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On several occasions I have carefully observed the behaviour of people in the streets; if their behaviour seemed suspicious, I have followed them. I have discreetly enquired into their antecedents. But, in the end, and after all my enquiries, I have always discovered to my dismay that they were all good people who had never committed the smallest crime in their lives. Even their friends and relatives did not spread any lies about them behind their backs. The most sinister-looking individual whom I followed and who, I was certain, had committed the most heinous crime only moments ago, would turn out to be an assistant teacher in a school, returning home after teaching the students. These very people could have made their mark as famous thieves and robbers had they been born in some other country. But, here in our own country, they lack in vitality and vigour, and make a living through teaching, and then look forward to earning a pension in their old age! The disgust I feel toward petty utensil thieves is nothing compared to the disgust I felt toward the assistant teacher!

Finally, one evening, I saw a person beneath a lamp-post near my own home. He was pacing to and fro for no obvious reasons. He appeared quite agitated. After observing him, I became certain in my mind that he was on some dubious mission. Remaining in the darkness, I could observe him clearly without drawing attention to myself. He was young, and good-looking; "This is the proper mien for a criminal," I thought to myself. "Those who have a face which gives an impression that its owner must be a criminal, avoid committing crimes; they may prove to be failures while trying to lead good lives, but they cannot succeed in committing crimes either." The face of this youngster was his primary asset; I appreciated this fact. "God has provided you with the right assets, and it is up to you to make proper use of them," I said while addressing the youth in my mind.

I stepped out of the darkness, and going up to him tapped him on the back. "Hello, I hope you are fine," I said.

He was startled, and his face ashened. "I am sorry, I made a mistake. Seeing you suddenly, I mistook you for a friend," I told him. However, in my mind I said, "I haven't made any mistake. My surmise is absolutely correct."

But I was rather annoyed at him for getting startled to such an extent. He should have shown more cool headedness; but, then, even the most hardened criminal cannot be expected to possess all the qualities which go into the making of the master criminal. Nature shows its miserliness when it comes to turning a thief into a master thief.

He left the lamp-post in a hurry. I shadowed him. The youth walked towards the lake, and flopped down on the grassy bank. "This is a better place than the lamp-post to plan criminal activities," I said to myself. People are unlikely to become suspicious of the youth; at the most, they may think that he, to make up for the absence of his ladylove, was seeking pleasure in conjuring up visions of her face in the night sky.

I continued my investigations and learnt his name was Manmoth; he was a college student and lived in a lodge. He had failed his examinations. While all his lodge-mates had gone home during the summer vacations, he had preferred to stay back. It is usual for students to go home during long vacations; but for what ill purpose had this person stayed back? I was determined to find the answer.

Impersonating as a student, I also took up residence in his lodge. When we met on the first day, he looked at me with a strange expression; I could not make out what thoughts were passing in his mind. His look conveyed surprise, and at the same time it gave an impression as if he had understood my schemes. I realized it would take all my wits to snare him.

However, when I tried to befriend him he showed no hesitation. But I felt he too was measuring me; he, too, wanted to know me better. Such curiosity is the characteristic of the master! I was impressed by so much cleverness in such a young person.

I thought to myself that unless a female was introduced in my scheme, it would be difficult to unravel the youth's secrets. So, one day, I told him, "Friend, I love a woman but she does not reciprocate my feelings."

He looked at me in surprise, but smiling wryly replied, "This is not unusual. It happens."

"I need your help in this matter," I told him, and he agreed to assist.

I cooked up a story and he listened attentively; he however did not speak much. I had always believed that people become friendlier when you tell them of your love affairs, especially illicit love affairs. But in the present case that did not happen. The boy remained mute; but it was as if he had absorbed all the details. I developed a certain respect for the boy.

In the meanwhile, try as much as I could, I was unable to discover what Manmoth did behind closed doors, or how far he had progressed in his secret object. But one thing was certain: he had not abandoned his object and was pursuing it with perseverance.

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  • Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
  • IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
  • Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
  • Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
  • IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
  • Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
  • Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
  • Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
  • Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu