Published in Dawn Magazine on May 17, 1998

You're on your way to a place where the chief minister and other dignitaries will address businessmen like you. Please be on time, they've told you, or you won't be allowed inside. So you drive extra carefully, and when the traffic signal turns red, you stop dutifully. But the taxi driver behind you has been looking at girls standing on the kerb, so he isn't able to brake in time. His car rams into yours.

Oh no, you groan. You get out, fortunately the car's not been damaged, nothing serious, and you get into your car again, but a traffic cop is standing in front of it. He insists that you come with him to the thana(Police station). Look, you say, I'm in a hurry, and I'm not making any complaint against the cab driver, let's forget everything. O.K.? No, he says, you have to come to the thana(Police station).

Look, you say patiently, I've got to go to an important meeting. I can't come with you, it's the cab driver's fault, he's the one who hit me from behind, he's the one you should arrest. But the cop's expression shows that his salary is not enough to feed him and his 10 children, so you give him a hundred rupee note. He disappears from the scene.

But that's not the end of the story. You are about to get into your car when the cab driver blocks your way. There are three others with him. It's your fault, they say, why did you stop when the light turned red? And why did you bribe the policeman if it wasn't your fault? Oh God, what a country. You have to hand each of them a fifty-rupee note before they let you go.

Shakir Lakhani