Cubbu is going to ‘phoren’. Cubbu needs CHARACTER CERTIFICATES from the Mumbai police. Cubbu has been handed over three sealed envelopes by the Department of Character certificates at the police HQ. Now the onus is on Cubbu to take these three envelopes to three police stations in the city and to cajole the officers to issue letters of character for him and Mrs Cubbu. Shudder!
OK. All the attempts at funniness apart, I was really expecting a huge huge run around, dealing with three police stations. Mahim where my wife had grown up, Juhu where I had grown up and Malvani where we both were pretending to be grown ups for the last thirteen years.
The wife had slipped three five hundred rupee notes into my wallet and said, ‘Not a rupee more OK? Speak in Marathi’.
But I had this familiar feeling. I would land up bribing more, speak in Marathi and yet have to make a dozen trips to these three far flung stations to finally be certified to be “bearing good moral character with no adverse report against my name”. But surprise surprise! Believe me you will not, I actually got police certificates from all three stations on the very same day!
No bribe. No waiting. No speaking Marathi. ( OK…one station I did speak in Marathi. But just two words. Ho (yes), Achcha (OK)). What happened was nothing short of a miracle actually. It was as if Siddhivinayak, Mahim dargah and Saint Michael’s church had entered into a co-production deal in blessing a nalayak nastik like me.
All the three police stations were computerized. The had net savvy head constables manning the machines. In minutes our names were entered to check former addresses and records. And bam! The certificates were out of sleek humming printers, quietly signed by the Station in charge and handed over to me. The three constables seemed to be rather happy with their jobs and eager to make life easy for me. Well…almost. This might sound rather too pat and fake, but it’s true. God promise!
At Mahim I was asked to get a photocopy of the certificate as their machine had run out of ink. I immediately rushed to a nearby stationery shop.
At Juhu, I was asked to go get a correct sized envelope for the certificate. They had run out of THAT sized envelopes. I immediately rushed to a nearby stationery shop.
At Malvani, the photocopier was fine. They had envelopes too. But they had run out of staple pins. I immediately rushed to a nearby stationery shop.
OK…these stationary shops were not really nearby, except in Malvani. In Juhu and Mahim, they were quite far away. But walking to them, was like a pilgrimage. A trip down memory lane and how! These were localities where Mrs. Me and I had grown up. It was almost like a God sent chance to say tata bye bye to these localities and make peace with many a ghosts of growing up. Make peace with Mumbai.
It was almost ten pm when I got my Malvani certificate. Constable Abu Sheikh, who had been a kind of mentor, in this entire process, changed into civil attire and waited for his computer to shut down. Casually standing in his ‘shandow’ baniyaan and stripped underwear, he told me that he was glad that ‘my work was done’.
Disbelief had yet to leave me. I felt there is a catch somewhere. Was he going to quote some obscene amount of money which would be shared by the three stations and the HQ and maybe the Prime Minister? Nothing of that sort happened. Constable Abu was dressed, and ready to go home. He even gave me a lift on his scooter as my house was on the way to his.
On the journey we talked non stop about the reality of encounter killings, and Abu’s strong view that every domicile of a state must speak the language of the state. We spoke about his asthama, my broken leg, his daughter’s desire to be a eye surgeon, my son’s desire to become a cartoon character and finally, when he stopped to drop me off, he gave me his e-mail ID, writing it neatly on the back of a cigarette foil paper.
So ya. I got the certificates. In a few days once their function was over, I completely forgot all about them.
But these characters who gave me the certificates, I will not forget in a long, long time.