Ali swiftly picked up the pen from the table and pocketed it as he walked out of his friend’s classroom. As he walked into his own, he put it in his pencil case and kept it in his bag.

In the van, on the way home, Ali saw his friend looking disturbed. He was clearly looking inside his bag for the pen which was gifted to him by his grandmother before she passed away. Ali felt some guilt, but it was not enough to make him admit his fault.

When he reached home, he pulled out the pen and started twirling the pen in between his fingers as he opened his drawer, which was full of objects he had stolen from various people. It had a pocket mirror from his sister, a stapler from a school mate, a bracelet from his mother’s room, among many other objects. Looking at it made him feel ecstatic, giving him a sense of power and superiority. Somewhere deep down he felt guilt and shame, but he covered it up and ignored it.

Over the days, he started stealing more and more. It had become an addiction for him. Pens, pencils, jewellery, even money from friends, teacher and even his own parents.

Sometimes when he saw the people he had stolen things from looking for those things, he felt ashamed for his acts. Some nights, he would find it hard to sleep at night as he would keep thinking about the things he had stolen. He soon realised that he had become a thief, and stealing had become an addiction that he could not stop.

Some days he tried hard to resist his temptation, but he would soon get over it and start stealing again.

Days passed. One summer afternoon, as he was walking out of school, he saw a fancy pencil lying on the pavement. At first he was reluctant to pick it up as there were so many people around. What if he would get caught?

But looking at the pencil again, he felt a strong attraction for it and slowly moved towards it, casually bending down to pick it up. Just as he was about to pick it, a senior prefect walked up to him and asked him if the pencil belonged to him.

“Yeah, I dropped it just now,” he lied.

Meanwhile, a child came running back and asked them if they had seen his pencil. First the prefect thought the child was lying, but the child correctly described the pencil and, upon being shown, quickly identified it as his own. Some of his friends also testified to it and Ali was caught lying.

Embarrassed, Ali walked away immediately. While Ali was still at school, his mother came in his room to check if she had mistakenly put Ali’s father’s handkerchief in Ali’s drawer.

Upon opening, she was taken aback to see all kinds of things in it — her bracelet, his sister’s mirror, his father’s card case, some stationary items which definitely didn’t belong to him and a lot of money.

Ali’s mother’s eyes just welled up and she called his father and told him everything. That night, after dinner, Ali’s father and mother sat and talked to him.

“Ali, is there anything that you want to tell us?” his father spoke.

“My darling, we don’t want to judge you, all we want is the truth,” his mother patiently explained.

As if this was all Ali wanted, for he burst into tears with guilt. And while sobbing he said, “I am ashamed of what I have been doing up till now. Mum, Dad, I am sorry. I am a liar and a thief. I have been stealing things that I like and cannot resist doing so. I don’t know what comes over me. Today, I was caught in the school, I am sorry that I disgraced you and your teachings. I ... I am sorry, mum. I am sorry, Dad. I won’t do it again,” he hugged his mother and kept sobbing.

“My dear, there is nothing left to say. You have realised your actions were wrong, you are in guilt, this is enough. All we wanted was that you realise that you were wrong and you will change yourself. You have learnt your lesson. Be honest to yourself and your loved ones. And keep in mind that stealing is a crime and a sin. It is never justified. It’s better to work hard to gain something than to steal it. As a wise person once said, “A dollar earned values more than a hundred found,” his father said and hugged him tight.

Published in Dawn, Young World, May 21st, 2022

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