We always read news about crimes – house break-ins , thefts, murders, rape – they are always stories to us because they happen to someone else. Never to us. We often wonder what the victims must have gone through.
My place in Worli was one of the safest I’ve known – the house break-ins in the colony were a handful in the last 37 years since the colony was first built. However, in the last few months I did hear of break-ins in the colony but did not know to what extent the damage was done.
In November 2012 we were away on a Rajasthan trip with my family – on the last day of our trip we got the news that my uncle’s house – (in the same building as mine) was broken in. I could not believe that we were now the victims.
We reached home the next day and were shocked to see my uncle’s house – the main bedroom was in complete disarray. They lost valuables worth 2 lakhs and that very day we rushed to register the FIR. A basic one had been filed by my other uncles, but they needed the owners of the house to put down a list of all stolen items. It is definitely not an easy process – filing the FIR and giving a statement. From that day for the next 10 days we spent our time finding contacts in the police so that the case could be expedited. Some told us that we would probably get back nothing as it was difficult to locate these petty thieves while some assured my uncle that they would do their best to find the culprit.
After 3 days when he visited his bank to withdraw money he realised his bank account was emptied – luckily it was not his primary bank account and the amount was around INR 30,000. I enquired with him if the bank had provided the details of the ATM from where the card was accessed. He said his bank’s branch manager has not even extended him the courtesy to listen to his case. They put their hands up saying they could do nothing as the money was not taken out from their bank’s ATM. I was fuming, I’m a banker and I’m well aware of all operations and networks and how easy it is to get the ATM details. I was appalled at the apathy exhibited by that man – here was a 69 year old senior citizen telling him that a theft had happened in his account and he had refused help. Luckily next day, there was another manager at the branch who was kind enough to help us get the requisite information about the ATM location within 15 minutes. It was a Citibank ATM in Vashi and the withdrawals were done at around 3.30-4.00 in the morning.
Then with the help of a friend who worked in Citi and additional help from the police my uncle managed to retrieve the CCTV footage – we were hopeful that this clear evidence would help the police move swiftly. However it was not to be – the thief went undetected for months. Honestly, my sister and I had given up hope. We told him to forget and move on. We thought we had tried our best. However my uncle was not the one to sit still and he decided he would do his bit. He has always been restless and I know how disturbed he was – one feels so violated. A stranger walks into your home that was built with so much hard work and sweat, money earned through years of toil – and just rummages through your abode stealing your hard earned money. He realized that he may not get his valuables back but he knew he would not be at peace until he knew who the culprit was.
He started keeping track of all break-in stories in different newspapers. He visited police stations in Thane, Chembur and even the Mumbai Crime Branch with all his case papers to check if the modus operandi of those break-ins was similar and if he could find any common clues. I have to admit that a lot of senior officials at different departments and police stations gave him a patient ear and helped him out. Heard his case , kept his papers and assured him that they would let him know if any clue or opening came by.
Finally last week mom messaged me that my uncle had nailed down his thief. He had read about the Pune police nabbing a thief whose description seemed to fit the one who had broken into our home. He contacted the Pune police, sent them the CCTV footages of the ATM and they confirmed it was the same thief.
My uncle taught us all a lesson – when everyone around him was telling him to forget and move on, he refused to do so and went about his parallel investigation. He could have let his hands up and blamed the police and stayed at home brooding over his loss. He did not. It is easy for us to fault the system but how about trying a little bit more to help the system? My uncle did. Yesterday Mid-day covered his story and I was very very impressed with the reporter who did this story (Do read the story here.) It was to the point, no wrong details and no exaggerated melodrama in the coverage. All the police officials whom he had met called him personally to congratulate on his efforts and how he was a role model for many citizens.
My uncle the Sherlock – I cannot tell you how proud I’m today! At 69 you have set a fine example to us youngsters who give up on the system. You have taught us that if we want we can help ourselves, help the police; it is all about taking the initiative and going that extra mile.
I take this opportunity to thank all my friends (online and offline) and my family who shared his story yesterday – it is indeed an inspiring story . We search for heroes all around us forgetting the ones who live with us day in and out.
Didi was right – Papa (That’s what I’ve always called him as a kid , Didi’s Papa also my Papa :-)) You are our Superhero and today I wish you a very Happy Father’s Day – Fathers like you remind us of what we must aim to be – A Fighter for Life – at any point , against anything and never ever give up ! Kudos to you!