One of the beautiful things about India was nicely put by Nayaswami Dharmadas in one of his last satsangs; he said: “India is more about people than about things”. As a foreigner, having lived in India for the last year and a half, I came slowly to realize that this is true, and that the best weapon you can bring with you when setting out to do anything is a smile and, of course, faith. Together, they work like mathematics!
A couple of weeks ago I had an outstanding demonstration of this principle at work while dealing with the police in Pune…
I learned how to drive after coming to India, starting with the motorbike. After I was comfortable flowing with the traffic, my two only rules became: “If it won’t endanger anybody, I can do it,” and, “avoid the police at all costs”. Due to this, during my year-and-some of driving a motorbike in India, I must have accumulated quite a bit of “traffic karma”, considering I got caught by the police only once. Finally, that karma seemed to have exploded and hit me back all at once in one day but, thanks to Master’s grace, the “bomb” was a bomb of joy and not one of anxiety as it could have been.
And here’s what happened…
While driving the bike through a crowded area of Pune city, I (unintentionally) skipped a red light… right next to a police station! They signaled me to stop and, seeing that I had no escape route (the traffic was very heavy), I had to comply.
Thinking of all the times in the past when I successfully got away from their clutches, I chuckled inside and thought “Well, Master, they got me! I’ve no license and no money… I’m sure this will make a good story.”
“Hello!” I said to the policeman, smiling.
“License? “ he asked.
“No license.” He then proceeded to lock my bike, take the key and bring it to the station, telling me to go there.
Normally, the policemen would ask for a bribe, and they might have settled for the little I had in my pocket; however, now they were in “official” mode, because they were at the station, and they were many in numbers. They gave me an official ticket for seven hundred rupees… an amount which I didn’t have.
Treating the policemen as my friends (because I genuinely felt they were my friends and this was all a game), I told them the truth: I don’t have money to pay the ticket.
“What can I do?” I asked them. Because I felt they were my friends, I thought they might want to help me. On their side, because I was treating them as friends, they also wanted to help me! One of the policemen called what I think must have been the chief inspector. He pulled me to the side and told me that they would give me a ticket for some minor infraction, which would cost half the price. That meant all the money in my pocket! Of course, I accepted and they gave me the bike’s key back.
“What will happen, however, if they pull me over at some other station?” I asked the chief, “I need to get back home and I still won’t have a license, and now I have no money!”
He told me to use the name of the station to let any other policeman know that I had already paid the fee. He even made sure I got the name of the station right, by making me repeat it several times! Saying farewell to my new friends, I went on my way.
Twenty minutes later, I had to enter a shop and there was no parking space available. Looking around and seeing no police, I decided to park in a no-parking zone. “Anyway,” I thought, “I’ll be inside for only five minutes”. Well, five minutes later, I came out of the shop and the bike was no longer there! That could only mean the police had taken it.
At this point, I could have started laughing! Here I was in the middle of the city, fifty kilometers away from my home, with only five rupees in my pocket and my phone minutes away from going out of battery! I mentally told Master “this is your game! Let’s see how you get me out of it!” I wasn’t anxious, because in my mind there was no doubt that I would somehow get the bike back.
Asking around, I found that a police tempo had come and, seeing my bike parked wrongly, had taken it. They gave me directions to go to the police station in which they thought my bike would be found. As luck would have it, it was the same station which gave me the first ticket!
Unfortunately, they didn’t have the bike there. Upon talking to my friend the chief inspector (I don’t know if that was his real title, but that’s what I call him in my mind), I got directions to the big deposit where my bike would have been taken, and I was given a warning that the ticket would be of at least 750 rupees, if not more.
This was, however, a thoroughly friendly chat. He was sincerely trying to think out ways to help me out, and in the process we talked, we laughed together, introduced each other and shook hands. At the end, he gave me one hundred rupees from his own pocket and told me: “Give them this and tell them you already paid a ticket in this station. Maybe they’ll let you have the bike.”
After thanking him, I started to walk away. A funny feeling remained, however: something was wrong. I needed to give him something in return for his generosity! Checking the contents of my bag (they weren’t many), I found a copy of the Bhagavad Gita. I gave that to him, and his face lighted up into a huge smile! He probably has to deal with unfriendly people all day. The experience of making a friend “on the job” must not come very often!
On that high note, I set out to the bike deposit, which was twenty minutes away, walking. During the walk, I was still talking to Master, telling him: “That was very sweet, but I don’t see how these hundred rupees are going to get the bike back! I am not in a position to do anything right now; you’ll have to do everything through me!”
At this point another thing happened, also: in the back of my mind, Swamiji’s presence and guidance started to make themselves be felt. It was guiding my thoughts, and telling me to remember and reflect on two episodes of his life: the first, when he got through the airport check-in with overweight bags; the second, when he was allowed into a concert hall when they had no seats, because he said to the guard, “It’s my birthday!”.
Reaching the deposit, I first had to find out what to do! I talked to the watchman at the gate to ask for instructions, but his English was very limited, and my Hindi was nil… nothing much came out of that, except that, in our mutual failure to understand each other, we shared a lot of merriment, and he became very friendly toward me.
I finally found out that I had to find my bike and wait for an official to come my way. I did as instructed. When the official came, he announced to me that my infraction was very serious: wrong parking, no driving license, and no documents for the vehicle. The ticket would come up to 4.000 rupees.
What a joke! And here I was with only one hundred! I tried to explain my situation to him, but he wouldn’t budge. He said I’d have to go home and leave the bike there, and went on to deal with other “cases”. I observed him for a while: one woman was desperately trying to convince him to give her bike back, making him talk on the phone with somebody else several times… nothing doing. One man was trying his best to bribe him, but the official would only return the bribe. After a while, he noticed I was still standing next to my bike, and told me: “Go home!” That’s all I could get out of him since then.
I had hit a wall! I was very tempted to just take the bike and race away… however, I felt that Master had, so far, guided me here through harmony and friendliness… and that if I could keep on that flow, somehow some door would open.
Then I thought: “This man cannot relate to realities that are not his own. I’ll look for somebody else.” I say ”I thought”, but the truth is, I don’t think like that! I was feeling Swamiji’s presence in my mind, and he was the one bringing those thoughts to me!
I found another official, and this one was much more flexible. He started on a high price, as the other official did, but after I told him my situation, he said he would let me have the bike only by paying a basic “no license” ticket… Until he found out I had not enough money even for that! Exasperated, he sent me off saying “Go home!”, and that’s all he’d say to me afterwards.
And then, a Swamiji-inspired thought came again: “They cannot make big decisions on their own. I have to go to whoever is in charge.”
With this, I went to my friend, the watchman, and asked where I could find the officer in charge. He pointed me to the right man, and off I went for my last chance!
“Excuse me, sir. Do you have a minute?”
“Yes, tell me.”
In four or five short sentences, I explained my whole ordeal to him. I didn’t talk to him in a spirit of fighting, nor pleading. I simply spoke to him as a friend would to a friend… and the result was astonishing! After listening to me, he said:
“No problem!” He then signaled the officials who were closest to my bike and said “Let him go!”<
I grabbed the bike and took off, waving goodbye to the watchman, and feeling greatly blissful! I drove away thanking Master and Swami for their grace and guidance, for turning what could have been a very bad day into a day full of joy and harmony… and a good story!
The story has another sweet ending, also: after a couple of minutes from taking off with the recently-rescued bike, it started to malfunction, until it finally died down in one of the inner streets of Pune. I mentally asked Master: “What do I do now?” and then I looked at the side. “Oh!” I said aloud. The bike had fainted right next to a mechanic!! The problem was something very silly (but that I couldn’t figure out on my own), so it took only one minute to fix, and then I was free to go back.
It was a big lesson to see how everything could flow joyfully and for the good if only I kept a cheerful attitude and had faith that Master knew what he was doing. Encounters with traffic policemen almost always imply having to argue with them and being incredibly stubborn to get the lowest possible rate in your ticket (or, in 99% of the cases, in your bribe). Yet, by just being friendly with them and not giving up to the temptation of going through the above mentioned route, things turned out much better than they could have possibly done otherwise! Talking about the second ticket (the no-parking issue), not only I ended up with more money than I had at the beginning, but also I gained a lot in terms of joy, faith in Master’s guidance, and conviction that when you work with harmony, everything around will arrange itself to match that harmony!
Joy to you!