In prison Bablu, looked after me. He was in there for raping a Japanese girl. He told me they’d been together for 2 weeks, had a fight and she’d gone to the police shouting rape. All I know is his version of it, and that in prison you accept the version people tell you about themselves because that’s all there is.
He, his gang of mates, and his dad (in the next wing for murder over a property feud) kept me sane, clean, fed and more.
Bablu asked me for a Japanese dictionary so he can learn the language while he’s inside. He likes Japanese girls, and I figure not having a language barrier would help prevent any future “misunderstandings”. Ok it’s morally complicated, but apart from my rather lame justification, he helped me out when he could have written me off as a suicidal murderer, so the least I can do is give him a dictionary. It’s not like I’m supplying him with a box of Rohipnol. I asked my mum to pick one up in Istanbul and bring it because I couldn’t find anything here in India.
Yesterday I finally met Bablu’s mum and gave her the dictionary. A formidable woman who has forged herself a career in politics so she can look after her husband and son in prison, and her other son in long term traction after a car accident. She’s a broad, beautiful woman with a glare like a tiger set to pounce. It was the day Bablu was to be released from prison on parole for 21 days. The first time the 23 year old has been out in 4 years.
She puts on makeup, perfume and is dancing in the car on the way to Ajmer court. At the court there’s a hitch with the paperwork. “Andy, Come” she shoves me in the back of the car and we set off. An hour later we are still driving along the highway. We’re on our way to a village to get a signature from a guarantor. I’m the only one that seems concerned that we won’t make it back in time. The driver has his foot down, so when the truck in front unexpectedly switches into our lane its lucky he can skid enough speed out of the car that only the bonnet is crunched under the high truck chassis. Another 10mph and our heads would all have been separated from our torsos.
The truck continues oblivious to the impact at the back, but as soon as our driver has it together he accelerates round the truck and pulls it over blocking the 2 lane highway. In a second the 3 guys I’m with are out of the car, dragging the truck driver from his cab giving him a brutal beating in the process. I’m momentarily distracted from the pain of the violence by the fact that everyone is punching with open hand slaps rather than fists, but I’m impressed by how hard the slaps look, as hard as any punch.
As soon as I’ve snapped out of my interesting cultural observations about how seemingly calm natured Indians unleash such venomous anger, I wade in too, to protect the drive who is visibly petrified for his life, tears streaming as he gulps to breathe in through the shock. I get in between the mob and the driver, getting a few misdirected slaps myself.
“This guy almost killed us Andy, come.” I’m being wrenched to the left by the mum.
“OK, wait, he wasn’t trying to kill us, it was an accident” I get another accidental slap from the right.
Eventually it all calms down so they are talking to each other and the driver is only getting slapped every now and again. A cop turns up and everyone agrees to leave it there, perhaps motivated by the fact that no one has a driver’s license or insurance.
But even as a believer in non-violence, I have to concede that it’s a great system. No insurance forms to fill, no no-claims bonuses lost. You have a prang, beat the shit out of whoever is responsible for 10 minutes and then everyone climbs into their vehicles and forgets about it.
Five o’clock rolls around and we aren’t back at the court in time, not by a long way. I call Bablu to break the news. He’s livid. The next day is a bank holiday and then it’s a weekend, so it means he has to stay in prison another 4 days until Monday. I can hear all same the rage in his voice that I had when my bail hearing stretched over the weekend and I had to wait another 2 nights for the decision, but my 4 days inside don’t compare the 4 years he’s been waiting. If only the prison system worked as fast as the roadside justice.