Burgling the Thief
It was a moonless night. The darkness seemed to coalesce around us. Only the fireflies occasionally blinked everywhere – just like the thousand eyes of the demon of the dark.
Our house is in the outskirts of Calcutta, the neighborhood isn’t as dense as the rest of the city yet. The house are all far apart – there are more trees than residents. In other words, we live in Calcutta only by name, this place cannot quite be called Calcutta yet.
Right next to our house is an open grassland and in that grassland Bimal and I sat hidden in a large taro bush, waiting for the opportune moment. Karali Mukherjee’s house was on the other side of the grassland.
Sensing our presence, the mosquitoes around us were playing an upbeat music in anticipation of a free meal. Every mosquito in the vicinity had turned up on hearing this band and were lovingly caressing us with their collective probosces. Unable to take this terrible caress any more, I whispered to Bimal, ‘Hey – this can’t be borne for much longer!’
Bimal only said, ‘Be still!’
‘Can’t you comprehend how difficult it is to be still?’
‘Of course I do! How do you think I’m keeping still?’
I couldn’t argue with that. So I kept still.
By the time there were swollen blotches all over my face and limbs, it was the dead of night; the church clock loudly tolled one o’ clock, making my heart thump.
Bimal stood up and said, ‘Now it’s time!’
I was ready anyway – I leaped out of the bushes.
Bimal said, ‘First put this mask on!’
Bimal had bought two expensive imported masks from Radhabazar this afternoon. Both were terrifying faces – guaranteed to scare the living daylights out of anyone who suddenly saw them in the dead of night. The idea behind wearing these was that no one would recognise us even if they saw us.
We put on the masks and walked towards Karali’s house in silence. Once we reached the rear. Bimal said, ‘Tuck your dhoti pleats into your back.’
I said, ‘But there’s no back door here!’
Bimal said, ‘Who’s using the door? Have we been invited to dinner? There’s a big banyan tree here, one of its branches falls directly on to Karali’s terrace. We’ll use the branch to gain entry!’ Bimal raised the darkened lantern in his hand and a thin beam of light fell on the branch.
I wasn’t too happy with the mode of entry – but I said nothing and climbed the banyan tree along with Bimal.
Once we’d climbed a fair height, Bimal said, ‘Now – very carefully – come along here! Look – that’s the branch – we have to climb this branch and jump on to the roof.’
I saw the vague outline of the branch in the darkness. Bimal moved along the branch first – a slight thud told me he had landed on the roof.
I held on to the branch with both arms and legs and inched ahead – fearing I’d fall at any moment! Not even the goddess of healing would be able to save me if I fell from that height.
Without warning, Bimal’s muffled voice said, ‘That’s it! Now swing from the branch.’
My heart in my mouth, I held on to the branch with both arms and swung.
‘Now let go!’