Introduction to the lesson


The Thief’s Story

Introduction to the lesson

The plot revolves around a 15-year-old thief who changes his name every month to avoid detection by the police and former employers. This time, he went by the name Hari Singh. Anil, a 25-year-old writer, is the other character in the storey. The thief approaches Anil and asks if he can work for him. The storey unfolds as the thief betrays Anil by committing a theft but later retracts his actions.

The Thief’s Story Summary

The plot revolves around two distinct characters. One is a 15-year-old thief, and the other is a 25-year-old man who is watching a wrestling match somewhere. Anil is the name of the person who is watching the game. The thief approaches Anil and begins talking to him because he feels he hasn't robbed anyone in a few days and believes it would be simple to rob a simple person like Anil. They begin to converse, and Anil inquires about the thief's name. Hari Singh, the thief, introduces himself. This is not his real name because he changes it every month to avoid his ex-employers or the police. Then they started talking about wrestlers, and Anil was about to leave when Hari called and asked if he could work for Anil. Anil stated that he will not be able to pay him but will be able to feed him if he knows how to cook. Hari lied about knowing how to cook. Anil escorted Hari to his room, which was located above a candy store. Hari prepared a meal that was terrible because Anil refused to eat it. Hari was asked to leave by Anil, but he tried to please Anil. Hari smiled his most attractive smile, and Anil couldn't stop laughing at him. Anil agreed to teach Hari to cook, write complete sentences, and add numbers. Hari was grateful because he knew that once he learned to read and write, he would be able to rob people indefinitely.

The narrator used to enjoy working for Anil because he could make him tea in the morning and then go out to buy groceries for the day. He also used to steal 1 rupee from the money given to him every day to buy groceries. Anil was aware that he used to steal, but he was unconcerned.

Anil used to make money by doing odd jobs. Sometimes he borrowed money, and other times when he had money, he would lend it to others. He used to go out with his friends to celebrate whenever he got money.

Anil came in one day with a bundle of notes and informed Hari that he had sold a book to a publisher. He hid the money beneath his bed's mattress at night. Hari realised he had been working for Anil for more than a month and had not stolen anything except the one rupee he kept from the grocery money every day. Hari had numerous opportunities to steal because he also had the key to the room. But he was surprised by Anil's trust in him because he had never met such a trusting person before. This trust issue was preventing Hari from robbing Anil because Hari believed that robbing a careless person like Anil wouldn't make much of a difference because he might not even notice that he had been robbed, which took all of the fun out of the job. Then he considered stealing Anil's money, justifying himself by saying that if he didn't steal money from Anil, he would waste it on his friends, and Anil didn't pay him for the work that he did.

Hari then awoke in the middle of the night and crept quietly to Anil's bed. He steals the money and decides to leave the city on the 10:30 Lucknow Express. When he arrived at the station, the train had begun to move away from the platform. He could have easily caught the train, but he hesitated for reasons he didn't understand. He counted the money before arriving at the station, and it was 600 rupees in 50 rupee notes. With that much money, he could live a lavish lifestyle for two to three weeks. Hari was alone at the train station after the train had left. He was without a place to sleep at night. The only person he knew was Anil, whom he had also looted. He was sitting on a park bench when it began to rain, so he moved under the clock tower. Then he noticed the notes had gotten wet. He realised that learning to read and write would enable him to obtain a much more respectable and honest job that would pay him far more than these few hundred rupees. He then decided to return to Anil's house.

He entered the room and replaced the money. He awoke a little late the next morning, and Anil had already made his tea. Aniul gave Hari a 50 rupee note because he had been paid for some work and would be paid on a regular basis. Hari took the note in his hand and noticed that it was still wet from the rain the night before. Hari realised Anil had learned of his wrongdoing, but he felt no sadness, anger, or guilt. The narrator smiled beautifully, and it was genuine happiness because he knew he had saved himself from going down the wrong path.

The Thief’s Story Lesson and Explanation

I was still a thief when I met Anil. And though only 15, I was an experienced and fairly successful hand. Anil was watching a wrestling match when I approached him. He was about 25 — a tall, lean fellow — and he looked easy-going, kind and simple enough for my purpose. I hadn’t had much luck of late and thought I might be able to get into the young man’s confidence. “You look a bit of a wrestler yourself,” I said. A little flattery helps in making friends. “So do you,” he replied, which put me off for a moment because at that time I was rather thin. “Well,” I said modestly, “I do wrestle a bit.” “What’s your name?” “Hari Singh,” I lied. I took a new name every month. That kept me ahead of the police and my former employers. After this introduction, Anil talked about the well-oiled wrestlers who were grunting, lifting and throwing each other about. I didn’t have much to say. Anil walked away. I followed casually. “Hello again,” he said. I gave him my most appealing smile. “I want to work for you,” I said. “But I can’t pay you.”

  • Lean- thin
  • Flattery- excessive and insincere praise
  • Modestly- in an unassuming manner; without vanity or arrogance.
  • Employers- a person or organization that employs people.
  • Grunting- make a low, short guttural sound.
  • Appealing- attractive or interesting.

The storey begins with the meeting of the two main characters, Anil and the thief. The thief is the story's narrator. According to the thief, he was quite skilled at stealing. The thief approached Anil while he was watching a wrestling match. Anil, 25, was a tall, lean, and easygoing man. The thief had not committed any thefts in the previous few days because he had not had the opportunity. He thought Anil would be a good person to steal from. So he considered becoming acquainted with him. The thief then said to Anil that he looks like a wrestler himself. He said this to gain his trust by flattering him. Anil responded that even the thief resembled a wrestler, which offended him because he was very thin at the time. The thief replied modestly that he did wrestle occasionally. Anil inquired about his name, and the narrator lied, claiming that his name was Hari Singh. To avoid the police and his ex-employers, the narrator used to change his name every month. They then began talking about the well-oiled wrestlers they were watching on the screen. Because he didn't know much about wrestling, the narrator didn't have much to say. As Anil was leaving, the narrator approached him again and asked if he wanted to work for him. The narrator approached him with the most charming smile he could muster. Anil informed him that he would be unable to compensate him for his efforts.

I thought that over for a minute. Perhaps I had misjudged my man. I asked, “Can you feed me?” “Can you cook?” “I can cook,” I lied again. “If you can cook, then maybe I can feed you.” He took me to his room over the Jumna Sweet Shop and told me I could sleep on the balcony. But the meal I cooked that night must have been terrible because Anil gave it to a stray dog and told me to be off. But I just hung around, smiling in my most appealing way, and he couldn’t help laughing. Later, he patted me on the head and said never mind, he’d teach me to cook. He also taught me to write my name and said he would soon teach me to write whole sentences and to add numbers. I was grateful. I knew that once I could write like an educated man there would be no limit to what I could achieve. It was quite pleasant working for Anil. I made the tea in the morning and then would take my time buying the day’s supplies, usually making a profit of about a rupee a day. I think he knew I made a little money this way but he did not seem to mind.

  • Misjudged- form a wrong opinion or conclusion about.
  • Balcony-a platform enclosed by a wall or balustrade on the outside of a building, with access from an upper-floor window or door.
  • Terrible- extremely bad or serious.
  • Patted- touch quickly and gently with the flat of the hand.
  • Pleasant- giving a sense of happy satisfaction or enjoyment.
  • Supplies- a stock or amount of something supplied or available for use.

Hari had not expected this response and reasoned to himself that he had misjudged Anil because he had assumed Anil had a lot of money. The narrator then asked if he could feed him, to which Anil immediately replied, "Hari can cook." Hari lied once more, saying 'yes.' Anil responded by saying that if Hari could cook, he could feed him. They both went to Anil's room, which was located above the Jumna sweet shop.

Anil also told Hari that he could sleep on the balcony if he wanted to. According to the narrator, Anil's mean must have been terrible because he had to give it away to a stray dog. Then he told Hari to go to sleep, but Hari decided to stay a little longer. Hari's smile was so charming that Anil couldn't stop laughing when he saw him. After a while, Anil patted Hari on the head and told him he would teach him to cook. He also showed him how to write his name and promised to teach him how to write sentences and add numbers soon. Hari was grateful for what Anil had planned because he knew that once he knew how to write, there would be no limits to his work. Hari had a good time working for Anil. He used to make him tea in the morning and then go out to get groceries for the day. He'd also keep 1 rupee in his pocket every day from the money Anil gave him for groceries. Anil was aware that he was taking a rupee every day, but he didn't mind. He wasn't bothered by it.


Anil made money by fits and starts. He would borrow one week, lend the next. He kept worrying about his next cheque, but as soon as it arrived he would go out and celebrate. It seems he wrote for magazines — a queer way to make a living! One evening he came home with a small bundle of notes, saying he had just sold a book to a publisher. At night, I saw him tuck the money under the mattress. I had been working for Anil for almost a month and, apart from cheating on the shopping, had not done anything in my line of work. I had every opportunity for doing so. Anil had given me a key to the door, and I could come and go as I pleased. He was the most trusting person I had ever met. And that is why it was so difficult to rob him. It’s easy to rob a greedy man because he can afford to be robbed, but it’s difficult to rob a careless man — sometimes he doesn’t even notice he’s been robbed and that takes all the pleasure out of the work. Well, it’s time I did some real work, I told myself; I’m out of practice. And if I don’t take the money, he’ll only waste it on his friends. After all, he doesn’t even pay me.

Anil was asleep. A beam of moonlight stepped over the balcony and fell on the bed. I sat up on the floor, considering the situation. If I took the money, I could catch the 10.30 Express to Lucknow. Slipping out of the blanket, I crept up to the bed. Anil was sleeping peacefully. His face was clear and unlined; even I had more marks on my face, though mine were mostly scars. My hand slid under the mattress, searching for the notes. When I found them, I drew them out without a sound. Anil sighed in his sleep and turned on his side, towards me. I was startled and quickly crawled out of the room. When I was on the road, I began to run. I had the notes at my waist, held there by the string of my pyjamas. I slowed down to a walk and counted the notes: 600 rupees in fifties! I could live like an oil-rich Arab for a week or two.

  • Fits and Starts- not working on something consistently
  • Borrow- take and use (something belonging to someone else) with the intention of returning it.
  • Lend- grant to (someone) the use of (something) on the understanding that it will be returned.
  • Queer- strange; odd.
  • Bundle- a collection of things or quantity of material tied or wrapped up together.
  • Tuck- push, fold, or turn (the edges or ends of something, especially a garment or bedclothes) so as to hide or secure them.
  • Line of work-  the principal activity in your life that you do to earn money
  • Beam- a ray or shaft of light.
  • Crept- move slowly and carefully in order to avoid being heard or noticed.
  • Drew- pull or drag
  • Sighed- emit a long, deep audible breath expressing sadness, relief, tiredness.
  • Startled- feeling or showing sudden shock or alarm.

Anil did not have a consistent source of income because he earned money through a variety of activities. He didn't have a set job. According to the narrator, Anil used to be concerned about his paychecks all the time, but whenever he received one, he would go out with friends and celebrate. The narrator recalls writing for magazines in the past. The narrator also thinks it's an odd way to make money. Then, one evening, Anil came home with money and informed Hari that he had just sold a book to a publisher. Anil placed the money under his mattress before going to bed, and Hari observed him doing so. Hari reasoned that he had been working for Anil for nearly a month and had not cheated him except for the one rupee he used to take out daily. The narrator also believes that he had every opportunity to steal because Anil had given him the key to his room and allowed him to come and go whenever he pleased. Hari had placed the most trust in him. Hari had never been trusted by anyone in his life. This was the only thing preventing Hari from stealing because Hari believed that it is much easier to rob a greedy man because he has the capability or money to be robbed and is aware of what he has lost, but for a careless man like Anil, it was pointless to steal because they sometimes don't even realise they have been robbed. Also, Hari believes that if no one finds out that he has been robbed, there is no point in robbing him. Then Hari decided to begin by doing some work. He hadn't robbed anyone in a very long time. He also justified his theft of Anil's money by telling himself that if he didn't, Anil would waste it on his friends. He also believed he had a right to the money because Anil never paid him for the work he used to do.

Hari began his work while Anil was sleeping. Because of the moonlight streaming in through the window, there was a sliver of light over Anil's bed. Hari sat on the floor, planning to leave the city on the 10:30 p.m. Lucknow Express train if he took the money. Hari then crept towards the bed, slowly slipping his hand inside the mattress. He looked at Anil, who was sleeping peacefully with not a single line on his face, and Hari, whose face was riddled with scars. He realised that, despite being much younger than Anil, he had such a bad appearance because of his incorrect thinking. Anil, on the other hand, was carefree and thought well of others, which is why he had such a nice face. Hari then slid the notes out without making a sound. In his sleep, Anil took a breath and rolled onto his side. He was directly facing Hari, which frightened him, and Hari quickly exited the room. Hari began running as soon as he left the room and was on the road, and he had kept the notes in his pyjamas. He'd tied it with a pyjama string. Hari then slowed down and counted the notes after a while. He had 12 notes of 50 rupees each, totaling 600 rupees. Then Hari realised that with this much money, he could live like an Arabian sheikh for at least two weeks.


When I reached the station I did not stop at the ticket office (I had never bought a ticket in my life) but dashed straight to the platform. The Lucknow Express was just moving out. The train had still to pick up speed and I should have been able to jump into one of the carriages, but I hesitated — for some reason, I can’t explain — and I lost the chance to get away.

When the train had gone, I found myself standing alone on the deserted platform. I had no idea where to spend the night. I had no friends, believing that friends were more trouble than help. And I did not want to make anyone curious by staying at one of the small hotels near the station. The only person I knew really well was the man I had robbed. Leaving the station, I walked slowly through the bazaar. In my short career as a thief, I had made a study of men’s faces when they had lost their goods. The greedy man showed fear; the rich man showed anger; the poor man showed acceptance. But I knew that Anil’s face when he discovered the theft, would show only a touch of sadness. Not for the loss of money, but for the loss of trust. I found myself in the maidan and sat down on a bench. The night was chilly — it was early November — and a light drizzle added to my discomfort. Soon it was raining quite heavily. My shirt and pyjamas stuck to my skin, and a cold wind blew the rain across my face.

  • Dashed- Quickly ran towards something
  • Carriages- any of the separate sections of a train that carry passengers.
  • Hesitated- pause in indecision before saying or doing something.
  • Deserted- (of a place) empty of people.
  • Curious- eager to know or learn something.
  • Robbed- take property unlawfully from (a person or place) by force or threat of force.
  • Bazaar- market
  • Maidan- a park
  • Drizzle- light rain falling in very fine drops.

When Hari arrived at the station, he went straight to the platform without purchasing a ticket because he had never purchased a ticket in his life. He'd never travelled without a ticket. When he arrived at the platform, the Lucknow Express, on which he needed to travel, was just leaving. He could have easily jumped and boarded one of the carriages because the train was still moving slowly. However, he did not do so. He paused. Even he didn't understand why he had that hesitation inside him and couldn't board the train. After the train had left, Hari found himself alone on the empty platform. Hari had no idea where he would spend the night. He didn't have any friends to whom he could turn because he used to believe that friends were more trouble than they were helpful. He didn't want to stay in any of the small hotels because it would draw attention to him. He only knew one person well, and he had also robbed him. Hari was thinking about his observations as a thief as he walked through the bazaar after leaving the station. In a short career, he had realised that while everyone – from rich to poor – has different reactions to losing their possessions, Anil would only be slightly sad. That would be because he has lost trust in Hari, not because he has lost his money. He would be disappointed that he had placed so much trust in someone and that person had betrayed him.

Hari was out walking when he came across a park. He sat down on a bench. Because it was November, the night was a little chilly, and the drizzle added to Hari's discomfort. Hari's shirt and pyjamas became soaked as it began to rain heavily. Hari's face was being blown cold by the wind.

I went back to the bazaar and sat down in the shelter of the clock tower. The clock showed midnight. I felt for the notes. They were damp from the rain. Anil’s money. In the morning he would probably have given me two or three rupees to go to the cinema, but now I had it all. I couldn’t cook his meals, run to the bazaar or learn to write whole sentences any more. I had forgotten about them in the excitement of the theft. Whole sentences, I knew, could one day bring me more than a few hundred rupees. It was a simple matter to steal — and sometimes just as simple to be caught. But to be a really big man, a clever and respected man, was something else. I should go back to Anil, I told myself, if only to learn to read and write. I hurried back to the room feeling very nervous, for it is much easier to steal something than to return it undetected. I opened the door quietly, then stood in the doorway, in clouded moonlight. Anil was still asleep. I crept to the head of the bed, and my hand came up with the notes. I felt his breath on my hand. I remained still for a minute. Then my hand found the edge of the mattress, and slipped under it with the notes. I awoke late next morning to find that Anil had already made the tea. He stretched out his hand towards me. There was a fifty-rupee note between his fingers. My heart sank. I thought I had been discovered. “I made some money yesterday,” he explained. “Now you’ll be paid regularly.” My spirits rose. But when I took the note, I saw it was still wet from the night’s rain. “Today we’ll start writing sentences,” he said. He knew. But neither his lips nor his eyes showed anything. I smiled at Anil in my most appealing way. And the smile came by itself, without any effort.

  • Shelter- a place giving temporary protection from bad weather or danger.
  • Clock Tower- a tower, typically forming part of a church or civic building, with a large clock at the top.
  • Midnight- twelve o’clock at night.
  • Damp- slightly wet.
  • Cinema- a theatre where films are shown for public entertainment.
  • Hurried- done in a hurry; rushed.
  • Undetected- not detected or discovered.
  • Clouded- make or become less clear or transparent.

Hari then returned to the bazaar and sat under the shelter of the clock tower to avoid getting wet. By the clock tower, it was 12 p.m. Hari examined the notes and discovered that they were wet. Then Hari realised it was Anil's money, and if he hadn't stolen it, Anil would have surely given him 2-3 rupees to go to the movies. But now that he'd stolen it, he had everything. He'll never be able to make tea or do groceries for Anil again, and he'll never be able to learn to write complete sentences. He had not anticipated that he would lose everything in the excitement of stealing the money. He knew that if he could learn to read and write, he could earn a lot more money than these few hundred rupees, and he could do it honestly. He knew how easy it was to steal something from someone, but he also knew how easy it was to get caught. He knew that if he learned to read and write, he would undoubtedly grow into a large and respected man one day. Then Hari told himself that if he wanted to learn to read and write, as well as become a big man one day, he should return.

Hari returned to Anil's room, nervous because he knew it was much more difficult to return stolen items without being caught than it was to steal them in the first place. Hari went to the hallway and stood there while the moonlight fell over the bed. Anil was still sound asleep. Hari reached for the notes near the head of the bed. As he approached the mattress, he could feel Anil's breath on his hand. Hari paused for a moment before finding the edge of the mattress and slipping the notes beneath it. Hari awoke a little late the next morning, and Anil had already made the tea. Anil extended his hand towards Hari, holding a 50 rupee note. Hari believed he had been apprehended. Anil then abruptly explained that he had made some money the day before and was giving him 50 rupees. He also stated that he would be paying Hari on a regular basis. Hari was overjoyed, but when he took the note in his hand, he noticed that it was still wet from the night before. He also told Hari that he would teach him how to write complete sentences the next day. Hari realised Anil had learned that he had stolen money and kept it. But the amazing thing was that he didn't let it show on his face or in his words. Hari smiled at Anil once more in his most appealing manner, and Anil's smile followed suit without any effort on his part.

About the Author

Ruskin Bond (born 19 May 1934) is a British-Indian author. He lives in Landour, Mussoorie, India, with his adopted family. His contribution to the growth of children's literature in India has been recognised by the Indian Council for Child Education. In 1992, he received the Sahitya Academy Award for his novel in English, Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra. In 1999, he was awarded the Padma Shri, and in 2014, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan.