… now fuck off.
That the north is full of violence is something we all know. I don’t usually talk about it because linking to another bit of violence achieves nothing. In fact as Jammie says, we deserve credit for the art and culture and creativity that manages to flourish in the midst of it all. But last night something happened that really bothered me.
My parents are in town and we were out for dinner along with my aunt and her kids, Cousin J and K. People have often warned us not to do late nights in Gurgaon but I take it with a pinch of salt as the fears of paranoid people. It was midnight and we were all well-fed, content and very sleepily heading home. There was a traffic jam up ahead and we stopped. No one really paid attention. The OA who was driving finally got off to see what the hold up was and my mum was about to join him when I told her not to get off in Gurgaon in the middle of the night. The Bean was curled into my lap and the Brat in my dad’s arms.
The OA went by himself and didn’t come back for a while. I began to panic. Cousin K offered to get down but we were all jammed into the back of the car and seats needed to be folded for him to get out. While we were still discussing it the OA came back and got in, traffic began to move and we drove on. Up ahead a cop waited for everyone to pass and then dragged the road barrier in front of us. I don’t think we realised what was happening. It struck us all together. He was blocking us off!
And then in the headlights of the car he glared menacingly at the OA and said – “Ab tu aa ja. Utar ke baat karte hain. Side mein laga, tere ko batata hoon.” He had been stopping truckers in the middle of the road and taking bribes. The jam was because he was bargaining with them. The OA had coldly asked him to conduct his dirty business somewhere else instead of holding up traffic. I don’t know what prompted the man to do that because it was just such a dangerous thing to do. Taking on Haryanvi cops at midnight.
And then while we all watched him framed in the headlights, a couple of other louts walked out from the dark. Not uniformed cops. Just louts who hang around there helping him enforce law. Probably support from some local thugs or politicians. The OA and I were horrified. This was the road to our house. One we took all the time. Thankfully it was a cold night and so the windows were up and the doors locked. They surrounded our car and looked in – surveyed the scene – only one adult man worth the fight – three older people, two women and a young boy. Then they began to hammer on the car and on the windows. Bang, bang, bang – terrifying the kids who clung to us. The OA took a moment to consider. It was his father in law’s SUV and his entire family in there.
And then we all began to murmur, absolutely terrified, Move, move, move. My father, an older man frustrated and hampered by grandson in arms and family in the back seat said – ‘He’s bluffing, rush him.’ The OA knew that of course but he was just torn by the family sitting in the car, the risks he’d be taking with them as well as a vehicle that was not his own. Once he had their blessing he stepped on the pedal and gunned for the cop who just shot out of the way realising that we were not scared. We wove through the barriers he had dragged to stop us and we were out with barely an inch to spare, my father’s precious car safe. And then we needed to take a U-turn and these guys jumped the divider and gave chase. We were in a car so naturally we were faster, but they chased us down the road for quite a while. Not until we’d turned into our gated community and parked did my heart beat return to normal. I would have frozen in terror but the OA has very cool nerves that get us out of bad situations often.
I have in my teens jumped red lights or skipped checking for registration with my brother and other male friends. The method when you escaped was simple. The pillion rider dropped low and covered the registration plate with their hands or a register. Since I was the pillion rider I was usually at risk in case the cops whacked us with a stick. Anyhow, they were cheap college thrills.
But sitting there in the car with my slowly ageing parents, my children in my arms, my loved ones around me and the OA at the receiving end of their ire, nothing was funny. It has left everyone rather upset and my father spent the morning planning a letter to the news channels about people being harassed by cops instead of being protected. I tried to tell him this is common in Haryana but he was too upset to listen. It’s been 24 hours and I am still worrying about it. I am so glad the OA was driving because he is definitely the best driver in our family. Often Cousin K drives us back on late nights because he enjoys driving and has recently learnt and got his licence. The roads are empty and we are in no rush to get home so its good practice for him. I was so glad for the way things worked out and I am so grateful that we didn’t get off and get dragged to some local thana for having the audacity to comment on their bribe taking.
Thankfully my parents will take their car and leave in a couple of days so noting the registration won’t matter. I just hope that cop is not put on duty in this area because I don’t want the OA driving past him ever again. I know this is nothing unusual and people have experienced worse in Haryana. But I miss Delhi all the more after this and wish we had never moved here. The roads are often deserted in stretches and the cops are terrible. For now, I’m getting into bed with my little family and hugging them close, glad that nothing worse happened.