My brush with power

Lessons of a power-sharing alliance on two wheels


Danish Raza | March 5, 2011

It was the last leg of my journey from work to back home. I was waiting at the Rajghat traffic intersection for the signal to turn green. Totally oblivious to my surroundings, I was trying to make a note of the pending tasks at work: my boss’s possible reaction to a particular article of mine or an important email I forgot to respond to. Then there were four appointments the next day and three stories to be completed and …..

“Bhai saab zara aage drop karenge? (Can you drop me a little ahead?)” I heard a voice addressing me.

I didn’t even look at the person and went back to charting my career path.

“Bhai saab zara aage drop karenge?” he repeated, this time in an authoritative tone, looking right into my eyes.

I told him that I was not carrying an extra helmet and pillion-riding without one mean a challan. “Don’t you know the traffic rules or what?”

“Main DP mein hoon (I am in DP),” he said.

“Aap kis mein hain? (You are in what?)” I asked him with gullibility in my voice, as if I did not know that he was referring to Delhi police.

“Delhi police main hoon… (I am in Delhi Police),” he said and pointed to the traffic policemen stationed around ten steps away: “Inke saath hoon (I am with them).”

The man was in not in uniform. What if he was lying? I did not want to be poorer by Rs 100.

“Show me your identity card,” I said.

“What?” he shrugged, as if I had asked him to do striptease.

“Show me your identity card. You don’t look like a policeman,” I said in a commanding tone.

It worked.

He moved a bit to make sure that he was not in the line of vision of any of his colleagues at the intersection. He took out his identity card from his pocket and flashed it.

He was showing me his licence to break the rules. The rules he would penalise someone else for violating.

I dropped him at a point around a kilometre away.  This was not the first time I gave lift to someone.  But this was different. Legally speaking, I was party to rule violation, to breaking the law.

It was actually more than that. It was a close encounter with power, corruption and authority. For those moments when he was pillion-riding with me, I became a ‘somebody’. I felt, you know, different and empowered. Unlike people around me. They were all diminished.

The feeling was, “Hey, look here. I am breaking the law. And the guy supposed to safeguard it is here, under my obligation. Do you have the guts to complain against me? Go ahead, whom would you complain to?”

I felt like that khadi-clad villain of Hindi movies, who, as a display of his strength, would yell at the hero, saying, “Sarkaar meri jeb mein hai (The government is in my pocket).”

This was the day when I tasted power in the real sense. I slipped into the shoes of that bureaucrat who would clear the files allowing the business tycoons to carry on with illegal mining. “Nobody can touch me, you see.”

I could read the mind of that station house officer who would not lodge the complaint of a rape victim just because she is not the daughter of someone influential. On the contrary, there are chances of him arresting that very girl.

When I look back, I wonder if this is what a few moments of power could make me feel like, what all it would have been doing to the people in the power corridors.



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