Being a Woman
I never dreamt that I would ever have to enter a police station in my life, but fate evidently was in a snarky mood when I had that thought, for it immediately decided that I would enter those hallowed premises, not once but thrice. Thankfully it was with regard to a missing document and not due to any overtly violent acts on my part.
Apparently, when certain types of documents go missing, a police complaint has to be filed. It sounds absurdly simple – just another friendly visit to meet the courageous men and women who keep our streets safe. Great thing to do provided the person does not have an intense fear of policemen. I never thought I was that kind of person. In my mind, I could see myself strolling into a police station, smiling serenely at the occupants, exchanging friendly banter regarding the weather or the law and order situation, getting my work done with a twinkly-eyed smiling officer of the law and walking out after warm goodbyes. When the decision was taken to file a complaint, I was ready for banter and bonhomie. After all there was no crime involved, so I would be in and out in a jiffy.
Note to self: Police personnel are never twinkly-eyed and their default expression is an unsmiling unblinking stare.
That is a good expression for a crocodile sunning itself on the banks of the Nile, but human beings should smile especially when the other person, viz myself, is coming there for the first time and that too with a lot of expectations of good cheer. I realized the absurdity of my expectations within a few nanoseconds of entering the police station. The policemen were scrupulously polite and helpful, but I was petrified beyond all reason. My gracious smile ended up as a cross between a smile and abject fear, which I’m sorry to say, must have been a terrible thing to behold. Thankfully I didn’t have to see my own face. I was also beset by an acute desire to use the washroom. And this seemed to play havoc with my sense of hearing. I’m sure that esteemed gentleman must have wistfully wished for an uncomplicated pickpocket or even a common variety thief, instead of the blithering blob of jelly he had to deal with.
The first two visits were quite short ones and I managed to escape without too much damage to myself or to the policemen on duty. But the third visit was to collect a certificate and when I went there I realized to my utter dismay that I would have to wait for some time. I was cordially ushered into a room and asked to sit. I don’t remember much of my journey from the door of the room to the chair, but an alcoholic octopus would have been steadier than me. Once again I was before an unsmiling policeman who fortunately was engaged in writing in a register. It was just me, the policeman and my completely insane attitude in that room. There were people walking in and out, each busy with their work.
When I’m nervous I either yawn or talk. Since the former was out of the question, I needed to talk. But I didn’t think nonsensical chatter would be well received by the company. Then I had this insane desire to confess all my sins starting from the time I was a toddler and had sent an idly flying from the dining table. That too would not have been welcomed by my uniformed companion. So I desperately tried to think of other things which would ease the constipated look on my face. I thought about books and stories, and that calmed me down a bit until a stray thought flitted into my mind. I had read somewhere that people who tell lies touch their ears while doing so. The policeman chose this moment to complete his writing assignment and engage in some friendly chatter. The utter horror ! I was determined that I wouldn’t touch my ears in case my answers were considered untruthful. It was crazy, but I could feel my ears. I hardly give a second thought to my ears unless somebody is shouting into them. But at that juncture I became aware of these two appendages on either side of my head. I felt them expanding and I just wanted to tweak them and bring them down to normal size. I had to sit on my hands to keep them from zooming in on my ears. After a while, I felt as if I had two cauliflowers hanging from my head.
Note to policemen: Please do not try to engage in casual chitchat when the person before you feels they have vegetables coming out of their heads.
Thankfully, within a short time the certificate was ready and I was informed of the same. Just as it was being handed over to me, I wanted to laugh. I could feel a huge guffaw building within, and that was not a good sign. Somehow I managed to ruthlessly suppress it and all that came out was a snort. While the policeman gave me a very bemused look I mumbled a few words of gratitude and shot out of there. The speed of my exit would have made any Olympic medalist envious.
Looking back, an exercise that I never intend to do again, I still can’t fathom what happened to my ears that day. But I cannot look at a cauliflower without thinking of policemen.