It was 12 midnight. He had been waiting by his car for 3 hours, and he was down to his 4th cigarette. Four sticks in three hours; that was an achievement, Ganesh thought he should reward himself. But then he remembered the time where he had not smoked at all. It was two years ago when his daughter was still crawling. She was a beautiful young thing. He remembered the nights he would stand over her crib wondering how such an adorable little creature could become his; his sweet Sonya.
But two years ago was far worse than being a smoker. He was in a situation where he had no one to turn to and an empty wallet that only contained the picture of his wife and daughter which constantly sent guilt into his already uneasy heart. He could still recall the day he was fired, or, in more accurate terms, forced to resign.
“I’m afraid we have to let you go,” his boss, who was an old, bald but bearded, Chinese man, told him with a straight face.
“I’m fired?” Ganesh could not even believe what he was saying.
“Let’s just say you have decided to move on. I want your resignation letter by Monday,” his boss said.
Ganesh remember leaving his boss’ office wondering how he was ever going to tell his wife. They had just bought a new car and the loans were already taxing on him.
Leaving his office after he had collected all his belongings, the only thing he was thankful at that moment was his definite escape from the Kuala Lumpur traffic at 5pm. Ah, at least that was something he didn’t have to go through everyday, now that he was fired. Joy, Ganesh thought, trying to make that a reason to rejoice over.
Sadly, the reality that he was now jobless, with a wife and kid to feed, made no other attempt for positivity successful. Driving his car out of the city towards his home in Subang, Ganesh wondered how he was going to break the news to his wife. She would be so upset, and she would start worrying about everything. No, she would not scold him, or blame him, and that only made things worse. Finally deciding not to go home, Ganesh gave a call to his good friend, Markus.
Markus was the Eurasian boy he sat next to in high school. They were so close that they became inseparable. Often times, their classmates would call them a couple, but when Ganesh got married, they all decided to shut up. Markus was his best man at his wedding and also his daughter’s god father. He trusted Markus with his life, but maybe it was a bad idea to trust Markus with his future.
That evening, he and Markus sat down at a coffee shop drinking the only thing Ganesh could afford, a glass of Chinese tea.
“What’s up man?” Markus asked, sensing how troubled Ganesh was.
“I lost my job,” Ganesh said.
“What? How come?”
“I wasn’t…. productive,” Ganesh replied. And that was exactly what his boss said.
“Dude, you bring in the most business!”
“I haven’t been bringing in much lately,” Ganesh admitted.
“Doesn’t matter! You see, that’s the problem with corporate companies, they keep you when they need you and trash you when they don’t.”
Ganesh sighed in reply. What else was there to say? No matter how much he could complain about his former company, it was not going to change the fact that he was fired.
“How’s your business doing?” Ganesh decided to change the topic.
“Pretty good man, the money is rolling!”
“You’re still doing that talent business right?”
“Yup,” Markus said with a nod.
“The film industry in Malaysia isn’t blossoming, what talent do you need to find?”
“Dude, talents are not just for screen,” Markus answered.
Markus smiled. Oh, that same suspicious smile he always did when he pulled a prank or did something that could get him in serious trouble.
“Oh no, what did you do this time?” Ganesh asked jokingly.
Markus laughed and shook his head. They sat in a short moment of silence before Markus emptied his glass of Chinese tea and said, “If you’re really desperate, I could get you a job.”
“Really?” Ganesh was desperate, desperately not wanting to tell his wife he was fired.
“Yea. I have a friend in the overseas trade business and he’s looking for a transporter he can trust.”
“Transport what?” Ganesh asked.
“Goods. They pay a lot. Each shipment you could probably earn ten grand. And they make at least one shipment a month.”
“Yup. You can consider that a pay raise if you take the job.”
“A pay raise of one hundred percent man!” Ganesh could feel relieve sinking in and washing away all the uneasiness he once had.
“Yup,” Markus said smiling.
“Tell me more!” Ganesh was eager to save himself.
“Well, I want to, but I have to be discreet about this. It’s not exactly a licensed business,” Markus said softly, leaning in as he spoke.
“It’s illegal?” Ganesh replied in a whisper.
“Well, it’s not licensed,” Markus repeated and continued, “And they pay in cash. You’re also not allowed to bank in your salary.”
“Ten grand every month? Wouldn’t that raise suspicion when you’re jobless?”
“Think about this before you decide. Because once you’re in, it is a good as signing a contract. Give me a call once you have decided.”
“Can’t you at least tell me what goods are being transported?”
“Nope. Not until you decide.”
With that, Ganesh left pondering if he should even consider taking the job. If it was illegal, all he could think of was drugs. Ganesh knew what the penalty of possessing drugs was, and he didn’t want to take the risk. This illegal business sounded so wrong but it sounded like a good deal. Who would turn away ten grand a month just to get something across the borders? Ganesh wished he had, but when he made the call to Markus that very night, after putting his little Sonya to bed, he knew that there was no turning back.
“You sure about this?” Markus asked for the third time over the phone.
“Yes. Now tell me what are the goods,” Ganesh repeated softly, as he stood starring at the kitchen sink.
His wife was out in the hall watching a rerun episode of Project Runway, and had asked him to fetch her a glass of water. He knew she was going to ask him what the holdup was anytime soon and he didn’t want to have her walk in on the call.
“Once I tell you, there’s no turning back you know,” Markus said.
“Would you just stop that? Is it drugs?” Ganesh made a wild guess.
“No. Drugs are dangerous,” Markus replied.
“They are girls,” Markus said.
“Girls? What girls?”
At that moment, drugs sounded way better than girls.
“Trafficking… trafficking girls?” Ganesh could not stomach the thought of doing something like that.
“Dude, there’s no turning back now you know. You insisted I tell you. I didn’t force you on this,” Markus quickly say, afraid that Ganesh would change his mind.
“YOU are going to meet my friend and take the job. Ten grand man, ten grand, you can send your kid to an elite kindergarten.” There was something in Markus’ tone that made Ganesh wonder.
“Are you in this business as well? Does your talent job of yours have to do with…” Ganesh could not complete his sentence. It was hard to believe that Markus was part of it.
“Yes. I scout for talent. And every talent I bring in pays for my bills, my wife’s shopping, my house and car loans, and puts food on my table.”
Ganesh went silent. So did Markus. It was silent for so long that Ganesh thought he did not even make the call and he was merely placing his phone on his ear for no reason.
“Bro,” Markus finally said.
“I’ll meet that friend of yours,” Ganesh finally replied.
“Good. I knew I could trust you. I’ll call you once I set up a meeting,” Markus said, before biding goodbye.
The monotonous beeping that followed after sent Ganesh’s mind drifting away. What did he just agree to? It all felt like a dream until his wife walked in and asked him what was the holdup. If she was a few minutes too early, he would have just said no. Well, at least she didn’t know.
A week later, Markus brought Ganesh to a classy restaurant in the city. He was asked to wear a suit up and when his wife asked him why he was so dolled up, he said he might get a pay raise. Oh, the squeals his wife made taunted him throughout the lunch meeting.
The restaurant that afternoon was filled with up-class people. Their chatter involved Porches for the men, and Prada for the women. Ganesh wondered if he could ever have the life they currently had.
Five minutes after they were shown to their reserved table, a man walked in with two bodyguards tailing behind him. His neatly pressed suit and shiny shoes made some of the customers in the nearby table look too cheap. Heck, it made Ganesh look like he lived in a wooden house.
This man looked around the same age as him. He had a pretty tanned skin with good features. If he had a group of paparazzi following him, one would think he was a celebrity. Upon reaching the table, he took a seat across them and waved his bodyguards to leave them.
“They won’t stop following you, huh?” Markus said.
“I paid them to do just that. But sometimes, I wish I hadn’t,” the man said with a chuckle.
Markus laughed while Ganesh merely smiled.
“This is Ganesh, the guy I was telling you about,” Markus introduced.
“Well, obviously, who else could he be? Your new bodyguard? He dresses better than you do,” the man joked.
Ganesh laughed. This man seemed pretty nice.
“I’m Aaden,” the man introduced as he offered his hand.
“Nice to meet you,” Ganesh said as he shook his hand. From his name, Ganesh suspected him to be one that fell under the heritage of the early dwellers in Malaysia.
“So, I heard you’re interested in this business,” Aaden said.
“Well.” Ganesh did not know how to reply. Was he really interested? Or was he just doing it because Markus said there was no turning back?
“It’s a lucrative business. One that comes in cash,” Aaden said smiling.
“So I’ve heard,” Ganesh replied.
“I see that you are quite uncertain here,” Aaden said, looking him in the eye.
“He’s not, he’s just-“
“Give the man a break Markus. You say he’s your good friend right? Even if he turns down this job offer, he’s not going to betray us,” Aaden interrupted Markus, but he never once looked away from Ganesh.
“Of course not,” Ganesh said with a forced chuckle.
“Look, I’m an understanding man. Getting into this business is a big decision, not just for you but for your wife and daughter too. So you can take all the time you need before you decide.”
“How do you know I have a wife and daughter?” Ganesh immediately asked, turning to Markus as he did.
“I check up on the people I intend to hire. I don’t trust any random Tom, Dick and Harry that comes up to me for a job until I know who they are, and where they come from,” Aaden casually replied.
Ganesh merely looked at Aaden, knowing that even if he turned down the job, he was now in a circle he could not get out. How could Markus betray him like that? Ganesh thought to himself.
“Let me know when you have made up your mind. But don’t take too long, I have a lost list of potential transporters. I’ll hold off meeting the others for a week, just because you’re Markus’ friend,” Aaden said as he got up. He then straightened his black blazer before nodding at them and exiting the restaurant.
“How could you tell him!” Ganesh immediately turned to Markus when Aaden had disappeared from sight.
“I did not tell him anything but your name,” Markus replied calmly.
“Don’t lie to me,” Ganesh said.
“I’m not. He has good contacts everywhere,” Markus said. “Look, Aaden has a wife too, and a son. His kid goes to some international school I can’t remember what it’s called. I know where he lives and I trust him. You don’t have to be afraid of him, he won’t hurt you.”
“Even if I say no?”
“Why would you say no? Are you stupid?”
“Harsh bro, harsh,” Ganesh muttered.
“I’m just being frank. You know it is tough looking for jobs right now. Every company you attempt to join will probably tell you, you are over qualified. But let’s say they do give you an offer, it would not be enough to pay your car loan.”
Markus was right, he was absolutely right.
Ganesh took a few days to think, but with his wife constantly asking if he got the raise, Ganesh decided to make up his mind. He called Markus two days after the lunch meeting and agreed to the job. The very next day, Markus came over with his wife to announce that they were going to have a baby, and to pass him a brand new phone. Ganesh was forced into a celebrative mood even though he did not know what he was celebrating.
“He’ll call you on this line.” That was all Markus said when Ganesh pocketed the phone.
It was a couple of weeks later that he got a call and he did his transporting job for the first time. It was hard at first, but when the money got rolling and the months passed by, it got easier. Soon, it was just a job and nothing personal.
Thinking back, Ganesh could not believe that it has been two years. Time really flies, Ganesh thought. And then he heard his apprentice shuffling his feet on the gravel road. Why can’t he pick up his feet when he walks? Ganesh wondered, annoyed at the boy’s habit.
Unlocking his car door, Ganesh hopped into the driver’s seat and headed to pick up a last minute order from the nearby clubs. The poor girl would not even see it coming.
Human trafficking is the 3rd largest international crime industry that reaps the biggest profit. – CNN Freedom Project
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