“Oh no!”, exclaimed my sister as we reached home after our shopping expedition, “someone had picked my purse”. With that, she had to bid farewell to Rs.2,000, her driving license, a few credit cards and an American Express card which was to pay for a ticket for her puppy. In two days’ time she had to fly back to the US after her short stay.
“Let’s go to the police”, I suggested. And that’s where our problems started!
“How do you know it was picked?” asked the SI, chewing paan.
“Well, how else would I have lost it?” sis asked impatiently.
“Ah! That’s what I mean, you might have lost it.”
“How?” queried sis.
“That’s not our business to find out how you lost it,” said the SI.
Realising it was getting us nowhere, I intervened with “Inspector, when we went shopping, I saw my sister put her purse in her handbag; when we came home, it was not there.”
“She might have dropped it,” he persisted, picking his nose.
In a no-nonsense voice I requested him to kindly register the theft. Reluctantly he scribbled something in a pathetic looking book and our case was registered under a CR No.- Whatever that was.
“Look mama!” cried my niece excitedly as she read out a small news item in the paper the next day. “A wallet was handed over to our editorial department, which contained some credit cards and a driving license. The owner can come and claim the same after proper identification.”
We gleefully went there, only to be told that we had to fetch a policeman and the articles found would be handed over to him. The paan chewing SI, not too happy about our finding the wallet without his help, sent a paan- chewing constable with us. He took possession of the wallet which was woefully minus the money and took us back to the police station. Through a mouthful of paan juice, the SI asked us to take the CR No. and go to the court and get a court order for release of the articles.
“Give an application stating your case and quoting CR No,” said the court clerk, suspiciously scratching his palm. “It will take you three days to get the order”. I desperately explained the urgency and he scratched harder, saying “get the application and we will see.”
“Ten rupess,” said the decrepit man at a rickety typewriter as he handed over the application he typed for us.
“Affix a 65p stamp and get the magistrate’s signature,” said the court clerk. Back to the old man who conveniently had no change for a rupee.
“The magistrate saab is busy” said the arrogant peon at the door. His hand too seemed to be itching as my sister observed. After a restless wait, we were ushered into His Lordship’s presence. He scribbled his signature and dismissed us. “Go to the police station and get a no-objection statement,” ordered the court clerk.
Quite enjoying the whole thing, the SI laboriously wrote out that he had absolutely no objection to handling over the articles found. His Lordship looked at it and scribbled again, and this time, added a Rs.500 to it.
“Get a Rs.10 stamp paper and type out another application,” said the court clerk who had stopped scratching but sulking. We had to go three blocks away to get the stamp paper by which time it was lunch hour.
The court clerk was also chewing a post-lunch paan. He looked at the application typed out by the old man who had doubled his fees. “Hmm,” nodded the clerk and sent us back to his Lordship who was dozing in his chair. We could get to him only because his doorman was equally dozy. I hoped he would not want the Police Commissioner to be present when he handed over the articles to my sister!
Tired and sweating, we flopped into the chair at home. My sister took out the wallet and stared at it. “You know,” she said, “I’m not too sure if I don’t prefer the heartache of losing this thing to the headache of finding it!”