The Dangerous Criminal

Posted: August 29, 2012 in Stories



“How could you let that scoundrel inside the park? Throw him out right now.” yelled a young man at the gardener and caretaker of the community park. He removed his Ray Ban glasses and tucked it in his Nike jogging suit and looked at the small crowd that had gathered around him and the caretaker.

“He was here since yesterday evening. I saw him sitting on the same bench yesterday. Is this what you are paid for… to let scoundrels prowl all over the park?” shouted another sophisticated brand wearing jogger wiping his face that was sweating after his morning run.

“We have women and children coming here at early hours and late evenings. This is a community park. How can you be so irresponsible?” yelled another shrill voice.

“He won’t understand this way. Throw him out of job. We shall find a new person, someone more sincere.” Shouted a charged up obese young lad, sipping glucose from his Milton water bottle.

The caretaker stood with his hands folded. He was almost in tears… too scared to utter a single word. He felt as if all these rich and well bred faces were hungrily coming towards him to devour him. He was scared to death. He did not want to lose his job. He already had a family of four to be fed with his meager four thousand Rupees salary…

“Sir, he said he was lost sir. He had nowhere to go sir… Sir he begged sir, to let him stay sir… Sir when I asked him to leave…. He had nowhere to go sir… I took pity on the old man sir… I will never do this again sir…” Finally he spoke in a shaky voice.

“Shut up” retorted another angry face “Does this park look like a dharamshala to you… Do you pay for the charity?”

“No sir… I am sorry sir… He was too old and sick to go anywhere sir… He says his son left him in the city to beg. He is from a faraway village sir… his son left him here to die” the caretaker muttered with downcast eyes.

The old man coughed violently… The loud phlegm filled cough was clearly audible even from the other end of the park. He had spent the whole night under the banyan tree on a stone bench. He was cold and pale. The crowd looked at the old man at the other corner of the park. The gardener looked at the poor man…his frail body shook violently when he coughed.

“Son left him in city to beg! What kind of story is that? And you melted to his story? He may be a part of the chain snatchers gang. Who knows?” Another gentleman stepped in to put forth his CBI skills. “He is acting sick and old. If he finds woman and children alone he is fully capable of robbing gold chains. His gang members may have plotted all this.”

“We should not be surprised if this gardener too is a part of the gang. Who knows.” Yelled the obese lad. He looked at the other heads in the crowd for approval.

The gardener looked up. His hands were still folded. He was on the verge of breaking down. He had never for once thought that letting the sick old man sleep on a stone bench of Community Park would land him into so much trouble. His pale old face had reminded him of his own father who had died of tuberculosis three years back. He could not afford medicines to keep him alive. He himself was forced to leave his drought affected village in search of livelihood. Four thousand a month meant a lot to him… He remembered the face of his old paralyzed mother, his two little children – pale and rickety. He remembered his anemic wife who was seven months pregnant. The government hospital doctor had warned him to feed her meat, eggs and spinach every day, lest she should die of childbirth… His eyes welled up again.

“Do not show your crocodile tears. Do you want us to call the police? If these kinds of people are ever seen in the park we shall put you in jail.” Shouted the Ray Ban guy.

“Go and throw him out right away if you want to continue working in this park. We do not want criminals loitering in here anymore.” Someone shouted.

The gardener was relieved… so they were not throwing him out of job? He looked up with eyes filled with gratitude. He had otherwise already determined inside his head this time to get on his knees and beg to save himself from losing his job.

“Thank you sir… Thank you. I will ask him to leave right away sir… I will never let criminals lurk in here again. Ever.” He said with his folded hands…

The angry mob followed the gardener as he walked towards the old stone bench under the Banyan tree. The old man still lay there. Silent and still… tired and exhausted. He had been coughing the whole night. Now, he was fast asleep. The gardener touched him gently but he did not open his eyes. He looked at the crowd behind him – they were getting impatient to chew him like a pack of wolves. He had to save his job so he could not take pity on the old man anymore. This time he shook him with some force… pretending to be violent.

The old man fell from the bench and rolled on the ground. But he did not move or open his eyes. His old wrinkled face had turned blue and semi dry phlegm was oozing out from the corner of his tightly closed lips. He lay there motionless on the ground, his hands still clutching his old plastic bag tightly to his chest. His face showed no pain anymore…

Every leaf on the Banyan tree was silent and still. The squirrel sat still on the branch. The sparrows had stopped chirping. They seemed to be mourning… grieving a death. Death of humanity!



  1. Sharmishtha says:

    painful reality captured by a caring heart.

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