An elderly couple who recently returned from the United States after visiting their daughter were allegedly murdered by their driver-cum-domestic aide with an accomplice and buried the bodies in their farmhouse. Police recovered jewellery and nine kg gold looted from them. It was a pre-planned murder. The culprits believed that the couple had money stashed at their house from a recent real estate transaction.
This case indicates the vulnerability of the elderly, especially those living alone with their children abroad or at distant places within the country. The same vulnerability exists for those who visit home from foreign or distant lands.
Here are some tips, tried and tested by our family. It is mostly for the elderly travelling from Canada/ USA. You may accept some, modify some or may reject all.
- Visits back home should be minimised. Return home only if it is unavoidable.
- Travel light. – only one hand carry bag. It will save you a lot of time checking in/ out at the airport and will reduce the physical effort in lugging the baggage around. In your handbag, keep a pair or two of your dress – rest you can buy after reaching home.
- Always carry adequate medications – to last you a month longer than your stay.
- Never carry any gift for any of your relatives or friends. Whatever you give, no one is satisfied. I ask them for items not available back home and only available in this part of the world and that is nix.
- Many have ancestral property back home and may prove to be a millstone around the neck. Money spent for maintenance of a home in the property – with relatives and contractors ready to fleece the foreigner – it will be economical to stay at any of the 5-Star resort/ hotel.
- Try and dispose off all property back home – Your children are least likely to claim it or even visit it.
- Dispose off all gold and jewellery – the money realised will be of some use to you or your children.
- Never give access to your home to anyone. He may have been serving you for ages.
- Never brag or show-off or even discuss your economic status or lifestyle with anyone – even the closest relatives. Walls too have ears.
- Never give out your travel plans – especially your absence from home. Keep your travel plans Top-Secret.
- Always travel by public transport – else call for an auto/ taxi a few minutes before you set out. Never hire the same driver (even if you may pay more) and never set a travel pattern. Your times of walks, visit to a place of worship, etc must be staggered.
- Avoid travelling at night. In case you got to, then use public transport.
- Never flash your money. There are many prying eyes around you.
- Never over-tip the food-delivery person or at restaurants/ bars/ hotels. Do not follow the North American standard of 20% of the billed amount. No one is going to ask you “Was there anything wrong with the service?”
- Avoid designer wear or flashy clothes – a clear give-away.
- Check your diet. Eat sensibly and be careful about the water you drink. Avoid milk and milk products as much as possible. Drink boiled water and hot beverages. Black coffee/ tea is ideal with least chance of contamination.
- Report arrival to local police even if it is not mandated. You must also verify the personal particulars with the personal documents of your domestic help, driver, etc whom you employ. In many murder cases of elderly, the culprit has been either the driver or the domestic help.
- Install a Burglar Alarm and CCTV Cameras. Use Infra-Red Cameras with night vision. Keep the house illuminated – both from inside and outside.
Physiologic changes of ageing, chronic illness, increased use of medications, and sensory or cognitive changes place the ageing population at increased risk for injury. On top of these, physical security must also be looked into.
On our very first day at the National Defence Academy, Captain Sajjan Singh Batti, our Divisional Officer addressed us on 12 January 1979. One sentence of that address still hangs in my mind – “All those from the Military/ Sainik Schools, don’t presume that you are ‘Smart Alecs’ and know all the tricks of the trade.”
That was the first time I heard the phrase ‘Smart Alec.’ From the context I made out its meaning to be a person trying to outsmart the system and get away with it.
Recently I researched into the etymology of Smart Alec.
Oxford English Dictionary defines a Smart Alec as ‘a person who behaves as if they know everything and likes to show people this in an annoying way.’
If Oxford defines so, what does Cambridge define it as – ‘someone who tries to appear smart or who answers questions in a funny way that annoys other people.’
Mariam Webster Dictionary In my view gives a better definition ‘obnoxiously conceited and self-assertive person with pretensions to smartness or cleverness.’
One must have come across many Smart Alecs and one must have turned into a Smart Alec in some situation. Generally Smart Alecs are known to be boastful, appear very friendly, giving out ‘expert advice’ on anything and everything under the sun. When the Smart Alec becomes a quite person, scheming his plans, keeping his cards close to his chest, he becomes dangerous.
Did you know that Smart Alec was a real man – a New York pimp named Alexander Hoag, who operated in connivance with his prostitute wife Melinda? The same is chronicled in ‘Studies in Slang’ by Missouri University professor Gerald Cohen.
In the 1840s, Alexander Hoag with his wife Melinda devised a ploy to hustle men Melinda enticed and brought to her apartment. Melinda made her victim remove and hang his clothes. Alexander who hid behind a secret panel entered the room and disappeared with all the valuables in the victim’s dress pockets.
After some time, Alexander banged on the door, and Melinda made her customer believe that her husband had returned early from some trip and was at the door. The victim grabbed his clothes and bolted out of the room through the window.
When her customers complained to the New York Police, Alexander bought out two corrupt police officers with an agreement to split the booty. The police soon discovered Alexander was cheating them out of their share by this new tactic and arrested Alexander and Melinda.
Investigators of New York Police were dumbfounded by the smartness of Alexander’s operations that they started referring to him as Smart Alec. Then it became a police slang for a criminal who was too smart for his own good, or whose cockiness led to his arrest. Its first known printed use was in an 1862 Nevada newspaper article, used the term to refer to a ‘know-it-all’ convict.
The term ‘Smart Alec’ got prominence in the early 20th century but became part of everyday speech as a slang only around 1950. A porn film Smart Aleck was released in 1951, justifying the slang’s origin to a pimp and a prostitute.