Tête-à-tête 🚗 (guest post)

Not sure if it’s calculated or a mere coincidence but they do select the least expected spots as the catchment areas; it can be just around an unsuspecting curve, two streets away from the popular watering holes in the locality in the late evenings and even right at the bottom of an empty overbridge where out of sheer delight of being free from the usual bumper to bumper traffic in Bengaluru, you step on the accelerator only abruptly to come to a slow halt at the beckoning of a traffic cop. You watch these episodes play out in the lives of other lesser mortals, but somehow you manage to get away each time…until…👮‍♂️

The other day, a cop stopped us on the road and politely enquired, why he shouldn’t hand over a speeding ticket for Rs. 1000 on a stretch along the ring road where we weren’t allowed to drive beyond 50 kmph !? We pleaded that we did not know if we were above 50, but he promptly offered to show us the radar document to verify.

We were caught unaware. Our papers were in order, the masks were in place, so were the seat belts. What did the cop have in mind? 50 kmph is not a mean speed, especially on long, clean road surfaces, but a welcome respite to those standing still in long traffic snarls frequently seen on the roads of Bengaluru. He wasn’t very impressed with our innocence either. It was obvious. We had to settle the fine for a traffic violation. We felt sorry and trapped. Drawing out the wallet seemed the next best thing.

Even as he hovered around the driver’s window and watched us, he was nonchalant and eyed a comprehensive look. We prayed.

We prayed for redemption. First of all, we didn’t have the 1000 bucks among us. Secondly, our combined expertise in negotiation with auto drivers, shopkeepers, and vegetable vendors did not help us further. We were novices concerning the law; bargaining with authorities wasn’t exactly our forte.

He watched us intently and read our thoughts. He was entirely at ease.

It was a good day in early December, and Xmas was around the corner. We’d just bought some goodies for a dear one who was celebrating. We also obtained a gift, well-wrapped for the special occasion. A tiff with the law was the last thing on our minds. We weighed our options.

Why did the cop pick us from the crowd? We wondered. Was it merely a random selection? There was a stream of vehicles fore and aft. In all cases, that leaves us little leeway, and almost everyone requires travelling at the same speed. It’s the rule of the road, a traffic inevitability. One can’t slow down or accelerate in bumper traffic. Then why hit on us? Ours was a small car, an inconspicuous one. We sat thinking.

Should we check out the radar slip? We wondered if the cop was lying. For quick money? Will it make sense to ask him for proof of the violation? Would that be offensive? That may close us on to the last exit route. We were running out of ideas and time.

As if reading our thoughts and looking to tie the noose tighter, the cop offered us again to see evidence of our speed violation should we doubt him. We promptly responded and agreed in unison that we believed him and was right. He relaxed. He might have marked a 90℅-win probability in this instance.

We considered our opportunity. Sometimes, it is best to ease tensions in a negotiation by accepting that we are wrong and the other side is right, even at times when that admission is not entirely correct.

We now looked at him with respect. He was officiating. Authoritative. He deserved attention. We were not adversaries anymore but subjects of the king.

We had one trump card left and decided it was time. Sitting with chins and shoulders up, we unmasked our faces. With utmost pride, we revealed our elderly status. In the following admission, we confided that our faculties did not cope with the vehicle speed, speed signs, and an unassuming radar at one time. But we did not mean to break the law at any cost. We would wait on a red signal even if it was midnight and no cop was watching🚦.

The cop looked at us even more closely now, weighing options. His pride was intact, and authority unquestioned. Was anyone else watching? The treasury will swell with the catch. Would the force consider it a good deed to let go of an unforced error? The culprits appeared harmless, and would an indeliberate act be reckoned non-cognizable and not at variance with the law?

All on a sudden he smiled at us. Shook our hands.  And let us go. No offence!

“We are all a great deal luckier than we realize, we usually get what we want – or near enough.”

― Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

The author Saji can be reached at sajisalk@gmail.com.


Till next post, take care !!


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