Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Six big cops on a train to Mumbai

My dear family, friends, colleagues and students,

Ashok Gopal is one of my dear and close friends from the old Maharashtra Herald ("old MH") days in Pune, where I used to work during 1983-96.

A professional writer and editor, who has made "free-lance work" a fine art and science as well as livelihood, he is also a great story-teller. He loves to travel, while on writing assignments or simply for pleasure. Here is one of his travel stories.

By Ashok Gopal

GETTING into the AC coach of a Mumbai-bound train at Jhansi on 6 March 2012, I was thrilled to see that it was practically empty. I had the whole place to myself.

Then, I heard familiar voices. Or, rather, a familiar language.


Marathi: as spoken on the street; with lots of not-nice references to mothers and sisters – references made even in everyday conversation (eg, in a hotel, " ****, I will have a wada sambar", " **** this sambar is too sweet").

I drifted towards the voices and asked its owners, a group of six big men, "Kuthe nigale?"

They almost pounced on me – for help!!!

They had got into the train near Gorakhpur the previous night and they learnt only later that the train did not have a pantry car. So, they had spent the whole night hungry and thirsty and now they wanted to know, from me, how they could survive on anything other than samosa and kachori, which seemed to be the only thing available at Jhansi station.

I sat down and gave them a succinct lecture on "How to survive in long-distance trains without pantry cars", having had that experience many times. I told them how in most stations you can buy dry fruit / lassi / banana / bread and butter. They listened intently. I could have been the Buddha speaking and I saw the spark of illumination in their eyes … which didn't help them one bit because, by then, the train had started moving ... and the next halt was four hours away.

Hungrily, they told me another recent sad story of their lives.


THEY TOLD me that they were Mumbai Crime Branch men, in mufti, who had gone to Gorakhpur, to trace two fellows who had committed a "dacoity" at Thane railway station.

I would have loved to hear all the details. But they were more interested in telling me about loose motions, caused by drinking Gorakhpur water, and eating oily food, and maida rotis ... They went on and on, with each one adding details of the number of trips made per day to the toilet ... the lowest number was six, the highest 16.

(They did give me one nugget about their work though: throughout their operation, they had kept the Gorakhpur police in the dark. Why? "They would tip off the suspects!" the senior-most of the men told me. "In UP, police protect criminals, not people!")

Some hours later, they went to sleep, but were rudely woken up at Bhopal railway station by RKs. Not Raj Kapoor fans but “Retired Kothrudians”. A demographically, physically and economically very powerful lot, RKs are known to travel in large numbers, all over India, using their VRS / Pension+DA / Mutual Fund savings, etc.

You can see these hardy, healthy RKs any time and any where in India, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Many of the RKs who got into the train at Bhopal were tooth-less. But certainly not tongue-less. So in no time, the coach, which had been like a Vipassana centre, seemed like the Margao fish market.

One of the "crime branch" men complained about this change, loudly, and one of the oldies heard the comment and went into a tizzy. "Tumhi pan Marathi ka?" he exclaimed, as Neil Armstrong would have done, if he had come across ‘the Mallu with the puncture shop on the moon’ (with a telescope you can see him, on New Moon days).

The "crime branch" men smiled thinly, but the oldie, who was soon joined by three others, was not going to give up. He wanted to know everything: where they were coming from, where they were going, what happened, what they saw, what they ate ...

The senior ‘crime branch’ man said sternly: “We are railway officials on an inspection tour. We are travelling on work.”

The man made this statement with enough expression to suggest, "Please vanish!" and the oldies got the hint. They went away mumbling.


OF COURSE I was stumped. The senior "crime branch" man then told me: “Aaho, it was okay telling you we were from crime branch, but if we tell that to a whole train compartment, what is the use of being in mufti?”

A very sensible answer.

But it makes one think: “Were they really crime branch men? What was the proof? (Anyone can get a fake I-card printed). What if they were really railway men? Or what if they were actually dacoits, pretending to be policemen?

These questions raise one mighty question: how can one be 100% sure that people are what they say they are?

However, at least in this case, there was no room for doubt. In the upper berth, above the senior crime branch man, and unseen by the RK oldies, were two young males, almost over each other. At first, I thought they were gays. Then I saw they were handcuffed, and both pairs of handcuffs were tied by a chain, with a lock, which was tied to one of the iron rods above their heads.

Between the 6 to 16 rounds made to the loo, or a nearby field, the crime branch men from Mumbai in mufti had got hold of their two "dacoity" suspects ... in some village near Gorakhpur!


AFTER THEY had finished with talk about loose motions (but obviously not finished with doing the motions), the policemen turned to other things. For some time they played rummy. One fellow, the paunchiest of the lot, who was for some reason called "Negro" (he was not black) kept winning and after every victory, he announced, "Satyame Jayate!" (Truth shall prevail).

Then, they kept away the cards and shifted to fiddling with their various phones.

Then, they ate bananas.

Then, they talked about the efforts being made by the youngest among them, to find a husband for his educated and working sister. It seems there was a promising match, but the husband-to-be said that he wanted to see the pay slip of the wife-to-be. To which, the young policeman said, “FO!”. That ended the marriage negotiations. The other policeman agreed that the young policeman had done the right thing; he should have gone further – and landed a kick on a sensitive part of the husband-to-be's backside.

While all this was going on, the two handcuffed suspects sat up and looked down at the policemen. ‘Negro’ told them: Didn't we tell you to keep lying down? The suspects complained: Bore ho raha hain. And it is highly uncomfortable. Negro said: You should have thought about that before committing the crime. Suspects said: We didn't think so much that time ...

Then ‘Negro’ pronounced a quotable quote. (Okay, it's not like something out of Shakespeare, but it still has much meaning)

Negro told suspects: In life, you have to think, you have to think always, especially if policemen are going to be involved. Because, ek baar aadmi police ke jaal mein phas gaya to uska murgi ho jata hai. ("Once in the net of the policemen, a man becomes a hen.")


Thank you, Ashok, for adorning my blog as a guest blogger. I hope you will come back with yet more stories for our reading pleasure.

You may get in touch with Ashok Gopal by email on: ashokcvgopal@gmail(dot)com.

Your support is my strength,

Peace and love,
- Joe.

Pune, India, Tuesday, 3 April 2012.


Joe Pinto said...

Amith Prabhu writes from Chicago:

Dear Joe Sir - Thank you for having a guest blogger.


Dear Ashok Sir,

You brought a smile to my face, with an enjoyable real-life incident, told in an interesting way. As if I was on the train with you.


Mohan said...

why have I stopped getting an alert when you post your blogs?

Carol, San Francisco said...

Dear Mr. Pinto,
I happened upon your blog and instantly felt at home. I have only read one or two selections yet this small dip into your postings has been rewarding and oh so pleasant. You have many of the same literary heroes as I, and offer a knowledge of Indian culture which I lack. Thank you.
Please continue!

Cheap Flights to Mumbai said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joe Pinto said...

Thank you, Carol from San Fransisco, for your kind words.

You belong to a city that is an inseparable part of peace-lovers like me, who grew up in the 1960s with flowers in our hair, and making love, not war.

Feel free to ask anything you wish about Indian culture.

Peace and love,
- Joe.