Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Chapter 3 ...contd.

Within two days Delhi was back to normal. The politicians made the usual noises about “cross-border terrorism”, and the police was put on high alert. High alert usually meant that things got more chaotic in an already chaotic city. Police checkpoints and sandbags were set-up all over the city backing-up traffic and aggravating tempers. High alert also gave the police to extort more money from vendors and hawkers.

Gaddi rok re…”, shouted the constable as Raj approached a checkpoint, yelling at Raj to stop the car.

It had been a week since Raj and Neeta had started dating again, and they were driving back from Rishi’s house. Even though they were new into the relationship, they had none of the awkardness that couples have in a new relationship. Maybe this was partly due to the fact that they didn’t have the luxury of time. Raj had less than a year before he left for America.

It had been a nice and mellow party. Things had been really hectic the last week or so and this party had been a nice way of putting the events of the last week behind them. It had also been a good way of re-introducing Neeta to the gang and getting things back to normal.

“Are you married?...do your parents know you are out?” asked the cop with a glint in his eyes. He could tell that Raj and Neeta were not married and he could smell money. Delhi’s Best may not have been able to catch any criminals, but they had a spotless record of catching unmarried couples.

“No, she is a family friend, and I was dropping her home,” stammered Raj. He was a little dazed by this, and his thoughts were running a mile a minute.

Haann haann…bahut dekhen hain.” Sneered the cop. Delhi’s cops have the distinction of being totally egalitarian. When they smell money, they do not discriminate between the rich or the poor, law-abiding citizens or criminals. In fact, the criminals actually face a little less harassment as they have a running account with the police called hafta in local parlance. Every week, the local criminals deposit a percentage of their weekly earnings at the friendly neighborhood thana, as the police stations are called.

Madam raat ko kahan se aa rahi ho?” a second cop asked Neeta, as he leered at her legs.

It was past midnight and there wasn’t much traffic on the road. Raj was beginning to get apprehensive. The cops were drunk and had the trunk of his car open and were poking around it trying to find something. Raj had heard stories about cops planting drugs on kids in order to extort money from their families. So he decided to take a chance.

“We are going to the military airport to pick up my father, and I am supposed to drop her on the way.” Like all bullies, cops were afraid of people stronger than them and Military personnel still had the ability to intimidate them. Afterall, they didn’t want a crazy army man with a gun coming after them…that had been known to happen as well.

“Which regiment is your father?” asked cop number one.

“He is the commandant of the Black Cat division,” blustered Raj, knowing that it wasn’t totally accurate. His father was the commandant of an army division whose battle insignia was a black cat, however, in India, Black Cats is the name given to the Special Security Commandoes which had a big presence in Delhi. Raj hoped that this would be enough to intimidate the policemen so that they would let them go.

“Uhh…ohhh…ok….” Fumbled cop number one as he searched for a way out, “listen, I have kids your age at home and I was just looking out for you. Lots of criminals on the road at this time of the night.” And so saying he finally let them go.

Raj and Neeta sighed in relief, thankful that his father’s military career had at least one benefit.


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