Tarun was on his way to school. He had been observing the traffic constable at the intersection of the two main roads near his school for a few days. The constable had a funny way of controlling the traffic. It was as if he were performing Bharatanatyam, a classical Indian dance. He would click his boots and stamp his feet while turning around and making deft signals with his hand. Tarun knew that this was a peculiar style and enjoyed the show on a daily basis.
Today, however, was different. Today, Tarun was disappointed. It seemed that the old constable had been replaced with a new one. The new guy was nothing like his predecessor. Dejected, Tarun turned to walk to school when he spotted an old woman across the road. She looked like she wanted to cross over, but seemed hesitant. She was apparently scared of the traffic. Tarun wondered if he should go help her. But while Tarun was still making up his mind, the traffic constable had already reached out to her. He stopped the traffic on both sides and helped her cross along the pedestrian crossing.
When the old lady and the constable neared him, Tarun mustered the courage to ask, ‘What happened to the other constable, sir?’
The new cop looked at Tarun, as though chiding him for his audacity. He seemed to say, ‘I’ve got no time for silly questions, young man!’
However, his expression changed at once. A kind smile lit up his face. Tarun could read the plastic stripe above the constable’s shirt pocket. It read: Sanjay Kumar.
‘Well, he’s been posted to another area,’ said Sanjay. ‘We traffic constables are periodically shuttled from one place to another, you know!’
‘How come?!’ Sanjay wondered out aloud. And then it suddenly dawned on him. ‘Hmm, well, because the government wouldn’t want us to get too familiar with an area. Familiarity not only breeds contempt, but also induces other bad habits, like, for instance…’
‘Bribery!’ Tarun exclaimed.
‘Yep, smart man,’ said Sanjay. ‘Just like Prasad. So, what’s your name?’
Tarun introduced himself. He wanted to know more about this Prasad fellow, but before he could put in another word, Sanjay had gone back to his post. At lunchtime, Tarun happened to think of the cop again. How the cop’s voice had choked at the mention of Prasad hadn’t gone unnoticed by Tarun. His curiosity got the better of him and he couldn’t resist heading back to the intersection. He spotted Sanjay conversing with another constable. As soon as Sanjay saw Tarun, he walked over to his little friend. The cop smiled and asked, ‘Done with lunch, are we?’
‘Yes,’ said Tarun. ‘Are you going home?’
‘Yes,’ replied Sanjay. ‘My shift is over.’
Tarun said that he didn’t think traffic control was an easy task.
‘Well, it sure isn’t,’ said Sanjay firmly. ‘But, you see, we have duties other than traffic control as well.’
‘We check for and take action against overspeeding, drunk driving, overloading of vans and lorries, transporting contraband goods, and so on. We file cases against those who break the law and present them before the judge.’
Before Tarun could say anything, they heard a child screaming. Tarun look around in panic, only to realize that it was just the sound of a motorbike horn! The rider was clearly overspeeding as he wove in and out of the traffic in utter disregard of lane restrictions.
Holding out his gloved hands, Sanjay walked out to the center of the road. With traffic on either side, he was risking his life. Fortunately, though, the vehicles stopped as they heard the shrill whistle of the uniformed cop. The biker tried to dodge Sanjay, but the cop stood firm with his outstretched hands in front of the rider, who had no option but to apply the brake. Sanjay ordered him to get down and come with him to the curb. The rider obliged. Sanjay then asked for his driver’s license and the vehicle RC Book.
‘Hey, do you know who I am?’ the rider asked defiantly. He then mentioned the name of a powerful politician and claimed to be a close relative of his.
‘I don’t care who you are. To me, you’re just a bully who broke a traffic rule out there.’
The youngster then stylishly pulled out a wallet from his pocket, extracting a five-hundred-rupee bill.
‘You’re only making it worse now,’ said Sanjay sternly. ‘You were not only disobeying all traffic rules, but also used a prohibited high-decibel horn. On top of that, you have no license. And now you are trying to bribe a police officer. I’m sorry, but I need to book you. Let’s walk to the police station!’
Tarun met Sanjay the next day after lunch.
‘You are a brave and honest cop, sir,’ remarked Tarun.
‘Just doing my duty, young man,’ said Sanjay. He took hold of Tarun’s hand and added in a sad voice, ‘I lost my son, Prasad, in a traffic accident.’
…now that you’re here
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As fond of writing a good story as he is of reading one, Pravin is one of the most promising writers at Ameya. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.