The Hubli Hustle – in which the long arm of the Law reaches out and picks my pocket again!

Visiting the small rural town of Hubli in Northern Karnataka is proving expensive for me.

The last time I came through here 3 months ago I was fined Rs300 by an over-zealous cop for driving my vehicle without a document I had no idea I needed (see here)
Hubli despite it’s comparatively diminutive size, seems to have more traffic cops than the whole of Bangalore. They are on every corner and seem to have a vendetta for anyone driving in from other areas. Meanwhile the locals blatantly flout every traffic law and regulation with impunity.
So 3 months later I have returned, stopping for lunch on my way up to Mumbai. I pulled off the highway and spent the next 5 minutes crawling along behind a tractor in 1st gear as it swerved from side to side trying to avoid potholes and doing its best to dislodge the population of a small village perched all over it.
Frustration at this extremely slow progress getting the better of me I spotted a gap in traffic, pulled out and accelerated at warp speed finally getting out of 1st gear and changing up into 2nd.
Suddenly a traffic cop ran out from behind a tree and stood in the middle of the road pointing at me. Bearing in mind the last time the cops shook me down in this town, I contemplated ignoring him and continuing on my journey. But not wishing to sully the glistening paintwork of my beautiful car with the blood and bodily fluids of a policeman I decided it might be better for all concerned if I stopped.
“Why have you stopped me” I asked
“Overspeeding” he replied using a term peculiar to India.
To me one is either speeding or not speeding, so I am not sure where overspeeding fits in.
“What is the speed limit?” I asked
“Where is the sign?”
“No sign”
What speed was I doing? I asked
“Over 40” came the reply. “Come with me”
Reluctantly I got out and followed the cop to where 3 of his colleagues had set up camp in the shade of a tree with a radar gun on a tripod.
The senior-most police officer announced in a haughty manner befitting of a Maharajah of old, “You were driving very fast”
“Really? How fast?” I asked
“74” he replied
In second gear! On a severely potholed road! Wow. I was amazed for a second or two but suspecting that my diesel SUV had not miraculously transformed into a Ferrari overnight, I questioned his findings.
Telling me to look at the radar gun to see my speed, I wandered over and read the display.
“It says 30” I told him.
“That’s someone else’s speed.”
“Where is mine”
“It’s deleted. But you were driving so far above the limit we are booking you for reckless and dangerous driving” he told me, thereby increasing the fine amount by 30% in one fell swoop.
Well I had a good run, I thought to myself. Seven years of being the only safe and sensible driver left in India was a pretty good effort, but I have finally succumbed. I think it’s called assimilation by osmosis.
I argued a bit more trying in vain to retain my unblemished status but when you argue with a donkey it is never likely to see your point of view.
I paid up, retrieved my license and returned to my “Ferrari”, head hanging in shame and with a noticeably lighter wallet.
An hour later lunch completed I headed out of town. Rounding a corner another policeman sprang out in front of me. A barrage of expletives echoed around inside the car, not just from me but also from the usually dulcet toned Boss sitting beside me. Barely restraining myself from running him down I pulled over and dispensing with all niceties demanded an explanation as to why he had the temerity to pull me over.
“Do you have a license?” he asked, with one eye on the traffic.
He jumped out in front of another car with outstation number plates and waved it over in front of me, ignoring all the local vehicles driving past.
Returning to my window he asked:
“Emissions Certificate?”
“I have everything! A marriage certificate also! Do you want to see that? Why the hell do you keep stopping me? I was stopped an hour ago!”
“Where?” he asked
“On the Bangalore Rd” I told him
“Where are you going now?”
“OK, happy journey” he wished me, shaking my hand and waving me on, anxious to attend to his next, hopefully less argumentative victim.


How I became India’s Most Wanted!

burglar-cartoon1Today I broke the law………….20-30 times! I have become an habitual law-breaker, a career criminal, the sort of person you would never bring home to meet your mother!
The day started innocently enough. I set out for a drive to Juhu, a suburb about 11kms from home. As I approached the first traffic signal the lights changed from green to red and I slowed to a halt only for my peaceful mood to be interrupted by an urgent honking behind me. Looking in my rear view mirror I could see the driver of the car behind me gesticulating at me urging me to drive on. Now where I come from red means stop so I stayed put. The honking continued until, frustrated, he pulled around me and drove past glaring at me through the window. Perhaps he is in a hurry, I thought to myself, while noticing streams of traffic flowing past me as I sat waiting for the lights to change.
At the next signal the same thing happened again, but this time a couple of cars stopped with me, only to decide after 20 seconds that they had waited long enough and roared off through the red signal leaving me sitting alone scratching my head and wondering if I was colour blind.
At each signal I started to observe a pattern, the traffic would slow as they approached the junction as if they were about to stop but then surge ahead en masse swerving around traffic coming rightfully from the side as their signal was green.
Even if the traffic stopped they would slowly creep forward inch by inch until by the time the light changed to green they were already through the junction.
Realising that it was more dangerous to be the sole law-abiding citizen and risk being rear ended by another driver not imagining in his wildest dreams that I would be stupid enough to stop for a red light, I decided to assimilate and blend in with the local customs and traditions as any good traveler should do.
I developed my own technique, scanning ahead of the junction for any traffic police hiding behind trees ready to pounce and if the coast was clear proceeding merrily through the red light. So on I went, breaking law after law, defying all that my parents held true and right, to become a repeat offender, a lawless undesirable, a menace to society.
Looking back on my last 6 years in India, I realize that my criminal record has grown rather lengthy.
I often overtake on the left hand side because a truck is trundling along at 20kms per hour in the right hand lane. I flagrantly break the 80kph speed limit on the empty expressway, thinking that 100kph is a more reasonable speed. I blatantly disregarded the new law (brought in after the brutal gang rape in Delhi) that bans tinted sun film on my car windows, because it’s too damn hot and I don’t think assaults on women will stop if my windows aren’t tinted! I regularly park in the proliferating no parking zones brought about to ease the traffic flow, because when cancelling all the parking they forgot to provide an alternative.
My parents would be ashamed if they knew what a hardened criminal I have become, and if the Boss’s parents knew then, what they know now, they would have refused me their daughter’s hand in marriage. What shame it would bring on the family to have your beautiful daughter, the light of your life, married to India’s Most Wanted!