I grew up on large helpings of 'values' dished out by my grandmother. So, yesterday when a pot bellied, bribe-crazy traffic policeman stopped me at Sion for alleged lane cutting I arrogantly refused to slip a fifty rupee note in my licence. When I opened my wallet to hand over my licence he eyed the fifty rupee note right next to it, expecting me to subtly offer it to him in exchange for my 'freedom' and my time. We all know how painfully time consuming it is to follow-up with the traffic police to claim your confiscated licence.
Infact, along with my even fiery sibling I put up a fight. The cop had let a few BEST buses cut right across my little sunshine car, almost crushing me against the divider in the middle of the road. 'You don't argue with a Traffic Policeman' my Mom scolded me later. Common sense refused to prevail and 'Values' took over instead. 'You are your values. Stand for what you think is right.' Grandmom would be proud of me.
The next day, after having to give up on my beauty sleep, which is a weekend ritual I drove to the Police Chowki to get my licence.
The receipt the Mamu had given me mentioned something about appearing in court after 15 days for 'guidance'. Also something about the 'offence being compounded...'. Failing to understand what it meant I imagined myself standing in court defending my grave crime-lane cutting!!! "Mein yeh Gita pe haat rakh ke kehti hu ki saach ke sivah aur kuch nahi bolungi'. And maybe if they decided not to arrest me after all I would swear again." Mein yeh Gita pe haat rakh ke kehti hu ki kabhi, kabhi lane cut nahi karungi.'
At the police chowky it was a different story. Another pot-bellied mamu sat at a dusty, grilled window collecting money, tearing receipts and returning people's licences. It didn't get any eventful than that. His peon spent forever looking though dusty drawers for my licence which was no where to be found. A paan chewing cabbie yelled on his mobile phone while paan stained spit dribbled down his chin. He was just one of the many errant commuters who drove on Mumbai's roads and every now and then ended up breaking signals, lanes or sometimes just falling prey to a greedy hawaldar who hadn't made enough pocket money that day.
They finally retrieved my licence, charged me a hundred rupees, gave me another receipt and I was off....free to drive away hoping my next encounter(which is inevitable on the Mumbai streets) with a Traffic Police was decades away. And if by chance I encounter one soon I still know ' I am my values'