Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Citizen Level Activism? Naah !

*** Summary : A rare "personal" narrative about a Sunday evening "rough up" with the Pune police traffic department ***

I usually spend my Sundays on FC road, preferable with a trip to the BCL and/or Jai Jalaram bookstore opposite Cafe Coffee Day. I also like to slip in the occasional Sabudana Wada at Savera. All this of course circles about the certain main activity which I do for four hours, in and around the vicinity. But, as you might have guessed, the details are impertinent to the comprehension of the events to follow.

What needs to be understood is that I had parked my bike opposite a Chinese stall besides Apache on the FC side, in between the new mall and the notorious but somewhat docile bar. I park my bike with the relative free-mindedness that pervades oneself on a balmy Sunday morning with a relatively traffic free road. I proceed towards the 4 hours awaiting me, which pass off smoothly - and which I spend along with a friend from college among others. I stay back for a second, due to which this friend leaves before - our departure uncoordinated unlike normal. I step down to discover, or rather not discover the presence of my bike at the same parking spot. The aforementioned friend is of course long lost by now. Oh! and yes, I've forgotten my mobile phone.

There is a new rule in place which mandates traffic cops to take photographs of a vehicle when it is picked up for no parking. Use this to ensure that you were really erroneously parked, if at all your vehicle is picked up.

We live however in a relatively carefree society where the disappearance of the bike from the parking does not elicit hasty conclusions of vehicular larceny, but points us towards the suggestion that the in-focus vehicle has been seized by one of the roving rollers of the Pune Traffic Police. There is of course no marking of the road about the whereabouts of the police station. There is another such vehicle there however, back probably for its next dose of metallic injections. Its almost leaving after having collected its haul - when I notice something strange. One of the clochards of the crack vehicle pickup squads is photographing the behinds of the targets before locking them up with their fellow auto-criminals. I ignore this seemingly trivial observations - and speculating that they must've carried the vehicle to "Modern Police Station" near Police Parade Ground decide to walk up till there.

This is the Sunday evening of the Silverstone GP - and in not resorting to a rickshaw to get to the desired location I have already wasted much of the precious moments watching old, haggard men rather than shiny new cars and their roaring engines. I reach Modern Police Chowky to find the place to be nothing but a mud-yard resembling one used to picturise the Abhishek Bachchan mud-fights in Yuva. Vehicles are parked at the edges in two groups - and I see a couple of policemen and lots of agenty people with cellphones. The kinds that went out of fashion a few years ago.

I identify my bike from the mêlée, when one of these agenty fellows indicated that my moto-offender was caught in his net - meaning which I was to deal with this fellow. I speculated from previous observation about the guy photographing the offending bikes, and stated that I knew about the new rule necessitating a photo of the incorrect position of my vehicle - to which he replied that there was only one camera and the photo was currently doing the rounds along with the pickup vehicle. I'd decided to see this through, and even though I was not confident about the right-parkedness (if ever there was such a thing) of my vehicle, I waited.

The vehicle came around after around 40 mins - during which I checked my license and the validity of my PUC certificate. I also got abreast of the parking rules from the agent - and ensured that what I knew was more or less correct. When the much awaited vehicle finally came around, the special photo-taking individual was summoned to show my the posterior of my bike, outside the dreaded white L shaped line.

Since my vehicle was picked up much before - he had some trouble in locating the photograph - and with every missed shot, I commended myself for having waited. He would never find the photo and I would be spared paying the 150 bucks - out of which I had only one 130 at that precise moment.

He however did find the picture, but much to his consternation unlike all the others there was no conclusive evidence to show that my vehicle was parked outside the white L. In fact using the zoom, 3 from the agency peered into the teeny screen, only to return empty handed - without any trace of the coveted white mark. He pointed to some rubbish lying around in the hope that I would accept, but even he knew that it was a shot in the dark.

By this time the vehicle had been emptied and it was time for them to part on another round of vehicle-picking, which meant the camera had to go too. The camera-wielder tried to hop into the back of the truck. I hoverer had no intention of letting either the camera or the person go, mainly because I had no time to wait another 45 mins. The held firmly the hand of the camera boy, and he shouted - asking me to let go of it. I summoned a police officer who was watching all this and seemed least interested in the proceedings. The crowd of the parents of the auto-wrongdoers gathered around to see the fun - and all this chaos summoned the head of the agenty fellows to come and check out what was going on.

The fracas continued to entertain with my witty but pointed arguments at this head fellow - at the end of which came the main Police guy to whom I explained the whole situation. He soon realised that resistance was useless, and ordered this head of the agents to let my poor darling go. It was almost 6 30 by this time, and I had no intention of missing the whole race.

I would have loved to argue more - and maybe even demand a compensation for my troubles, but that seemed unlikely and I was in no mood for a high-investment low-gain duel. I'd saved 150 bucks, and more importantly realised the value of how simple rules can empower common people. It was not really activism or a sense of social and public morality that made me fight. It was the simple case of me - fighting for my own personal cause. A battle in which I'm most likely to use my best resources and ensure the best possible outcome for me. The fact that it will make these fellows more careful from the next time and in turn save hundreds of people from trouble is purely co-incidental. Frankly all I care about is the 150 bucks still sitting in my wallet, rather than in that crummy bastard's sweaty little trouser-hole.


amit varma said...

Opportunity cost? Was that 150 bucks worth the amount of grand prix racing you missed and the resultant stress?

If yes, then well done!

If no, then boo!

Abhishek said...

answer is yes - Opportunity cost was considered. Truth is had it been Schumi I'd have gone home. And considering my meagre (or zero!) income, the (marginal?) cost of that money is big. I think i get the "well done" ;-)

And there was no resultant stress. Gave me some nice time to contemplate and think, something I've not done enough of recently. ;-)

Anup said...

good on you sonny. btw don't you think they can still work around the photograph rule by first moving the vehicle to a no parking spot and the photographing it? just a thought!

Abhishek said...

i thought of that, but then again - something is better that nothing ;-)