Stop! In the name of the law!
Stop me if I’ve told you this before… Actually, I don’t know how in blazes you’re going to stop me. I mean… It’s not like you can set time back to when I started on this article, trace me to where I was sitting, and yank off my keyboard. No. No can do. You can’t stop me. I’m unstoppable. I’m indefeasible, inevasible, inexorable…. Hmm… Apparently, I also babble. Let me start over.
Bear with me if I’ve told you this before. My brother bought a bike. He got hooked on the stylish alien design of Yamaha’s FZ-16, saved up money and bought it within the first couple of months that it got launched in India. In doing so, however, he indirectly unleashed a curse on the Bangalorean street. After all, this was THE reason why I took over his old bike and started riding to work.
Yes. I ride a bike to work every day these days. Some of you who knew me, and have seen me operate a motored vehicle, are either thanking their stars that they are not in Bangalore, or are contemplating whether they should leave Bangalore.
But I say that’s just a bit too darned cynical. I’ll have you drama queens know that so far, I’ve not had a single accident… or a even a brush with another vehicle. Nothing. My records are clean. Well, maybe not SO clean. No point getting overboard with the clean record thing, you know. You skeptics might be thinking “Aha! So it appears your record is not so clean after all!!” and displaying that disgusting smirk. Quit that. My record IS clean… technically… I mean… I think it is.
On my way to office, there is a small area that seems to be always crowded. This is the fork at Hosur Road, near Forum. Most mornings, the road seems narrow, and the sidewalk, wide. This sidewalk is typically deserted at that time. Lawless mavericks on two wheelers typically get fed up with the millimeter crawl on the regular road, and take off on the sidewalk, buzzing past hapless law abiding suckers with a smile on their face. This happened on a fairly regular basis, and I soon grew wary of my membership amongst law abiding suckers. So one day, I hopped aboard the sidewalk express, whizzing by silent mutters from the l. a. suckers, though I wasn’t smug enough to sport a smile. I typically get stuck in this black hole of traffic for five to ten minutes, and that day, I spent less than a minute on that stretch.
It worked. So I did it again. And again.
I was never alone in these criminal departures of mine. There were usually dozens of independent traffic dodgers who led the way to this ten minute advantage. It went well for a week or so. And then then my luck ran out. My luck, I have often observed, runs out at critical junctures. A coward, I say, the lil’ blighter.
One day, I was just starting on my sidewalk routine, when I spotted a bunch of cops in the distance ahead of me… near the traffic signal… They had apparently pulled over a bunch of bikers… Sidewalker riders, no doubt. One of them spotted me too. Crap. With the grace of a limp chihuahua, I quickly got off the sidewalk and dove into traffic. The traffic was halted at the moment, waiting for the green light. Once that kicked in, I’d ride straight up to the cop, who, I knew, would start reciting “Bribe me tender” in high baritone.
Maybe he won’t recognize me. But then again, it’s probably not a wise idea to plan a strategy around a chance that this particular cop was amnesiac. Risky assumption, you know. But he only saw me from afar. Maybe if I wore my shirt inside out? No, that won’t help. This shirt was the same color in or out. Maybe I can simply wait until the next… HONK! HONK!!!
Lights had gone green. Traffic started moving. People behind me communicated the infamous Bangalorean patience in the form of loud persistent honks. Hmm… Maybe I can just slip by if I go with the crowd and don’t brake for cops. Worth a shot? Not really. But seemed like a good idea at the time. So there I was, floating gently with the crowd, and I can’t say for sure that I wasn’t whistling nonchalantly. “I’m gonna make it.”, I thought… “No, I won’t… Yes, I will.. No, I won’t. Yes, I WILL, dammit. I WILL, and that’s that!”
The cop who had spotted me waded through the traffic and pounced on my bike, smiling smugly as he passed off the cliched comment “Where do YOU think you’re going, mister?”
How DO you react to this? Really… How? There are, of course, several options in front of me. I could be shocked… terrified. My escape plans thwarted by the long, traffic-wading arms of the law. Or maybe I could get defensive… talk about how frustrating traffic around here is… Maybe I could plead innocently… “Sir.. I’m sorry. This is the first time I’ve done something like this. Can’t you please forget about it this one time?” Or I can bluff around “Hey, do you KNOW who I am??”, though I admit I don’t see how that can ever go well. So, how did I react? As usual, I chose none of the above.
I laughed. A minute ago, I was thinking of evading the law by simply driving away with the crowd, and this coy cop swam through the crowd and reeled me in. I don’t really know what, but something about that was funny. I must have been laughing quite loudly too, cos the cop’s face was evidence that my helmet did nothing to muffle my mirth. At the time of capture, he was sporting a very coy smile; one that said “Ha!” far more effectively than actual sounds to that effect. Now, it was replaced by a look of bewilderment… and suspicion.
Without pomp or ceremony, I was pulled over to the side of the road, where I was asked to take off my helmet. He was probably trying to see whether he had imagined the mirth of the jolly sidewalk rider. I wasn’t laughing at this time, but I had a very hearty smile… and I still have no clue why I had one. So the officer decided to break whatever trance I seemed to be on.
“You know it’s illegal to drive on the sidewalk”
“Your license could be taken away, you know.”
Stop smiling, dammit. It was a moot point whether he would suspect that I was on crack or something. I figured he was just bluffing about taking away the license. I also figured that the best course of action would be to appear remorseful… sport a frown, look down on the ground, blurt out a sorry, squirm and everything… I figured all that… and I was still smiling as if I had just got away with murder. If I was riding a car, the cop would have insisted that I pop open the trunk, just to check if I was carrying bodies there. But then again, if I was riding a car, I couldn’t have ridden on the sidewalk to begin with, so I suppose there’s no point talking about that.
“There’s a 400 rupee fine on this…”, he put a bit of extra emphasis on the number.
“Oh? I see”, I said. I didn’t, of course. 400 was too steep. Somehow this didn’t do anything to my smile either. Now I was beginning to suspect I was on crack or something.
He then squinted his eyes, possibly hoping that I would buckle under that pressure.
“Ok. Your first offense. So pay up 200, and… do NOT let me catch you again, hear me?”
The actual fine for something like this, I later found out, was 100. But it wasn’t too surprising anyway. The Bangalore Traffic Cops’ motto, if I understand right, is “Hey, cops have to eat too.” I shelled out the money and rode off, still trying to figure out why I was so mirthful about all this. I know a lot of people who keep smiling all the time. One of my classmates back in college, in fact, had a smile on no matter what emotion went on in her head. She was probably born smiling. And there are some who, though not as extreme, are still capable of smiling at the drop of a hat.
What I’m getting at is… I’m not like that. I smile often, yes, but I’m usually quite serious around strangers. And though I have heard enough about Bangalorean Traffic cops who go Ka-Ching at traffic offenders, this particular cop was a stranger. And yet, I was uncharacteristically jovial. And I still don’t know why. But whatever. I’ve learnt my lesson. I’m taking the cop’s advice to heart.
I’m not gonna let him catch me again.