Suja’s mother was in an irritated mood that morning. The woman who used to come everyday to sweep their yard had been absconding for a few days and the premises looked unkempt and messy.
Guessing that the regular maid was not going to turn up that day too, she stood at the front gate, looking down the road to see if she could find someone to clean her yard. A young boy walked up to her just then and begged for some food as he had not eaten since morning.
The boy was bedraggled and had a bandage above his left eye. When questioned about it, he said that he had fallen off a tree and hurt himself.
Taking pity on him, Suja’s mom gave him some leftover food and as he was wolfing them down, she decided to enlist his help to get the work done.
When she asked the boy if he would clean the back yard and get paid for it, the boy nodded eagerly.
Happy to have found a volunteer for the job, she took him to the back of her house. She told him what work she wanted done, gave him the broom and dust pan and watched as he started sweeping vigorously.
Since he was doing a good job, she did not stand there to supervise him. Instead she went indoors to cook lunch. She did not lock the back door after her in case he called out to her for something.
They lived in their ancestral home and the back door would open directly into the kitchen which also had a dining table in one corner.
It was afternoon by then and the lady busied herself, getting the meal ready.
Suja’s dad usually came home for lunch, unless some work kept him away. That day too he came and as was his habit when he arrived, he removed his watch, left it on the table. He then went to have a wash.
It was just a matter of minutes. Suja’s mom who was bending over the stove, kind of sensed the boy whiz in and out and before she could comprehend what had just happened he was gone . So was the watch!
It was the work of a minute and Suja mom was too shocked to react.Then calling out her husband, she explained to him in a few words what had just happened and they both run outside looking for the boy. But he had disappeared.
He had sprinted away at top speed and was no where in the vicinity. Not anywhere in their neighborhood , even though Suja’s dad took his vehicle and drove up, down and all over looking for him.
They asked passersby and neighbours if they had seen a little boy with a bandage running down the roads. No one had. The boy had scaled walls, taken short-cuts and like a mole fleeing, he had escaped through obscure roads . He was safe somewhere, out of their reach.
Suja’s parents were appalled that such a thing could happen in broad daylight in their house.
The watch was a classic edition of the brand Favre Leuba and cost quite a bit. Suja’s father used to be very proud and possessive about it .
“You are so gullible taking strangers into the house” he shouted at his wife, who replied, “but he was just a child.”
“So careless, leaving the backdoor open.” was his next reprimand
“Why do you have to remove the watch as soon as you come home, and leave it lying on the table like that?” She cried, being at a loss for words to justify herself.
Anger and their inefficacy at such a situation, made them querulous and right in the middle of their argument, Suja came home from school. She heard the whole story and felt sorry for her parents. Her mother could not stop talking about it.
“Such a young boy.”
A thief at such a small age.”
“Had an innocent face.”
“Must have been waiting for an opportune moment to pilfer anything he could lay his hands on.”
She rambled on, all through the afternoon, till it was time for Suja to go to her music class.
Suja used to learn music from a master who lived some distance away. Her friend and she would walk together to his house, talking and giggling incessantly, like how only ten year old children could. That day the topic of conversation was of course the stolen watch and the boy with a bandage over his left eye.
“My father was very proud of that watch. Do you know that the brand Favre Leuba is the second oldest watch company in the world. It is a Swiss company.” She explained to her friend.
When her friend tried to console her, she said with resignation , “That thieving brat would not know its true worth. He has probably sold it already for a pittance. It is gone for ever. I don’t think we will ever get it back.”
Talking in this vein they reached the master’s house. At that moment the friend just happened to look behind the master’s house as some movement caught her eye. She spied a boy hiding near the wall and peeping out surreptitiously.
She whispered to her friend, “Don’t turn immediately. There is a boy standing behind the house and he has a bandage over his eye. It might be the watch thief.”
Looking at him from the corner of her eye, Suja also thought her friend might be right. The boy was behaving queerly, peering out and then ducking back in as if he was hiding from someone.
Though excited, the girls kept walking to class, acting normal, as they did not want the boy to get suspicious and bolt from there.
Once inside, they told the master all that had transpired that morning, about the stolen watch and their doubts about the boy hiding behind his house.
The master did not scoff at the girls as being too fanciful.
He believed that there might be some truth in their words and decided to investigate.
He went out through a side entrance, and walked stealthily up to the hiding boy and caught him in a tight grip. The boy was taken unawares and struggled to free himself . But the master was too strong for him.
The music teacher started bombarding the boy.
“We know that you robbed a watch from this girl’s house today. Come on, give it back or I am taking you to the police.”
It was just an empty threat but the boy did not even try to deny the accusation. He was too young and too scared to come up with an excuse. Or may be it was his first offence and he did not know how to talk his way out of it.
Frightened by the intimidating master, the kid put his hand into the recess of his pocket and brought out Suja’s father’s watch.
It was like a miracle.
They could not believe their eyes.
Just a hunch had made the girls enlist the master’s help and now the watch was back in their possession. It was too good to be true.
As they stood examining it, the boy chose the opportunity to free himself and run for his life.
Suja and her parents still believe that it was pure luck that got their watch back.
What were the possibilities that the boy should be hiding right behind the very house that Suja came to learn music? An one in a million chance that such a thing should happen. It was also a lucky shot that her friend had just happened to catch sight of the boy.
The most providential part about the whole incidence was that the master believed the two girls and went out of his way to apprehend the culprit.
The biggest give-away had been of course the bandage over little fellow’s left eye.
“He should learn to disguise himself better.” They laugh, now that they had got their property back.
That evening her father could not believe his eyes, when Suja strapped the watch back in his wrist.
When he heard the full story from the girls, he praised them for their quick thinking and their presence of mind in enlisting a grown up’s help to nab the miscreant. They could not have restrained the boy on their own.
It was such a beautiful coincidence and a happy turn of events, that friends and family who had been informed about the theft of the watch, were now told about how they got it back.
“Incredible .” said an aunt who had listened to Suja’s mom moaning about it over the telephone that evening.
‘Lucky you. Losing and finding an expensive ornament on the same day” commented a friend who had also heard the whole story from the same source.
“Divine interference,” asserted the great aunt.
“Pure luck,” declared a well-wisher.
But everyone was unanimous in their praise of Suja and her friend for the part they had played in getting the watch back.
Suja’s mother later told her, ” I am glad your father got his favourite watch back or I would not have heard the end of it, for the rest of my life.”
She sighed with relief, “Praise be to God.”
Image courtesy: OpenClipArt -Vectors, Clker-Free-Vector-Images, eriko okuno from Pixabay.
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