Sphere of Influence

I was witness to one of the stranger variants of Tu jaanta nahin main kaun hoon recently.

I was traveling in an auto from Nandidurga Road to my place. My auto driver was a rather portly, elderly gentleman, the kind who could moonlight as Santa Claus in the mall if business was tough. The traffic police had barricaded a road near the Ulsoor gurudwara and were diverting traffic towards the lake, ie, away from my house. I thought it might make sense to just get off there, but before I could ask him to stop, my driver had decided to go straight through the barricade.

The policemen who stopped him seemed somewhat put out by his behaviour, which was understandable. But what wasn’t so easy to understand was why my driver was the one who lost his cool. He pulled himself up to his full height (which was about the same as mine, so not hugely impressive), puffed out his chest (which, when it expanded to match his potbelly in the y Axis, was truly impressive), and vibrating with the sort of inner anger befitting a man who has just found out after spending ten years in jail that his defence lawyer had colluded with the prosecution, said, ‘Naan yaar gothha nimge?’

So I stand there thinking, ah, this is going to be fun. I’m still waiting for my change, but that’s now secondary; I’ve never seen this sort of thing play out before. So I settle down to watch. The cops don’t quite know or care who this guy is, but they’re more worried that he might pop a couple of blood vessels right there, given how he’s puffing up (honestly, he could’ve given lessons to puffer fish). They ask him to relax, and enquire how old he is, but my indignant and apparently quite influential hero is not to be deterred. He goes on to inform the cops that he does not have a single document in his auto. No license, no rc book, nothing. How a confession of this nature is supposed to help his cause is not immediately apparent to a clueless individual such as myself. (To extend my earlier analogy, it sounded like the wrongfully incarcerated prisoner had confessed to being the Zodiac killer, by way of a threat against his defence lawyer.) The cops either get it and don’t care, or are still focused on making sure this guy doesn’t die on their watch.

The reason for this strange confession soon becomes relatively clear. The man says, call the police commissioner and give him my auto number, and you’ll know why I drive around without a single piece of paper in my pocket. By now, I’m practically in paroxysms of delight at having encountered a virtual emperor in disguise, but by then a more senior cop decides to come by and spoil my fun. He simply barks at the emperor and asks him to move his chariot out of the way and keep going. Against all reason, His Highness decides to comply. Affecting the sort of calm demeanour that Buddhist monks take decades to attain, he gives me my change and lets me go on my way.

ps: My grasp of kannada is sketchy at best, so this might not have been what actually happened.

pps: But you gotta admit, it sounds more fun if it did.

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