The moment I heard about his (note)worthy profession I started feeling a sense of gastric discomfort around him.
“Pickpockets can smell money”, was my mother’s catchphrase while discussing the much sought after profession in and around my native place.
Talented individuals from our area migrated to metro cities to pursue an illustrious and lucrative career in pick-pocketing.
Whenever I set out to travel she never missed an opportunity to remind me of the amazing power of smell they were blessed with, often drawing parallels with the smelling power of dogs.
“They can rip you off your pocket belongings without you even noticing it.” Some of them are so efficient that you keep a 100 rupee note in a pocket diary, no matter which pocket it is, the diary will survive- minus the currency”. These were random quotes I had heard in honor of the hardworking, slick professionals .
Given his calm and collected demeanor I began to become sure of his expertise.
The best ones in any profession are the ones who can pull off their job effortlessly, I had read somewhere.
Gloom started to dawn upon my brain. And nature followed too, as if calibrating itself to my mood. The sun had already set, and darkness was creeping in, slowly every moment.
I had read this about human psychology that no-one bothers to/can figure out what goes on in your mind unless you do something unusual (read body language) to trigger off an alarm in the person’s mind. That unusual body language serves as the smell to an already alarmed mind of a pickpocket, I inferred, remembering my mother’s catchphrase.
I started to hunt for reasons why should he not be suspecting me…Or, had he successfully put to use his power of smell, already busy making plans…?
I realized, there is no reason a person with more than sufficient amount of grease should be in jail. This singularly lamentable reality of Incredible India was working to my advantage. It lifted my spirits. I made myself thoroughly convinced- I DO NOT have the money.
Afterall, one has to believe himself in order to make others believe him.
The dimly flickering bulb’s sincere efforts to light up broke me from my reverie. I made a fleeting glance at him from the corner of my eye. He had this tranquil carelessness about him which was rare. I was impressed, enough to butt-in in the silence that prevailed after the shenanigans of the mighty 200 watt bulb.
नाम क्या है तेरा ? , I asked with the right amount of curiosity the moment warranted.
He felt a minor jolt in his train of thoughts.
After a momentary pause he replied in a languorous tone- यार, नाम में क्या रखा है , काम देखो, काम ! अपने इलाके का सबसे first class जेबकतरा हूँ l (O man, what's in a name, what matters is how good I am at what I do!, I'm the best pickpocket you'll find in the area.
….भाईसाब, एक उसूल है मेरा - कभी किसी गरीब की जेब नहीं काटी , और भेन्चोद* किसी रईस को छोड़ा भी नहीं l(Mister, I go by one principle- never lay your hands on a poor man's money and never spare a rich one)
His voice going a notch or two higher, probably with indignation, in the last part.
Now that was one helluva of a statement. It made the bells ringing in my mind. I was wondering which catgory does he put me into- the rich, or the poor. And hopelessly wishing for the latter.
I was pitched against the best in the business, and there was no stepping down. But his opening up to me about his widely recognized profession on a personal basis indicated that he wanted to make a friend; and I was already perceiving him an adversary. It felt strange. How, often we misjudged people.
ME: कुछ तो नाम होगा तेरा जो पुलिस रजिस्टर में दर्ज होगा …(c'mon you must be having a name, atleast in the police registers)
HIM: भाईसाब ऐसा कोई रजिस्टर पैदा नहीं हुआ जिसमे मेरा नाम दर्ज हो सके ….वैसे लल्ली नाम है मेरा l(Mister there's no register that can bear my name...by the way my name is 'lalli')
ME: ये तो लड़कियों वाला नाम है l(quite a feminine name that is)
HIM: तू भेन्चोद बाल की खाल निकालता है ……मेरा नाम ललित है …बचपन से मताई* लल्ली बुलाती है, बाप ललित बुलाता था l लोग भी लाड़* से वही बुलाने लगे …और प्यार से दी हुई चीज़ को लल्ली कभी नहीं ठुकराता l(The mutherfucker pays a lot attention to details...my name is Lalit....since childhood mother calls me Lalli and Father used to call me Lalit...And then people started calling me that affectionately...and Lalli never refuses an affectionate gift)
Instantly, I reminisced those several light arguments with my mother, which I thought were a waste of time an energy, completely overlooking the affection. A major lesson learnt. If your parents bore you, try to see the gallons of affection the otherwise tasteless glass of milk they offer you instead of beer.
…to be continued...