Jonty had been born into an elite family, a family that was famous for miles around, a family that was the best at what it did, a family of master thieves. The family lived in a small village with a unique characteristic, each family living there was in the business of thievery. So right from the day Jonty was born, everyone just KNEW that he would get into the family business and make his family and village proud one day.
But times were changing now, and business was not what it used to be. People with money had advanced security systems, guard dogs and police protection now, so slowly but very steadily, the fortunes of their village had been declining. The day was not far off that they would all need to shame their forefathers by changing their professions and earning an honest livelihood. Just the thought of such ignominy filled the hearts of the villagers with dread. And then, they heard about the International Theft Academy, or the ITA.
The ITA had come into existence to bring a paradigm shift in the business of thievery. They incorporated the latest philosophies and cutting-edge techniques to create master thieves. So obviously, it was not easy to get into, for they accepted only 100 students each year out of 100,000 hopeful applicants. The fee was steep, but the potential rewards could be astronomical.
The villagers decided that they would send one of their own to the academy, to study, come back, and teach them these modern methods, so that they too could progress with the times. So they pooled together all their savings, and sent Jonty’s application for admission to the academy. And wonder of wonders, Jonty was one of those lucky 100 who managed to get admitted into the academy that year.
However, getting into the academy was just the beginning. What followed broke the hopes, dreams and spirits of most of the students who entered the hallowed portals of that illustrious institution, aiming to become master thieves. The academy prided itself on the rigour and robustness of its curriculum, as well as its teaching methodology.
For 12 years of their lives, the students had to forego all attachments to their family, friends, tribe, city or country, and just focus on their training. Four hours of vigorous exercising each day, come rain or shine, to toughen up their bodies. Theory of all kind of locking mechanisms and security systems, and labs in which they could put that theoretical learning into practice. Lessons on how to put a guard dog to sleep for exactly 18 minutes, not a minute more, not a minute less, with practical experiments involving killer rottweilers. Three students of Jonty’s batch failed to clear this part, and the Rottweilers had a feast that day.
Every year, the strength of the batch kept depleting in this manner, with the culling of the weakest among this elite group, till finally, at the end of Year 12, only 10 out of the original batch of 100 actually survived to pass out with flying colours. Needless to mention, our hero Jonty was one of them.
Jonty was returning home after 12 long years today, and his family had thrown a magnificent feats for their entire village. His father personally went around inviting everyone he knew, or even those he didn’t know, and as a result, the village hall was packed to the rafters as night fell, and the time of Jonty’s arrival came near.
His train was supposed to arrive at 8pm, and his three elder brothers had gone to receive him at the railway station, along with a musical band to herald the arrival of the one who had made their family proud. For a change, the train was right on time. The brothers excitedly looked all along the platform, but couldn’t see Jonty. They then thought that maybe he had slept off and didn’t realize that his station had arrived, so they went into each compartment, checking even the washrooms, but still, there was no sign of Jonty. Suddenly, the train gave a long whistle, signalling that it was time for it to leave, and the brothers had to finally give up the search.
Puzzled, dispirited, and downcast, they walked back with heavy steps towards the village hall to convey this disappointing news to their family and guests.
Meanwhile, at the village hall, festivities were in full swing. Spirits were flowing like water, resulting in a deluge of high spirits all around. Everyone was singing and dancing, which did not make for a pleasant sight, since to the last person, they were terrible at both. But then, they had made their fortune on the back of their thievery skills, and not by their musical talent, so I guess they can be forgiven on that account.
Jonty’s mother was now singing a particularly ribald song, and everyone was in splits, when suddenly, the door of the village hall burst open, and Jonty’s brothers came in, their backs bent, their faces glum. Nothing brings a party to an end like the news that the guest of honour was missing (Well, guests who attended the Red Wedding may beg to differ, but you get the picture, right?) so the celebrations were called off unceremoniously, and everyone trudged back to their respective homes.
But another surprise waited for them at home, for as the villagers started unlocking their front doors, one could hear loud shouts of shock from their homes, for you see, every home had been stripped clean of all valuables, however big or small. 4K TVs to jewellery to even soaps and shampoos….everything was gone, and that too, from EACH AND EVERY home in the village.
And almost at the same time, everyone realized who was responsible.
A huge crowd of villagers was now walking in unison towards the village hall. They reached there in a few minutes, and barged in without warning, catching Jonty and his family by surprise. Yes, it was indeed Jonty who had stolen everything, and was now narrating his adventures to his loving family, who were listening with rapt attention.
Seeing the mass of villagers inside the hall, Jonty’s father quickly moved in front of him to protect him, and said, “Just a minute, I can explain everything.” But the crowd just casually brushed him aside, and walked up to Jonty.
And then, as Jonty’s family looked on, the villagers grabbed hold of him….and lifted him on the top of their shoulders. They knew their reputation as the village of the best thieves was safe now. Jonty had just passed his final test, he had stolen from the best thieves in the business.