They had now been questioning the boy for hours, they had attracted a crowd from the usual people that came in the mornings, the sun was nearly up and since the kid had been brought back against his will in the early hours of the morning, he had gone from calmly denying it stood up, to having been tied down to the chair and threaten with the use of physical violence.
But at a certain point in the morning I could see the men getting tired of this game and I approached the man who owned the dhaba and asked him maybe he doesn’t have it. He assured me he had and I began to worry what I had started. Having began this, I felt now that I was more of a passenger on a run away train, and god knows where it ended.
I came back into the room at one point and the men had gotten the boy off the chair, hands tied to his front, escorting him outside to the front of the street. I think, so that more people could see him and that it would maybe shame him into confessing. But the more these guys accused him the more this kid stuck to his line “I don’t know where it is!”.
Then as some more elderly men arrived they were filled in with what was going on and as they hadn’t been there from the beginning it seemed they had a new perspective, as if it were a challenge or mystery to crack and this run away train felt like it was picking up speed. I started feeling bad for the kid. I was beginning to think, for sure its not him, maybe its the other kid that was in here and maybe he’s been left dealing with the consequences of his friends actions. I began constructing a narrative in my head. One where maybe this kid was innocent and that I had mistakenly accused him.
I began repacking my things, from having got everything out to check I hadn’t misplaced the pouch, and getting ready to leave as I didn’t think I was going to be getting any of it back. I went to go speak to the owner and try refocus his efforts, that maybe it wasn’t him but the other kid. I walked out of the main room towards the front of the dhaba, where the people were and I could suddenly hear the loud crowd of people start shouting. As I worked my way past the kitchen area to the front of the dhaba I turned to the left to see one of the old men who had arrived not long ago, striking the kid with all his force, with a large bamboo cane, making contact with the back of his calf. The kid began letting out deafening screams and I was suddenly in that moment complicit with harming a child, all over a crime that he MIGHT of committed. I started running over and began shouting over to the owner as I went. As I got within an arms length of the kid and the man beating him, the kid suddenly screamed that he knew where it was…
Everyone went silent… even I stopped in my tracks on my way to try and help him. Suddenly I didn’t know what to think, everything I thought I knew an exact second ago was turned upside down, I had convinced myself he didn’t know where it was and I had got it all wrong, part of me for a few seconds was angry at him for wasting so much time and thought he deserved it. It was fleeting, as I immediately recounted the screams to stop that came from him as he was being hit.
The owner, who was already on his way to me from my previous calls, had made his way to the kid and told him to go get the pouch. The kid limped to the back of the building and everyone followed including me. We found ourselves underneath a window, that inside I would’ve been sleeping next to. He fished the pouch out of the watery foliage, inside it was my wet mp3 player, charger and battery but no phone. The owner began shouting at him and the kid explained that he had taken it to the house.
He was told to go get it and one of the older boys went with him, holding him the whole way up the street. About 10 minutes later they returned with my phone covered in mud the back case off and the battery out. The owner and I both looked at each other thinking the phone was not coming back from this. Nevertheless I took it, and began scraping the mud out of the battery compartment, got a fresh battery from my bag and to my amazement, even with cracks in places, it started. But I had, in all the excitement, not realised that the sim card and SD card had been taken out. I told the owner and more shouting occurred, the older boy took the kid back up the house and on the return journey came back with sim card and SD card in hand, although the sim card had been folded down the middle relieving it from its duty.
The owner questioned the kid and explained to me that he couldn’t get into the phone because of the fingerprint needed, so decided to cut his losses and go for the SD card and burying the phone in the mud. A pouch full of electrical devices and the only thing he went away with was a 64gb SD card.
I was asked if I wanted to call the police but I declined. I’m not sure what the police in a place like that would have done, maybe shout a bit and maybe even slap him, he had already been beaten, being hit more I don’t think would have been an ideal punishment. The kid had his hands untied and was let out of a room they were holding him. The other children were still shouting at him. Even though this kid had stolen from me, I felt bad for the kid, he’d just had one shocking night.
I didn’t know what to make of that evening, I ended up leaving an hour later, and just starting to walk, knackered from the previous events, my ear stinging in pain as I’d forgotten to take any painkillers. I didn’t manage to get too far. I got all of 20kms before finding a motel on the side of the road and sleeping for 5 hours straight.
I woke up to the manager of the hotel knocking on my door as he was the only one that spoke English. He asked if I was hungry and where I was coming from. I explained the evening I’d had and that I needed to find another sim card from somewhere. He was a nice guy and offered to take me to a sim shop. We got in his car with his driver and headed into the town. He explained that he owned multiple businesses, that his son worked in America and also that he’d lived in this village all his life, even went to the primary school he still lived in front of. We arrived and got out the car, he seemed to know a lot of people and he explained we first needed to get passport size pictures for the paperwork so we did that and then made our way across the road to the phone shop where I filled out some paperwork. I used the guys at the hostel in Delhi for a sponsor as the guys explained to me that all sim card applications in the North East needed an Indian reference. All the paper work was done and I was told I would have to wait two working days for the processing and then my sim would be functional.
Mr Choudhry paid for it all and it was a lovely gesture as he was feeling a bit sorry for me. On our return journey we stopped by an apartment he wanted to show me. It was his newest project, a holiday home that he was doing up to rent out to tourists. He asked my opinion on a few details for the building, mainly what tourists looked for in a place to stay and we were back on the road again.
This time however, with him driving and his driver in the passenger seat. As he drove his technique was a bit erratic, he then decided to take a moment to tell me he had his driver driving before because he had just under gone corrective eye surgery and the doctors told him not to drive for a few days. As he explained this the driver turned around in the passenger seat, gave me a “I’m so sorry” look and then looked down to checked I had my seat belt on. I couldn’t help but think, the whole journey back, was like a scene from Mr Magoo, with the driver not driving but shouting directions and warning him about on coming obstacles.
A few minutes later we drove up a drive that wasn’t the hotel’s, Mr Choudhry explained that it was his house and he wanted me to meet his wife. We sat for a while and I was given some tea, fruit, dinner and even shown some family photos, and then was driven back to the hotel by his driver, where I carried on sleeping till the following morning.
They say bad things come in threes, so far within a week I had ankle, ear and attempted robbery so I was hoping that was it, but there was still more to come.