“Huranba”, The Thief
A short story by Monica Ingudam
I wanted to do something which I can call my own. All my friends have reached heights in their career. People say one shouldn’t compare with another but I am no saint and it’s hard to see myself struggling, raising kids with no support from extended family and no career. I chose to be a mother and love being a mother but I resent not having the career I could have achieved easily, considering my educational background. Yes, I am jealous that my friends whom I had topped in college are doing very well in their career and being a mother too, getting the full support from extended family maintaining a good balance of work and family. I wish I could have both.
I worked around my kid’s schedule and tried to achieve what I could within the limitations I had. I started teaching in a school in Imphal and in the process of teaching the kids, I felt the need for a little book for the primary school. I started researching on writing and possibility of publishing it. I was very excited about the whole project and worked very hard. It was just a primary school book but it was something I created, something I could call my own and that made me happy, very happy. I borrowed some money and mortgaged my jewelries to get the initial money to get the book published. It was printed in Calcutta and shipped to Manipur. It had a beautiful bright yellow cover, crispy pages, smelling great and everything was perfect except for a mistake in one of the page.
The books were piled and kept safely. I went from school to school, waited for the principal and spoke about the book requesting them to include in the primary school. Some agreed, some didn’t. But I wasn’t discouraged, I continued driving in and around all the schools in Imphal, in my old “Luna” moped. The hot sun, rains or cold wouldn’t stop me from going school to school. I wanted my book to be there in all the schools of Manipur.
Slowly it picked up, the schools welcomed my yearly visit and started giving good feedback on how it helped the students. They even wanted extra copies. I was ecstatic. I even had teachers coming at home to pick up the books. I had teachers coming and enquiring about the book, my book. I started getting money for each of the book I sold. I was high on the progress of how well the book was accepted. The book reached schools in Imphal, Canchipur, Nambol, Oinam, Moirang, even churachandpur and many other places. And as it got popular, many started asking for making it available in a bookstore.
It seemed a natural progression, to actually have my book in the bookstore. I trusted the old man, who was like a father to me and kept my books in his big bookstore. His bookstore is very popular in the land of Manipur and everyone would know where to get my book. Little did I know that step would kill my little book. I had stopped going to many schools referring them to collect the book from the store. Initially it was going good. In due course of time, when I went to collect for money for the books, they kept saying that it’s not selling “Ebemma sitrene“. I didn’t think too much at that time.One day, one of the teacher visited me at home asking me for the books. She said she went to the store and they had indicated that the book was out of stock but they showed a similar book. I knew my books are with them and in stock and it sounded really fishy when I heard about this similar book and why they are not selling my books.
Later I saw this similar book and it broke my heart. It was an exact copy of my book, with cheaper pages, font size changed, the cover changed replacing my name to their name, price sliced down and they had copied even the mistake I had in my book. They stole my book, they are the book thief, the “huranba“. I went to the store, kept my calm, asked them about the status of my book sale. They said no one came to order. I asked them to give me back all my books and they hesitated. I wasn’t leaving without my books or the money. They got the money and the remaining books. I slammed a copy of their book, and told them that my books aren’t selling because they are busy selling the copied copy and walked out of the store watching their stunned faces.
Who am I to fight these rich people with lot of resources and networking in Manipur. I am just a mother driving an old moped trying to meet my ends. They had the campaign and managed to replaced the book in many schools. What broke my heart was they replaced even in the school I was teaching. I resigned from the school, walking out in tears from the principal’s office after giving him the resignation letter. I went to the old man’s house and cursed him “Pabung, ashuk enak khullaga eigumbi pikhrabadagi hurallaga nungaiba yaroi” ( With all the riches you have, stealing from me, will not get you any happiness). Stealing from someone who is struggling, a small book which is nothing compared to all the books they have, the only book which I can call mine, breaking my soul for having trusted him like a Father. I got busy into raising my kids, gave up and my book eventually died, it was killed by the “Huranba“, the book thief.
LIFE’S THIS & THAT
Collection of short stories written by Monica Ingudam. These stories are based on Life’s this and that focusing on Manipur and the people of Manipur.