Friday, January 16, 2009

Good cops do exist

On an average, Mumbai Police is known for its non-cooperative attitude and demanding bribe (chai-pani) for anything and everything it does. But post 26/11, it is hailed for its bravery and exceptionally good attitude during the crisis. I too have a pleasant memory of Mumbai police (then Bombay) from way back in late sixties on two different occasions.

In the first incident – I was working in Calcutta and had come to Bombay for few days for some sales conference. Once I was asked by my office to meet our Madras distributor at Santa Cruz airport. He was coming from Madras and was to take another flight in an hour’s time to another destination. Being new in Bombay, I was instructed that the taxi fare from our office to the airport would be about Rs.17, give or take a rupee or two, depending upon the traffic on the way. When we reached the airport, the meter showed Rs.55. when I argued, the cab driver told me that the meter was in front of me and for me to see it carefully. Other cab driver also gathered around and insisted that I should make the payment. They knew from my language that I was not a local. Time was running but I could not afford to pay the sum from my own pocket. A rupee was a RUPEE then. My office would not allow me more than 17 or 20 rupees.

Seeing the chaos, a passing inspector on his motorcycle stopped and asked roughly; “Kaay Zala?” (What happened?) All taxi drivers started talking at a time. He shouted them to shut up, got down from his bike and turned to me; “Tumi Bola.” (You speak). He listened patiently while I explained my predicament and my reason of coming to the airport, as well as my willingness to pay the proper fare.

Realizing that I was new to Bombay, he became instantly polite and told me to go ahead and meet the aircraft, finish my work and come back. That he was on duty at airport and will make the taxi wait and on my return will sort out the issue or we all go to the police station. I went inside the airport, had my discussion with our distributor and returned in half an hour. True to his word, the inspector was there with another policeman waiting for me. He told me politely that there were two things we can do. First go to police station, or, if I agree, we ride back to my office and he will accompany me and see what the fare comes. I agreed instantly. But the driver started grudging and showed his willingness to accept what I give, even forgo that. Other drivers had vanished. The inspector would have none of it. He downed the flag of meter and rode with us all the way to my office. The fair was 18 rupees. The inspector slapped the driver hard on his face, told me to give him Rs.35 and suspended his license for a month.
What really surprised me was – He went to the extent and apologized for driver’s behavior.

On another occasion, a year later, I was at V.T. station with heavy suitcase for a taxi to go to Kalbadevi, a short distance. No taxi would come. I was trying for 10-12 minutes and getting desperate. I could not walk the distance with a heavy bag. Out of blue, a constable appeared from nowhere. He asked me where I wanted to go. He whistled a taxi, asked the driver to take me to Kalbadevi with stern warning to behave, took down his number and told me to report if there was any problem.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Musings-In long and short

It was a sheer co-incidence. On the last day of my short visit to Ahmedabad, I came to know by chance, that Bharat, my early childhood friend, was residing in Ahmedabad. I got his telephone number three hours before I was to depart for Mumbai. We had not met for more than 50 years. Bharat was my neighbour in Calcutta. He left Calcutta when we were 11 or 12 years old. Since then we had not heard about each other. We are of the same age, give or take three-four months. Both of us are 64 now.

So I called him and told him who I was. In an instant he recognized me. He was very excited and happy to hear from me. After preliminaries of – come to my place at this instant – and knowing I was leaving for Mumbai immediately, he started asking short questions about me. In half a minute he was satisfied that he knew all he wanted to know about me and started talking about himself, that when he left Calcutta at the age of twelve, he didn’t know that his father was in a trouble in business. They tried to settle somewhere in Gujarat. His father lost money there too, that betrayed by partners and relatives, they were hand to mouth for a few years. Somehow, he completed hi matriculation, in the meantime his father expired. Then he came to Ahmedabad, got a job there, progressed and once again settled in life, that he got married, had two children, both educated, married, and both in the U.S., that his wife expired in 1997 and now he was staying alone. At that point I tried to offer my condolences at the news of his wife, but he brushed me off: “No no. Its ok. It was a long time back and I am fine now.” In less than five minutes he gave me his life story of 52 years.
Then we started talking about our childhood days. How after school we went home, threw our aluminum school bags, had a glass of milk and ran back to school to play in school compound. How we played badminton, cricket etc. how older students harassed us. That once older group did not allow us to play cricket with them and how we formed our own club then & there and named it Friend’s club. How once one tough boy hit him and how I had beaten that boy for hitting him. We went on talking for more than twenty minutes about those 10-12 childhood years. After a while he became sentimental and reminded me of an incident where I had saved him from certain punishment from our teacher on that occasion. I felt a little embarrassed and said: “Ow leave it, forget it Bharat. It was a long… long time back, In fact, Ages back.”
He exclaimed! “Ages? I feel it happened yesterday only.”

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Bad joke

On Mr. Thackeray’s comments on empty threats to Pakistan, I remember an old joke I heard in Delhi years back. It fits India and Pakistan.

Santa Singh and Banta Singh were friends. Once for some reason Santa Singh hit Banta Singh.
Banta Singh; “Were you serious?”
Santa Singh; “No. No. I was just fooling around. Just joking.”
Banta Singh; “Then its ok. Had you been serious, I would have retaliated violently. Be careful next time.”

After a few days Santa Singh again hit him.
Banta Singh; “Were you serious?”
Santa Singh; (This time aggressive); “Yes I was. What about it?”
Banta Singh; “Nothing. I don’t like people fooling around me.”