Long hours of the Law

Al Ngullie 

There’s no other earthly heaven like going out hunting for news. For all what office-induced backaches can promise, nothing beats gearing up with Notepads, a Dictaphone, a Camera, a bottle of chill, a Mera-Golgate-friendly Press ID card and of course an alert Journalist-nose to sniff out the extraordinary from the monumentally ordinary. There are times when something pops out of the blue to land a scoop dead on the story. Like some Schumacher-crazy Army truck ramming into the CM’s car or a Cabinet Minister scratching himself free of prickly heat on the sidelines of a Tuluni function and such.  And there are times too, when the Journalist-Nose goes on strike to leave the Journalist contemplating if he should take up the exciting profession of Snail-watching. So there.

So I waved down this auto and rattled off to sniff out news. You see, the previous day I’d got this big juicy information about a something at a something Police station. The first problem: Dimapur’s got every possible Police Station worth mentioning on a Map– East, West, North, South and perhaps a North Pole one too. Second problem: Never been to any Police Station in Dimapur on account of good manners and the inability to throw a decent punch. Third problem: Police stations remind me of my early hostel years in Mokokchung. Final problem: my eyes kept screaming ‘Sleep, sleep, sleep!’

So with my eyes fighting to keep high the eyelids from summoning dreams in the middle of the day, I walked into this Police station. Just like those fortress-type police stations in Sholay, I observed. The place was full of stories. Human stories. Guards milled around to indulge in the latest gossips on Lotteries. Anxious parents paced around the porch contemplating if they should disown their sons for drinking and punching out somebody’s eyes. Crisp Police officers strutted about imperiously. A police van full of society’s latest casualties idled in a corner waiting for an officer to condemn them to the shutter till better sense prevailed over the unfortunates. I walked over to a sentry. His 303 rifle towered over his small build that you’d have been fooled into believing the guy was lugging around not a rifle but a sculpted mortar. Judging by the way this guard carried himself with the rifle you’d think he was Rambo himself with a Full-Automatic 0344 Berretta. I don’t know about guns and stuff but I’m given to understand British-made 303 Enfield rifles, unfortunately, are already popular Museum pieces in England. But of course I dare not blabber out that piece of fact to this guy! He eyed me warily with the wary of a weary veteran. I asked where SDPO so-so’s office was. “SP saab laka office te jabi” (Go to the Superintendent’s Office) was the reply. This’ not the SP’s office? “OO-ta de ase Dai!”(It’s over there, like 3 miles away off Town) he retorted imperiously.

So I proceeded for the SP’s office. Aah, At last! The top Brass centre! The compound itself smelt of power and order. Smart, young officers strutted around shouting orders into their Radios. Smart guards hung about armed with shiny Kalashnikovs. Battle-weary Police Squad cars parked everywhere. The guard manning the gate eyed my ID card and nodded me inside. The word ‘PRESS’ sure is magical. Gets me anywhere I wish to go unrestricted – except my girlfriend’s house. And also one day I’m going to show it to Mom just in case she locks me out for crawling home at 2 in the morning after my usual Journalist-adventures. 

I was ushered to a bench and told to wait for some time since the SP was in meeting with all the Police officers, including the Narcotics, Borders, Traffic and Beat Units, in the district. Oh wow! I’d come for a small story and I have an epic on my hands! Maybe something big had happened I thought excitedly. A Politician caught with a huge stash of marijuana? Dawood Ibrahim in Dimapur? Oh wow! A congress spy made off with the NPF’s office safe? An NPF minister punched a Congress secretary? Oh wow, oh wow! I couldn’t wait for the Police Top brass to emerge!

The “some time” turned into half an hour, into an hour and for all I could remember through my drowsy sleep-starved head, it was already 3 O’ Clock! Been waiting for 3 1/2 hours! ‘Patience, my son, patience. Be thou patient, for nothing hath cometh out of haste’ said my journalist’s instincts. So I ‘patiented’ around till my nerves ran the risk of blowing out. At last half an hour after the Patience-thing, the officers emerged. As I stood up to rush for the police officer I’d come to meet, 2 persons with huge files wedged under their armpits beat me to it. So I waited for another 20 minutes. Only the thought of a BIG story kept my nerves going. Then my turn came. I walked in purposefully. 

I introduced myself to this SDPO of a particular Unit and stated my reason for coming to meet him. He looked at me with understanding eyes. I could hardly contain my excitement at the prospect of landing a scoop. Then he looked up and said gruffly “look, I’m very busy now and I’ve got a job to complete for the DC before 5 O’ Clock. Come tomorrow.” 

Feeling extremely wretched, I tried a last ruse for a scoop. “I...I…and the meeting,  Sir?” I asked intelligently. He looked up and grinned. “Oh, the meeting? We were just having tea. We have it every once a month.” Believe me there are times when I wonder if I should put my 8 years of Taekwon Do training to good use.