Last month I had posted this one in its original form. It is a story from my published Hindi story book "विरासत" and the caption is ''दोस्त का नाम मुचकन्द''. And now in is its translated form it will try to capture its original charm. Maybe I'm nearer it on maybe not. In the process of translation some new ideas struck me and I've not hesitated to incorporate them. Translation should not be, in my opinion, a word-for-word exercise, and more so if the author himself undertakes to translate his own work. They call it transcreation.
Muchkand My Friend
Long long ago, the
gazetted head post office of Chirag Delhi used to be flush with cash. Agreed, there
was a system in place to transfer its surplus cash to the Reserve Bank of India
twice during the course of a day, yet there used to remain oodles of cash overnight
in the post office. Very carefully the staff in charge of the treasury used to count
the amount, record it in the books of accounts both in figure and words and stuff
it into the many iron chests embedded at dingy corners. And when everything got
finished then only they would sleepily call it a day.
For everybody the rush of big money was like
the blessing of Laxmi the goddess of wealth and all were happy on account of
that...except the postmaster Mr Shyamlal. He was so tense about the
accumulation of cash in the post office that he used to pray god not to bring on
any mishap at night. He used to stay in his official residence that was
situated in the same campus just by the side of the post office. In fact Mr
Shyamlal would get no sleep at night even though the campus was very
quiet. This sort of sleeplessness used to affect him the most when the
accumulated cash exceeded the retention limit. During those risky nights, even the
feeble sound of a cat prowling in the office in search of rats was enough to
frighten Mr Shyamlal. And he used to shout frightfully, ‘Who’s that?’ On
getting no answer, he would remain quiet till there was another sound. Whether or not anybody around got alerted by the scream of the
postmaster was a different matter, but as for the guard on night duty Mr
Shravan Ram, he would be frequently woken up out of his beauty sleep. And he used
to repeat his answer, ‘A cat, Sir. It’s only cat.’
evening at about 8 o’clock, three armed young fellows barged into the post
office. It happened at a time when Shravan Ram was about to close the doors and
windows of the post office. Aha! There were thirty-sixty different locks to be to be managed! Finding the night guard busy elsewhere, the
intruders chose the front door to enter the office. Nobody blocked their way. It
was an easy beginning for them, kind of. The gang of three were happy that they
did not have to fight at the door. They wondered, despite its ‘’No Admission’’
signages everywhere, entering a post office could be so easy! Wow! It was as
easy as entering an empty bus standing at the bus terminus.
Inside the post office, it was all calm. The
entire staff working in the main hall had already left. Finding the situation
so very favourable, the trio got overwhelmed, ‘Aha! The job is getting easier
and easier, every step. Hurry up! Let’s rush to our destination. Where’s money?
Money-money, sweeter than honey, Where’s money?’
Then they headed for the treasury. It was not a
room, but just a big iron cage. And it was only dimly lit, darkness inside
coexisting with light around the work-desk. The entry gate into the iron cage was
also made of iron. But, lo, of what use were those iron gates if none of them was
Seated inside the cage were four people, all of
them immersed in their day-end work. None had a minute’s leisure to look
anywhere else. So engrossed were they that they had hardly any time for slapping
themselves to shoo a biting mosquito away. There was already a big heap of cash and
the counting was still on. It appeared as though all the inhabitants of Chirag
Delhi had collectively decided to dump their money in the post office!
Without any big efforts on their part, the gang
of three banged into the cage. One had a pistol in his hand and the rest a
super sharp knife each.
‘Nobody should try to act smart and all will
keep their mouth shut,’ the fellow with a pistol in his hand commanded.
Then the second young man yelled, ‘Now, go
under your table. And don’t dare to look up.’
All four of them that were working inside the
treasury cage till a moment ago obeyed the command of the looter. And they crawled
under their respective tables without a murmur. As for them, it was time to
mind one’s own defence...and rightly so it was never the moment to undertake misadventure.
And beneath the table were the mosquitoes, enjoying themselves while making sure that they were in full action. With their monotonous
music on they went on biting their hapless victims with vengeance. As for the employees under the tables, there was, however,
an unintended result from their awkward position underneath: they now realised how dirty it was under their nose and what sort of stink
they were so far enduring. One of them even resolved in mind that if he were
lucky to be spared unharmed by the dacoits, the first thing he would do was
clean his own socks!
The gang of three looters were quite happy since
they did not have to break a safe or an almirah for cash. Everything was available
close at hand. There were only bundles and bundles on the table—currency notes
of all denominations with the faces of bespectacled Gandhi fascinating them.
Nay, Gandhi the giver was affectionately smiling at them from the neat bundles
on the table. If anybody ever decided to write a treatise on robbery, then this
one could definitely earn the distinction of being the easiest of all robberies
And lo, the trio went into the sweet little reveries
of their own as they collected their booty. But before long they were jerked
out of their daydreams when they realised that they were the three hardcore
robbers and not the hopeless street performers. They should finish their job
soon before they were caught. So off they went with the bagful of currency
While the robbers were getting out of the post
office, they saw Shravan Ram the night watchman. One of them came near him and
took him in his grip and then the other accomplice applied a dab of Amritanjan
balm in his eyes. Ah! The poor fellow. Now what was there for Shravan Ram to
do? He knew he had no big physical prowess to challenge the dacoits.
His eyes shedding tears, he just tottered his way up to the postmaster Mr Shyamlalji.
By that time all the four cashiers had
presented themselves before the Postmaster and begun to narrate the event. By
and large it was a peaceful robbery with no bloodshed and no injury whatsoever.
Before late the news reached the Superintendent
of Post Offices. And the police also registered an FIR. The process of
investigation was, thus, set in motion. All the four treasurers had to visit
the police station. Now they were to endure the unpalatable job of answering to
the police. As they answered question after question both jointly and
severally, they just lost count of them. It appeared as though the police was
working under an impression that the cunning treasurers knew the address of the
looters. However, soon it realised that it was wasting its valuable time in the
interrogation of a band of innocent people. So it let them free with a very
special gesture: Aha! The police said a short ‘’Sorry’’ to the four eyewitnesses.
And no sooner did the police leave them than they went back home to catch up on
That was all about the first reaction of the
police. And the departmental investigation also continued but with no lead in
sight. Everybody came to know that the amount of loot was more than thirty-five
lakhs. That instantly became the biggest talking point. Aha! Those were the
days of short supply of money: an amount of a lakh of rupees used to be
something respectable. In those days people used to wow! an amount of a lakh of
rupees and not of a crore. ‘’Kaun Banega Crorepati’’ is only a recent serial in
the television. Be that as it may, by the time the departmental inquiry ended, it
had produced a big list of lapses that included questions like why was there no
lock on, neither on the main gate nor at the entrance of the treasury cage; why were those gates kept open, not closed; why
did the night guard Shravan Ram leave his place; and so on.
A week just went by. There was no success story
to greet either the police or its dogs. There were of course a lot of
photography and a prolonged series of interrogation, but none could throw any
light on the identity of those robbers.
But then the case was destined to be solved.
And it was to happen in a very strange manner.
That day the beat policeman of Sarojini Nagar happened
to bump into a seven-year-old boy playing on the footpath. He was playing all
alone and the object of his game was the lock of a bicycle. It appeared the boy
had picked it up from the heap of rejected parts of a cycle mart. And he was
trying his best to unlock it with the help of an iron nail.
The policeman heard, as it were, a voice from
within: ‘Look! Here’s a boy, small yet vastly knowledgeable. Go, go quickly and have a
look what he’s up to.’
So he went near the boy with a mixed feeling of
curiosity and contempt. While looking at him with a searching gaze, he wondered
what he should do for the benefit of the fellow. But then he was a policeman only and he knew just
a few police-like methods that were appropriate at the moment. And slapped the fellow. Actually
speaking, what more could he do than slapping the boy hard across the
face? His police ritual now finished, he began to address him in a tone of loving
admonition, ‘Oh my dear urchin, you’re sure to grow up to become an
ill-famous thief I say. Didn’t you get any better things to play?’
A slap on his face was not so painful as it was humiliating: the boy let out a loud cry but just for half a
minute. Maybe he was choosing his words to give vent to his anger. Then he
began to call his tormentor down, ‘Do you think you’re acting as the most
reputable policeman in the country? And how dare you beat small children on the
road? Tell me, what wrong did I commit to deserve this punishment? I demand
your answer: Tell me what precious little have you done to those who burgle at
the post office?’
‘A small boy of seven and yet look at his
courage? The brat is in possession of the entire information of the world! So,
in a way I’m right in guessing about the precociousness in the boy.’ The policeman
thought aloud. With no loss of time he asked the boy, ‘Tell me, who’s robbed
the post office? Do you know him?’
‘Yes, I know him. But then why should I tell
you? You’re not my friend, are you? Didn’t you slap me now?’
The policeman was himself a father of two and
he knew exactly what should be done under the situation.
‘Sorry, my friend, I’m extremely sorry. I couldn’t know my friend. Please excuse me for once,’ the police fellow
began to cajole the boy.
‘Well, you're excused. Now listen to me
carefully. The name of the robber is Bangar and he’s in love with my sister.
Last week there’s a robbery in Chirag Delhi Post Office and it’s the handiwork of
Bangar. He’s a gun but he never allows me to play with that. He’s not a friend
with me. So go and catch him. He has eloped with my sister and gone somewhere.
Nobody knows where he’s now.’
Then he took a deep breath and looked at the
policeman, ‘Are you going to keep it secret, my friend? Don’t tell anyone that
you’ve heard all these from your friend Muchkand.’
Internally the policeman was in utter
jubilation. It was undoubtedly a rare chance in the life of a policeman. He
felt he was just a step away from his dear promotion in service. Assuring his
friend he said, ‘You’d better cast off all your worries, my friend. Constable Daulatram
knows how to remain faithful to a friend.’
The rest of the follow-up was just a so-so
affair. Very easily the robbers were caught. Some money was recovered too. One fellow
had crossed the boundary of India and escaped to Kathmandu, but then how long
could he have remained at large just to escape the police?
People who have read my story claim it to be a
narration of a true event. But I’d plead it should be allowed to remain a story
only, for nobody would like to see a post office looted by robbers nor a child
on the street slapped by a policeman. Anyway, come to think of it, what a
cakewalk it was for the robbers! And how easily did the police solve it!
A N Nanda