December 9th, 2010
I awoke to my second morning in the detention cell but I was buoyed by the likelihood of getting out of custody later that day. The lawyer was going to be submitting my bail application to the court. One of the steps required to get released was obtaining what they call a “local surety”. This was a relatively new law and means that someone who lives in Goa had to sign for responsibility that I would not flee the region before the trial. It seemed like an odd law in that how was a foreign tourist like me expected to know anyone who lives here (even the sub-inspector Sachin agreed with this hypocrisy). The lawyer stated that there are some people willing to be a surety for people they don’t know...but for a fee of course.
While I was lying on my thin mattress reading my book in the cell, a new guard pulled up his chair to the cell door and began chatting with me. Rohi, moustached in his late twenties with a slight pot belly and a teddy bear face, did not hold back in his questioning and it did become quite entertaining. Before coming to India I had read in a travel book about the openness and frank questions that one normally does not hear in Western societies. First off is the “What country?” question but that can soon be followed by “Are you married?” and “How much is your salary?”
Rohi was baffled by the fact that I was 39 years old and not married, as were most of the other guards. He had been married earlier that year and already had a baby on the way but it was fairly obvious that it was an arranged marriage and that he was not in love with his wife.
“I like to ask foreigners” he began, “how do you get stamina?”
I tried hard not to giggle and responded “Well, practice. And it’s fun to practice right?”
He held one of his pinky fingers out and clasped the base of the finger with his other hand. “But I’m only this big.” Oh boy, keep it together Dave, don’t bust out laughing. “Should I take Viagra?”
I explained to him that that was not the reason that Viagra was developed, that it wouldn’t make him bigger and that size shouldn’t be a factor anyways. I’m not sure how well I was able to convince him as his next question was how big I was. Oh dear, kind of sad really as it seems that sex education is on the back burner in this country.
I attempted to steer the conversation in a different direction and asked him how long he’d been an officer and whether he liked it. Well he didn’t. He has to work every day and makes a meagre 16,000 rupees a month ($320). I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the guy...and here I was sitting on the inside of the cell door and he on the outside.
Sachin came by the cell around lunch and told me that they lawyer had been to the court in the morning and should be taking me there in the afternoon. Good news. As the hours passed by in the afternoon and the sun began to sink in the sky, so did my hopes. I resigned myself to another night behind bars, but feeling sure that this would be the last night of this ordeal.
In the evening a couple of Indians were placed in my cell, my first cellmates. They sat on the other side of the cell and apart from my initial offering of my blanket, which they declined; they kept to themselves and I kept to myself. I don’t think they spoke any English. One guy had a nasty habit of cracking his fingers and unfortunately one of them snored. I found out later that they were charged with rice smuggling. Rice smuggling? I never knew that was a lucrative crime?!? It turns out that they were from another state and were short changing poor people who were exchanging government provided rice coupons and then running the rice to Goa to sell for a profit...huh. Who knew?
In the evening, an officer I didn’t recognize came by and it was time for my fingerprints to be taken. As you can imagine, it’s all low tech equipment in the Indian police force. He rolled some black ink onto a rectangular wooden palate and one by one he took my fingers and inked them up and then imprinted them on four or five separate white forms through the bars of the cell door. Once the process was finished, I washed off the ink under the tap in the small garbage ridden room and finally clued in why there were so many black finger marks on the wall that I noticed on the first day...d’uh, what hadn’t I thought to leave my mark?