Everything in this post is absolutely true.
This happened in the summer of 2004 when I was an intern in Mumbai, wrote blog posts, discovered DJ Suketu, and was still something of an up and coming star on the national junior body-building circuit.
Ok fine. Everything from this point onwards is absolutely true.
So in the summer of 2004 I was being subject to the most depressing summer internship in the history of summer internships. Yes. I was 'subject' to it. It was that bad.
My two-month long project was to go around Mumbai and Pune asking surgeons if they would consider using my employer's latest model hernia mesh. I had to wait outside their usually grubby office for hours at a time. And then emotionally blackmail them into filling in a 40-part questionnaire about this superb, high-tech new hernia mesh.
Which begs the question: What in god's name is a hernia mesh?
A hernia mesh is, I can reveal to your considerable delight, a piece of surgical gauze that is used to temporarily cover the aftermath of a hernia operation. My first week involved not only reading about various types of hernias and meshes, but also watching DVDs of operations, pre and post-op photos, and working with a surgery simulation machine at a training centre located on the back side of a hideous Mumbai local railway station.
Some of the stations on the Mumbai network have a back side that is nothing but an exit for the overpass. There is nothing else. No facade, no ticketing windows, nothing. Just metal sheets welded to each other, dust, heat and miserable people in a hurry. So imagine my joy. Whenever I wanted a break from my surgery training machine, I could look out of the window and see above mentioned visual delight.
After a month I had a terrible heat stroke and passed out in a taxi while coming back from an appointment. My project guide suggested I take a week off to recuperate, rehydrate and refrain from mailing him for mentorship. A week later he told me to basically abort the mission and spend the rest of the second month working on the final presentation.
One Friday afternoon, around lunch time I think, I took a taxi to make the short trip to a friend's friend's house somewhere near Babulnath. My health was somewhat better now. But it was not like I was back to daily early morning powerlifting again. That would take another few weeks.
I got out of the cab and paid the cabbie. Then I walked around one of those old building where all the stairs creak and rattle, the flats are huge and there is a general sense of decay when there really isn't. The sort of place where business families and their dogs in Mumbai have been living for generations. I went up two or three flights of stairs, waked up to his front door, and then...
And then realised that I'd left my mobile phone in the taxi cab. I immediately ran back down with the moderate velocity of one who is hopeless but wants to give up after a fight.
There was no sign of the taxi. The embarrassment and anger and frustration hit me like a brutal inguinal hernia.
I went back upstairs. For the next few hours my friend and his friends all consoled me and told me that they would all pitch in for a second phone of some kind.
And then my friend got a call. Come immediately, said a gruff voice in Marathi, to a police headquarters of some kind. He told us to ask for a certain police officer when we reached there. It was regarding my phone.
Unfortunately I do not remember the exact details any more. I remember it was a Crime Branch office of some kind. It was a huge compound with many labyrinthine office and pakka PSU style name boards and peons and all that. Two friends came with me. All three of us were terrified of the place. Finally we found this Inspector's office and asked his peon to let us in. He popped into the Inspector's office, came out and then told us to wait. Then, just before letting us in, he warned us: "Be careful. Don't anything unless he asks you. He is a dangerous party."
We went inside. He was on the phone and asked us to sit on a row of benches against the wall opposite his table. One of my friends, a veteran Mumbaikar who used to know all the DJs and bouncers at Insomnia at the Taj, told me to keep quiet. He would communicate if required. Meanwhile the Inspector spoke on the phone with a slow, ominous drawl.
"The memory card is not working," he told someone. "You are selling faulty memory cards to a police officer?" And then he hummed with satisfaction once or twice and then cut the phone.
By now tension hung in the room thick and cold like supermarket caramel custard. The three of us sat ramrod straight. Of course there was no need for this. He would just return my phone. It was not like there was anything incriminating on my phone. But not one of us had ever spent any time inside a Police facility ever before.
After a few moments of silence he asked whose phone it was. I told him it was mine. He asked me if I was Madrasi. I leapt from my chair, reached across his table and slapped him across the face, saying firmly: "BLOODY FOOL! WHAT DO YOU MEAN MADRASI? MALAYALI OK? DON"T STEREOTYPE!"
Ok not really. And thank god for that. I just nodded nervously.
He picked up the phone from inside a drawer and handed it to me. Be careful in future, he said. The taxi fellow was a friend of his. And so he returned the phone. I had been very lucky. Most things left in cabs are never found.
Also, he added, I should call my family in Kerala and tell them what happened. He had dialled 'Home' on my phone and left a message with my grandmother in bad english involving the words "Mumbai Police, Inspector, Problem". And then he had dialled my last called numbers one after the other. Till he got my friend.
We ran out of the office and I made the necessary clarifications at home. We joked about this for a few months after. And then completely forgot about it.
Till suddenly, earlier this week, I suddenly spotted the fellow in the news again.
Dey murder: ACP says allegations against him absurd
14 Jun 2011, 1858 hrs IST, AGENCIES
After his abrupt transfer, a senior police officer, who could be questioned in the killing of investigative journalist Jyotirmoy Dey, today said he had nothing to do with the murder and that allegations against him were "absurd".
Assistant Police Commissioner Anil Mahabole, in-charge of Azad Maidan division in south Mumbai who was shunted to Local Arms Control Room in suburban Naigaon yesterday (June 13), said he was being falsely implicated in the case.
"The allegations against me in the case (Dey's killing) are absurd and wrong. I have nothing to do with the case. I hope the investigating officials would be able to detect the case early and catch the culprits soon to clear the air," Assistant Police Commissioner Anil Mahabole told reporters at his residence in south Mumbai.