Child develops an ambition to become a banker - for all the wrong reasons.
My parents always fight and my mother continuously abuses my father who is a thief. Most of the time he is in jail and on the occasions when he is released, he brings me sweets and my mother again abuses him and tells him:
"Now you must be up to better tricks"
And sure enough, my father with the better methods learned from jail mates, would go on a spree till our neighbour comes and tells us he is in jail again. And my mother would curse.
My father and his three friends - rascals my mother calls them - would sit for hours drinking and planning. I used to run errands for them, fetching cigarettes, sodas and other knickknacks and those days my pocket money would swell with all the left over change. I learned to smoke expertly with the half burnt cigarettes they left behind. Sometimes when in a happy mood, my father would tell me of his younger days. One day he told me that he studied with George Fernandes and I told him of my classmate named Monica Fernandes.
We were happy at times with lots of food and money. My father is a big man and speaks many languages though he does not like me using all the words he utters when he is angry. Used to his periodic absence from home, I had a lot of freedom and mother; though she used to shout at me anytime, still let me do as I wanted. She did not like my staying home during the day, so even on holidays I would go roaming all over town with Dinesh and Tajo my best friends. She used to have friends visiting here and was terrified if any of these friends came around when Dad was around. Then one day everything went wrong and my life changed.
Father had come home from jail and was very quiet for many days. He was nursing an injured arm, said to be the result of a scuffle in jail. I learnt from my friends that my father had come home during the day and seeing mother with another man, had thrashed her a lot and later came back very drunk. He didn’t speak to me for days and sat thinking for long periods.
One day he was very cheerful and when his three friends came home, the usual drinking began. As they continued to talk very late into the night, I fell asleep on the floor with my pockets full of change from the errands. I was half awake when I heard them arguing loudly. They were shouting at each other and were busy drawing something on a piece of paper. I heard the word bank and money many times. Suddenly my father said” we will each make at least ten lacs”.
I sat up then- this was not to be missed. Fearing someone might notice me, I curled back to a sleeping position and listened to them planning to rob a Bank, with a lot of mention about safe deposit lockers, armed guards and money bags. My father wanted to leave our house as soon as he got the money, leaving ‘that slut and that useless boy’ meaning me. I tried to listen in spite of a loud heartbeat and then his friend, the one with the big moustache said
‘But we have never done something so big, how can you be so sure we will not get caught?’
“Easy” said my father,’ you just follow what I say. I have thought over it for long and our Guru in jail has taught me all the tricks”. They went on and on and I drifted off to sleep.
The following day again they met and planned more. Though I was keen to learn more and learn of their action plan, I could not learn which bank they intended to rob - there were so many banks around our place.
And then I heard distinctly - "so Monday at 8 a.m at the temple; the bank is just across the street"
And I knew - it had to be that big building with the lovely glass doors just across the temple, near my school. And I decided to watch and if possible, be part of the whole show.
I was up very early on Monday morning, not to miss my father’s departure. He was quite, but seemed a bit excited and as I had not revealed my knowledge of their plans, I felt a peculiar thrill watching him get ready. As soon as he left, I too left for school and dumping my books with Dinesh, ran to the target bank. Cautiously I looked around the temple; no sign of any of my father’s gang and I learned then that it was only 7.30 in the morning. The Bank was locked. Later on a man came and opened the shutters. Slowly the streets filled with people going to work and some people with bags and brief cases entered the bank. A little later, my father and his friends too entered the bank, along with the others.
When no one was watching, I joined fat lady and got into the bank almost fully hidden behind her one fat leg and moved to a corner where no one would notice me. My father was at the counter waiting in a queue while one of his friends was standing near a booth, peeping in through a small opening. The other two were not to be seen anywhere. A man came into the booth, carrying a heavy box and arranged notes, so many of them, inside his desk. All this while my father’s friend stood watching him while at the same time trying to chat with a nearby guard who had a gun. I started getting worried and realised something terrible was going to happen.
MY father was at the counter now and started talking and arguing with a young girl manning the counter. Soon a young man joined the girl and started talking to my father who now seemed very angry and called the lady to come outside and look at something. She came out and he showed her his bag, opening it and looking for something inside. Suddenly my father dropped the bag, grabbed the girl and held a knife to her throat and said.
"Quiet everyone, this is a hold up. Don’t move and you won't get hurt"
His friend had already hit the guard with the gun while another one - I did not see where he had disappeared - came with a bag and a knife and told the man at the counter to put all the money into the bag. Suddenly all the lights went out and only a torch shone near the counter where the money was quickly being poured into the bag.
I was terrified, shaking and could not utter a word. In no time at all, the money was transferred into the bag and the friend came to my father, picked up the bag and along with the girl, ran out and immediately a car started and then I called out "Daddy" and ran for the door.
Someone stopped me and there was a great deal of noise. I tried to run away but a man held me tight and asked "who is your daddy?"
I pointed outside, "that one"
"who? The one who ran out with the cash?"
I nodded, rather pleased that my father had escaped with the money. But I was not allowed to leave. Then the Police came; they asked everyone a lot of questions and then took me with them.
Of course, they caught my father, his friends and recovered the money before they could spend it. My father is once again in jail and I continue living with my mother and her friends.
When I grow up, I want to become a banker. They are such nice people, working in posh offices.
And they are so easy to rob.
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A.J Job Xavier - Mumbai, May 2015