I went to the police station in the neighbourhood to file an FIR needed to lodge an insurance claim.
I walked in past the sandbags and barricades inside and found myself in what could only be a reception area. Many men and even some women were crammed inside, in a surprisingly orderly mass. Two policemen were there, noting down details of complaints, updating status of cases and so on. I asked for my case to be registered.
There was a marked lack of enthusiasm; there were cases of rape, abduction, murder and robbery. By contrast, my case was almost a waste of time.
I persisted; I cajoled and would not take no for an answer. People like us have an advantage; I realised. We might have some “connection”, either with some high up or in the press or whatever. We are nuisance, but still have to be indulged. So, over the next one hour, sitting on a rickety chair across a metal table in a dusty room and over chai (paid for by the Investigating Officer, himself), my work was done. As he did the work, we talked.
The Police Station has two Investigating Officers; one whose attention I hijacked for all of one hour. The other one had a Court appearance, scheduled at mid-day. It was unlikely, he would be able to come back that day at all.
In that one hour, many people came in to meet him. These are the people who have managed to get past the reception area which traps most entrants. I was favoured, not “connected” but still favoured, deemed worthy of special attention. All these people had real problems- one couple’s 14 year old daughter had gone missing (the neighbour’s son was suspected to be behind it); someone from the Women’s cell in Delhi Government come to enquire about “Haal hi mein jo ghatna hui, woh school mein- about the recent incidence in that school” and someone to report that a rickshaw-puller’s half-dead body has been recovered, beaten mercilessly and left for dead in the bushes.
The OIC dealt with all of them in less than half a minute each; collected an enlarged photo of the missing girl, informed the “women’s cell” that he is not in charge of the case, someone else is (who will be possibly back only tomorrow) and asked if the rickshaw puller will survive and has he been sent to the hospital. Cases have been registered, investigations will follow and “whatever will happen, will happen”. You can’t be emotional, he said once to me. There are more than one “bad case” in a day.
Among all this, he created a case for me in the PS diary: in duplicate. Then he took two plain pieces of paper, inserted carbon paper in between, and wrote out a copy of the FIR; one for me and the other to be filed away. Could all this not be computerized and all these writings/ typings be done just once?
In between he talked to me. His son is 14 years; “just the age” for going astray. He wishes he had more time to look over him; but, with a job that frequently ensures he is home only after 10 pm, that is not always possible. He blames the TV and its temptations, but, also says, “Kya karen, bachchen bhi? What to do for the kids? No playgrounds nearby and anyway there is no guarantee that he will play with only nice kids”.
I asked about the progress of the “missing girl”, I have two daughters and I can identify with the stricken look of the parents of the girl gone missing. “She will be back, she and her boy-friend”, he proclaimed. “Give it a couple of days more; their money will run out, they will have their first tiff and they will be back.” Sometimes the police get called in to intervene as the girl’s family wants to extract revenge for lost “izzat” but, mostly, people have good sense and look ahead.
And the rickshaw puller? Too many “charsi”s here, he said. A cycle rickshaw can sell for 1000 to 2000 rupees; enough to pay for a couple of days of fix for the men who would have attacked the poor man, and stolen the rickshaw. For a thousand rupees? You mean the poor man nearly lost his life for a thousand rupees? He smiles. Is there pity in his eyes, or is it just amusement?
I finished my chai, we shook hands. I collected the paper, thanked him and walked away.