The Investigator

Shovon Chowdhury | Updated on May 23, 2020

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I am in the thick of the action, where a senior officer from Moradabad is practising lathi drill with his constables, prior to attacking a column which has infiltrated from Delhi. “Open up your arms and swing properly!” he screams. “Don’t forget the follow-through! Keep your legs wide apart, bend your right knee,” he tells them. “It’s a bit like playing golf,” he explains to me in an aside. “Footwork is everything.” He pauses to abuse a smallish constable who has just dropped his lathi on his foot. Judging them to be ready, he points at the approaching enemy and shouts, “Charge!” The police plough into the column, moving in a well co-ordinated manner. “Don’t forget the verbals!” he yells after them. He turns to me, wiping the sweat from his brow. He smiles fondly. “Such hard-working boys. They will beat up all the men and women, and 50 per cent of the children on compassionate grounds. Such dedication. In these difficult times, they are the glue that holds the nation together.” Is it really fair to be beating up migrant workers at this time, though, I ask, eyeing his lathi nervously. He bursts out laughing, amused at my foolishness. “You do realise this is a period of lockdown, don’t you? Is anyone else on the streets? Who else are they going to beat up? Since time immemorial, beating up people with lathis has been the essence of police work in India. When investigating, we beat someone up with lathis. When protecting VIPs, we beat up people with lathis. When managing traffic, we beat crowds with lathis. When dispersing crowds, we again beat them up with lathis. When people come forward to help us, sometimes, just to be on the safe side, we beat them up with lathis. Beating up is fundamental to our ethos. When a young constable breaks a head for the first time, it is a proud and emotional moment, and sweets are distributed by the SHO. During this period, the only way to keep this tradition alive is by beating up migrant workers.”

But aren’t they being a little excessive, I mumble hesitantly. The officer sighs. “That’s true,” he agrees. “It’s because the Delhi Police is not co-operating. If some of these workers were pre-beaten before crossing the border, it would make our lives much easier. Anyway, please do not worry. As soon as the lockdown is lifted, you may be assured that we will no longer focus on migrant workers alone. All of you will be beaten up; in some cases, repeatedly.”



In news that has been characterised by a member of the Nobel Committee as “a completely novel approach to economics”, the finance ministry has revealed the underlying philosophy behind the recent stimulus package announced by the government, which is equivalent to 10 per cent of GDP, “but could be even more” according to sources.

Stung by criticism that little or no actual money is being directly put in the hands of citizens, the ministry has come out with a scathing reply. “These are the carping criticisms of people with narrow minds and limited vision,” said a spokesperson.

“The truth is, this is all part of a master plan which began with demonetisation. It is a well-known fact that money is the root of all evil. When citizens become addicted to money, evil spreads across the land. A few select industrialists are already heavily addicted, and we have no option but to support them. But for the rest of us, there is still hope. We can still aspire to the asceticism and sacrifice that have always represented the pinnacle of Indian tradition. Through measures such as this, we are hopeful that India will be able to put the evil of money behind it, and emerge as a purer, more moral nation, and an example for the rest of the world.”



Tragedy struck a family in Tirunelveli after an arranged marriage, which had the potential to be the wedding of the century, fell through after an unfortunate Zoom mishap. The stars seemed aligned perfectly. Sankar, 32, a software engineer working in Microsoft, is a tennis player, a yoga enthusiast, and possesses a moustache widely described by friends and acquaintances as “epic”. Latha, 26, doing her PhD in international relations from Loyola College, is a former Miss Chennai runner-up, voted by her school as “most likely to be launched by Karan Johar” and has widely been described as “doe-eyed”. Both families were heavily in favour of the match, with the bride’s mother having to up her dosage of heart medicine due to palpitations, and the bridegroom’s colleagues testifying to his inability to concentrate at work. “He keeps leaning back, looking up at the ceiling, and smiling to himself,” said one of them. It all came to naught during a family Zoom meeting last Monday, when Sankar forgot to wear pants. Latha has flatly refused to proceed further, despite pressure from relatives. “Supposing he does it when we go out for dinner?” she says. Meanwhile, a heartbroken Sankar is writing an algorithm which will help him avoid this mistake in future.

Shovon Chowdhury is chief Truthdigger and author of Murder with Bengali Characteristics

The Investigator is a monthly round-up of all things droll and newsy. All views are personal. Really personal. @shovonc

Published on May 23, 2020

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