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Friday, April 29, 2011

To catch a thief

First year of hostel life had its charm- the first time I was away from home- and the only birthday when my seniors and classmates stood me up against a wall and threw eggs at me to celebrate it. It was a year of discovery- of the beauty of some people and the ugliness in the hearts of some. It was a year that made me realize that everything wasn’t black and white. Sometimes, my heart aches to think of the naiveté with which I viewed the world back then, and the fearlessness I fostered in my heart. I believed I could do anything. I still do… somehow…

I heard rumors from my batchmates about this girl who lived a couple of floors above me in my hostel room. We made jokes about her stealing sanitary napkins- she was so indiscreet in her choice of ‘resource allocation’. I suggested with all the goodness of my young heart- that maybe she was a ’kleptomaniac’, who submitted to impulses and needed clinical help. My argument was refuted by the fact that she often stole money and other valuables. But a tube of half-used apricot scrub? Evidently, when anything went missing – even your favorite red bra- we assumed it was MP. (Hope she has a better career now)

Half of the hostel had begun to boycott her for her stealing habits (many people vouched for it), and the rest avoided her for dressing like an attention whore and grinding seniors on DJ nights. (It was quite scary at that time, and unless you were doing it too- it could be quite a taboo)

Anyways, she came down to meet me one day before our finals- when I was just about to go for a shower. The hostel was almost empty owing to study leave and Holi- the kids who lived nearby had gone home. I decided to give her a benefit of doubt and to judge her myself- for I have always been someone who likes to form her own opinions of people- even if it means burning my hands bitterly at times. I gave her the notes she wanted and told her I had to leave my room, and would talk to her later. I had just checked my wallet and put it in my drawer, before we said goodbye.

When I came back to my room, my neighbor warned me about a possible mishap because she saw MP leave my room furtively. Her roommate joined in the conversation saying she had just seen MP takes change for two 500 Re notes at the campus tuck shop. I went and checked my wallet. The cash was gone. I decided to do nothing about it, and let her goodness of heart amend her actions.

Obviously, goodness did not prevail. But if I couldn’t get my money back or the other stuff my hostel mates had lost, I could instill fear in her to prevent her from future material inappropriation- at least something akin to what the girls were feeling about her. So, early the following morning- almost instantly, an evil scheme sprung to my mind – and without intimating any of my friends- I walked up to her room and knocked. It was open but I was trying to be courteous. She looked at me with considerable doubt. I started acting finicky- trembling- duplicating body language that shows nervousness and to some extent- an unsound mind. I mumbled and repeated,’ Do you smell blood? Can you smell blood?’

She gave me a blank look.

‘I can’ I said with bug-eyes and then made a contorted face like I were in great pain and about to confess my darkest sins. ‘I want to tell you something’ I whispered. ‘Something I had never said before to anyone.’

‘Do you know why my father sent me away from home? It is a sort of rehabilitation for me. There are so many good schools in East- India, why do you think I was sent to the West?’

I could sense she was curious. Hence, I began my story: ‘I was a child then. I had a favorite doll. One day my neighbor’s son took it away from me and did not give it back when I asked for it. I didn’t say anything. One day we went to a nearby lake and I pushed him into it. I watched him while he drowned to his death.’

‘A few years later, a house maid stole Re 500 from my Mom’s purse. I saw her do it and told my Mom. When she confronted her, she denied. Later, she sat down to grind spices on a stone mortar and pestle. I asked her to return the money, but she ignored me. Before she knew it, I took the pestle in my hand and bludgeoned her to death. There was uproar but things were taken care of and nobody knew what happened. But my father suspected something was wrong with me- he decided to send me away from home. ‘

‘I learned later that the maid was pregnant.’

‘So, you see, I have the blood of two and half people on my hands. I can smell it.’

I took pride in my fabrication- the mythical death of a non-existent neighbor and maid. The story scared me too. But I looked at her face like someone who is asking for help. She mumbled something about my needing to rest and ushered me to the door. I heard the door slam and the bolt go up behind me. I suppressed my wish to cachinnate and wake up the remaining hostelers , but I walked silently back to my bed and had a good sleep.

At the canteen, during lunch one of my close friends walked up to me and asked,’ What crap have you been feeding MP? She is going bonkers.’

I asked quietly- 'Don’t you believe it?'

'Of course not!'

We then had a hearty laugh about the whole thing as I recounted the episode to several of my friends. Magically, two extra 500 re notes appeared in my wallet soon, and the resource allocation project got shelved.

Lesson: You can’t always fight evil with goodness, and imagination is a good thing.



sangram said...

Its a fantastic narrative - more stories please - more stories - u are a great story teller - I loved it :D .. Hopefully, MP will read this stuff while she is still thinking about stealing something (:D)

Aparna Kar said...

Oh, I hope she never does. She will start again :P

Mishree said...

Loved the narrative.strangely enough,I saw the ':D'in your status msg only after I read this.Lucky me,that the element of suspense stayed till then very end! :-)

Siddharth S said...

Beautifully narrated...btw where is she nowadays ? ;)

Aparna Kar said...


@ Sidi
No clue !

saikat said...

Well narrated, infact started smelling blood :P yeah vampires can smell blood :D

Am sure till now she gets nightmares remembering the night :D

Aparna Kar said...

Hope not !I'd feel too guilty then :)

amitabha said...

Your acting was superb.

Paromita said...

memories :)..i remember this too :)

Aparna Kar said...

Paro, we share a lot together :) :*