Travelling hundreds of miles from his village in Nepal, an eight-year-old came to Delhi in search for work. As luck would have it, he bagged a comfortable job as a domestic help but soon succumbed to greed and hatched a plan to rob the house he had been working in. In less than a decade and half, Ram Bahadur (name changed) has seen it all from abject poverty to cosy living and from Tihar Jail stay to five-star hospitality:
I was hardly eight-years-old when my uncle and I came to India for work from our village in Nepal. For years, I did various odd jobs in Delhi. And then I got a new job – a domestic help in a well-to-do family in South Delhi. My job entailed walking the dog and taking care of daily errands. My life was pretty comfortable, much to the envy of my friends.
In 2011, when I was about 16, I took leave for Diwali and went to visit two friends from my village, who lived in North Delhi. I told them about my new job and the luxuries that came with it. They prodded me and bombarded me with a series of questions, seeking details about the household. Their behavior was odd. But I was gullible. Without thinking about the consequences, I brushed aside my inhibitions and answered all their queries. I told them that the family members of the household had gone abroad and the only person left was my frail, old 80-year-old employer.
It did not take long for me to know what their real motive was. They told me if I helped them rob the house, I would not have to live in poverty any more. Their plan was enticing and I admit that I got greedy.
My friends hatched a conspiracy to rob the house. The robbery was to be carried out the day I rejoined work. My job, according to the plan, was to leave the main door open and keep the dog engaged in the evening, while the others looted the house.
For two days I kept waiting, but my friends did not turn up. On the third day, when I took the dog out for a walk, I found the two sitting on the park bench. I realized, they were keeping a watch on the house. They had done a recce of the area and had plotted the execution of the plan.
But that evening I got cold feet. I tried resisting their plan, but finally succumbed to greed. I left the main door open and got busy with engaging the dog, while my friends tied up my 80-year-old employer. They did it in such a way that she died on the spot. It was shocking! Things took an unexpected turn, but we had to carry out the rest of the plan.
Several valuables were stolen. We fled outside Delhi and later parted ways. I felt alone and stuck. My photo had already been published in the paper and cops were on my trail. I went back to Nepal, but I realized I could be easily traced. Left with no other option, I came back and surrendered.
I was confined in Tihar for about six to seven months initially. But this confinement presented me with a life-changing opportunity. I was lucky to not be troubled or bullied. Within a week of my arrival, I was placed in the canteen. And my culinary skills gained popularity in Tihar. People said that my parathas and momos we ‘mouthwatering’. I often experimented with recipes and received very good feedback. And it was my interest in food and cooking that kept me away from falling on the wrong track.
Meanwhile, people in Tihar suggested I take an ossification test (a test of bones to determine age) to prove that I am a minor and that Tihar Jail was not for me. I was declared a juvenile and sent to a juvenile home. Since, I was from Tihar, the inmates at the home were scared of me and kept a safe distance.
But during my stay at the juvenile home, I once again ended up choosing the wrong path. We came to know that a police man had beaten up an inmate, who had tried to run away and we decided to teach him a lesson. We ended up hurting the policeman.
So as a punishment, I was sent back to Tihar since I had also turned 18 by then. There I resumed my culinary experiments in the jail kitchen once again. And that brought me recognition once again, but this time with a special team looking for vocational rehabilitating the prison inmates.
I was soon placed as an apprentice at a three-star hotel, where I was was tested to prepare gourmet cuisine. When I did well, more opportunities opened up for me. As a chef, I have worked and been a part of the launch-team of several elite hotels. Currently, I am working for a five-star hotel in the Capital as the first commis chef and look after the gourmet and Chinese food. I wish I could disclose my identity to inspire others but the law prohibits it.
I am glad that I am far away from the life of crime and bloody conflicts. There are no short-cuts to a cushy life, I realised it the hard way. My goal now is to become a top-notch chef and be known for my work in culinary skills.