Robin Hood, the Pakistani version

Published: May 27, 2014
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I bet half of this city is crazy since we have been mugged at least once in our life time.

I was not shocked at all. The room did not look like that of an informant; adequately lit, curtains drawn, handful of furniture, most noticeable of which was the centre table decorated with an unlit candle. Perhaps he was expecting a power outage; part and parcel of Karachi these days.

You would be surprised to know that crime reporting is really not as dramatic as it seems on the one hour investigation shows on TV. And here I was, sitting in front of a person, a man the age of my younger brother, who sat there with more confidence than I could muster and not a hint of menace.

He had been staring at me for over a minute and when I just couldn’t help myself any longer I blurted out,

“So, you have a story for me?”

This better be worth it, I thought to myself. The guy had woken me past midnight and I could not bear with the thought that a false call ruined my slumber, especially when I had planned to visit my family early in the morning; we were throwing a party for my younger brother for finally joining the local police force. Aah… finally a police recruit in our family.

I got lost in my thoughts when the guy took out a cigarette from the pocket of his faded jeans and said,

“Yes, I’m sorry I bothered you at this time, but my people were not expecting this.”

“Can you give me your background? Who do you work for” I asked, refusing his offer to smoke.

Grinning, he replied,

“I don’t work for any one. I am sorry for lying to you.”

“I am not a part of any big fancy undercover operation. See, you wouldn’t have come running to interview a self-employed person at 2am in Johar Town now would you?”

Looking at my expression, he continued,

“See Mr Naveed, a little lie doesn’t hurt anyone if we do it for the sake of society.”

Sensing there was more to this man than met the eye, I stayed quite.

“But I promised you a story and I will give you a good one.”

He lit the cigarette and continued,

“My friend Chandio, who is in the other room, had a crazy idea a month back. You can’t blame him. Even you will end up going crazy if someone mugs you thrice at gun point. I bet half of this city is crazy since we have been mugged at least once in our life time. Seriously Mr Naveed, once you see that loaded barrel pointing at your face, you can never go back to who you were.

So I found Chandio crazy as well when he let me in on his brilliant idea. He said, what if we do the same? What if we start mugging the muggers? No ethics would disapprove of this. We would take what does not belong to them. Like Robin Hood! But we would give it back to ‘us’…”

And then in a deceivingly innocent voice he said,

“Now, Naveed Sahab, don’t judge us. We were very poor at that time.”

He took another drag from the cigarette and continued,

“So one day we decided to try it. I acted as bait and started talking on my easily noticeable iPhone in the middle of the crowded II Chundrigar Road. I’m sure you’ve heard stories of people getting mugged there. Only this time, we took the game to them and trust me Mr Naveed, it had barely been 30 minutes before someone nudged me from behind. For the first time in my life, I was happy to see a gun pointing towards me. I handed my phone to him without saying a word. Soon after, Chandio followed him on his Honda 70 and on an empty street, ran over him. Chandio took my mobile and the mugger’s satchel filled with shiny touch screens.”

I was hooked

“The mugger must have broken his leg because we saw some bystanders gathering to help him. Had he known that the same people he mugs everyday are helping him, he probably would not have done so. See Mr Naveed, we were not only changing our fortunes, we were changing lives.”

After a brief pause he continued,

“It was all going well and even the crime rate at II Chundrigar Road dropped. We hired two day workers from Lyari to assist us. Don’t be surprised, we followed the contracting model.”

He grazed the burning end of the cigarette on the table and went on,

“Times were good until this evening when Chandio hit a mugger at Sea View. Apart from the stolen goods, something else caught our eyes… his ID card.”

He looked straight at me, with an unreadable expression of his face and continued,

“We were expecting it might catch your attention as well.”

There was a tense pause and then he just smiled. After a second he yelled out loud,

“Chandio! Bring in our guest.”

With the sound of each footstep nearing my heart sank deeper. I looked up to see a badly bruised man being dragged in by ‘Chandio’. I could recognise that face in thousands.

My younger brother was not going to be at his own celebration tomorrow.

Sarim Irfan

Sarim Irfan

The author works in financial services in London and has written various short plays and short movies, which have won local community awards in Dubai and have also been featured at the Dubai International Film Festival. He is currently part of the improv theatre community in London. He tweets @SarimIrfan twitter.com/SarimIrfan

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