Can any value surpass 15 years of stealing? How can one change a boy thief’s character? Read to find out!
Meeting with Arun
Our boy thief was only fifteen years of age. But his hand was experienced in stealth. His art of stealing brought him much success. The prime among them is that he is alive to steal.
When he met Arun, he was watching a wrestling match. He looked kind and a perfect bait for our hero to make his day’s earning. So, he started-
“You have a great physique, like a wrestler!”, flattered the boy thief.
“You look like a wrestler yourself”, replied Arun understanding the flattery. Our boy thief had more bones than flesh to be called a wrestler.
“Sir, I want to work for you”, said the boy thief applying another tactic.
“I will not be able to pay you”, came from Arun.
“Can you feed me?”, said the boy thief bluntly. This was his last hope from Arun.
“Yes, but you need to cook for me”, said Arun giving our boy thief the most appealing smile.
The boy thief was horrible in cooking but his smile saved his day. Arun promised him to teach him to cook the next day. He also gave the boy thief a place to sleep on the veranda.
Arun taught the boy thief to cook. He taught him to write his own name and his name (Arun). He taught him to write whole sentences. This was a simply a dream come true for our boy thief.
Our boy thief was constantly on the hunt to steal and flee. But he was still grateful to Arun for teaching him to write. He felt that if he can write like an educated man, there can be no limit to his earning. Honest earning.
Arun himself did not have a fixed amount of income. He earned money by fits and starts. Nevertheless, he let the boy thief earn by sending him to market to buy food. The residue of money left after a day’s shopping was the income for the boy thief.
Days and nights passed through and finally the night to steal and flee arrived…
The Night to Steal
One evening, Arun came home with a bunch of notes. He tucked his bundles under his mattress at the head of the bed.
Our boy thief had won the trust of Arun. He had a key to the front door which meant that he had access to Arun’s bedroom whenever he was out. Moreover, he had all the reasons to exploit Arun. In the end, Arun had left him unpaid for so long.
And so the night came. The Moonlight shone brightly and fell across the bed. The stillness of the night found Arun in deep sleep.
The boy thief sat up on the floor with his blanket, considering the situation. There was a lot of money. He can easily go to Amritsar by express train with the notes under the mattress.
Slipping out of the blanket, the boy thief peeped at Arun. He was sleeping peacefully with soft and easy breathing. He slid his hands under the mattress, letting his fingers search for the notes. As soon as he found them, he drew them out without a crackle.
The boy thief crawled quickly and quietly out of the room. He had done his work. Now, it was the time to run.
Coming to the streets, he began to run all the way to the station. He had the notes at his waist, held by a string of his pajamas. It was already ten-twenty by the clock tower. He counted the notes. They were about a thousand rupees. It was really a good steal.
The boy thief reached the station. He dashed onto the platform. The Amritsar Express was just moving out. He had the money. He had the opportunity. One train and he was out of sight. He could have easily lived with the steal for about a month or two.
But the boy thief let the train leave the station without him.
He left the station. Walking slowly, he found himself in open space and sat down on a bench lying there. The night was cold and the boy thief shivered. Soon, it began to rain heavily. A cold wind brought the rain whipping across his face.
All the way, he was thinking about Arun. He was the only person he knew in the town. The only person who trusted him so much. The only person who taught him to write whole sentences.
The boy thief was softened with his veranda sleep at night. He found that it is difficult to sleep bench now which was earlier his daily routine. He could have earned money honestly if he knew how to write from Arun. Arun gave him a life to live.
Will, he again chose a life to steal?
The Break of Dawn
The boy thief rose the next day to find that Arun had already made his tea. He had come back to his room the previous night, placing the notes under the blanket as they were.
Arun was standing beside him with his hands stretched out. There were a few notes between his fingers.
“Now you’ll get paid regularly”, he spoke as he handed over the notes to the boy thief.
When the boy took the note, he felt his heartbeat fast. The notes we’re wet from the last night’s rain.
Arun knew everything about the previous night.
‘Today, I will teach you to write a little more than your name’, said the man in his twenties.
The boy, who was no longer a thief smiled at Arun in the most appealing way. He had finally chosen the right way to live.
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( Adapted from ‘The Thief’ by Ruskin Bond)