The Thief’s Story | Summary

Summary of The Thief's Story by Ruskin Bond


The Thief’s Story by Ruskin Bond focuses on a change of heart and a stirring of conscience in a thief, evoked by a trusting relationship with a man from whom he attempts to steal. It is told in first-person, through the eyes of a 15-year-old narrator. Dealing with the themes of conscience, guilt, trust, and a change of heart, The Thief’s Story is one of those stories that remain with you long after you’ve read it.

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The Thief’s Story | Summary

As the title of the story suggests, the Thief’s Story is narrated from the perspective of a thief.  The story begins with a simple introduction- “I was still a thief when I met Anil. And though only 15, I was an experienced and fairly successful hand.” We immediately pick up on who the main characters of the story will be- the thieving narrator, and a 25-year-old man named Anil. Anil was watching a wrestling match, and appeared ‘easygoing and kind’ enough for the narrator to pinpoint him as a hopeful target to befriend and betray.

The narrator tries to flatter Anil by saying that he looks like a wrestler. However, the narrator’s flattery does not work on Anil as he is a rather lean fellow. The narrator finally introduces himself to Anil as Hari Singh. It is not his real name– he creates a new alias every month. The narrator is on the lookout for some “work”. When he asks Anil whether he can work for him, he is told had the former cannot pay him.   Despite Anil not giving in instantly, Hari Singh follows him with his ‘most appealing smile’. In the end, they work out an agreement- if Hari Singh cooks, Anil will keep him fed.


On the first night, Hari sleeps on Anil’s balcony. The food he’s made is terrible, which he comes to know when he sees Anil feeding it to the dogs. Hari hopes to avoid consequences by smiling in his ‘appealing way,’ and Anil brushes it off, simply saying he’d teach the younger fellow how to cook. Hari uses his fake smile to get his way around Anil. Like this, the pair work out an arrangement in their own way- Hari makes tea and runs errands (often earning a rupee profit, which Anil lets slide), while Anil teaches him how to read and write.

It is after this scene that we learn what Anil does for a living: he is a magazine writer, and hence he earns in bits and pieces. Sometimes he has enough money to lend, and sometimes he has so little that he needs to take loans.


One day, he comes home with a small bundle of notes after selling his book to a publisher, and Hari watches him stash it under his mattress. The 15-year-old thief reflects on how he has barely been dishonest since entering Anil’s house- hardly more than a rupee a day stolen. After all, Anil trusted Hari completely- even giving him the key to his house- and it’s not easy to rob a trusting man.

That night, as Anil sleeps, Hari steals 600 rupees in fifties, planning to escape on the express train to Lucknow. But just as the train is about to leave, he hesitates, and it carries on without him. For a moment, he thinks about how Anil’s face would not show fear, anger or acceptance, but sadness at the loss of trust. He walks through the bazaar as it begins to drizzle, the rain dampening Anil’s money. All he can think about is how he can no longer learn how to read and write from Anil after what he has done.

With this in mind, he reaches a new resolve- to return to Anil’s house, put back the money undetected, and carry on working for him. The next morning, Anil hands him fifty rupees and tells him “I made some money yesterday. Now you’ll be paid well.” Hari’s relief is replaced by slight horror when he sees that the money is still damp. He realizes that Anil understood what he tried to do, yet did not say a word. Finally, Anil tells him, as though it was any other day, that they would be learning to write whole sentences. And when Hari smiles in response, it is the first time he doesn’t have to fake it.




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