My daughter’s bicycle was stolen, one day, from our house. Dreading the red-tape, I chose not to file a complaint with the police and accepted the state of bikeless existence, philosophically.
But, Life –as we all know- has a knack of throwing up unexpected surprises. Two months after the incident, there was a knock on the door. It was the police ! With the thief in tow ! The serial de-biker had been caught red-handed recently and he was pointing out the several houses whose owners he had stripped off their bicycles.
“Would I be good enough to come down to the Teynampet police station to identify the bicycle ?” asked the policeman, belching out the words in the manner unique to cops.
”Sure” I said, thrilled at the prospect of delighting my daughter as soon as she was back from her Maths, Science and Sanskrit tuitions and imagining her clapping her hands in girlish glee.
I reached the station in less than 15 minutes, identified the gleaming bike and got on to it to drive it home.
“Not so fast , “ said the cop, spitting out his betel-nut and blowing his nose at the same time. . “You need to file an FIR first for our records, and add an explanation why you had failed to register a complaint for two months”
I started to fill up the form , Anything, I thought, to please my darling daughter. Having done it, I asked if I could have the keys please ?
“No way “ said the constipated cop, his flatulence acting up. “ You need to come to the Saidapet Court tomorrow. There are procedures we need to follow..
So, the next day I found my way to the seedy Saidapet court, informing my office that I would be late by an hour or so.
An hour passed. Two. But no sign of my bicycle. Business worth crores of rupees was slipping away at my office, while I was aimlessly whiling away my time on the verandahs of law courts, for a bicycle whose book-value was less than Rs 1000, I thought. I confronted the constipated cop finally and enquired what was happening. He let out a gas-loaded burp and then explained that I needed to file a petition before the Hon’ Court pleading for the release of my cycle and added that I would be well-advised to appoint a lawyer to write this out on stamp paper. The lawyer would charge Rs 250/- for these efforts and the stamp paper would cost Rs 100/-
“Here’s the money” I said in disgust, “now can you get on with it?”
After a few hours, the petition was ready and duly stamped.
“Now what ?” I asked
“ Be patient. You have to appear before the judge, only when your turn comes”
After disposing off half a dozen cases involving pickpockets, bootleggers, pimps and other scums of this earth, the judge summoned me to the witness box and asked me to solemnly swear that the bicycle was genuinely mine and that whatever I had stated in my petition was true to the best of my knowledge and belief. This I confirmed with all sincerity and honesty and asked, “Can I leave now and take the bicycle too?”
The judge admonished me sternly for the impertinence and, for a minute, I got this sinking feeling that he was going to have me beheaded.
What I was required to do, he told me, if I wanted to take the bike home, was to execute a personal bond for Rs 1000/-, promising to return the bicycle back to the Court if a trial later found the accused not guilty. How the low-criminal who had already admitted to the offence would ever be found not-guilty was more than I could imagine, but I agreed to do as per the instructions of the Hon’ Court and now, for God’s sake, would they let me take my bicycle home ?
I, of course, had presumed that the bicycle was parked next to the judge’s chambers, they would give it to me in a grand ceremony and it would be a simple matter of pushing it into the car’s boot and driving home, where my daughter was, no doubt, waiting with her nose to the window pane.
No such luck. The bicycle was not in Saidapet. I had to go back to Teynampet police station to pick it up. The constipated cop kept scratching his head in the time-honoured tradition of cops, hinting that some currency notes had to exchange hands, if he had to part with the keys and send me home. I had run out of change and the constipated cop wouldn’t accept credit cards. So, I had to give him a crisp 100-Rupee note to coax the keys out of him.
Finally, at 8 PM that evening, my daughter got her bicycle back. Lucky girl.