It is disheartening to see to what extent the protectors of the law of our land (yes, the ones that wear Khaki uniforms) go to make that extra buck. In the past, I have heard stories from friends about traffic constables taking as low as Rs.3/- to let go of a helmet-less motorcycle rider. I thought they were exaggerated or made up. After all the law and order of a country that is as diverse as ours is in the hands of possibly the most powerful department in the country and of course they won’t be and can’t afford to be as cheap as my friends make them out to be. And how naive of me to think that! No, I am not saying this without reason. I had the misfortune of dealing with a couple of young Police officers (well, I don’t really think they were decent enough to be termed ‘officers’, but I would just go with the term used worldwide) and what a harrowing and humiliating experience it was!
My husband and I were traveling from our home (at Kammanahalli, Bangalore) to our friends’ house (at Koramangala, Bangalore) at around 10:30 pm by an auto-rickshaw for a routine Friday night get-together. We normally stay over at this friend’s house and return by Saturday afternoon, so I normally go there in a T-shirt and 3/4th pants which are comfortable for the night. Since the wind was getting pretty cold, I took my husband’s jerkin and put it on. I also put on the cap part of it and tied it up below my chin so as to keep my ears covered against the chill. Little did I know that in those 3/4th pants and covered head, sitting beside my husband, I looked like a young call girl!
As the auto sped along the inner roads of Koramangala, a couple of young (25-30 year old) Police “officers” rode their bikes parallel to the rickshaw and asked the rickshaw driver to pull over. As soon as the driver pulled over, they both got down from their bike and walked towards us. It was already close to 11 pm and I was so hungry I could eat a whole Biryani by myself. But what happened next made me forget all about food. For the sake of the non-hindi speaking readers, I am translating the conversation to English.
“Can I see your ID card?”, asked the shorter of the two.
My husband replied, “I am not carrying my office ID card with me.”
Meanwhile I took out my office ID and showed it to them.
“Do you have any other photo ID?”, asked one of the officers to my husband and he took out his PAN card and showed it to them.
“Where are you from?”, he asked me.
“And you?”, he asked my husband.
“Palakkad, Kerala”, he replied.
“What is the relationship between the two of you?”, the taller pitched in.
That was when I realized that I was being suspected to be an “item” as they call it. I took out my “thaali” (Mangal Shutra) and showed it to them and told, “I am his wife.”
Both of them stood there speechless. They couldn’t believe it. They thought we looked too young to be married (although that is under normal circumstances a compliment, at that time of the night and all that hunger, it only infuriated me).
“Do you want to see my PAN card or Driver’s License or Passport?”, I asked.
“No, ma’am. You can go.” And with that they got lost.
Then the auto-rickshaw driver told us that they were looking to make some quick bucks by trying to “catch” us. I was flabbergasted. To think that our Police force is trying to take a bribe (and it has become so common that it no longer is spoken about as a crime) is bad enough and to top it off, why would we pay them anything? What was the mistake we committed? I mean, even if we were each other’s boyfriend and girlfriend (like until a week ago) why would they seek money from us? Is traveling in an auto-rickshaw at 10:30 pm a crime? Or is wearing 3/4th pants? Or is wearing a jerkin and a cap to protect myself against the cold?
Isn’t it disgusting to learn the cheap ways our honorable Police officers (well, there are a lot of nice gentlemanly officers whose names are getting spoilt because of such cheap ones) just to make a few extra bucks? And do they have the rights to stop any auto-rickshaw on the road and harass and humiliate decent citizens?
These are just my views. Correct me if I am wrong and do share with me any such bitter experiences that might have faced.
The author is a part of the great Indian IT industry, but that is the only thing that is not unique about her. Recently married to her sweetheart of more than 5 years, she is still held up unraveling the mystery that is life, now with a partner too. A wanna-be journalist, her heart lies in writing.
Image Source: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/87913776@N00/4363265760/]