The four thieves surrounded us as soon as we stepped out of the auto.
Each thief was carrying a metal bucket to disguise himself as a beggar. (You see bucket-bearing beggars on Saturday, soliciting coins as an offering to the god Shani to wash away your sins in the mustard oil each bucket contains.) But it was instantly clear that these four weren’t looking for a handout.
“Money!” they screamed, scrambling around us, keeping up their pretense of charity as they expertly separated Jenny from me. “Please, sir! Money! Chapati!” One of the thieves backed into Jenny with his arms spread wide, forcing her backwards as the remaining three danced around me, screaming and swiping at my pockets.
“Watch your bag, Jenny!” I hollered, jamming my hands into my pockets, wrapping my left hand around my phone and my right hand around my wallet. “Let’s go!”
It’s hard enough to cross the street without getting killed even when you’re not dodging the sticky fingers of four bandits trying to work their way through your defenses. We avoided the speeding autos long enough to make it to the median, an island of concrete two feet high and four feet wide. The thugs followed us. Traffic raced by on both sides of the street.
We were trapped.
The bandits had discovered that there was SOMETHING in my unguarded back pocket, which meant my left hand had to alternate between covering my phone and swatting at their grasping hands. It was just my moleskin notebook — hardly worth stealing, but how could I explain that to them? They were to my right, but traffic was coming from my left; my head jerked back and forth, searching for a break in the cars while keeping an eye on my assailants, unable to concentrate successfully on either one. Across the road, I glimpsed salvation: crowds, open space, and security guards whose dominion of protection didn’t seem to extend across the street. They weren’t paying any attention to us.
“Hut!!” I shouted in my most commanding voice. “Away!” All four of the thieves jumped. I shoved the nearest one in his chest. He began flailing wildly at me, screaming, his fists pumping. I held my hand on his chest. Fortunately I was much taller than him; I kept him at arm’s length, his fists landing on my arms but causing no damage.
The traffic finally cleared and we dashed across the street. Our attackers shouted after us from the median, but came no closer. Our belongings were accounted for. We were safe.
Those were four scary six-year-olds.