Anita Raj, yesteryear actress, once recalled in an interview how she was reprimanded for jumping a traffic signal in Mumbai: “Aap Jagdeeshji ki beti hain. Aap ko aise nahin karna chahiye.(You are Jagdeeshji’s daughter, you shouldn’t have done that).” The reference was to Jagdeesh Raj, who played a cop in an astounding 144 Bollywood films. Raj did the same two, three things in all those films: sit in a police station writing an FIR, or appear at the very end to arrest the villain, who had just been beaten black and blue by the hero.
But films have always typecast cops as serious, dull and, either impossibly upright or completely corrupt. They are, inevitably, the butt of all jokes.
But do cops themselves have a sense of humour? While popular perception might answer that with a firm no, the cops insist that yes, they do laugh.
“The entire mai-baap , saavdhaan-vishraam culture has made our lives very regimented. But that seriousness lends itself to great humour too,” says Zahur H Zaidi, an Indian Police Service officer and author of the recently-published Cop At Large, which documents funny incidents involving him and his colleagues.
“There is a lot of humour floating around in society. We policemen are not insulated from it since we too are very much a part of society. I have experienced, seen and heard many funny incidents during the course of my career, which I’ve included in this book,” Zaidi adds.
Many of the jokes centre around hierarchy — fixed and unquestioning in the police administration. Nothing is done without an order. Sample this anecdote from Zaidi.
Once, somewhere in Uttar Pradesh, a deputy inspector general (DIG) decided to participate in Janmashtami celebrations in the Police Lines. He came unannounced late in the evening, taking everyone by surprise.
Something had to be done, and an officer came up with an idea. A few seconds to midnight, amidst the loud chanting of bhajans, he marched up to the DIG, stopped, clicked his heels, saluted crisply and announced loudly — “Baarah bajne mein 15 second shesh hain. Krishna bhagawan ko janam lene ki anumati pradaan karen shreemaan (It is five seconds to midnight, permission may be granted to Lord Krishna to be born).” Stumped, the DIG didn’t know how to react.
Zaidi narrates another hilarious story. A DGP wanted to have a look at the missl — Urdu for file — of a legislator. The message was sent through wireless to the station officer, but he heard it wrong — and produced the MLA’s ‘missij’, instead of the missl, at the stipulated time.
Cop lingo can also raise a laugh. Ritvik Rudra, another DIG, recalls: “During training, many officers were caught for ‘yellow collar crime’ — urinating in a batchmate’s room. When the ‘victim’ officer complained, others suggested that a forensic test be done since the culprit could be a dog. And this when the room was on the fourth floor!” Rudra also recalls his stint in Bihar where nabbed old-time criminals would be called ‘vetner’ instead of a ‘veteran’ — since they would inevitably ‘wet’ his pants.
“It is our professional demand that we look serious. We can joke around with colleagues of the same rank but not with subordinates or superiors, and never with a complainant. We may try to project ourselves as friendly, but the humorous side will have to be kept private,” says Rajan Bhagat, spokesperson for Delhi Police.
For the cops, it seems, there’s no escaping humour. The law and law-keepers have long arms, you see!