Good cops, bad cops
Like my colleague Kushalrani Gulab, I am all set for the monsoon, too – but the rains just haven’t come.
Monsoon in Mumbai always puts me in a benign mood about the city’s cops – no, don’t laugh. They are a much maligned lot but where would we be, or rather where would I have been one really rainy day — make that two – had it not been for the humble havaldar?Before coming across these saviours I, too, had painted all the cops black – particularly since after a hard day’s work, as I was making it back home (on foot) to Colaba from Nariman Point one night, I was accosted by one who wanted to know the way to the Gateway of India. As it was close to midnight and the streets in this business district almost deserted, I thought I had had it.
But then not for nothing was I a reporter – and very thankful that my Chief Reporter had insisted that I do the crime beat for a while. So I threw names at this cop on the prowl, startled him by reaching for his buckle (for the number), guessed rightly that he was probably posted at the close-by police station and threatened to report him not just to his DCP but also the Police Commissioner (by their names).
“If nothing else, you should be suspended for sheer incompetence,” I told him. “You are a beat cop in Colaba and you don’t even know where the Gateway of India is?”
I have still not gotten over the look of sheer horror that came over his face, mixed with an emotion that looked akin to that of a hunted rabbit. He had scurried away and, before I could turn the corner, quite disappeared out of sight.
Of course, I let it go at that and did not lodge any complaint. So it came as a pleasant surprise one pouring afternoon some months later when some cops flagged down my taxi (for reasons of their own) but made sure that their work did not interfere with my travel. They were checking for pollution control and, unfortunately, my cabbie proved to be a culprit.
One constable then poked his head into the window and said, “Unfortunately, you will have to leave this cab, Ma’am. We need to take him in for action.”
I despaired at finding another cab in the rain and hated the thought of getting all wet, when the same thought occurred to him. “Hang on a minute,” he said. “I will find you another cab or else you will be left standing and soaking for no one might stop for you.” What’s more, he even held his huge police umbrella over my head, until I had got into the cab he had whistled down to a halt.
Of course, my friends did not believe that any Bombay cop could be so helpful. “You must have been dreaming,” one of my colleagues said with finality, convincing himself that that was why I had come up with such a `bizarre’ story.
He would have found the next one even more bizarre – and thought I would have had to be positively in a state of the deepest slumber, or hallucinating at the least, to have encountered another good cop.
This time, it was raining cats and dogs as I landed at the airport from New Delhi – visibility was virtually nil even at a few metres. And since Delhi had been dry as dust when I left, I, of course, had no rain gear. I was soaked by the time I got into the cab – I needed to go to Churchgate, which is nearly as far as the city goes from the airport. But this cabbie had other things on mind. Like making hay while the sun did not shine.
So he told me he did not know where Churchgate was. I was speechless.
“You will have to get out and hail another cab,” he said, in a Smart Alec-y fashion, judging my already cold misery well. I guess he expected me to double his fare for doing me the favour not turfing me out in the downpour but before I could get my tongue round the words, I had a cop knocking at the window to see why the taxi had stalled.
When I told him why, prompt was his response. “Churchgate kuthe ahe, mahit nahi ka tula? (You don’t know where Churchgate is?),” he raged at the cabbie, a North Indian, in Marathi. “Boot kadhu ka mee ata (Shall I remove my boot)?” To connect with his head, obviously!
As the by-now surly but chastened taxi driver revved up to take off, the cop banged on the door again and asked me to lower the window. He handed me his number, saying now in Hindi, “If he decides to stop anywhere but Churchgate, you call me. I will radio the nearest police station. They will come and get him.”
Needless to say, the cabbie understood. Perfectly. I got home as fast as the wet roads would allow. And he settled for just the metered fare.
It was a small thing to do in a silly matter but I thought that cop had done more than just his duty — in fact, gone out of his way to be helpful. I like to think that there are many more like him around, and doing bigger things in more crucial matters. Or so many of them would not have been laying their lives down for us on 26/11 – both officers and men.