Having a policeman in the neighbourhood
November 6, 2009 Leave a comment
In the times that we are in, having a policeman for a neighbour would be so reassuring isnt it.
The following is a brief memoir of our colony ‘kaaval deivam’ during the 90s.
Bulky almost ‘Gundu-Kalyanamish’ body, clean-shaven brahmin, this inspector was our neighbour. Just a vacant plot seperating our houses, i could get a clear view of their house as we didnt have a “compound wall” on that side of our fence.
If I am asked to name our other neighbours, after a struggle i may probably name some ; But in his case i just dont have a problem.
His name back then and now is the same : Inspector Maama. We didnt bother to know his name and he never bothered to tell us as well. Come to think of it, I even doubt whether he was an Inspector in the first place.
He had a rickety cycle which he would religiously clean once a week or so. That was the only time, we could get a glimpse of his daughters who ran errand service for him during the cleaning process.
No one would speak to his family. His wife was believed to be a hysteria patient though admittedly I didnt see or hear her doing anything hysterical. During full moon or new moon days, I would pay a little extra attention to “tap” any noises emanating from that side. We had a huge neem tree on that side of our fence which was a ‘reassuring thought’.
Whether his wife was hysterical or not, i dont know for sure, but we saw very little of her.
Well water was the primary source of water and most households didnt have motorised pumps. So it was common for the womenfolk to extract water, wash clothes at the well-side (‘ Kennathadi’). We didnt even see her at the well-side which probably fuelled doubts about her mental balance even more.
Back to the Inspector Maama, very rarely would one see a PC or someone visit his house to pass some files or something. Another vivid memory I have is that Inspector Maama hardly left his house.
Once when I asked my father as to why he doest budge out of his home more often, I was told that ‘Inspector Maama’ was in some ‘secret branch’. May be ‘Q’ branch.
If this guy was indeed a sleuth, then he must be some sleuth who followed his criminals without leaving his home.
While all other maamas of the neighbourhood would be racing against time from 7.30 am, our Inspector maama was full of peace.
The 8.15 vivid bharathi jingle announcing the start of the ‘Ungal Viruppam’ was probably the ‘flash point’ of marital discord in most homes in our colony.
‘Innumma ready aagala’ was probably the common phrase in most homes.
If lunch box was not ready, the wife had it ; If cycle was not outside the home, facing the direction of the railway station, the eldest son had it.
Other maamas would just let off their steam.
As if to rub salt in their wounds, our Inspector maama could be often seen carrying a huge bucket, with towel protecting his honour and walking leisurely to the well side.
He would drench himself with about 25 buckets of water and have probably the most leisurely and luxurious bath in our whole colony. What can be more luxurious than a bath at 8.30 am in the morning ?
After the wells in our colony had dried up, we had to depend on ‘Paalar water’. And with it came trouble.
The water connection had meters of brass which attracted the immediate attention of petty thieves.
Bhuvaneswari Nagar, 1st Cross ; Then 2nd Cross ; Then 3rd Cross
The petty thieves were working in orderly precision. It was only a matter of time before our cross, 4th or 5th i dont remember, would be under seige.
Now our colony was looking upto our ‘braveheart’ Inspector Maama to defend us from the ‘petty thieves’.
Soon disaster struck our colony. The first 5 houses in our street had their brass meters stolen.
Shobha De may be livid that i am equating the brass meter theft to mumbai terror but genuinely the feeling in our colony was ‘Enough is Enough’. So a team of elders from the colony approached ‘Inspector Maama’ to control the scourge of theft.
‘Lead us kindly light, Oh Inspector maama’ was our humble submission.
Overwhelmed by such instant attention and cries for help, Inspector maama decided to swing into action.
As a pro, inspector maama knew where he had start.
He had to start ‘inspecting the site of the crime’.
He visited the ‘affected households’ and commenced his inspection.
“Hmmm…expert job…I think they have used wrenches”
“See…here are the footmarks”
“Do you see this chappal mark on the compound wall…I think the fellow scaled the wall from this side”
All of us were mighty impressed with Inspector Maama and his deductions. He was our own Sherlock Holmes. Our saviour, Our protector.
“All of you give me a written complaint…I will take care” Inspector Maama proudly proclaimed.
The maamas scrambled for white paper, carbon sheet and promptly gave him the written complaint.
Hoping against hope, we were waiting for good news from Inspector maama.
Few days later, “terror” stuck my home. The meter of our home went gaayab and the whole world cried along with us.
Wondering why ? The chori happened on the night of 21st May 1991. Rajiv Gandhi had been assassinated by LTTE.
This presented a problem for me. My father wanted me to go to the Police Station to file our ‘written complaint’ for meter theft.
“Why dont we give to Inspector Maama ?” I argued, fearing the visit to a Police Station.
My father would have none of it. Unfortunately for me, Inspector Maama too was not at home. Though i very much doubt, whether i would have mustered enough courage to walk into his house as well.
Cursing my luck and trembling in fear, i pedalled my way to the police station. The streets were littered with glass pieces of the street lights which were stoned by the miscreants.
The police station was located just off ‘Varadharaja theatre’.
Legs trembling i walked into the station. If only Inspector Maama was there, my job would be easy. I prayed but God was not on my side.
No sign of Inspector Maama
Writer gave me a funny look wondering at the audacity of a frail boy entering the station on a day of chaos.
“What do you want ? ”
“Want to give complaint…meter theft…bhuvaneswari nagar” I very much doubt whether i was even barely audible.
The writer motioned me to leave it on the desk. I placed it on the desk and put a paperweight on top.
I turned around and walked as fast as i could, out of the police station. The last glimpses i saw was 4 men, stripped to their undies, crouched inside the “lockup”.
I came to the cycle parking area, wiped the sweat pouring from my face and started pedalling back to home.
I resolved that day that i will have nothing to do with “Inspector Maama” in the future.