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Monday, February 15, 2021

GULLIVER'S TRAVELS III His Encounter With Police

Police is a very powerful but unpredictable deity in the pantheon of such beings of the natives of Atlantis, who are too ready to worship anyone who even wields a semblance of authority. It is Janus faced - one of its faces has a fawning look of idiot amiability and abject servility while the other is cold, indifferent, even abusive, forbidding, angry. As the occasion and circumstances present, the viewer may view one or the other or both of them in quick succession.
The seat of this mighty deity was a large rambling place with debris of vehicles and other bric-a-brac strewn all over the compound. It was a perfect picture of disorder as indeed in this land of contradictions the agency responsible for maintaining order should appear to be. My escort tried to catch the attention of the man who was sitting on a chair. A thick ruler was placed on the table, in front of him, with which he kept tapping the table intermittently, with his left hand. His right hand was dedicated to the task of twirling his moustache. There were many people on the verandah outside; I particularly noticed a child who would intermittently howl and lisp as if he was also trying to catch the attention of the same worthy. My escort again ventured to engage the man seated on the chair and briefly caught his eye. He motioned him to wait, suggesting that there were others waiting in the queue. A lowly functionary informed us that the motley crowd was in fact the queue and since it would take some time for their turns to come they were sauntering around. They were all carrying a number which designated their place in the queue. The sharp piercing howl of the child provoked my curiosity no end and being by now slightly conversant with the local language I demanded to know who the child was and what on earth could he have come to complain about. A chirpy old man who appeared to be very knowledgeable upon matters related to Police and their activities looked at me with quizzing eyes and realizing that I was new to this land offered to explain to me. It seems that the child was standing at the head of the queue in place of his mother, who died some time ago. The mother of the child had been forcibly initiated into woman hood by his employer. When she arrived here to file a complaint , unfortunately for her, the Police was in a state of red alert and hence they were unable to attend to their duties. The woman died in childbirth and her child was thus the natural inheritor of her place at the head of the queue. Seeing me evince a lot of curiosity he was prepared to instruct me further but not before I had pandered to his vanity and offered fulsome praise to his land and its institutions. While we were thus engaged in conversation, a man stormed into the room and headed straight to the worthy personage who was still rhythmically tapping his table with the ruler, and enjoying the sound as if it was a percussion instrument. He looked up, only mildly interested, demanding to know the reason for such importunity. The intruder mentioned some occurrence upon which the Police straight-away dismissed him saying 'Oh, that does not fall within my jurisdiction' and returned to his musical occupation. But it appears that the intruder was a man of some substance for he would not immediately leave as others did at the mere hint of having been dismissed. Whereupon a map of some sort was fished out and spread upon the table. Still more haggling took place but to no avail and the intruder finally departed. My new found guide observed that the Police sets a very high store by the limits of their jurisdictions and they never-but never, even as peer at the territory of their neighbours. I wondered aloud that would it not be a comprehensive solution of the problems of Atlantis to post all such conscientious men to its international borders. These people seem to understand the meaning of sovereignty and non-interference and were they in charge all incidents of cross border firing, violation of international border would stop. Violent debates in the international forum will cease and the countries can take care of their more urgent problems.
Meanwhile, I found some people hopping up and down, up and down rather in the manner of spot running. My guide proudly commented that you are uncommonly lucky to witness the state of red alert. In such a situation they can take no other action but remain alert and hyperactive . It has been found that the vibrations caused by the rhythmic stamping of the foot soothed the frayed nerves of the people. My guide would have commented some more when from behind the half closed door was sighted a man sans his cap and his belt reclining on a chair. His legs were on the table and his chin was resting on his chest. He appeared to be in deep thought or was perhaps half asleep. Before I could query my guide, he read my thoughts and explained to me that the fellow had gone into the state of amber ambivalence which means he had retired into this state unofficially and challenged to prove, otherwise he will attain the state of red alertness. My guide took me to the back verandah where many people were reclining or half standing with their muskets in various degrees of inclination. I particularly noticed that moss, lichen and other vegetation were growing out of the various orifices of some of these men even as they appeared to be in a state of deep slumber. My guide promptly diagnosed this state as that of green inertia. Some of these poor souls could not handle the frequent call to red alert and their internal circuitry had got burnt and they had lapsed into this state. All these people with such symptoms are either swept under the carpet or relegated to the backyard.
My self- appointed guide was in an expansive mood. He began to dilate on the name and nature of Police. Presently he motioned to a man who was supported by a young boy. This man was number 2 in the queue. Some years ago he had come to report the abduction of his wife. By the time he could up move up the queue his abductors taking advantage of his absence and abducted his daughter as well. Now the son had come with a fresh complaint about his sisters abduction; since earlier complaint had been registered the authorities with great compassion had given him the number 2.5.
Meanwhile, the Police was ready to look into the case of the raped woman who had died in child birth and was now face to face with the deity. The Police took out fat, musty, old books on forensic science, jurisprudence, criminal procedure, penal codes and even poetry from the shelf, leafed through half a dozen registers, spoke to his superiors and berated his juniors, drank endless cups of tea and smoked cigarette, regaled himself by playing the table as a percussion instrument and finally ruled that there was no need to proceed in the matter. The woman was into dangerous and subversive reading and had willingly forsaken her virginity under the evil, occidental influence of the poem "To His Coy Mistress” which urged nubile young women to make a gift of their bodies to whoever coveted them because in the end all of them are dead. In her diary the Police actually found the lines in hr won hand and heavily underlined,
“Thy beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long-preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust;
The grave is a fine and a private place.
But none I think do there embrace."
The child could not hold it back any more and he started wailing at the top of his voice. But the plaintive cry of the child was drowned in a great din and commotion. An important looking personage, followed by half a dozen flunkies, was the cause of all this perturbation. There was a great deal of activity and many more people emerged from the various nooks and niches of the same building. The child was quickly bundled up with the file in a red cloth with the inscription CASE CLOSED and sent to the record room.
The man with the ruler as well as half a dozen others of his kind collapsed on the floor-or so I thought. Actually they had fallen on the feet of the mighty personage in order to lick his boots. A tall well-built man bet everyone to it and was able to licked the boots with great relish and licked it clean and shining. The VIP mildly reprimanded him for soiling his cherry blossomed boots and asked him to do his duty. Meanwhile, the man at no. 2, who as I noticed, had already gone white with fear. The half a dozen worthies promptly gave number 1 to the newly arrived VIP and added + 1 to every one standing in the queue. The VIP was now in front and lodged his complaint. The gist of his complaint was that the old man and his son were ungrateful blackmailers. The fact of the matter was that VIP had summoned the daughter in order to give her mother company who was feeling lonely. He wondered why instead of feeling grateful he was being reviled in public, and as he had learnt only now. Being a conscientious citizen he had come to report to the Police. He saw a sinister foreign hand behind all this activity. The complaint was investigated impromptu and the father and the son (no. 2 and 2.5 in the line) were arrested and confined to a cage like room as lock up. My guide gave a triumphant smile and dared me to find parallels to this efficiency and wisdom in my own country. He also added for good measure that this was the state of ultraviolet activity - a rare sight as it was beyond the pale of visible of their duties spectrum, and I was fortunate to have witnessed it, in presence of VIP sometime leads to such a state.
Meanwhile the knowledgeable person advised my escort that either he should he patient and await his turn, or approach someone who could command the obedience of Police. The Police are like a vault - unless you have the secret code, (and only the rich and powerful have it ) you can’t' open it. He gave me the necessary information and bade me goodbye. I said to myself that having come this far I might as well go through the whole. I prepared to seek an appointment with the holders of the secret code


My peripatetic travels have taken me to strange lands. In Lilliput, I encountered human creatures the size of thumbnails, whereas I had the discomfiture of being reduced to thumbnail size myself in the presence of the mighty Brobdingnagians. During my voyages, I have met craven politicians and mad scientists, barbaric homo sapiens as well as civilised horses. After having taken the measure of the endless variety that nature had to offer, I hung my haversack and donated my compass and telescope to the local museum. The exclusive account was given to my literary executor, a certain Mr. Jonathan Swift who, I am told, later went insane. This is perhaps just as well, because for anyone to handle such bizarre tales is job enough. But my travel agent was pestering me for the last few decades to visit Atlantis, which he described as the Pearl of the Orient and like nowhere else on this earth. The name was exotic but I refused to bite the bait until I received this cable: "Buffaloes and bulls cultivated on bonsai scale. Handy enough to ride pillion on tiny scooters but have gargantuan appetites. A sight fit for gods". It was difficult to resist this last temptation and I cabled my assent.
The world was really becoming a mean little place now with so many barriers and restrictions on the movement of human beings. For a certain fee, the tour operator offered to take care of all the currency, immigration, passport and other formalities. I packed my bag, picked up my Handycam video camera and boarded a Boeing Aircraft for my destination. After many hours and changing many an aircraft, finally, I was hovering over the airport of my destination - Atlantis. I was not much used to this mode of travel, so I enquired of my fellow passengers the reason for this. I couldn’t have spoken sooner, because the pilot was on the mike to announce that a couple of young blue bulls were gamboling on the runway. The authorities were trying to persuade them to change the locale of their amorous pursuits to their nearby home.
It made quite an impression on me. In these unregenerate days when the flora and fauna were threatened all over the globe, here at least in a corner of the planet, the convenience of the lesser members of the animal kingdom was being accorded priority over such human nostrums as punctuality etc. We landed a few hours behind schedule but still in time for the magnificent parade that these people hold annually to celebrate their Republic Day.
En route to the parade ground, I was very impressed by the love of nature and natural surroundings that these people had. Cows, goats, pigs all roamed around, sharing the same bit of macadamized stretch of path with cars, buses, trucks. The dwellings could serve equally well for men and pigs! It was indeed a bit of a welcome change from the other countries, where they practice complete segregation. Not only animals, birds were shown equal consideration. At numerous places, tall human statues were erected through public funds to serve as perch for them, and also for them to do their dirt upon. In an ingenious move to placate the churlish taxpayers - for Atlantis was a democracy - these statues were cleaned and decorated once a year and dignitaries performed some ritualistic mumbo jumbo to justify the expense incurred.
Finally we arrived at the parade ground where a separate enclosure was erected for the distinguished personages. A leisurely crowd of courtiers lounged about. These went about with familiar sounding names of officials in British Civil Service. Atlantis prides itself in unity in diversity and a fierce commitment to originality and independence of views. They are a people remarkably free from jingoism and false national pride. The more reactionary and conventional courtiers were present in the de rigour bandhgalas, but the more progressive ones sported tweeds and blazers and various jackets, very much akin to people in our lands. Being a sociable people, the courtiers displayed a natural tendency to garrulousness while the children - the more noisy adults in miniature - played a small game of hide and seek in the enclosure. In the meantime the National Flag was unfurled, and people got up and sat down at their pleasure, while the National Anthem played merrily. The general atmosphere of gaiety and even levity left me in no doubt that they are a highly evolved people politically and they treated such holy icons as national flag, national anthem etc. with just the right dose of cynicism. The next morning’s newspaper carried a story of the national flag slipping down the pole; at some other place it was unfurled upside down. I could now see the foolishness and the fanaticism of soldiers, sailors and citizens back home prepared to kill and be killed for a quilted piece of cloth called the Union Jack.
The parade was over, and the tableau relating to achievements of the state began to emerge from behind a curtained enclosure. The first one, that nearly took my breath away, was a school without teachers, followed by a school chock-full of teachers but with no students. Atlantis, being a very ancient land, had evolved the method of self instruction and, as the story goes, when denied access to a teacher they make do with his statue - as somebody called Eklavya seems to have done. Similarly, the teachers, who are in the lineage of the great sages, are all the time in pursuit of the realization of the ultimate knowledge. In this vibrant democracy, politics has been accorded - and rightly - the status of the ultimate pursuit. Needless to say, these teachers are elected. Hospitals without doctors, doctors without any formal medical training or degree - the presentation was getting to be a little jaded when suddenly, in the distance, a procession of scooters emerged.
The audience was electrified, and a deafening applause demonstrated how justly they were proud of their achievement. It was a sight which I witnessed with no mean surprise. Buffaloes and bulls the size of thumbnails were neatly stacked, one on top of another, and on one scooter at least I counted four score and six. It was confirmed by the excited crowd that each one of them ate animal feed equivalent to one hundred normal animals. I had no doubt in my mind that they are a people much advanced in eugenics and genetic engineering. They appeared to have crossed Brobdingnagian animals with the Lilliputian ones. Invention as they say is the mother of necessity. These animals were to be given away to the poor tribals who had very small huts. So the compassionate state bred these animals commensurate with the needs of these poor people. The copious dung of these animals was pure gold, and was collected as reward by all those associated with this noble project. The compassion and the efforts of the welfare state touched me deeply.
But the piece de resistance of the whole show was the award giving ceremony. In our country, thieves and scoundrels were publicly hanged. The intent behind such a public ceremony was that the general populace should take heed and desist from such deeds. But the barbaric practice did leave them brutalized to that extent. Readers will remember that these people are highly evolved politically, and are above jingoism and sectarian patriotic claptrap. Dr Johnson's dictum "patriotism is the last resort of a scoundrel" was understood in the true sense of the terms. But rather than punishing, their scoundrels who resorted to patriotic acts like keeping the enemy at bay on international borders were called out publicly for such misdemeanours. The rationale was that these who got foolishly killed should be rewarded with petty sums to underline the comicality of their endeavour. I was reminded of the punishment meted out to dissenters in the Roman days, who were made to wear the mask of a clown to rob them of the dignity of their deeds and deaths. There could be no other reason for a compassionate state which honours criminals or their victims, or people killed in accidents and natural calamities so handsomely to be so stingy. But the deeds of these people were described in very fulsome terms. The French pride themselves on having the most polite manner of saying things - if they have to abuse you, then they will abuse you sil vous plait!
It was a grand spectacle which drove home the message pointedly and left the people elevated rather than brutalised. Britain and other advanced nations have much to learn from this country and the colour of the skin of these people may be darker but their hearts have hues of gold. The first leg of my journey had greatly instructed me in the ways of the modern world


The IAS is in the news. The Prime Minister himself eloquently told the parliament about what they can and they cannot do , so I thought it would be a good starting point , to share with the world Gulliver's impression of the Mighty Service.
By way of an introduction to the article "The Mighty Service "that I am going to post shortly ,Gulliver's Travels, a humorous series that I wrote about 25 years back , could not proceed beyond the sixth part.It was written with active encouragement from my dear friend
Uttam Sengupta
then RE Times Of India , and published in the year 1996-97(?) in the Times Of India and was published without attribution to the author for obvious reasons.
The inspiration for the series was a bizarre incident. An airplane couldn't land at Patna airport even after hovering over it for quite some time because a couple of frisky blue bulls had strayed on the runway, nobody knew from where. And of course writing in 1997 who could put away the thoughts about the infamous Animal Husbandry Scam that burst upon Bihar. In the same year on the Independence Day security personnel were honoured with cash awards like 2977.50 paise. (Rs.22.50 were deducted as charges for preparing the bank draft etc.!) Such financial prudence went hand in hand with the withdrawal of hundreds of crores of rupees from the treasuries without budget, without allotment, without proper authorization. Bills for transporting thousands of bulls and buffaloes on scooters were also paid for with the taxpayers money. On the other hand criminals killed in police encounters – fake or genuine -were rewarded with sums like Rs.2 lac and above should they belong to the politically favoured caste or those who owed allegiance to ruling political party. The first part of the serial tries to look at these events from the viewpoint of an alien that is one who carries no bias.
The Police serials( 2,and3) were similarly triggered off by topical events which have now faded away from public memory. Sl. 2 was occasioned by a spate of kidnappings and train dacoities. Since many of the dacoits owed allegiance to powerful politicians or caste groups police were understandably reluctant to act.
Sl 3 :Deepa Murmu, a young poetically inclined and politically ambitious girl was raped, first by a government functionary, and then allegedly by the minister himself to whom when she had gone seeking his help, in nailing down the accused. Forced to investigate the influential offender police investigation meandered through literary , and metaphysical alleys and byways, and finally get lost in the maze of court procedure . Senior officers wrote eloquent disquisitions on the etiology of the crime of rape and mapped the psychological profile of the rapist in great detail. Meanwhile the raped girl who had conceived, died during childbirth. SL. 3 pays homage to this attribute of Police. SI 4 is in breathless adoration of arms merchants, their resident agents and other lobbyists and liaison men. It also celebrates the vanishing trick of a certain highly connected Italian gentleman who figured in a defence deal but agencies dared not take his name. SI 5 and 6 are about the two warring tribes- the IPS and IAS. The 5th in the serial is in the context of 5th -pay commission recommendation and the sole concern of the IPS for parity with the IAS etc. The sixth part describes the deluded descendents of The Men Who Ruled India, about their fondness for mulcting of development funds, the brazen episode of out of turn allotment of government houses where in the Supreme Court and Patna High Court in their respective jurisdictions had to intervene. The whimsies and other peccadilloes of the Bada Sahibs (IAS) has been described from the perspective of the lesser folks.I do not remember why did I stop this serial. I guess I got bored with myself.
I had discovered the old drafts sometime back and I am trying to reconstruct the articles .Since the IAS is in the news, I thought it would be a good starting point , to share with the world Gulliver's impression of the Mighty Service, even though this is the last of the Gulliver’s series.
Mr . Gulliver first port of call is in Pataliputra . He meets a local who acts as his guide and takes him to places. This post is by way of introducing The Mighty Service which I shall post in a short while.