My job does require me to go to a lot of obtuse places. However the Kumaran Nagar police station was something I hadn’t quite bargained for. I entered the police station in order to get a clearance certificate. As I sat on a wobbly wooden bench, I surveyed the scene. Yellow walls peeling themselves to the rhythm of creaking fans. A benevolent Gandhi was smiling sideways at a spider sleeping in its web, while a board on top of the photograph said something to the tune that the police station was a kind of temple. I wonder if that is an indication of justice or a hint to bring offerings for the deity. The crime chart spanning the last three years stood ominously while an A4 size printout jostled its elbow announcing ‘A happy new year to everybody’. Just when I thought I was going to get bored, an old woman ran in wailing, her elbows scratched, saree torn and spectacles broken.
Her arrival warranted a response that an ant would have got had it sneaked in through the same doorway. She started lamenting that her grandson was beating her up, threatening her to sell her house so that he could get some money. While my mind was whirring at the pathetic unfairness of her situation, a constable calmly came out and asked the old woman if she wanted the police station to be shifted to her house, so that someone would always be there to give her protection in case anyone threatened her. The inspector of the station was much more courteous. He asked her to sit down and rest for a few moments and then tell her story.
Karuppayee’s manner seemed to have changed entirely now. She was calm and even a little gleeful. She pointed into a room ahead and said that in there were three murderers behind bars. They had slashed the throats of an old couple and ran off with the money. I gulped, now steadfastly refusing to look into the room ahead as Karuppayee started getting into the details. “They jumped through a window, cold-bloodedly took a knife and sliced them like squealing hens”, she said with the relish of a gossip-monger biting into a juicy story.
Then she quietened as the inspector went in, to take the three men out for a court hearing. My curiosity got the better of me and I looked. They were not burly moustached men with a mole on their face, but kids who would be barely 18! Can anyone be pushed to murder for money, or should you possess the innate steeliness in your heart to take another life? Whatever it is, it takes a bit of the same steeliness to assault your own grandmother for the same money, I thought, glancing at Karuppayee. It’s not that one is alien to stories of things people do to get money; it is just a little hard to digest when you look at it in real life.