This was my entry to the Short Story contest organized by The Times of India in early 2007. It did not win any prize. The first paragraph was provided by the author and judge Anita Nair who hosted the contest. This story is based (and only based because my imagnination has supplemente it) on a true incident relating to the famous cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The case was lapped up by the media of course. Please bring English errors/typos to my notice.
Move with the times!
The alarm crowed. A lusty king of the farmyard cock-a-doodle-doo. He shut the mobile up. One hour and five minutes was all he had before his day began. He would steal five minutes from that. Look the other way, he told that frowning creature in his soul. I do it all the time. A little corruption. A little bribery. I negotiate with the world 24 /7. So why not an extra 5 minutes of sleep? he told himself and buried his head under the pillow. And so began another day in the life of an Indian.
However, time was when this Indian – an assistant sub-inspector with the traffic police in Ranchi – was really different. He was quite like the lotus in the mud. Everyone – from small fry to big cheese – in the traffic police was corrupt and unscrupulous but him. He was incorruptible, honest and principled. The city traffic provided enough opportunities for monetization – vehicle documents, road-rage, smoke emissions, speed-limits, overloads to name a few; but he always did what he ought to do unlike his peers for whom it was a licence to print money.
If only he had not become really ‘worldly-wise’ after what happened to him in the second week of January this year. The rules proscribed tinted glasses in vehicles because such dark glasses had shielded many crimes including rape and abduction. One day, on duty, he found a sports vehicle with tinted glasses as dark as coal. He applied the law as it ought to be applied. He challaned (fined) the driver of the applicable amount (900 rupees). The law-breaker reminded him that he was a ‘celebrity’ and that he had special permission to break the law lest fans mobbed him. But the request rightly fell on deaf ears. Law was law, come what may. Soon it spread like wildfire that India’s ace cricketer and celebrity was caught on a sticky wicket. The media deservedly praised this Indian and Indians were reminded that there still was only one law for the rich and the poor.
But the political brass predictably saw red. The Chief Minister decried the move and advocated how the celebrity needed special protection and that the police should be liberal while dealing with persons of his stature. This was the second time the cricketer was brought to book.
The politician used the most abused weapon. The conscientious Indian was transferred, period.
Now he is posted at a residential bazaar, a definite demotion. But there is more to it than meets the eye. He is a ‘normal’ Indian now, not the odd man out. Now, he knows how to look the other way. He will not be transferred again, he knows. There is always room for manoeuvre now with this Indian as he negotiates the city traffic.
He will soon be ready for duty. His duty is burying his head in the sand and look the other way while ignoring the frowning creature in his soul. He closed his eyes for another five minutes. Closing his eyes is what he does best now. Soon will begin another predictable day in the life of this Indian. He got rid of the albatross round his neck just like millions of other Indians.
He moved with the times!