Almost everyone in the town was in a state of panic. Quite naturally, since in the past few days, there has been a spate of robberies in several localities, and no one has been nabbed as yet. An organized gang of criminals is suspected to be involved. Yet nothing can be said with certainty till someone is actually caught while committing the offence. In spite of their best efforts, the police machinery has failed to make much headway in tracking down the robbers.
The local headman of different localities called a meeting inviting all the residents in it. After discussing the current situation prevailing in the town at great lengths, he decided that the residents will have to guard their respective localities during the night. On a rotatory basis, we will have to keep vigil on our neighborhood every nightfall till the wee hours of the morning. Several vantage points were chalked out. We will waylay at these points, and alert the neighborhood in case of an invasion by the crooks. There were quite a few youths in our colony. My night duty was fixed at every alternate day of the week.
On the first day of the assignment, I prepared myself mentally to face any face any kind of situation boldly. I took my dinner early at 9 p.m. Then I took leave of my parents, and set forth. My parents nervously gave their consent to take leave and join the band of sentinels. I took a long strong stick along with me.
I reached the meeting place, and found no one there. Soon everyone appeared. We decided to break up the group, and station ourselves at some good camouflage positions in close proximity to each other. We ( a group of five ) took position inside a taxi. My team comprised of mostly a working group in the same age bracket as mine. Tomba, Raju, Amit, Anand and me began talking, mostly in whispers, inside the cab.
Tomba: "How many robberies have actually taken place?"
Amit : "About a dozen at least "
Tomba: "in a span of just a week?"
Amit : "Do we have to sign in any attendance sheet tonight?"
Me : "Yes. The Headman has warned that anyone who is found indulging
in dereliction of duty would be penalized."
Raju : "How long will this continue?"
Amit : "At least a month."
Me : "We all have office duty as well tomorrow. If I stay awake the entire night, I am sure to doze off in my desk in the office tomorrow. My Boss will take me to task surely."
Raju : "Even he is possibly guarding his locality, don't be worried."
A couple of hours passed. It is past midnight. Suddenly, a flash of light appeared in the distance with a guttural sound.
Tomba: "What's that?"
Me : "It seems like a two-wheeler."
Within seconds, the two-wheeler reached us. The rider shouted "Everyone has reported for duty?"
Me : " Yes "
Rider : "Okay "
The rider disappeared.
Me : "The Headman has sent him to find out whether everyone has
reported for duty or not"
Raju : "Hmm. The Headman must be snuggling in his bed. Son of a bitch."
Me : "It is crazy to guard in this manner. The goons will come with arms and ammunition. We are all unarmed. What can we do?. Even if we shout, they will spray bullets on us"
Amit : "Cheer up, guys, I will go and get tea from Haribhai's shop."
Me : "At this hour?"
Amit : "I have already talked with him. He said he will be able to provide us with tea throughout the night. After all, he is also from our locality."
Anand : "Good, I will come with you."
Amit and Anand left for Haribhai's shop.
Tomba : "Mosquitoes are really disturbing me."
Me : "From next day, bring a mosquito coil along."
Tomba : "Thanks for the advice."
Raju : "Here comes the magic brew"
A couple of weeks passed without any incidents. We were still religiously performing our sentry job. Snippets from one such night
Anand : "What's all that noise I hear?"
Me : "Yes, there is a commotion. Anand, come with me. We will find out"
Raju : "We will keep guard here."
When we reached the spot, which was another hideout of the vigilantes, we found about a dozen people assembled there. And two persons were actually exchanging blows at each other. Excerpts from the scene.
1st man : "Why can't you join the vigilance team when everyone in the colony is co-operating?"
2nd man : "But I have sent a substitute"
1st man : "Will your substitute i.e. your servant guard with as much devotion as a house-owner like you would?"
2nd man : "I have full faith in my servant"
1st man : "No, he won't. If some incidents actually happens, then he will disappear. Why would he put his life in danger for your property?"
2nd man : "No, he won't flee."
1st man : "From next day, I will pay some money and get a substitute
to vigil on my behalf."
The second man remain silent. Most of the assembled people admonished him, and supported the arguments of our first man. The two men, gargantuan in built, carried on with their heated arguments and fisticuffs, which lasted for nearly an hour, providing some real action in an eventless fortnight so far.
Bashing the Innocents
Another week passed. There were more instances of robberies in our town. We were discussing the prevailing situation that night.
Raju : "It is really horrible. In the name of keeping guard, some local youths are indiscriminately beating up anyone who ventures out of their house at night."
Anand : "Yesterday, I heard that someone who came out of his house for a riddance was badly beaten up. He was on his way to the lavatory, which was just outside his room. He was moved to the hospital, where this morning he succumbed to his injuries."
Me : "Despicable "
Tomba : "Beastly "
Amit : "How many innocents will suffer like this?"
Things were limping back to normalcy. There is a talk that vigilance duty would be lifted shortly. Then, suddenly something happened that night.
It was around 2 a. m. We were nearly asleep inside the cab. All of a sudden, I sighted a ray of light. Tomba, who was besides me, also has seen the same. It was a car. The car gradually passed us by, and stopped in front of a house. It was the house of Mr Murarka, a wealthy wholesale dealer.
By now, everyone in our group was awake and surreptitiously peeking at the goings-on. We began talking in a trembling voice.
Tomba : "Are we going to raise an alarm by shouting?"
Me : "It is useless. No one will come forward, and we will be shot."
Amit : "Lord, let them not find out we are here. How many are there, and are they fully armed?"
I brought out my cordless, and dialed a number.
The police arrived promptly. They surrounded the area, and in no time overpowered the gangsters. No one could escape. About ten crooks were nabbed.
After the incident, I became quite a hero of the locality. All were indulging in my praise, and talked about my presence of mind, which eventually led to the criminals getting caught.
Still basking in adulation, however, one thing still disturbs me. How long will it be when these crooks will be released?. They will find out about me, and then will it be revenge?
Even heroes are vulnerable, aren't they?