Whether it is some deep rooted phobia of the tools of colonial oppression based on subconscious racial memory, or merely a guilty conscience I cannot say.For laws are myriad and intent for compliance not so robust, leading to occasionally catching the eye of her keepers.
It was during the impecunious student days that we traveled the city and even the country using public transport, whenever we couldn’t persuade kindly strangers to offer lifts, but neglected the formality of coughing up the fare. Sometimes the keepers looked askance at these liberties, and ingenuous ruses would keep us from their clutches. The classic was by Mohit, who later went on to become a major scourge for lawbreakers.
Our bus was stopped for spot check just outside the hostel, and M was the only one with a pass. So he decided impromptu to jump off and run, with the checkers in hot pursuit. The rest of us slipped quietly into the hostel while the law caught up with M.
“Show us your tickets”
“Don’t have any”
“Come to the police station!”
“We can make you!”
“No you can’t, I have a pass”
“Then why did you run?”
“Is running against the law?”
Today, as a consultant, he provides similar loopholes to his clients.
On another occasion, the law keepers wanted ID to prove that we had reached the legal age for the activity we proposed. Mohit gravely informed them that simple living and Yoga keeps us looking young, for if we had been married off by our parents at an appropriate age, we would have children like these guardians of the law. Helpless with laughter, they let us proceed.
Those days we also were very reluctant to pay the necessary fees to attend shows and exhibitions, and always knew an unguarded back entrance or convenient low wall or break in the fence. We also did not wait for invitations to attend parties, receptions, and weddings hosted by complete strangers. This too led to occasional detection and disagreements, and a host of aliases were handy when providing names and addresses.
The other occasions for incurring the displeasure of the law had moral right on our side, or so we believed, as it was for creating disruptions for various dimly understood causes, in the name of student protests. The Police were unusually patient and polite with us students, and arrested us merely to let us go a few hours later, dutifully noting down our names, and not expressing any surprise that we were all named after the Prime Minister of the country.
But once things went out of hand, and a group was taken to the lockup overnight, with some talk of fingerprinting the next day. A number of the inmates had interviews to attend in the near future, and many were aspiring civil servants whose careers would crash-land if weighed down by police records. As they were held in a temporary camp in a school building it was a simple matter to escape through the windows, and many did.
Trouble brewed next day, when post negotiations everyone was being let off, but the head count did not tally. If the same number of students weren’t released, cops could be charged with Habeas Corpus. An ingenious solution was found. Certain students, including yours truly, broke INTO the lockup, with full police cooperation, to make up the numbers originally picked up, and were immediately released to fanfare from the student leaders.
Although student agitations were a friendly match with the cops, post exam high jinks were sometimes frowned upon.
On one such spirited occasion, on a whim and a dare, a few of us decided to climb a statue of a national hero adorning the town square. This attracted a crowd, and soon a uniformed friend with a large stick.
We naturally did not heed his injunctions to descend at once, but instead climbed higher to escape the flailing stick. The intrepid law keeper then decided to climb after us forcing us to take drastic measures before backup arrived. We accordingly leaped to the ground in different directions and fled for our lives, guessing that he can chase only one of us. Cheered on by the watching crowd we escaped, helped along by the onlookers, always siding with the wrong side of the law.
We have all since grown up into law abiding citizens, some of us law makers and keepers ourselves, and the worst crimes we commit are minor traffic violations. But even nowadays although a rarity, confrontations do happen.
Getting late for work, I once tried speeding through as the lights were changing, and was promptly stopped by a lurking guardian of the law. I tried to plead that we were on the same side, both being government servants on official duty, and after scrutinising my credentials he claimed that I was only partly government. I pointed out that I had only partly jumped the light. Impressed by this astute argument, he waved me on with a broad grin on his face.
The law is not such an ass after all.