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Punish or Pardon

Vikram V
Wednesday, August 19, 2020
Punish or Pardon

CHAPTER 1

It was pouring cats and dogs and it felt like all the rain for the year would make landfall in one single evening. Visibility was limited – one could not see anything right ahead, far less 10-20 meters ahead.

However, it was not like this until a minute back when it was still drizzling- so it must have been a sudden and massive cloudburst. I came to a screeching halt as I could barely see anything ahead of my car.

It had already been a long, albeit an exciting day at the office. The day was full of meetings, as we had to close several aspects of a particular project by day-end. By the team I and my team left office, it was nearly 10pm. It was at least an hour’s drive to home and the sudden acceleration in rainfall happened when I was nearer to office. Surely, this was the last thing I had bargained for on a long working day.

Little did I know that things were about to get worse. No sooner had I stopped I was hit by what seemed like a truck, or at least that is what it felt like. Before I had any time to recover from the shock, the hit-man vehicle had reversed, turned and sped away. I came out of the car to inspect the damage only to be drowned in gallons of water in under two seconds. I had no option but to get back into the car and wait for the downpour to subside.

Anxiety was beginning to build inside me. The rainfall itself was not causing this – it could not rain at this intensity forever, eventually it had to pass – but it was the after-effects that was beginning to worry me. I had to inform the police, file for insurance and then get the car repaired – a lot of work lay ahead amidst a busy office schedule.

Luckily, at the police station, things went smooth and I was issued an FIR over the next couple of days. And the car itself was now in the garage. Thankfully, it was all over – or at least that is what I had thought about it.

Next couple of days I got even busier at work. There were a couple of projects we were was working on at the same time and besides travel was on cards. It was during these times that I got this mysterious phone call.

CHAPTER 2

I has been thinking about my travel plans. If everything went right, I’d be able to take a vacation in a months’ time. I was raring to go.

My idea of a vacation is to connect with the nature. I mean take a dip in the river, hike those green mountains, observe those farm animals – and not to mention food cooked from ingredients produced in the farm itself. The firm itself is owned by my friend and is based in Yercaud, about 4 hours’ drive from Bangalore. Yercaud is a small hill station with nothing much to do but laze around and enjoy the nice weather and the scenery. When I’m there my morning jog usually starts with a piping cup of hot tea at a small corner store – an amazing start to the day.

Afternoons are mostly spent in the farm. The farm has a wide variety of animals – cows, dogs, cats and rabbits to name a few. To mingle with them, touch them and look into their innocent eyes is a different joy altogether. The nearest town to Yercaud is Salem and occasionally we head there – more for the joy of riding through the curvaceous mountains than anything else!

There are also some amazing hiking trails, which we end up doing during a day, or two. Walking through the mountains, inhaling the fresh air and taking in all that beautiful greenery is an out of the world experience altogether.

My vacation thoughts were however brutally interrupted by this phone call –for now at least those would remain pipe dreams. The call was from the Policeman who was handling the accident case – Vijay – who wanted to see me. He had this commanding voice and all my attempts at protesting and getting away lay in waste. We decided to catch up in a café near my home that evening. I began to wonder what this could be all about. Wasn’t this supposed to be a simple accident and therefore an open and shut case?

Clearly, it was not. The car was later found a few blocks away – this is the car, which had struck me the other day. It was badly mangled in the front quite similar to my own car. Also, the dents and damages exactly matched with those in my own car. This is how the police had connected the dots and concluded this was the car, which had hit me. I wished I could lay my hands on this bloody driver.

He seemed to be a nice man – Vijay – and we quickly broke ice. He came straight to the topic.

Vijay : “ The car that rammed into you was being driven by a terrorist. So you are not allowed to leave town for some-time”

The word “terrorist “shook me quite a bit and all my chances of laying my hands on the driver quickly evaporated into thin air.

I replied, “But Vijay, visibility was quite low that evening. I could not even see the car far less the driver”.

I continued: “Therefore, I’m useless as a witness”

It did not seem to matter. I was collateral damage and this is how police procedure worked. He however promised that I would not be harassed unnecessarily and all I had to do now was not to leave town.


CHAPTER 3

We were only in the beginning of the monsoon season. There was more rain to come and I was quite happy about it. For me watching the rains with a cup of tea in my balcony is an ultimate treat - the petrichor scent, the pitter-patter sound and the fresh feeling make it even better.

I remember my school and college days when we used to suddenly crossover to football from playing cricket that too with the same tennis ball. It was so much fun to play football in pouring rain – even if it was one of the few excuses to get wet in the rain without being called “mad”. I began to think that maybe I should play a game or two with my old friends in pouring rain just to relive that experience.

Work was as usual – hectic and never ending. I would like to add hectic work life to the other two constants in life – taxes and death – my humble contribution to the literary world. We were all working on a new project. There was quite a bit of travel to do, but I was forced to delegate this bit to my team due to my travel ban. I was beginning to enjoy not having to travel after all. I missed Yercaud but did not miss the hustle and bustle of office travel – last minute flights, client visit, hotel food and what not!

Vijay had kept up with his promise and had not bothered me much. He had only called in only once to tell me that I might be called in as a “witness” in court proceedings in a few days. My only job was to admit that my car had met with an accident. There was no need to recognize anything at all.

A couple of weeks went by. Then suddenly one day he sent a simple message which read “case closed, you are free to travel now”. I heaved a sigh of relief and re-started my holiday plans. It was overdue by two months now and I was excited again.

I spent a refreshing week in Yercaud. The rains were long gone but the ground was lush green. As expected I spent quite some time hiking, taking dips in the river and going several times on the ever- bending road to Salem. I needed this break badly as it came in the wake of some back-breaking office work not to mention the accident itself.

Over the next two years, nothing much changed and everything was routine. I did more “nature” trips changing locations moving away from Yercaud in the process. The memory of the accident was clearly receding in my head.

Meanwhile at the office there was enhanced focus on ESG initiatives with everyone getting involved. We were split into different teams and I was in a team which was assigned to an asylum. I wish I had a better bargain and that I has been involved with something to do with animals.

With a grim face I joined my team and proceeded to the asylum a few miles away from Bangalore. The place seemed to be well organized, was not too very crowded and that soothed me a bit. We were about to begin our work when I caught sight of Vijay.

We shook hands and he quickly drew me away from my team crowd wanting to show me something. He pointed to a man sitting in a garden about 50 meters away.

Vijay: “do you know who that person is?”

Me: “No idea - never saw him before”

Vijay: “He is the one who knocked you down that evening”

Me: “What!? How did he end up here?”

Vijay: “Lets chat over a cup of coffee”

We want to the pantry and Vijay started to talk again

Vijay: “You know we did not tell you the whole truth. The guy who involved in the accident was not a terrorist”

Vijay: “He fancied fast cars and was involved in multiple hit and run cases. Even that evening he had run over a pedestrian before crashing into you “

I quickly countered

Me: “so why the thing about terrorism?”

Vijay: “The bloke is politically well connected. We were trying to build a formidable case against him. We did not want any loose ends”

Vijay: “If we had not told you that he was a terrorist, legally speaking we would not have been able to hold you back from travelling”

Me “Sure, but it seems like the case was suddenly closed”

Vijay: “Well, we realized we had a strong case even without involving you. So we decided to give you a break”

Vijay: “The good news is that we even got a court ruling in our favor after a long battle with his lawyers.

Vijay: “We were taking him away from the court when he tried to escape. But he was hit by a truck and was in hospital for several weeks”

Vijay: “He recovered but was left with multiple disorders – amnesia, paralysis and hysteria. The doctors announced that chances of a recovery is almost impossible”

Me: “Maybe it would have been better had he died”

Vijay: “No that would have been too easy on him. He was no saint and killed at least 10 people due to his reckless driving ”.

Vijay looked at him again and said “this is more like a death by thousand cuts!”


As we left the place, I could not make up my mind. A part of my brain was telling me “forget and forgive”. At the same time, Vijay’s point was valid as well. A society without appropriate punishment mechanisms only gives way to moral hazard eventually. The situation was a paradox for me and remains one.
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