This time, the summer vacation felt longer than normal to Vamshi. Nothing exciting was happening. So many exciting things happened to children in stories but never to Vamshi. He discussed these observations with his friends Jayesh and Samir. “Other kids often get a mystery or something to solve,” he told them woefully. They all pondered in silence. Lives in stories were so exciting. “Maybe we should make things happen,” said Jayesh. “How about creating a mystery for others to solve,” said Samir, suddenly excited. “What do you mean?” asked Vamshi suspiciously. “Maybe we could rob a bank or something…,” said Samir carelessly. There was a period of silence as the idea began to sink in slowly.

They sat up till late in the night and planned the great robbery.

The next morning they met at the Girinagar bus stand 4 kilometers from their locality. It was part of the plan that nobody recognise them. They were quite notorious in their own locality. Jayesh had written a note in his scraggly handwriting that read, “We are carrying a loaded gun. If you fear for your life, please fill all the cash you have in the bag we are going to give you. And for heaven’s sake don’t make any noise, or we will shoot.” It was signed “The Terrible Three. The note sounded harsh and threatening. They were satisfied. Samir had brought a toy gun. It looked quite real though.

They started their adventure by going to the bank. They had covered themselves with black shawls. They entered the bank, shaking with excitement.

The bank was crowded. Yet no one noticed the red faces in the black shawls on the hot summer day. That was a little bit of a setback. “Just wait till they find out who we are,” Vamshi comforted his friends, “Then they will regret ignoring us.” They walked up to the cash counter, stood up on their toes, raised their gun and handed the note with trembling fingers to the lady behind the counter.

They lady was busy and didn’t look up for what seemed like eternity. Jayesh had heard his father complaining about service in the bank, but couldn’t they at least treat robbers decently. After 3 long minutes, she looked at the boys but she wasn’t paying attention to them. Before they could get her attention to the note, somebody yelled out for her and she got up and walked out of the cubicle.

Everybody in the bank seemed very busy. The poor trio. Nobody even noticed them. They got pushed around a couple of times and then decided to leave. They had never felt so ignored in their lives.

“The bank was a mistake,” said a disappointed Samir, “We must find a place where we will be very visible. Let us try our luck at a smaller place.” They went to a local grocer, Chand and Sons, next. The guy at the shop looked like Chand’s son, spoilt, fat, greasy and lazy. There were tons of greasy tins in which adulterated food was hoarded. “It will be easy to frighten this fatty,” thought Jayesh excitedly. They handed the note to the round and smiling Chand Junior. He stared at them hesitantly as he took the note. His smile faded. Their hearts were pounding.

The Not-quite Robbery [Illustrations by Amarjeet Malik]
The Not-quite Robbery [Illustrations by Amarjeet Malik]

He looked at the note a couple of times and then said in Kannada, " Turn left and then right.” “Is that where the money is?” thought a puzzled Jayesh. Junior Chand seemed eager to help them as he was anxiously reading their puzzled faces. “I don’t know where this place is,” he said guiltily handing them back the note. “This is not an address”, said a frustrated Jayesh, now understanding the boy’s weird response. “I don’t know English,” the boy admitted sheepishly, “Anyway, what is written here?” “Oh never mind,” said Samir snatching away the note. They walked out of the shop in a huff leaving a puzzled, fat and not-smiling-anymore boy behind.

“Who could have anticipated these things?” they grumbled to themselves. “Now we must find a place, where we will not be ignored and where the person behind the counter can read English,” said Samir. “That should not be difficult,” said Jayesh. “Well, we haven’t found it yet,” said Vamshi wryly.

As they were walking they came across a medical shop called Meenakshi Medicals. The other shops were closed and this seemed an ideal location. “This should be a good place”, said an optimistic Samir. They met a cross, old man behind the counter. “Groucho!” thought Jayesh, “Would they be successful there?” Groucho hated children obviously. Their visiting the shop seemed to irritate him. Children would never visit a chemist shop unaccompanied by adults. What mischief would these three be up to?

“What do you want?” snapped Groucho. They kept straight faces and handed him the note. He stared at it for some time with a furrowed forehead. He was expressionless. “I need my glasses,” he told them, “Just wait, I’ll come back.” He disappeared through a door into what they thought was a storeroom for the shop. “May be we are close to realising our goals,” they thought to themselves excitedly.

However, they waited in vain, for Groucho never came back. “May be he has gone home to get his glasses, " said Samir hopefully. “What was he doing in the shop without his glasses,” asked Vamshi irritated. “Was he trying to fool us?” thought Vamshi suddenly. The truth suddenly dawned on them. They realised that they had been duped. Groucho must have been laughing in his house for the last 20 minutes thinking about the children waiting foolishly. As they started to return, utterly dejected, who should they see, but Groucho, with the local policeman. They tried to bolt, but were caught easily.

As they stood trembling in their shoes, the inspector took a hard look at them and then at the note and burst out laughing. However, he became serious again. He took down their names, the names of their parents, their addresses, the names of their schools and the classes they studied in. There was no way they could escape now. He gave each one of them two sharp smacks on their bottoms. Groucho smiled. He had been waiting for this.

The trio was really scared now. The inspector had all their details. He could publish photographs of theirs in their school notice boards; he could send letters to their parents; he could walk into their class, make them stand on benches, and narrate the story of their foolish escapades to their cheeky classmates. The possibilities were immense and each was murkier than the others.

However, the inspector was kinder. He warned them sternly, “The next time I catch you doing something foolish like this, I’ll report you to your parents.” The three of them fled, grateful to him for not squealing on them. Though their robbery had flopped miserably it turned out to be an exciting holiday after all.

1173 words | 11 minutes
Readability: Grade 6 (11-12 year old children)
Based on Flesch–Kincaid readability scores

Filed under: stories
Tags: #inspector, #glasses