(This is a feeble translation of "Kaptaan saab", a story by Munshi Premchand.)
Jagatsingh hated school; going to school, to him, was worse than taking a dose of quinine or cod liver oil. He loved to roam around, or go out on excursions. He could often be found in somebody else's guava orchard relishing both the fruit as also the gardener's abuses; sometimes he hopped onto the boats of the ferrymen, and went over to explore the villages on the other side of the river. Nothing delighted him more than to hear the angry oaths of the victims of his escapades; he never missed any opportunity which promised to invite the wrath of those at the receiving end of his mischiefs.
Nothing gave him more joy than to run after tongas while clapping his hands in glee, tugging at rickshaws from behind, and mimicking the gait of the elderly. The lazy do no work, but fall prey to bad habits; these bad habits cannot be satiated without money. So it was with Jagatsingh too; he stole money from home. When he could not lay his hands on money he did not hesitate to carry off utensils and clothes. There were innumerable flasks and bottles in his house which gradually found their way to the scrap dealers. There were quite a few antique articles, but none remained owing to his onslaught. He was so adept in this art of carrying away things that one could only marvel at his skill. Once, he surreptitiously scaled up the columns of his two-floor house to reach the terrace from where he picked up a brass plate, and climbed down as quitely as before; No one in the house heard even the faintest sound!
His father, Thakur Bhaktsingh, was a clerk in the post office. Bhaktsingh had been able to obtain a transfer to a city post office after much pleading with his superiors; but the reasons for which Bhaktsingh had sought the transfer remained unfulfilled. It was, in fact, a bad bargain. He could obtain vegetables and fuel for free in the villages; but, here, those freebies were unavailable. Under such circumstances, Jagatsingh's thievery compounded his woes. The distressed father had mercilessly thrashed his son on several occasions. Jagatsingh was a big and strong lad, but he silently suffered the whipping - if he wanted he could have grabbed his father's hands, and Bhaktsingh would not have been able to free them from the vice-like grip. But Jagatsingh was not faint-hearted; yes, the thrashings and scoldings had no effect on him whatsoever.
Jagatsingh was disliked by everybody in the house; his presence in the house was resented by one and all. His mother would come running and his sisters start cursing the moment he entered the house, as though some bull had forced its way into the home. Jagatsingh had become immune to such humiliating behavior.
The family members, after becoming acquainted with his ways, were always on alert. Once, for a whole month, Jagatsingh could not lift anything from the house. The dope peddlers, who supplied him with cannabis and marijuana, began demanding their money, and the sweet-meat shop owner let out a stream of sour words whenever he came in sight. It had become impossible for Jagatsingh to step out of the house. He was always on the lookout for some opportunity but he could not lay his hands on anything.
Finally, an opportunity presented itself one day. Bhaktsingh returned from the post office in the afternoon carrying an insured registered envelope in his pocket - the envelope had not been delivered to the receiver yet, and it would have been unsafe to keep it lying in the village post office. However, upon returning home Bhaktsingh forgot to remove the envelope from the shirt pocket.
Jagatsingh was lying in wait. As soon as his father removed the shirt and withdrew, Jagatsingh pounced upon it, rummaged through the pockets in the hope of finding some coins, and discovered the envelope. There were a number of stamps on the envelope which was not yet post-marked. Jagatsingh had, in the past, removed stamps from envelopes and sold them at half their price. Had he known that there were currency notes in the envelope he would not have touched it. But he did not know. When he tore open the envelope and discovered the currency notes, Jagatsingh realized he was in deep trouble. It appeared as though the torn envelope was cursing him for his misdeeds. Jagatsingh found himself in a situation similar to that of a bird hunter who trains his guns on a bird but hits an onlooker by mistake. Jagatsingh was overcome by a potpourri of emotions - he regretted his act, he felt ashamed of himself, and he felt said; but he lacked the courage to face punishment for his crime. He replaced the notes in the envelope and withdrew.
It was a warm afternoon; everybody in the house was taking a siesta. But there was no sleep in Jagatsingh's eyes. It was certain he would be severely reprimanded for his misdeed; it would be unwise to remain home under such circumstances. The solution that presented to him was to go away for a few days and return after anger against him had calmed. He had to go somewhere far away where he would not be recognized. But he needed money for that. Why not remove a single note from the envelope? As it is, upon finding the torn envelope his father would at once realize it was his doing, so what was the harm in removing a single note? Father had money, and he would have to replace the missing note anyway. Jagatsingh removed a ten-rupee note from the envelope. However, a new thought now played mischief in his mind. It would be fun if he took away all the money and opened a shop! He will not have to steal then. He would make a lot of money in a few days and, then, return home; people would be surprised.
There were 200 rupees in the envelope - sufficient to open a shop to sell milk. Look at the sweetmeat shop owner - he had only a few brass utensils and nothing more, but lived in style. He smoked several rupees worth of cannabis and staked ten rupees while gambling. Could he have lived in such style had he not been earning profits? The thoughts had done their mischief and Jagatsingh was incapable of taming his mind. It was as though he had tripped while walking along the beach and the waves had swept him away. The same evening he quietly walked out of home, and boarded a train for Mumbai. The next day a case was filed against post office clerk Bhaktsingh for embezzlement.