I am a law abiding citizen and respect the country’s police!!!
It was the day when I had to drop my sister to Bandra Terminus I first witnessed the agony of a “Traffic Hawaldar”. The road was jam packed with all kind of vehicles you can imagine. There were cars, cycles, bikes, buses, taxis and rickshaws. “One could take a power nap if they haven’t slept last night”, I amused myself…
I decided to be vigilant and observe what’s happening around me!
Chaos – The bus, the beast!
There was a bus (in the opposite lane) trying to take a U-turn which was not possible without disrupting my lane. As a result, all the vehicles including the one standing in-front of me had to gear their vehicle in parking mode: stand still and let the giant cross. This was like minuscules getting bullied in school by the school’s rockstar (tall and big brat). You don’t really like the scene but nothing in your will could overturn what’s happening. At least, today we were letting it happen to maintain the sanity of road conditions and were hoping to get to our destinations as quickly as possible. Right thing to do (period).
To my dismay, I was about to witness the most stupidest thing one can attempt in the situation like this. The hope of getting out of this jam was about to die as few rickshaw walas decided to go against the traffic while overtaking us (from the wrong lane) and blocked the street, making it impossible for anyone to move at all. We were stuck because of the bus and that bus couldn’t move an inch because if it did, the rickshaws would have got squashed! Well… we are in India, sometimes these things are expected but I was left shellshocked!
“Who is going to take control of this situation?”, I thought… There has to be some traffic control authority here. After all, we are talking about one of the busiest area of Mumbai: Bandra Terminus! And there he was… A traffic hawaldar to the rescue!
Agony of a Policeman!
I saw a traffic hawaldar coming to stop the rickshaw walas and willing to take control of the situation. I felt proud! I was witnessing a moment that always eluded me. I have grown up encountering situations like:
- Waiting in my lane only to see others cutting their lane at the juncture to make it a bottleneck.
- Traffic light to “turn right” is green but no one is moving because the cars in the front wants to go straight.
- Traffic light has turned green but I can’t move as others are still jumping signals.
I really appreciated the hawaldar to take a step forward in the right direction. He approached the driver and demanded him to maintain road discipline. It was about to be a picture perfect! A jam packed square in Mumbai traffic not moving an inch, and a hawaldar comes to rescue, magically turning around the situation upside down. But, it wasn’t meant to be. What followed was a bitter reality!
The rickshaw walas were yelling on the poor hawaldar in a flash. It was the pure opposite of what we learnt in our kindergarten “achai ki burai pe jeet hoti hai”. The brave policeman had two options. Option 1: Get beaten by the gang of rickshaw walas while he tries to control the traffic or Option 2: To save his own life and allow the rickshaws to pass! It was no surprise he chose the latter. I came home believing that these poor policemen can’t do much unless they have support from the AAM JANTA!
All this happened 9 months ago. Over the period of time, I started to understand the pain of a policeman serving in this country! A few weeks ago, though, life made me travel back in time. Different place, different incident with same characters. I was returning home (I live in Ghatkopar) from my office in Thane via Teen Hath Naka when..
Imagine commuting from the above square everyday, it gets chaotic every time. “What is the reason?”, you may wonder. The square as you can see has 6 lanes converging, I don’t know why they call it a square! The most confused are the people who are on the road to Thane Station (going to and fro).
… the signal turned green by the time I reached square, to take a left turn. There is a concurrent street which merges into the square making it an unusual 5 street square. This 5th street is equivalent to the “5th wheel!” People coming from that street don’t know when they are supposed to stop and when they are supposed to move. They are under the impression that they can cross the road at their will without even looking at the traffic lights. Now… as soon as I took the turn, all the vehicles started accelerating towards me, leaving me stranded in the middle of the square.
“Who is going to take control of this situation?”, I thought… There has to be some traffic control authority here. After all, we are talking about one of the busiest area of Mumbai: Teen Hath Naka! And there he was… A traffic hawaldar to rescue! –Déjà vu
Dadagiri of a Policeman!
I saw a hawaldar walking towards us to take control of the situation. I was a little assured that situation will be sorted in a minute, I will be on my way and traffic will be sane again. After all, “it was not his first day at work! He must be doing his shifts at this square for sometime”, I thought. He knows how it is… He will quickly ask the person blocking me to move aside so as to clear the traffic. But, how can I forget, its me! Instead, it will become one of those situations I have encountered while growing up…
He took my license and accused me of jumping the signal. I asked him “don’t let the other car go, he broke the signal I didn’t!” Now the cat and mouse game started… I wanted to understand his perspective. “What did I do wrong?”, I asked! “You jumped the signal”, was his reply. Everyone is well versed on how to get out of these situations. I decided to take the high road. “Let me understand screenplay, now that I am part of the play”, I told myself.
I started talking to him to understand where is the disconnect. I didn’t jump the signal. I knew it, he knew it, even the car blocking me knew it! After talking to him for approximately 30 minutes I understood the disconnect:
- He was wearing the uniform, I didn’t. He has to be right!
- He got hold of my license. He has to be right!
- I didn’t threaten him by ganging up like those rickshaw walas. HE HAS TO BE RIGHT!
I was in no mood to get into a quarrel with a policeman, but I didn’t want to pay either. So, he gave me a “pauti” (ticket for jumping signal) and kept my license. I was shocked by the indifference shown by a policeman in understanding my point of view just because I didn’t have any uniform on me and a union to fallback on.
I got back home furious! Willing to understand the depth of it, I started reading about the traffic laws and violations. The ticket he gave me was not for jumping the signal but for “NO OVERTAKING”. I understood my offence (not jumping signal, not overtaking in “no overtaking” zone): “Not agreeing with on-duty policeman”. I was not angry anymore..
Funny as it may sound, when I went back to get my license (unwillingly paying the wrong ticket), I asked three different officers “What is this ticket for?” Following were the reply:
- Seat belt nahi pehna hoga! (“You may not be wearing a seat belt”)
- Lane cutting
- Central driving
That left me amused!
All of us are aware of the “Good Cop, Bad Cop” theory. It does produce the desired results when applied correctly. But, I never knew I will get to witness that… quite literally!