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Out of job, still a jewel
- Cabbie returns celeb designer’s precious bag

Washington, Oct. 24: When Mohammed Hussain, a computer science graduate from Osmania University, left Hyderabad two-and-a-half years ago for an uncertain future in the US, little did he dream that he would become the toast of Chicago for his honesty.

Yesterday, the city honoured him with a $1,000 cheque and Chicago police is nominating him for a prestigious citizen’s award.

Chicago’s department of consumer services will put up Hussain’s name for one of two medals, which the city gives away each year to outstanding taxi drivers.

The 25-year-old Indian’s roller-coaster ride with fate began last Saturday when two men hired his cab in downtown Chicago to be dropped off at the city hotel where they were staying.

Hussain, of course, had no way of knowing then that one of the passengers was Anthony Camargo, the celebrated American jewellery designer, whose client list includes Jennifer Lopez, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Cher, Britney Spears, Vanessa Redgrave, Cameron Diaz and First Lady Laura Bush.

Hussain dropped off Camargo and his associate at Hotel 71, but only after the cab had driven off did the two men realise that they had left a bagful of their precious jewellery collection and designs in the trunk of the taxi.

Neither Camargo nor his associate had the cab’s number and when they contacted Chicago police, the authorities pleaded helplessness saying the city had several thousand cabs cruising its streets night and day.

Hussain told The Telegraph in a telephone conversation interrupted by scores of other calls from admirers and news organisations that he finished duty and went home to sleep, not realising that his trunk contained precious ornaments worth almost a quarter million dollars.

On Sunday, Hussain was washing his taxi and found the bag when he opened the trunk to clean it. He took the bag to his apartment and found that it contained jewellery. “The shock was when I found an invoice for more than $230,000. I just could not believe my eyes, but my first thought was how upset the owners of the jewellery must be,” Hussain said in a voice still high with excitement.

Hussain has been driving a taxi for one year after America’s current recession took its toll of an earlier job where he could put his computer skills to use. “There are no jobs in Chicago,” he said ruefully. “Even Indian doctors are working as taxi drivers.”

Having discovered the value of the jewellery, Hussain wanted to make sure it reached its rightful owners. So he logged on to Anthony Nak jewellery store’s website, which was listed on the invoice, and found some of the ornaments in front of him advertised on the website.

Along with the jewellery and the invoice was a receipt of an airline ticket which the designer had booked through the Internet. That receipt had Camargo’s Internet address, to which Hussain sent an e-mail. At the same time, he contacted detectives of Chicago police.

For a distraught Camargo and his depressed staff, Hussain’s e-mail was nothing short of an answer to their prayers.

For them, more than the value of the jewellery was the value of some of their designs, of which there were no copies other than the samples left in the taxi.

Camargo, who is co-owner of Anthony Nak Fine Jewelry, confessed at a news conference to honour Hussain that his staff of 40 designers did not sleep for two days. “We did not know how we were going to replace the samples.”

Hussain handed over the bag to Chicago police detectives as agreed between the designer and the authorities. Camargo then returned to Chicago from his home in Austin, Texas, and rewarded Hussain with a pair of designer sapphire earrings and an undisclosed amount of money.

Hussain said Camargo had arranged for him to be a special guest at the opening of a new Anthony Nak store in Texas on November 3. Hussain is happy with all the accolades he is getting, but the sapphire earrings which Camargo has gifted are proving to be a minor problem.

The cabbie is a bachelor, he has no girlfriend and lives alone in the US. Maybe he will send them to his mother in Hyderabad.

Before that, he had a question for this correspondent that is typical of Indian expatriates. “Do you know what the Indian customs at the airport will do if I take them home'” Hussain queried.

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