7 Aug 2006

The art of a pickpocket

There are certain bus routes in Chennai that are famous. Not because of anything happening outside the bus, but because of the nature of people inside the bus. You will be able to find what I believe to be some of the finest specimens of pickpockets and cutpurses in these notorious buses.

I have heard plenty of horror stories of people mysteriously losing their wallets and purses when they travel in crowded buses, in spite of all the precautions they took against the predators on board. Cutpurses have even be reported to steal wallets kept deep inside a bag by cutting the slide of the bag open with a knife (some say they have a blade underneath their finger nails).

A few days ago, I happened to catch the evil at work. And of all people, he should have tried my pockets! But all I had at that time in my pockets were twenty rupees (equivalent of a paltry US$0.43) tucked deep in my right pocket. Somehow that day, I intentionally left my wallet at home. Call it an intuition or good fortune. Anyway, even that twenty rupees was safe because I managed to squirm when the hand was just entering my pocket. The devil quickly took an evasive action, and posed innocently.

The attempted dip was performed so fast that at first I thought it was, perhaps, just an accidental touch and nothing more. However I became vigilant and was watching my pockets like an eagle. Though I did not have anything valuable, I did not want the devil’s hands in my pockets.

The devil, in the mean time, had identified someone else to carry out his diabolical act. As I watched, he started leaning heavily against the person in front of him. Suddenly one of his hands disappeared from the railing above. Then all of a sudden, he was back to his normal posture once again. The whole episode would have lasted just a few seconds at the most.

The very next stop, the fiend alighted. With or without his loot, I know not. In fact, there is nothing I could have done about him right there. I did not even explicitly see his hands dip into the pocket. The prospects of raising a false alarm is not very nice to think about. No, thank you.

Even so, there are various methods which the devils employ to get away clean. It said that they sometimes work in pairs. One devil will dip the pocket, the other will take the loot and escape. So, even if the victim finds out that he has been looted, the thief is not going to get caught because he would not have anything in his posession when searched.

I don’t know about other cities in India, but never board a crowded bus in Chennai. If you had to do it, give away what you have in your pockets to charity first. You would rather do it consciously than unconsiously on the bus.

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