The sun was serene after overnight rain, the fields were rippling and I was purring along in a sleek Toyota. The exhilarating experience evaporated when a stranger waved his hand.
I stopped, simply because he was a traffic cop. Could you please drop me at Mohali, he requested. How could I say no? Sitting in the front seat (without a seat belt!), he asked, "Where are you going?" Chandigarh, I said. "Oh, Chandigarh! That's also my destination," he exclaimed.
As if his favourite number was being played, he increased the volume to the DJ level and discussed with me every hackneyed topic, be it politics, cricket or population. I sensibly skipped the topic of corruption and moved on to inflation.
As we neared a toll plaza, I lamented that driving on the highway was getting worse due to these umpteen plazas. He chuckled, "No need to give money this time." He waved his hand again and the toll barrier opened in a flash. I felt like a king being welcomed by his courtiers.
After a few km, he signalled me to stop. He alighted and brought a water bottle from a shop. Only God knows whether he paid for it or not. He guzzled water like a parched field. "Our duty is quite excruciating. We spend the whole day controlling maniacal drivers and become dipsomaniacs at night. This chilled water has doused the night's fire," he quipped.
In the meantime, the next toll plaza came and I searched my pocket for money. "Just cross the barrier," he said. "Sir, it's just a matter of Rs 50. If you face any problem, I would pay," I said humbly. He laughed as if I had cracked a bawdy joke. Like a magician, his sleight of hand worked again.
As we entered Mohali, I stopped at a red light. He looked quickly in all directions and signalled me to step on the accelerator. Slowly and steadily, I jumped the light. Frankly speaking, I was really enjoying my first-time experience of breaking rules at will. Seeing a cop inside the car, everybody let us pass and nobody even dared to overtake. We jumped five more red lights in a similar way. He used one hand to give me directions and the other to acknowledge fellow cops at roundabouts.
After reaching our destination, I offered him coffee at my residence. While alighting, he thanked me and said there was too much traffic to control and they had to keep a hawk's eye on violators. "After all, we are rule-makers and have to catch rule-breakers," he chortled. I slowed down the music, checked the seat belt and like a common man went back home within the speed limit fixed by the traffic police.
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