N.D.P.D. Beige

September 14th, 201011:40 am @

A Delhi officer looks on as a man deals with a wooden horse that was, unlike our stuff, not stolen.

One of the first pieces of advice you get in India is to have as little contact with the police as possible. If contact has to be made, it’s best to reach for your wallet first and ask questions later.

To date we’d done pretty well avoiding contact with Delhi’s constabulary, but that all changed when some soap went missing from the bathroom.

It wasn’t particularly expensive soap, although it was one of those posh ones that only women think to buy, wrapped in crinkly brown paper with Ye Olde World lettering and engravings of lavender, or something. My wife asked if I’d used it, the answer to which was obviously no. Even when I run out of normal (ie, non-posh) soap I never open the fancy stuff. I just use shampoo.

It was an odd thing to go missing and we both shrugged it off until she noticed some of her make-up was missing as well (I was definitely in the clear on this one). That night it dawned on her that there were clothes she hadn’t seen for a while. A search of the wardrobe confirmed her fears – someone was nicking her stuff. We started searching every cupboard in the house and as we did, so the list of missing items grew.

The prime suspect was our maid, who was the only person – apart from us – with access to the apartment. We’d been warned by friends and family to lock up our valuables when maids were about, no matter how much you trusted them. We never thought, however, to lock up our clothes.

Despite the fact that she was the only suspect – it was unlikely someone broke in and stole clothes and soap while ignoring two laptops and a camera – I was torn. There wasn’t actually any proof she did it and any evidence at this stage was circumstantial at best. From a jurisprudence point of view, would it stack up in court? I didn’t think it would.

My wife would later point out that it was all well and good for me to have these existential debates with myself as it wasn’t my stuff that was nicked. “What if she took your iPod?” she asked. That changed things a little.

Next morning we asked the maid if she knew anything about the missing items, which she said she didn’t. We tried the good cop/bad cop routine, but it didn’t work. We tried pleading, which was equally unsuccessful. Eventually, we called in the big guns and went to see our landlady, who hired her in the first place and wasn’t someone to be trifled with.

Her best efforts, however, were unsuccessful and the maid still wouldn’t crack.

“She’s probably sold them already,” was our landlady’s conclusion. “She won’t be able to bring them back; but they may still be at her house. Send the police to go look for them.”

The suggestion of the police turning up at her house meant it was the maid’s turn to plead. It would be a bad look, she said. The neighbours would think they were awful people, their reputation would be shot.

We really didn’t want to get the police involved anyway, so all three of us piled into a taxi to her house. Well, house is a bit grand, room is more like it. A room where her mum and sister also cooked, ate and slept. It was clear the instant we stepped in that none of our stuff was there, it didn’t take long to look around the sparse room and the few things in it – a small TV on a shelf, a gas cooker, a picture of Krishna, clothes in plastic bags.

We were stuck. So far we’d tried threatening to amp things up, then offering her an out before we did: bring it back and we won’t go see the landlady; bring it back and we won’t go to your house. Now the only threat left was bring it back and we won’t go to the police. I really didn’t want to take it to that level, but in the end it became our last option.

To be continued . . .

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