The Catfish Conspiracy
The Catfish Conspiracy20 mins 59 20 mins 59
Catfishing - Deceptive activity by posing as someone he/she is not in social media
It was 6:00 AM when the alarm rang with the tune of electronic music which was Krishna’s least favorite. He had set it as his alarm tune just for its loud nature. It’s been two years since he had been living a jobless life with his parents. When he had lost his job he was sad, frustrated, and demoralized, but with the passage of time, he learned to care the least. While sipping his morning coffee he connected his phone to home WiFi, not to check any message he must have received from his friends because he knew there wasn’t any, but to check the Facebook notifications he must have got notifying him about whether there was a reply on his comment he had made for a feminist post on Facebook.
His life seemed incomplete to him after he lost his social life along with his job until he found a new time pass, arguing with stranger keyboard warriors on Facebook and Youtube comment sections about political and social affairs. Out of the thousands of agenda-driven political media pages on Facebook, the one he hated the most was The Buzzbulletin which was exposed so many times in spreading fake news. The idea of it being exposed so many times but still having so many followers enraged Krishna who would always go to its comment section and hurl abuses for the admin.
This was just another day for him to come up with fresh abuse in case The Buzzbulletin has posted another video that deserves the dosage. And he was right, The Buzzbulletin did post a video supporting the claims by a Delhi girl accusing a guy of molesting her. The case was simple, a few days ago the girl filed an FIR on the guy after which she also posted the story on Facebook. Indian audience being social media trial judges demonized the guy on the basis of claims made by the girl. The guy next day posted his side of the story in which he claimed that the argument was rather due to the personal fight and the girl is accusing him falsely to take out her grudge. The Buzzbulletin posted a video with a voiceover on zooming in and out shots of the guy and girl; a voiceover saying it’s not easy for a girl to make a post about such experiences, it’s not easy for a girl to file an FIR, the girl must be applauded for her bravery, people who are criticizing the girl or listening to the boy’s side are simply patriarchs, etc. As illogical as the points sound, so enraged was Krishna that morning. For five minutes he just sat blank with his phone thinking what would be a befitting as well as a sensible reply here? After three sips of cappuccino, he started typing.
'I know that you guys are just a bunch of wannabe journos who are biased as f*ck, I can digest that because there are hundreds of anti-feminist pages also who have a different side bias and talk like asses the way you do, but saying ‘listening to the other side will make us patriarch’ simply makes me wonder exactly how mentally sick are you? And I remember a few days ago when a politician was arrested for publicly provoking a crowd of a particular religious minority about separating a state from north India, it was your page only which complained about people abusing the politician and why they should listen to his side also before judging him. Where are your liberal thoughts about humanity gone now? Have you set a parameter or something wherein if someone belongs to the majority sect, is a boy of general category, looks ugly, and most importantly he doesn’t agree with you, deserves to be humiliated? Or is it that you are simply a hypocrite? Whoever is this lonely feminist in that empty 1 BHK office of Buzzbulletin is, may you get the help you need as soon as possible, get well soon.' he typed, his typing speed an accelerated one due to his anger.
His comment after a few hours got the most number of reactions and replies as opposed to what Krishna would normally expect. There were many who disagreed with him and a few who agreed. As Krishna had expected, most people who disagreed were men and that was the reason Krishna avoided arguing with them because more than pseudo feminists, he hated the wannabe white knights who would drop in out of nowhere and doesn’t matter how smart your argument is, they would have the same women card flavored pointless arguments to troll you.
One such self-claimed intellectual replied what he thought would be a befitting reply
'It’s a sad age of patriarchy we live in, victim-blaming is in your blood. There are revolutionary news pages like Buzzbulletin which take a stand for women who go through hardships, and then there are people like you, always blaming the victim. What if this had happened with your sister ha? What if your sister came and told you she was molested by a random guy on the street, would you wait to listen to the other side of the story? People like you are a curse to the progressive society. Because of you guys, rapes are so common in India.'
Krishna did what he would always do when some stupid white knight posted such baseless argument, he had a picture saved in his phone, and the picture had an image of an ugly double-chinned white male with pimples all over his fat tortilla-like face. Below that was written –
‘I am a feminist because that’s the only way I can get myself to be liked by girls. I don’t have any self-respect. Being a feminist is also my only strategy to get rid of virginity, I hope someday this happens’.
He attached that image with a reply saying ‘Oh, look at you, lol’. To his surprise, that reply didn’t get posted. He refreshed the page to find out that his comment to Buzzbulletin was actually deleted by the admin.
'Oh, looks like the page which talks about liberalism and tolerance is the most intolerant of the lot. Deleting a comment because it exposes your illogical bias, relax, you’re not alone. Even I would have done the same, although I would have done that only if I was 8 years old. Just like I said earlier, may you get the help you need, get well soon, lol.' Krishna commented.
Although this comment of Krishna again got a huge number of reactions on it, he was still not satisfied since he knew, this comment will also soon be deleted. A typical extremist feminist page deleted his tweet, he wanted to delete their video. Obviously he doesn’t have a great fan following that with a single post he will be able to convince each and every person in his friend list to report the video. The last sip from his coffee sparked an idea into him.
‘Let’s measure the degree of their simpness’ he said.
Krishna simply changed his DP into that of a girl and changed his gender to female in his profile. He knew his name Krishna is a uni-sexual name so there was no need of change in that. The next half an hour was filled with him direct messaging random guys on Facebook about why they should report the video by Buzzbulletin. He prepared a provocative draft message and copy pasted it in those guy's DMs.
The support for the guy accused of molestation seemed to have increased. A lot of people had actually switched sides - Krishna concluded that by seeing the encouraging and female hating comments on that guy’s post.
Almost all the people in that comment section received messages from Krishna with the link of the video. Due to Facebook’s algorithm, the one sided video of Buzzbulletin got deleted. As soon as Krishna got the message from Facebook that the video has been removed, he changed his DP back to the old one.
Since Krishna’s mom had cooked Aloo-paratha, the family had their breakfast late at around 11.00 AM. Krishna who would otherwise get hungry too quickly, was able to ignore his hunger this time due to the state of euphoria he was in after getting a sexist post by a pseudo feminist page deleted. While finishing his last paratha, his excitement doubled with the notification beep from his phone. It was a notification about a friend request he had received on Facebook. The request was from someone named Swastika Iyer. Friend request from a girl would normally make him excited, but friend request from an unknown girl would make that excitement reach a new level. Needless to mention, he accepted the request. He looked at the profile, it consisted of a number of solo photos.
The girl looks same in all the pictures, friend list is hidden, must be a genuine profile. Krishna thought.
The scope of his excitement only covered the ‘friend request from a brown beauty’ part. After that he knew what’s going to happen. The girl would be expecting him to ping him and he will not be able to do that because although he knows how to carry the conversation forward but he didn’t know how to start a conversation. Normally the conversations he would start with any women would end up being a formal interview. Due to this fear of ending up as an interviewer Krishna would never be the icebreaker and thus the effort of any women sending him a friend request often ended up in vain.
A few minutes later, the notification bell again rang in his phone.
‘Swastika Iyer followed you’ - was the Instagram notification flashing on his screen. He checked out her profile, it consisted 3334 followers and 67 photos. Her Instagram profile seemed like the platform where she would show off her fashionista side. He checked out her Facebook profile again to compare the photos posted in both the platforms, but before that he came across a post from her. She had shared an old post by Buzzbulletin criticizing it for its biased journalism. He dedicated a solid one hour in investigating about her, her lifestyle, her shared posts that very much matched that of himself.
Must have got a like-minded intellectual in me, that’s why she sent me the friend request, Krishna thought to himself. Alright maybe not an intellectual, but a good debater for sure.
In the afternoon time when he came out of bath, he again checked his phone for a reason to smile. And there it was, a message from Swastika. He kept the phone aside safely and rushed to put on his clothes.
It was not a simple ‘Hi’ as Krishna would expect. The message read.
' Loved your thoughts about pseudo feminism, and the best thing is you mentioned that most of the girls hate these kind of pages which propagate hatred for men in the name of feminism. Most of my friends have been brainwashed by these media houses like Buzzbulletin. I always end up having an argument with them, a heated one. I thought it would be nice to have a like-minded friend like you with whom I can have normal mature discussions rather than pointless debates. '
Why would a girl be so frank and that too for the first time? Maybe she desperately needs a like-minded friend as she has mentioned here. Maybe such frank girls exist, it’s just that I have never met one before. Krishna thought.
' Ya, these media pages are a pain in the head '
Krishna waited for a reply
Ya they are a pain in the ass.
So, where are you from?
I am also from here
That’s nice. We can catch up sometime.
Krishna’s time-pass soon seemed to change. He would spend less time on Facebook and more on Whatsapp to chat with Swastika. The routine would be simple, Swastika would send him a link of a Facebook meme or post, and they would chat about it for hours.
- 3 Weeks Later -
‘So…when are we going to meet? We live in the same city, it’ not going to be a big deal for any of us.’ Krishna typed.
‘Soon’ a reply flashed after ten minutes from Swastika.
‘How soon?’ Krishna typed.
‘Very soon, it will be a surprise’ she answered with a voice message.
This was the first time he heard her voice. That attracted him even more.
From that day on, both of them grew closer through voice calls. Little did he know, something is going to change for him soon?
It was 6:00 PM Sunday when Krishna’s mom snatched his phone from his hands and kept it in her purse.
“What?” Krishna asked irritatingly
“Get dressed first, then I will return it to you.” his mom replied.
“I will” he said
“You are saying that since 15 minutes while having your eyes stuck into the screen’s blue light” she scolded.
Both of them were supposed to attend a reception party of a family friend’s daughter.
It was a half an hour drive to Saket Mandap ground from Lehertara. A well-lit and a well-organized evening party it was. Looking at the men in suits and women in sleeveless blouses covered with netted sari, Krishna nervously checked out his chest covered with a black thick inner and a pink shirt over it. His belly suddenly appeared to be extra, hiding the colour of the loose jeans he was wearing. His aunt greeted them without judging his dressing.
Doesn’t matter, she will gossip about this with her friends and relatives tomorrow most likely Krishna thought while finding for some guy who has an even worse dressing sense than him; however this seeking got distracted when he saw the snack stall that was serving Tomato chaat to the guests. He moved towards the stall while looking at the Hookah row in the right side - will check this out later.
While having a plate of Tomato Chaat on his palm, he looked around to notice a girl slightly taller than him. She looked familiar. He kept his plate aside and took out his phone. While scrolling through Instagram he realized it was Swastika wearing a red one piece.
Got ya, So this was the surprise ha? Krishna messaged.
There was no response, nor did he see her noticing any alert in her phone.
Maybe she kept her phone on silent or switched off. Maybe I should show up myself. He decided.
“Hey, So this was the surprise??” he asked her.
“What?” the girl asked.
“It’s me, Krishna, How are you Swastika? I am sorry, actually my mom snatched..” Krishna's excited smile faded a little to see her stop him in between by raising her palm.
“Hold on, I don’t know any Swasti” she looked at him with an irritated grin on her face “And do I know you? I am pretty much sure I don’t”.
“Okay, see..” he took out his phone and surprisingly his message received an ‘eye’ icon underneath. He didn’t see her taking out her phone to check her messages. I remember, my eyes were stuck on her he thought.
“You know what happened? Acha tell me what's your name if you don't...” He looked up to see her absent “..mind? wait, where is she?” he looked around to see her vanished.
Krishna came back by 11:00 PM while carrying heavy dinner meal inside his stomach and heavy shock of being cat-fished in his brain.
Unable to sleep, boiling with anger his first thought was to send her rage-full hate messages to the person who was posing as being Swastika.
‘Whoever you are, wherever you are from, I don’t care. All I can wish for you is something I don’t even wish for my enemies. I am sure you are sitting with your lonely ass trying to get some entertainment into your incomplete life’
After a minute he continued
‘Do you realize the stress the other girl may face when she gets to know that a pervert stalks her to use her picture to pose as women and talk to guys?’
After half a minute he continued
‘I wish you may get raped by a 1000 men at once. Because people like you deserve that’
With these messages, Krishna got a little relieved. He did have his doubt about whether the last message he had sent was a wise choice of words??
‘If you are a women, I am sorry, but there is something seriously wrong with you. Get some professional help’ - this was the last message he typed and blocked her on Whatsapp.
The next day morning, he woke up before the alarm, his phone which had mobile data left switched ON, flushed with strings of Facebook and Instagram beep alerts.
The hate messages were in the form of comments and DMs.
An Instagram message popped up from Swastika’s handle into his inbox, it consisted of a video link.
‘What did you do Krishna, that’s very sad’ was the caption underneath.
He clicked on the video link to see a women with her face blacked out speaking something against him. The voice matched the voice of the mysterious girl Swastika. She showed the message on the screen where Krishna had messaged her about how he wishes for her to get raped.
“Wait, what about the other messages where he talked about the trauma the girl would face when she knew she’s being stalked by her. Where is the message where he said sorry to her, what about the catfish part?”
Ofcourse deleted. A shocked Krishna thought.
A stream of tears rolled down his cheeks.
The video was posted in the Buzzbulletin’s youtube channel. He has been played big time and has no idea how to deal with this.
Krishna took a bath and without informing anyone left with his phone and wallet. He neither had the time nor the courage the explain the whole situation to his parents.
He took the bus heading to Sarnath. He wore a cap and goggles too in order to avoid getting recognized. On the bus, he used the time to write a Facebook post, where he explained the whole story from start to finish. All his DMs with that girl named Swastika were found to be deleted. Luckily he had some screenshots of her earlier DMs. He even posted some images of that girl and specified that the girl in the Buzzbuletin video is not the girl whose images are there in her Instagram page.
The images of Swastika were actually some old screenshots of her in skimpy dresses which he had clicked on Instagram for his own mutual pleasure.
At least my perverted mind could be of some help.
He did gain some empathy from people however most of them still expressed doubts.
‘ You are no less than any pervert, you posted screenshots of that girl on the public platform. Disgrace! –angry emoji-‘
I didn’t have a better proof to defend my side of the story Krishna thought whether to reply him with this text or not.
When he got out of the bus near the Sarnath gate, he felt a sigh of relief. His phone flashed with a message -
‘I am sorry for the behavior last night, I am Akanksha, the girl you had mistaken as Swastika…’
He opened the full message
The message read -
‘I am sorry for the behavior last night, I am Akansha, the girl you had mistaken as Swastika in the wedding. Those who are doubting you, please reply with this link where I have cleared my side of the story’
Krishna clicked the link to the Facebook post
“Perfect” he exclaimed.
He did the same as was told.
A video on Facebook started trending a few moments later titled ‘Buzzbulletin exposed’.
‘There is nothing we can do. I am trapped. The police by now must be looking for me and I don’t want to be treated like a prisoner for a crime I didn’t commit. I am sorry for the pain my family has go through because of me all these years, and most importantly, I am sorry for the pain you went through Akanksha’
- Krishna commented under that video.
- Two hours later -
Shubrato, a journalist at The Prayaag reached the location from where Buzzbulletin operated. Buzzbulletin and The Prayaag were long time press rivals. The Prayaag being the underdog gained some mileage by exposing a number of fake news and propaganda by Buzzbulletin. Even The Prayaag was a media house that had an agenda. In fact, its foundation was based upon pushing its own agenda by exposing propagandas of the big media houses. This was yet another goldmine for The Prayaag and the first chance for Shubrato to prove his worth. He posed as a uniformed sweeper into Buzzbulletin’s office. An insider had tipped him off about the whereabouts of the content creators. The basement of the size of a hall was occupied by them only.
The hall consisted of one woman and two men. The trio was having a bottle of coca-cola each in their hand.
“Rishabh, Do you think he has really killed himself by now?” the women asked
“Who cares, we’ll pass a statement that we didn’t expect it to end as this” the other guy answered.
“And what about the girl shashank??” she asked
“I have got it all arranged. The main problem is her face.” Shashank said.
“Acid?” Rishabh asked.
“Yes, she will be here at any moment. I have offered huge cash for her to keep her mouth shut. There’s the cash”
“Neha, the pizza slice," he asked.
Little did they know, the whole scene was under surveillance in Shubrato's iPhone.
He slowly zoomed onto the bottle of acid kept at the corner nicely protected.
“Excuse me all” a female voice broke out.
“I am Akanksha” she said.
“Yes we know, we saw your face in the video where you were 'exposing us', please step inside,” Neha said while getting up.
Shubrato was not finding it east to somehow indicate to her about what’s going to happen next.
The two men got up from their revolving chairs.
Shubrato’s heart was now thumping.
This was a bad idea - he scolded himself
The two men held her by her hands.
“Get the bottle Neha” shashank shouted.
“Akanksha, run away, it’s acid” Shubrato shouted while hurrying towards Neha.
Rishabh took out his pistol and shot a bullet at his shoulder.
Shubrato fell down and tried to lift his face to look at the four blurred faces.
“The whole thing is live you idiots” he said.
The trio looked at each other.
“You guys thought I am alone?” Akanksha shouted.
“Siddharth…” a teary-eyed Krishna while standing near the staircase looked at his paining body lying on the floor.
The three were in a shock, Krishna moved towards them.
“Everything is live, take your best shot at me,” Krishna shouted.
“Neha, let’s kill everyone and we’ll run away somewhere. We’ll figure out. I know a guy who can get us out of this mess” Shashank said with a trembling voice.
“You are right. Let’s see how far this goes” Neha took the revolver from Shashank and aimed at Akanksha.
“A so-called feminist portal” Krishna shouted.
“You know what? You should die first, you are the cause of all this” Rishabh shouted and snatched the revolver from Neha to aim at Krishna.
Akanksha fearing for her face, scratched hard on Shashank’s face with her long nails to get herself free.
Shashank moved away his hands to comfort the scratch wounds, taking advantage of that time window, Akanksha splashed the bottle of acid on Neha’s face.
“Aaaaaa…” Neha shouted with extreme pain.
“Akanksha, What did you do??” Krishna shouted.
“Neha…” Shashank shouted.
“This is all because of you, you piece of shit” Rishabh shouted while aiming the pistol on Krishna
“You are right. Shoot me” Krishna said with a remorseful voice. Neither should he had started passing time in arguing with strangers on social media, none of these would have happened. The acid part was a trauma for him.
A gunshot roared. It was the police. Accompanying them was Krishna’s parents.
“Here he is,” Krishna’s father said with a shock to see his son held at gunpoint a few seconds ago.
The dead body of Rishabh was lying on the floor with a bullet proportionally inserted on his forehead.
Neha was not able to speak because of the realization that karma could be so strict. The acid had burnt her throat also in such a way that it was difficult for her to let her voice out. She having nothing to lose moved forward to pick up the pistol from Rishabh’s hand. Inspector Zakir mistaking the move, shot her also. Shashank was the one left.
“Who threw acid on her face,” Zakir asked
“It was this guy” Shubrato struggled to get up and showed him the video, which was not actually live. It was a bluff. The video was still recording though.
“I couldn’t capture the part where he threw acid on her face, but see this, it was his plan to throw acid on Akanksha’s face.” he handed over his iPhone with the captured footage of the trio to Inspector Zakir.
Akanksha and Krishna looked at each other.
“I couldn’t record the part after being shot,” Shubrato said “Shashank threw the acid on Neha after Akanksha deflected it in order to save herself. If Shashank hadn’t come up with the idea to bring acid here in order to destroy Akanksha’s face, none of this would have happened.” He explained.
“He’s lying” Shashank shouted.
“It’s all in the video sir,” Shubrato said
“Let me explain..” Shashank shouted.
“Explain what you have to in the police station” Zakir shouted while two of the constables held Shashank and dragged him in front of the Buzzbulletin employees who were looking at the whole thing in shock quietly.
“I hope at least now you will think twice before using social media Krishna” Zakir shouted while pushing Shashank inside the police jeep.
Krishna stood quietly while looking at the jeep driving away.
“Thanx,” Akanksha said while dragging her scooty out of the parking. Krishna stood there ignoring her.
“You are not allowed to use your smartphone anymore. We are sending you back to Hyderabad. Look for a job there. We’ll give you a basic phone.” Krishna’s mother said.
“I don’t have the courage to use anything more than that anymore. Thanx” Krishna said while the three of them walked towards the bus stop.
A few days later after Shashank's arrest, the employee resigned and Buzzbulletin office was sealed.