It was Dasara time in Mysore. On the third day of the festival, it was well past 7 p.m.
There had been a downpour and the rain had washed the roads around the palace clean and you could see the reflection of the illuminated palace on the roads in the rainwater puddles. Against a dark monsoon sky the radiant palace and its reflection was a glorious sight indeed.
Asoka Road leading to the northern gate of the palace was swarming with people. It was always a busy road what with all those leading hardware stores of the city located there. And now it had also to cope with the people from the northern parts of the city coming to the palace for the day’s cultural events.
I was visiting the hardware stores — the ones that sold kitchen utensils and the like — looking for a lunchbox. The one I had, a flat, 6”x 4”x 1” metal box, was a little too small and did not pack a decent lunch.
I had returned from Mandya by the 7.30 passenger and headed straight here on my two wheeler. I commuted to Mandya, you see, and carried my lunch. I had meant to buy a new lunchbox for quite some time and found the time only that day.
My old lunchbox was with me. I carried it in a black handbag. Now, with the lunchbox stuffed in it, the handbag looked as if it contained a lot of money, and that caused the whole evening’s mischief.
My visits to multiple hardware stores were in vain as I did not find the lunch box I wanted. It was now closing time for the store which I had entered last. The boys were actually pulling down one of the shutters. I emerged from the shop clutching the black bag with my right hand, close to my chest. I would have to come again on another day for the lunchbox.
I returned to my motorcycle. Slipping the bag into the pouch on the petrol tank I was about to mount the bike, when somebody touched my shoulder. Turning around I saw a boy standing close behind and pointing to the ground. I turned my eyes to where he was pointing and, sure enough, there were a few currency notes lying on the wet and muddy road.
On seeing those currency notes – a hundred rupee note and two fifty rupee notes and a few tenners – my heart missed a beat. I had drawn some money from the bank that morning and my immediate conclusion was that a few notes had somehow slipped off.
I bent down and collected the money, two hundred and thirty rupees in all. When I rose, the boy was gone. I put the money in my pocket and got on the bike. Now I saw that my bag was missing.
I was still in the dark about what had happened. Thinking that I must have left the bag behind in the shop, I re-entered the store and asked the boys there whether they had found it.
One of the boys said: “But, sir, I saw you carrying it when you left here.” Then he gave me a word of caution: “This is Dasara time, sir, and you can’t be too careful. There are thieves around…”
Now I understood. I had been fooled and duped. Then the funny side of the incident struck me. I had lost an old frayed bag and an old lunch box, and got more than two hundred rupees for them.
And I had taught the thieves a lesson too. I had taught them that not all bulging bags would contain wads of currency notes; some of them might contain an old battered lunchbox with some leftover puliogere.