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The Mission Failed

by Inder Krishen Koul (Talib Kashmiri)

(A Factual story of humor and satire in the form of a Letter)

My Dear but Unlucky Thief, 

It’s with greatest regret of my life that I’m driven by some inexplicable urge to writing this communication to a silly bloke like you. I’m not sure if this note of mine reaches you or not, but it’ll be a gross injustice to all those ‘brave and valiant’ sons of our land who possess indomitable courage to deal with worthless thieves like you, if I fail to put in black and white the blackish tale of your ill-fated misadventure. I’m also very sorry for using such kind of ‘parliamentary’ language (in our present day terminology) about you, possibly because there aren’t the other kind of ‘unparliamentary’ words in my dictionary for your brand of stupid thieves.

In the wee hours of that pleasant First March day at about 4 O’ clock while it was still dark before the daybreak when my train (I mean the train I was traveling by) Jhelum Express which had halted for a brief spell of five minutes at Khandwa station in Madhya Pradesh, slowly started its onward journey and from outside the train you miserably failed to pull out my shirt and trouser hanging from a hook inside the compartment. I could at once guess that you must be a ‘Khandwaw’( this particular word in Kashmiri language is reserved for a novice ) in your profession. Instead of being moved to pity on your misfortune, I feel extremely annoyed with you for your gross incompetence. Till this ‘sordid’ incident, I had never imagined even in my dreams that anyone belonging to an ‘august’ profession like yours could be so inept and unlearned in his skill as you. Your dismal failure tonight will be written as the darkest chapter in the annals of thievery for which not only you, but all those who may be considering you as their co-worker should hang their heads in shame. Had your whereabouts been known to me, still I wouldn’t disgrace you by relating the distressing tale of your unsuccessful mission to your friends or kin because at times the ill reputation originating from intense lack of professional capability can become a reason for an over sensitive person to end his life and without knowing who you are, I can never afford to commit this sin. Nevertheless, I would like to inform you, had I personally opted to undertake this kind of trivial mission I would’ve perhaps never returned empty handed like you did.

Should I call it a mere coincidence or the tale of your bad luck that only four minutes before that historic moment when I espied you thrusting your two Satanic hands through the steel bars in the window and holding my totally unprotected clothing like a poor helpless woman in the hands of a robust rapist, had I got up from my deep slumber and was enjoying the beautiful sight of a starlit sky, lying right on my berth inside the compartment. But perhaps God wasn’t willing and your strong, dark tanned arms came as abruptly in between as the arms of an alert Delhi traffic beat constable before a speeding motor car at a busy crossing. God alone knows wherefrom energy and agility rushed into my lean, weak and muscle-less arms comparable only to delicate thin lotus stalks, that I tried my best to catch hold of your dark, repulsive, hard textured, abhorring hands as firmly as I could while crying “Thief………Thief…….Wake up……. Thief…….” This has led me to a firm belief that any thief, burglar etc. howsoever physically strong he may be can always be a pygmy before his victim. The fear of being caught perhaps drains energy from his body and in the process injects unusual strength and courage into the one on whom he is trying his skills, subject to the condition that the later doesn’t fumble or panic and what a blessing it is if the two are separated by a frame of steel grills. Despite my thinking on these lines you succeeded in disengaging yourself from my grip, but the fact still remains that you terribly failed in   your mission.

In any case, you saved yourself but plunged me into new kind of quandaries. The first one being that an unending beeline of semi awakened passengers rubbing their eyes and murmuring something unpleasant for being disturbed in the middle of their sweet dreams, started towards me to get first hand information direct from the horse’s mouth as to what had happened. I also feel highly remorseful that your mission was not only ill conceived but ill timed too. Had you chosen the time for undertaking this dare devilish act only one and a half hour later, there were a hundred percent chance of the event being covered by not less than a dozen TV and Media Channels for hours and days together and not only I but you too in your absence would’ve received unlimited publicity on Radio and TV. But alas! How regretful it’s that only because of this small mistake on your part we both lost a golden opportunity to remain on the central stage of small screen for several days. Between you and me, I would also like to make a frank admission of my lapse. Had I not ventured to resist your plans so foolhardily, the whole incident could’ve turned into a kind of proxy struggle between you and my tailor and I in my capacity as a non-partisan observer would’ve been able to test the professional capabilities of both of you. But alas! This too couldn’t happen. At last when there was some decline in the rush of my sympathetic co-passengers, my over inquisitive mind on its own started researching on this whole episode. ‘Had I not hung my shirt and trouser so carelessly in my compartment, could such a bizarre incident have taken place?’……… ‘Had I succeeded in catching hold the hands of that bloody thief   more firmly and had he failed to disentangle himself from my clutches what would’ve been his fate on the running train’, etc. etc. At the end of this research some important conclusions were drawn and I consider it as my moral duty to apprise you of the same and to provide you some useful tips including ‘Do’s & Don’ts’ so essential for assured success in your profession.

First and foremost, whenever you have to start a dangerous enterprise like this, you should make a thorough survey of all surroundings. You must’ve noted that in the failed mission from which you returned just now, luck too would’ve eluded you simply because the way these twin items of my clothing were hanging from the hooks so skillfully manufactured by the Railway Coach factory people to thwart the unholy designs of thieves like you, it would’ve been totally impossible for you to pull them out from the platform. Had I been fast asleep, even then on applying all your might and professional faculties you would’ve got only the lower part of my trouser that too in torn condition. And if I tell you, had you been able to lay your hands on the upper part of the trouser also where all the pockets are located and whose magnetic attraction had prompted you to go ahead with this exercise or I should say even if you had got the entire trouser in your possession, then the extent to which your heart would be injured on finding nothing except for a piece of broken pocket comb must’ve been ten times more than from the total failure of the whole mission tonight. But I’m proud that it has been my day today and I’ve defeated you in all disciplines of the ‘game’ because even in case of your partial victory I would’ve no doubt, lost more than two thousand bucks in the shape of my trouser and shirt and I’m not sure if you know that in the current times when prices are sky rocketing loss of a paltry sum of ten rupees earned by the sweat of one’s brow also causes mental agony which doesn’t result even from  ten thousand rupee squanderer by ones loved sons & daughters.

The second more significant fallout of tonight’s experience would be, when like the commander of a conquering army just returned from the battlefield after vanquishing a strong opponent I narrate the whole story of this epic encounter to my better half, because my stomach isn’t as big as to hold anything for more than a few minutes especially when it’s related to the unexpected display of my ‘valor’, she’ll turn out to be worst of the ‘worse halves’ in the wake of her frowned drubbings and snubbings ……., “Only a careless guy like you can be so casual as to hang clothes in the train in such a lackadaisical manner………Had you been asleep even then the thief could’ve removed your clothes from top to toe and decamped with all your belongings only because of your careless habits……..etc. etc.” But despite all her reproaches and reprimands I feel a kind of delightful elation that a part of her scolding will also be addressed to you when she would fulminate………., “That brute of a thief must be an untrained, inexperienced beginner in his profession or else it is next to impossible to prove a failure in such a mission against a careless dull witted fellow like you…….”

For the third time before I take leave of you I would like to give you and the other members of your fraternity a very useful and sound  piece of advice to benefit from. Whenever you have to target a passenger traveling by train, please make sure beforehand that he or she is not a writer or poet, for two reasons. The first one is that it’s very difficult, rather I should say impossible, to make any estimate of this category of people. When they’re in deep slumber at midday or when they’re awake at midnight like owls?...........No one can ever guess. They’re the creatures of God on whom, it seems, the laws of Nature do not apply at all. If somewhere a very electrifying and absorbing literary or poetry recital function or an enthralling musical concert is going on and the audience too is excited, you’ll definitely notice a few poets or writers taking a nap or even snoring. Similarly, if during dead of the night if you happen to observe anyone walking aimlessly on a road when only the barking dogs rule the street or someone sitting in an isolated corner of a public park or somebody strolling alone on the terrace of his house, you should at once conclude that it could be only a poet or a writer and you’ll never be wrong. Therefore in nutshell, in case you wish to scale the highest pinnacles of glory in your profession don’t ever take any risks and before you try your unclean hands to ‘clean’ the pockets of a passenger please do check from the passenger list in advance that the intended target is not a poet or writer. I too on my part, have decided to book my train tickets in my pen name ‘Talib Kashmiri’ only, in future and through this epistle I fervently request all familiar as well as unfamiliar poets and writers to follow the lead and book their future train tickets exclusively in their pen names.

The second one is that some ‘worthy’ members of the ‘elite’ class of people I’ve just mentioned are so adept in the art of thievery that you people will not only be surprised but also hang your heads in shame. Whose poem, sonnet, number etc. they would read or have published after altering a few words here and there and whose story would be brought out in magazines or used as the ground material for preparing a television serial or documentary under their own original or assumed pen name, nobody has ever got a chance to know. However, in the event of being caught (of which the possibility is almost zero percent), how cleverly and artfully they’ll try to cover up their acts of plagiarism and justify their despicable actions that you professionals in your job too would feel humiliated. If at all, you earnestly desire to achieve professional excellence of highest order in your career you’ve still time to learn, just establish contact with any such poet or writer, but for Gods sake don’t expect me  also to furnish you a list of such ‘revered’ members of our literary and literate community..

At this point of time, I would like to reassure you that I won’t charge any fees from you for this invaluable counsel of mine, since the inspiration I received from you tonight to pen down these few lines is more than enough to serve as my payment because it’s not always necessary that all payments should be made in cash. On the other hand, I consider myself very fortunate that a ‘thief’ like you whom I don’t know at all, appeared in my life briefly for a few moments, who instead of taking away anything from me, undoubtedly gave a lot in return. How nice and generous a thief you happen to be in sharp contrast to those thieves who know only how to rob and when their turn to return something comes, how easily and plainly they say that they’re born to rob and not to be robbed. If that may also not be true, how silently they would turn their heads away like a stranger and let God snatch away the last breath of anyone who is given an ‘innocent’ advice by a gentle and unassuming ‘thief’ after robbing him of all what he had……. O! Poor one, why don’t you go and spend rest of your days in the worship of God.

Wishing you bad luck in your profession, but praying for a better and prosperous life for you and your colleagues.

Sincerely yours,

(Talib Kashmiri)

(Author’s note : The concept and contents of this story are copyrighted and may not be copied, reproduced, adapted or used in any form without the  prior written permission of the Author)  



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