Drunken night, guilty morning
Drunken night, guilty morning. I should have protested and said no when Nandita said she would pick up the final peg as we drove home. I had known her ...
I should have protested and said no when Nandita said she would pick up the final peg as we drove home. I had known her since the time I had visited her boutique at Jubilee Hills a few months ago. She was older to me by a few years and during our earlier drinking sessions, did not see her behave abnormally, even though she used to have more than me.
It was absolutely cool as we moved out of our favourite hangout, only a 15-minute drive from where we stayed. The FM channel was blaring some loud music, which we muted, as we started singing in a low voice (that is what I remember!) and laughing away. I also recollect that I refused a sip from her glass which had a strong peg of vodka, the typical ‘one for the road’ which she liked.
For some strange reason, I had confined myself to a beer and did not feel that I should drink more. Nivedita was forcing me to have one more beer at least which I declined. May be, it was providential, as I am prone to get stubborn and demand that I would drive if I felt tipsy.
As we reached close to my home, located a mere U-turn from the main road and in the adjoining lane at Banjara Hills Road No. 12, I saw barricades. Nivedita too saw it. Typically, she told me, “Radhika, there is nothing to worry. They will not stop girls.” I hoped against hope it would be so.
The next thing I remember is that Nandita’s car was stopped, a few metres before the barricade and two policemen stood outside the two front doors. The inspector asked both of us to step out and saw that her glass was still on the dashboard and gave me a sizing up look, to see how much I looked drunk.
What happened afterwards is still blurry but I can still recount. The cop asked Nandita for her licence, which she fished out obediently from her handbag and told her not to make any phone call till they finished their questioning. The cop who was standing next to me asked me in a low tone where we were coming from and where we were headed. I told him.
In the next 10 minutes, even as Nandita protested shrilly, the policeman told us we have been challanned and that the car would be driven away to the police station from where we could collect it after appearing before a magistrate who would decide the quantum of punishment. Prior to that, we would have to appear for a counselling session.
In the next half-an-hour, Nandita’s father, betraying no emotions as he walked towards us from his home, met the policeman, discussed something with him for a few minutes and led us home. Even if he was upset, he did not show it.
My home, a few blocks away from hers was quiet as both of them saw me off. My parents had no inkling till the time I told them the next morning. They were suitably aghast at our actions and my father told me, “Never mind, it was not you this time, still you would have to go along with your friend to the counselling session and also the court as a moral support.”
I was relieved at his approach though my mother refused to speak to me for the entire day!
The weight of guilt for having done what we did began the next afternoon. By then, I was told that some regional TV channels had flashed our pictures captioning it as if we were some wild women out to have some bohemian fun.
At the counselling centre in Begumpet, the cop was very cordial and was matter-of-fact as he showed us downloaded clips of how accidents take place in the city. Most of them, we had already seen in our Facebook pages. Still, we were put through the grind as our parents maintained a grim silence. Final assault was the simulated clip which showed what happens when a person is drunk and takes to the wheel, which was purely technical in nature.
The third day, our ordeal began at the court premises in Errum Manzil. As we were told to be present there by 8 am, we were standing among a crowd of sheepish boys and a few middle-aged men, who for the moment, forgot their crime and looked at us in a strangely interesting manner. Why not? We were confirming their stereotyped view that we were the ‘fast types’ who got caught for our crime and giving them a comforting feeling!
I felt bad that our parents (both our fathers, leaving behind their busy work schedules) were standing around us, protecting us from inquisitive onlookers but they could do nothing to prevent the incessant staring. Thank God, there were no pesky reporters or TV cameras!
Nandita, the strong, steely type was surprisingly feeling anxious and nervous as she said that she could not take the strange feeling that was overcoming her for having been caught and worse, awaiting the magistrate’s order. I was in two minds, whether to cover my face or not, when I saw that there were a few more women, one an auntyish-type who too were awaiting their turn.
The long hours of waiting, the judgemental whispers and sniggers and the overcrowded, stuffy corridors of the court were really too much to bear. The constable who was to present our case before the court was courteous, as he made us get in to the magistrate’s office and stay away from the glares. Still, we were definitely not comfortable.
A good eight hours after we entered the court premises, very much like a darshan of Lord Balaji at Tirupati, all that it took the entire bunch of accused from our police station was merely 30 seconds, as we were marched into the court.
As the attender shouted out at the top of his voice: kya, aap log daru peeke gadi chalaye? (Did you drive after consuming alcohol?), I could see most of us just barely nod. That was it. With a wave of his hand, the magistrate asked us to move out, levying a fine of Rs 2,600 for our offence.
Fifteen minutes later, we were in an auto, rushing towards the police station with the court receipt in our hand, to free Nandita’s car. As I swore to myself that I would never repeat this again, the parting shot came from my partner who had her worry whether the cops would have seized the full bottle of vodka which was lying under her driver’s seat!