I made it as far as I could for the day, throbbing ear and throbbing feet, the night had come and I didn’t feel safe walking on this type of road in the dark, especially with being partially deaf. Traffic was all over the place and there were no street lights.
There was a dhaba (roadside café) ahead to the left and I decided to enquire about staying there the night. I figured even if there wasn’t a place to stay the night I would at the very least eat there. So before asking about sleep I ordered some food and waited for it. When I got round to asking for a place to sleep he said that it was fine and kindly started asking around in the rooms if there was any space for me, as there were a lot of truckers stopping there the night.
He wasn’t able to find anywhere, but he said that he was fine with me staying in the main eating area on his bed and he would sleep elsewhere. I kindly accepted his generous offer, it would put him out of a bed for the evening, but my tiredness was overwhelming my politeness.
As they watched the television in the eating area, I got my things in a tidy pile. I discreetly transferred my phone, phone charger, battery and mp3 player, putting them all in a small case that I could keep with me, as usual and led down. There were mixture of kids and adult staying the night, the kids mainly the ones living/working there and the majority of the adults, truckers passing through.
Eventually I was finding myself drifting away and the place had emptied out, bar a few kids also settling down for the night.
In hindsight looking back on the evening I drifted in and out of sleep and like that video of ‘Ninja Cat’ on YouTube, I remember see one of the kids in different places every time I woke up, sometimes closer, sometimes further away , sometimes in my peripherals and sometimes right in plain sight. Each time I would adjust my sleeping position and my things and drift back off to sleep.
Only, when I woke up the last time about 3am, I found the little pouch I had with my things in, that was essentially under my makeshift pillow, gone.
The panic shook off the sleepiness and I was suddenly fully awake, sat up in a dark room with no one around.
I got up and walked around just to be sure that the kids were not still there. And then made my way outside to try and find someone. I started calling out to see if anyone was around and one guy came out of his lorry, I explained what had happened and he said he had heard kids from the dhaba arguing and running away earlier and pointed in the direction they had gone, down the road into the darkness.
As we were talking one kid woke up from another room hearing the commotion and started asking what had happened, the lorry driver explain and the kid said that he knew who the kid was and where he lived and he would go get him.
He ran off into the darkness up the road. But with him not getting very far he started shouting, I couldn’t see anything, just hear his voice, he was talking to someone and telling him to go get the other kid. A few more shouts later and it sounded a if they both went to go get him.
As they were gone, the owner of the dhaba had been woken up and was filled in with what had happened by the lorry driver, who seemed to be my personal spokesman throughout the night. He also went into the darkness after the kids.
About 45 minutes later they came back, dragging the kid by the ear and put him in a separate room to question him. He flat out denied it and I was asked who was in the room with me. The kid they had brought back was the ‘Ninja Cat’ kid. But the other one was nowhere to be seen.
They began questioning him and he casually denied it. I explained how I saw him around me during the evening whilst I was laying there and how he was always, when I woke up, in a different place around me and looking directly at me.
The morning had begun and you could see the sun beginning to make its way and the ‘Ninja Cat’ kid still hadn’t fessed up. He had gone from a calm collected individual to a sobbing mess and now, I was beginning to think, maybe I had got it wrong. Maybe he didn’t take it and maybe, god forbid I had just got it wrong and I had misplaced it or it had fallen. Even though I had checked, these possibilities had started running through my mind, because this kid was brazenly stood before me telling everyone he didn’t know anything about it. So I went back to the (now in my mind, disputed) scene of the crime and started another search around the bed. I found nothing and the owner had also left the kid in the company of others to come and ask me what exactly was in the pouch. I told him and it hardened his resolve to carry on asking him questions. Whilst now I was suddenly panicking that I had got it all wrong, that maybe I had misplaced it, I was too tired for this, my eyes ached, my body was weak, and the side of my face on fire, but had I seriously messed up?