Director’s cut

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on July 05, 2019 Published on July 05, 2019

I’m standing in my tiny kitchen, wondering which packet of cookies to open: Yummy choco-chip or healthy sawdust. While making up my mind, I gaze out my kitchen window. The view is medium-bleak: The back wall of Dunkin’ Donuts; their blue dumpster; their parking lot; beyond it, the four-lane thoroughfare called Broadway and the shop fronts lining the other side.

Usually, the only variation in this view is the number of cars in the lot. But today, to my surprise, there’s a young woman sitting on the tarmac. Her back is to me, her brown hair loose, a little longer than shoulder length. She can’t be very comfortable because her arms are behind her back, wrists together. She’s sitting flat on her bum, no cushion beneath her.

Weirdly enough, she seems to be wearing handcuffs. There are two men on either side of her and a white car directly in front of the group. All four doors are open. One of the men is looking at what appears to be a cell phone in his hand. “Hmmm,” I think. “Some young fool is getting a selfie taken of herself, while wearing handcuffs and sitting on the ground of a parking lot! How ridiculous!”

I turn to call Bins to come over and watch this peculiar spectacle but he enters the kitchen right then, prospecting for tea. So I point towards the window and say, “See what’s going on?” He takes one look and says, “Waaauuu! They’re arresting that girl?” What! Who? “Oh — come ON!” Bins exclaims, excitedly. “Can’t you see — all those guys in black with the orange bulletproof vests — and see the guns?? They’re cops — with four cop-cars — and three other plain-clothes fellows!”

I’d missed everything but the girl sitting on the ground in an awkward position. “Oh! Oh!” I say now, all excited. “We should be filming this!!” Drama in real life after all. “It must be a drug-bust,” says Bins, with his nose stuck to the wire mesh screen that protects the interior of the house from the insects outside. I’ve got my cell phone out. “Are you recording this?” asks Bins. “See how her fingers are wiggling! And those guys are emptying all the bags in the car onto the ground! And there’s another guy there, also sitting on the ground!”

Despite the action, the scene is surprisingly calm. The cop-cars have blocked the parking lot, effectively creating a screen. Beyond them we can see the rest of the street just carrying on with its life. Shoppers trotting about, no one even looking in the direction of the arrest. In less than 10 minutes, the girl and the guy have been bundled into the cop-cars. Their stuff is cleared away. Everyone leaves.

“Did you get it on your phone?” asks Bins. “Yes!” I say. I press “play”, hold up the phone and find that I’ve caught some excellent footage of wire netting. “Uh-oh!” grins Bins. “No Oscar for you today!”

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

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Published on July 05, 2019
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