catching the thief

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  • 8/13/2019 Catching the Thief


    10-12-2013 CATCHING THETHIEF


  • 8/13/2019 Catching the Thief



    Chor dhora ( Catching the thief)

    The day was thirteen of March, 2002, a Sunday. I was flipping through the sports pagesof Anandabazar (Bengali Newspaper). The morning was cold and I was feeling a

    familiar attraction to go back to bed. Suddenly, the doorbell rang. I opened the door. My father walked in with a big bag full of vegetables. It was Sunday so he went early tobazaar. After keeping the bag of vegetables in the kitchen , my father turned towardsme and said , Kalke raatre joga der barite chor dhukechilo ja peyeche niye cholegeche( yesterday night a thief entered Mr Jishus house and whatever he could hetook and fled). My Mother who was washing the clothes in the bathroom, heard thenews and hence with an element of surprise said, se ki go? Keu dhorte parlo na?(What ! Nobody could catch him?) . My mothers reaction got me all the more excited. Isaid, Ta chor je dhuklo ta keu ter pelo na . Dorja janla to bando thakar kotha .Dhuklokotha diye? (But I find it strange that the thief entered yet nobody got a whiff of it. Thedoors and windows must have been closed and where else can be possible point ofentrance?)

    In front of our house there is a small open space where children often played at night.There was one construction of club house where Durga idol used to be placed beforeworship. In that open space there was already a commotion .Almost everyone was

    talking about it. Soumen one of the boys with whom I played cricket during mychildhood shouted, chad e moi diye utheche mone hoi tarpar uparer dor ja ta kichu diyekhuleche tarpar upar theke nebe almari bhenge jinish potro sob niye chompot.:( I thinkhe climbed up to the roof with the help of a ladder and then opened the door with thehelp of a sharp instrument and then descended by using the stairs and then broke openthe almirah and then took whatever useful he found before running away)

    All this while I was listening to all the conversation that was taking place outside ourhouse very attentively. For the last few days these incidents of theft were augmenting.

    Last week, one of my friends mobile was stolen from his car, the other day one of myneighbors sari disappeared from the clothesline. The thief was so smart and deft that itwas extremely difficult to discern as to where he would strike next. People in ourlocality started to keep things at a safe distance from the windows and yet theft of smallitems like charger, cup, dish, and spoon were still at large.

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    So a club meeting was called that day evening and representation of all members of thecolony was made mandatory. The club president, Mr Jishu was furious at the audacityof the thief. He asked all members to seek an end to this menace by introducing thevoluntary guarding at night by one member on alternate basis from two families per day.

    However, most members perhaps were not amenable to the idea of staying up all nighton guard and patrolling the entire area more so because they were not trained either.They agreed to the demand to meet their presidents immediate satisfaction however atheart were deeply doubtful about it. The results were again as expected. Theftcontinued unabated in spite of the voluntary guard system.

    After a few days my laptop (compac, 80 GB , amd processor) got stolen . The laptopwas in good condition and was perfectly functional. I kept the laptop in connected to thecharge point in the third floor room and then descended downstairs and when Ireturned, the laptop was missing. Now I searched everywhere but the laptop was not tobe found.

    I met Soumen and few other friends and discussed the matter elaborately and urgedupon them to help me in finding the thief. They were themselves in search for the thief

    for things like watch, mobile etc which were stolen from them or their immediate kin.

    So after gaining their support I felt that it would be important to first make acomprehensive plan as to how I would zero down on to the thief since it could be justanyone.

    As a start, I started to make a list of individuals who have not been member of thecolony and have visited the colony regularly. However, the colony consisted of 578houses and about 5000 individuals living in them. So it every other day there is a newvisitor. The initial list turned out to be a very big one. We went to each house and askedthem as to who were the visitors to their house in the last one month. Some said theycant recollect. Some said they trust those who came and dont consider them suspectseven remotely. But still we insisted and wrote down the names.

    Next issue that we had was that we did not know whom to interrogate and whom not to.We were all young people and had no prior experience as to how to go about the issue.There were many of us with the opinion that we should seek professional help of policein this matter however the police seemed disinterested to engage in petty matters liketheft of mobile phone etc. So we had to do it on our own.

    Sushanta , one of my friends pointed out that we d ont need to question everybody onthe list instead we can just question those who were not that wealthy and keep an eyeon the members visiting the low income houses. However , that was opposed by Rajatwho himself was from low income group and felt that would be sad and ungainly as notall poor are thieves and it would definitely hurt the sentiment of the poor and they may

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    object to this. I suggested that instead we should focus on the individuals who live inneighboring colony because it is not possible that someone comes from a farawayplace and steals an object on regular basis and goes away without anyone noticing him.I told that it must be a common face and someone more knowledgeable about the placeand has a background of cable fixing or moving around the houses at some time in the

    day and also good at climbing walls or pipes. But then we did not know the history ofany of these guys on the list so this filtering mechanism did not work too.

    We frantically started to search ways to shortlist the candidates without missing out onthe main culprit. The only way possible seemed to have a strict watch at the entrance ofthe colony for a few days and keep track of any suspicious movement. The questionsthere too were very complicated. How would we define suspicious movement and if weindeed observe such a movement what do we do? We cant on the base of suspicionconvict someone! So we had to catch him red handed. So we needed a bait.

    Since I had already suffered a big loss (in terms of amount of money lost in theft) I asked

    someone else to volunteer. And after a series of negotiations Sushanta volunteered withhis golden watch as bait. Now next thing we needed to do is to place it on a place whereIt is visible and yet it doesnot seem as if it was a bait. We used to play cricket in theopen space infront of our house so we thought that since most people while playingcricket open up watches and keep them on the cemented pedestral on which the idol ofdurga gets placed,so we would keep that there and pretend as if it was misplaced andwould keep a close eye on it.

    The place was just infront of our house so I was the first person to volunteer to be the

    watcher. I decided to watch it from first floor of our house through the glass windowbecause by doing so I would avoid suspicion as no one from outside would get to knowthat I am watching as it was translucent from outside. I asked Sushanta to stay with me

    for that day and alternate with me in the vigil. I also asked Rajat to put some sand on thepedestral so that incase the thief escapes atleast we get to know the size of his foot toguess who might be. The trap was ready and almost seemed certain to succeed.

    But that day and night passed there was no one. I felt it must have been the sand thathad driven him away. I was growing impatient the next day, all my day to day routinewas on hold and I did not know whether the plan will at all succeed now. With hopeagainst hope, I persisted. Even Sushanta was growing desperate. He too was thinking

    that it was becoming of no use and that the sooner we remove his watch the better.Perhaps in his mind he did not wish to lose another object of value to him as part of thisexperiment.

    It was approaching midday the next day. I was still sitting in front of the window.Sushanta had left to pee.

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    And then it happened. A boy of thirteen came from nowhere and stood in front of ourhouse. He was thin and dark. He was from the neighboring colony. He was franticallysearching for something. He looked around the place as if to ensure no one is looking.He then walked off. I felt that we were so so close of nailing him but then he was not theone . With him my hope evaporated. I was just about to open the window and ask

    sushanta to go to pick up the watch and at that instant the suspect reemerged this timeas if in a hurry. He ensured that no one was watching from anywhere along the nearbyroad and there was no traffic passing either. He immediately went and picked up thewatch and put it in his pant.

    I raised the alarm and rushed out of the house. He was fleet footed and tried to runaway. I was equal to the task and so was sushanta. He raised the alarm and people ofthe locality came out soon as we chased. We finally caught him after running a fairdistance. The elders of the locality crowded the place in no time. On hearing the news

    first to arrive was Jishu. Before even uttering a word he put a tight slap on the suspects face. The suspect was just about to explain his defence but then he did not get achance. However, with the emergence of Mr Prabir (senior member of locality) in theinterest of natural justice he finally got a chance to defend himself. However , by thattime he has already been slapped thrice by a few of my fellow friends who wereaccusing him from all angles and were asking for their stolen objects and were saying,kire chor bol kothai rekhechis oi jinish gulo? Kake bechli ? harami edike dekh ! takachiskothai ! shuworer bacha churi korbe tumi abaraaj jodi toke lamppost e bedhe na jutopeta korechi to amar naam ki . (so you thief where have u kept all those stolenobjects?? Whom have us old it? Bastard look at me! Where are u looking at? Stupid asswill you ever steal again!! If we dont hung you to the lamppost and bit the hell out ofyou with our shoes I should never be called by my name again!)

    The climate was extremely tensed. The theif was continuously trying to put up adefence. He was saying that he was about to see whose watch was it although initiallywhen we caught him he was saying that it was his watch. The moment he was trying toput up such a defence , sushanta immediately stopped him by reiterating his earlierstatement. Everyone was hiting him from all angles both front and back. Some werepulling his hair. Others who were more amenable were reminding others that he washuman and that he may die if beating him continued for a longer time.

    After the emergence of Mr prabir , in calm voice , he asked the thief , tumi ki chu rikorecho? Sotti kore bolo ami kichu korbo namitha bolle era kintu tomai charbe na

    (did u steal it? If u say the truth I will not do anything..if u tell a lie then they will beat thehell out of you )

    Having busted the thief I was expecting that my laptop will also be returned now oratleast be traced. However, it was not to be. The theif was not ready to confess. Hebluntly kept on repeating, Main chor nahi hu .. Main amjad ka ladka hu ..Ye mera ghari

    jaisa hai ..mujhe pata nahi tha ye kisi aur ka hai ( I am not the thief..i am the son ofamjad I have a similar watch I did not know it was of someone else) .

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    Each time he uttered those words more impatient the mob grew and more inclined theywere to hit him.

    The climate was tensed and finally when after a good beating he started to bleed. Hewas left by the angry mob who felt satisfied at having reasonably punished the culpritwho had been causing unending problems for them. When they left the scene each onewas satisfied that justice was done.

    After some time, Amjads wife came and took her son with him. They were both verypoor and often used to come to rag pick. I was filling a bit guilty to see him bleedbecause even though he took my laptop maybe (he never confessed it though), he wasafter all a human being , more so he was poor. Poverty has its own curses.

    For a few weeks everything was calm and nothing really happened. Everyone felt it wasover. Amjads family had left the neighboring colony and gone somewhere, no one knewwhere. In the meantime, my AIEEE exam was nearing and I was being more engrossedwith that. The exam came and went. The results came out and I succeeded. I gotadmission into one of the colleges of the prestigious NIT brand. The last day as aparting gift, we decided to play all night. My friend Sushanta kept his purse on thepedestral before playing. We were engrossed in the game. We were just 4 peopleplaying. After the game I found Sushanta searching for his purse. Which had somehowvanished from the pedestral. I too was surprised and was completely at my wits end andknew not how infront of our yes this could happen. We searched each other too as anact of distrust but it was not there.

    After a few days, when I was about to leave Kolkata via train (train number 12102, jnaneshwari express). In my train compartment, there sat a young boy who took out apurse exactly with the same color and a torn mark. I looked at it and held up my breath.He noticed my uneasiness but did not say anything. I kept an eye on him all the time. Hewas uneasy. He quietly de boarded from the train the very next station. I first thought ofraising the alarm but then I was not fully sure about it so I restrained myself. Later I toldit to sushanta , he was annoyed at me initially but later calmed and sa id , Can we do thesearch again this time in Kharagpur?

    I smiled and said ok call the team.

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