To mind or not to mind my business

“Drinking my water and minding my business.” That’s the lifestyle we all aim for these days. With our own personal touches, of course.

There is a gentleman who lives with us on-and-off, and is basically part of our family. He is from the village, and that is where his life is – besides the one we share with him in the city. He is a decent guy. He is a great guy. He is dependable and trustworthy. He is hardworking and… nice.

A couple of nights ago, I woke up to the sound of a lady calling someone a thief and practically asking for mob justice. After one AM. The first ten minutes was disorienting. A huge part of me was trying so hard to hold on to the sleep, praying the noise would disappear from whence it came. Fifteen minutes later, I started to realise that it was going to be a long night. I perked my ears and paid attention.

What I gathered from my belated entry into the conversation was, someone had either stolen a bag, or the contents of a bag. The alleged thief was somewhere nearby. Like outside my gate. The men who lived in, and around my house were trying to get to the bottom of the situation. The lady, who seemed to be the victim, kept shouting at him –in the middle of the questioning – all kinds of [in my opinion] unnecessary things. Like how if the situation occurred elsewhere, he would have been burned on the spot. And I. I was praying for a quick resolution so I could go back to bed.

From where I was eavesdropping from, it sounded like the alleged thief was from my home. That, I assumed, was the only reason why they would bring that noisy woman to my house. I was sad. My people are good people. I immediately believed that the gentleman in question had been wrongly accused and I kept praying someone would speak up and defend his character. Yet, all I heard was repeated questioning about the location of the stolen items. They already believed he was guilty. I felt betrayed on his behalf. I wondered how he felt when the men he works with daily had chosen silence in this moment. Yet I also felt guilt, for I too had chosen cowardice in his most helpless moment.

For the next half-hour to forty-five minutes, I listened to many people talking at the same time, trying to fully understand the situation. All I had were speculations. Then the slaps started. My heart broke. If only they could hear my thoughts. Then they would have heard me screaming “Please stop it. Please. He is innocent. He would never steal your stuff.” But they couldn’t. And since I chose to remain resolute in my decision to stay quiet, I had to listen as they bullied this man till he admitted guilt. This was the saddest part of the night.

He actually confessed. To stealing. Him???

I remembered all the movies I’d watched about coerced testimonies. The process. How the victim is broken. How an innocent person admits guilt just so they can be left alone. My heart wept.

Moments later, after the confession, the find the phone on his person. My entire world is crumbling. How? Why? Was he framed? How could this have happened? I became utterly confused, and feeling a different type of betrayal.

You can never truly know a person.

The police was called. And the gentleman was taken away. The lady left, along with her colourful words and shrill voice. Everything quietened down. Finally. My heart was still aching, and sleep had long since been forgotten. But as least it was quiet. Then I heard his voice. The gentleman I thought was guilty was talking calmly to someone. Outside. Did they let him go already because of the beatings?

More confusion.

Since nobody knew I had heard a lot of what had transpired, I had to be careful about my approach in finding out exactly what had happened.  I patiently waited till morning and casually went to greet this man. There were no bruises. For someone who had been hit in the face, he was surprisingly okay.

More and more confusion.

I spent the entire day trying to understand what had happened. I came up with so many different theories. By evening, my brain was too worked up. I didn’t care about feigning ignorance anymore. I walked up to him and asked, “So what happened last night? I think I heard that someone stole something.”

A moment passes.

He smiles.

He spends the next few moments explaining how a man stole another man’s bag somewhere close by. He happened to be in the thief’s way and saw the gestures from the bag owner and immediately understood the situation. The whole thing involved running, tracking the thief all the way to an uncompleted building, waiting him out and capturing him (with help), and bringing him to justice.

Can you believe that my guy actually managed to snatch the bag from the thief and still went ahead to track and capture him? Then with the victim’s help, he brought him near our home and called for back-up because the thief had hidden the man’s phones and they wanted it back.

The loud woman, was a bystander who empathised with the victim because she too had been robbed of her bag, at that same place, a while back. She had had her passport and other important items in the bag. And no one helped. This incident triggered her pain. That was why she was very passionate about the case.

Everything started making sense. I felt relief, pride and… guilt (?) I was glad he wasn’t the thief. I was proud of him for going out of his way in such a manner to right a wrong that was not directly related to him. And guilty that I didn’t step up (when I misjudged the whole thing) and that it took me that long to ask for the truth. But oh how happy I was that I was wrong! Just like that, the world became a better place again.

So now the question is, should we always mind our business? Or does this count as the exception?


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