The awful majesty of the law straddled Beach Road and The Man from Madras Musings quailed before it. The custodian of pax Madrasiana waved MMM’s car to one side and tapped on the windscreen, indicating that he would like MMM to roll it down. MMM duly did and was asked to please get out and step this way.

MMM bets that all of you are imagining that what happened next was that the gendarme flourished a balloon and asked MMM to blow into it. Nothing of that sort occurred and even if it did, MMM would have emerged unscathed for he is abstemious to a degree. But what actually did take place was that in paying complete and total attention to his good lady (also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed) while she held forth on something, MMM had driven along jumping a traffic light whereupon the cops had bestirred themselves and asked MMM to stop and then step their way.

Firmly (for once) asking his good lady to remain in the car, for she was all for getting down and engaging in single-handed combat, MMM stepped forth. The policeman looked up and down as if assessing MMM. He then proceeded to inform him, MMM, that he, MMM, had jumped the signal. MMM said that was true. He, the policeman, then asked MMM as to what would happen to the city and its law and order if educated people like MMM disregarded signals with impunity. To which MMM meekly replied that he, MMM, knew that he, MMM, was guilty and could only attribute it to a temporary diversion of attention. The law looked displeased at this meek acceptance. The fine for such misdemeanours, it growled, was high, namely Rs. 500 and demanded to see MMM’s licence. It also indicated that in case MMM was without licence, penalties would be severe. At this, MMM fished out his valid driving licence.

The scowl of displeasure deepened. It grew even more when MMM took out his wallet and having counted Rs. 500 held it in his hand and said that he did not mind paying but could he please have a receipt. There was considerable humming and hawing at this and MMM was asked if madam was not getting impatient waiting in the car, to which MMM replied that madam could take a few roughs with the smooth. A small electronic gadget with a tiny attached printer was then brought out and the constable or whatever he was then proceeded to write on the screen with a stylus. He then pressed a button and said that the receipt would be soon on its way. Only it did not and showed no signs of emerging after a goodish bit of waiting.

MMM suggested that someone looks inside to see if there was a paper roll. This was stoutly resisted to begin with amidst much scoffing and pooh-poohing together with claims that hundreds had been fined since morning and had been given receipts. When the receipt did not come after much coaxing and cajoling, the paper compartment was opened to reveal that it did not have any print roll, and, what’s more, going by the air of emptiness in it, appeared to have never ever had one in it. Its bed, clearly, had never been slept in.

It was the cop’s turn to become meek. He then asked MMM petulantly as to why he, MMM, had not argued with him, the policeman. Everyone else, said the cop, usually denied having done any wrong; they usually then asked the policemen rather truculently if they stopped Government vehicles and police cars that jumped signals. To which MMM replied that he, MMM, had erred and would not like to enter into an argument.

The cop held out his hand. MMM assumed it was an indication that ‘something’ ought to be placed in it. But it was MMM who had erred this time too. “Just shake my hand, Sir,” said the constable. “You can go. Fine waived on account of good behaviour!”