It must’ve been about 1995-96, we lived in Maninagar (Yeah, THAT Maninagar) in Ahmedabad and I needed a police clearance certificate for passport. I was at Maninagar police station, waiting on the wooden bench among others for the PI to be available to sign our forms while the PI was busy in the office with a couple of local ‘Neta types’. The sort of people who would wear a long terri-cotton Kurta in dark blue colour, leather sandals, Ray-Ban aviators and ‘Munh mein Paan’ with a thick golden chain… but no actual credentials or clout to make something happen at the other end of phone making it necessary for them to drag their cliche persona across and flaunt their ‘Neta-giri’…. That type!
We could all clearly see and hear everything on the other side of those half doors. You know those swinging half-doors in police stations? The stupid things have no purpose at all! They can’t be locked, you can just walk through. They don’t provide any privacy, you can hear everything across, you can see almost everything with a few neck muscles exercised, and more often than not even stretching your neck isn’t necessary as the hinges are always jammed and one of the two swing doors gets stuck behind leaving a wide gap. But anyway…
The ‘Neta’ was pleading with the PI for getting one of their guys released from police custody. Some sort of election was on the way and according to the routine pre-election drill, all ‘History-sheeters’ and people on the list for ‘PASA’ (Prevention of Anti-Social Activity Act- or ‘Gunda Act’) etc were rounded up and locked up a day before election until polls were over.
Neta: “Saa’b, ek ladka hai aapke ‘under’ mein, bahar nikalwana hai. Kuchh kariye please!”
(sir, there’s a boy under your custody, we need him out. Please do something)
PI: “Arey ‘Whatever’jee.. Maaf kijiye, kuchh nahi ho sakta- agar andar daala hai to ‘List’ mein hoga, Election hai to ‘Achaar Sanhita’ hai. Hamein bhi upar report dena padta hai”
(Mr. Whatever, excuse me but I can’t do much. If he’s been detained he must’ve been on the ‘List’. Due to the election there is a protocol and we have to report to the superiors)
Neta: “Saa’b, aisa bhi koi pakki list wagairah me nahi hoga, Achhal ladka hai, apne kaam aata hai, baal-bachhe wala hai… dekh lijiye zara!”
(Sir, he can’t be on any serious sort of list. He’s a good boy, and useful for us too. Is a family man, please look into it)
PI: “Kaunsi list mein hai, jaante hain aap kya? Dekhte hain”
(Do you know which list he’s on? I can check)
Neta: “Ladka to seedha sa hai saab, pata nahi kahan kahin koi bawaal chal raha hoga, aas paas me khada hoga aur PASA mein naam daal rakha hai aap logon ne!”
(He’s a good boy, sir. I don’t know- he must’ve been in the wrong place at a wrong time and your cops put him on the PASA list)
PI: “Arrey, ‘Whatever’jee, aap bhi kitne uljhe hue case laate hain, PASA mein hai to kaise niklega? Election ke baad hi nikal sakte hain”
(Oh! Mr. Whatever, you bring such complicated things to us. How could I even help if he’s on the PASA list? He’ll be out only after the elections)
Neta: “Saa’b, meri baat maniye, ladka ek-dum seedha hai, makkhi bhi nahi maar sakta, ghar-baar wala ladka hai, hamare kaam ka bhi hai, koi galti ho gayi hai aap ke logon se ke us ko PASA mein daal diya, bhala ladka hai, bhagwaan ki gaay hai, kuchh to kariye, dekh lijiye please!”
(Sir, believe me; he’s a good boy, can’t hurt a fly. Is a family guy and is useful to us too. Your department has made some mistake and put him on PASA list. He’s a humble guy, like the Holy Cow, Please do something and help!)
PI: (By now he just wanted to get rid of the Netaji somehow as evident from his tone): Achha, naam bataiye aur jaaiye, main dekhta hoon agar kuchh kar sakte hain..”
(OK, tell me his name and leave, I’ll see if I can do something)
Neta: “Saa’b, bahot dhanyawad, bachhe ka naam hai Manish urf ‘Maniya Lukkhha’!
(Thanks sir, the kid’s name is Manish- alias ‘Manya The Goon!)
That settled it! ;-D