When Maadeva arrived at the police station he put on a swagger, and made tight his eyes, and asked for Shankar, the policeman who'd called his handphone and asked him to come to the station for passport verification. Shankar wasn't in.
"Sit please, sir," the daphedār who sat in the hall asked Maadeva, but Maadeva stood on, and turned to the wall and read the notices on it. A man had died in an accident, his identity had to be traced with only the photograph of him in death. The picture was on the circular, of the face of a man flat on the ground, a shook up face free of injury, but a dead man's face which any one could tell. From the Commissioner of Police of Beragauru, on letterhead with an impressive police insignia centered on top, it was announced that six policemen had been suspended in the Kanakadasapura Station for not wearing uniforms while on duty. The circular admonished all policemen of Beraguru City to arrive for work wearing their uniform and leave the station after work still in uniform. The notices were all crisp and white.
A band of six men walked in and stood around the daphedār in the hall. The daphedār was in uniform, and sat solid at the head of the hall in the center. A plainclothesman came in from outside and sat in one of two red plastic chairs before the daphedār. Very soon it was clear that the huddle was for a case of attempted suicide. By a woman.
"Where is she?" The daphedār asked. In the hospital. "Is she fit to make a statement?" Yes. "Who is with her?" Her mother. Her father has yet to arrive from Neelamangala. "Where is her husband?"
To this question one of the six answered that the husband has just arrived at the hospital. Another, a burly man who was bent doggie style with both hands pressed on the daphedār's table said, "this is his third marriage, saar." And he continued, nodding meaningfully: "this is his third marriage." And then, once again, "his third marriage saar."
To which the plainclothesman asked: "Why are you telling this three times? How does it matter how many times he has got married? Let him marry a hundred times. Did you give him your girl, or not?"
A man in starched khadi said no, they didn't know the fact when the marriage was performed. Asked who he was, he said he was the girl's doddappa, her elder uncle.
"You should have made your enquiries before you gave your girl, is it not? That is dharma, you agree?" the plainclothesman was tough and engaging and reprimanding all at once in his inflections. The men were silent. Respectful.
"Ok. You two, go and get the statement," the plainclothesman ordered two constables standing there, also in plain clothes. "If no one has really harassed the girl, her father, mother, husband, mava, atté, we will book the case on her," he said, though until now no reason had been discussed for the girl's extreme step. And the threat had no effect on the six men, who went out with the doddappa smiling to the plainclothesman and saying: "We should be silent. That's all." Maadeva watched how the doddappa who was tall seated was while standing the shortest in his group.
Something in the air of the station soothed Maadeva and when Shankar came he followed him meekly into his impossibly tiny "Computer Room" and took the lone red plastic chair by Shankar's soiled red-fabric "computer chair." And he and Shankar were mutually meek, plus Shankar was also deferential, and after the originals of Maadeva's telephone bill and his passport had been checked with the photocopies, Maadeva got up to go.
After he had gone a few steps Shankar came hurrying up to him as Maadeva knew he would. "These papers, sir" he said, holding out the forms in which he'd filled Maadeva's details . "We have to buy paper on our own. For paper give me something sir," he begged softly, and Maadeva's eyes felt cool to him as he watched the policeman's upright stance, and his hard body that was straining his dress, and his smooth young angled face.
He was surprised that the man was so completely satisfied with the hundred he gave him, in these times of great expectations. The first few minutes he told himself it was okay to give a man who worked in a coop a small tip. He was still thinking about it upon reaching home, his early conviction marred now by some confusion, and some shame.