2

On several occasions I have carefully observed the behaviour of passersby. If their behaviour seemed at all suspicious, I have followed them. I have discreetly enquired into backgrounds. But, in the end, and after all my enquiries, I have always discovered to my dismay that they were all decent people who had never committed even the most insignificant crime in their lives. Even their friends and relatives did not spread untruths 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 master in a school returning home after teaching his pupils. These people could have made their mark as notorious thieves and robbers had they been born in some other country. But, here in our own backyard, they have lost all vitality and vigour, and make a living teaching and look forward to collecting a pension in their old age! The disgust I feel for petty thieves is nothing compared to the disgust I feel for assistant masters!

One evening I noticed a person beneath a lamp-post near my own home. He was pacing back and forth for no obvious reason. He appeared quite agitated. After observing him, I became certain in my mind that he was on some dubious mission. From the darkness, I could observe him clearly without drawing attention to myself. He was young, and handsome. "This is how a criminal ought to look," I thought to myself. "Those with a giveaway criminal face avoid committing crimes; they may prove to be failures while trying to lead good lives, but they cannot succeed as criminals." 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 shadows, 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."

I was, however, rather annoyed at him for getting so startled. He should have remained cool, 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 economy when turning a thief into a master thief.

He hurried away from the lamp-post, and I quietly shadowed him. The youth walked towards the lake, and lay 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 here; at the most, they may think that he was conjuring up visions of his sweetheart's face in the night sky.

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

I also took up residence at his lodge posing as a student. When we met on the first day, he gave me an odd look. I could not make out what thoughts were passing through his mind. He seemed surprised, and at the same time I felt as though he had seen through me. A challenging prey for the hunter! I realized it would take all my wits to snare him.

However, when I tried to befriend him he did not hesitate. 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 into 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 love me."

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 made 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.

Meanwhile, in spite of much effort, I could not discover what Manmoth did behind closed doors, or how far his plot had progressed. But one thing was certain: he had not abandoned his objective 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