Money Matters - Simplified

Good Cop, Bad Cop

India or Australia, cops will be cops and they will always look for that bad man in you. But there’s something an Aussie cop is doing right. Read on to find out what...

Ever since my mother told me “drink your milk, else the cops will get you”, I have been reluctant to like cops. Not that I have a particularly negative experience with the cops to relate; it’s just the general air about them that gets me. They are always looking for that bad man in you.

India or Australia, cops will be cops, lets get this straight first. But Aussie cops, I have found, are a bit easier on the customer than their Indian counterparts. Let me narrate a little story to exemplify my statement.

I was driving somewhere in the downtown area in Brisbane when I heard police siren going off around me. I was immediately alarmed. In India, if you smell police near you, you get afraid; that’s like a reflex. So, being an Indian, my heart skipped a beat on sensing the police in the vicinity. They aren’t after me, are they? Since there was no other vehicle around I took it that the cops were signaling me. What did I do wrong? My first instinct was to get some money ready, in case they wanted it. This would settle the matter, whatever it was, there and then. But then I remembered that I was in Australia and not in India; so, good sense prevailed and I decided against it.

As the cop car got closer, it was apparent they wanted me to pull over, which I did. The cop comes out. A 38ish, medium-built, imposing-looking male. “Boy! You are the worst driver ever!” bellows he soon as we make eye contact. His words had my heart sinking. I NEVER went on the wrong side of law in my lifespan of 27 years and the tone of the cop told me that my record stood broken. For a moment I became numb as a frozen fish.

“Can I have your license please?” Next thing he says. “Did I do something wrong, officer?” I queried as I handed him my license. “You are going too slow and it amazes me that even at this speed you can’t drive in a straight line!” But I had a reason for that. I was looking for an address and I handed him the map directions for my destination I had bought at a convenience store. He looked a bit mollified now.

When I mentioned the fact that I was a foreign national and a student, he softened further. He was a pretty steely-looking cop but now his face managed to look as soft as it possibly could. Plus, he became pensive at this point of time. It was obvious to me that he was doing some calculation in his mind; probably getting his thought process cleared on whether to book me or not.

What he said next amazed me. Far from giving me a ticket, he offered to pilot me to the address. The whole six kilometers! Through the thick of Brisbane city traffic! I must say, I never imagined this notoriously rough breed could be so helpful. Anyhow, it took us 35 minutes to cut through the traffic. On the Samford Road in Ferny Grove, he pointed at a street sign-–my destination. He didn’t bother to stop, put the car in reverse, and sped off. His job was done, I guess, and he had better things to do than to hobnob with a foreign student.

If he had let me loose on the city streets, I am trying to follow his line of reasoning here, I could’ve caused an accident. He had earlier seen a promo of my faultlessly deadly driving and lack of grasp on traffic rules. For him, I was just the kind of subject to cause an accident. But he couldn’t book me because I hadn’t done anything officially wrong yet. He couldn’t follow me either and wait for me to make that accident happen. Thus, he thought it within the fitness of things to lead me through to my destination. So, in helping me, he was just trying to save Brisbane from a potential accident.

If my brush with that Aussie cop is anything to go by, compared to their Indian counterparts, Australian cops are a pretty reasonable bunch. May be my cops would behave the same with an Australian, but I doubt it. In India they are called ‘licensed bullies’ or ‘bullies with license’, if you prefer. Anyway, all thanks to that cop, not only did I reach my destination, I made it on time.

The difference, I suppose, lies in the sense of duty. Might be the Australians are a tad bit more conscious of and driven by ‘sense of duty’ than us Indians. I love my land and I am proud of being an Indian. To me, there are some areas where India will always be one up on Australia, and vise-versa to be fair. But policing and civil discipline, I am afraid, is where India takes a beating.

By Harpreet Bhagrath

Presently working as the Chief Editor at themoneytimes.com, Harpreet Bhagrath wrote this column article in 2003 while pursuing Masters in Media Production studies in Brisbane, Australia.

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