Friday, October 16, 2015

Nevada








Nitish (Appu) lives in downtown San Francisco.

San Fran has now become his second home. He has lived in the city for over 5 years now and he knows everything about this beautiful Northern Californian city.

Appu is from a small village near Tirur in Malappuram district, a place that still keeps its Valluvanadan legacy.

Appu got his engineering degree from MES College in Kuttippuram; later he joined a startup IT Company in Bangalore, where he got his American aspirations.

He excelled in his work and his employer offered him a job in their Florida office.

Appu arrived in Florida in January 2008; he was first deployed to Bank of America in Jacksonville. Those were real good days for him, but it didn’t last for long. By mid-2008 the recession grasped the American market and employment rates had gone down to the lowest levels in decades and he lost his job.

His employer said go back to India or quit, he left with only these options. Going back to India will put an end to his American dreams, so he decided to quit.

Then started the real problems, in couple of months without a job he left with no money, nobody was there to help him. He never told his parents about his situation in America knowing that they would not let him stay in America.

So he decided to tough it out.

He only had enough food to eat one meal a day.  Appu started working in a gas station for his survival. These were the hardest days of his 23 years of existence.

For many years getting his MBA was one of Appu’s career goals. He thought this is the right time to achieve it because he has plenty of time. So he started preparing for getting his MBA.

After months of struggles he got a job in a small IT company which develops ERP software for Warehouses. The owner of the company took full advantage of Appu’s situation by overloading the work load and paying him less than market value for his time. But Appu didn’t have any other Choice but to accept it. His MBA preparation was put on hold for a while. Later he managed to keep his studies going with his work.

Eventually with all his struggling he started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. With the score he received, he got admission in to Haas Business School at University of California Berkeley. The score was high enough for him to get university grant, but it wasn’t enough cover the hefty fees and living expenses in the west coast. To help solve the money shortfall Appu applied and received an overseas education loan from State Bank of India.

Appu moved from Jacksonville Florida to Berkeley, he found a low cost apartment near the university; Berkeley is a dangerous suburb of San Francisco, where the crime rate is 80% higher than the state average. His life wasn’t easy either, always found it hard to keep himself away from the social and economic imbalance.

He did many to find part time jobs from being a dishwasher at the student’s hostel or delivering Pizza for Dominos. Everything turned around for him in the 3rd semester when he started internship at Merrill Lynch.

Subsequently he was offered Full Time job in Merrill as a Trading associate.

This new Job with Merrill Lynch was the turning point of his life, he slowly but surely became financially stable.

Appu’s parents were calling him to visit them; it had been more than 3 years since he last been to India, But Appu had too many commitments to be able to travel back home. And he needed to pay off his Student loan, buy a car to commute, and move to a descent apartment.  He decided to wait.

Appu travelled to India after 5 years of up and downs in the country of his dreams. That was an emotional reunion with his family. After spending a week in Tirur with his parents, he drove to Bangalore to attend his friend Aju’s marriage. He was excited for the bachelor party with his old folks there. Bangalore wasn’t the same as it was 5 years ago!

The next morning both Aju and Appu had to go to Aju’s uncle’s place; his uncle was in charge for accommodating the out of town relatives who were coming to the wedding.

It was Aju’s Uncle’s place where he first met Arya, Arya is Aju’s first cousin, when he first saw her it was love at first sight, before meeting her Appu never believed in Love at first sight. Appu was completely lost in her.

Appu told Aju that he wants to marry her; Aju thought he was just joking, but later he realized that Appu wasn’t. Aju said it’s not going to happen, because Arya was too young for him and still had a year to go before completing her degree and she had huge ambition to work and study. Appu with great effort convinced Aju to talk to his uncle.

They had lot of fun at the Wedding; and Appu directly spoke to Arya about his interest to marry her, she said it should come from her parents. That evening Aju talked to his uncle about Appu’s interest, as expected his uncle did deny that considering her studies and their age difference. Appu had become upset; Aju promised him that he will turn the things around. Finally with the help of his parents, Aju convinced his uncle. Appu then spoke to his parents and they were really happy to hear that.

Appu and Arya did marry right after her final exams, it will take couple of more weeks to get her Visa so he flew back early. 2 weeks later Arya joined him in SFO.

They enjoyed every bit of their married life, a fun filled ride.

Appu was super busy until October because of the financial year ending, once things settle down they decided to take a week off and go for a road trip to Las Vegas and Grand Canyons in Arizona.

That was a fun ride, but they fell well behind their schedule with frequent breaks, so at 9PM and 150 miles left they saw a casino resort named Aquarius in the Mohave Lake area in the Nevada California border and they decided to stop over. After a quick shower they decided to go to the restaurant for a dinner and that was a pretty good resort. Then they did go the Casino because Arya wanted to warm up for Vegas adventures! Appu started with Roulette and had lost 230 dollars in just 3 spins, with just $20 left in the cap they decided to let Arya decide which numbers they would play from there onwards.

Interestingly she did win bets after bets and won close to 10,000 dollars, the game was heating up and they decided that’s the time to end it. Appu was so surprised and Arya said she got intuition power which Appu laugh at; they had good time for the rest of the night.

Next day morning they continued their journey, after riding almost 40 miles Appu realized that they are low on gas, soon he found a gas station which looked to be built back in 1950s, He had no other option left in the wild desert. He filled the tank and was going to the cashier to pay for it, Arya stopped him and asked him to get a chocolate bar, inside the shop Appu asked for the wash room, then he paid the cash and returned to the car, Arya wasn’t there, her camera wasn’t there too, Appu thought she went to take some pictures of the mountains, but he couldn’t find her anywhere near, Appu felt something wrong is happening, he rushed to the cashier again and ask the shop keeper if she saw her and he said NO, her phone was switched off, when he tried to call her.  Then he found her camera under the seat. He looked everywhere, but could not find her anywhere.... he was right, there was something bad happening.

Appu called 911 and the Palm Gardens police arrived at the gas station, the response was not exactly what Appu had expected, the officers looked uninterested, they questioned Appu for few minutes and did nothing to get any kind evidence from site. They asked him to follow them to the Sheriff's office. When they reached the office, it took another hour to meet the Sheriff.  Appu was losing his cool because of this behavior from the police. After the meeting, Sheriff introduced him to the investigation officer Dan Gratton, who seemed to be a genuine person. Gratton said he will start the investigation from the Aquarius Resort.

At Casino, officer Gratton asked for the CCTV footage of that night and he also went to the suite where they had spent the night. The suite was already cleaned by the housekeeping staff. After collecting the footage Appu and Gratton returned to latter’s office. Gratton said that he needed some time to check the footage and asked Appu to stay around. Appu had no other choice but to let his family and his close friends know about the incident. Appu checked into a nearby motel and around 8pm Appu got a call from Gratton, he asked Appu to come to his office, there Gratton did show him some pictures and asked if he had seen anyone in the morning, Appu couldn’t recollect those faces.

Appu got another call at 7 in the morning from officer Gratton and officer asked Appu to show up in his office again. Gratton said that Vegas PD found an abandoned car in the city which was stolen from Mohave Lake area a couple of weeks ago, and they found some traces to confirm whoever used that car visited the Aquarius resort in last couple of days. Gratton suspected that this could be related to Arya's abduction. Gratton said he wants to handover the investigation to the Las Vegas PD and offered Appu all the help from his side.

Appu arrived in Las Vegas, The Sin City. There he met by Detective Rob Dippolito of Vegas police department who is the new investigating officer on the case. Rob said they are tracing the guys with the evidence they have gotten so far and he strongly believes Arya was abducted by the same gang and promised all the help to find her. Dippolito said “Be ready for my phone call at any time day or night”.

Appu checked into the hotel he reserved for 4 days. He was missing her a lot; he had a shower and took a nap. It was 10pm when he woke up and saw that he had missed calls from his home and friends, he texted them saying that there was no update yet and will call later when he had more information.

Appu had not eaten for last 36 hours and he was exhausted, so he decided to hire a cab. He came to the lobby area and got into a taxi; the driver looked like a south Asian and was asked “where he wanted to go?  Do you prefer Indian or Pakistani food?” Appu said anything is fine.

Driver realized that not everything is right with his fare and asked “everything is OK?” Appu didn’t say anything. The driver introduced himself as Zaqib and he was from Lahore, Pakistan. After reaching the restaurant Zaqib said he can drop him back to the hotel because he is going to take his dinner break from the same place. Zaqib asked again if he everything was OK with Appu. Appu finally opened up and said there was a problem. He explained the situation. Zaqib told Appu to allow him to talk to his friend Navas who works in a Vegas casino who has been living in Vegas for more than 6 years and has a very good network. Appu was hesitant but finally agreed.  Zaqib called Navas and asked him to come to the restaurant. Navas came to the restaurant and Zaqib introduced him to Appu. Navas said he would take care of Appu.  Zaqib left promising his availably on call and gave Appu his card.

Navas said to Appu "You have to Trust me. I am not a superman but I certainly have some connections which could help you. You just have to trust me".  Appu nodded.
Navas then went on to say in a broken half Malayali half English which took Appu by surprise, that his father is from Calicut and was serving as a Khatib in a south Delhi Masjid, where his father met his mother. His mother was from Karachi but moved to Delhi during the partition. After his mother's death Navas and his sister moved to his father's family home in Calicut. Later Navas's sister got married to a Chef who works in Los Angeles and brother in law was the one who sponsored Navas to get the US migration.

Navas called Hammad a Pakistani multi-millionaire whom he had first met at a Mosque in Las Vegas on the south side of town. Hammad runs various businesses in the city including night clubs and hotels. Navas arranged a meeting at Hamad’s home.

After reaching, Navas explained the situation to him and he promised all the help he could give. Navas dropped Appu back to the hotel at 3AM in the morning.

8AM Appu got a call from the Detective Dippolito and he asked Appu to report immediately at his office. When Appu reached his office, Dippolito said he got a call from the Mineral County Police that they found a body of a woman of south Asian descent and they not have any ID information on it. Dippolito wanted Appu to go to Mineral County to identify the body. Appu was horrified; Dippolito said that it’s just a possibility.

They drove to Mineral County which is 100 miles north from Palm Gardens where Arya went missing. Upon reaching the site, Appu looked at the woman's body and it wasn’t Arya, he confirmed it, and Dippolito patted on his shoulder, to be positive about Arya. Mineral county police said to Dippolito that this is the 3rd case this week where they couldn’t trace the suspect, and got huge public attention in the state. Dippolito feared a connection with Arya's missing but didn’t show it to Appu.

They returned back to Vegas and Appu returned to his hotel room. Evening 8'o clock, Appu received a call from Navas asking him to come with him to meet few more people in the city. They went to many places and finally they ended up in a restaurant to have a dinner, Appu got a feeling that somebody is behind him, he looked around and couldn’t recognize anyone but he got a feeling again someone was following him. Half an hour later Navas got a call from one of Hamad’s manager Oscar that he found Arya's look alike in Bellagio but he is not sure if it was Arya. Navas and Appu rushed to Bellagio, Oscar said he is not 100 percent sure but she looked like Arya in the photo which Appu shared, but he couldn’t get hold of her, Appu asked if there is any possibility to get the CCTV footage from Bellagio, Oscar said it was impossible as they are at different level, even Federal agencies will struggle to get the access don’t even think we can. But why Arya went to Bellagio with an unknown guy?

The day after, Navas called him and said he will meet Appu again that night. Appu went for a walk in the evening and the Iskon festival was happening in Vegas, he spent an hour there then walked back to the hotel Appu again got a feeling that somebody was following him, Appu walked towards an abandoned shopping plaza and the stranger continued to follow him. While walking, Appu texted Navas and asked him to come to the Desert Inn road and South Valley Blvd intersection. Navas told he will be there in 5 minutes. Appu was hiding behind a wall holding an iron rod which he got from the site, the moment the guy pass him Appu beaten him using all his strength until he lose conscious. Appu then dragged him inside the building and tied him up.

Appu thinking to himself “Navas will be here soon.” After a few hours when the stranger regained conscious, Appu asked him “Why are you following me?” the thug did not respond.  Appu and Navas had no choice but to torturing him. Finally he said “yes we are behind Arya's abduction and we did it for money.” They were a group of 4 Hispanic youth who were in desperate need of money. They have tried many times but failed each time to make money. His name was Alejandro, his friends Alonso and Pablo saw Arya playing Roulette in the Mohave casino while they returning from a failed robbery attempt and decided to make use of her skills in gambling. Arya didn’t agree to what they asked for until she was told that Appu's life would be in danger, they always kept Appu on gun point and showed the live video to Arya to make sure she believed. When asked about her whereabouts Alejandro said Alonso and Arya should be at Caesar’s palace casino right now. Navas then sealed Alejandro mouth with duct tape that he had brought with him and put him in his trunk and they rushed to Caesars palace.

Alonso and Juan were on the table with Arya and Pablo was trying to reach out Alejandro, he was out of reach for at last 2 hours, he felt like something had gone wrong, Pablo saw Appu and Navas arrive on the casino floor. Pablo ran to join up with Alonso and Juan, told them that Appu and Navas were here. Handing over the casino chips they earned to Juan they grabbed Arya and left Caesar’s Place. Appu saw glimpses of Arya as she was being rushed out of the casino. Alonso forced Arya into the car and drove them over100 miles as Navas and Appu chased them down in their own car.

Appu and Navas managed to chase them down and to a stop the car, Navas shot down Pablo and Alonso’s leg as both tried escaping from the car, freeing up Arya. Later the Police arrived and took both of them into custody. Juan had managed to escape with the $6000 encashing the casino chips out the back door only to be mugged losing all the money he had on him.

At the police station, detective Dippolito said he is happy that Appu found Arya. Rob said the injuries to Alonso and Pablo are not so serious so he won’t press any high degree charge against him. Appu and Arya left for the hotel. Arya couldn’t stop crying with happiness and she was thankful to Appu. The next day they woke up to the beautiful desert view of Vegas which they craved for. He got a call on the room phone and it was from the reception and they said he has a guest waiting for him in reception, when Appu and Arya reached the lobby it was Navas! Appu was so happy seeing him. Appu then introduced Navas to Arya and said he gifted us a second life. Navas left wishing them luck. In the afternoon they checked out the hotel and ended their nightmare in the sin city promising that they will be back in there someday!