I issued 2 books from my library cards. Then I went back to my favourite section in the library of my college-novels. Meanwhile my friend Safina was searching for a technical reference book of an author. We had been searching for that book from a long time, hoping in vain, that somebody might return one of its copies soon. So she kept searching and I, abandoning all pretenses, picked up a novel and started reading it. After 10 mins, she joined me. I looked up and understood from her disappointing face that she did not get it. We decided to try our luck next time.
We came out of the library after signing in the register at the door. Outside there were racks where students kept their bags before entering the library. I went towards the place where I had kept my bag. Beside it, a girl stood with her back to us. We closed in and then I saw it. My bag was half-open. My purse was lying on top of it! My heart was filled with fear. I half ran towards it. Hearing our hurried footsteps, the girl turned. She was searching something in her bag. She looked scared. I looked in my purse and was instantly relieved. Nothing was amiss. There was a payment receipt and a 500 rupee note. Then I picked up my bag. Every book was in its place inside the bag. My relieved face somewhat erased Safina’s fear and she turned towards the girl standing miserably beside us. After enquiring her, we learnt that she had lost an earring. We could see a single long earring dangling from her left ear. There was none on her right. But it wasn’t gold. We told her to relax and search in the premises. Maybe she had lost it on the way? She listened to us like a good junior and started her search. We went to the library-in-charge and told her about the incident. She was concerned. Apparently, a lot of stealing outside the library was going on from some months. We were not the first one to lodge our complaints. We were luckier because nothing was stolen from our bags yet. How wrong we were!
We went out of the library and started to walk through the lawn in the campus. It was going to rain heavily. The clouds were darkening. The atmosphere was cool. It raised our spirits and we started to discuss further. Safina spoke first and it was like she could read my mind.
“Who would do such a thing? Opening bags and purses for nothing!” Safina said.
“Yeah. It’s weird. I was scared there for a second on seeing my purse ripped open like that” I confessed.
“Are you sure there is nothing missing from your purse?” She asked.
We sat on a nearby bench in the lawn. The chilly weather seemed to be mocking our anxious faces. All this business seemed funny to me. Someone had deliberately opened my bag to get to the purse. But that someone did not steal anything. Then why to take such a risk at all? Open someone’s purse in a public place like that? I looked inside my bag and took out my purse again. I opened it and in an instant realized my mistake. Three days back I had paid for my new bus pass. I had got the receipt of the payment and a change of Rs.130. I had kept them in my purse. And today morning I had just added a 500 rupee note.
Now my purse had the receipt and that 500 rupees note. There was no sign of Rs.130. The thief had indeed stolen. How had I missed this before? Damn it!
I explained the matter to Safina. I was angry and felt stupid on being robbed of my money, something that had never happened with me before. She was more alert.
“That girl!” she exclaimed suddenly.
“What about her?” I asked miserably.
“She had lost an earring, right? Then why was she searching for that in her precious bag?” She said. “And what if she was scared because of our coming? What if she was afraid that we had caught her?”
I was stunned. I thought over the girl’s reaction after she saw us coming. What if she was the thief? What if she had fooled us into thinking that she was a victim as well? I was lost at the daring of the student.
Safina gave a little push which brought me back to my senses. We jumped up together and ran towards the library. Could that girl be there yet? Could we catch her? What if she was innocent? We entered library again. After some searching, we spotted her. Safina gave a smile. This was turning into an adventure. I was satisfied. We started walking towards the library-in-charge’s main office. And guess who else was sitting there? None other than the director of the college himself! He was in deep discussion with ma’am. On seeing us from the transparent door, she beckoned to come forward. We obediently walked inside and stood in front of our new director.
“This is the girl whose purse was found to be opened” she said pointing at me. My face got flushed due to my extreme embarrassment. Any other day, I would have liked to come in front of the director to receive some certificate or award from him. Never had I imagined in my wildest dream that I would meet him because somebody had stolen my money! Moreover, we realized that they had been talking about us only. I decided to share our new suspicions with them. So I and Safina talked for the next few minutes. After we stopped, nobody moved a muscle. I looked at Safina. She was busy looking through the glass door, keeping a watch on that girl. The director took the matters into his hand.
“Is that girl from our college” he asked. We nodded vigorously. Only a student would wear a college id-card and get entry into the library. Safina, losing patience, pointed flatly at that girl. The director stood up and started walking, pointing us silently to follow him. He went out of the library towards the racks. He asked us where our bags were kept and about that girl’s bag. We pointed it out to him. Then he demanded us to open the girl’s bag. What if my money was inside her bag? I picked up her bag. In front of Safina, the director and the ma’am, I opened it and searched inside. There was just a single notebook and 3 pens. Other than this, there was nothing in her bag. I was crestfallen. Everything turned disappointing. All our planning had failed. And what’s more, we had dragged the director too in this for nothing.
All of us came back in the main office. The director decided to meet the girl. Safina and I went to fetch her. She was half reading and half sleeping. We shook her a bit. She got up, alarmed on seeing us again. We told us of our purpose and she was astonished.
“But why does the director want to meet me?” she wailed.
“You lost an earring, right? He is going to ask you about that” Safina replied tactfully.
That calmed her. She came along with us and stood in front of the director.
“What is your name? Which branch?” Ma’am asked. The girl gave her details. On asking about her lost earring, she said that she had found it. Sure enough, her both earrings were dangling now. We could see that she was slightly shaking with fear.
“How much money do you have with you now?” the director asked. She replied that she had none. Further he enquired about her books in her bag. She replied that she had three books with her. One in her bag and two books she had brought inside the library with her. The director turned and told Safina to fetch the other two books. Before the director could finish his words, the girl moved towards the door. But the ma’am reacted faster and stopped her. The girl was scolded for her behaviour. Safina went to fetch those other books. Meanwhile, the girl had started trembling. Standing beside her, I could feel it. She was twisting her fingers and looking around her as if searching for a hiding place. She looked at me and backed away a good distance from me. My face, full of anger, must have shown my feelings for her.
Safina entered like a winner. She was elated. She was smiling and waving the books in her hand like a weapon which threatened to reveal all against the owner.
“Sir, I want to show you something” she announced. She laid down one of the books in her hand on the desk in front of the director. She opened it and there was money inside it! A 100 rupees note with three 10 rupees note! Rs.130 in all! The girl tried to speak but couldn’t utter any words. Something about ‘pocket-money’ came out of her mouth.
“If this is your pocket-money, why didn’t you say about it before?” the director asked. The girl looked at the ground, refusing to meet any other eyes in the room. The money was collected and handed to me. I and Safina walked out of the room and guess what did we see next? Library staff and students alike had gathered and were staring curiously. The whole drama had been visible to everybody from the transparent door. As we were the first to come out of the room, we were beseeched with questions. Every one wanted to know more details regarding the incident. An ordinary day had turned extraordinary! We were in the spotlight that day. After leaving Safina to explain the matters to some excited group of first years, I came out of the library towards my bag. Looking back, I could still see the girl answering questions fired at her in the office room.
Few days later, a camera was installed outside the library. Something that had never been done before in the college. Some people wondered why. But we knew the story behind it.