My tryst with a traffic cop

My tryst with a traffic cop

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In the early 70s when I was a student in Dharwad, I used to have a moped. One early morning, when I was riding speedily on a deserted road, a traffic cop suddenly appeared out of nowhere and signalled me to stop. When he told me that I was on a ‘No-Entry’ road, I gave him a sheepish grin and apologised. He asked me for the documents of the vehicle and I had none.

He asked me to go with him to the police station and thereafter to the court. Stating that I had to attend my mid-term exam, I told him ‘swalpa adjust maadi’. He gave a stern look and remained silent. I kept pleading.

A few minutes later he took me to a nearby restaurant. He ordered a sweet and asked me to eat what I wanted. I told him that I would eat at home. After the sweet, he ate all the available snacks, drank a cup of tea and belched contently. Seeing my expression of wonder he said, “In our work, you don’t know where your next meal comes from. Hence, I eat breakfast like a king,” I smiled.

When we came out of the restaurant, I prepared to leave. He held my shoulder and asked me to give him Rs 20. When I protested that I had already paid for his breakfast, he said that if I went to court, the fine would be Rs 100. I realised that my monthly pocket money was being usurped but still paid. Before parting, I did not forget to ask his name which was A S Gabbur. 

Two decades later, I became the Police Commissioner of Hubli-Dharwad, I remembered my tryst with the traffic cop as it was the first (and the last) time I had paid a bribe. I called the Traffic Inspector of Dharwad and asked him whether there was a police constable named Gabbur in his police station. He took a moment but told me that there was indeed a head constable by that name. I asked him to locate the HC and produce him before me, the Inspector was quite puzzled, probably wondering why the new commissioner desires to meet a head constable.

That evening A S Gabbur was produced before me. He had aged considerably, was wearing spectacles, and was scared by the Commissioner’s summons. When asked whether he remembered me, Gabbur said that this was our first meeting. 

When I recounted my tryst with him, he started shivering like a leaf. He kept repeating that he was on the verge of retirement, he repeatedly sought my pardon. I remained silent, he took out a twenty rupee note from his pocket, kept it on my table and said ‘swalpa adjust maadri’ and ran from my room.

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