TODAY -

Phone pe Panchayat

S Balakrishnan *



Yes, you read it right ... Phone pe PANCHAYAT, not Phone pe Payment! I had this unique experience of virtual Panchayat as I was travelling in a bus from the temple town of Kanchipuram back to Chennai (65 kms) after loading myself with a lot of 'punya' visiting many temples and thus reducing my 'pap' score.

It was a Point to Point (PoP) government bus, so the conductor issued the tickets, collected the fare and got down at the bus-station itself - economy in operation. So there was some delay in taking off as the timekeeper insisted on all the seats getting filled up you see, each ticket costs Rs.70/- This led to some argument between the trio the driver, conductor and the timekeeper - and the passengers and the crew as well.

At last the timekeeper grudgingly relented and let the driver take off with few seats still vacant that can't be filled up on the way as it was a PoP service.

It was a great relief moving out from the ear-splitting air horn of various buses, especially those buses impatiently waiting behind to ply to Chennai and wanting to fill up their seats. Now it was the headache of the driver to take us safely to Chennai without a conductor.

As the bus smoothly slid on the highway I steadfastly decided not to fall asleep as it was late afternoon and I would be awake the whole night like an owl. A sudden shout of 'What? When?' helped me keep awake; well, it was not my intention to overhear the mobile conversation of a co-passenger seated diagonally behind me but it seemed he was shocked beyond his comprehension hearing the news.

I slightly leaned right despite my cervical spondylitis problem for my right ear to clearly catch his conversation; at the same time I had to appear as if I was not interested in that, so I closed my eyes as if dozing off, but all my senses were in full military alert. We are always interested in others' personal matters, no? I am no saint, especially because it appeared to be a spicy issue.

He followed the conversation with other "Ws" Who, Where, Why. As per journalism code, all these five "Ws" are essential for recreating an incident and formatting a news item. After gathering all the details from the other end and composing himself from the shock, he made a call to his sister or cousin.

"Paappa, I am Anna (big brother) speaking. [By the way, Paappa is how girls are fondly called; the other variants are Paappy, Paappu.] I just heard the news ... oh, don't you cry, be strong; let me deal with the issue, you don't worry. You make a conference call to mother .. what? You don't know how to make a conference call ... ok, ok, no problem. You just be on the line, I will make it."

As his mother picked up the phone he comforted her, "Don't cry ... first stop crying ... be bold. I will see what I can do. I am on the way. See, he has let us all down by running away with that lady; for him she is more important than you, his periamma (elder maternal aunt).

So why do you cry over him? People will definitely keep calling you in the guise of comforting you; don't cry over the phone, be strong and tell them this fact that she lured this little boy. Paappa is also on the line and I have told her also. Now, let me talk to the police station and then get back to you. Oh, for heaven's sake, stop weeping."

As the case was getting curiouser and curiouser I was on full alert to overhear his next conversation. "Hello, is it the ...... police station? Am I talking to Inspector Mr. ....? Oh, ok, you are Mr. ...! Vanakkam (Respects), Sir. I am Advocate .... speaking.

Yes, yes, this is regarding that case. I am that boy's periamma(aunt)'s son. That lady has seduced this 'virgin' (really?!) boy. She should have first divorced her husband and then married someone of her age; don't you agree, sir?

Why drag our boy who is not even married yet. You see, sir, she is to be blamed for all this mess and putting our boy and our family into shame. You got my point, sir?" Like this he went on for a while, squarely blaming that lady as if that boy was an innocent baby.

"I am on the way, sir. I will come straight there and meet you this evening and discuss how to sort out this issue. Nandri (Thanks), Sir".

Then he spoke to his mother and Paappa who were still on the line, "Did you see how I handled the issue? Then why weep & cry. I will straight go and meet the Inspector and see what can be done. Don't you worry... everything will be alright", he comforted and concluded the spicy conversation to my utter disappointment.

As the bus rolled on, he took up two more cases but they were just mundane issues, not sensational ones one was about getting EC (Encumbrance Certificate) and the next was about getting 'vaaidha' (postponement) of hearing.

As I was chewing this 'Phone pe Panchayat' trying not to doze off, I could not help wondering at the tenacity of this person and the confident way he handled the whole problem. Well, he was after all an Advocate! I comforted my wounded inferiority complex. I hope I have faithfully reproduced the conversation in full despite my ageing memory cells.

Of course I had to take double the dose for my cervical spondylitis that night as I was craning my neck sideways. Never mind, it was for a good cause, right? In appreciation of his diligent handling of the case Digitally, I am recommending his name to the Prime Minister for the "Digital India" Award under the category 'Phone pe Panchayat'. In turn, I hope he will recommend my name for the 'Best Crime Reporter' Award!


* S Balakrishnan wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at krishnanbala2004(AT)yahoo(DOT)co(DOT)in
This article was webcasted on February 26 2023.



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