“My idol is Kiran Bedi !” she said.
Kiran Bedi is the pride of Indian Police Force. She is modern, media savvy and dedicated.
So it was natural.
Indranil enquired, “How long did you say you are working in the force?”
She grinned and replied, “Three years!”
Wiping the end of her mouth with the tip of her saree she added, “Inspector Chowdhury, says if I work well the next two years I might be promoted!”
Mr. Bhattacharyya was trying to appear bored but I could feel he was on his toes. He stretched himself and then lit a cigarette to soothe his nerves.
Anima the constable said, “Didi, where are you all going?”
Indranil appeared stressed as he made that crackling noise by cracking his fingers. He was a bit nervous, I felt.
I replied, “Kolkata…And you?” trying to divert her attention.
“Are you not afraid to work as a constable?”
She smiled and replied, “No, No I am no longer afraid! The inspector says one should fight fear. The only fear that I have is him!”
Anima continued, “I was afraid of thieves when I first started, but then I was put on duty as plainclothes policewoman. So most people didn’t know I was in the police! ”
Indranil whose one profession was looking after the export business that he inherited from his father asked, “Why are you afraid of your own inspector?”
But before she could reply, the train came to a jolting stop. Mr. Bhattacharyya looked at Indranil and said, “Indra, take a look!”
Indranil reluctantly left his seat and his big shoulder bag and went to take a look.
I wiped the sweat from my forehead with the end of my saree and clutched my leather handbag closer to my chest. We were not accustomed to returning home with so much cash.
It made all three of us nervous and jittery. Mr. Bhattacharyya was slowly getting impatient.
He pressed the butt of his cigarette on the ashtray attached to the wall of the train between the two windows. He stood up and once again stretched himself.
Indranil who was by now stretching his neck out of the open door said, “No signal!”
He turned towards Mr. Bhattacharyya, and raised his eyebrows and gave him a questioning look.
Mr. Bhattacharyya said, “Indra, relax there is no need to jump out of the train!”
Everyone laughed at this. Indranil returned and tried to make himself comfortable once again on the seat.
The seat consisted nothing but of a couple of wooden planks held together with an iron frame. By then Mr. Bhattacharyya, had already taken a seat.
Anima continued, “Do you know there was a robbery on this train four or five days ago?”
I looked at Mr. Bhattacharyya and then at Anima and replied, “Really!”
She said, “Relax there is no chance of having one today!” The comment appeared to be humorous to her, as she was in splits. I could feel the heat and humidity getting to me.
The ceiling fans were churning out a lot of noise but they were hardly providing any respite from the intolerable heat.
Mr. Bhattacharyya said, “Anima, you didn’t say why you were afraid of your inspector!”
By now, Anima had taken a big aluminum can out of her jute handbag and taking out some pieces of coconut kernel. She gave one to Indranil and one to Mr. Bhattacharyya.
He refused politely and so did I. She insisted for some time and then replied, “Do you really want to know?”
I said, “Why not!”
Indranil however intervened and asked, “What is the time now?”
Mr. Bhattacharyya took a look, at his wrist watch and replied, “It’s half-past six!”
As I turned towards Anima, I could see the last remnants of the dying sunrays. The black shroud of darkness was rapidly enveloping the green countryside.
Anima munched at one white coconut kernel piece and mumbled, “I joined the force when I was twenty-one”.
She continued, “I was assigned as a plain clothes policewoman at the Ganga Sagar Mela”.
Indranil injected, “We are also returning from the Sagar islands!”
Anima exclaimed, “Really!”
Suddenly the train jolted up and started moving. The squeaking of the wheels was a relief to us. Was it the best thing to happen after Anima had joined us, I really can’t say.
She had walked in and asked, “Can I have a seat, didi?”
Then she had introduced herself saying, “I am Anima. I work with the police!”
Then she said, “What a slip of the tongue!”
She then went on to say, “Thank god! I found you all. I was afraid to travel all alone in a single compartment!”
Who needed whose company was really not evident.
We had to be assured that the police was there for the protection of the commoners, with the induction of Anima in the second compartment of the train.
Anima continued, “Have you ever been to the Sagar mela?”
Though we had been traveling to the Sagar islands once in a while, we had never visited it during the mela time. There were far too many people for us to be comfortable.
Indranil replied, “Unfortunately we have not!”
Mr. Bhattacharyya asked casually, “Anima, how many thieves have you caught?”
She started counting with her right-hand thumb stopping at the ends of the fingers. Then she replied, “Maybe six or seven. Why are you, thieves?”
I said, “You must be very brave then!” trying to divert the matter.
Indranil said, “Why do we look like thieves?”
She turned towards me and replied, “No!” and then smiled.
By then we had reached the next station. We could not see the name of the station since it was pitch dark and there was no electricity at the station.
All we could see a hawker selling a mixture of puffed rice and chanachor. An oil lamp shone timidly and its radiance was no good for comfort. A big guy now boarded the train.
He smelled of hoch and appeared to be totally drunk. He ambled across and stopped beside our seat. He looked at Indranil and then at Anima.
He mumbled something incomprehensible to Anima and turned his attention towards Indranil. The drunk saluted him and showed his ticket and settled in one of the adjacent seat little ahead of us.
Indranil in his black coat and white trousers must have appeared to be a ticket collector to him. When we realized it, we laughed. The train started moving and slowly gathered pace.
Anima now became a little quieter and she said, “Inspector Rakhal Chowdhury is my boss! He is an honest man. I have never ever seen him take a bribe. He is the best!”
Then she lowered her voice and said, “The only time I saw him embarrassed was when the famous pickpocket Jhanu was about to be caught in front of the public shouted out “Hello Brother!
Are you taking me home? Didn’t I send you your paycheck?”
I couldn’t help laughing even in the tension. Mr. Bhattacharyya even smiled. Indranil was as his own fidgety self. Indranil asked, “Is it true?”
Anima replied, “Depends on what you believe in.?”
“It is very difficult task to make thieves speak sometimes. They never say where they hide their stolen loot!” she said.
She turned towards Mr. Bhattacharyya and said, “Sometimes you have to torture them to make them speak!”
I asked, “Do you do that too?”
She tilted her head and replied “No usually the men do it. Sometimes they are hung upside down and wrapped in a blanket and beaten with sticks till they admit they have committed the crime!”
She said, “There are other ways to make them speak too!”
She continued, “The worst part of it is that whenever we want some action, the political interventions stop us from doing it. Some of them get out on bail and we feel we should shoot them.
Inspector Chowdhury says he will shoot every bastard down if he had a chance!”
Indranil asked, “Is that why you are afraid of him?”
“No” she replied.
By then the Sealdah station was visible and what she told we would never forget in our lives. She said, “Remember I told you that I was posted as a plainclothes policewoman at SagarMela?”
Indranil said, “Yeah, so!”
“Well,” she continued, “My purse was stolen then! With it my identity card and money. It was my first job so I couldn’t tell anyone!”
She paused a bit and then said, “Unfortunately Inspector Chowdhury called me a couple of days later and asked, “Where is your identity card?”
She said, “I was dumbfounded and couldn’t say anything”.
He said, “Here it is!” and throwing down the purse on the table said, “Dolly the pickpocket was caught today and they found it on her with your identity card!
She would have used it and gone scot-free!” When we about to alight the train when she said, “By the way, do you know who my inspector is?”
We said, “Who?”
She turned and pointed to the drunk guy and said, “He!”
She quickly turned around and said, “We are waiting for the next robbery! After all, we have to work undercover you know!”
Tinku was there to receive us. We were all soaking with perspiration.
However, Mr. Bhattacharyya said, “This is the last meeting before we part ways!” We had already divided the looted money from the robbery committed by Indranil, Mr.
Bhattacharyya, and his goons and so we decided to part ways forever. I have since then lead a crime-free life as a devoted housewife!