairs, Raju puts forth his proposal. “Main bataa raha hoon Babu Bhaiya, ye Munna ki scheme sahi hai. Gorilla ka bhaav aur bhi badh gaya hai. 3 bandaron ka pack mil raha hai 16.70 ETH mein. 7 din pehle isi ka bhaav sawwa ETH tha.”

“Matlab 3 lakh rupaye ke 41 lakh ho gaye. 7 din mein?” Shyam is stunned!

Raju nods. “Apan log 3 Gorilla khareedenge aur 3-4 din baad bechenge, toh kitna faayda hoga. Bohot demand hai abhi market mein in bandaron ki. Bolo…”

“Par wo halkat ko kaise pakdega? Aise paise thodi de denge kisi ko…” Babu Bhaiya screams. 

“Haan Babu Bhaiya ruko. Apne paas paisa toh aane do. Ek baar wo aapki factory wapas kar deta hai, usko public mein badnaam karenge. Aisa barbaad karenge ki usse koi paise hi nahin lega. Fir paise rakhke karega bhi kya? Usko jhak maarke saare paise apne ko hi waapas dene padenge.”

Both Babu Bhaiya and Shyam are listening intently.

“Agar humne 100 ETH mein ye 3 Gorilla beche, aur usmein se 16.70 gaye, toh bache…”

Before Raju could speak, Babu Bhaiya responds – “Sattaasi tees”. Babu Bhaiya counts on his fingers, before continuing, “Deva re deva… 2 crore bees lakh ka faayda.”

“Haan, ye dekho, hisaab baraabar aata hai Babu Bhaiya ko…” Shyam teases him.

“Massta plan hai.” Babu Bhaiya says.

“Kaahe ka massta plan hai,” Shyam says. “Babu Bhaiya, ye bohot risky hai. Itni mehengi Gorilla ki photo kaun khareedega? Ek na ek din inka bhi bhaav girega, dekhna. Aur itna paisa laayenge kahan se, pehle toh ye bataao.”

“Uska bhi tareeka hai apne paas. DAO, Babu Bhaiya, DAO,” Raju mentions.

“Chhyaa, ab tu is umra mein mere saamne DAAV khadi karega. Chhee chhee.” Babu Bhaiya shrugs. (In Marathi slang, Daav = girlfriend)

“Arre Babu Bhaiya wo waali DAAV nahin, ye DAO hai, DAO. Discord pe WhatsApp group jaisa hi hota hai. Sabko add karo, aur sabse paisa maango. Aap uski chinta mat karo. Main DAO banaata hoon aaj. Aap bass logon se paisa maangna chalu karo. Jitne logon se maang sakte ho maango.”

And Raju adds all kinds of people to the DAO! Despite the bad experience last time, he goes to the richest person he knows – Totla Tiwari Seth. Tiwari Seth doesn’t understand one bit of what Raju tries to explain to him. 

But when Raju explains to him the crazy returns people are making in the crypto world, he agrees. Besides, he knows how to recover money from these people when they don’t pay him. If not in a straightforward way, then by breaking their bones. 

After almost a day of hustling, there are more than 100 people on the DAO, from Tiwari Seth, to his goons, to Pappu, Munna, and a few others from the chawl.

And by the end of the day, the voting is over, and the DAO buys the NFTs! They now own 3 gorilla photos, whose net worth is climbing. Right after they buy, the value goes up to 20 ETH. 

“Ab tya talnetaa hai?” Totla Tiwari asks Raju.

“Ab sapne dekho, Tiwari seth! Ek hafte ki hi toh baat hai.”

Taplu’s room continues to play music, but that doesn’t prevent them from going to sleep and start dreaming. From Raju lying in an endless swimming pool to bottles of Videsi baatli for Babu Bhaiya, to Shyam dancing in a carnival with Anna, the times ahead look bright.

When they wake up next, Babu Bhaiya sends a message to the hacker. He sends a voice message this time, throwing in all his emotions into the message. “7 din baad mil tu. Agar tu saamne hota, toh tere moonh pe maarta paisa.”

“Himmat hai toh maarke dikha, ha-ha!” The culprit replies as a voice note as well. His voice is still confident.

“Chya maayla ruk tu, ruk bass re!” Babu Bhaiya thinks to himself. 

Babu Bhaiya then goes off to his egg guy, asking him to come back in a week to clear all his dues. That night, when everyone is watching TV, he announces that he’s going to revamp the chawl into a 5-star hotel. 

“Sabko apna apna sandaas milega. Akkha chaal mein AC hoga, toh kidhar bhi ghoom re baba, massta thandi hawaa lagegi. Aur apne TV ko badalwaake ek bada waala projector lagaaenge. Main toh soch raha hoon upar ek helipad bhi dalwa doon. Seedha helicopter se hi ghoomenge fir. Local mein ghoomne ka katkatich nahin.”

“Babu Bhaiya!” Shyam calls him over, looking tense. He has to drag Babu Bhaiya away to the terrace, where Raju is frantically looking at his phone screen. 

NFTs similar to theirs are rapidly losing value. The entire crypto market is falling rapidly, as most of the people who had pumped money into crypto have started pulling it out. Raju is red with fear.

 “Ey Raju, aaj bhaav gira hai, toh kal chadhega bhi. Tension mat le. Jaa, jaake anda aur paav leke aa…” Raju doesn’t respond, “Jaa re, jaa…” Babu Bhaiya continues.

***

A week later, the crypto downturn continues…

Babu Bhaiya, Raju and Shyam are walking on a road, with bags on their shoulders. “Jaldi chal re baba, Kolhapur ka bus aadhe ghante mein niklega. Ey Raju, tu wo Totle ko Kolhapur ke baare mein kuch bola nahin naa?”

“Nahin Babu Bhaiya…” Raju looks pensive. “Par maine soch liya hai. Main aapke saath bus mein nahin chadhunga. Ye sab meri wajah se hua hai naa, main dekhta hoon kya karna hai… Totle ko uska paisa bhi wapas doonga, aapko aapka factory…”

“Ey tu chup re. Ek computer pe bani factory ka kya hi hai. Aur yeh ETH toh sabse faaltu paisa hai. Apna Gandhi Baba wala note hi first class hai. Ye Metaverse toh ekdum faaltu cheez hai. Aaj se sirf gandhi baba waala note. Bilkul riks nahin leneka.”

Shyam adds, “Aur mera kya hai. Pehli baar thodi hai ki Anuradha aate aate chali gayi. Wapas mil hi jaegi koi na koi toh… Chal saath mein tu.”

“Nahin Babu Bhaiya, main nahin jaa raha. Ab ye pata laga ke rahunga aapki factory kisne uthaayi aur kaise,” Raju responds.

“Dekh Raju, agar tu idhar rukega toh main bhi kidhar nahin jaa raha. Aur ye Shyam bhi jaake kya hi karega. Chal, wo Totle ke paas jaake bheekh maangte hain. Pehli baar thodi kar rahe hain…”

Tiwari Seth gives them 2 days to find his money. They also beg Babu Bhaiya’s hacker to give them a couple of days to come back. Tiwari Seth sends his guards behind the trio – including the one whose head is never seen. 

For the first day, Shyam and Raju try to find the best deals in the crypto world that would help them get going. But for doing anything, they need a large amount of money. Even in the metaverse, to get richer, you need to be already rich. Raju even tries to find out who hacked Babu Bhaiya’s account, but the time is too short to make any progress. 

After exhausting their options, Raju decides it is time to do what he should have done a long time ago. Remember – 

When he had thrown the guns away into the sea, they were stuck on a pillar of a neighbouring under-construction bridge, in an awkward place. He couldn’t reach the guns, but so could no one else.

He decides to suspend himself from the bridge and try to fetch the guns. He proposes this to Babu Bhaiya and Shyam, who have no other option but to join him. They call Totla Tiwari and his gang, and the other members of the DAO to the bridge to collect the money. Several people from the chawl join them, including Taplu.

Raju, with the assistance of Shyam, ties a rope around a street lamp on the side of the bridge, attaches a harness to his back, and throws himself away from the bridge, panting as he goes down. If his harness fails, he would end up in the Arabian Sea and would wash up dead in a country far far away.

He swings himself from the bottom of the bridge to the pillar of the under-construction bridge, like a pendulum. The bag of guns is still hanging in the same spot Raju had left it. 

He misses a few chances to catch the bag when the rope he’s hanging on to starts getting loose. Babu Bhaiya and Shyam are standing on the bridge, holding on to the streetlight to which the rope is hanging. They realize that the rope’s knot is loosening. 

Babu Bhaiya tries to pull the rope back to tie it firmly, but as Raju swings away from the bridge, the rope gets pulled, and Babu Bhaiya is flicked off the bridge because of the tension of the rope. 

His one hand holds on to the rope, but he continues to slip down until he hits Raju’s body. As he’s about to fall off Raju, he manages to hold on to Raju’s feet. 

After a few moments of panic, Raju realises that this is a good opportunity to have Babu Bhaiya reach the bag of guns. So he uses his body to swing again. After a few swings, Babu Bhaiya’s feet reach the pillar. He is able to latch them into a crevice on the pillar and stand on it. Several well-wishers from the chawl cheer for Babu Bhaiya, before realising that he has no way to get back now. There’s only water on all four sides.

But looking at the bag of guns gives Babu Bhaiya hope. He picks up the bag and checks out the guns. “Ey Raju, ekdum first class maal hai. Bilkul bhi zang nahin laga hai.”

“Babu bhaiya aap wahin ruko, main kuch karta hoon,” Shyam says as he ties a rope around him and suspends himself, screaming “Ram ram ram ram ram ram ram ram…” Shyam joins Raju in swinging back and forth, but is unable to reach Babu Bhaiya.

People on the bridge are worried about the trio now. Several people start praying, someone calls the cops, and some of them ensure that the streetlamp pole is held steadily in its place.

Amidst all this, Taplu screams – “Itna sab kaahe ke liye? Ek ghatiya si online factory ke liye? Ha-ha!”

As Babu Bhaiya is thinking, his eyes go wide suddenly. “Ey dhoti-chor, kya bola re?” He looks at Taplu and remembers the Ha-ha. “Ey, Raju! Chya maayla ye dhoti-chor hi mera factory churaaya hai. Tu mereko upar leke chal jaldi. Jaldi upar leke chal re baba. Iska toh main munh todegaa aaj.”

And in the heat of the moment, Babu bhaiya, with the bag of guns in his hand, jumps, screaming “Jai Maharashtra!” Raju and Shyam manage to extend one of their arms to hold Babu Bhaiya’s arms. Before he even realises, he is swinging with Raju and Shyam. 

The last time they were swinging like this was in a circus, where falling down wouldn’t kill them. But here…

They keep swinging for a few moments, when Taplu starts screaming from the top once again. 

“Tereko kya laga tha re chasmish, itni asaani se jaane dega main tereko? Din raat mere AC jo toone waapra hai, uska poora badla hai ye, byaaj samet. Dekhta hoon teri factory tujhe kaise milti hai ab. Ha-ha!”

“Dekh, ey Taplu,” Raju says, “Agar hum log gire, toh tereko bhi kuch nahi milega. Agar upar aa gaye, toh paise tereko hi milenge. Upar kheench hum log ko.”

“Kheechunga re, kheechunga. Thodi der aur latak naa. Bada mazaa aa raha hai ye circus dekhne mein. Ha-ha!”

“Upar leke chal re mereko, upar leke chal,” Babu Bhaiya continues to scream.

Soon, he starts feeling tired. His hands are about to give up. Just like this, without the fancy clothes:

“Babu Bhaiya, ek kaam karo, mera pair pakdo. Haath dukh raha hai abhi.” Raju says.

“Nakko. Ye hi theek hai…” 

“Arre Babu Bhaiya jaldi…” 

As Babu Bhaiya tries to hold Raju’s leg, though, his hand slips and he falls down. He screams loudly as his body hits the water with a splash. He flaps desperately, the bag of guns still in his hand. Devoid of any options, Shyam and Raju undo their harnesses and jump into the ocean after Babu Bhaiya. 

The crowd standing on the bridge panics. Cops also arrive at the scene, and they try to arrange for rescue divers who can bring the trio back on top.

But the trio disappears. They are nowhere to be seen.

***

Days later, Taplu sees his crypto wallet getting blocked. With their newfound riches, Raju and Shyam buy enough crypto to be able to convince the crypto community to ban Taplu from trading. They participate in multiple DAOs that vote to not let Taplu’s wallet trade any cryptocurrency. With the proof they have against Taplu, it’s not hard to convince members of several DAOs to ban Taplu.

As a result, Taplu’s wallet is blacklisted and is no longer allowed to make any trades. And he receives a message from Babu Bhaiya. “Tereko kya laga? Aise hi paisa de dega main? Chup chaap abhi mera factory wapas kar, warna…”

“Warna, warna kya be?” Taplu asks.

“Warna kya. Sadte reh. Kabhi tereko koi paisa dega nahin, naa tujhse koi paise lega” Babu Bhaiya replies.

Minutes later, Babu Bhaiya checks his wallet to see the profits from his factory getting deposited in his own account. Happy, he heads out of the door of his beach house. The sea is unlike any he has seen so far. Babu Bhaiya smiles, looking at the scene. “Ey Raju, wo angrezi waala baatli khol ke laa re.” As he walks out of the house, he continues to mumble, “Jai Dolphin Deva… Jai Dolphin Deva…”

As Raju is about to respond, he gets a video call from Shyam, who’s now in Brazil. Raju heads towards Babu Bhaiya as he picks up the call. 

“Babu Bhaiya, bahu ke liye jagah banaake rakho ghar pe. Anuradha mil gayi hai!” He turns the camera towards Anna. 

“Deva re deva, ladki ka chakkar…” Babu Bhaiya says and turns away.

“Par ek baat abhi tak samajh nahin aa rahi. Ye baaju waale taplu ko mera account mila kaise!” Babu Bhaiya asks.

“Wo, babu bhaiya uss raat aap laptop khulla chhodke so gaye the, aur ye Taplu ne aake aapka passphrase dekh liya hoga,” Shyam responds while on the video call.

A passphrase is like a password, but the only difference is that it is many words instead of one. And it’s not easy to reset a passphrase unless you know your original one. So, if it gets stolen, you can lose all your crypto money. Beware of pickpockets in the metaverse!

That explains it. The phone call ends. 

Babu Bhaiya continues to mumble, “Jai Dolphin Deva…”

“Chala baba, main ye sab dhanda band karke abhi baithne waala hoon. Ey Raju, dekh re baba factory bechneka hai apneko.”

“Babu Bhaiya main keh raha hoon, mat becho. Abhi bohot paise kamaa sakte hain. Ek naya scheme bataaun…” 

“Khopdi todega tera ek aur scheme bola toh. Chup chaap jitna bola utna kar. Aur mera baatli ka intejaam kar.”

Raju continues to giggle.

THE END.

EPILOGUE

When they fell into the sea, only Shyam knew how to swim. But since Raju is Khiladi Kumar, within a few seconds, he was swimming like a dolphin. Babu Bhaiya, though scared, realized that the practice he had from 50 years ago when kids threw him into the river still worked. His body floated on the sea without him having to do much.

Raju held on to the bag of guns.

“Ey Raju, ab wapas kaise jaaenge?” Shyam asked. 

“Ab har baar main hi idea doon kya? Khud bhi toh soch na kuch kabhi.”

“Kya re tum donon. Wapas chalu. Thoda sochne d…” 

Before he could complete the sentence, Babu Bhaiya screamed his guts out! A dolphin lifted him on his back and threw him in the air. Babu Bhaiya sprang up about 10 feet and splashed into the water, once again going under. His chashma fell off as a result, and he could no longer see what was going on. 

But the dolphin came back again. This time, it didn’t throw Babu Bhaiya away. It carried him on its back, zipping through as fast as it could. 

Raju and Shyam didn’t even have time to think before dolphins picked them up and carried them as well. They tried to escape, but couldn’t. The only good thing – Raju managed to hold on to the bag of guns.

As Babu Bhaiya splashed in and out of the water, he heard a loud trumpet. His speed slowed down. “Ey, ey macchli khana mat mereko,” he screamed as he started floating in the water once again. He could no longer feel the dolphin. “Mat khaa re, mat khaa mereko… Main wapas kabhi zindagi mein macchi nahin khaaega re baba…” Babu Bhaiya cried out loud.

“Arre Babu Bhaiya, main kaise khaa sakta hoon aapko?” Raju said. “Ey Raju, bachaa le re. Wo macchi khaane ko aa rahi hai mereko…”

Raju and Shyam started laughing, as they hugged Babu Bhaiya. “Babu Bhaiya, uss dolphin ne apni naiyaa paar lagaa di. Aap bass dheere dheere tairte raho idhar ki taraf.” Raju said and started leading him in a direction.

Within a few minutes of swimming, they saw a large cruise ship in front of them. The loud horn that Babu Bhaiya heard was of this ship itself. Soon after, the ship’s captain saw them and sent a raft down to rescue them.

“Jai ho Dolphin Deva” Babu Bhaiya said after he got on the raft.


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