What leads people to be criminal?
”Father has already gone to work, and you are still sleeping. Wake up son!” pulling off a torn blanket over me my mother shouted at me. When my mother says ‘at work’ she means begging on the streets, not any official work like you people do. Last three generation of my family did the same; begging on the streets. But I’ve different opinions, I don’t beg from the people. Because it doesn’t give me satisfaction. I don’t want to lose my self-respect. I asked my father to do the same; sell balloons rather than spreading hands in front of people.
“Their families were rich, not like us wandering city to city. Their children study in big schools, they’ve brains and knowledge. Do we? Are we equal to them? And still, if you think we can live and earn enough by working. Try it.” replied my father angrily.
“No issue, I’ll earn. And one day I’ll show you that we too can earn instead of begging on the streets.” I replied.
I started selling balloons. Fortunately, It was a festival season and there used to be enough crowd in the market, so, I didn’t find it difficult to sell balloons. It was all good. On the very first day, I sold out 35 balloons. When children of even rich families used to come to me I became the reason for their happiness.
While going to back to the house I bought an ice-cream for my 5 years old sister. She too helps my mother when she goes to her work; the same work which my father does. Alike me, she has also been taught how to beg, how to make face expressions, what type of clothes to wear and all that a beggar needs to make an impression; an impression to get some sympathy, to get some money. The only difference is that I didn’t choose to be a beggar.
When I entered the house holding an Ice cream in one hand. She ran towards me and asked piteously, “Stupid people. Who did put this fresh Ice cream in the dustbin?”
“I bought this and paid the price. I didn’t take it out from any dustbin dear.”, I said poignantly in high pitch.
She smiled, happiness on her face was of millions. When my father learned that I bought an ice cream after paying a right price, he was not happy. His opinion was that the money should have been used for the right purpose, to get something which is needed.
We set for the dinner on the floor. Dinner….which was yesterday’s lunch of any other family. Father brought a plate of rice; mother a plate of Daal, and sister managed to get some sweets. And it was our dinner. It was our life.
Then came the summer, leaving my father sick. My mother couldn’t manage it alone to get food for us. Gradually, the sale of balloons also came down, because it wasn’t a festival season. People don’t bother to come out in June-July months.
I used to step out with 50 balloons in morning and come back with 30-35 balloons in the evening. Finally, a day arrived when we all had to sleep without food. Father asked me to start doing what he did from the next day. It wasn’t an easy choice for me. I denied.
The next day I didn’t carry new balloons and went out with 35 balloons of yesterday. I’d not eat anything last night, my stomach muscles were cramping and then those summer days!
That day till the evening, I still had 30 balloons in my hand. I managed to sell only 5 balloons. I wandered next to the city malls but no one bought balloons from me. Security guards of the malls showed me baton when I tried to stand next to the mall for a minute because people get irritated seeing such faces. I broke down. There was a tree next to a tea stall. I sat under the tree, put my head between my knees and reluctantly started crying. Before I could wipe my tears, someone came to me and asked to go from there because there was no one to buy balloons. I don’t know whether he noticed me crying or not. I stood up. I saw some students there. I put aside my self-respect and asked them to buy some balloons. I almost begged. They denied saying they don’t have children in their home. I said I’m hungry since the morning yesterday. But they didn’t consider even listening to me, they were busy in their gossips. Someone among them cracked a joke about something and when they clapped their hands to each other it felt like those clapping hands lashed up on my hungry muscles. I was angry now and I left my balloons over there.
I didn’t have money but still, I boarded a bus to travel to my house. There was an empty seat, I sat over there. The guy beside me on the seat was snapping. The conductor was collecting fare from other passengers. I chanced upon the wallet of the person sitting beside me, the wallet was looking out from his baggy paint’s pocket. I took that out. For a while, I thought of being morally correct and give the wallet back to him but I didn’t. Perhaps, my honesty and morals squeezed between my painful muscles.
The conductor came to us and I thought it’s over, public is going to beat me up once the guy sitting beside me found out that his wallet is lost. The conductor asked for the fare to him. I pretended to look out of the window. The conductor again said “Hello, listen. Where do you want to go ?” As he was saying these words, my heart started beating fast. Before the person would wake up I looked towards the conductor. Actually, he was asking me. I took 20 rupees note out from the wallet I stole and put it into my pocket. The conductor gave me four rupees change.
Then he asked the person sitting beside me. “I’m gone.” I thought. I was perspiring in fear. He scrubbed his eyes as he woke up, gave a cold look to the conductor with his half opened eyes and said, “Am I supposed to pay the fare twice?” The conductor stepped ahead. I thanked god for he didn’t check for his wallet.
I got off the bus at the next station and bought some medicines for my father, food and sweets for all of us, five Ice-cream and stepped ahead towards my house. Everyone was happy seeing me with food, ice cream, and tablets. When we sat for the dinner, mom asked me dubiously, ”This much money?”
“Yes, today I charged 16 rupees for each balloon,” I said smilingly but I was feeling betrayed by the destiny inside. Father smiled looking at me.
The next day again I did the same. I became a pickpocket. I used to travel in buses and trains just to pick purses, wallets, chains and such costly things. I smiled, pondering, when I was honest I cried almost every day when I chose the path of larceny I became happy. Almost everyone in my family was happy. I bought some new clothes for everyone in my family. And one night I heard my mother asking my father to sell balloons like me.
The next day in the morning he asked me about this. “Not today papa, I’m busy. I’ll let you know in a few days. Till then you should rest.” I said turning my face from him because I knew what I was doing. And on the very same day, I was caught by police in the evening while coming back to the house. I didn’t go back to my home that day. I don’t know what were my family’s reactions. I thought it’s the end. But actually, it was just the start.
I met some good people in the jail. I told them my story. One of them offered me a job. I was freed in 21 days. And then I went to the address the man I met inside the jail gave me. It was a big gang of someone named Aslam Bhai. He had around 50 members, including children in his gang. Some of them were involved in serious crimes like murder too. I became one of them, to be true, better than them because I was angry with this world. We started robbing people and locked houses at nights. My mentality was changed or should I say society changed it? Shrug it off, I don’t know.
Society got a new criminal, the people around me got a role model to follow, criminals got a new brother and in between, I lost myself and you people lost an honest person who wanted to make a little space in the circle of you people.
Can you hear honesty’s screams? Morality’s cry? Only if you were concerned about people like me.