The other day, I was at a party. That in itself could be deserving of a post but here’s my standard practice at a party: I find a corner and I sit there, either pretending I have something inordinately interesting on my phone or simply nursing a drink. Those who are kind attempt conversation. I attempt to respond. It all ends in a dismal failure. We move away, them to other people and me to the bar.
But I digress. The point of this post wasn’t so much that I was at a party but that this was the first time that I was a at a party that was broken up by cops. Khaki clad, moustachioed men, sweating and paunch-laden, beady-eyed and gold-toothed. I feel like I’ve arrived.
It was about 2.30am. Someone put on a song that involved a whiny male voice and lots of guitar strumming. Clearly this song resonated with the people around me because a long groan emerged from the collected men in the room and someone turned the volume up almost as high as it could go. About ten minutes after this, the doorbell rings. One guy goes up to the door. He sees a man in a white raincoat. The man says something to him, possibly in Marathi, but at this point, our young Bandra boy has inhaled so much marijuana that even his native English is proving a little difficult to comprehend. So he beams at Mr. White Raincoat and turns around to holler, “Who ordered home delivery?” Then he stumbles off.
Meanwhile, the man in the white raincoat stands in the middle of the living room of a ground floor flat. It’s dimly lit, there’s a lot of smoke in the air, people are strewn and scattered all over the place. Some lean back on the sofa, others are leaning against the walls because that’s the only way they can imagine themselves upright. The man in the white raincoat unzips his raincoat a little and attempts to make eye contact. He is successful on a number of accounts. He glares and the object of his attention responds with a woozy grin. He then decides to look around and so, everyone in the different rooms, including the kitchen, glimpses the man in the white raincoat. I see him too. Unlike the others, I don’t smile at him. First of all, I’m just not a very nice person so random smiles are not my thing. Plus, I’m a little suspicious of men in general but particularly men who happen to be wearing khaki shirts at 2.30am and are poking their head into a private property that has, to be best of my knowledge, enough joints on the premises to make Bob Marley return from the dead.
This is when the host’s domestic help bounds into the room with worried eyes and explains to the host that this is not home delivery but a cop. Who has other cop friends waiting outside the door. All of whom are saying they’re going to call “the van” and take everyone here to the police station. First reaction, everyone laughs. The domestic help blinks. Second reaction: “Someone turn the fucking music off!” In the ensuing silence, everyone looks at one another, trying to figure out who is the best person to negotiate with the cops. One of us has managed to get carted off to police stations in three different continents: once for disturbing the peace (Mumbai), once for looking like a Mexican convict (America), once for some mysterious reason that no one knows till date (Europe). Each time he’s been returned with apologies from the police but he doesn’t seem like the best person to bring in front of three cops. Another one is an assistant and used to handling crises and managing people. However, right now she’s lost most of her motor functions and all she can get her brain to focus upon is that tomorrow morning she’ll be getting a Brazilian wax while battling her hangover. This may not be the best way to open a conversation that aims at getting the cops to leave the premises. Suddenly, there is a brainwave. “We need someone who speaks Marathi!” All eyes swivel and rest upon Mangeshkar (name changed to protect identity). Mangeshkar, who can stand on her own two feet despite having lost count of both drinks and joints. Mangeshkar, who is wearing a dress that is verging on being off-waist rather than off-shoulder. “I can’t do Marathi bonding dressed like this,” she points out. At which point, three very drunk boys — one Punjabi, one Sindhi and the other stoned — promise to protect her honour. So Mangeshkar heads to the main door, with her three bodyguards. Behind them are three women — one from Coorg, one Tamilian and me — propping the boys up so that they stand and don’t sway. Unity in diversity. Jawaharlal Nehru would have been proud of us.
Of course the police weren’t really there to arrest us. They just wanted to make a little extra cash, which they did. But what’s really disturbing is that three cops can just walk into private premises without any authorisation whatsoever, just because they feel like it. There was a guard at the gate who was bullied into opening up by the police and then they rang the bell and Mr. White Raincoat walks right in. What if, instead of 15 people there are had just been four or five people in the house? Three of them could easily have taken on Mangeshkar and a couple more. What if they’d been in the mood to act and not just leer as they did while Mangeshkar patiently haggled with them? It took us a good ten minutes to gently edge them backwards and out of the door and we only did this after two of us noticed that there was a random fourth guy with the three policemen who was not only drunk but had not-totally-dry blood on his trousers. Insert shudder here.
On the plus side, I’ve got a great story for the next party. A little sobering as party talk goes, perhaps, but what the heck.