Friday, March 11, 2005

Police story

"Look at me," he said. "I'm 42 now. I've been a constable for 22 years. A constable."

It was a ludicrous moment. There was a cop in my car hinting that because he was a constable, I should pay him a bribe rather than drive to a police station and pay the entire sum of Rs 3800 for driving without a seatbelt, without a license and an expired pollution control certificate. It had been briefly funny, when he first pulled me over. Then he had sounded like a supermarket checkout attendent.

"Brother, driving without seat belt, 500 rupees. Where is license?"

"Umm..I forgot my license."

"No license. 1300 rupees. Where is PUC? [pollution control certificate or something]"

"It is at home."

"No PUC? 2000 rupees. Grand total..." he paused dramatically, scribbling in his notebook before showing me the final figure, "3800 rupees."

"I don't have my wallet." It's true, I didn't have my wallet.

"No problem. Leave your car with me."

It went on like this for a while. Why me - pay me now - can I pay you tomorrow - what do you take me for - look at my honest face I will pay you tomorrow - you mean like an IOU - yes, like an IOU - people with more honest faces have ditched me - I won't ditch you - okay, pay me 600 rupees now - please make it less - but I cut down your fine from 3800 - yes, thanks for that, but 600 is still too much, make it 300 - okay, 300, pay me now - but how can I when there's no wallet...

We drove around in my car having this chat. People stared. A pretty woman in the next car saw me, noticed the police constable, looked back at me and giggled. Nice smile. Anyway, it went on for a while. With a weary sigh, he let me go. I managed to get 300 from somewhere and returned to where he was. He was briefly surprised. Then he grinned a huge grin.

"You know, many people say the same thing and never show up again. If you ever need any help, let me know. And will you get your license soon? Or will I have to pull you over next week too?"

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