It was tough to recognise people. The scene was bloodied: torn tees were splattered with human bean sauce; flesh was melting off some faces and spider webs lined the entrance. An evil eye stared from a distance, before focusing on the dismembered arms lying lifeless in a corner of the garden in Pali Hill, Bandra. All through this, Dawn Of The Dead was being projected in the background. For a change, everyone had adhered to the party’s theme.
Then at about 1.20 am, two cops rode into the compound. The neighbourhood ‘president’ must have complained. The music went off, and some responsible people went ahead to have ‘that conversation’. As disturbing as this is, it’s also most normal. We must’ve been loud. By the time the officers actually found someone who knew whose party it was, a big police van had driven in with three more officers.
Equally suspicious about the hanging skeletons and the girl whose cheek was being held together by a zipper, the cops must have made another call. Minutes later, a patrolling Qualis with three or four more officers arrived.
Getting caught in those dramatic-paparazzi-poses looking undead wasn’t what I had in mind when I asked for an exciting Friday night, but somewhere everyone was prepared. The party was a success. It usually is, when you’ve managed to ask an officer to excuse you even as you make your way to the bar without getting arrested, shot or even worse, slapped.
At the bar, one cop was rummaging through plastic glasses and empty soda bottles, expecting to find some incriminating evidence. After inspecting a set of fake fangs, he grabbed the bottles of Antiquity and rum. “Excuse me, sir, yeh kahaan...?” Someone’s drunkenness spoke. “Check karne ke liye le ja rahein hain,” the cop said. He could have just sniffed the bottle, wrinkled his brow and said ‘drugs’ in the catastrophic tone of films from the ’90s. But he didn’t. He walked away, only to return the bottles a minute later.
By about 2.45 am, the matter was settled. The cops chatted with us and left. Giggling at everyone’s make-up kept the officers busy. Pointing at the stand for the walkie-talkie on the cop bike, someone asked that same cop, “Yeh beer bottle rakhne ke liye hai?” The officer laughed. “Chalo… good night,” he said and left.
This could very well be a scene from a Terry Gilliam movie. But it isn’t. Instead, this is the peculiar state of a city led by police commissioner Arup Patnaik, whose words, as quoted by a leading city tabloid, a few months ago were, “If you are asking me if I am happy if things shut down early, yes I am. My force is less stretched.” Were eight police officers really needed at this house party? The force is stretched indeed. Unfortunately, it isn’t strong with this one.