Summers had just arrived. So Ketan and Sugandha packed their bags for a trip back home. Both, in their early twenties had been dating for about two years. However, staying in separate cities, they could meet only upon returning to their hometown.Meeting Sugandha after half a year which seemed like centuries to him, Ketan could only wish to see her as often as possible. They had not broken the news as yet at their homes, so had to meet covertly at places where it was difficult for any near and dear ones to bump into them.
Today, Ketan was driving towards a secluded area to the north of the city. Holding Sugandha's hand in his left one, he was determined not to leave it and manage the steering wheel and the gear with his right hand only. Such a 'safe driving', as they had paradoxically codenamed it, was difficult but love has the power to make you do anything, how difficult or rather how stupid it might be.
Finally, he brought the car to a jerking halt in the parking area of an abandoned garden, thanks to a late transmission to the lower gear. But these jerks were nothing as compared to their thumping hearts.
In these early days of summer, emotions thawed quickly and bursted with full vigour like the just released waters through the floodgates of a large dam. Before they could realise it, their hand-to-hand contact had moved to the lips and they were lost in a heaven of their own. Even with their eyes shut during that intimate moment of love, passion, trust and belonging, they could just see each other.
They were so lost that they failed to hear a gentle knock on the window. But soon it turned into a thumping noise and they left each others embrace startled at this sudden intrusion. As Ketan looked out, he saw the heavy frame of a police constable, rubbing his pot belly with the right hand and maneuvering his stick with the other, directing Ketan to come out of the car.
As Ketan opened the latch of his door, he pressed Sugandha's trembling hand with his other hand reassuring her that everything will be fine. However, even as he stepped out, he could well imagine that how this excursion could land him in a very embarrassing position vis-a-vis his parents.
Ketan had always been honest with his mother but somehow had failed to disclose about his affair with Sugandha. Of all the ways, this was not the way he wanted to introduce Sugandha to his parents.
"Ae ladke, show me your license or an I.D." demanded the constable sternly.
Before Ketan could pull out his wallet, the constable added, "What are you two doing in this public place? You know it is illegal!"
"Yes, sir!" was all that Ketan could mutter in reply.
As Ketan searched his wallet for the license, the constable took his wireless set out of its holster clinging to the broad black belt that was keeping his khaki trousers from falling.
"Don't do it sir." Ketan pleaded while holding the constable's wireless set gently.
"Leave, the wireless," shot back the constable, "You are the one who shouldn't have done this in the first place."
"It was a mistake sir that wont be repeated." replied Ketan, keeping his tone polite to cool down the temper of the constable.
Meanwhile, sitting in the car, Sugandha was terrified. She could not imagine how she would face her parents if this incident blew out of proportions. She was just kissing the guy with whom she could happily spend the rest of her life. However, her parents won't see it in the same light. After all they had been betrayed. Despite all the faith they showed in her and the independence she enjoyed unlike most of her friends and cousins, she had failed to tell them about Ketan. She promised herself that if this ordeal ends here and now, she won't repeat it.
Meanwhile, somehow working his way through negotiations, Ketan finally asked the constable, "Can't we end it with some compromise?"
As he said this, his hand went inside his wallet and pulled out all the six, hundred rupees notes that were lying inside. The constable looked at the notes as Ketan handed them over to him. By now, his anger had subsided but he was still fuming a bit.
Ketan prayed for this episode to end with this final negotiation. The constable contemplated for a moment; then separating half the notes from the thin bundle, handed them back to Ketan and said sheepishly, "Arre Betaji! That money was just too much."
Ketan was puzzled but he graciously accepted the money back with a thanks.
"Listen Betaji, you both belong to good families and should not be doing all this. I am letting you both go for the sake of this girl's honour," the constable said in a more reserved tone. "However, you should be the one caring about her honour."
"Yes, sir." was all that Ketan could mutter again as the constable left asking him to vacate the place quickly.
As they drove back into the crowded part of the city, Sugandha declared, "We won't be repeating it," still feeling guilty for what had just happened. Ketan nodded a bit reluctantly. As they approached the shopping mall where Sugandha had parked her car, Ketan said thoughtfully, "I have a better idea yaar. We won't be going to that place again." Sugandha looked at him with raised brows. Just as Ketan was ready to give up, she gave a mischievous smile and pecked on his left cheek. "Okeh!" she said.
At the face value, I might say both Ketan and the constable were wrong. Ketan for bringing his bedroom out in the public place (though it was not the case here, but the kiss could be a part of the foreplay in such a secluded, nonetheless public place) and offering the money to the constable to prevent him from doing his duty and the latter for accepting this money and not following the proper course of action.
But was Ketan really wrong? Wasn't the poor guy just at the wrong place at the wrong time? He was an adult, just kissing his girl friend. What is the fuss about it? Are we still living in paleolithic ages? Did he have any other option than to offer the money to prevent the situation going out of his hands?
On the other hand was the constable really wrong? He was doing his duty, stopping the love birds from littering a public place, though a secluded one. He was offered 600 bucks but kept only 300. Wasn't that an 'honest' gesture from this pitiably payed public employee? Moreover, wasn't a little bit of fine important to act as a deterrent for future excursions of Ketan and Sugandha? When, he could not reprimand them through official channel to safeguard the 'honour' of Sugandha as he asserted (though could be an excuse to justify his act), he had to take this line.
I have written on virtues and vices in my other posts, but this particular incident is incomprehensible to me. While, I feel the blame lies somewhere, I find it difficult to put it on anyone. Your reflections on this curious case of corruption will help indeed.
Update (July 3, 2009)
This is what the 'real' Sugandha messaged me after reading this post:
read ur blog wich u wrote on d incidnc hapnd wid 'ketan' n me.....well first of all thankz a lot....itz beautifully writn....i was telng it to 'ketan' as well, dat u cud easily say wat he was feelng at dat tym cz he narrated u abt it....bt u wrote abt my viewz and thoughtz so perfctly....itz amazng...
i was felng nostalgic...dat too on d day he was leavng....thx dear....
god bless......tk cr
Even the 'real' Ketan called me up after reading the post and claimed that I've got a new fan.
My reply to both of them was simple, "Guys keep giving me such 'inspirational' stuff to write about whenever you meet in future!"
If you liked this, you might also like my BlogAdda's Tangy Tuesday Pick, Arjun and my previous fictitious non-fiction, The Three Risk-tak(e)ers.