Sep 24, 2013

"The Arrest" from Sermons in the Stroms

Just as in monsoon we can never say as to when the rains will come, even so, in this fast life, it can't be said as to when, wherefrom and what type of troubles will befall and harass us. Like rains, troubles too, in a fair measure, are however, necessary.
Some years back I reached Bombay on a Saturday evening. I had earlier informed my host through a letter about my arrival. But it didn't reach him. As such, none came to receive me and when I reached his bungalow in Malabar Hill, I found my host-- a barrister, getting ready to proceed to Lonavla by the Deccan Queen that very evening.
My host asked me to join him and his family in the trip. But, as I had other engagements in Bombay, I thankfully declined to accompany them. Due to many years of association, I was always treated as a family member in their house. So, they asked me to stay, made arrangements for my meals with a mutual friend in Colaba and giving me the lock and the big bunch of keys they left.
That night I took milk and retired to bed. Early morning next day I locked the bungalow and went out for the twin purpose of open air walk and easing myself. The sea being so near to Malabar Hill, I went that side and returned back after enjoying the refreshening cool breeze of the sea and answering nature's call.
In the slot of the lock which my host had given me for use when going out, was its key and so i hadn't any difficulty while locking. But because that key got mixed-up in the big bunch, I had to labor on my return trying to open the lock. Before I could lay hold on the right key, light flashed on me from a distance.
Soon a Policeman came before me and authoritatively asked as to what I was about. I told him that I was a guest in that bungalow, my host and his family members were away in Lonavla, I had gone out to the sea-side for a walk and to ease myself and that I was just then trying to open the lock- but couldn't yet get the right key from the bunch.
The Policeman restrained me from opening the lock, made me ,answer several .other questions and the last one was :- "Does anyone here know you?" Yes, the chowkidar does, said i and pointed out his room which was in the farthest end of the compound. The Police man hailed him and the chowkidar composedly came close to us.

I was a bit gabrified when in him I saw a new face.  When I asked him if he was the chowkidar of the bunglow, he rudely reiterated "What then, is your father .the chowkidar here?" As I had prepared the milk and drank the same before sun-set, I hadn't the need to make use .of the lights that night. As such, my presence in the bungalow was not noticed by the .chowkidar. And that apart, as the door was fitted with a latch-lock and as that was also very often used, the absence of the lock on the outer door did not make the chowkidar feel odd about it. Above it all, none of the house hold members informed the chowkidar about my arrival - before they left. When, therefore, this new chowkidar was asked by the Policeman if I was a guest at his master's place, he naturally negatived it and from his side added a fast one that his master never had sadhus as guests.
AII this strengthened the suspicion of the Policeman who took. passession of the key bunch from me, asked the chowkidar to follow and marched me off to the Police Station. A jamadar was there on duty then and he was informed of the case. Without asking me anything and without even allowing me to say anything, he gave me some severe slaps admixed with ruthless reviIes.
In the meantime, the Inspector on duty who was out on rounds came and it was reported to him how in the early hours that morning I was arrested by Police Constable No. 666 while attempting to pick the lock of a Barrister's bungalow. He was also told that the chowkidar who I had claimed knew me, outright denied it adding that his master never indulged in the company of the sadhu.
When I began - "Sir, do please Hear me,'" the burly Officer-stepped near- me and silenced me by baton beats and a good hard upward punch on my chin. That was my first encounter with the Police as an accused. Never before that experience did i Know that cops were cruel creatures. Much less did I believe that literate Officers could be so hard and horribly harsh.
On reflective rumination I came to the conclusion that because of their continual association with anti-social elements and illiterate Policemen who generally spring from cultureless class, literate Officers also become hard headed and haughty. So much so, that, in the detection of crime and interrogation of those rightly or wrongly accused of it, they usually employ bullying batons and brutal brusqueness. All their successes, are more attributable to their above blunt behavior rather than brainy brilliance which they very much lack.
Instances of the Police Department being censured by the Judiciary especially for their uncivil behavior towards the public aren’t infrequent. The recent condemnation of the Police by one of popular High Court Judges was the sharpest ever made and it not only evoked public indignation but also made the Police to make a mock run to the Supreme Court without success. This and the fresh case of some popular Doctors of Delhi who were cruelly man-handled by the Police in Musoori is still green in the memory of the public.
The statement of the Policeman who arrested me and that of the chowkidar was recorded and the house of the Barrister was ordered to be sealed, Just then, another Officer came and took charge from the former who was on night duty. My fears rose high, for I felt that he would also warm up his palms by hammering me. Lord God graciously answered my prayers and this Officer treated me with due sympathy. At my request, he informed my friend in Colaba over the phone about my arrest and on my behalf asked him to come to get me out.
My friend--a businessman-came within an hour and told the officer all about me and my many years old friendship with my host and him. With the Police I was sent to the quarters of the Police Officer during whose duty hours I was arrested. When my friend informed him also, all about me and my very good relations with the host and many other dignitaries of the City, the Officer turned trifle tremulous and indirectly apologized for handling me roughly. Later, he came to the Police Station and let me out on bail, provisionally, on cash security pending the arrival of my host from Lonavla.
On the following day, we went to the V. T. station to meet my host who was to come by the Deccan Queen that morning. He did not turn up. Perhaps, we thought, they might have motored to Bombay. That turned true and on the way somewhere near his home my host got down to meet someone. Others when they reached home found the door locked and the chowkidar absent. The lock, as told before, was sealed by the Police. But this did not strike them and thinking that it was me who had done all that sticking of adhesive tapes and waxing on the lock, and not knowing when exactly I would come back, broke open the Police sealed lock.
After some time, I reached the bungalow with my friend and my host also came in. Everything was narrated to him. He went to the Police Station, made a statement and got back the bunch of keys.
The chatty chowkidar cajoled me and that's how this episode of arrest came to all end.
Rough handling, howsoever undesirable, may be necessary for tackling the thick-skinned criminals. It may be resorted to with discrimination as a cloak for the occasion. But when it comes to the major society, the Police should resolve to treat them all gently and with sympathetic love. To achieve this end, the Government should educate the existing lower ranks in Civil Conduct and through suitable incentives induce well-educated hands to join the organization. Only through these measures can the most dreaded Police Department win back public love and confidence and also raise itself to the laudable standards of the British Police who are well-known for their high degree of TALENT, TACT, TENDERNESS, THOUGHTFULNESS & TAINTLESSNESS.

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