The character d’Artagnan in the famous creation of Alexander Dumas has boasted, ‘Luck is my mistress, who never forsakes me!’
Jolly good confidence, I say! Luck seems to be more of a stepmother than a mistress to me. What with something or other, we never seem to see each other eye to eye and our relationship is strained at the best.
I’m a thief. Don’t shrink back in abhorrence, O stranger! My profession is one of the oldest in the world and my tribe boasts of all class of people, including gods. Wasn’t Krishna a thief too? In my profession, you require planning, focus, hard work and a modicum of luck. I don’t lack the other ingredients but never have had luck to favor me. I’m not a whiner, but stories of my hard luck are capable of causing the stoutest heart to cringe.
People think of us Kleptos as just scruffy and uncouth individuals. Kleptos is Greek for thief and gives my profession a lofty air. In fact, we have a refined hierarchy and a snobbish caste system. At the bottom of the totem pole we have the untouchable ‘Pickpockets’ and on the top are the elite ‘Safe-Breakers’. I belong to the less respected and much crowded middle class. I’m your friendly neighborhood ‘Break-In’ guy. I’m the one people are most scared of when going on vacations. Like most fearsome things in universe, I’m anonymous, simple and faceless. I can visit your house as a stranger seeking an address and you would be none the wiser. I’m soft spoken, intellectual looking and highly read than most of the people you know. You may ask, what am I doing stealing pots and pans of people? Well, sir, as Mario Puzo once said, ‘A man has but one destiny’, I have mine.
Anyway, I was explaining about my luck. Now, here’s something about me that I’d really like to change! There have been many a time that I was at the verge of a successful break-in and luck, the mischievous nymph, was hiding around the corner with a sandbag to hit me behind my ears. For example, the burglary in an affluent bungalow in Andheri Lokandwala, where I was successful in evading the possé of security guards and was able to enter the bedroom with its owner sound asleep! It was one of the perfect textbook burglaries, except that I trod on the tail of a slumbering Siamese cat. It was not much amused and announced its displeasure in no uncertain terms, waking up its lord and master in the process. It was as if the German army has attacked Poland! A horrible racket ensued with I standing shell shocked in the center of the room with the screeching fur ball whizzing around me like a demented woolly comet. Well, damned inconvenient, I say! I was in the jail for one year. Why people pet such ugly, horrible and dangerous beasts is beyond me! Anyway, as I said, luck is something I would be better off to avoid for the rest of my life!
There’s just one thing that has distinguished us humans over the kingdom of God. It’s ambition. We all are ambitious, irrespective of our stations in life. Even I was. I always wanted to be an ace safe breaker. I knew the rudiments of safe breaking and just needed a break to try my hands on it.
It was then that I read about the vault of the Central Bank of India in Zaveri Bazaar. It had bullion worth 5 millions. Now, that would be a haul worth trying! I scoped out the place. It was plumb in the middle of the crowded market place. At the junction of Kalbadevi Road and Bhuleshwar Road. The only problem was, it has the Paydhuni police station opposite it. The proximity to danger added a tang and made the project irresistible. We all have an inherent streak of recklessness in some form or another. Some people drive like the devil is after them. Some of those crackpots go down Niagara Falls in barrels. We all get excited by the pump of adrenaline, which the dangers of life injects into us. We all are loonies in a way.
I started thinking of various plans to accomplish this task. Each crazier than the last. I was always a loner, who never trusted a partner. Then I found the best and viable plan, which can be worked upon by a lone guy.
I found an abandoned warehouse across the bank and rented it. The idea was to dig a 50 feet tunnel from the warehouse to the bank and haul away the booty. It was not an easy task as it sounds, but was practicable. All I needed were required implements, a compass and iron will. I had the latter in abundance and arranged for the former. The lust of gold is as primitive and psychotropic as any hell spawn narcotic. People waste away there lives in barren goldfields of faraway places of California and johannesburg for specks of the golden curse and never regret it. I was ripe for mischief!
I arranged the tools. I bought a magnetic compass from a stationary shop, got the city survey plan from the municipal office and visited the bank multiple times. Even opened a safe deposit vault to make myself familiar with the layout of the original vault. I like to plan meticulously. I planned to perform the robbery on Sat and was reasonably confident of cracking open the safe. Once everything shipshape, I began the grueling task of digging a three feet diametrical tunnel.
Those who have never tried to dig a deep and narrow hole in the ground won’t even begin to understand what an agony it can be! I will always try to forget the task, which would have given a team of six the run for money, and which I was attempting singlehandedly. It took me around 20 days to complete the onerous task! I was half dead and exhausted. I slept only four hours a day. Like a seasoned surveyor, I used to sit with the plan spread before me, the compass on it and trying to calculate the progress of the tunnel as best as I could. I have learned this in my chequered life that in order to succeed, faith in oneself is the most important thing. It’s that faith which keeps us going, even if the entire world is against us. I had that faith in myself and my tools. My compass confirmed that I was going in the right direction, and I believed in it.
Finally, the lucky day arrived!
According to my calculations, I was sure to break into the vault tonight. Everything was in place. I had arranged for crates to pack the gold and had hired a small truck to cart it away before sunrise. I wanted to leave Bombay before anyone was aware of the incident on Monday. I was beyond myself. The psychedelic hue of the yellow metal was beckoning me. I jumped into the tunnel like a jack rabbit. I started digging the last few feet of ceiling with a demonic effort, so that I can break in through the floor of the vault. I expected at least a concrete slab and was surprised to find my pick go through the last inch of floor! Suddenly I saw the bars of vault! I was beyond myself! I have a horrible voice, otherwise I swear I would have sung! I happily jumped out of the hole and looked around the cage.
Wait! Something was seriously wrong! There were four scruffy looking guys sitting and staring at me! Suddenly, they rushed me, pushed me aside and jumped in the hole and vanished. A horrible revelation suddenly dawned upon me! Instead of breaking into the vault, I broke into the lockup of the Paydhuni police station! I started to jump into the hole and to safety, but was grabbed by the scruff of my neck by a zealous constable, God damn his soul! Well, to cut a long story short, I was thrashed roundly and charged with helping four convicts to escape. I decided to keep quiet about the real reason for the tunnel. I will get one year jail for helping convicts to escape but six years for attempted bank robbery. I was convicted for one year for nothing criminal than possessing a compass, which showed NE instead of true N!
Day was breaking. I looked out of the high barred ventilator of the cell and was rewarded by a partial view of the morning sky. Clouds were being chased by the naughty wind. There… just behind the dark clouds, I saw her! Smiling at me as always. She still has the guts to smile! I hated her anew! I never really expected any help from her, but is it too much to hope to be left alone when a hard working guy is trying his best to rise in life!
I have a love-hate relationship with my luck! Somewhere I read once that there are people who have changed their luck. Even I want to exchange mine with a Siamese cat.
The above story is inspired by a real life incident in Sonipat, Haryana, 2 years ago, where a band of robbers carried out a similar heist by digging a 150 feet long tunnel to the vault of a bank from a rented and derelict house across the road. These robbers were more organized and better planned, and were able to succeed, where our bumbling hero failed.
I’ve no idea if they were caught again or not, but our hero was.