Tuesday, March 20, 2007

One More Bitter-Sweet Experience!

20th March, 2007

When I came to Pune five years back, quite a few things surprised me, and one of them was the near-total absence of crime in the city. Anyone who’s stayed in this city for even a month would’ve noticed this. Pune was considered to be one of the safest places for women, and this trait of the city was lauded by all and sundry! I too have fond remembrances of hanging out till late, late nights with my friends… there have been times when I’ve been out till midnight and more all by myself, without facing a single instance of teasing, molestation or any sort of undesirable advances at all.

Slowly, though, the heavenly ambiance in the city started to deteriorate. The first shock came to me two years back, on 1st January 2005, when a hoodlum snatched a cell-phone of a young girl on the road, right in front of my eyes. A friend and I gave chase with the girl, and in a last effort to save himself, the hoodlum tried to cross a very busy road – he was hit by a truck. It was a shocking incident, but I thought it to be a one-off thing.

The next menacing incident happened a few months after the abovementioned episode, when I saw two young and very frightened females (they were juniors of mine from college) being followed by a drunk man on a bike, offering them to spend the night with him. I was outraged and once again stood up on behalf of the two girls. Being a tad older to them, I fortunately was able to keep my head, and did the most sensible thing that I could at that time – I threatened him that I’d call the Police if he didn’t clear off right at that moment. By God’s grace, it worked.

After that, I noticed an alarming rise in the occurrence of such things. I realized that it was not only me, but many others like me who were getting into pretty sticky situations like this. Still, I kept telling myself, Pune’s a much safer than many of the other places in the country. But a chain of events in the recent past, some related to me and some to other guys and girls I know here, have planted serious doubts in my mind about the safety situation in the city – and that doubt was transformed into belief by a very unpleasant event that I was subjected to in the early hours of 16th March, 2007.

A friend of mine, Prateek, and I usually go out for post-dinner walks whenever he’s in town. On 15th night too, we went out for a walk. We were a bit late, but we thought “what the heck, 11:30 pm in Pune is evening!” Never, in our wildest dreams, did we expect what was to come our way…

At around 12:30 am, we returned home. Just as we reached the parking lot, Prateek realized that there were two guys following us. Before he could tell me anything, or gather his wits together, the guys had caught up with us… one was carrying a huge but blunt iron sword, and the other promptly sprinkled red chilli powder in our eyes. They then demanded that without raising an alarm, we hand over our cell phones and valuables to them. I gave my cell-phone, and Prateek also surrendered his cell phone and wallet. Then, pretty coolly, Prateek asked for his sim card, and I too seconded his request. To my utter surprise, they actually gave Prateek his cell phone back to take his sim card out.

However, while he was trying to take the sim cards out for both of us, the first guy, who was carrying the sword, turned his attention towards me and started misbehaving with me. I kept shut for a while, scared that if I raise an alarm they might harm Prateek. But the guy went further and further – he nearly tore my t-shirt off, and demanded that I take my jeans off. Well, perhaps the only thing that a woman would prize above even her life is her modesty/chastity – and that is exactly what prompted me to resist the hoodlums at this stage. I spoke up, and refused to comply with his demand, come what may… although I was scared about Prateek, I realized that the guy who was holding him back was actually not a very potential threat. It was the guy who was misbehaving with me who was more menacing.

My belief was confirmed when at this point, Prateek managed to throw the other guy off himself, and came to try and protect me. The first guy caught him by the collar, and saw the gold chain that Prateek was wearing. He immediately demanded that he take it off, but by that time both of us had recovered somewhat from the shock, and perhaps emboldened by the fact that we were now right in front of the staircase leading to my flat – so Prateek refused, and dared the guys to come any further…

At this stage perhaps even the hoodlums realized that they were now treading in dangerous waters, so they just went away, and we came back to our respective flats. After giving each other a bit of time to recover, we met up to decide the further course of action. An FIR seemed the most sensible thing to do, but right at that time, we were not sure if even the police would take any action, so we decided to postpone it till the morning…

In the morning, we went to the nearest Police Station, and lodged a complaint with all the details. Although we were quite skeptical about recovering any of the stolen items, but we thought it best to let the records stay.

Much to our surprise, however, the very next day the Police called us up to inform us that they’d caught a miscreant, and perhaps we should come down to identify him. We did, and realized that he was indeed the one carrying the sword! We lost no time in informing the Police about our unswerving identification, and the Police reassured us that we’d get our stuff back in some time. We were still skeptical, but humored the Police staff, and came back home. Inwardly, though, we did marvel at the fact that it’d taken them just a day to catch up with the hoodlum!

On the 18th, the Police called us again, asking us to come down to take a look at the recovered items, and whether our things were among them. Unfortunately, we both could not make it that day. But yesterday, on 19th March, Prateek and I went to the Police Station, and sure enough, there were our cell phones, Prateek’s wallet, his Debit Card, Driving Licence, and most other documents! Not all the things were recovered, but that just makes up 10% of our lost items, and we are not complaining at all!

Almost every one knows the lousy reputation that the Indian Police System has. I myself, being a law student, have a pretty good idea about how the system works, and I can’t deny that both Prateek and I constituted that category of people who have no trust whatsoever in the Policing of our country. When we’d registered the complaint, we’d no expectations whatsoever of the miscreants getting caught, our stuff getting recovered, and all our work getting done without having to pay a single penny as bribe to the concerned officials! Kudos to the Maharashtra Police officials!!!

Today, I take this opportunity to tell all you people that perhaps, after all, we are a teeny bit biased! There still are some people in the system who work, who are honest and who try their best to uphold the dignity of their uniform! I take this opportunity to thank all the concerned Police officials, who did their duty so efficiently, and in return, today, I make a promise to myself and to the Police System – that from now on, I will never, ever, begrudge the Police System, and I’ll give them all possible help whenever they require it, whether in this case, or in any other case! Not so surprisingly, even Prateek echoes my sentiments, and has vowed to do any work for the Police that they may require of him!!! Once again, a big, big Thank You to the Maharashtra Police on behalf of both of us!

The incident has scarred us, and has left a bitter taste in our mouths. Prateek and I both do wonder at times, what we did to deserve this, where did we go wrong… Pune being such a safe city and being known for its night life, it is actually no big deal to be wandering outside our homes at midnight, and we’ve been used to this lifestyle for the past couple of years. The law and order situation has, evidently, deteriorated. But as long as such Police Officers are still in the system, we can perhaps still breathe a sigh of relief.

Reminds me of a popular saying… “All’s well that ends well”!!


Sujatha said...

amazing hun...thi sincident does inspire faith in the police services...thanx 4 sharing