Having handed over the last of a series of publications in the press, I heaved a sigh of relief and feeling exhausted but light-headed, drove straight to the supermarket to buy (unusually) junk food to celebrate the end of a busy period. Driving home from the supermarket, I turned a usually quiet corner and was stopped by a cop.
Oops! I had forgotten to wear my seat belt! The seat belt rule had just been introduced in Hyderabad, and predictably, many people forgot to wear it.
Cop: Seat belt nahi pehne?
Me: Sorry, bhool gayi.
Cop: Licence batayiye...
I open my wallet and produce a photocopy of my licence...a tattered A4 sheet folded many times over. When the cop opens the whole thing, it tears into half and threatens to tear into many more pieces.
Cop: Plastic card nahi hai kya?
Me: Last time card nahi diye.
Cop: RTA mein application diye to, platic card milega.
Me: Thank you...jaaoongi.
Cop: Aap ladies hai...fine dedijiye, main saab ko doonga.
The saab is checking another vehicle a little distance away, and has a 'chalan' book with him.
Me: Yeh seat belt ka...naya rule hai na?...abhi aadat nahi hai....
Cop: Ek baar fine bhar diye to aadat ho jayegi! (smiles)
Cop: Sau rupe...
I open my wallet. I have exactly Rs 30 with me! I am not nervous or scared, in fact, still elated despite all this...I feel cheeky enough to show the three ten-rupee notes to the cop.
Me: Sau rupe nahi hai...sirf tees hai...abbi mai supermarket mein credit card se pay karke aarahi hoon...
Cop (smiles): Phone karke kisi ko paise laane ko boliye...
Me (smiling back): Phone...nahi hai...
The cop looks at me disbelievingly...then pityingly. I am wondering what trouble I was going to be in now. Decided on one last shot...
Me: Arre...jaane dijiye na?
He looks at his saab, who is busy ‘chalaaning’ someone. All of a sudden, he smiles. In amusement, perhaps. And says...acha, jaayiye!!
Did I hear him right?! Yes!!
I step on the accelerator...sometimes it helps to have a tattered licence, an empty wallet and no cell phone!
One more thing...I have never forgotten to wear my seat belt again!