In the short story “The Thief” written by Indian writer Ruskin Bond the characters are the Thief and Arun. The Thief is only fifteen years old upon his first meeting with Arun, who is about twenty years old. They meet at a wrestling match and the Thief tries to gain the friendship of Arun so as to eventually take advantage of him.
When Arun asks the Thief what his name is, the Thief replies, lying, that his name is Deepak. The two proceed to watch the wrestling match and Arun appears to have no further interest in the Thief. Arun leaves and the Thief follows him and says he wants to work for Arun.
The Thief thinks he can gain assets by locking onto Arun. Arun lets him know that he cannot afford to pay him. However, the Thief feels it is worth it to pursue Arun if Arun can feed him. Arun indicates that he can feed the Thief if the Thief can cook. He cannot. However, he lies again and says that he can cook. Nevertheless, his cooking is horrible and Arun is ready to dispatch him to the streets.
The Thief uses his boyish charm to prevent Arun from tossing him out. They subsequently come to enjoy each other’s company and laugh and discuss things. Arun, in a sense, takes the Thief under his wing. He teaches him to cook as well as write. This shows the underlying compassion that is part of Arun’s character.
The Thief enjoys being part of Arun’s life and cooking for him. The Thief’s shrewd character is shown in how he manages to make a profit for himself in the shopping he does for Arun, as indicated in this line:
“I would tell Arun that rice was fifty-six paise a pound (it generally was), but I would get it at fifty paise a pound.”
It’s important to understand in this short story that deep in his heart, the Thief does want a better, more truthful life. He says that once he learns to write properly it might be an “incentive to be honest.” Therefore, there is somewhat of a moral compass within him. He ends up stealing money from Arun, but in the end returns the money back to him. The Thief is fond of Arun, and sympathetic towards him. The Thief wants to learn to be an educated man and turn his life around. By the end of the story he is taking the first steps to improve his lot in life.