The Thief’s Story by Ruskin Bond is about a 15-year-old boy, Hari Singh, whose life changes when he meets Anil, a 25-year-old writer. Anil’s unspoken words and kind gestures leave very positive imprints on Hari Singh who is an artful thief.
Hari Singh is the narrator of this story. He is an artful thief. One day, he met a young man of twenty-five named Anil, at a wrestling match. He gave him an artificial smile. He desired to have an acquaintance with him in order to make him his next victim. Anil avoided him. Hari Singh followed Anil after the match was over. He asked Anil for work. He was ready to work for Anil if he could just feed him. Anil agreed to engage Hari Singh if he could cook food for both. The thief lied that he was a good cook as Anil had to throw the bad meal, prepared by Hari Singh to dogs, on the first day.
Anil took it upon himself to teach him how to cook and read and how to write. The thief made the morning tea and bought the daily supplies. Anil was aware of the fact that Hari Singh made a profit from the purchases.
Anil was not a rich man. He borrowed money sometimes but repaid the loan whenever he earned money through his writings for magazines. The thief thought it was a strange way of making money.
One day, Anil sold a book to a publisher and brought home a bundle of notes. He put the money under his mattress. The thief had not stolen anything since a month of his working there. He had no desire to rob a careless person who trusted him blindly. However, he could not resist the temptation of getting the bundles of notes. The thief got up quietly when Anil had gone to sleep. He took the money and slipped out of the room. He had six hundred rupees in his possession. He reached the railway station just as the Lucknow Express was picking up speed. He could have boarded it but something held him back. The train was soon out of his sight. Hari Singh was left alone on the platform. He was in a dilemma about where to go. He had no acquaintance there. He did not like to go to a hotel lest he should be suspected.
The thief thought that Anil would be sad not for the loss of money but for the loss of trust he had reposed on him. It was a cold night. It was drizzling when he went to the maidan and sat down on a bench. His clothes got drenched. He went back to the bazaar. There he took shelter under the clock tower. It was midnight. He thought and realized that he had let go of a chance of being a respectable man. Anil was taking pains to teach him reading and writing. He decided to go back to Anil and reached his home. Anil was still asleep. He slipped the money at its usual place. He slept till late hours.
Anil had made tea before Hari Singh woke up. Anil offered him a fifty rupee note. He also promised to pay him regularly. The note was still wet. Anil understood everything but he did not expose the thief’s doing. Instead, Anil said that they would start writing sentences that day. Hari Singh felt guilty and smiled shame-facedly.