Which Prison Cell will be mine?
Walking through the dingy corridor to the police inspector's office, I noticed a few prison cells and wondered which of those would be my home for the rest of my life. Would I be charged for espionage? Will they have me shot by a firing squad? Or perhaps strip me to my jocks and leave me to rot in the cold, gloomy 6 x 6 cell, with occasional lashes of the stick till the buttocks turn blue?
I squirmed at the thought.
The inspector was merrily chatting away with some of his colleagues over tea, his ballooning belly projecting quite prominently, though much smaller in size compared to our friends in Bangalore, forever in advanced stages of pregnancy. The man in mufti whispered something and the inspector nodded to whatever that 'something' was. We were ushered into a room which I presumed was where I'd soon be grilled to toast.
However, I was in for a surprise. I expected the inspector to grab me by the collar and ram home a few rock-solid punches in the tummy area. Instead, he was all smiles and extremely polite. He explained to me why I was here. Because of perennial bomb blast threats by the LTTE, the Parliament area had long been declared as a high-security zone and because I took pictures in that area - quite naturally - I was prime suspect.
I said I wasn't aware of this since I hadn't seen any 'Photography Prohibited' sign anywhere. I offered to delete any pictures he found objectionable from the digital camera and expose the Kodak film roll from the Canon. He smiled. "That won't be necessary." He felt pity for me I guess, perhaps having realized that by now I must have shat a few tons in my pants and any further interrogation would probably have me mess up his room.
"You're free to go" - the best words I heard all day.
An hour or so later, Mr. Mufti accompanied us out to the gate. We discussed cricket. India was to take on Sri Lanka in the 1st ODI at Dambulla on Monday. He raved about their new sensation, Ajantha Mendis, and how the Indian batsmen just couldn't play him. This guy knew his cricket, alright and I was hoping he wouldn't ask me who would win. Because, if I said "India" I had a good chance of being dragged into one of those cells.
Before one could say 'abracadabra', we had vanished.
I felt like Nelson Mandela, set free from prison after 27 years.
Next: The Great, Big, Auto Ride!