MEMOIRS OF KALINA
The unlucky thief
Of length, I used to muse about that thief who was caught on the night of July 2006. Was that thief destined to be caught? Was the catcher, above all things, an ordained thief-catcher, a specially designed "Knight" of God to lead His campaign on the world of thieves?
This writing has cropped up from the thought on the catching of that low criminal—a burglar and so altogether I don’t find quite worthy or rather an appetizing subject to write on it. But years hence, the humors and specialties associated with the incident has its repercussions: It has nostalgic effects and gets resurrected time and again to make me fill with laughter and bygone adventures. The thought would turn the subject to an appealing one.
That fateful incident happened in KALINA Village, in Mumbai around 10:30 in the night.
The topography of KALINA was a saturation of “some kind of design” that had evolved out of “no design”. Big and small apartments, shops, “unsuspecting tiny houses” filled with wines were strewn rumbled much like an assortment of pebbles dumped on the sidewalk. On the odd entrance of the main village was the statue of Veilakani (Virgin Mary) clad in glistening sarees, who silently blessed all the bows and devotions she received. Countless alleys dived-in from everywhere into the village much like the puzzling tracks and holes of rodents under jungle trees and shrubs. At night, these small passageways were marked by pitch dark corners and holes to which billowing dim lights could barely reached and making them a first class habitat for burglars. If one is not well verse with the twist and turn of the alleys, the colour/orientation of a particular house, etc., the consequence is to get lost and loiter around whole day and night on those never-ending curves. I have had my share of experiences on that.
Let me get back to the story. KALINA, 10:30 at night was the time when the day’s shift workers returned home, had dinner and settled to rest in front of their TV set or dozed off on the bed. Reciprocally, it was also the time when night’s shift workers left their homes and were on trains or buses to attend to their duty. The time was, in fact, one short time for relaxation and calmness, much like a short serenity after a cyclone.
Having nothing to do much with the serenity of the time, we became restless inside that low-roofed house. So, Abraham L. Pangamte and I started to pour out that so called KAILASH and sipped down the throat feeling the dabbing of our intestines by KAILASH. The effect was quick and sweaty: it was like throwing oneself into a bond fire.
Mumbai is a place which does not have a proper winter. The weather all year round is sweaty, dry and inconveniently humid. And due to its unforgiving design, Kalina is all the hotter. KAILASH can have its absolute impact. Yes! Let me stretched more on this. The hotness of Kalina showcased many more things; the most obvious being on the dress of womenfolk. For those young, fair skins females with novice minds, the main battle was how to fight the hotness with dresses. Accordingly, when they went to Bandra market, they would purchase itsy-bitsy garments. They would buy clothes not for wearing but for hanging on their body. Also, they would pick jeans, so abnormally small that the wearer would squeeze inside the jeans with extra-hardships to wear them. If one exaggerates, it can be said that the wearer stays outside of the jeans. In the midst of these young girls under-dressed or over-dressed (I don’t know), there were another group of womenfolk who frowned at them, who disregarded them like whores or human baits. These groups were the member of the congregation of Veilakani who stuck strictly to knee-length skirts, full sleeves shirts and veils on the head to preserve dignity. Other group was those Muslim womenfolk who wore BURKHA, always on the guard least their skin would be shown. Except these two groups of womenfolk, the others were confused “working class” who had a stead-fast belief that the beholder of their beauty should be bewitched by their revealed young skins. But they were all justified. When one confronted anyone, the usual answer was, “Kalina is Hot” and they should embraced those “sexy-tiny” dresses as their birthright if at all they should stay in Mumbai. More, if they should stay in Kalina.
Oh! I had drifted too far from the main story. Let me go back to my story.
Under the hot Kalina roof and sky, the effect of KAILASH was unpredictable. That night, it boosted us to quarreling, and being a married man, who is there to quarrel with except the better half, who is your own, slave, smiles or tears? I could not recollect how well or how gruesome the verbal brawls climaxed. The next episode leaded to a scene where my wife packed and threatened to leave me; and Abraham Pangamte with all his inherent talent of a “KAILASH Master”, persuading her not to take any foolish decision. But the problem with any persuasive act that resulted from KAILASH was that even the persuader didn’t know his exact mission. So, the noble act of a “KAILASH negotiator”, instead of bringing peace, often leads to a more eccentric situation for both the scuffling parties and more quarreling.
The next episode showed my wife leaving our rented room and headed towards Paukhomawi’s rented apartment, which was just a stone throw from my room. The residue left after the quarrel for the room was Abraham Pangamte and I. Abraham Pangamte was about five years younger to me, maybe more but that night he was holding the biggest spoon of wisdoms and advises. He could recollect all the famous quotes and was not making any grammatical mistakes in his advises. He was a non-stop bore for an elder like me; and that had made the humidity higher. “Young and still unmarried and dictating the life of someone who was his elder and married” was how the KAILASH talked to me and instigated me further to quarrel. The next minute, Abraham left the room, drenched, unsuccessful and all the more angry.
In the meantime, Joseph Lalpiengrem Joutepa, staying on a small room on top of Paukhomawi’s apartment, was not feeling much of the heat of KALINA. He was in the mood and put on the song “Bed of Roses” by Bon Jovi through his tiny DVD player. With his big fingers (who were proud enough to be his) he applied face-pack to his face and admired himself, forward and sideways, through his tiny mirror. Estimating from the cachet emitted by his hulky size, well-trimmed hairs and deep classy voices, the face-pack product he applied to his face seemed to be of Avon’s. But the actual fact was proven when you walked near him----you would smell a pack of TANAKHA, MADE IN MOREH. He was unmarried and had tough battles ahead. In his world of KALINA, he was the senior most and the biggest, no doubt. But more young “fair angles” from home town had moved into KALINA for wants of “easy works” thanks to economic liberalization. And he needed to keep up with their fairness; he needed to look more handsome for the key to romancing with them depended chiefly on looks. Young girls like handsome guys. Joutepa was quite sure about that. And TANAKHA face-pack was the least of what he applied to his face lately.
My wife, with air bag full of clothing treaded the stairway of Paukhomawi’s apartment. But unfortunately the house was locked. Paukhomawi had left for his “call-center” duty and his wife and two children were out visiting friends in the vicinity. The KAILASH negotiator Abraham followed her minutely behind. Suddenly without any expectation my wife saw one local guy, with a long iron rod, trying to hook valuables from outside the open window of Paukhomawi’s house. After verifying he was indeed a thief trying to steal from the window, my wife shouted, “CHOR! CHOR!” The ever self proclaimed agile, vigilant and self-ordained peace-maker Abraham was not aware of it: he was somewhere in between heaven and hell. Within fraction of a second, the unsuccessful thief dashed away.
After all, a high-pitched voice was not made just for quarreling with a husband. It can be quite handy when spotting a thief. The “CHOR! CHOR!” high decibel sound of my wife gathered many people in the vicinity.
Some ran about looking for the thief. Among the volunteers, the one who turned up unprepared and unaware at the later time was Joutepa with his white TANAKHA face-pack, tight fitting half pants and shirtless. When he enquired about it and had learnt that a burglar was trying to rob his first-floor neighbour Paukhomawi, his biceps started to grow beefy and his senses more sensitive and his appearance changed like in that movie “HULK”. In a zillionth fraction of a second, he just vanished, no where to be seen. The next second when people saw him again he was in those dark alleys with “stood-up” ears and black shiny eyes, tracing the thief, in an exact manner of a cat chasing a mice in the dark. From the time of the first spotting of the thief in that house to the time when Joutepa was seen lurking in the dark, more than 45 minutes had passed, sufficient enough even for the slowest thief to escape.
Tick! Tick! The time had lapsed 1 hour. Joutepa was still sniffing, vibrating his cat ears. At last, he smelt the burglar out of his hiding- hole. Being spotted, the thief took to his heels and ran towards the closest alley with the swiftness of a mouse. And with the swiftness of a jungle cat, Joutepa pounced at him with his 85 Kg frame. The thief took the blow and laid flat on the middle of the alley; but the “jungle cat” Joutepa was still on top of him with all his weight. Tremendous weight on top is treacherously abysmal: the thief shitted and murmured a sound of surrender under the unshakable weight of the jungle cat.
The next episode was Joutepa dragging the thief, scolding and chiding at the same time. It was to everybody’s amazements how he could capture him. When the thief was seated on the foundation of that St. Rogue statue and surrounded by people, the platform was for Abraham Pangamte. If I am not mistaken, he is the only person alive, of all the Hmars who can speak Marathi. Fortunately for Abraham but mercifully for the thief, the thief happened to be a Marathi.
Abraham at once took the matter into his hand, after the capture, and scolded the thief in Marathi language. He pointed the face of the burglar, then the whole of Kalina, and then the whole sky above with his fore finger. His voice was hoarse, intimidating, and sounded to us like any flawless Marathi. After the incident, Abraham asserted that the burglar would not steal again due to his scolding and advice. He said, “My rebuke may be the most painful one he ever comes across in his life”. But the actual underlying truth of the scolding could not be fully proven as none, other than Abraham, could speak nor understand Marathi. No one really knew what that scolding was all about.
However, any way I feel the thief was one unlucky son: one who land up to get scold by a quarrelsome Hmar, Mr. Abraham pangamte and that too, in Marathi. Of all the rowdy scolding he came across and will come across in future, I believe the thief will always remember that scolding by Abraham as I reckon it to be the most painful of any scolding, for the past, present or for the future. Did the thief understand what he said? Or did Abraham fully understand what he spoke out in Marathi? The fact will not be proven. But I believe he would still felt them so painful.
Till today, after that incident I asked myself “Is there a destiny?” “Can we change destiny?” “Is it destiny that we make or is it destiny that makes us?”