Looking for the bad guy

Sid was in an investigative mood this summer. More so because his curiosity had kicked in. He wanted to know how bad guys look.

  • By Sudha Subramanian, Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 00:00 November 29, 2010
  • Gulf News

Sid was in an investigative mood this summer. More so because his curiosity had kicked in. He wanted to know how bad guys look. “It would be simple then,” he observed, “All I will have to do is to avoid them and I will be safe.” That made perfect sense.

He looked at his dad wide-eyed and asked him quite innocently: “Have you ever seen a robber? You could describe him to me. At least, I will have an idea.”

His dad could only concede, “Well, I have never seen one. Sorry.”

Sid followed us obediently wherever we went but was always vigilant. He wanted to spot the ‘bad guy’ in the crowd. The only challenge he faced repeatedly was that he didn’t know who it was. We wished we could see the figure Sid carried in his head of a bad guy so that we could understand him better.

Many times I was convinced that Sid thought that anybody with a huge moustache or a well-built man is the person to be wary of.

I remember my own childhood with my imaginative scary people. I had thought that a person with an eye patch or a huge mole on the chin was the guy I had to be alert about. I was convinced that they carried a little knife around and would take away my precious toys if I made noises in the night.

Sometimes, when I heard my own breath in the night, I held it and then slowly exhaled and inhaled without as much as a stir. I wondered why the clocks always ticked so loud at night. But then I would drift to sleep and the scary thoughts would evaporate.

It was only when I was about 10 that I saw a real burglar. There was a theft in the neighbourhood and the man was soon caught. He was paraded in the whole town. That was a field day for us children. We saw, for the first time, policemen, handcuffs and a real culprit. We were thrilled but equally scared. For a long time, the story was the talk of the town. But, that day, I realised that people who commit crime were ordinary men and women. They could be anyone in a crowd and we would never know. But, for Sid to understand this simple truth of life would be a huge step.


Looking back, I see that day as an eye- opener for more than one thing. It has a deeper meaning. If only we knew how bad guys looked, life would be a lot different. Yet, living life is not about knowing what the days have to offer. It is not about the obstacles, the hurdles we have to cross.

Living with the unknown has its very own highs and lows. It has the thrill of accomplishment. As we pick up the thread and wonder where it leads us, we learn to share and care besides learning to laugh and cry.

Yes, we can never tell who the bad guy is or how he looks. Yet, even as I try very hard to tell Sid that it is only normal looking people who make mistakes, he is still looking for a hairy giant who can hold children by their hair and give a nasty loud laugh.

Well, there is a certain magic in living with that imagination. I guess I will wait for the day when Sid’s imaginative figure will be dispelled. Sid should live his childhood in bliss. It would be a rude shock for a little kid to know that in the present world we live, the most horrid crimes are sometimes committed by a familiar face.



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