Full moon summer night it was. All were fast asleep on the roof. Suddenly,there was this cry of "thief..thief !" followed by commotion . Different people were making different statements. Not discouraged by the fact that none was listening to them,they were hell bent upon to give vent to their opinions,irrespective of whether anyone gave any ears much less any credence to them. A thief had broken into Mr Khanna's house in our neighborhood Thief had made good his escape under the cover of night.
FIR was lodged with the Police in the morning. Thief had left Mr Khanna poorer by three to four thousand rupees in addition to other valuables. Police came,did routine inquiry,asked few 'stock questions' like who do you suspect and went away never to return again.
Today, when continuosly for third day Kallu press wala didnt come and open his hand cart at the end of the street,for ironing clothes,people esp his regular customers including Mr Khanna whose even dresses thief had stolen felt strange and began talking. Mr Khanna was feeling the pinch where it hurts most. His decent office dresses were stolen.When fifth day too Kallu did not turn up, Mr Khanna went to police station and gave the name of Kallu as a prime suspect.
Another week passed before Kallu appeared on his hand cart. As soon as residents saw him they started thrashing him. He was mercilessly beaten by one and all even by some of the passers by. Prominent among them were the clients whose clothes Kallu had ever burnt or 'lost'. Mr Khanna who was regarded as the most cool and finest genteman of the colony took lead role in beating Kallu blue and black. When police came mob was still holding Kallu with his hair and hitting him where ever they could. Kallu had fainted. Police took charge of Kallu whatever was left of him. When Kallu came to his senses he was staring blankly one moment at the mob other moment at Police. Suddely, he started crying, have you heard a man crying,its most heart rending sight. It is said 'man do not cry' so if one is crying imagine the pain and agony.He was wailing. repeating " I dont know anything... i dont know anything .. what have i done..what have i done I had to suddenly proceed to my village" He produced a telegram from his pocket. Mr Khanna almost snatched the telegram and read it aloud before the mob. It read " Mother died come soon"
( this story 'Bechara Press wala' in Hindi was first published in 'Hindustan' on 2nd July 1978