Disclaimer: The following story is purely fictional. Any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, is coincidental and unintentional.
“Ravi, either chop down the coconut tree or have those coconuts plucked before they fall. If another coconut falls on Javed’s house, I will book you under section 307 of the Indian Penal Code. Do you know what that is?” I asked, sternly.
“No sir. It won’t happen again. I’ll make sure of it.” Ravi replied, scared by my quoting the Indian Penal Code. Having served on the police force for 34 years, I’d learnt that the easiest way to resolve trivial matters was to quote some random section of a penal code that I’d never read. As usual, the simpleton was fooled by quasi-intellect and pseudo-power. In reality, the police really had no jurisdiction over such matters as non-existent boundary disputes. But in a town where nothing of great significance ever happened, coconuts falling from one man’s compound into another’s gives the police something to do other than swatting flies and eating ground nuts all day. I had devoted a full 45 minutes to this particular hearing. Without getting into the details, a coconut tree on Ravi’s land had decided to lean over his fence and overlook Javed’s house. When the coconuts fell, they fell on Javed’s roof, causing him the extreme agony of having to collect, sell and make money from coconuts that weren’t his.
After letting them argue purely for my own entertainment for about half an hour, I pretended to scour some large hard bound book on law for an answer to the present predicament. After announcing my verdict, I sent both parties away. They offered to pay me Rs.101 as an expression of their gratitude. I declined their generous offer because I wasn’t one to accept money to solve such silly cases. “The department pays me every month. I don’t need any extra money from you” I said.
“But the department refuses to give my son that brand new mobile phone they’re selling in Chandru’s shop so..” I left the rest to their own comprehension. The folks of Aracherry were very understanding when it came to these “traditions”.
As the senior-most of the 4 constables in the Aracherry police station, I had a lot of responsibilities. It has been about 6 years since the police station last saw an Inspector and so my responsibilities have only gone on increasing. But, even with that added responsibility, I normally don’t need to do a lot of work for 2 reasons- One, since there’s no inspector, I don’t have to report to anyone. Two, Nothing ever happens in Aracherry.
For those two reasons, all of us had jobs on the side to keep us occupied. For instance, Krishnan ran an astrology class in a run down mill just outside the station. It was far enough from the station so that no person/s ( read : a rapid inspection squad from the headquarters) could see him from the station and close enough so that he could hear a loud noise from the station to alert him of the arrival of any such person/s. His class normally had 12 students. That’s the maximum number of people that could be stuffed into that old mill without it being labelled a human suffocation room. On any two given days, no 12 faces would ever be the same. It was always a floating population of students who paid the modest sum of Rs50 per class for his services. He was never rated badly as an astrologer because his predictions could never be proved wrong. The reason for that was that his predictions were always long term. “You must sell 30Kgs of rice at half cost to any grocery shop of your choice or else your grandson’s son will not live past the age of 45.” he once said to a rice trader who faithfully did what he was told . There was only one grocery shop in the vicinity. It belonged to Sabu, another constable. Sabu, for his part, would refer forlorn traders and other customers of his to Krishnan the astrologer to solve their problems. In this way, they kept each other’s businesses running. The blind belief in Krishnan stemmed from one prediction he made a few years ago when he said that it would rain in Aracherry within 4 days of his prediction- information he had received from the weather report of a punjabi news channel (For people in this small town, any language other than malayalam was an alien tongue). For the farming community that constituted the majority of Aracherry’s community, it was the only thing they cared for especially since rain was scarce in these parts. Luckily for Krishnan, the weather report, unusually, was right and he became a legend.
The third constable, Shetty, whose first name almost nobody knows, was the local property consultant. A property consultant’s job involves a lot of running around and so he was almost never to be seen in the station and he wasn’t missed either. Shetty believed in a (flawed) theory that says that taking bath once in 3 days rejuvenated one’s skin. You didn’t need a blood hound’s nose to sense that Shetty was nearby.
And then there’s me. And this, is the story of the sleepy town of Aracherry.
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