Constable Caetano was in a foul temper. Definitely not a happy man. He was sitting delicately on an air cushion. I asked him what was the matter – though the air cushion seemed self-explanatory. “Injured yourself, did you?” I asked sympathetically. “Was it in the line of duty?”
“Dooty, booty, my eye,” he replied. “I got it while cycling.”
“You had a fall?” I asked.
“No fall. I’m sore and I got blisters with sitting on that hard cycle seat and cycling all over Vasco,” he said.
“But they have not yet actually begun the Cycling Squad. So why have you started?” I asked.
“My seniors told us to start practicing and I did not know if I remembered how to cycle,” he said. “It is very difficult with all the weight I have put in recent years.”
“Well it will make you more fit,” I said. “Cycling is a very good form of exercise and fun too.”
“Fat lot you know about cycling and fun,” he said sourly. “I’d like to see you sit on a cycle and move in and out of all the lanes and by-lanes of Vasco.”
“If I have to cycle, I will use an exer-cycle, these roads are not very good,” I said.
“Oh ho, changing our tune are we?” he snorted. “What happened to cycling being a ‘fun exercise’? It’s bad enough in the day, but at night it’s worse. We are supposed to follow criminals without being detected. Have you tried cycling in the dark? The headlight on the cycle is like this idea to make us use cycles – not bright at all.”
“So tell your superiors,” I said.
“Are you completely out of your mind?” he asked, “We are getting such bad press with all our so-called corruption, taking bribes, being on druglords’ payrolls, etc and now this joker in the Sada jail goes and dies in judicial custody. Everyone is trying to pin the blame on us.”
“They say your colleagues even supply drugs and liquor to the inmates at Sada Jail,” I said.
“That is a black lie,” he said.
“The how come all those bottles have been found outside the jail?” I asked.
“How is toothpaste made,” he asked.
“Eh? What does that have to do with supplying drinks and drugs to convicts? I don’t know how toothpaste is made,” I said.
“Precisely my point. We don’t know everything,” he said, “just like how no one knows how the bottles of drink landed up outside the jail.”
“Putting two and two together is not rocket science,” I said. “Obviously there’s a thriving business in the jail.”
“Everyone is targeting us for no reason at all,” he said sadly. “How are we supposed to make money, eh? Everyone does what they can do. We are at such a disadvantage; we have to make up the money we paid touts to get this job. It’s not easy making one lakh, leave alone seven lakhs.”
“Some would say that is why there is no law and order to speak of in Goa,” I said. “That is why no one has any fear or respect for policemen like you. You have come into this profession to make money and you set about doing that only.”
“Thieves and murderers will rob and kill, no matter what we do. We are just trying to make a living for ourselves. We earn a small salary. Think of us as waiters in a restaurant; we augment our income with tips,” he said.
“There’s a big difference between a tip and a bribe,” I said.
“Don’t blame us. Blame those who charge us lakhs to get a job in the first place,” he said.
“Don’t you have a dream for a just and peaceful society?” I asked.
“Oh I have a dream,” he said.” My dream is to get on the board of people who decide who gets a job on the police force. That is where the real money is.”