The Lapkas: The Hidden Underbelly of a Famed Destination
The coffee house was now nearly devoid of the hordes of indomitable Lapkas. Murari Lal the expert story teller, roaming consultant and linguist of the local dialect has coined the term. He was delighted when it was picked up by the newspapers during a war between two Lapka gangs and made famous.
The term Lapka loosely means a snatcher, member of a group of officious tourist hunters, who would try to influence and divert tourists from their set plans, by offering friendship and expert guidance badly needed by their prey. They exploited foreign tourists, by luring them to buy artifacts at selected emporiums and stay at hotels, where rigged up prices earned them fabulous commissions and much more, if the ladies were willing.
Their attempts to rape certain otherwise intoxicated but unwilling foreign girls in a secluded farmhouse on Aimer road made newspaper headlines. Hundreds such cases were never reported due to inherent difficulties involved and if they were, the files were promptly closed by pay rolled pot bellied, rose cheeked policemen. As tourists went to their countries, rarely traveling back to identify culprits or stolen goods.
Lapkas are aggressive bunch of youngsters from variety of back grounds. Some of them are fluent in English, French, German, Spanish and Japanese with elementary knowledge of monuments and local history. They were easily identifiable by their over friendly manners, alert, probing eyes, pony tails, motor cycles and increasingly attired in trendy cloths. They are so many of them, prowling around popular tourist destinations, hotels, and showrooms of artifacts, frequented by hordes of their preys. They guarded their carefully marked territories ruthlessly and trespassers were suitably dealt with. Always ready to pounce on foreign tourists. They used to avoid Indian tourists like plague and concentrated on the foreigners. But that too was changing now and some gangs were branching out to take care of the equally clueless Indian tourists lost in maze of numerous hotels, monuments, artifacts shops, markets, lanes and by lanes in the pink city.
An unescorted herd of young white females could ignite an intense battle of wits and muscle power between competing gangs, often befitting the attires, expected purchasing power, attitude and alluring physical assets of members of the target group. Details of purchases, particular interest in certain items and style of negotiations of the group are immediately noted along with car number, expected rout and other relevant information and passed on efficiently, for maximum returns on mobile phones and also on Internet. A handsome purchase is immediately relayed to the managers of various upstart, ambitious shops, who would then try to influence the concerned guide on mobile phone and try to divert the target to his shop with promise of ready presence of items of interest to save time and maximize returns for all the people involved.
Few competing gang lords with ample muscle and political patronage control the operations. Foolish antics by brash newcomers and intrusions by greedy archrivals have resulted in few shootings, violent fights, ruthless amputations and contract killings. It led to opening of further vistas of employment to the poor youths with desired adventurous inclinations and talent to give precise thrashings to the offenders caught in act of mischief. But some daringly violent amputations and killings of rivals exposed the so far hidden activities of these unknown Lapka gangs. Front-page coverage in newspapers compelled sleepy authorities to take some feeble actions and reluctant acceptance of the existence such undesirable organizations in the Pink City.
Gang lords were forced to huddle together and jointly shun the tempted violence by the boys and solve problems silently, secretly with out attracting attention of the wretched press and greedy policemen. One musclemen turned noisy politician cum builder cum transporter was roped in to mediate between rivals and dispense justice. He possessed all the qualities and resources needed to shoulder such an onerous responsibility. In return of his noble services a respectable percentage of monthly turnovers of each gang lord were handed over to him in cash, regularly.
Lately, taking cue from the politics, gang lords have started to align on cast and religious lines for protection and faster growth. Some have ventured in to convenient front businesses of transport fleets, hotels, antique showrooms, exports and imports, which jell with their present operations, increased earnings and added much desired legitimacy.
New recruits were deputed to do the tedious legwork, while bosses sat in suits of five star hotels and plush modern offices, munching chicken legs, dry fruits with endless whiskeys. The trusted deputies, mostly close relatives took care of daily operations and collection of cash. They were usually school dropouts from poor families, hungry for easy money and easier white flesh. For some of them, in the beginning the priority was of later variety and former was a bonus to keep their aged parents happy. Slowly they got hooked and most of them made and lost money fast, in the new exciting trade that required little education and investment. Most born in tin or thatched roofed houses with out toilets, they were now rarely out side an air-conditioned, perfumed space. The lucrative trade has lately started to attract youngsters from rich and well-placed families. They hit off well with foreigners because of good English, gleaming new cars, expensive perfumes and branded personal accessories.
Such mushrooming activities form a part of hidden under belly of a famous tourist destination full of colorful past, modernizing infrastructure, booming reality market and vibrant foreign trade in precious stones, handicrafts and natural stones.
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It’s a dramatized version about a part of pink city tourist trade environment.
It forms a part of the novel about the interplay of international terrorists, antique smugglers, undercover agents and Maoist guerrillas.
Any resemblance to any person dead or alive and any actual event is purely coincidental.