Thursday, July 26, 2012

Returned, with apologies!

We often hear the words "Returned with thanks".  Most of the printed receipts read "Received with thanks".  But ever heard of  "Returned with apologies"?  Today's THE HINDU (26th July 2012) carried one such news item.

In Kotturpuram extension of Chennai, house of Shri Azhar Hussain, a retired anesthetist from a Government Hospital in Chennai, was burgled last week. Burglars entered the house by unscrewing a window on Friday evening. Over 70 sovereigns of gold jewellery, including diamond and platinum items, and 2,00,000 rupees in cash was taken away by the burglars. After four days, on the next Wednesday, his daughter-in-law answered the door bell at 6 AM in the morning.  She did not find anybody near the door. She spotted a plastic cover placed on the door step. When she opened the packet, she found all the items that were taken away during burglary.  There was one additional item as well; a note of apology in Tamil (local language) expressing regret for having burgled the house.  What an honest act even in the midst of total dishonesty!

An friend and well-wisher told me that similar acts of honesty (!) is displayed by pick pockets in Bombay.  A picked purse usually contains many items besides cash; credit/debit and ATM cards, visiting cards, photo of a little son or daughter or even a girl/boy friend, or some piece of paper or noting.  Some may even keep an Identity Card or PAN Card.  The one who stole the purse is only interested in cash. May be credit/debit/ATM card if the holder ignores the instructions of the issuing bank and notes down the PIN number on the card itself.  Other items do not interest him but they may be invaluable for the owner of the purse.  A lot of trouble in getting the duplicate of these items. Some items can never be replaced; like a photo with one's mother taken several years ago.  The thief needs money but not other items.  He is aware of the importance of other items to the purse owner. He does not throw them in the nearby dustbin.  He takes a manila envelope and puts all these contents in it. He mails the envelope to the owner as per address available in the visiting card and drops it in the post box. He takes care not to put stamps on it as he does not want a reduction of his booty. The envelope is delivered by the postal department by collecting twice the normal postage.  On receipt of the envelope, the owner thanks the thief instead of cursing him.  He is grateful for the honesty and understanding shown by the thief in returning the priceless posessions!

It is true that the thieves are quite understanding in Bombay trains.   But they could be equally ruthless also.  I am reminded of an incident I was told several years ago by another friend. A thief stole a girl's gold chain from a overcrowded compartment. When he went to sell the item he found that it was not made of real gold, but an imitation.  He was angry at being cheated.  His efforts had gone waste. Had he known that the girl would cheat him by wearing an imitation jewellery item, he would have tried his luck elsewhere. The "Opportunity Cost" was too much for him and fair wages for his efforts were denied. The girl was a regular traveler on the train, commuting from home to work and back.  He came back on the next day and found her in her regular compartment. He threw the chain on her face and gave a blow as interest. She was warned not to wear such items and deceive others in future.

Another friend mentioned about his son's cricket gear.  The young boy is a hard core cricket enthusiast and keen to work hard and make it big in the game.  He has quite a pool of talent too. The family recognized his talent and eagerness and got him a sports kit with all the items required for a budding cricketer. There were good quality bats, leg guards, gloves, boots and a helmet to protect from short pitched deliveries.  His talent was spotted by a well known coach and the boy's desire got wings.  One day he reached the cricket field, kept his kit in the usual place and went for warm up exercises.  When he returned after a few minutes the kit was gone.  The young lad was heart broken.  For him it was not just a kit or a few items. It was the package that contained his dream.  Undaunted by the loss he continued his mission with a substitute kit. But the loss of his beloved original kit made him sad.  A few days later, one of his friends told him that another boy was playing in the nearby ground with a bat which looked like the lost one.  When they both went to the other boy and checked there was no doubt at all and it was the same bat.  The boy was confronted with identifying marks.  The other boy had no answer and the bat then led to the kit itself.  The kit is now back with the original owner and he is now pursuing his mission with renewed vigor. There was neither an apology nor a thanks muttered in this case, though.

Then there was the famous case of returning of stolen property, may be due to fear.  This is a story I heard from my mother when I was a school boy. Saint Thyagaraja was presented a beautiful portrait of "Kodanda Rama" by some of his disciples during the marriage of his daughter. The saint cherished it and used offer prayers before the portrait every day.  Some thieves broke into his house one day and carried away the photo. Saint Thyagaraja was devastated by this loss.  He is said to have composed many kritis describing his pitiable conditions due to the big loss.  The persons who stole the photo faced many sufferings and misery after the theft. They could not hold the photo any longer and one night came back and kept the photo near the front door and ran away.  When the saint opened the door next day, he found the smiling photo of "Kodanda Rama".  He was mightily pleased and carried the photo inside the house. He is said to have sung the kirtana "Echharikagaa Raa ra...." meaning something like come, carefully....  Another version says that his jealous brother Jalpesha stole the Saint's idols and threw them away in the nearby Kaaveri river.  The saint prayed continuously unable to bear the loss of idols.  One night Sri Rama appeared in his dream and told him the exact location in the river from which the idols can be retrieved.  The saint promptly went to that spot and gleefully retrieved the idols.  This was not a case of "Returning with thanks" or "Returning with apologies".  It was indeed a case of  "Returning with divine love", not by the thief, by the stolen himself!

As Saint Thyagaraja himself sang,  "Endaro Mahanubhavulu.....Andiriki Vandanamulu".   


  1. The stories are very interesting and You really have a knack of telling stories .Thanks for sending me these stories.

  2. I was really missing my grand father. With your mannerism and style of speech you really took me back into years I spent with my Grandpa.
    The stories are really interesting. In the last line of the story
    there is a small spelling mistake...i.e it should have been "Endaro" instead of Endulo
    I would love to read more from you !

    1. Thanks for the correction. I have changed the inadvertent mistake.

  3. wish the theives who'd flicjed my purse (twice!!!) in the mumbai locals had been that kind...they just moved on lock, stock n two smoking barrel making me foever averse of red purses!!!! :(


  4. That incidence of the girl and costume chain also happened in Balepet - Bangalore a few years ago.
    Just when we are deeeply distressed with the evils in the society incidents such as those in your 'Returned with ..." restore our faith in humanity.
    Thanks for a beautiful blog

  5. There have been so many instances of returning the cashless purse and some important papers too. I do not know psychologically what syndrome works, you just start to thank the thief.
    Very rightly brought out.