Pickpockets in Malgudi?
V"Trail of the Green Blazer" (1956, ten pages) by R. K. Narayan was originally published in The Hindu, where many of his other short stories were first published. As was to be expected, the publication imposed some directives as to the length of his short stories, most come out to ten or fifteen pages. Any shorter and subscribers might feel shortchanged, much longer and they might lose interest. Most all of the subscribers read English as a second language. It was latter included as the second story in his collection Lawley Road and other Stories and has now been included in an expanded collection of his short stories
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People are always warned about the pickpockets that work the big markets, blending into the crowd while they stalk their prey, carefully watching them as they try to discretely pat their wallet to make sure it is still there not knowing they have just given too much information to someone. "Trail of the Green Blazer" is about the work and life of a professional pickpocket. He tries to dress so as to blend into the crowd, he wants to be as bland and nondescript as possible. We share his elation when a wallet contains enough to live on for a month and share his annoyance when it only has a few coins. We also learn about the market for stolen fountain pens, something he almost feels is a waste of his time. He has been in trouble for this before so now he tells his wife the money he brings home is from his commissions. She never stops to think what that might be or maybe she just does not want to think about it too much. Narayan does a great job depicting with just a few lines the dynamics within a marriage. Even a pickpocket has a wife he must answer to. Anyway he steals the man's wallet and (this is a bit of a plot giveaway) something prompts him to return the wallet (keeping the money of course). He gets caught trying to slip the wallet back into the green blazer. The man grabs his arm and holds him until the police come. A crowd gathers and everybody has a great laugh when he says he was trying to put the wallet back. He ends up doing 18 months in jail. He changes a bit when he gets out and the story proposes an interesting lesson in morality.
"Trail of the Green Blazer" is another really good Narayan story, I do not think there is probably a bad one!