Indian police - A foreigner's mystery
By Etan Doronne
25 Apr 2011
Tiffin with police inspector Hajare. - Oros, Sindhudurg, Maharashtra, India - An Indian Government tourist's delight.
It happened a while ago, but as with surprisingly pleasant experiences it takes some time to translate feelings into word.
My expectations were low when I learned from my town local policeman that I will need to visit the district government town to get myself and my passport visa registered.
Indian government officials in general are observed by the public as lazy and corrupted. I felt this day trip will be just a bureaucratic waste of time. Even if I accomplish my task.
I enjoyed the long bus ride in countryside villages. An oddity was the absence of a bus stop within Oros, the government district headquarters, a 10 minute auto rickshaw ride from the dusty junction where I stepped off the bus.
Waiting for a 'share-ride' three-wheeler to show up, I sat and had a bidi at the roadside kiosk. My first worthwhile experience that day was to see for the first time how a beedi is made. I took the chance and video recorded a tutorial by Vaman, the hole-in-the-box shopkeeper/owner.
The by-sitters tried to fix me up with a special ride that costs 30 Rupees, but I insisted on waiting for a reduced price share-ride and pointed to an older local lady that was standing waiting across the street. Eventually a rickshaw driver sitting unemployed for the past 15 minutes agreed to take me and the lady if I pay 20 Rupees. Ok, let me treat this lady to the comfort of a rickshaw duo.
The flowery rickshaw crawled along the uphill burning noon time road. From the gate the office complex actually looked OK. Many local government buildings are lined with mold and peeling/fading paint that make them look practically deserted.
Up at the office my eyes indulged in.... pink ! The whole space was painted pink. That could already alleviate the spirit. Many government offices I visited look as is if electricity era hadn't arrive yet. The spaces are so dimly lit and darkly painted that the feeling is either it's a siesta time, a cave or some place where people are allergic to light. I also can't help but play with the idea that bureaucratic transparency can't come to light in such a place.
I sat with a clerk that was surprised I spoke some Hindi and gladly introduced me to the office head, inspector Hajare. While moving hesitantly into his office I was immediately treated to a Barfi (caramelized milk cooked with a sweet spice blend). He chatted me up and I drew my card and told him about my village documentary project. His smile and surprise were merging well with the pink wall. I already felt among friends rather then Indian officials.
After I was registered in the 'Foreigners book' the inspector asked me if I would like to have some lunch. I was already smiling when he offered to share the wife's prepared tiffin (the Indian lunch box combo).
We went down to the government diner in the first floor, sat in a picknick table outdoors and he shared everything he had with me. I asked the nearest ex-diner to snap a video. Please forgive the jittery hand and enjoy this moment.
Getting up from that meal he invited me to meet him two weeks later at an improvised police station of a 2 day festival I was intending to attend myself.
As if that wasn't enough to convince me, three other chai miracles happened when I stepped back on the road outside, a various government bureau employees on their lunch breaks invited me for a cup while dining at the stalls along the main avenue.
The last of these cups was by my... police registrar. Coming back from his lunch break riding his motorcycle, he noticed me walking by the traffic circle. I had hardly recognized him, meeting only briefly before while overwhelmed with the office staff welcoming, until he reminded me. He stopped and order chai for us two and the gave me a ride, in his opposite direction from the office, to my bus stop back home.
Later I did look for him there, but it was so busy and crowded with hundreds of thousands and I believe he was busy securing politicians that arrived that same time.
Read my even more bizarre police incident:
More about my experiences in rural Indian villages and the 'My India' program on:
* Sindhudurg is an administrative district in the state of Maharashtra in India, which was carved out of the erstwhile Ratnagiri District. The district headquarters are located at Oros
The Konkan also called the Konkan Coast or Karavali, is a rugged section of the western coastline of India from Raigad to Mangalore.
Maharashtra, Marathi is a state located in India. It is the second most populous and the third largest state in India. The Western Ghats better known as Sahyadri, are a hilly range running parallel to the coast, these are a source of numerous small rivers which flow westwards, emptying into the Arabian Sea.