Saturday, August 19, 2006

To catch a thief.

One more 233 Khetwadi Main Road tale from the late 1940s when the Mankars were living on the third floor terrace flat there. From the third floor staircase landing, you stepped straight on to the terrace via the left hand side front door. (The other door on the right hand side was kept locked and only opened and used on special occasions like Diwali.) The north facing sitting room or ‘hall’ as we called it, also had a door and a window both of which opened on to the terrace. So did the door from the passage that separated the sitting room from the bedroom and the door and the window of the latter. On summer nights, the last mentioned door and window used to keep open to allow the breeze to flow in. This practice was abruptly discontinued and all doors and windows were fitted with metal grills after the summer of 1948 (if memory does not deceive) when we and our neighbours were burglarised two or three times in a single week. Not much was taken from our flat except for a few cooking utensils and some clothes from the clothesline. I can still remember, though, how violated we all felt, how intruded upon. A vigilante posse organised by our family retainer managed to catch the burglar and hand him over to the police. It turned out that he was from the neighbourhood and had apparently cased the joint. He used to gain access to our flat by climbing up using the water pipes as his makeshift ‘ladder’. This intrusion brought to an abrupt end, as I said earlier, the era of innocence and carefree nighttime habits like leaving the doors open to let the breeze in.

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