Am I not glad for having dragged this errant-driver-cum-errant-and-foul-speaking-man to the police station today? And he thought he could get away with a) taking a turn on my side of the road while entering the colony gate, landing in front of my car, and putting his fingers up gesticulating, instead of moving his car, b) daring me to call the police when I got off the car and said I was going to dial 100 (even as I took photos of the car and him), and c) having his employer (who appeared within minutes of his driver calling him up on the phone) gang up with him and gather ‘witnesses’ (where there was none, save for the gate guard and a guy eating his ice cream somewhat busily, it being 35 degrees already) to vouch for his innocence. The lone policeman appeared after what was easily more than 10 minutes (if this is the response time in south Delhi, what should one expect elsewhere?). His first reaction was along these lines: so much for such a ‘chhoti’ thing (he said chhoti cheez). Clearly he was not my (police)man.
What followed belonged to bizarre and surreal territory, because the driver had modified his version, as per which he had requested me to turn the car towards the left, there being more space on my side, and that I in my fury just reversed my car and then manoeuvred it back to the front to almost bang into his car (he forgot that there was a red car behind my car all the while, honking like only Delhiites do). That did it for me. I (and Ranjan, who had in the meantime come out of the office a few hundred metres inside the colony, and Georgie too) decided to make a formal complaint at the police station. There, the man and his employers fumbled with their narrative and defence. There was no internal logic to what the driver man was putting together. (The CCTV footage would have anyway given his lies away.) The staff at the police station didn’t take much time to demolish the man’s narrative. To cut a half-an-hour story short, he was told that he would be released only if I withdrew the complaint. Which I did, because the employer had made sure to tell us all that his driver had eight children (two were children of his deceased brother) to take care of, and also because I thought I did what I needed to do, which was putting a question mark in his mind about what he had done.
As of now, though, I am tired and have the feeling that a lot of energies were spent. In my pessimism, I wonder if anything has changed even a teeny-weeny bit. Did his formal, written apology signify an inner realisation? Most likely no. All that it has most likely achieved is that in future he won’t mess around with a woman. More for fear of the prison cell than a newfound respect for women and their right to not take the male ego and patronising lying down and driving away.
My condensed narrative may have rendered the actual proceedings quite dull and non-dramatic. It was anything but that, though.
So, when the inspector asked the driver how many fingers did he gesticulate with, he put all his five fingers up and mouthed some lines that he apparently said while he did so, unwittingly giving a lively demo and of course not realising that he had given a different version earlier. The employer and his father, when they realised that their guy’s version was not holding up, started talking about his children, how he had been their trusted employee for eight years (while writing out the apology letter on his driver’s behalf, the employer realised he knew only his first name, didn’t know where he was from, had never got police verification done, and so on).
For all that, though, they did put up a spirited, aggressive and false defence of him a while ago outside the colony gates. I had never before been up, close and against such lies. To see such a blatant and sudden misrepresentation of facts was a jolt out of the blue. Made me think I was in a bubble all the while, only reading about women facing and facing up to male violence, male power and male truth. To be honest, I was for a few moments intimidated by the gathering of men and ‘witnesses’ who were willing to vouch for those men, though I didn’t feel fear because I knew that I had the wherewithal to deal with them.
So, now I have the assurance of an apology letter and police warning for the errant man. Does that make me feel safe? Should it? Can it?
How can it but? Until there is even a single policeman who thinks a man trying to shout down a woman is a ‘chhoti’ thing, I will think twice, thrice and more before getting out of the car. I should, shouldn’t I? Or, shouldn’t I anyway?