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There Are No Thieves In This Town

April 19, 2014

                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1927-2014)

(With due apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I have used a title of one of his stories. May his soul rest in peace. Will it? Please tell me after reading this story)

The Bank Manager was seated on the dais with the Bank Chairman and other important dignitaries of the town, for the inauguration of the bank. It was in fact the first bank in the town. He was beaming, his chest puffed with self pride. He had orchestrated a coup of sorts by talking to villagers and then with the higher officials in his bank to open a branch in this town.

It took a lot of talking to, to the townsfolk. They were averse to let their money with somebody who they didn’t know. He had made a pitch with the amount of money that they could make if they deposited their money in the bank. They were not very interested with the interest he was talking about. He changed tack and told them about safety of their hard earned money. They looked at each other and said that there were no thieves in this town, almost in unison. In fact they didn’t have a police station in their town. The nearest police station was some 30 miles away. There WERE no thieves in this town, he corrected them emphasizing on each word, but after the media attention, there will be, he added. They look at each other, worried.

He had come to know about this town, after reading a news item, some 2 months ago. Theirs was a typical agricultural town. Probably it was the fertile soil or the adequate rains they get, that they were able to grow some exquisite and bountiful agricultural products. In due course they had become rich. Meanwhile a few of the farmers had converted their lands into ponds and had taken up aqua culture. Soon a lot of them followed suite because of the returns and the rest were also forced to change since aqua farming in the nearby tracts of lands were making their fields unsuitable for agriculture. There was a great demand for fish and other aquatic creatures everywhere. And soon they reaped more than what they sowed.

It was then that one wise soul had a brain wave. What if they had could airlift their produce? They could sell them for a better price, take them to farther places and it would also do a world of good to cut loss on perishables, he told the other not so wise souls of the town. Promptly they shot off a mail to the Airport Authorities requesting an airport for their town and waited patiently for their reply. After 3 months, when no response was forthcoming, they sent another missive, suggesting if the Authorities were worried about funds, they need not worry about it. The entire expenses would be borne by the town and they will buy their own air craft too. All they needed was their permission, they requested, trying not to sound boastful. This time the government response was swift, the Revenue department scooped down on the town, raided all the houses and took away large sums of money and booked them for tax evasion. It had taken them a lot of money to get out of the legal tangle. It was this news in the local newspaper that had caught the bank manager’s attention. He saw a tremendous opportunity to get them to deposit their wealth in the bank. The townspeople didn’t want their money to leave their eye sight and so he talked to the higher officials in the bank about the deposits that they can hope for if they opened a branch in the town and gotten their approval for it. The people were still not convinced about the safety of their money. What if the thieves struck at the bank, they had asked. This was precisely the bait, the manager was waiting for them to bite. He told them, that he would take a few to the main branch and show them how safe their money would be.

The next day, he took a few of them to the main branch .He showed them the elaborate safety arrangements and alarm systems, which worked on latest technology. He had even brought the inspector from the police station along. He took them to the safe vault which was 2 levels below. In a dramatic fashion, he tried to open the vault door. Immediately there was a clamor of alarm bells. Within a minute the manager received a call from the police station enquiring about the alarm. The manager after confirming that it had been a false alarm, turned around to his guests, beamed and said, ‘See, this is how safe your money will be.’

That was how the town got a new bank.

________________________________________________________________________

She was waiting for him and had dozed off in the rocker. She woke up suddenly to the sounds of the dogs barking at a distance. She looked at the clock. It was 1.30. He had gone a clear 3 hours now. She was feeling scared. And then she heard the key turn in the latch. He entered the room. He was wearing a black slack and a pair of  black trousers. He was carrying a black bag, which he tossed over to a sofa next to her rocker. She opened the bag and saw bundles of currency and some jewels in a satin bag. ‘Keep it safe’, he said. “I am tired, and don’t wake me till 10, he said as he climbed up the stairs to their bedroom.

She woke him up at 8. He looked at the clock and  then at her enquiringly. “There is a police constable downstairs and he wants to see you’, she said. He took his own time to freshen up. As he went down the stairs he saw the constable standing by the door flipping through the pages of a magazine, which was on the coffee table. As he approached him, the constable dropped the book on the table, snapped to attention and gave him a salute. Sir, there has been a break in at the bank in the next town. Surprisingly the alarms did not go off”, he said.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 19, 2014 20:22

    A pertinent comment on the thieves of today.
    The narrative and detailing, as always is absorbing.

    And since I have not read Marquez’s story that goes by this title, I cannot comment on whether his soul is at peace. I do know however, that this storyteller’s narrative skills are superlative enough to ensure that his peace is not disturbed 🙂

    Thank you so much Usha! You are always kind to me. Like an indulgent teacher towards her not so bright student.

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