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Published: February 18th 2008
On the evening of my visit to the Kali shrine, I have an experience that is strangely in line with the day's energy. As I walk home from Nirakara’s house at dusk, I notice a large white car with a flatscreen TV screen in place of the rear mirror that creeps alongside me for a while. At first I don’t think anything of it, as it looks as though the driver is looking for something or someone. I walk on, passing a small Shiva Temple in which a bunch of dreadlocked sadhus sit on the floor in a circle and greet me with a cheerful 'harioum'. A little while later, past the row of small shops, I see the same white car from before. It blocks my path, and I know something is up when I realize that the driver is watching hardcore porn on the TV screen. I walk around the car and give the driver a disdainful glance. He begins to point at the TV screen and motions for me to get into his car. I tell him to piss off and continue on my way. He follows me in his car and keeps talking to me in Hindi and turns up the volume of his TV. I feel anger rise in me. In fact, I am too angry to feel afraid, even though it is dark by now and I am walking alongside a lonely, wooded road. A rickshaw stops and asks me if I want a lift. Perhaps foolishly, I say ‘No’ - it’s as though Kali’s fury is surging through me and I’m not going to let this idiot stop me from walking home. I try to ignore him and am relieved when I spot two girls walking ahead of me. At a little bay on the roadside, Mr Porn stops and gets out of the car - seemingly to urinate whilst looking at me. I take out my notebook, write down his number plate and tell him I’ll report him to the police, before I ascend the little pedestrian-only path that leads up to my guesthouse. He drives off. Back at the guesthouse, I report my experience to some of the staff and insist we report the man to the police. The manager takes me to the police station, a little brick shed by the roadside, and we file a hand-written ‘application’. The policemen tell us it’s a local number plate and they’d contact us within the next two or three days when they have found the man.
A week or so later, when I haven’t heard anything from the police, Hee and I decide to drop in to ask what’s going on and whether they have found the man. When we reach the road block that doubles as the police station, we find India's long arm of the law sit around on plastic chairs and enjoy the sun. One uniformed policewoman is flanked by a moustachoed man in a green and pink tracksuit and a handsome young man in jeans and a fake leather jacket. 'Do you speak English?', I ask the woman. She points towards Mr Handsome. 'Are you a police person?' I ask, somewhat doubtfully. 'Yes', he nods proudly, and I suddenly recognise him as one of the uniformed policemen from the evening I reported the crime. He seems to recognize me, too, and I hear the words 'white car' and the car registration number as they animatedly relate my case to the policewoman. 'You remember the car registration number?', I ask, slightly impressed. 'Yes', he says again, chest swelling with pride just a tad more. 'So what is happening with the case? You said you'd call us within two or three days', I ask. Mr Handsome thinks for a moment, then says, adding weight to each of his words, 'The investigation... continues
’, before leaning back in his plastic chair again with a satisfied smile. ‘Aha’, I respond, ‘and what exactly is happening in this... investigation?
’ He says that the police chief is dealing with the case, and asks us inside the brick shed. Nothing here tells you that this is a police station: there is no telephone, no computer, no sign - just a desk, a metal filing cabinet, and a few chairs on the dusty floor. The only paperwork consists of a few business cards advertising a tourist resort. Mr Handsome and Mr Moustachoe begin to search frantically for my handwritten 'application'. They pull out a heap of crumpled applications from the desk drawer. Another bunch of paper tumbles from the steel filing cabinet, and a few have found their way beneath the desk. Mine seems to have gone missing. When I see this 'filing system', I sink my head into my hands in mock despair and begin to laugh quietly. Mr Handsome looks at me curiously and asks 'Why are you laughing?' 'Nothing', I say resignedly, 'it's nothing'. As they are unable to find my application, Mr Handsome is sure that the police chief must have it.
'What will you do when you catch this man?', demands Hee. 'There are a lot of women on the streets, and this can and worse can happen over and over again!' Mr Handsome asks me what sort of punishment I would like them to apply. Apparently, it is my choice. 'Jail?' he asks, wobbling his handsome head. '30 days? 60 days? As you wish, Madam.' He also explains that I could have him fined or have his driving license revoked. 'Surely he'll have to go to court first?' I ask wryly. No, no, he says - I
can decide what fate befalls the elusive Porn Man. 'As you wish, Madam, as you wish.'
At this point, I decide that the conversation is futile. We get up to leave. I try one more time. 'Look, if you don't do anything again, I'll come back every day to stress you!' Mr Handsome's eyes suddenly light up. 'Please!'
, he says, emphatically. 'You're welcome! Any
time!' He exchanges an enthusiastic smile with Mr Moustachoe. With a deep sigh, we leave. Outside, we look at each other and nearly collapse with incredulous laughter. I'd hate to have to report a more serious crime here.
Later, my friend Richard tells me that he and a friend were stopped by police a while ago on the motorbike because they didn't wear crash helmets. The police said they'd fine them, but then offered them a deal: if they'd take their friend on their motorbike down with them to Lakshman Jhula (necessitating three men on the bike), there would be no fine.
On a more serious note, I recently read about an Indian rape case in the newspaper. A man appeared in court because he had raped a woman. The judge gave him two choices: either he could go to prison for one and a half years, or, he could marry the woman he raped and thus make her 'honourable'. I think this sums up the status of Indian women quite accurately.
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