Friday, March 25, 2011

The Inheritance of Loss 2: Tragic encounter with cops shatters myth about magic of numerical codes

I have to and have to and have to, just have to get that phone back. Need my phone, need my phone want my phone want my phone WANT MY PHONE.....

So after a lot of tears, cursing, lamenting, searching and bemoaning my luck Beverly and I went to the Police Station 2 days later to file an FIR and submit the magical IMEI number that would help trace my darling cell phone and bring it back to me.  As we got out of the rickshaw we were in we spent some time ogling at the building that was the Police Station. We looked at each other and then started walking towards the station compound. We climbed up a few stairs before finally stepping into the part of the structure that actually housed the cops. I wanted to snigger. Uncontrollably.

What would people say? Girls from good families never even skirt the boundaries of a Police Station, let alone step inside one. Cops are not to be trusted; half the rapists and killers and smugglers in the city are policemen. Police stations are filthy and unsafe.

While my head was swimming with voices yelling out all the stereotypes attached to Police Stations and Policemen my common sense was stating superfluous facts blithely.

 Looks like the outpatient section of a hospital with linoleum flooring and off white walls, no smell, no lock ups in view {what a letdown...} no cops in sight either....Why do they have a foyer? An empty one at that too. Oh, there’s another room to the left. I spy cops. What do we do now?

“What do we do now Bev?”          
“Ask someone what we should exactly do?”  Bev and I, we have a penchant for rhetoric.
“Madam, what are you looking for? {On second thoughts} How can I help you?”
“We needed to lodge a complaint regarding a lost cell phone.....”
“Please enter the room to your left and let Inspector Mhatre know what your problem is.”

Oh yes, yes! I remember Inspector Mhatre... His kid was in kindergarten with me.{Rolling eyes}

Bored cop looks at our bemused faces and then on an impulse decides to rephrase his sentence, “The policeman in the cubicle on the left end of the room, Maam”
We ‘Thank You’d’ in tandem and walked to meet Inspector Mhatre. He was busy on the phone talking nineteen  to the dozen in Marathi: a language Beverly can come to terms with after grappling with a sentence or two per second and a language that is as alien to me as being overweight is to a model. Inspector Mhatre smiled at us mouthed ‘cell phone’ and then gestured us to the other end of the long rectangular room. He smiled once again, held the phone a few inches away from his ear and yelled out loudly

“Shinde, Ya  Madamcha mobile missing ahey. Tyachi complaint londavaychi ahey” {Ma’am has lost her phone. Lodge her complaint}

Constable Shinde escorted us to the far end of the room and sat us down on two identical, thankfully not battered plastic lawn chairs. He removed huge horn-rimmed glasses from his breast-pocket and fixed them onto the bridge of his nose. I felt like we were in an eighties Bollywood movie; the aggrieved female leads about to file a complaint and cops who weren’t the least interested about what we had to say. But I was wrong, they were interested.

“Where do you live? Are you working or are you a student? When exactly did this happen? Where did the phone get lost?”
“I don’t know  exactly where.....I came home and realised that my phone was missing. I travel to and fro from home to college by train. I can’t precisely remember where I last used it or when it went missing.”
“So did it go missing in the train?” Questioned the constable, “Because if it did then you’ll have to go to the Railway police and file a complaint. So I’ll write that you lost it in the bus while travelling from the station to your house, right?” His eyebrows were raised quizzically, a conspiratorial look in the eyes.

Policemen 101: They make you run from pillar to post. He’s doing the opposite and helping us....Surprise Surprise

“When did it exactly go missing?”
“On the 17th of February, Sir. Most probably in the afternoon.”
“Well it’s 19th evening today......”

I know that, didn't I just confirm my occupation as a student?

“I’ll lodge a complaint for the 18th..... You lost it on the 18th, right?”
Bev and I look at each other, both our eyes mirroring the same expression: amazement , “Yes, Sir”

Policemen 101: Cops are sticklers for facts if it aides in harassing the public. False.

In walks top cop Inspector Kadam and seats himself on the chair before us. He starts interrogating me in Marathi and I stare at him dumbfounded. The Inspector looks from the constable to Beverly. I know what he’s thinking. Is she slow or what?

“She doesn’t understand Marathi, Sir”, Bev supplied in Hindi. Inspector resorts to displaying expressions of mock hurt and insult. The man’s regional spirit has been crushed with my lack of knowledge of his mother tongue is what he’s implying.
Marathi  yeth nahi ka?! Mumbai mein reh ke Marathi aana chahiye na? {You don't know Marathi, is it? When you live in Mumbai you should know Marathi!}

If after living here for only four years you feel this distraught imagine how the Arabs are feeling ........

“Umar kya hai apki? Age Age....” he adds in English for my benefit.

I said don’t understand Marathi but Hindi I do, so please quit the subtitles.....

“Unnees saal , Sir. Hum SYBA students hai” {We are 19 year old SYBA students} I said. I was bored of playing scared, big-eyed, innocent alien. We threw in the prestigious name of our college for added measure, snobs that we are. Plus we wanted them to believe that we were serious about what we came and weren’t passing time. As I was rattling off all of my personal details, including my name age, address, surname, place of birth, father’s name, college and phone number a group of petty criminals who were cowering on the floor near us looking around listlessly were overhearing our conversation with the cops. Bev drew her chair sideways trying to appear unperturbed while making a conscious attempt to distance herself from the scruffy looking convicts.

We had one of our many telepathic conversations

What if they memorize my details and hunt me down? How smart are these cops?
C’mon Lucky, they don’t look bright enough to memorize all that AND act upon it.
Point noted Bevy.
Also note: you’re plain paranoid.
Iyeah! Ha! I drew the chair away didn’t I?
It’s called hygienic concerns.
Hmphh right back at you.

Inspector Kadam boomed, “Accha, Ok, Shinde tila lost certificate denyat yawe” {Please issue a lost certificate with the details to Ma'am}.  And after barking his command with practised flourish the Inspector went to wherever it was he had come from.
After furnishing all the details they wanted I handed them the magical IMEI number.

Fingers crossed, C’mon numbers work your magic. Prove your worth. Break my losing streak.

Constable  Shinde looked at me and said ,“Ahhhh , We’ve heard about this, but we don’t understand the technology and neither do we have it.”

"But Sir...."

Policemen 101: 5 year olds are technologically more competent than cops. These words resonate with nothing but the truth.

“Even though it’s not of much use I will mention it here in your lost certificate.” And saying so he wrote it down on the sheet of paper they had the gall to call a certificate. 

The lost certificate was for me to keep, in case I needed to claim my phone or check the status of my complaint. The FIR; the official version of the lost certificate that the cops kept with them had no mention of the IMEI number whatsoever.  There isn’t any mind-boggling rocket science involved with regards to the IMEI number. The cops just have to note it down call up the different service providers in the city and inform them that any new Sim Card that operates with this IMEI should be reported to the cops immediately and the co-ordinates of that Sim Card have to be provided to the IT section of the police department. Technologically incompetent moi knows that.

“Now what Sir?”
“Now nothing, we will wait and see if someone hands it over. Usually they don’t but just in case you know....”

Oh so basically after changing 2 buses and coming this far all you guys are going to do is wait for some public spirited citizen to hand it over? Classic......

“How costly was it? When you tried calling what happened?”
“I don’t know how costly it was Sir, but it was more than Rs 10,000 and when I tried calling my number I got the ‘switched off’ message even though the battery was fully charged in the morning.”

Who cares about the money {I do of course!} but the pictures of my family, school friends, videos from the JB concert, videos of my baby cousins and Bev’s first time on stage, my songs, messages , my things to do list, reminders...........Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhrrrrrrrrrggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

“Then it’s gone for sure. Either ways here’s you certificate. We will inform you if something crops up.”
They went back to watching the cricket world cup on the TV installed in an inner ‘cops only sanctum’.

Thanks for the extra helping of positivity. Wonder why it tastes bitter.

As we were walking out of the precinct Bev and I spoke out at the same time,

“What a waste of time and energy!”
“Although they were sweet and nice”
“Yeah they weren’t manner less boors.”
“We know most cops DO have potbellies and paunches”
“You bet”
“Look at the bright side, we know how a Police Station functions and we’ve been inside one! “
"Yeah! We were brave enough to go and deal with the cops on our own without any adult help Bev!"
"We ARE technically adults, you know......"
"Oh yeah..... I tend to forget that sometimes."
"Well, at least we tried"
"Yeah, we tried."

I’ve tried everything possible to locate my phone. Apart from obsessing over it and suffering from anxiety attacks there isn’t much I can do. So I sleep at night dreaming of my pretty little touch screen hoping that somehow, someday soon it will turn up flashing it’s backlight and notification lights cheekily at me.

The nut who stole it even stole the phone’s sassy red cover :(


 PS: If the Marathi translations are any good just letting you know that they are the handiwork of my friend Madhuri :) If they're faulty please give the brickbats to her too :P Special thanks to Kalyani for providing me with typical Marathi policemen surnames :) Yes, those aren't the real names of the cops I interacted with. Whatever made you think I'm going to risk my neck doing that???

The Inheritance of Loss

It all started with the wallet. A pretty thing in blue denim gifted to me by my friend Shruti on my 17th birthday. I had preserved it for almost two years, intact with the box and the gift wrapper it came in. Two years later exactly after my 19th birthday when the wallet I was using started disintegrating into shreds of leather and cloth I decided it was time to bring out the denim wallet. It was smaller, compact and easy to lose. In the giant handbag I carry to college, perpetually stuffed with books, files and occasionally with a stole to protect myself from the winter chill and the summer sun anything could go missing for a few minutes and initiate an anxiety attack lasting a few minutes before the object of concern turned up dandy and fine. I guess my possessions are of the opinion that once in a while a little extra pumping of the heart, increase in pulse rate, palpitations and hyperventilation does me good.
I had to renew my railway pass that day so I had carried around Rs 1000 with me. On reaching the ticket counter I realised that my usual train would leave in a matter of 3 minutes. I urged the lazy official at the booking counter to get my pass made quickly and sprinted towards the train clutching the remaining Rs 200 or so I received as change in my hand. I’m usually very meticulous when it comes to keeping things in their proper places. But that day for some inexplicable reason I decided to stuff the money into my pencil pouch which was the first thing that I could lay my hands on in the cavern I call my handbag. I didn’t even bother to transfer the money from my pouch to the wallet despite opening the pouch a gazillion times to remove my writing implements. In the train, returning home I noticed a lady selling safety pins and remembered my Grandmother asking me to get her some if one of the travelling hawkers in the train were selling them. I opened my bag for the wallet and started the ritualistic rummaging I engage in every time I needed something found. It had to be inside a book or under the file or concealed in the folds of the stole. Out came books, lunch-box, mobile phone, pencil pouch, stole, library book, hair band, sunglasses, reading glasses {both intact in their cases}, ID card, water bottle but no wallet. NO WALLET.

"Madhuri, I don’t seem to find my wallet........"
"It’s got to be there somewhere in your bag. Give me your books, must be stuck inside one of them."
"I guess yeah....." OH MY GOD..... I’VE LOST IT...IT’S GONE....GONE
"What are you doing, Luck?"
"Searching for the wallet, what else does it look like?"
 "Inside your lunch-box?"

There’s a saying in Malayalam that when roughly translated means, ‘When you lose your fishing rod you should search for it even inside an earthen pot’. What it basically tries to get across is that no matter how ridiculous it may seem, leave no stone unturned during your search for lost items. That’s a rule of thumb I always adhere to while hunting for my things.


"Maybe I left it in class......"
" Did you remove it to buy anything from the canteen today?" 
"Nope.... I got lunch from home."
"When did you last use it?"
" To pay for the pass..."
"Is that the last time you saw it?"
"I actually can’t remember when the last time I saw it was."

I spent the next three to four days searching for that wallet in the classrooms, the lost and found department, every nook and cranny of every place I possibly was at on that day, retracing my steps and actions but that wallet was GONE. I was kind of okay with the fact that I lost it because the only thing of import it held was change for bus worth Rs 30 and a few 100 used bus tickets that I had saved up for my friend Manasa who collects them. Fortunately the Rs 200 remained in the pouch all day. Sometimes laziness pays off. Sometimes you feel lazy for a reason.
But I’ve always wondered how and where exactly it went missing...  The bag is always glued to my arm or lap, the only other people I left it with are my gang of friends. We came to the conclusion that the only possible place it could have fallen out would be at the station as I was yanking my worthless stole out of my bag while getting off the train. I decided it was a much needed lesson for me to not be overconfident about being ‘the person who never lost stuff’.
I was much more careful than before, indulging in regulated checks of my bag at a 50 minute interval and everything was fine and under control.

Until I lost my mobile a month later.