N.D.P.D. Beige – Episode II

September 16th, 20107:57 am @


Our local police station in New Delhi looks like it could be in rural India – low-slung bungalows surround a courtyard of shrubs and trees full of singing birds. The only sign that it’s a cop shop is the guard stationed at the front gate with an automatic rifle.

We were there because a fair amount of stuff had gone missing from our apartment, and the finger of blame was pointing firmly at our maid.

The monsoon air was dripping with moisture as we nodded to the well-armed guard and found our way to reception. With the maid outside we explained what had happened and that we didn’t want to charge her, we just wanted them to ask her where our stuff was – hopefully the fact that it was the police doing the asking might make a difference.

The cop wagged his head sideways and smiled – clearly, he’d been here before.

He called the maid in and sat silent for what seemed like an eternity, watching her as she stood bolt upright in front of the reception desk, not daring to look at him. Finally, he called her over to where he was sitting in the corner of the room and asked her a question. She came over to him and sat down while she answered.

“I didn’t tell you to sit down,” he said.

She shot back up and answered.

After considering her answer, he nodded towards the bench. “OK, sit down.”

And so their conversation continued, watched by the two of us, the woman behind reception and some random guy who was there to “fix the computers only”.

The room’s solitary fan did its best to deal with the oppressive heat, but all it really succeeded in doing was moving the hot, humid air from one corner to the next and back again. Outside the sky was getting darker, but the clouds didn’t help the heat, they just ratcheted up the humidity.

Some comedy relief came in the form of a female officer who wandered into the room, nonchalantly swinging her assault rifle and dressed in a khaki police-issue salwar kameez.

She looked at us, the maid, the maid’s interrogator and the “computers only” guy before finally stretching out her hand towards the woman at the desk and cocking it sideways, the internationally accepted gesture for “what the fuck is going on?”

“Maid,” said the woman behind the desk.

“Ah,” said the gun-toting officer, as if that explained the entire situation.

“Is she pregnant, or just a bit fat?” I whispered to my wife. “Pregnant, definitely pregnant,” she said. “So maybe it’s not a good idea for her to be resting the barrel of her gun against her belly.”

So there we all were: the foreigners, the cop, the maid, the receptionist, the random computer bloke and the pregnant cop with the big gun. All cramped in one small room as the monsoon skies finally opened and the rains came flooding down.

“I need to see where she took the items from,” said the interrogator suddenly. “We’ll go to your house.”

We piled into a taxi while the officer followed on his motorbike. On the way I started rifling through the folder he’d asked me to take for him; it was full of police reports. The first involved the loss of a pair of shoes, which had gone missing and the owner had tried locating them, but to no avail. The shoes were brown and the former owner requested the police do their utmost to expedite their return. It really wasn’t a lot to go on, there are a lot of brown shoes in Delhi. I wondered where you’d start.

Back at home the officer had a look at the wardrobes and the dresser before sitting the maid down and questioning her further, this time in the comfort of an air conditioned room, which I suspect was the real aim of the exercise. The questioning got nowhere, except to reveal that she was engaged, but the boy’s family didn’t like her and didn’t want the marriage to go ahead.

Eventually it all ended in a stalemate and we parted ways, although to this day we’re still discovering things that went missing.

I didn’t really sleep that night. Having things stolen was awful, but seeing where she lived and finding out she was engaged made things seem tragic and understandable. What really stung, however, was the betrayal of trust. If she’d just asked, we’d have helped out any way we could.

Then again, I can afford to be sanguine about it, I didn’t really lose any stuff, it all belonged to my wife.

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