Kolkata moral policing: Years ago, my boyfriend and I were kissing passionately when a cop walked in on us

Sreemoyee Piu Kundu
Sreemoyee Piu KunduMay 03, 2018 | 18:32

Kolkata moral policing: Years ago, my boyfriend and I were kissing passionately when a cop walked in on us

A couple was allegedly thrashed by middle-aged men at Dum Dum Metro station for hugging inside a train coach on Monday (April 30) night. On May 2, youth from across the city hugged each other at Tollygunge Metro station as a mark of protest against the moral policing incident. 

As the city exploded with placards of #HokAlingon or the popular "Let’s embrace" slogan on social media, with passionate pleas even from celebs to join in - the name that harks back to the 2014 Jadavpur University #HokKolorob protests that once shook this city - strangers, including men and women like me from myriad backgrounds hugged each other in staunch support along with the couple who were victims of moral policing.

It was a moment that took me back to my final year of Masters. One evening, just after the July rains, my boyfriend K and I drove over to a dark lane opposite the Lakes. There, with our frosted windows rolled up, K pulled me closer and kissed me, passionately. We had been fighting a lot back then. I remember my heart racing, as I tried resisting K's overtures, scared that we maybe caught. The lane though shadow infested, was not entirely desolate. After a few minutes of a hurried car make-out that I think every young woman and man in this country will remember from their youth, in a deserted car parking lot or a lane like ours, we were forced to untangle each other's arms and lips, as a belligerent knock distracted us. 

Much to my horror, there was a burlesque police constable, his lips paan-stained, his eyes widened.

How long had he been watching us? What had he seen? Would we be jailed? My mom called?

There were no smartphones back then. What would he tell her?

"Ki hocche? Joto nogramo...(what's going on? All this sleaze)," he yelled, yanking out K from the driver's seat.

I choked with fear and trepidation.

"She's my fiancé, our marriage is next month. I am going away, please understand, Sir, please," K pleaded, wiping his face.

I smoothened the creases on my top. Trying to arrange my hair, without causing a flutter.

"C'mon, give me your license and, the car keys, quick, or shall I call your folks?" the constable barked, eying me suspiciously, lowering his neck.

K, I think panicked.

His parents hadn't approved of me, in the first place. His mother having called and threatened me to stay away from her son. They were high caste Brahmins. He an only son. Own house in South Kolkata. Father, head honcho of an MNC. Sister married in America.

"Dada, please, please... don't call my folks, please, here, take this, take my watch too... here's Rs 500... it's all I have... this watch is foreign, not Fancy Market," K wheezed under his breath.

The cop grabbed the money and the watch.

"Fake noi toh (not fake, I hope)?" he frowned, spitting out the supari.

K nodded vigorously.

The cop stuffed the cash and the watch into the pocket. Then just as he was about to go, he swerved to my side of the car, then yanking my door open, he asked, lewdly, "So, how was it? Bhalo legeche? Khub gorom shorirey? Koto boyesh holo, khuki (Liked it? First time? Feeling very hot, huh? How old are you, kid)?"

I was shivering, by then. 

I looked down, a part of me thoroughly embarrassed by the insinuation.

The cop was stinking of cheap country liquor. He clicked his tongue, trying to get me to meet his eyes.

"Ki holo? Kotha bondo (what's the matter? Why silent)?" he smirked, touching my arm, and trying to pull me towards him.

I shuddered.

K was standing a few feet away from the car. He had lit a cigarette. 

I have never felt more alone as a woman. Or more berated. Especially, since I had opposed the idea from the word go.

The cop whistled, and then just as he tried touching me again, I stepped out of my seat.

"4733178, call my parents," I bit my lips, raising my voice.

Then before he could say anything, I added, "And before you call, please let me know your name. I will also complain at the thana. You took bribes and touched me this way."

The cop looked stunned and tried reaching out again.

K gestured me to step back.

"4733178, phone korun, (call the number)," I yelled louder.

The cop looked flabbergasted. 

A couple taking a walk and an old gentleman passing by, came up, surrounding us in a queer circle. Soon enough, more lights came on in the balconies of the homes, shrouded in semi-darkness, until then. Some of the male residents trooping downstairs in their loose kurtas and pajamas, their faces creased with concern.

Within the next 20 minutes, the cop had returned the cash and K's watch. And apologised for grabbing me, profusely.

"This street is a lover's lane. Actually where will we these poor, young lovers also go? Even me and my wife used to sneak out here... after I treated her to spicy puchkas, she's from north Kolkata, you see... the puchkas were her excuse though to meet me here," the man from the couple who had first mediated, smiled as tears flowed down my cheeks, talking to K.

"Next time, lock the doors," the old man sternly said, as the cop turned to go.

"Prem kora toh bhalo, shorir, samaj ebong shohor, shobari jonno, (romance is a good thing, for our bodies, culture and our cities)," he then broke into a laugh, as the others joined in, waving as K backed the car.

Last evening as the Kolkata couple was allegedly beaten up at the Dum Dum Metro station, I thought of K and me. And how we were saved by a bunch of good-hearted and sane citizens.

Has the city of my birth, Kolkata, changed, so much since then?

Or, have we become the same, today? 

A people echoing the regressive, moral diktats of groups like Sri Ram Sene, which in 2009 barged into pub "Amnesia - The Lounge" in Mangalore and beat up a group of young women and men, because "women should not be drinking in a public place". Or acting like Operation Majnu, where Ghaziabad and Meerut Police which raided public parks with media crew and attacked couples sitting in the park in 2011 and 2005, respectively.

Resembling the Shiv Sena workers who had threatened and beat up girls and boys ahead of Valentine's Day and also raided shops and burnt Valentine's Day cards?

"Prem kora toh bhalo, shorir, samaj ebong shohor, shobari jonno (romance is a good thing, for our bodies, our culture and our cities)." 

Last updated: May 27, 2018 | 16:25
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