Monday, 20 May 2013

Good cop, Bad cop.

A few days back, I was returning home from my cousin's place. I was waiting to take a right turn to Shanti Colony at the Thirumangalam signal in Anna Nagar. I saw that the Traffic police who stood there had caught hold of three youngsters who rode on one bike and without helmet. It took so long for the signal to clear that I saw the entire scene. The three guys importuned the policeman to set them free as they had all the necessary documents, but the cop had the key in his hand and blatantly refused to hand it over to them. The signal on the opposite side of the road cleared up, because of which I had to wait even longer. Now, a trio on a bike, just like the three on the other side of the road, sped past them, laughing and making fun of the guys and the policeman. The three guys were baffled and so was the cop. The guys pointed out at the ones who escaped and seemed to ask the cop how he could let them go. I would have really loved to see his reply, but the car behind me started honking, signalling that I had to proceed. I wondered if the cop had apprehended them, or simply let them go. I felt that either ways, the cop was doing something wrong. So what do you think about the job of a traffic police? Catching hold of only a few unfortunate victims and letting the others go? While that isn't much of a topic to think about, I would like to narrate a few of my experiences with some good and bad cops that I have met during my rides throughout the city.

Incident 1: It was sometime in 2011 when I read a newspaper article stating that many traffic signals including the ones at Guindy, Vadapalani, etc. had been fitted with CCTVs and the offenders were caught and fined even at 2 or 3am and the bill was sent directly sent to their homes over post. It was around the same time when my cousin Ganesh had left his Honda Activa at my place and I used to take it for a ride. Every time I used to cross those signals, I used to notice that the CCTVs were in place. Once, I was travelling to his place on his own scooter, I passed the Guindy signal with 2 seconds to spare on the green light but found myself stuck on the middle of the road as the traffic from the right had already started coming. I managed to make it through and was promptly stopped by a bellied cop. He asked me to alight and took away my key. I went after him and he questioned me "how much do you have in your wallet?". In turn, I asked him, "What's your name? Which station do you belong to?". There's this sudden adrenaline rush inside you when you know that you are completely right and the person in front of you is wrong. This feeling makes you go crazy, and did the same with me. The policeman was bewildered and said "You violate the rules, and you question me? How dare you? I can book you under four cases and you may even have to go to the jail for a year." I told him calmly, "I crossed the signal with two seconds to spare. The traffic started coming from the right while I still had time to go. Those guys violated the traffic and not I". He did not seem convinced, so I added, "Have you read the newspaper lately? I'm aware that there's a CCTV installed here" I said, pointing to the CCTV on top of the signal. "I wouldn't want to get into trouble by myself, so I'd better follow the rules. If you still want to book me for the offense, you can go on. I can simply get away by the recorded CCTV footage", I said. Now the cop was completely confused. He had no clue what to do with me. Till the end, he had no idea if I were telling the truth or lying, but he simply handed over the key to me and said "Sir, you should be careful while driving. Look at those guys jumping the signal. I mistook you for violation of the signal and I'm very sorry. All it takes is a second for a life to end. So we need to be very careful at traffic signals". I gave him a wicked smile and left.

Incident 2: When a good looking girl passes in front of you, you can't help but notice her. Policemen are no exception to this. There was this one time when I was riding my scooter to my workplace and I was stuck at the signal at MGR College in Poonamallee High Road. Two good looking girls were crossing the road when the traffic police there was checking them out. He was so keen on checking them out that many of the passers by noticed the cop looking at them. There was this guy on the other side of the road on a bike who saw the busy bird-watching policeman and grabbed this opportunity and jumped the signal. This cop saw both the girls go till the end of the road and then came to his senses. This cop must have some great sense of appreciating art and beauty, I thought.

Incident 3: On yet another uneventful day, I was halted by a cop at the Guindy signal again. This time, he didn't stop me for jumping the signal, nor for any other offense. He asked me to pull out my license, RC book and insurance for my vehicle. He asked me to come over and I went along with him to one corner of the road. We were joined by another cop who asked "What have we got here today?". The first cop said, "Nothing. He's clear. He has license and all his papers are perfect. But as we have stopped him, we do need to book him for something". I was awe-stuck. When the hell did these guys start doing this? I mean, book offense on people just for the fun of it? I waited to see what happened next. The second policeman took a stroll and went to his bike and returned with a dark colored, hexagonal box. My heart started racing. I thought he had a bomb or some home made explosives inside the box and was going to book me for that. He opened the box and to my surprise, it was full of chocolates. He asked me to go ahead take one and told me that it was his daughter's birthday, and he had been offering chocolates to everyone whom he met that day. He then advised me to drive slowly and safely. One heck of a good cop!

Incident 4: Some of the best moments of my life have been with my cousins Ganesh and Vandhana. It was in my 10th grade when Ganesh had finally started including me in his outings with his friends. Those were the days of transition from a kid to a teen as I had just started to observe Ganesh's lifestyle and how he enjoyed with his friends, the way every guy does. Vandhana was in her 9th grade and during this period, Ganesh, Vandhana and I used to ride triples on Ganesh's bike. During this particular incident, we three were going for a movie along with four of Ganesh's friends. It was somewhere in interior Vadapalani where we were driving when we passed a traffic police who noticed that we were riding triples. Just a few yards away, Ganesh and his friends pulled over as his friends wanted to take a puff. The policeman having seen it all, came over to us, joined by some more constables (if that's what you call junior traffic policemen). Vandhana and I were on one side of the road, while Ganesh and his friends were on the other side. Once Ganesh saw the police coming, he crossed the road and came over to us. He told me, "Look, if the cop asks you anything, tell him that you are in your 6th grade". He turned towards Vandhana and said, "And you are in 5th grade. Don't talk anything else, I'll do all the talking" and he went back to the other side of the road. The policemen stopped and inquired them. As the road was bustling with traffic, we couldn't hear a thing that was going on with them. We simply stood and kept watching them beg the policemen when the senior officer told something to Ganesh and he came over and took us to them. The policeman asked us, "Do these guys smoke in front of you regularly?". We nodded or head from side to side signalling that it was the first time we had seen them smoke. He said "If you see these guys smoking in front of you ever again, make sure you break their hands". We nodded in unison and the cop asked Ganesh to leave us on the other side of the road and get back. He gave them his advice for about forty minutes about not to smoke in front of us, but didn't utter a word about riding triples on the bike. Well, we didn't miss the movie in spite of the forty minute discourse. Ganesh and I still continue to recollect this incident very often. Since when did the job description of traffic cops include ban on smoking in public?

Incident 5: In another incident, I was riding my new Access 125 from my house to Vandhana's. I missed a left turn on the GST road near Tambaram and had to take a U turn to reach there. I was now waiting at the signal on the other side of the road, waiting to take a right turn. As soon as I saw the signal turn green, I accelerated the vehicle and scooted ahead. Only at the last second, I saw a bus approached from behind me from the left and I applied the brakes and my vehicle came to a standstill. The bus missed me just by a few inches and it stopped. I saw that he had jumped the signal from the left side from where I had earlier stood. Suddenly, a huge crowd gathered and blocked the bus from leaving the place. A traffic police came rushing and asked the driver to park the vehicle at the corner. He then caught the driver by his collar and dragged him out from the bus. He told me that there was no mistake of mine and he clearly saw the driver jump the signal. People among the crowd asked me to leave the scene and I did just that. When I was leaving, I saw that the driver was being pushed inside a Mahindra Bolero that belonged to the Chennai Traffic Police. The traffic police department indeed does its work, I thought.

Incident 6: In yet another encounter, I had taken my cousin's Activa to Hotel Kohinoor Asiana on the OMR. Gokul, a junior of mine at college had come along and was riding pillion. On our way back, I took a wrong turn from the OMR and reached a toll booth. I knew that we had lost our way and took a U Turn from there. A police highway patrol jeep parked on the other side of the road was watching us. After taking the turn, we were just about to pass by the jeep as two policemen walked out and stopped us. I was asked to produce the necessary documents and I hoped that my cousin had kept all the necessary documents in the vehicle itself. I showed whatever documents that were inside to the cop and he told me that the insurance had expired two years ago. I was shocked, and I called up my cousin and he told me that he always had a copy of it in his wallet so he hadn't kept it in the vehicle. I had a situation now and couldn't get away. I got the cop to talk to my cousin, but that didn't help. He told that he would inform someone at workplace and come over to resolve this. Meanwhile, the cop had a little chat with me. He asked my name and where I was studying. He asked my dad's name and occupation. I told him his name and I also told that he was working for the central government. The cop was interested and asked me "Which department does he work for? What is his post?". I replied, "He works for Income Tax Appellate Tribunal. It's like a court for income tax issues. He's the Senior Secretary there". The cop handed me the key and told "I know you won't break the rules. But next time you drive someone else's vehicle, make sure the documents are in place". I nodded my head and we left the place. On the way back, Gokul asked "Anna, does your dad really work in Income Tax?". I said "Yes da, I guess the post that I mentioned really exists in the department after all!".

Nevertheless, policemen, especially from the traffic department tend to be very helpful. I have heard many say that if you want to know directions to a certain place, ask the auto-walas. I do that, but I also don't hesitate to ask the traffic cops. Surprisingly, they direct you very well and explain the route quite patiently. You too should try asking them for routes some day.

P.S.: You might be thinking what makes me write a post on the city's traffic police. I did an internship at the National Informatics Centre, Govt. of India last year, and my intern was an R&D project for the Chennai Traffic Police to develop a mobile application to book traffic offenses on the spot. I had to study some sections of the Indian Penal Code that involved traffic offenses. Since then, I've thought a bit about these poor fellas who stand there all day under the hot sun just to make sure that we reach our destination safely. Some are good, and some may be bad, but believe me or not, they are really kind. You just have to talk your way out to get away from them!