Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The Heist

The conductor hauled me into the crowded DTC bus at the very last minute. I looked around, acutely aware of the stench of sweat, the strong smell of ‘paan’ and found what I was really searching for-money!
There she sat, the prey, corpulent like a toad, spread out comfortably over two seats and sweating profusely. Her gaudy silk sari was to blame as was her flashy jewellery (necklace, rings, earrings et al). She smiled unapologetically at an elderly gentleman looking for a seat, parting her garishly painted red lips to reveal a row of yellowing teeth. I glanced at her purse, which resembled its owner in size, and assuming that it was well stocked I decided to go ahead with my plan.
As the bus lurched forward I bumped into a college student listening to loud music on his new phone-“the new Nokia 6233” he mentioned (more than once) to the several young ladies sitting in the bus and condescendingly muttered the same to the other college boys indicating his superiority over them and the fact that they now didn’t have a shot with ‘the ladies’. I hastily muttered a “sorry” and continued to make my way towards my intended victim. A young executive’s fake Tag Heuer watch caught my eye as he waved his arm about in an agitated manner and discussed workplace woes with his colleague via his new Bluetooth headset. The time read 7:10 pm. I was running late, I had to hurry. I was distracted by the loud wail of a 5 year old; clearly not happy with the large chunk of chocolate her weary looking father was offering her. My stomach groaned to remind me that it hadn’t received a morsel all day. The glint of metal caught my eye and forced me to turn sideways to see a distinguished looking gentleman scribbling away something on a piece of paper (presumably a critique on the modes of transportation used by the Indian middle class) with an equally distinguished looking silver pen.
Having made my way through the cramped bus, I finally stood right beside my prey. She appeared to be asleep, grunting every now and then, her mouth wide open. A vague feeling of uneasiness that I  couldn’t quite place washed over me as I looked at this comical sight, and for a moment  I hesitated. However, when the bus lurched forward the very next minute, providing the perfect opportunity to whisk her purse away without anyone noticing, all my previous feelings of apprehension disappeared.
I grabbed her purse, stuffed it into the large bag of old newspapers I had been hauling everywhere and was just about to make away with it when my victim suddenly leaped up, shaken out of her slumber, and grabbed my arm sinking her red talons into my flesh. I stood there, stunned by her agility, and waited for all hell to break loose.
“I recognized you the minute you walked in” she said menacingly, “you had tried to rob me last year during Diwali also”. She went on, shrieking now , with a mad  gleam in her eye “Usha never forgets a face.Oh you heartless man, preying on a hapless young women like me” she said , her bosom heaving and all the makeup which she had applied to make herself look so young and hapless trickling down one side of her face.
By then of course I had recalled the entire episode. I had remembered the only time in my 16 year old career as a petty thief that I had been caught, thrashed and forced to spend a night in jail. I stood there silently cursing myself at my own folly.
 The excitement starved crowd in the bus swung into action immediately. The conductor blew his whistle to draw everyone’s attention and proudly announced that a thief had been caught aboard ‘his’ bus.
 I was a celebrity in a matter of seconds. The college student bounded towards me, snapped a picture of me on his cell phone and rushed off to show it to ‘ladies’ and give them a blow by blow and highly exaggerated account of my earlier encounter with him. The executive used his headset, called the local police station and informed them about the situation. A few teenage boys caught me and put my arms in a bind- a move that received approving nods from onlookers and changed their perception of ‘today’s youth’. The distinguished looking gentleman used his silver pen and noted down my (fake) name and (fake) address on a piece of paper.
 The bus driver, clearly feeling a little left out of all the action, stopped the bus and since it was imperative that he also be a part of the drama, rushed towards me and landed a punch on my bony jaw. Having done that, he looked around triumphantly. After a few more tongue lashings, threats, punches and kicks to the shin, I was roughly shoved out of the bus and onto the dimly lit street.
 I noted that I had been dropped off near my house in Civil Lines and hence could comfortably walk home. Good timing- I mentally congratulated myself. I put on my new Bluetooth headset and called up my partner using the Nokia 6233. I fished out the silver pen from my pocket and examined it. There wasn’t much for dinner tonight I thought glancing down at my new ’Tag Heuer’ watch. The large chunk of chocolate in my back pocket would have to do.

~Arunika Ganguly, PGDM 2014-16 Marketing

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