Sunday, May 3, 2009

Punyachey Pandu Hawaldar

Wokay guys, I am back in Mumbai from Peshwaland. I have good news and bad news. Let me guess - you want the bad first, right? Human nature. Bad news makes better copy as well. So, here goes. I had a nasty run-in with the Pune cops - and I wasn't even directly involved. One of my oldest girlfriends now lives in Pune. We were meeting after a longish time. She lost her way to Oakwood Premier ( more on that later) where I was staying. And while trying to locate the address on a dimly-lit road, she drove up the wrong gate. As she executed a neat U-Turn, a casual labourer from a nearby building site , travelling with his wife, an infant and toddler on a scooter, lost control of his two wheeler and crashed into a wall ten feet from her car. There was no physical contact with my friend's vehicle ...and there wasn't a scratch on either him or his family. But the minute he noticed she was a single woman at the wheel, he kicked up a huge hungama, pulled her out of the car, manhandled her and yelled for reinforcements. Soon, she was gheraoed by 60 slumwallas baying for her blood. The cops arrived soon after, and she thought that was the end of her problem considering she was not at fault in the first place! Hell, no! Her problems had just started! Now, this one being a real lady ( royalty, at that), phoned me to say she was running a little late!! It was only when I prodded that she explained why! I immediately rushed to the spot ... by then there were more than a hundred people, including half-a-dozen cops talking animatedly on walkie-talkies. They glared at me and resumed shouting. When I pointed out that nobody was hurt, a cop taunted, " How do you know that.... are you a doctor?'' I said let's go find a doctor in that case. That apparently was the wrong response. The mob started to scream, " Take them to the best hospital for x-rays. The woman's back is broken." It was no use telling this lot that had her back really been broken, she would not be able to sit up straight, much less walk!! By then , we were joined by another girlfriend. The sight of three calm women drove the crowd mad with rage . A fourth woman arrived on the scene - a senior cop!! We thought at least she would get it! Not a chance. She told us to follow her to the cop station. Not the nearest one, but some distant thana miles away from the 'accident' spot! This was getting us nowhere. But we were determined not to do a deal or pay anybody off. We told the lady officer exactly that. There was talk of filing an F.I.R etc. We said, go right ahead. And we'll file ours for assault ( the man had broken my friends pearl choker during the scuffle. It was close to 11p.m. by now - there goes our dinner, we said, but the hunger to see this drama through to the bitter end was far stronger. After endless attempts to bulldoze us into shelling out big bucks, the cops said, " Are you willing to pay for a doctor?" My friend replied, "Yes.On humanitarian grounds - I am not obliged to do so, since I am not involved in the first place." The cops smirked and left with those guys 'to see a doctor'. I'm guessing they went around the corner to figure out the next move. Ten minutes later, we received a call to say, "The doctor wants 3,500 rupees - for x-rays and other tests." We paid it. Suckers. No receipt was given.

This was the bad news. For the good stuff, thodasa intezaar. Tomorrow's post. Promise. Am still reeling from this nasty brush with the 'authorities'. And I am convinced it has to do with us being women. I bet some of you want to know why we didn't make those usual calls to our friends in high places and save ourselves the trouble?? Because we are like that only!! That's why we are friends... samjhey?


obssesor said...

Nasty nasty experience but then even the cops are like that only!
Waiting to hear your good experience!

Anil Kumar said...

The GENDER does not define the behaviour of police or those 100 people. Any man would have met the same fate or even worse.

I don't want to be passing judgement here but my experience is if someone is lost and searching for an address, he/she is in a confused state of mind and can easily miss a red light, stop sign or an oncoming traffic. And may be the scooterwala tried to avoid the car and hit the wall in the process. It doesn't mean that scooterwala can not be at fault. That's just the obvious thought from anyone I guess.

The way driving licenses are distributed in India is SHAMEFUL and does increase the work load of authorities issueing DEATH CERTIFICATES.

Thanks for sharing this incident. You deserve good citizen award for not bowing to cop's ISHARA for quick bucks.

Arjun said...

This is the kind of stuff that drives me to full fledged anger - road rage be dam**d!!!
it makes me wanna tear their hair out (i don't have any of mine to tear out) and teach them stuff in a painful kinda way!

Jogeshwar said...

It appears to have been a pretty nasty experience, cops always look forward to get their share of the booty, perhaps the doctor would also have been a cop.
Of course you could have made those usual calls to save yourselves the trouble but thats why I am your fan, you are an inspiration!

Anon said...

Oh my God! What an awful nasty terrible experience. I do figure the single woman bit added to the hungama no matter what people say! Bloody hell what safety do we women have in a country called Bharat Mata? What about Sita Lakshmi Kali Saraswati Parvati etc? Whatever happened to the sanctity of being a woman a lone defenseless woman at that??? Yes ok she was not torn apart but was manhandled for sure there's no denying that. What if it was a politico however minor in the same car at the same time?? Would be totally different na would be the labourer et famille manhandled if he was crazy enough to make a scene right?? Admit it people that's a fact. What remains to be asked is what to do how to fight this what action to take?

Shobhaa hats off to you once again you have shown you totally have the guts & spunk to stand up for what's right.

Grrrrr am fuming!!

Waiting for good news but thanks for putting the bad news on first it deserves serious attention publicity & action.

muthu said...

Politicizing every issue has become a way of survival... a pity but thats the truth.

Renegade said...

Aye aye ma'am, u shud see male drivers here in kolkata ranting on endlessly about d female folks behind steering wheel...try talkin sum sense into them n deir usual rant takes on a new degree, more abusive dan ever of course. Somehow dis country's stuck its rump in a nasty hole n refuses to budge anyhow..

Renegade said...

and i must add, respect for u, ma'am....:D

Khadija Ejaz said...

Holy smokes.

Digistrom said...

My friend took a few punches from a mob at Dadar because the cab he was traveling in knocked down a pedestrian. Mob fury is an ugly thing. I'd say your friend had a guardian angel... no, not you- uparwalla! :P

Priyadarshini Karanjai said...

Here they even ask for credit cards if victims are moneyless. Victims are usually 18 year olds. Going by 'real' India, it was really mild on your 'akeli aurat' friend.

Theyoginme said...

Shobhaa, Sorry to hear about this drama... I have been lucky to not experience this yet, except once when the rental car went over the curb island in the middle of the night near the Pune-Mumbai express way tunnel and a crowd of gunda types gathered to watch the tamasha of me and the driver literally lifting the car off the island and dash off. I admire your and your friends courage. This would never happen in the USA now matter whose fault it is. You could be sued later, but when accidents happen, the goal is to figure out if anyone is hurt, report the matter to the police, exchange insurance information..if injuries, Emergency vehicles are there in minutes. The real drama happens later when frivolous law suites are filed by attorneys whose life depend on suing and extracting money. A more gentle way of screwing you and your insurance company. Are you sure it doesn't happen to men... I think its related to the power of money.

vAnDaNa sLaThIa said...

well all i can say
indian cops
nothing to do with u being a woman

Anonymous said...

3,500 rupees paid without receipt
No calls to your friends

I am confused.

naval said...


Gajendra said...

Stalinesque purge ? what say ?

EQcoachindia said...

Hi Shobha, HAD EXACTLY THE SAME EXPERIENCE A YEAR BACK!! Well, your story took me back to the exactly same situation I faced a year back in Gurgaon. You can imagine as a 27 year girl caught in such nonsense scenario alone would have been like....this guy came running in front of my car when lights had turned green on a signal near signature towers in Gurgaon and after that it was pure harassment! They all gherao me , then cops came who wanted 2000 bucks but that guy who was working as a laboured was demanding much more than that, that too when he had not got even a scratch....finally after 5 hours of harrassment and 5000 bucks I could come back home and yes it was all because I was a young woman caught in this made-up situation!....cheers...mera bharat mahaan..!!

Opinionated Indian said...

I like the way you articulate. I am biggest fan of your blog. I watched you in Koffee with Karan. Both episodes, probably 10 times each. I probably remember each word of the show. You said that you will comment only about public utterences, public conduct of public figures in public places and you also would not comment on peoples personal lives even if you have access to those moments. I am noticing lots of incisive remarks on all the people you meet in page 3 parties(sudha chandran, she commands lot of respect in down south). It is not quiet done.

Nandini said...

These cops are sick!! It's disgusting enough that those lazy bummers who wander the streets jobless, find the perfect opportunity to harass innocent people going about their daily lives with a sense of commitment. These worthless characters demand their share in everything that seems fruitful, given the vulnerability of the situation, & behave like the eternal owners. I just wished we could boycott & not pay taxes. It feels as though we slog it out day & night to make a living, then give a share to the benefit of the 'others', & eventually end up also taking the blame for every injustice inflicted upon 'them'.

sourav said...

I am badly hooked to your are brutally honest and your humour is perfect.good job mam and never stop writing..

kala said...

As long as cops are drawn with least educational qualifications, with rough training and getting extremely low salaries, getting kicked by assorted political masters, getting extraordinary powers over everything they see, all these things are going to happen. We fear cops more than dacoits. It should not be the case. That casual labourer who was trying to balance his entire family on his scooter might have tried to avoid the car. Benefit of doubt goes to him as well.

Sanket Korgaonkar said...

I see the comments, and I read your piece with a clinical detachment. I am not fuming - because I guess I didn't expect anything different from the citizens or the cops. You tried your part - but its like treating the symptoms not the disease.

This incident comes from a country where we want to boast for our intelligence - recent economic boom and rich heritage - yet a place where a man bled to death on a New Delhi side walk - and citizens are driven so far into making their own ends meet - they have forgotten what makes them human - a mass of people with a rotten morale and appalling apathy.

Didnt expect anything different.

Wasnt there some cop in Mumbai - Marine Drive who had raped a girl when she had come to him for help


Anonymous said...

Totally with you on gender being one of the reasons behind the situation panning out as it did. Am glad you stuck your ground and didn't get cowered as that is another one of those qualifications that these abrasive cops and opportunistic retards who think they own the road pounce upon.

Man, haven't we all been where you have. More often than not, I find myself saying just out of sheer impatience (as some people in these conflict situations really have the capacity of just keep on repeating the same point.. like they thrive on endless empty arguments): so what do you want huh (read that as what would it take you to shut up and for both of us to move on haha. Stuff happens on the road. Have got a life you know!). Very escapist, but anything to keep the noise out lol. Would have reacted almost as defiantly and righteously as you have though (some cheek that scooterwala had eh)

Exceptionally articulate as usual, and yea bad news makes for exceptional reading. And well done for handling it as you did.

Keep on penning!

tash said...

Just wanted to say that i love this blog.. i am South African, my grandparents moved here about 50 years back. This blog is a means for me to connect to India! I am so fascinated by the country...this blog quenches my thirst to learn more about India.

Thanks Shobhaa. I love every bit of it!

sanjay said...

Hai shobaa mam,

A real ghastly experience. Because of cops who behave like this, much people have a bad image of cops even supposing some sincere and dedicate cops here and there. Any way eagerly waiting to c your post on good news.

*Aham* said...

This is terrible. But also a grim reality. We have the best laws, and most corrupt officials. Much that even if there are som good gems midst them... we find it too hard to trust.

And why should the driver always bear the brunt??? there are no pedestrian rules in our country????

Im happy that you did hold on to your ground until the last moment.

in the end i guess, Even the "asking" rate must have gone up after the person recognized you...

Zeba Talkhani said...

Wow. This is bad. Maybe vecause you guys are from the high society and must have looked too rich to lose an oppurtunity. Greedy assholes

Pratap said...

As a somewhat newly minted Punekar, I apologize for the behaviour of the cops.
I have had my own close encounter of the Pune cop kind - so I can imaginbe what y'all must have gone through.

I have always been an admirer and a fan. Now my respect for you (and your friends!) has gone up even more.

@theyoginme - I understand that unlike the US, auto insurance in India works different. Even if I get hit by someone else and its not my fault, I still have to pay for my own loss! This has happened to us on Marine Drive when a drunk driver rammed into us at 2:00 a.m. when we were stopped at the light near the Parsi Dairy kulfi shops.
We were told to beat the daylights out of him to vent our anger! Of course we did nothing of the sort.

Gossipgal said...

situation always worsen when cops arrive...

Nikki said...

Shit happens. Though I wish you had asked for a receipt.

Waiting for the good news write up.

fms1988 said...

Coz of weirdos like this india will sadly never change!Hell i wish it would :(
People like this bloody suck !

Riaz-NJ said...

If your friend's U-TURN move, without giving enough notice had caused the accident, then could be a "Victim Of Circumstances" situation... But not filing a FIR for (wo)manhandled is BAD.. you should have done that.. don't bother about the receipt, they have the ability to print anything and give it to you... What I LIKE is, you didn't bother to use your POWERFUL CONTACTS... few phone calls would have changed the whole situation...Is that magnanimous or you forgot your cell phone or just slipped from your mind or CONTACTS become powerless...!!!

Dazed by the Light I See... said...

I totally understand... As if its our fault that we are women, leave the fact that the man might the root cause of the trouble... This was the case in Pune... Ms.De you should come down to Orissa and see how it works here... The male drivers don't leave any space on the thin roads if they see the opposite driver is a female...
Hats off to you to settle things the normal way...

Sumit said...

sometimes, they make you feel as if you are guilty for having things working in your favour, and hence you have to pay up for their share of misfortune!!

NAT said...


It's nothing to do with the Gender factor. For money, they would screw anyone. Men can sometimes be aggressive and fight back, but you two Ladies would not stoop to that level.
It is not only the police who try to make an extra buck. You have civilized so called Doctors who do pretty well too, to knock off whatever they can.
In 1993, I was at a signal (stationary), when an 8 year old school girl tripped on some stones (road dug up)and fell on my bonnet. The girl's friend helped her and they both sat on the pavement.
I looked into my rear view mirror and then told my technician to go and see what happened, as the signal turned green. At the turn I stopped and went to the girl to find out if she was hurt. She said that she was ok and that her friend would take her home. However I saw her limping, and carried her to the nearest doctor, as the lane was too narrow to take her in the car. The doctor gave her an injection and advised me to take her to a hospital, as there were signs of a slight fracture. Since it was afternoon and both her parents were at work, I felt that it was my moral duty help out and took her to a private hospital.
My technician carried the child to the first (the rogue doctor charged me Rs. 400/for this service)floor of the hospital. She
hardly used the bed (Charges Rs. 600/)and Rs. 2,500/ for cast etc.
I paid it with disgust, and by cheque. I had already missed an important meeting and did not want to spoil my evening.
However when the rogue doctor asked the little girl if she were hurt anywhere else by the car, I let him have it, and asked him if he was really a qualified doctor, as if my car, a Maruti 1000 had hit/gone over the child's legs, she would have no leg, as she was very tiny and skinny.
I thought of taking him to task later, but for my little trouble, believe me. The very next day we received a MAJOR Contract, which was not projected in my Budget , while a couple of years later that rogue doctor was put in jail for illegaly selling Babies for adoption.
The above is not for personal appraisal, but testimony to the truth that there is ONE above who sees and pays one in this life itself.
What does the policeman do with all the hafta he takes from even a poor vendor? does he use it to enhance his Family's status. No he uses it to boose, gamble and....
There are educated people in all areas, Govt. Private Cos. Banking, Postal etc. who get handsome salaries, who take bribes. We cannot blame the policeman only.
It is for us people to decide if we want to encourage these parasites.


Shachi said...

Wow - horrific! I'm glad you guys didn't budge - I would have done the same as you.....

Anil Kumar said...

This country understands only the language of DANDA.

Few years back there was statistics that in USA one out of every 30 people have gone to jail for minor or felony charges at least once in their life. The jail terms could be given even if someone doesn't pay fines in time for traffic violations.

The fear of being in the company of notorious criminals and some NOT SO STRAIGHT people in jail definitely helps the people to think twice before attempting to extract bribe.

Sidhusaaheb said...

All you managed to do was to bring the quantum of the bribe down somewhat, it seems.


BTW, the argument about cops' salaries not being high enough being a reason for their demanding bribes is a lot of bull! A dishonest cop will remain dishonest, irrespective of his/her salary, unless there is a way to put the fear of God ih him/her.

Anil Kumar said...

At the time of partition lots of Hindu people living in Pakistan fled to India. They escaped death but lost everything they had in Pakistan in terms of properties, business etc.

To get back to their original status majority of these people looked for shortcuts to get back to their original status in terms of wealth. This created a culture of corruption, dishonesty and in the absence of any strong system (Thanks to Gandhi's governance), it spread everywhere.

Now the corruption has taken it's roots and has spread everywhere. It can't easily be removed unless their is strong punishment for minor offences.

Similarly the NANGA culture spread by those in TV media and bollywood movies has taken it's roots and will bankrupt this country from it's ORIGINALITY. The difference this time is that those in TV, print media and bollywood have become GREEDY TO BECOME NEXT MILLIONAIRE IN DOLLOARS.





Sometimes I wonder if it will help to bring in the gun culture in India. If everyone knows how to shoot...lots of politicians and media people will act responsibily. If they don't majority of those in MEDIA and politics will be attending lots of funerals of their collegues.

introspection said...

This is the kind of stuff/cops
our country is made up of....!

I have a very precise idea of what happened to your friend that night. Bcoz I am a Punekar (though currently I am in the US) and live pretty close to Oakwood.
Two things happened coz you were women:
First - the crowd thought they could get away with just 'tamasha' and extract money, inspite of knowing no one was hurt/your friend was not at fault. So they started it in the first place.

Second: If a male was really responsible for what happened, (and not a female as most of crowd may have thought happened), they would have physically assaulted to extent of killing him. So they spared you (but only in a way).

Your not paying up may have come as a hurdle to their thinking, but once Shobhaa arrived on the scene and even if one person recognised her, they knew they were up against a journo of no small importance. so they took what was offered to them and left. Your friend was wise to accept.

I am not surprised you picked up the cudgels for her and the whole episode. That's the Shobhaa I know & love and respect. Not the one who goes week kneead as soon as Bollywood offers a piece of pie to her in any way.

Knowing who you are, I am not at all surprised you did'nt make that single call to power corridoor to make 'choohaas' out of those pot bellied cops/lions.

But but, but. I see no reason to apologise on behalf of those cops. When u apologise it means that it will not happen again, but I am 100% sure this will keep happening with many citizens in Pune. I am ashamed of them, and I do hope some terrible thing happens to them that will change them forever, I dont care what it is. They even fleece the poor two wheelers who can ill afford their bribe.

As for Indian driving licences, the less said the better. It's a bundle of rubbish. Even the professional drivers do not take a written road test the way it happens in other countries.

But a great post Shobhaa. Hats off to you for your attitude and the powerful write up. You are at your best here.


Christine said...

Hi Shobhaa, this appears to be the modus operandi in Pune- my mother went through a similar experience a few years ago and that too close to the Mundhwa area(where the Oakwood premier is located).She was alone at the wheel,and the cops and labourers only left the scene after she parted with close to Rs.1000.. they cited these were for doc fees too..
Kudos to you and your galpals for going about this the right(albeit tough) route.The rest of us only talk ke "system ko badalna chahiye", but no one wants to bell the cat... someone like you takes the initiative and hopefully more of us will follow now on.. you go Shobhaa :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Shobaa,

I think you & your friends are really magnanimous. Anyway, God bless you.
It's like this: generally a lot of men dislike women who are on their own. It must have pained this man to see a lady drive a car (and as you've mentioned he drove a scooter) and so he found an opportunity to raise an alarm.
This is the case with both men and women and it's a kind of complex that makes these behave the way they do.
Can I call you a sweetheart?

Another Kiran In NYC said...

Okay so I may have a slightly unpopular view but then I speak my mind.

I have no idea if your friend made a illegal or non regular or sudden u turn or none of the above. But just in case.... she has driven carelessly (not enough to hit someone but to create unsafe driving conditions for other traffic on the road).... I have this to say. In the dark especially, a driver is not supposed to make such turns. It is unsafe and it can cause an accident... yeah even if the road seems clear. On that basis alone, if it is proven she was careless she should be ticketed for a moving violation (and that is a very, very serious thing). Where I live, I could have my license suspended for months at a time for an infraction like that. Your friend... if guilty of that... should consider herself lucky she only met up with corrupt cops and a Indian mob.

I am fully cognizant of how people drive in India, especially when they are on 4 wheels. It is now part of our culture and I have seen people getting hit and cars speeding off. Not once, not twice but many times. The seths driving or being driven in these cars, frankly dont give a damn. Given those circumstances I can hardly wonder that a mob will not try and get thier pound of flesh when they do get thier hands on the driver. As a woman your friend escaped what could have been a worse fate than being jostled and pearl necklaces getting ripped. Do I feel the mob should not have done what they did? Ofcourse I do, but then I can also understand the seething anger against "seth" log who have more and also have more means to hurt with impunity.

The cops behaved just like the rest of India does when faced with easy money. Face it, corruption is endemic and Kutty, Madan, Puri and I indulge in it everytime we give chai-pani money for the slightlest comforts to be accorded to us without effort. It is in our genes now. We are venal and dishonest. I also think we have been that for a very long time. It is not a recent thing. We have been a poor country for centuries (yeah, the Rajas were rich but the aam janta has been poor for thousands of years), Poverty breeds corruption. Perhaps we dont take suitacases of Bofors money, but the fact is that corruption touches us everyday and has become an A-moral (not moral/immoral) issue for us. The fact that Shobhaa and her friends did not make every effort to register a complaint against not getting a reciept, made that act an amoral issue at that point.

That you did not call friends in high places, is what I expected from you anyway. If you had done anything else, I would have been very dissapointed. So definately samjhey! said...

43 comments dekh kar hi chakar aata hai

Malavika Rane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ashok said...

Oh! What's so great about this? This happens everywhere in India - not only in Pune - and remember, this is the way it must be and will be till the Planet Earth is finally destroyed by some miracle from the Heavens!!!! Yeh Aisaa Hi Hota Hai!

COMMANDO said...

Dear all
this happens in India its true but i think the People who have not visited to other countries or if visited would have visited in the Luxuries, every country has the same problem but we are in the light,,,,
Some or the other 1 will have to take an inniciative
which i always try to do on my own
jai Hind
Jai Bharat

Aditya said...

If that laborer was a "Bhaiya" maybe you can go to Raj for justice...After all even Karan Johar did..isnt it? :)

maha said...

true facts yar...

Work from home India

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