The shrill whistle of the train's guard pierced through the cabin. It was dawn when the train resumed its journey from Godhra in Gujarat. I had been sleeping soundly, but the whistle woke me up for a few seconds. I tried to get back to sleep, but something was nagging me.
I realised it was my necktie that was lying on the berth. But I remember having folded it neatly, placed it in my suitcase and then pushed the suitcase below the berth the previous night. I got up with a start and pulled out the suitcase only to find that the locks had been forced open. My purse, cash, pens, clothes and some gifts were missing.
A lad had boarded the train at Bombay the previous night along with me. He was evasive and had climbed onto the upper berth when the journey started. He could have ransacked the suitcase and disembarked at Godhra.
I pulled the alarm chain in the compartment. Within minutes, the train ground to a halt. The conductor came to my cabin and said that we would have to lodge the complaint at Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh.
It was February 1965 and I was on an official tour from Bombay to Delhi. At Ratlam, the police recorded my complaint when I told them that the missing pen was a gift from my company and had its name engraved on it.
In July, I got a call from a police inspector. "Are you the person who had his baggage stolen while travelling from Bombay?" he asked me. "Yes," I replied. "Will you be able to visit us in Ratlam?" he said. He would not divulge more details.
Days later, I presented myself at Ratlam police station. The inspector explained, "We have taken into custody a person who was trying to steal a suitcase in a train. We recovered a pen from him with your company's name engraved on it. We suspect that he may be the person who stole your goods.
However, you will have to identify him." I agreed to do so.
About 10 men stood in a row. I glanced across from one end to the other. Then I carefully looked from right to left. Once again, I observed their faces from left to right. Then, I signalled to the inspectors that we could leave. "Do not be in a rush. Take your time," counselled one of the inspectors. "The third man from the left, is your man" I told them. "Yes, he is the man we had detained," he exclaimed.
I also learnt that the culprit was a post-graduate and his father taught in a college. Apparently, he committed thefts on trains as an adventure. I thought what a waste of a fine life and education by a young man. I pondered on how pained his parents must be.
Recently, some cricketers were detained by the police for accepting money for fixing overs in T20 domestic league matches. Fortyeight years later, I'm still to figure out why these promising youngsters throw away their careers and future for making a quick buck? Why did they break the faith of a nation of cricket lovers? Why did they lose so much for so little?
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