I, snatch thief victim

I NEVER thought that it would ever happen to me but it did the other day. I am now officially a snatch theft victim.

The better half and I were walking to a roti canai breakfast at a restaurant barely 300m from the Damansara Utama police station when I suddenly felt a motorcycle at almost full throttle beside me.

I thought a motorcyclist had lost his balance and was looking for support.

As I turned to investigate, I felt a hand grabbing the back of my neck and it was then that it dawned on me that someone was trying to steal my gold chain. In an instant, he had grabbed my chain and was speeding off. I lurched forward with the force of the attack.

It happened so fast that my wife thought I had hastened my pace without warning her.

It was only when I threw the umbrella I had under my right arm at the escaping robber that she realised that something sinister had occurred. Being the second day of Chinese New Year, not a soul was around and I could only watch helplessly as the robber became a blur in the distance.

A lone figure appeared out of a sidelane and looked inquiringly at me. I told him that I had been robbed.

After a few seconds collecting myself, I searched the spot around me to see if the gold cross that I wear escaped my malefactor. And lo and behold, it was there glinting in the morning sun.

I realise that even the best kung fu fighter would be helpless if caught unawares like me. Talk about doing this or that when your chain is being snatched is just talk.

One is numbed by the attack and there is little that can be done.

Did I see the face of the robber? No, I could not, as he was wearing a helmet with a full face dark visor.

Could I have avoided the robbery? Yes, I could have.

It was a moment of carelessness for someone like me who has advised so many on being watchful when walking along public roads. I was totally engrossed in the conversation with the wife that I momentarily let my guard down.

As for the robber, I was the perfect victim. A not-so-young person with his chain openly visible despite wearing a collared t-shirt. There is a lesson to be learned here by me and others:

» always look around as you walk along public roads,
» be sure you do not reveal too much jewelery,
» keep an ear out for motorcycles coming too close,
» if you do see a potential robber coming your way, look him in the eye as you move out of his way.

In the aftermath of the incident, I am wary of even the lightest movement around me as I pound the streets in my neighbourhood in the name of exercise.

My morning walks are no longer the carefree minutes that I spent earlier ruminating on quirks and blessings in our collective lives.

I, like other snatch theft victims, have been shaken by this act of malfeasance inflicted on us by selfish people unwilling to work for a living.

A parting question. Why are there so many instances of snatch theft these days?

I am at a loss over what the powers that be can do to stem this tide of street robbery. Heavier sentences for culprits caught? A more pronounced police presence on our streets?

Like any terminal disease, it seems that someone in our circle of friends or relatives has been a snatch theft victim. Can we hope for better times when we can walk our streets unmolested?

BAN ON FIRECRACKERS?

Who says that there is a ban on firecrackers in the country?

In my neighbourhood, the sounds that came close to midnight on Chinese New Year eve was indicative of the fact that firecrackers of a particularly loud persuasion are around and actively being used by some Malaysians.

To be sure, I hear the same sounds around every major festival like Hari Raya, Deepavali, and to an extent, around Christmas.

Where do these people buy their stocks?

I am sure that firecrackers, given the ban, are not openly sold in shops unlike fireworks that are easily available. It seems to be a case of hear no evil by the authorities.

There is a cultural dimension to this that has to be looked at in terms of the significance of lighting firecrackers among the Chinese. It is their belief that the sound will drive away evil spirits.

I realise that in the multi-cultural milieu that we operate in, it is sometimes difficult to draw clear lines between what is acceptable and otherwise among the communities. And I believe this is what makes Malaysian life so interesting.

Malaysians living in the concrete boxes that we call home have been closing off roads for weddings and other special events for as far as we can remember.
This was totally unnecessary in the days of yore when houses had large compounds that could take in the entire family and friends.

At Christmas, carollers have been going around since time immemorial singing their hearts and lungs out late at night and into the early morning without problems from anyone.

Of course, police have tightened the conditions under which these carol groups operate and understandably so given the lateness of the hour when these good tidings are usually shared.

As for Hindu festivals, major roads have been closed to allow for chariots to proceed from temple to temple. Come Hari Raya, we are also not spared the loud thuds that come from slightly afar from my neighborhood where Indonesians predominate.

In the Malaysian spirit that keeps us united, we have accepted these slight intrusions into our life with the good cheer that makes us who were are.

But what do we do where firecrackers are concerned?

In Singapore, exemption is granted to those applying for permission to set off firecrackers with stringent conditions to be observed. And knowing the republic, you can bet your bottom dollar that enforcement will be 100%.

Chinese leaders have asked for a similar system to operate in Malaysia but to no avail.

As for us, we may have to just close an eye to the fact that they are available and hope that they are set off earlier in the day than midnight.

There may be a silver lining to the entire affair in the fact that many in housing estates these days do not want to litter their front yards with the red remnants of firecrackers.

Not so in the 1950s and 1960s when shops in Brickfields, and I am sure elsewhere, had "battles" over who could keep the firecrackers exploding the longest with "red chains" leading down from the upstairs windows to the road below.

One could be ankle deep in the red debris afterwards with the acrid aroma of gunpowder assailing our noses afterwards. The sound? It left one almost deaf for a few minutes.

But it was fun, wasn't it?

Balan Moses, theSun's executive editor (news), remembers that it was once said that corruption would be rife in societies where streets are infested with rats. He wonders about the correlation between the rise in snatch thefts and Malaysian society. Ideas? Comments: bmoses@thesundaily.com