Sunday, July 21, 2013

Caught in the Act!

Pre Script before reading this post: 

-> I have high regards to people with disabilities and I am ashamed now for the fact that I was traveling in a compartment meant for them. 

-> I admit my mistake of traveling in a disabled compartment and the whole incident you are going to read below had a more serious and an uncertainty tag associated with it, though it appears cool right now. 

-> Moreover I from now on abide by the rules of the law and also I respect the police and the magistrate for all their duties on catching a person who has breached the rules.

-> Do send in constructive feed back.

Caught in the Act!

Thus at last that too happened. I was caught by Railway Protection Force for traveling in a Disabled compartment of the Mumbai local train. I was lured by the almost empty compartment for disabled and Cancer patients in the morning rush hour, when I boarded the train from Malad. I was standing in the compartment, to reduce the "ethical uneasiness" though there were seats to sit. Train reached Andheri. I was just browsing in my mobile(FB, what else), when a police man came and asked "Vikalaank hein kya". Oops, I was caught and realizing this, I murmured no to him. He handed me over to another policeman outside. 

"Ek aur mila". 

He showed me the sign near the door of the compartment which showed "Compartment for Disabled and Cancer patients" and said:

"Yeh dekh lo, phir police station jaake nahin bolna ki patha nahin kis liye pakde gaye".

The other policeman caught hold of my arm and asked me, whether I had the proof to indicate disability. I again said no. He had another person held on his other arm, who was pleading him to release him and stating he would be late for his workplace. I came to know that he was caught for spitting in the railway station. I was more like a rat caught in a rat trap, still surprised (stunned?) by the proceedings, and not uttering a word. Holding two of us, the policeman started to walk. I came to know from the conversation between the policeman and the fellow culprit that we were heading to the Andheri RPF police station. I was surely stunned but don't know why I was not feeling afraid or panicky. This is perhaps the first time I am being caught for a violation perhaps after 10-11 years. That time I was in Thiruvananthapuram, where in I was caught for driving my scooter before the signal turned green. That time I escaped from their clutches, though I was riding without my license, perhaps seeing my worried, teenage, innocent face.

Let’s come back to our present day events from the flash back. My face didn’t seemed innocent enough to the Mumbai police to leave me. I had worn a "Bulgaan(so called French Beard)", shaven just a day before to increase my "maturity" and "decency". This might have further reduced my innocence in my "paal vazhiyum" face. :) The policeman was holding both of our arms in his heavy hands just like people carrying ducks in their throat, through the busy Andheri railway station. Andheri RPF police station is roughly quarter of a kilometer from the Railway station. All people around were looking at us. I could sense their amusement, as I have been there in their shoes many times. Weird things came into my mind at that time. I visualized Sreenivasan in movies like "Akkare Akkare Akkare" and "Chandralekha"(I had seen this movie once again, a day before, perhaps the reason) being carried by the police, before Mohanlal comes to his rescue. The situation was similar here, though no one was there for our rescue. 

Soon we reached the police station. "Yeh dhonon bhi", the policeman carrying us said. 

I could see some 20 odd other people in the police station and the tiny room it was almost half full. "Purush Bandigruh" and "Sthree Bandigruh" were adjacent to this front room. I realized that all were caught for similar charges. As I have observed, anywhere you go, whether it be a job interview, studies, Short film festival, Baul music concert or in this case, even a police station as a culprit, you will have at least few with same credentials/interests as/than yours. That is the beauty of India. I checked with others for what their crime was. Majority were for travelling in the "Disabled Compartment". Few for spitting in the railway station and few others for crossing the railway path. Offenders were pouring in at equal intervals as the RPF police were on a catching spree that day. All sects of people were there. Few seemed IT professionals (even I am one, even now), one was a college student, a doctor, few daily wagers, a seemingly film professional, business men. The youngest one was a teenager and the oldest one a 50 year old. All were going to their work place/college. I also found that there were 3 Malayalees including the Doctor and me in the group.
All were restless and didn't consider themselves to have done a mistake and were pleading the police walahs to release them after paying the fine. They refused this and asked us to wait till the Inspector comes. Soon two lady police officers came in and took out a file which had a bunch of papers. The heading mentioned "Charge Sheet". Seeing this many had a sigh of desperation. A senior person in the group said: "Ab toh magistrate jaana padega. Aur der ho jaayega re." I was sure that I was going to miss my morning class soon as I was caught, so there was not much of an impact on me. People were more panicky on hearing this and started pleading the two policemen sitting in the front. The policemen refused and repeated what they said earlier. All were making calls to relatives, bosses etc. Soon the two lady police women started to write down the details of each of the culprits in the charge sheet. They were taking their own time chit chatting and making fun of each of the person while writing in the charge sheet. 
. "Jurm kya hein" based on which she wrote a Section number(mine was Section 155-1), "Naam", "Pathah" were the questions and also a sign on the back side of the charge sheet. The room was slowly getting crowded. I eagerly went and completed the formalities with the hope that I will be released soon. But that was not to be. The inspector came and called up the names of the first 6 from the list, in which I was part, to go inside the "Purush Bandigruh". There was also another person, who had attached Dr. prefixed to his name, to identify him to be a doctor.  The jail gate was not closed and inspector assured as soon as we went inside that we were not criminals and are being asked to stay inside the jail as the room is crowded and there was space constraint. He again assured the doctor that he values his profession and there wont be any verbal or physical abuse to anyone. I meanwhile found the things amusing and was naughty enough to send Whatsapp messages to my classmates explaining the situation and also browsing the Facebook(During that moment, I realised how addict I am to this social media, that I can't part with it even at the gravest of the settings). The police as said were indeed cordial with all and never spoke anything rubbish. Soon I started to voice record the conversations that were happening inside. One as I said was a under grad student, who had to submit his project report. He pleaded the police saying that others in his project group will not be able to submit theirs, in case he doesn’t reach the college. Another person was calling up his mother and saying that he was in a meeting at the office. I realised from the conversations inside that the Doctor saab was from Kasaragod and was a homeopathic doctor came to Mumbai for a conference. He was in discussion with a business man from Anand, Gujarat. Soon the inspector came in with the next set, instructed them to get inside the jail and again gave reassurances. He said if we comply, all the proceedings will get over in another half to one hour. 

The jail was a 2X3X4 metres cell. There were pan spits in every corner and there were no ventilation or light. Being the first experience inside a jail, I took a photo from inside the jail. With more people coming inside, it began to suffocate. Soon the inspector came in once again and called up once again the first set of people. 

"Iske andhar rahke kaise mahsoos ho raha hein? Saas atakh raha hei na? Yeh tho criminals ke liye hi sahi hein. Aap logon keliye nahin. Aap mein ek Doctor saab bhi tho hein. Dhoda dher hawa mein bhahar rahthe hein". 

Soon we were standing outside the police station, chit chatting each other. There were many and all of us were asked to wait until the charge sheet be prepared for all. There was another police officer guarding us who seemed rather new and jovial than the strict others. We just got to know about the further process from him. He opined that all will be took to the magistrate, where after the verdict as of how much rupees fine, will be released. 
People asked him, how much it usually will be, for which he said it depends upon the judge. He also said that this is a daily process and at least 50 get caught each day and the previous day the fine was Rs 300 and the day before it was Rs. 500. He said that the fine can vary from Rs 50 to Rs 500. Another person was bold enough to ask what happens if anyone run away. The police officer said politely that a case will be charged and he will be deemed as absconding and that everything was getting video taped.

Some were still pleading to the inspector to let them go for which the inspector said "aap thackerey ke aadmi ho, ya amitabh bhachan ki. Koyi phark na padne wala."
Soon the whole charge sheet making process was over and we were asked to make a group of three. The inspector commanded us to hold the hands. Other policemen were making sure everyone did this. Some were reluctant to do this for which he replied "Khush raho ki rassi se bhandha nahin". I and two others were leading the pack. We the group of 38 were walking under the command of the inspector across the busy Andheri roads, with people in the road quipping, "Kya hua?" as they saw the whole pack. 
Soon we reached the Andheri metropolitan magistrate court. The campus was busy enough that we were rarely noticed. Soon we reached outside the court. We had to wait till the charge sheets were processed and reaches the court. It was a 20 minute wait in there. Meanwhile the policemen surrounding us asked us to put the mobile phones in mute or switch them off inside the court. Soon the charge sheets came and all the 38 of us were guided towards the accused stand, big enough to accommodate most of us. There was a lady judge presiding and there was another case going on for which we had to wait to get completed. Judge provided some verdict and took up our case. 
The foreperson (the one who speaks for the whole jury, another know how gained) began to take the attendance, for which we had to raise our hands and the inspector said "Aye he sir" for each of us. Thus instead of giving attendance in the class I gave the attendance at the court. The whole dialogues were in Marathi and I couldn't sense anything. I just chorused what my fellow accused uttered. The question seemed to have "Do you admit that you have traveled in a disabled compartment?" for which all replied "haan". 
She gave a verdict, again in Marathi, which I later checked and came to know that was a fine of Rs.500. I was only having Rs 200 in my purse. We got outside the court and the police started collecting the money from each who had with them Rs. 500. Later they asked me to get the receipt from the room number 205. For 5 of us, who didn't had money but had the ATM card, the inspector collected our mobile phones and asked us to follow him to the ATM to get the money. Rest were asked to call up somebody and get money. 
Soon after a walk, found an SBI ATM from were I and fellow culprits(still culprits until fine is given :-)) withdraw Rs. 500 and gave it to the inspector along with other four. The inspector gave back the mobile and said "Beta, iska bill lena hein tho court me 205 room pe jaon. Yadhi nahin chaahiye tho aap jaa sakthe hein". Freedom after almost 3 hours of caged existence. It was surely a sense of relief and did got to know the meaning of what real freedom is all about. Also got to know that if you have eaten salt, you definitely will have to drink water, sooner or later. Made a decision that from now on, I would never get into another compartment other than the one I am legally supposed to get into. Also on a positive note got to know the various proceedings at a police station and a magistrate. 

Reached TISS by afternoon and shared the experiences with few of my friends. One of them was a pediatrician who is doing his Masters in Disability Studies at TISS and had his legs affected by polio from birth. He replied back "Bhahuth acha hua. Police ne tik kiya. Tumhe aisa sazaa hi milna chahiye." I showed him the receipt which had a mention of the Section under which I was fined. He took a note of it and said that in his home state of Bihar, people do this more often and no law prevents them creating problems for people including him. 

While in the evening it was raining and the trains had got delayed. 

In the Govandi station the speaker beamed with the Railway Rules.

Don't travel over the trains.
Don't spit in the railway station.
Don't cross the railway lines.
Don't try to board into a moving train.
Don't feed dogs in the railway station(??)
Don't travel in First Class compartment with a Second class ticket.
etc... and at last if caught will be fined.

I ruminated the whole morning episode upon hearing this, while waiting for the train. 

While waiting in the Kurla station, a person sitting nearby asked me: 

"Uncle, yeh CST keliye gaadi yahaan pe aayega kya?" 
"Haan yahaan pe hi aayega. Aap ko Dadar jaana hein?"
"Nahin CST"

I started of a conversation with him. 

"Aap kaam kar rahe hein?" 
"Haan Panvel mein"
"Kahaan pe" 
"SSV internet" 
"Aapke office Deonar mein hein?" As we had to get an internet connection at home.
"Deonar mein nahin he, Chembur mein hein" 

This guy was seen spitting in the railway station as he had pan in his mouth.

"Aaj mujhe police pakada thaa. Disabled compartment mein se"
"Oooo, kahaan pe"
"Andheri pe, wahaan pe 38 log the hum, jyadathar disabled compartment mein yaathra karne keliye, koyi railway line cross karne keliye aur koyi station mein dhookne 

I said to him as he was about to spit . He spit once again neverthless and said to me. 

"Hotha hein kabhi kabhi. Mere ko bhi ek baar TTE ne pakada thaa. Phir meine hath paav pakdke, gareeb hoon bolke nikal gaya"
"Chod diya" 
"Mein kabhi bhi ticket nahin letha hoon, harbour line mein, Panvel se Kurla thak" 
"Tho aap abhi bhi ticket bina yaathra kar rahe hein kya?" 
"Central line mein nahin CST mein khoob checking hothi hein. Mein harbour line ke bhaare mein bol raha thaa".

The train came in for Dadar and we both boarded the train. Soon the train reached Dadar and I bye byed my internet-wala, bina ticket se chalne wala friend and got into the Western line to catch my next train. The experiences continue in the local trains.

Thanks and regards, 

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