It was Friday evening. And it was flea market time. Every small vendor had setup their shops on their big blue coloured sheets, which could be easily wrapped up along with the items, in case it rains.
“That shining rubber. Those awesome pencils. Wow. Lovely.” Prabhu thinks to himself. Prabhu was with his mother looking to purchase some stationeries. Prabhu and his mother shared a great relationship. Anyways, how else can a relationship be for a boy with his mother at the age of 13?
“How much is this?” Prabhu’s mom enquires to one of the shopkeeper about the pencil box, that she wanted to buy for him.
As his mom was busy trying to see different pencil boxes, Prabhu set his eyes on something else.
“Let me shortlist. I think I love that white shining rubber very much. It seems expensive also. Seems a good target.” thinks Prabhu looking at a shining white rubber, bigger than the usual ones.
Prabhu checks the eyes of the vendor. That vendor was looking somewhere else. The other shoppers were busy with their own shopping. His mother was also looking at the pencil boxes. Prabhu senses an opportunity.
“This is the right time.” thinks Prabhu and without anyone’s knowing, picks up the rubber he was eyeing for a long time and slid it into his pant pocket.
“Did anyone notice?” No, I guess” thinks Prabhu as he looked into everyone’s eyes from the vendor, to his mother to the other shoppers.
“Haha, great. Congratulations Prabhu. Congratulations on achieving your goal. You are great Prabhu. You are great. This time also you didn’t get caught.” he thinks to himself, now proud with his achievement.
It all started off as a bet with his school friends. They were standing in a general store, when Prabhu’s friend placed a bet that whoever steals a chocolate will get a treat from him. That was the first time, Prabhu started to steal. He was scared. He was confused. But in that sense of crazy childhood, where there is always a confusion between good and evil, he stole the chocolate and won the bet.
But, after that no one placed a bet. But Prabhu was so much thrilled of the experience that he started repeating it. Even when none of his friends were there. Once or twice, he started stealing chocolates. He was scared, yet he did them for the thrill of it. Even though he had the money to buy extra chocolates, he started to steal. He loved that kick, despite the fact that he might have got beatings if got caught and humiliated in public. A bad habit was getting formed.
Later at home, when Prabhu’s mom is checking out the items purchased, Prabhu takes the rubber from his pant pocket and shows to her
“Amma, look at this. How is it?”
His mother is surprised to see the rubber. She knew for sure, they didn’t purchase them.
Confused by seeing an item, they didn’t purchase, she asks “From where did you get it Prabhu?”
“Naan suttutten” replies Prabhu with his ever so mischevious eyes and a proud smile in his face. (Meaning, I stole it in the Tamil language)
His mother was shocked. She didn’t find it funny at all.
“Oh My God. My son stole.” Thinks his mom.
“Will he become a thief when he grows up? I have got him all the things that he had asked for, to the best of my financial abilities. What should I do? Should I scold him? Should I warn him? Should I shout at him? Maybe he has been doing this for long time? What will happen if I scold him badly? Will he ever understand the seriousness of this issue? What will happen if I forgive him? Will he repeat these incidents? What should I do? Oh God. Why are you putting me in this position?” All these thoughts were racing in her mind.
Then as a responsible mother, she calmed herself down. She asked Prabhu to come near her.
He came thinking he will get some appreciation. But he never thought he was about to get a lesson for life.
Then his mother held his hands with her hands.
“Prabhu. You know what you did? Do you know how much poor they are? Do you know vendors like these can’t eat their food properly if they don’t sell these items. They get money for interest, purchase the items from a wholesale shop, fight for their place in the flea market, toil throughout the day and try to sell them for a meagre profit. With that money only, they survive their daily lives. Now you have taken this 2 Rupees from their today’s living. Hereafter never ever do like this in your life” said his mother.
Prabhu, now 40 years old, a successful software engineer by profession and a writer by heart, taking a picture of that rubber and writing these words in his blog.
“This was the rubber I stole. I still have it. I didn’t return it, because I couldn’t find that vendor after that. But I kept the rubber along with a very important lesson in life.”
The day I stole a rubber was the day I learnt that stealing is bad and felt how much it will hurt, what it will cost to others. I realized that I was not stealing one item, but part of their livelihood. Part of their hard earned money. Money which doesn’t belong to me.
The day I stole a rubber was the day I stopped stealing.
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