Haasar and The Hatman
Let’s say the following incident happened to a friend of mine. Certain portions have been dramatized because reality sucks at times. (Writing it in the first person because I am better off that way)
The day was pretty average. I am not sure which day it was, but it is safe to assume that it felt like a Wednesday. I was driving. It was 7 a.m. and I think the radio was playing a Santhosh Narayanan song. It was not summer and the sky was a gloomy blue. I felt like an extra driving through an Ilayaraja song shoot where the hero and heroine are walking on the sidewalk holding hands and thinking of a pleasant future.
The road was relatively empty with just a few other cars zooming past to reach their workplace. It was almost the end of the song being played on the radio.
I have driven through this road, at this time, at this pace, every single day for the past two years.
It was 7.03 a.m. It was a junction. It was just past the traffic signal and it had been green when I crossed.
Everything happened in a blur.
I saw the white Tata Sumo accelerate past me. I saw that middle-aged guy in that bike trying to cross the road from my right. I saw that he was jumping the traffic signal. I saw the Sumo whizz past me and hit the bike on its front wheel. I saw the guy lose control over his bike. I saw that he wasn’t wearing a helmet. I put my brakes just in time. I saw that guy falling down right in front of my vehicle.
It was still 7.03 a.m. The song was still playing.
The guy was in obvious pain and he was right next to the vehicle. I didn’t know what to do. There were not many people and the first thought that struck me was to leave the place and drive to work.
But then, the ‘good samaritan’ prevailed. I wanted to drop him off at the nearest hospital. I did just that. They asked me my name and phone number at the hospital. I didn’t think twice before giving it.
I stayed back. He was out of danger. I saw his family arrive to see him. They thanked me profusely for my timely intervention.
It was 8.15 a.m.
I had a smile on my face for helping out a fellow human being who was in need of assistance. I went back to work. I informed my family about the good deed, they were livid about me getting involved in things relating to accidents, hospitals and the police.
I felt like a good citizen of the country and I wouldn’t let anyone ruin that for me.
It was 09.27 a.m.
I was at work. I got a call.
A rough voice asking my whereabouts. The voice that just said “police” when I asked for an introduction.
I went to the police station near the scene of the accident.
I was afraid and called a relative who had good political and police connections.
They wanted my vehicle documents and license. We submitted the same and were told that a FIR had to be filed because the guy in the hospital had woken up and given a statement that it was my (insert an imaginary colour) vehicle that had hit him.
I wanted to protest loudly. I wanted to shout at the top of my voice that it wasn’t me and I was just trying to be a good person. My relative’s hand closed on my clenched fist to prevent me from saying anything. They wanted me to give a statement and I wrote down the things that happened in the morning and left the place.
It was 11.30 a.m.
The police station spooked me. The realisation that the process seemed smooth only because of the ‘connections’ my relative had with people at high places made me feel nauseated about the alternative reality. I held on harder to the hand that comforted me a few minutes back inside the station.
A couple of days passed.
It was 10.30 a.m.
I got a court order. I had to go to the sessions court to plead my case. Our family lawyer visited me and said this was just a formality and it would be more of an open and shut case. This was more of a claim for insurance thing. We can do an out-of-court settlement if required.
The lawyer told me that I had to plead guilty, I’d be given a fine and this nightmare would be over. I didn’t understand why I had to accept to a crime I hadn’t committed at all. But I didn’t want the hassle of visiting a court and a police station again and again for hearings and investigation.
A week later I went to the court.
I waited outside the sessions court with a few other men who were waiting for their case to be called out. They kept on asking me questions. I was afraid. I was scared of them. They looked dangerous. They had scars, big black moles, curly hair and am pretty sure they had a knife or two tucked somewhere. I don’t know if they were all that, I don’t remember their faces.
It was all a blur.
It was my turn to enter the court. The judge asked me if I accept the accusations. I looked at his eyes and thought a lot.
I didn’t want to come here ever again. I didn’t want to ever again be around people who intimidated me. I didn’t want to think of a possibility of stepping inside a police station where they didn’t believe my version of what happened but were nice to me because of my relative.
The judge asked me once more if I accept the accusations levied against me. The lawyer signalled me to say a yes and get done with this ordeal that was seriously working on my psyche.
I looked at the judge and said, “No”
He gave another date for the hearing. I walked out with my lawyer who seemed pretty flustered. There were people in my family who were livid. Some were supportive saying that I was fighting the right fight.
My insurance company read through the statements and decided that they’d take care of the guy and his family because this was clearly a tactic of extortion. They said that the fact that I admitted him to the hospital would be enough for them to take care of the case.
I didn’t care.
My relative said I wouldn’t have to worry anymore and I did the right thing in not accepting to a crime I’d never committed.
I didn’t care.
Sections of my family were exasperated that if such a news about me visiting a police station and a court ever got out, my share value in the marriage market would drop down drastically.
I didn’t care.
A few friends of mine made fun of my plight. All in good humour.
I didn’t care.
I just remembered that the very people who thanked me and equated me to be their equivalent of God, dragged me into this mess because they didn’t know who else would bear their medical bills and other expenses. I couldn’t be angry with them. It was just survival of the fittest.
I just remembered that I got out of this ordeal only because I had the required connections.
I just remembered that a less connected person could have been harassed by the system and people.
I just remembered that there is a reason why no one comes to help others or comes forward as a witness.
I just remembered that a court hearing could happen anytime and remembered the calls made by the various police stations and other middlemen trying to ‘broker’ or ‘coerce’ or ‘threaten me’ to accept an out-of-court settlement.
I just remembered that all I did was help a guy whose situation would have been critical if not for my timely intervention.
There is a reason why people shy away from getting embroiled in any kind of legal hassle.
There is a reason why people want to stay away from anything remotely connected to a police station or a court.
There is a reason why the Police can never be our friend.
There is a reason why people trust the judiciary not because they want to, but because they don’t have any other choice.
Life went on. I slowly became more confident about driving on the roads again. It was now a few months since that incident.
It was 7 a.m. and I think the radio was playing a Santhosh Narayanan song. It was rainy and the sky was grey. I felt like the hero driving through a Harris Jayaraj song thinking of the grim past that I left behind.
A car zoomed past me. It was raining and I drove slower. The road was relatively empty with just a few other cars zooming past to reach their workplace. It was almost the end of the song being played on the radio.
There was a screech. There were brakes. There was a thud and then there was silence.
I didn’t know if I could get out of the car to help the guy on the road. I didn’t know if I had it in me to go through all of this again. I didn’t know if I should just drive past the accident. There were others who just manoeuvred around him and left.
I was in shock. I couldn’t decide. My heart wanted to just help him out. My brain knew better. I couldn’t understand if staying away made me a smart person. I couldn’t understand if trying to help that guy made me a stupid person. I was trying to figure out if I wanted to be safe, smart and guilt-ridden or emotional, foolish and content.
I was battling my inner conflicts and understood that my brain always won with my heart, but not this time. I was just unlocking the doors of my car when one other vehicle stopped right in front of me. A guy walked out, put the accident victim in his car with the help of a few people and zoomed to the hospital.
I didn’t know how things would pan out for him. I wanted to hope that he wasn’t foolish to give his details and phone number to the ones who ask him. I wanted to hope the victim’s life was saved in the hospital. I wanted to hope the guy never had to think twice before helping anyone in need. I wanted to hope the guy never had to have a moral dilemma between being a good human and being safe.
I wanted to hope a lot of things when that white car sped away from the scene towards the nearby hospital, but I found myself hoping for just one thing.
I just hoped he had strong connections.