The detached house stood in its own grounds in the suburb of a midlands city. The two men had been observing it for some time, knowing it to be the residence of one of the more prominent Asian jewellers in the area, and looking for the best opportunity to get in and search the house without discovery. As was their custom, they had established as much information as they could about the man, and knew that he lived there with his wife. They also knew that both would normally work all day in the shop, which would indicate the house was empty at this time.
“Well, the place looks deserted,” the smaller of the two men said to his companion.
“Yes, it does,” he replied. “Shall we pay a visit then?”
The smaller man nodded, and they both got out from the unmarked grey van, clutching two rucksacks. Heading down a side road, they made their way to the back of the house and scaled the fence around the back lawn.
The two men approached the back door, and the taller took a screwdriver and a lighter from his bag. It was the work of a few minutes for him to force the back door open, and both men crept into the house, donning black gloves as they did so.
“Seems quiet enough, why don’t you check out the alarm system while I close the door?”
The smaller man went into the hallway while the other man cooled the screwdriver at the sink, and then closed the back door quietly. As he turned round, the smaller man came back in.
“No alarm system at all – unusual, but there you are. What’s that?” he said pointing to a golden status on the side.
“A Hindu goddess – it may be pure gold, but we won’t touch it. Even if we are robbers, we still need to respect their religion.”
“Agreed,” the smaller man said, “Where do you want to start?”
“Downstairs, I think,” the taller man said, but he suddenly went quiet and raised his hand.
“Listen – I don’t think the house is empty” he whispered.
The two men stood silently and listened, and then the taller of the two reached into his pocket and drew out a balaclava mask, which he pulled over his head. “Come on,” he said, “we’d better see if anyone is indeed in the house.”
The smaller man also pulled on a balaclava mask, and the two men crept down the corridor. Sounds were definitely coming from the front room, like two people talking, and the taller man pulled a pistol from his jacket pocket.
Reaching a closed door, he nodded at the smaller man, then threw the door open and entered the room shouting “Nobody move.”
Two women were sat at a couch behind a coffee table. The older woman was wearing a gold silk short sleeved crop top, with a vivid green sari wrapped around her body and golden sandals on her feet. Her dark hair was greying slightly at the temples.
The other, younger woman the two men recognised as the wife of the jewellery store owner. She was wearing a pale blue long sleeved tunic with gold trim, pantaloons of the same colour and black flat shoes. A long chiffon scarf of the same blue colour was around her neck, and her dark hair was plaited into a pigtail that lay down her back. She put on a pair of glasses and then put her hands to her mouth.
The older woman stared at the two men, wearing dark jumpers, trousers and jackets as well as black balaclavas over their heads, and the taller of the two pointing a gun at them. She turned to the younger woman.
“Anjali yeh men woh chahat saath hum kya kaun kar hai”
The young woman looked over at her mother and motioned to her to be quiet.
The two men put down rucksacks they were carrying, and looked at the two Indian women sat there. The taller man handed the gun to his colleague, and turned to the younger of the two women.
“What did she just say?”
“She asked who you were and what you wanted from us.”
“Tell me, what is your name?”
The young woman looked at him in surprise. “It is Anjali, why do you ask?”
“Anjali, would I be right in thinking that this is your mother, and that she does not speak English with any degree of confidence?”
Anjali nodded. “She is more comfortable with her mother tongue. She finds Urdu easier to speak, but how did you know she was my mother?”
“There is a strong family resemblance between you. Anjali, will you please translate for me, and tell your mother what I am saying?”
Anjali nodded again.
“Please tell her that my name is Mister Tall, and my companion’s name is Mr Small.”
“ye aadmi Mr lambay Aour uska colleague Mr chotay hain”
“As you will realise, we are burglars, and it is our intention today to take your valuables with us.”
“jaisay tum realise gaay, woh burglars hain, Aour ye hamari niyyat aaj tumhari valuables saath hum lo hai”
The older woman turned at looked at the two masked men with fear in her face.
“So long as you do as we ask, neither you nor your daughter will come to any harm.”
“so lamba jaisay tum jaisay hum ask kar hain, koi nahin tum ni tumhari baity any zarar aaain gaay”
“Regretfully, however, it will be necessary for us to prevent you from interrupting us while we go about our work.”
“regretfully, magar ye zaroori liye hum ko prevent tum ko se interrupting hum ko jab tak hum dar hamara ko jaa kaam karay gaa”
The older woman starting crying and clutched ahold of her daughter, shouting out “please dont hurt hum, accha whatever tum bolo kar hai, laykin please dont rape hum”
Mr Tall looked over at the older woman. “Did she just say…?”
“No,” Anjali said quickly, “She is afraid that you will hurt us or – worse.”
“Please, tell her that neither I nor my friend has any intention of attacking either her or her beautiful daughter in that way.”
Anjali swallowed and turned to her mother.
“koi nahin woh ni uskay dost any niyyat ka waar koibhi tum ya tumharay khoobSoorat baity andar wo rasta ha hain”
“So please let all those fears depart from your mind.”
“so please let sab those dar depart se tumhari zameer”
“It will be necessary for us to take steps to prevent you from moving around or raising the alarm.”
“ye zaroori liye hum qadam prevent tum se around ya alarm lo rha hata rha Aour barha rha gaa”
“But as I said, so long as she does as she is told nothing else will happen.”
“laykin jaisay woh said so lamba jaisay woh does jaisay woh told kuch nahin else hona gaay.”
The older woman stopped crying and looked up. “Thank tum”
“I presume that means thank you?”
“Yes, it does.”
“Very well then. Would you please ask your mother to accompany me around the house, to ensure that we do not take anything that is of religious significance?”
“ye aadmi would tum ko accompany mein around ghar ensure wo hum anything wo ka religious significance kar nahin lo passand kar hain”
“In return, Mister Small will stay with your daughter and make sure that she is both secure and comfortable.”
“andar wapis Mister chota stay saath tumhari baity Aour sure wo woh donon tahaafuz Aour comfortable bana hai”
The woman looked at Anjali, who nodded and smiled. Drying her eyes, she stood up and smoothed down the green silk of her sari, then went to the door alongside Mister Tall.
“Mister Small, please make sure that Anjali here is looked after for her mother?”
“Of course I will,” Mister Small answered as the two people left the room. “Anjali, I must ask first if you would please draw the curtains in this room.”
Anjali stood up, and went to the windows of the room where she drew a set of dark velvet curtains over, blocking out the view from the outside.
“Thank you,” Mr Small said. “Now, please, will you come over here and stand in front of me, with your back towards me?”
Anjali came back and did as he asked. “Is it really necessary for you to tie me up?”
“I am afraid so – it is an unfortunate necessity for our line of business. Please, put your hands behind your back.”
Anjali did as he asked, and Mr Small took a length of rope out of the rucksack he had been carrying. Working quickly, he tied Anjali’s wrists together behind her back, making sure the rope went over the sleeves of her tunic, and cinched the bindings tightly.
“Why did your friend ask my mother to go with him?”
“Partly to keep an eye on her, but mainly because we do not want to take anything that has a religious or spiritual significance to you and your family.” As he said this, Mr Small took a longer length of cord and wrapped it around her waist, securing her wrists into the small of her back. “We may be robbers, but we respect everyone’s right to believe and worship what they want.”
“I suppose I should be grateful for that – but you are going to take everything else, are you not?”
“Yes, we are. If I help you, could you sit on the floor in front of the coffee table please?”
“That will not be necessary,” Anjali said as she knelt down, and allowed herself to sit down in front of the table. Mr Small took another length of rope, and began to tie her ankles together side by side, passing several loops around before cinching the rope to take any slack out. He then took a longer length and tied her legs together above her knees.
“There – that should keep you secure for the moment. Please, tell me if there is anything in this room that is of a religious nature to you?”
Anjali indicated one or two statues, and as Mr Small searched the room he took great care to ensure they were not removed. He took great care in wrapping a collection of silver plate and other items in tissue paper and placing them in his rucksack, as well as a large amount of cash he found in a small safe under the table.
“Are you always this polite to the people you rob?” Anjali asked as she watched him close the bag.
“Yes, we are – we believe that as you are the one who is to be inconvenienced, a modicum of manners is the least we can do in return.”
As he closed his bag up, he heard Mr Tall and the older woman coming down the stairs.
The mother entered the room in front of Mr Tall, and saw Anjali sitting on the floor, and asked “Anjali tum sab saHeeH hai? woh hurt tum at sab have”
“nahin walda mein theek laykin tum jald jaisay mein gaay"
Mister tall asked Anjali “May I ask what she just said?”
“She asked if I had been hurt, and I said no, but that she would soon be as I am now.”
As if in response to this, Anjali’s mother turned her back to Mister Tall and placed her hands behind her back.
“Thank tum” Mr Tall said in return as he tied her wrists together, palm to palm, by looping a length of rope around them several times before cinching the rope between her arms. He then tied a length of rope around her waist, as had been done with Anjali, so that her wrists were held in the small of the back.
“Mister Small, would you please help Anjali to move around so that she is side on to the coffee table?”
Mister Small helped Anjali to shuffle round, while Mister Tall helped her mother to sit down with her back to her daughter.
“Anjali, would you please explain to your mother that I am going to tie her ankles and legs together, while my colleague makes sure the two of you are secured together?”
“lamba aadmi baraabar tumhari ankles Aour paaein jaa rha hai, jab tak dosra aik baraabar hum donon saath jaa rhay hain”
The older woman nodded, and Mr Tall took a length of rope and began to tie her ankles together in the same way he had tied her wrists. Mr Small, meanwhile, took a long length and began to wrap it around the chests of both women, pulling them together.
As Mr Small began to take smaller lengths of rope and cinch the chest ropes around their arms, Anjali took hold of her mother’s hand with her own and gave them a squeeze. Mr Tall took another longer length of rope, pushed the legs of the mother slightly up, and proceeded to tie them together above the knees and over the skirt of the sari.
The two men stood up and looked at the bound pair of women sitting back to back on the floor.
“I hope that is not too uncomfortable for you. Would you please ask your mother if she is all right?”
“walda tum sab saHeeH hai”
“nahin mein nahin hain - yeh ghairein baraabar hum up Aour stealing tumhara valuables have hai”
“mein laykin tum uncomfortable maloom hoon?”
“haan laykin mein guzar gaay"
Anjali looked at Mr Tall. “She is shocked at what has happened, but she will cope.”
“I am sorry that this was necessary, but we have to be sure we can make our egress. Now, I am afraid we have to prevent you from raising the alarm verbally. Would you please tell her that?”
“walda lamba aadmi bolo woh hum se call bahar ha ruk hain. mein soocho woh dar gag hum hain. tum tayyar?”
The mother nodded, and Mr Small drew two large handkerchiefs and two silk scarves from a clear bag.
“Please, will you ask your mother to open up and bite down on the cloth when we put it in her mouth?”
“walda woh chahat tum tumhara munh Aour kaat faro pe woh put andar ye kya kholna hain”
The older woman nodded, and Anjali went on to say “mein sorry ye happened tum walda ha hoon - mein tum say pyaar karta hoon”
Anjali’s mother gave her daughter’s hand a squeeze, then opened her mouth as Mr Small rolled up one of the handkerchiefs into a pad. Placing it in her mouth, she bit down as he took one of the scarves, folded it into a wide band and tied it tightly over her mouth and jaw to keep the pad in place.
“Thank you for helping us to keep your mother calm,” Mr Tall said to Anjali as he took the other handkerchief and folded it into a pad.
“Thank you for not hurting us – I suppose I must now be silenced?”
“I’m afraid so,” Mr Tall said. Anjali opened her mouth to allow the cloth pad to be put in, and as she bit down the scarf was tied tightly around her lower face.
Mr Tall bent down and whispered in Anjali’s ear “Once again thank tum sirf liye translating laykin liye jama anything mein said kya nahin nahin ho”
Anjali suddenly looked at Mr Tall with a shocked look in her eyes.
“What can I say,” he whispered, “I watch a lot of Bollywood films.”
Standing up, he joined Mr Small. “Once again, thank you both for allowing us to spend some time with you this afternoon. The Gentlemen Robbers bid you adieu – may we never meet again.”
The two bound and gagged women watched as the masked men picked up their bags and silently left the room. Exiting through the kitchen again, Mr Tall and Mr Small made their way back to their van and set off with the bags safely stowed in the back.
Meanwhile, both Anjali and her mother were listening to make sure that the two men had indeed left. Once they were satisfied that they were indeed alone, Anjali’s mother began to try and loosen the ropes around them by wriggling around, but they proved to be too tight. For her part, Anjali was trying to push the gag out of her mouth, but the silk band was so tightly tied around her lower jaw that it was proving impossible.
Her mother eventually stopped struggling, and sat for a while with her head bowed. Anjali gave her hand a squeeze, and then tried speaking to her and motioning with her head. Turning her head around as far as she could, her mother watched as Anjali started to try and push down with her feet on the floor and raise herself up, grunting at her mother all the time.
A light of realisation dawned in the older woman’s eyes, and she grunted and nodded her head to show she understood. Both women braced their feet on the ground, and Anjali gave three loud grunts. On the third one, both women pushed down together, and very slowly they managed to stand up together on their bound feet.
They took a few moments to catch their breath, and then with Anjali leading the way they slowly shuffled their way across the room towards the open door that led to the hallway. Looking out, Anjali let out a sigh as she saw that the telephone had been disconnected from the wall, preventing them using that to raise the alarm.
Her mother grunted at her, and Anjali slowly shook her head to indicate that the phone was out of action. She then began to wriggle around in an attempt to free her arms and wrists, but the ropes around her waist and both their chests were proving impossible to dislodge. They both tried shouting, but the gags were proving very effective.
It was some hours later before Anjali’s husband returned home to find the two bound women, lying on the floor having sat back down again and realised they needed to rest, with their eyes closed. As usual, the descriptions of their attackers were vague enough for the police to realise the chances of them catching the robbers were slim, although the fact they had left behind several valuable items purely because they were statues of Hindu gods was an angle they had not seen before.