by Arshid Malik
There are certain places where I hate to be. One is a police station, two a hospital and three a courthouse. All three of these institutions work their own codes and exercise an independent “inside” authority, miles away from the freedoms that a common man or woman enjoys outside. One only has to land in one of three to realize how potentially automatically one’s liberties are caught in a jinx and one is left to the mercy of the “operators” of these institutions. I don’t know how many readers will agree with me, but I am sure that doctors and associated medical staff, policemen and lawyers and judges won’t agree with me for the simple reason that they exist inside these circles of “torture”. All the same, I will share my experiences to assert my opinion.
I was around 11-years-old when I landed inside a police station. I was playing cricket near a police station with some of my friends when I hit the ball hard and it broke a windowpane of the station. A few men in khakis, who had been observing us steadily, stepped out and grabbed me and one of my friend’s by the collar and took us inside the police station. The station was dark and dingy and smelled of rot. We were made to sit in a corner for hours. The cops stationed there were on a roll of laughter and eating. When the Station House Officer arrived at the station and saw us kids crippled into a nook, upon enquiring he let us off with a stern warning. This was my first experience inside a police station and I tell you it was very murky and debilitating. Since then, every time I visited a police station I have experienced the same dinginess, pathologically devoid of any sympathy for the “visitors”. The authority inside a police station is such that everyone working there takes you for granted. If you wish to meet someone, you have to sit silent and wait for the “fortunate” time till you land an appointment. No one seems to care about your urgency. Matters slip at a snail’s pace as if testing your temper.
When I was around 21 my father had a major heart attack In the middle of the night. The situation in the valley was tense and there was night curfew. Somehow we managed to get an ambulance and we rushed to the hospital. My father was in agonizing pain. When we entered the emergency care facility of the hospital there was no doctor in sight. We knocked at many doors, but no one bothered to get up. I thought I would lose my father and in a fit of anger I broke the door to a room where doctors were sleeping and roughed up a few while knocking down more doors and it was only then that the stationed medics realized the emergency and attended to my father. They made some calls and after an hour or so some senior doctor reached the hospital and my father was soon out of danger. This was my first tryst with a hospital and we had to stay there for some 20 odd days. All through the period we had to bear the stink, the apathetic attitude of the doctors, the ever-lengthening period of wait till the medics would let us go back to the sanctity of our home. You don’t have much say in matters that concern your loved ones in a hospital and you are prisoner to the atrocious attitude of the staff posted there.
With matters concerning our courts, I will be precisely brief for the fear of violating some prime prescript. I have been in and out of courts with matters related to my job. The very instance I set my foot into a courthouse my temples begin to tremble. There is again this strange kind of inbred automation that sets one-off. You are at the mercy of the judges and advocates, made to wait standing for hours at a stretch isolated from exercising your own will.
In all the above three cases the most significant part is that the people who run and work for these institutions never try to place themselves in your feet and imagine how debilitating it is for you, a common man, to bear with their parched practises. You are stripped of all value that you carry as an individual.