Those of us who have grown up reading Enid Blyton would certainly remember Mr. Goon, the policeman- probably my first introduction to the police –albeit in another country. A fat man with eyes like a frog he was always outsmarted by five children. He had a bee in his bonnet about a “fat boy”, Fatty aka Frederick Algernon Trotville.
Over the years as I grew up my experiences with the police also began to grow and today as you can see I obviously have enough to write an entire post on them…
The year was 1995. I was new to Chennai as were my two friends with whom I shared a flat. One of them – I will call her H had a scooter on which all three of us merrily rode around town. Our usual “beat” was from the flat where we lived to our office and back. One evening, we decided to be adventurous and move out into the Central Business District. As always we were riding “triples” with H driving the bike. We encountered a “NO ENTRY” board at a point.
Generally law abiding citizens, I don’t know what happened to us on that day but we decided to ignore the sign and take that turn. It did not look like there was anyone about to check us. The lane itself had a deserted look . Just as we had turned into the lane and driven for about 2 mts who should loom up in front of us but our own Tamil version of Mr. Goon..! A medium sized person with a huge moustache he stopped us in that lane… This was embarrassing and scary – to be stopped by a traffic policeman- the first time in our lives. Both my friends were not Tamilians and therefore the job of dealing with Mr. Goon was naturally thrust up on me. Well here is the conversation that we had
“ What is this ..? Did you not see the NO ENTRY board? “
“yes sir we did” I replied meekly
“Then why did you turn in this side?” He hollered
“ Didn’t know what it meant sir” I murmured.
“Didn’t know? ..And what is this three to a scooter? Don’t you know it is not allowed?” He persisted
“Didn’t know sir. Theriyadu” I said again.
“What are you girls doing in the town anyway? Studying or working” he asked.
I decided at this point to play the sympathy card.
“ Neither sir. We are hunting for a job. Been at it for a month now. Unable to get any jobs” I said pathetically.
“ Well who will give you a job? For every question that is asked you answer Theriyadu ( don’t know” he said looking at me seriously
He then went on to disperse some Gyan- “ Look here ma.. even if you don’t know the answer never say I don’t know in an interview. Just say something. Otherwise people will think that you are fool” !!!!
I nodded seriously and then he let us go after calling out behind us about where we could buy some General knowledge books….! Unfortunately both my friends missed the joke. This experience is mine and mine only …
The second experience happened when I was pregnant. My husband was driving me to the doctor for a check up. An ancient lady ( I think she must have been about a 100 years old) she was a stickler for punctuality. Even if we were late by 5 minutes she would stare at us as though she had caught us doing something really awful. So, I am sure you will understand the reason why my husband ignored a traffic light and sped past. But not for long… we suddenly found ourselves being stopped by a whistle blowing cop.
The scene goes something like this…
Husband pulls up on the side of the road and the cop starts questioning him… He says that he is going to fine us. Husband tells him –sure and asks him to hop into the car so that we can all drive to the police station where the fine can be paid. The cop hops in. I get distinctly uncomfortable. I am sure that the guy wants to be bribed. So I ask husband loudly whether we can buy some mangoes from the road side seller thinking that this would be a good way to “gift” some to the guy in the passenger seat. Husband glares at me and continues driving. The cop is very vague about which station he wants us to drive into. He is obviously not keen on us going to the station nearby.. Finally he asks us to stop and gets out. Husband shouts out asking why he was leaving us like this in the middle of the road. What about the station visit? I ask him if he wants mangoes. Husband tells me to shut up.. “You and your mangoes. He will fling it at your face”.. Well I was only trying to be helpful and any day a few mangoes would have been cheaper in the event of us having to pay a bribe…
The next experience goes beyond the Chennai territory into Pondicherry. I was with some colleagues in our office jeep. One of them N was on the front seat with the driver while I was with another colleague at the back. We were to pick up a third colleague at a traffic junction. N and I were deep in conversation about something interesting. She was laughing and talking to me turning behind while also looking in front trying to guide our driver to the point where we were to pick up the other colleague. Just as we spotted him and were slowing down for him to get in we suddenly found a person tapping the window. It was none other than a traffic constable – a fat guy bursting out of his white uniform with his red saucepan hat barely fitting his head.
N rolled down the window and looked at him. He in turn looked at the senior lady ie me sitting in the back seat and said “ This girl in front ( N) is very badly behaved. Am I looking so funny that she has to point at me and laugh” For a moment I was not sure what he meant. I realized none of the others had understood it either. We just nodded dumbly and after colleague no 3 was in the car we started laughing- this time really at the guy!!! “Probably has a complex about his weight” said N. I think it might have been about his uniform too. It may look okay in France but as a colonial legacy looks ridiculous…!
It is sad.. the way the police in our country are reduced to this While the crème-de- la crème is the IPS what we deal with are the ones of the Mr. Goon variety – most of them are pathetic cases..! As citizens I do realize that we are a difficult lot to deal with but bribes are not exactly a way out . As long as there is supply there will be demand. Policewomen are equally bad if not worse. .. There was recently a case of a man in Madurai who murdered his estranged wife in a police station in full view of all the police women present there. He had been called for counselling by the police as he had a history of domestic violence. The chap had come prepared with a knife to plunge into his wife- a plan which he executed flawlessly. The point is that the guy escaped after doing this in the presence of law enforcers in their own space.
Save for the movies which are about the police in almost all of them we see the police arrive in the end when the issues have been resolved. I don’t know if it is art imitating life or is life taking some cues from art …?
Law enforcement is not an easy task. It requires a person to be strict and faultless.. Unfortunately the strictness is only a mask that is put on to derive other benefits like “maamool”… I remember a dialogue from the film “Gangajal”where Ajay Devan who plays an honest police officer says “ Policemen are also part of this society. How can we expect them to be different?What you see in the police is a reflection of what is happening in society”
The slogan that appears on the police uniform is "Satyamev Jayate" - "Truth alone triumps"- unfortunately, nothing could be farther from the truth