It was a few years ago. I was stopped by the traffic policeman in Richmond Town for “jumping red light and reckless driving”. As expected, I was told that I’d have to pay a fine, but at the end of the conversation that ensued, I was let off with no exchange of money, just a warning.
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Now here again I was, at another traffic signal in Richmond Town, in front of another policeman, but for a different traffic violation. I realize that I run the risk of being classified as a habitual traffic offender, but I must clarify that on both occasions, I blame it on the traffic signals rather than my seemingly inadequate driving skills. This current offence was really no fault of mine.
My exposure to Chandigarh roads had probably left me totally disoriented in Bangalore. Chandigarh – long uninterrupted stretches of driving roads, slip roads, roundabouts, occasional traffic light, no “No right turn” signboards, no flyovers – a very different driving experience!
Now picture this. I was at the Richmond Road flyover signal, under the flyover, waiting to turn right. Right mind you, not full right. The trouble was that I was on a road that had neither of the ‘turn right’ options. I was on the road where you could not turn right, but of course I didn’t realize. I’m not sure if there was a board indicating ‘No right’, but even if there was, it was either inconspicuously hidden or in an inappropriate place.
So I waited at the signal (and I was the only one waiting, because most people were doing things other than driving in Richmond Town). And when the lights turned green (lights because there were two, one to go straight, one to turn right), I turned right, right into the arms of the waiting policeman.
I had already seen him but as I was oblivious of the offence I was going to commit, I was in the least worried… only surprised when he asked me to stop.
The conversation that followed (in Kannada) was reminiscent of the one a few years ago.
He: No right turn
Me: What? But I always turn right here. Been doing it for years.
He: (pointing to the other road) You have to go there for right turn.
Me: The light turned green. See (me pointing to the light).
He: That is for the other road. If you want to turn right you go there. If you are on this road, you have to go straight only.
Me: (I turned and looked and suddenly it sank in… I was on the wrong road… but the signals were confusing) Oh! So sorry. I didn’t realize I was on the wrong road.
He: You are saying you are driving here for a long time. Then how can you do this?
Me: Very sorry. Don’t know how I was mistaken.
He: Is sorry enough? Me: What else can I say? He: It is a traffic offence. Me: I’m really sorry. I didn’t do it purposely.
He: With just a sorry can I let you go?
Me: Is there a fine or something? I will pay the fine.
He: There is a fine, but the inspector needs to come. Will you wait for him?
Me: Don’t you have a challan book?
He: The inspector has the Blackberry.
Me: Oh! When will he come?
He: Why do you simply want to wait for him? I will take down your number and the notice will come to your address.
Me: Yes, I don’t want to wait. So ok… you can send it to my address
He: You want it to come to your address?
( I knew where this was leading to…)
Me: See. I am sorry but I cannot give you a bribe to let me go.
He: (taken aback) That’s no problem
Me: So please do what you need to do. I will pay you the fine and you can give me a receipt.
He: I will take down your number. You can go now but next time be careful about taking the correct road.
Me: Ok. Again, I am very sorry about this.
As I drove off, I didn’t see him write down my number, in his little note book. Maybe he was relying on his good memory! So I periodically checked the traffic police website to see if there were any pending fines for driving offences against my car. As I check five months on from Chandigarh, I’m in the clear! ⊕