‘The Thief is based on the recollection of a thief and is written in first person. He was only fifteen and was quite an accomplished and experienced hand in his profession of theft when he met Arun for the first time during a wrestling match. The thief found a prospective client in Arun and had an irresistible desire to rob him. To shape his plans he introduced himself to Arun by a pseudonym ‘Deepak’ and expressed his desire to work for him. Arun refused to engage him as a domestic help because he made money by fits and starts and was unable to pay him regularly. But Deepak went on persuading and flattering Arun. He offered to serve him for food only. Arun was a kind and generous fellow. He took pity on Deepak and agreed to keep him if he could cook for him. Although Deepak knew nothing about cooking he accepted the job just to get an entry in Arun’s house. But Deepak was cipher as a cook and the food cooked by him turned out to be a disaster and was fed to a neighbor’s cat. Deepak was shown the exit again but he won Arun’s heart with his most appealing smile and he was not only pardoned off and got back to his job Arun promised to teach him write his name too. Arun also taught him how to cook.
Arun showed full faith in Deepak and made him buy his daily supplies. Deepak was smart enough to make good profit out of it daily. Although Arun had some hint about this theft he preferred to ignore it. Instead he completely relied on Deepak and gave him the keys of his room too making it easy for Deepak to get into his room in his absence. Arun was a happy go lucky kind of person. When he made some money he spent it lavishly. He was not paying Deepak regularly for his work till then. Though Deepak had fair chances to rob Arun but it was altogether quite difficult for him also because Arun was very careless and relying and that is why he was hesitant to break his trust. Philosophic Deepak was of view that it’s easy to rob a greedy man because he deserves it, it’s easy to rob a rich man because he can afford it but it’s difficult to rob a poor man even one who really doesn’t care if he is robbed.
One day proving the saying that ‘a thief is always a thief’ Deepak got a chance to satisfy his urge of robbing Arun when he saw him putting a bundle of crisp notes under his mattress. Arun slept on the bed oblivious of everything. Deepak decided to workout his plan. He stealthily took out the money and immediately left the house for railway station. When he reached the platform Amritsar Express had just moved off. There was enough time to jump into the compartment but somehow Deepak did not attempt to board the train. Soon he was standing alone on the deserted platform. Here the readers find a gradual change in the psyche of the thief. Suddenly he got philosophic and realized that Arun was a good master and he never doubted his intentions. He wondered how Arun would react when he would come to know about the theft. He had studied the faces of people when they went through a material loss. He recalled that a greedy person shows panic, a rich person shows anger and a poor person shows fear when they lose something valuable but when Arun would come to know about the theft he would be saddened, not for the loss of money but for the breach of trust. Deepak also realized that if he would learn to read and write it would definitely help him get true success in life. Deepak was repentant. He slowly reentered the town but he had nowhere to go and he didn’t know anyone except Arun. Soon the drizzle started and the crisp notes tucked up in his trousers got wet. Ultimately having a prick in his conscience Deepak came back to Arun’s house and disproving the saying that ‘a thief is always a thief’ he cautiously slipped back the money under the mattress and went to sleep with a hope that Arun didn’t know anything about the whole episode. Next morning Arun got up earlier than him and handed him a cup of tea with a wet five rupee note and promised him that hence onward Deepak would be paid regularly and soon he would teach him to write full sentences. Although aware of everything Arun’s countenance didn’t display any emotion and he was absolutely normal.
The story highlights the moral dilemma of the thief as well as his potentiality for goodness. It also reminds us of ‘The Bishop’s Candlesticks’, a beautiful extract from a great novel ‘Le Miserable’ by Victor Hugo. Although the scenario, characters, content and the treatment is altogether different yet the message and the moral of the story is the same that a hardened criminal can be transformed into a pious soul through love, compassion and kindness.