In order to catch a thief or a criminal we must know how their mind works. Only then we can trick them into being caught.
So unless we think like a thief we will not be able to gauge his actions and be prepared to counter it and make him fall into our trap.
The proverb does not in any way recommend one to be a thief.
It only says that we have to be aware of how the mind of a thief operates and plan accordingly to catch him.
Tenali Raman was a very famous Minister and a favorite of King Krishnadevaraya. A lot of people were jealous of his popularity with the king and plotted to get rid of him. They decided to put the plan into action through the royal gardener who was very close to the king.
The gardener one day told the king that Goddess Kali had appeared in his dream and told him that unless a very intelligent person like Raman was sacrificed to appease the Gods, the kingdom will be ruined.
The king immediately called Raman and told him about it. The king decided that Raman should be thrown into an old unused well at the end of the town and left to die without food and water.
Raman immediately knew that something was amiss but readily agreed to obey the king’s order. In the meantime Raman quietly ordered a few close friends of his to dig a tunnel from the well under the cover of darkness as an escape route.
On the appointed day Raman was dropped into the well. The king felt very sad that he had to sacrifice his favorite Minister in this manner to save his kingdom.
Raman quickly escaped through the tunnel and hid himself in his house for a couple of days. On the third day Raman appeared in court much to the astonishment of the king and his courtiers. The king was angry and asked Raman why he had escaped from the well.
Raman quickly replied, “Your Highness. I was sent back from heaven by Goddess Kali who wanted you to send the royal gardener to heaven as they did not have a skilled gardener there."
The gardener immediately realized Raman had indeed outwitted
all of them and ran to the king and begged for forgiveness. The king was very angry and ordered the gardener and all the ministers behind the sinister plot to be thrown into prison.
Raman was smart enough to guess the manner in which a cunning mind will work and plan accordingly.
He had to think like a criminal himself in order to catch the people who were plotting against him. It was Raman’s intelligence and quick thinking that saved his life in the end.