The Bounced Cheque - LizGebeth

The Bounced Cheque - LizGebeth
Thomas Xavier looked blankly at the empty wall opposite him. He was still in a daze. He simply could not accept the reality that he was sitting in the confines of a police station. He felt crushed and defeated. His shoulders stooped, and he held his head in his hands, wishing he would snap out of this nightmare. Four more people sat next to him. But he was  too much in a state of shock to even look at them.

Thomas looked back at the bare wall. His life started rewinding, like a movie in front of his eyes; the wall serving as a screen. Thomas first came to Dubai when he was just twenty-five. He could see a young, tall, lanky lad, walking into  Dubai Immigration, with dreams in his eyes, and a hope for the future. Armed not just with an academic degree, but also a positive attitude, and willingness to work hard, it did not take too long for Thomas to find a job. His first job was in a small trading firm, managing their back office.
 
Honestly, he knew nothing of trading, but in a couple of months, Thomas had turned into  a pro. He was sharp and witty, and had an uncanny knack of convincing his customers, even though his English was not fluent. He sent through  a confidence that won over even the most difficult of clients. Within a year, his manager recommended him for outdoor sales, and that necessitated using a car. Thomas started taking driving lessons. He knew outdoor sales would not only help increase his exposure and earn him higher remuneration, but it also meant bearing the brunt of the desert  heat. Within the next two years, not only did Thomas get his driving license, but he had also completed a course in spoken English, which helped him greatly. Now, his confidence had increased manifold. He was the best performer in his team. 
 
Flying solo
 
After spending more than a decade in the same company, he had mastered the in and out of the trading business. But more than that, he had realised the potential this city of dreams offered. And yet, , life in Dubai was never how folks back home thought it was. Even during the hot summer months, Thomas ensured that he always crossed his targets. It was gruelling work. One had to keep smiling, even when one was feeling physically drained. Every year, the summer months would take a toll, but Thomas never wavered or withered. Initially, to send money home, he would simply survive on kuboos and hummus (Arabic bread and chick peas paste). He lived in a labour accommodation, cramped in a small room, with five other room-mates. But his effervescence never diminished. He had responsibilities, but more than that, he had dreams. 
 
During these years, he had got both his sisters married, and had also built a home back in Kerala. His parents were now forcing him to getting married. Finally, Thomas got married to Elena, in a small church, in Kottayam. After six months, Thomas managed to bring Elena to Dubai. He rented a one bedroom apartment and started his marriage journey, hand-in hand-with Elena. She was the best thing that happened to him. Elena was a devout Catholic, just like Thomas. They never missed church or their daily prayer together. Thomas and Elena were blessed with a son after three years of marriage. Thomas was at the height of his happiness. He decided it was time to fly solo.

 
Within a year, Thomas completed the formalities to start a trading company of his own. The next couple of years were absolute bliss. Thomas did extremely well for himself. His clients trusted him, and he made it a point to stand up to their expectations. Then came the recession. Hundreds of businesses shut shop. People were losing their jobs and a cloud of gloom had set in. Payments were delayed and projects were put on hold. Thomas too was deeply affected. But he never knew the meaning of giving up. He recouped, and got hold of his bearings.

Rebuilding bridges

He sent Elena and his son back to India, gave up his apartment and moved into a studio apartment, which he shared with a room-mate. For a few months, he managed to survive on earnings from his business, but they were soon dwindling. Finally, beating his pride, he managed to get a sales job, with the help of one of his clients. Thomas was not happy but he had little choice. Every day, he woke with the same dream, ’my own company’. After surviving for two years, he started contacting his old customers. He rebuilt the bridges, that time, and the economic situation, had broken. Thomas felt it was time for him to live his dream.

With the help of a few friends and well-wishers, Thomas started his trading business once again. Unlike the last time, the economic scenario had changed. Suppliers stopped giving credit. but customers paid only after 30 or 60 days of delivery. Thomas needed funds to keep the business afloat. He took loans from friends and associates. Though he was not doing as well as he would have liked to, the business kept him afloat.

A few months back the now fifty-five year old Thomas was told that he had a block in his heart, and he needed angioplasty, for which he needed to go to India. Thomas made all arrangements. PDC (post-dated) cheques were issued to suppliers, so the business would run smoothly. He went to India, did all the tests required, and came back to Dubai. At the Immigration counter, he was told he would be taken to the police station, as he was being seen as ’Wanted' in their system. Thomas’ mind reeled. The words were ringing in his ears. Wanted??? Police Station?? All his life he was a law-abiding citizen; he had not even got a single traffic fine! What do they want me for??? His mind was in turmoil. 

Well-connected

He was taken to the Bur Dubai police station, where he was told that he had a cheque bouncing case against him, and unless he arranged for the payment to be made, he cannot be set free. Thomas was well aware that a cheque bounce is considered a criminal offence in Dubai, which could lead to imprisonment. Thomas tried in vain to explain to the officer on duty in broken Arabic that he was a heart patient and that he did not even have his family here. Finally the duty officer allowed him to make a few phone calls and Thomas made sure that his friends would be come to the police station with the money.

‘Thomas Xavier?’, someone called his name. Thomas realised he was being called. Weary and heart-broken, the 5 feet 7” tall man rose, tearing his eyes from the blank wall. In a few hours he was free again, but the experience left a haunting memory forever.

Thomas repaid his friends in a few months time. He later realised that one of his customers had not paid on time, and so his cheque to his supplier had bounced. All this happened while he was away in India and neither his customer nor his supplier could contact him. Thomas got his angioplasty done successfully. Today he still lives his dream of having his own business. Elena joins him every alternate month, the other she spends with their son in India. Thomas too takes his well-deserved breaks but this time ensures that he informs all his suppliers and customers of his travel plans, and is always well connected technologically.


LizGebeth- Currently based in Dubai, an Economics graduate with an additional degree in Computer Science and Engineering. Liz worked with the Indian Express, Mumbai for more than a decade,in different positions. She was the Editor of the Gulf Oilfield News, a quarterly magazine, published from Dubai and distributed across the Gulf Co-operation  Council (GCC) states.

Views expressed and claims made in the articles on this site are the contributors' own, and nrizone does not necessarily agree with them, or endorse them, in any way.
Contributions are published in good faith, with due diligence, and liabilities for authenticity or copyright lie with the authors.
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