Friday, March 19, 2010

Journey into the darkness of Delhi (2)

(Continues from the previous post)

In the middle of the night, with a tuk-tuk driver as only companion, on board of a rickety rickshaw, I began my journey into the darkness of Delhi - in search of my lost scooter.

And in fact, Delhi by night seems a totally different city. As much crowded and noisy during the day, as empty and quiet during the night - a ghost town: faint light from the street lamps, no one around but a few dogs. All is still, all is motionless. As in a dream...

And yet, every time we stopped at a crossroad looking for someone who could help us in finding the police station, a multitude of individuals emerged from the darkness. Dozens and dozens of skinny and half-naked men, from the garbage piled up on the sidewalks, from the flowerbeds of the roundabouts. Dozens and dozens, emerging from everywhere, as in a Romero’s movie...

These are the ‘PBPL’ of our reports and statistics: ‘people-below-the-poverty-line’, the poorest of the poor, individuals with no name, no age, no house, no rights or entitlements: nothing of nothing.

Deformed, ugly, stinky, and yet friendly and warm-hearted: they all took my case to their hearts when the tuk-tuk driver explained them the situation, and tried to be helpful as much as they could: spreading the word to the other tramps, offering to accompany us to the police station, simply being solidly behind. A gleam of human warmth in the middle of all that misery…

Following their directions, through a labyrinth of lanes and alleys, we reached three different police stations. Rather dreary places: shaky neon lights, stale smell, half-sleepy policemen in empty offices. Reluctantly, we were accompanied each time to the station's car deposit (more similar to wreck deposits than anything else) - each time to verify that my scooter was not there.

I had almost lost all my hopes, when at the forth police station we visited, the policeman on duty (a more zealous fellow than the ones we met before) asked me a few questions, made a few telephone calls, and finally told me to go with him.

Pervaded with a new hope, I paid and said good-bye to my trusty driver, and jumped on the Vespa of the policeman. In a few minutes we reached another deposit, where another cop was waiting for us. I hadn’t even crossed the gate of the deposit that I recognized my scooter parked there. I heaved a sigh of relief: “End of the nightmare” I thought.

We spent the following few minutes dealing with the usual paperwork: I showed them the documents of the scooter, they asked me the usual questions (name, address, what I was doing in India, etc.), etc., etc.

I had just finished pronouncing my deepest thanks and was ready to leave, when the two cops mumbled something. Before I understood they were saying “tip, tip”, one of the two asked me straightforwardly: “How much do you have in your wallet?”.

“Oh f…ck!” I thought, analyzing the situation. I was alone in a car deposit, at three in the night, with two armed cops who were asking me how much I had in my wallet. And I had just withdrawn cash that day…

“Oh f…ck!” I repeated to myself…

(I’m leaving tomorrow eve to Udaipur, Rajasthan, to join my mum for the week-end. I’ll be back on Sunday eve, and will conclude the story and tell how I dealt with the situation at my return. I am however curious to know what you would have done if you were in my shoes. Do let me know…)


  1. You need a lawyer.
    But how much are you ready to pay? That is the question...


  2. Be' il fatto che tu abbia avuto occasione di raccontare questa avventura esclude alcuni dei possibili scenari di questa storia!
    Se fossero stati etiopi avresti potuto dirgli che dio li stava guardando e disapprovando, o simulare una maledizione per la loro cattiva condotta...
    Ma non so se funziona con gli indiani...
    Non c'era un cartello "Don't pay bribes" lì vicino?

  3. dear pacha,

    luckly my father in law is a famous lawyer...

  4. Credo che si siano accontentati di una piccola mancia. In fondo li hai tenuti svegli per una buona oretta. Mi sbaglio?

  5. this is crazy.... I guess I would have tried to negotiate.... maybe.... Matteo, you should write a book ! I love reading your stories.

  6. tx :)

    writing a book and babysitting little calvin while mathilde go to office...

    ... not bad as a plan ;)