She again tried to pursue me with her innocent puppy looks and said that it was just a matter of 5 minutes. I again refused assertively. I smelled something fishy and asked her what was in the bag. She said “It’s just my normal stuff” . I denied again. The couple started a small quarrel amongst themselves. I was just about to make a move from there, when suddenly a heavy hand landed on my shoulder and grabbed me by my neck.
5:10 PM ,5th Decmber,2016
Delhi, Connaught place.
Unpredictability is the law of nature .Gazing at the long queue of people at SBI ATM in Connaught place, I was wondering at the helplessness of common man. A bold positive sudden move by a charismatic leader had brought the country to a standstill. Some people were compliant to it and happily accepted it as mark of patriotism, while others just grudged about it.Well this wasn’t an evening to discuss political matters. To break the monotony of my study schedule, I had planned to meet my cousin and then a couple of my friends.
I was waiting for my cousin Ritesh in front of Gate No 8, Rajiv Chowk metro station. It was just a matter of few minutes that he would have been there and we would have a spent a non-eventful Monday evening. But destiny had its own plan.
A young couple approached me and the girl asked me if she could borrow my phone to make a call .Unalarmed, I said Yes . The girl had wheatish looks and was well dressed, looked like any other girl whom I would have offered my seat in the metro .The boy was tall, lanky with thin moustache. His body language had arrogance which would make Honey Singh jealous.
She dialed a number and handed over my phone to Honey Singh jnr. He looked tense and had short conversation with someone .He didn’t bother to thank me and just handed the phone back to me.
I ignored and started having conversation with another stranger who looked grieved with demonetization move .A few minutes later, the girl approached me again and said “ Would you look after my bag ?I would be back in 5 minutes.
I looked at the girl and then the pink glossy bag with hello kitty stickers on it. Both looked too cute to be explosive but I still blatantly said “No, I am waiting for my cousin and I will be off any moment”
She again tried to pursue me with her innocent puppy looks and said that it was just a matter of 5 minutes. I again refused assertively. I smelled something fishy and asked her what was in the bag. She said “ It’s just my normal stuff” . I denied again. The couple started a small quarrel amongst themselves. I was just about to make a move from there, when suddenly a heavy hand landed on my shoulder and grabbed me by my neck.
Three middle aged men dressed in civil dress were escorting the couple whereas I was being dragged by an iron fist .The adrenaline levels in my blood spiked. I asked my captor why I was being handled roughly. He said “ Jyaada Shaana mat ban.Chup chaap chal”
Holy fuck! Cognitive narrowing had already set in, I had lost my ability to reason .I was being pulled away ferociously .I started shouting for help at the top of my voice. Was I being kidnapped in the middle of Connaught place with day light still intact? While I was being pulled away, people gathered around me as if a witch in rural India was about to be set on pyre. No body made any move they just walked along with me. I saw a KFC outlet in front of me, the chicken in there would have felt a little more brave than I felt in there. Helpless I kept shouting for help. I felt a little relieved when a man dressed in police uniform came near me but my excitement was as short lived as Shahid Afridi’s stay at the crease. He said to me “tujhe thane le jaa rahe hain !kidnapping kari hain tune.”
Holy fuck again! In a transition of 5 minutes, my role was changed from Delhi’s Aam Aadmi to a victim and now a criminal! Hollywood movies and advertisements in newspapers had instilled a belief that police would flash their identity card or arrest warrant before arresting but real life had its in own anomalies.
I said” I would co-operate you bas mujhe ID card dikhado”.
Man in Uniform (pointing towards himself)said “ itni bada main ID proof na dikh raha tujhe”
Man 2(flashing his pistol): Ye dekh hathiyaar , aur kuch bhi dekhna hain kya tujhe?
While a pragmatic mind in one’s senses would have adhered to the norms, but this sudden upheaval in my life had made me lose my belief in the entire system of normalcy. I had doubts whether they were real police because four out of five were not in uniform; neither were they showing their ID cards. Any goon could have also possessed the weapon and tailoring a Khakee uniform was not much expensive.
Gaining some sense, I said: Sir, mujhe mere papa ko call karne do.Main unko inform kar deta hu aap mujhe kahaa le jaa rahe ho.(Although still unaware where I was being taken to)
At lightening quick pace, one man grabbed the phone from my hand and another one whacked a slap on my face. I was petrified and still confused .Responding to my survival instincts, I started shouting my father’s telephone no with a grim hope that someone would inform him where was I was being taken to. People just watched, nobody twitched a muscle. The KFC chicken in the backdrop seemed the bravest amongst us all. I was pushed into the rear seat of white Bolero.
5:18 PM, Inside the Car
Seated inside the car, I was expecting a white handkerchief drained in chloroform to come up at any moment. Instead they started celebrating amongst each other.
Man 1:“Arre waah Sir! Maan gaye aapko! Kya pakda hain “
Man 2:“SHO sahab ko bata dijiye, aap ke to number pakke”
(My phone rings, Ritesh Bhia calling)
Man 3(addressing me): Ye ritesh kaun hain ladke, ye bhi tumhare saath mila hain kya?
I said “ He is my brother , I came here to meet him”
Man in uniform picked up my phone and said” isko Kashmiri gate thane le jaaa rahe hain, wahi aakar baat karna”
A huge sigh of relief set in. At least I was not being kidnapped. At least some one knows my location. These are real cops .It feels better to be in a lockup than to be kidnapped and kept hostage in an unknown location. And I knew that somewhat temporarily skewed planetary position in my horoscope won’t affect my Karma too much.
“Sir, I am innocent and would cooperate with you in interrogation” I said firmly to the man in uniform.
I showed my ID on his request and narrated the entire scene. He then asked a few more questions about my educational qualifications and family heritage. It felt more like an interview with potential father in law. Somehow I managed to satisfy his never ending sarcastic questions but he still had some iota of doubt left.
Cop: “Achaa tu science student hain, to ye bataa ye remainder theorem kya hoti hain??”
I was amused at this intellectual question; I never expected all my years of studies would boil down to this question.
Everybody in the car was gaping at me as if some heavenly words would be spoken from my mouth.
“Sir, Dividend =Divisor into quotient + reminder.”
In a parallel universe, Euclid in heaven would have weeped for this answer and Newton and Pythagoras rejoiced that they were spared from this humiliation.
The crowd rejoiced by my answer, another cop said ”humein to pehle hi pata tha ye ladka Kalaakar hain.Ye bata tune Cp mein itni nautanki kyu kari??
I said “Sir all of you were dressed in civil uniform and no one showed me his identity card”
The man in uniform got enraged” tujhe main Khakke wardi mein US police lag raha hu kya?Aur hum police uniform mein aate to ye laila majnu bhaag na jaate waha se”
I rest my case,I didn’t wanted to further angry them, neither I wanted to be behind the bars for false allegations. Shawshank redemption has already been made. I apologised for my behaviour.
They returned my phone and I called my brother Ashish. He assured me of his and ritesh bhia’s presence at the jail. Sometimes moral support works like a magic wand. A friend who is ready to take punch along with you is better than 1000 Facebook friends with pouted pictures.
8: 30 PM, Kashmiri Gate police station
The girl was taken to women cell. The boy was behind the bars, giving arrogant answers and filthy smile to women police .He had tough time awaiting him at the midnight, meanwhile situation was under control . My brothers were there with me. I had informed my parents about the incident. They were calm and sounded strong. The police had been pacified. They already had offered me tea with some lame jokes.
But why was I here at the police station with no fault of mine?? The girl was a minor and she was trying to elope with the arrogant Honey Singh Jnr. He used my phone to call her dad and ask ransom money so that they can fund their future honeymoon. The cyber cell had tracked the location of my phone call and caught us just at the right time (though wrong for me). She might have been in love with guy, but you really can’t trust what mala fide intentions the boy or the fate had for her. She could have been pregnant in a few months or trafficked to some other country or nothing could have happened.
But Indeed the police had done a great job; she would be back to her home in less than 24 hours .Although I would have been happier if I was handled more smoothly, but I guess the police doesn’t treat a potential lead with gentleman’s behaviour. May be the job demanded that. Being a cop in India is not easy, with low pay perks and strenuous working hours. And unlike Indian army the job is not even respected most of the times. These are fertile grounds for Corruption and complacency to breed.
I was called by the sub inspector to pen down my witness statement. I wrote it down fast as I could sense that my freedom was near. I handed over the letter to him. To my surprise he said”
“Animesh, thanks for cooperating with police and I apologise for slapping you.”
Well those words from a man deeply drenched in power lust and patriarchal ego somewhat healed my wounds. I smiled back, and left the place.
Well it was not one of those days which you would like to script in your lifetime but it left me with a few deeply entrenched lessons.
In those few moments where I was pleading for help, no one even just stepped forward to enquire what was happening? Everybody was mute spectator, although I could sense that few wanted to help. May be that little gesture would have helped me to regain my composure. I can now understand and empathise with helplessness of the oppressed victim. May be someday I l try to get out of comfort of air conditioned car and help the oppressed or injured on the road
Well old saying goes that mom told me not to talk with strangers, but I have been interacting with strangers throughout my life and have learnt a lot about their culture and human psychology. One needs to be a little more careful in the crime capital but it should not deter one from lending your mobile to someone in ailing condition or in other emergency. We all have done it numerous times and the probability of mishap happening is as low as Salman khan’s car hitting you when you are walking on the pavement.
I have not read Barney Stinson’s bro code and neither any one of my close brothers but we all have some basic traits ingrained and it is better to have a handful of good friends than a dozen of beer hangout friends. Because a brother in need is a brother in deed.
And the most important of them all, -We all have a chicken inside, and it’s natural to have negative emotions of fear, jealousy, hatred etc. But what matters is that you accept and acknowledge it and kill that chicken inside as fast as possible rather than live with it through your lifetime.
Be Bold, Live Strong!