“Why we need a ‘desi’ Sherlock Holmes or a Hercule Poirot: maybe a real Shankarlal”
I have a distant relative — almost a friend, living close-by my Garment Manufacturing Unit in Attur, Salem District, South India. He had recently built himself a fabulous, independent two-storey House — a Bungalow in the true sense, on the Chennai — Coimbatore National Highway. I used to drop-in once in a while to say ‘hello’, talk about business and get friendlier. He and his wife were childless for a long period and after a ‘huge medical & personal effort’ they produced a handsome son, who grew up to neatly go into Medical College (before the NEET era). The House was built in an out-of-Town area, ‘guarded’ by a Polytechnic College in the front and an Arts College across the Highway. Buildings on the adjacent plots were in the drawing-board stages and were barren and lifeless. Safety aspects did cross my mind — the house being out of ear-shot, every time I visited them, but the couple seemed alive and out-of-jail on the issue, and I brushed the thought aside.
One dark early July night, well past midnight a gang of four clever Robbers — wearing the now mandatory face masks — who had apparently been tracking the Chit-fund activities of the House Owner for a long time, found a nice ladder to help themselves on to the terrace, break open the Door and slip inside. The couple sleeping on the ground-floor heard a loud thud and the man of the House whacked it away saying that it must be the noise of a mighty-big accident on the nearby Highway (happens all the time), but the wife woke up and switched on the lights of the staircase leading to the upper floor. That was a signal, which brought the Burglars hurriedly down to confront the couple. The wife had the presence of mind to tell her hubby to pullout their Gun (they indeed had a unloaded licensed Gun) but the Invaders made lightening strides and quickly struck her down. Then, they tied them up, and with daggers-at-their throats, asked to be shown where they stashed their collection of gold, silver and cash. They found cash: 4 Lakhs in a drawer, and digging into the collection of silk saris, another 3 Lakhs in the folds. Next, they moved into jewelry: not convinced by the gold-covering bangles offered by the Lady of the House, they took her mangalsutra (sure gold in there — we are sentimental about that, aren’t we?) and other ornaments totaling about 40 sovereigns (The next day’s Newspapers reported as much, but I reckoned it might be much more). Meanwhile, the man of the House was pouring sweat — while shouting out to them to take what ever they wanted — and looked like he would collapse. The thieves were Doctors enough to get him his blood pressure medicine, call the lady-of-the House to warm-up some water and administer him to a healthy sitting position. Finally, they took the couple’s mobile phones, car keys and filed into the Owner’s Skoda car — parked in the driveway — with the loot, and showed a clean pair of wheels!
It’s unclear how the couple untied themselves and got help, but by then the Car with the booty had vanished and became untraceable…still is, for almost three ‘clueless weeks’ since the incident.
The next day’s vernacular newspaper’s ran the story, and being a devoted reader of the English Times Of India; Twitter feeds; theSkimm; Flipboard…and others OUTSIDE INDIA; besides watching CNN, BBC and the kind on TV — damn the local SUN News, Daily Thanthi etc, I missed the robbery altogether, and when I happened to call-up the relative two weeks after the incident, I found myself completely at sea, with pictures of Melania Trump, Duchess Kate Middleton swirling inside rather than PM Modi or Edapaddi Palaniswamy or the locals. Wow! I conked myself on the head for being so much ‘abroad’ and foreign in my own land rather than mindful of the local news and the neighbourhood. I momentarily forgot to recall the lessons of Japan’s Tokyo — one of the safest cities in the World, with hardly any noteworthy crime & theft happening — where safety hinges on local policing and being a cohesive society, with a strong collective identity.
I reckon there is a lesson in this story, and the obvious ‘Elephant in the Room’, is where are the Detectives? What are the crime deterrents in our area? Is the Police force competent enough, if they were indeed, why has no one been apprehended till date — even the car has not been traced and found. I wish, that instead of the many Engineering and Arts Colleges one sees educating the population along the National Highways, we have Crime Investigation and Detective Training Colleges to produce our own versions of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot –they might have been heroes of someone else’s stories, but we can make them real! In the days of Tamil Author & Fiction Writer Tamilvananan, I was a fan of his detective hero ‘Sankarlal — the nearest to the super sleuths of the West!
Don’t we need a parallel private Detective Force, which can coolly complement non-existent Police skills?
Research tells us that the fear of getting caught is the best deterrent against crime, more than a behind-the-bars jail term (where one may have friends with benefits and spend quality vacation time). Beyond all this, we need to stay watchful and mindful, don’t we?
Last heard: my friend was installing (Tata) steel gates in front of the breakable wooden doors, CCTV cameras, touch-sensors, burglar alarms and the kind, to make it a formidable fortress. Meanwhile, reading the local Newspaper (I’m more learned now) I learnt of a similar theft, a few days ago, in nearby Erode, on a House of the same dimensions…the story goes on! It’s no ‘mystery’: Tata Steel is back in business!