Pirates? Saalax felt insulted. He could not believe that the captain was painting them as the aggressors. Did the captain really think that they had laid a trap? The possibility that the captain was sincere kept Saalax from exploding. He tried to explain the situation rationally.
“We are not pirates. We are fishermen. You are violating our waters and stealing our fish. You stole my property and damaged my boat. We want to be compensated for our losses.”
The captain stared at him with an intense, reptilian gaze. He replied, “Good sir, I came here to continue the long and glorious history of trade between the honorable Somali and Indian peoples. Surely you are aware of those halcyonian days of silk and cinnamon trade. My vision is to revitalize that golden age of prosperous trade. My affection for the brave Somali people is without bound.”
Saalax was surprised by this reply. The captain was charming. He spoke eloquently. He was intelligent. He appeared to show empathy. But Saalax remained accusatory.
“Trade? You stole my nets and fish!”
The captain remained perfectly calm. “I ordered my ship to head toward the Eyl port. My novice helmsman accidentally ran into your small boat. I assume that he did not see you until it was too late. In the confusion, my men must have thought that your nets and fish had fallen from our ship. I humbly apologize.”
Saalax found the captain's story almost plausible, but Saalax was still not fully convinced. “Why did you turn the ship around, then?”
“Because I thought that you might be a pirate! But you claim to be a fisherman. Which is it, sir? Will you kindly free my ship and allow me to dock at the Eyl port as I had intended?”
Saalax did not reply right away. He looked at Caasha. She looked directly into Saalax's eyes, and then she quickly but distinctly jutted her tongue. It was a signal to Saalax.
“No, we will not free your ship until we receive compensation for the crimes that you have committed against us.” Saalax made his statement with obvious disdain for the captain.
Caasha had identified a parasite all right. The captain had shown too many of his psychopathic characteristics—charisma, narcissism, psychophagic predation, and an excellent talent at lying. Everything that he had said was a lie, and they knew it. They had had far too much experience with parasitic kratocrats who had attempted to use robbery in order to obtain wealth.
Saalax had no intention of negotiating with a psychopath. Saalax called for Samatar and asked him to find an isolated place to lock up the captain. Samatar didn't speak English nearly as well as the other three Somalis, and so the captain wouldn't even be able to have a conversation with Samatar. Saalax added, with emphasis, that Samatar should guard the captain carefully. Samatar obliged and took the captain away.
Saalax and Caasha led the rest of the crew to the bridge. Saalax explained that he represented fishermen instead of pirates. The fearful crew initially denied any wrongdoing. But, after Saalax started to get angry and demanded the truth, the Indian helmsman—Amal Balasubramanium—spoke up.
“I can't explain why we did it. The captain ordered us to chase you as soon as we spotted you. It was like you were his prey. We apologize.”
Saalax calmed down. Amal had given him further confirmation that the captain was a psychopath. “Good. You've admitted to being the aggressors. Now we can move on and figure out our compensation.”
“You can't just give back what you took from me. You and your captain are criminals. We're victims. You owe us proportional compensation.”
“Take whatever you want.”
Saalax was offended. “We are not here to rob you. We are victims who are acting in self-defense. You've lost your rights only to the extent that you've deprived us of ours.”
Amal was confused. “Then what do you want?”
“Personally, I want my nets and ten times what I had caught. I know, ten times as much might seem like robbery to you. Let me explain. You must return my nets and catch, and then you must double that amount, because you lost your rights to your fish to the extent that you deprived me of mine. Next, you must consider the damage to my boat, and then you must double that amount as well. Finally, you must consider the time, effort, and risk for me to track you down and hold you accountable for your crime. And then you must double that amount. Ten times my catch is reasonable compensation.”
Amal readily agreed with Saalax's reasoning. Caasha spoke up with her compensation request as well. She argued that she and Samatar had put in as much time, effort, and risk as Saalax had. Both of them deserved compensation of two times Saalax's catch. Amal agreed again.
Warsame, however, made a larger request. “I risked my boat. I had to use fuel. I had the tools that allowed us to board the ship. I want every fish on this ship that isn't going to the other three. And I want every supply on this ship that isn't essential to the ship's operation.”
Before Amal could say anything, another crew member yelled out. “You're taking our food? We'll starve!”
Warsame reacted icily. “You can catch more fish as soon as you leave our waters. You can call another ship for help. Or you can buy some food somewhere.”
“And our fuel? What if we run out before we get back to India?”
The brazen young man would not relent. “We need them. They're essential.”
Warsame did not agree. He refused to lower his demand for compensation. Fortunately, Caasha recognized the need for a mediator in this negotiation. She had an idea.
“Warsame, instead of taking food and fuel, how about the captain's personal belongings? After all, it was the captain who ordered the aggression.”
“Sure, if he has anything valuable.”
The young crew member eagerly reported, “He has a gold ring.”
Warsame smiled. “We have a deal.”
Everyone laughed out of relief. The tension on the bridge dissipated after the two sides reached the compensation agreement. Neither side was truly interested in fighting. The Malhotra would head to Eyl, drop off the Somalis with their compensation, and then be free to return to India.
Saalax left the bridge in order to report on the negotiations and the successful resolution to Samatar and the captain. The egoistic captain expressed outrage at what he believed to be robbery. When Saalax returned to the bridge, Warsame and Amal were engaged in a conversation. Amal appeared to have become somewhat comfortable with Warsame. Or, at least, he was willing to answer questions that Warsame asked him.
“Captain Obalesh was a great hockey player. He was on his way to being on the Indian Olympic team. But he tore his Achilles. Well, actually, a reckless Pakistani tore it.”
Saalax and Caasha almost burst into laughter. Amal had been fooled by the captain's incredible lies. Amal appeared to view people in terms of “good” or “evil.” Warsame didn't fully believe the story either.
“It was probably the shoes.”
“What?” The helmsman had no idea what Warsame meant.
“Obalesh probably wore some of those expensive American running shoes. The ones with a lot of rubber in the heels. They make you run unnaturally and stiffen your muscles. Injuries are inevitable.”
“How would you know that?”
“Haven't you ever run barefoot? You naturally land on your toes and arch instead of on your heel. A shoe company can't improve on nature. They just try to sell you shoes.”
Amal looked at the Somalis' feet. They were all barefoot. “So, it's just about money?”
Warsame couldn't simply reply to this question with a “yes.” He explained, “They want dollars. Dollars aren't actually money, of course.”
Amal tried to hide his incredulous reaction. Warsame sounded ridiculous. “And rupees aren't actually money either?”
“They're currencies, Amal. They're no more than pieces of paper, really. How much is a small piece of paper worth to you? It's not even a blank piece of paper. It has ink all over it. It's useful only for kindling. But most people never stop to think about it. They accept the paper as money just because they've been taught to do so.”
“Yes, but everyone accepts these so-called meaningless pieces of paper as money. So, what's the problem?”
“The problem is that banks or governments can just print more dollars or rupees whenever they want to. It's the same as counterfeiting. Printing counterfeit dollars or rupees doesn't make people rich. It has the opposite effect: everyone's dollars or rupees become almost worthless. Just pieces of paper. No one accepts them as money at that point.”
“What is money, then?” Amal was sincerely interested.
“Money is the commodity that is the most marketable medium of exchange. A government can't create it. Imagine if an ordinary man offered you twenty pieces of paper for this ship. He says that the papers are money because he drew numbers on them. Would you not laugh at the ridiculousness of such a proposal? The man is clearly either insane or a fraud.”
“His papers are not valuable.”
“Right. But what is universally accepted as the most valuable commodity? What commodity is most desirable, durable, divisible, and transportable? You're Indian; you should know.”
“You must mean gold.”
“Indeed. Imagine if some clever men could fool an entire society into trading their gold for scraps of paper. It would be the biggest con in history.”
Amal silently tried to process Warsame's argument. He wasn't convinced that it was so simple. But the seed of doubt had been planted in his mind for the first time.
“You fishermen certainly are philosophical,” Amal remarked.
“There's an abundance of time to think about things when you're alone on a boat every day. Right Saalax?”
“Indeed. Eating fish is healthy for the brain, too.”
Another crew member spoke up. “Is your woman a philosopher as well?”
Caasha didn't like his degrading tone. It was the brazen young man from the negotiations. “How about I teach you how to attract a woman? You sound like you need the help.”
The young man forced a laugh. It was not just an insult but a challenge. “The ladies love me.”
“What's your name? Romeo?”
“Mayur, try to seduce me.”
“What? Your man is right there.” They both looked at him.
Saalax was smiling. “No, go ahead. I won't get mad, I promise.”
Mayur looked back at Caasha. He quickly became very nervous. “You are more beautiful than any goddess and if you come back to India with me I will shower you in gold and treat you like the queen you are because you are the only woman for me. Do you not think that I'm a nice guy? I'll always be there for you because I'll always love you.”
There was a brief silence. Caasha looked at the other men. They had looks of approval. They nodded their heads and grinned slightly.
“Abysmal. You'd have no chance with me nor with any other woman. You could not have done worse.”
The mouths of the Indian men all went agape with shock. Saalax and Warsame had a good laugh.
Mayur was defiant. “Impossible. I offered you everything.”
Caasha explained, “Exactly. And I'm repulsed. You're so desperate. If you wish to be my servant rather than my man, you should say so.”
Mayur was embarrassed. “Why can't I be your man?”
“Because you ask insecure questions like that one. I'll tell you why Saalax can be my man, so listen closely. If you wish to be a woman's man, you should be both confident and fun. A confident man is a leader. He walks a certain way. He understands body language. He speaks clearly. He isn't afraid. A confident man is cool. He doesn't try to buy her affection. He acts how he wants to act. He's unique. He's desirable. And in regard to being fun, he's unpredictable. Adventurous. Passionate. He has interesting stories. He asks good questions. And—remember this part—he has a sense of humor. He'll tease her. But it's funny, challenging teasing—not meanness. He makes her feel comfortable with him.”
After a few moments, Mayur said to her, “Have I told you the story of the time that Somali pirates captured my ship?”
Caasha laughed. “You shouldn't forget that line.”
Saalax wished he would. Being called “pirate” again annoyed him. Would everyone consider their actions piracy?
The Malhotra arrived in Eyl. Warsame docked his skiff, and then they all worked on unloading the fish. They had decided to dump the fish on the beach and hold the auction right there. The Indians waited patiently until the task was completed.
The last thing was for Captain Obalesh to hand over his gold ring to Warsame. Since the Somalis had their kalachnikovs, Obalesh had little choice. He protested vehemently and attempted to sway them, but he eventually handed the ring to Warsame.
The compensation was complete, and the Somalis honored the agreement. The Indian ship was free to return to India. Saalax told them not to fish in Somali waters ever again. They promised that they would fish in international waters in the future. They departed on almost friendly terms.
But as soon as Obalesh Rangarajan was able, he contacted every major news agency in the world, and millions of people learned of his story. He described how Somali pirates had launched a surprise attack on his ship. They had threatened to kill the crew unless they took the ship to Eyl. They had robbed them of almost everything, including their personal possessions. When Obalesh identified himself as the captain, the pirates isolated him from the crew, threatened him, and abused him. He had been terrified that they would kill him. Obalesh's story turned the world against the Somalis.