Thievery for breakfast : The Tribune India

Thievery for breakfast

Thievery for breakfast

Photo for representational purpose only. - File photo

KC Verma

When I was a young Assistant Superintendent of Police in Bhagalpur in the early 1970s, life was tough and unpredictable. Working hours were long and meal times irregular. The only constant was the delicious breakfast that my orderly cooked for me. Every morning, he presented four lightly buttered toasts, one grilled tomato and a glorious three-egg omelette stuffed with onion, a hint of ginger and a whole load of cheese! His special cheese omelette was guaranteed to provide sustenance for many hours, and I was thankful for it more than once when I got no food during the rest of the day.

While he loved to cook and I loved to eat, I could not afford to eat like a prince on a pauper’s pay. Reluctantly, I directed him to cut out the expensive cheese from my breakfast. The next morning, I braced myself to face a cheese-less omelette. But no, it was there in all its glory!

‘Why haven’t you stopped using cheese? You know it is expensive!’ I asked. He was all innocence. ‘But Sir, I bought four tins because of the erratic supply. Surely, you don’t want me to throw them away?’

So, I relished the cheese omelettes for a couple of months more. Finally, his stock of cheese ran out and I morosely ate cheese-less omelettes for some days. And then suddenly, after many tasteless breakfasts, he presented the most wonderful cheese omelette — not with Amul processed cheese but stuffed with the delicious cheddar that could only be Kraft’s! I ate with unbounded joy! After I finished breakfast, I knew I would have to confront him about the cheese.

He had a facile explanation. ‘Sir, you never objected to cheese. You only objected to the cost. I bought this from the Circuit House khansama, who usually purloins the provisions meant for visiting VIPs. He sells Kraft cheese at a fraction of Amul’s.’ He added, ‘I have bought five tins!’

I was confronted by an ethical dilemma — should I order him to return the cheese or should I enjoy it? I knew that any SHO worth his salt could draw up a watertight FIR against the khansama for theft and against the orderly for receiving stolen goods. I would be accused of abetting the crime, receiving stolen property and destroying evidence. The choice was between the right course of action and the main course of breakfast. He saw me dithering, so he gave the clinching argument, ‘Huzoor gustakhi maaf ho, but the khansama will in any case pilfer and sell the provisions. If I don’t buy the cheese, someone else will. If you don’t eat it, someone else will.’

I hesitated no longer. ‘So, how many more tins of Kraft cheese is the khansama willing to sell?’ I asked.

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