A loss averted

Crime will flourish at the expense of citizens so long as law and order are disregarded.

When I hear of another hapless lady walking down the street losing her gold necklace and marriage medallion, I blame her trusting nature, while also deploring the rogues who stalk such targets by mo-bike or on foot.

By spreading the blame, we minimise the turpitude of the culprit. But what about burglars who break into homes, armed with knives or axes, ready to kill and scoot? Crime will flourish at the expense of citizens so long as law and order are disregarded as curbs on the rights of both felons and their victims.

My wife and I had an experience to gauge both the play of chance and the reach of the law. We had gone to a fashionable “expo-cum-sale” to pick up a bargain or two. The organisers had conjured up a warren of booths along a maze of aisles, and crammed every nook with stacks of saris. Each booth had space enough for a single salesperson, none for a mannequin, live or plastic.

The saris were exquisite and the visitors happily bustled on along the passages. Those who struck a deal paid up and waited to get their bills and chosen saris, neatly packed in cloth bags. And they trudged to the next shop, gingerly clutching their bags and wallets. A young salesman persuaded a reluctant lady customer to part with her money by fetching down her choice from the line with a rod; he even spread out a length of the garment over his own shoulder to show off the hues and patterns of the pallu, without relaxing his vigil against the filching of wares by rogue intruders.

We bought a sari my wife fancied and waited for the invoice and the purchase. I wanted to escape the lunchtime rush and we sought the exit route through the maze. It was then that I noticed that our precious bag was missing. Next to us, there was a lady who had boasted about her acquiring a tussor silk with a magenta print.
I rued having shelled out Rs 1,500 for our find, only to lose it so fast. In despair, I called out to my wife, “This is larceny in public. We must make a police complaint. They must be around.”

There was a hush. An elderly lady disappeared from the place. We appealed to the seller, but his sympathy was poor consolation for the loss. When we were just leaving, the lady who had been nearby re-entered the scene and held up two red bags. “Is your bag like this?” she asked calmly. My wife took them, peered inside, gave back one bag and fished out a voucher from the other one. It was our voucher, with the sari we had paid for 10 minutes earlier in the adjacent alley.

Returning home in triumphant relief, we wondered whether my talk of a police complaint had foiled the heist. There were two explanations: either the lady really took up our bag by mistake or she was remorseful when she saw our plight and keen to forestall an intrusive police search. I like to believe that law and order are not yet extinct, with some help from morality and conscience.

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