It started with my friend who works for ripleys' (the people behind the Ripley's believe it or not strip and TV show) calling me.
"Hello! is it really true?!" he said as always breathless with excitement.
"Is what true?!" I asked, exasperated at his usual habit of launching into 'specifics' without wasting any time on preliminaries.
"A cop out there has found a bagful of money and actually returned it!" he gave me the information.
"I don't know," I confessed my ignorance.
"Well, get going and get all the details. I will call you again," he said.
"I bet you will!" I muttered under my breath. My friend belongs to the category of people who think of themselves to be the centre of the universe and other as mere props who rush to their bidding every time they snap their fingers. Strangely enough, most times, like others of his ilk, he manages to get things done for him by others!
Later that day another friend of mine, who is associated with the World Wildlife Fund, called me. He is not in the least like my 'Ripleys' friend. His 'humble requests' always come gift-wrapped in layers and layers of greetings, enquiries about the health and welfare of my near and far kin, analysis of the weather, etc. After nearly half an hour of niceties the request popped up. Could I please get him a photograph of this honest cop?
"Whatever do you need it for?" I asked amazed at his strange petition.
"Actually we are setting up a 'rare species cell' and we have been looking for an emblem for the same. I thought a photograph of this rarest of rare species would be the best option." he explained.
Early, the next morning, I went to our neighbourhood newspaper vendor for my daily 'paper. I found him sitting all dejected.
"What's the matter?! Why are you down in the dumps?" I asked him.
"I am ruined!" he said in a disconsolate voice.
I looked around for any signs of break-in but nothing seemed to have been disturbed though the small shop had a rather empty look.
"How did it happen?!" I asked.
"Well, there was this news item about an honest cop in today's newspaper…"
"Yeah I know! That's what I came for." I couldn't see what that had to do with the robbery.
"I have no newspaper left!" he wailed.
"One excited policeman after another came and 'borrowed' a newspaper!" he said amidst sobs.
"Didn't they pay you?!" I said, for a moment forgetting that freebies were one of the perks that go with the onerous job of upholding the law of the land. I don't blame him for the 'are-you-a-moron' look that he gave me.
The honest cop story pursued me in my office as well. During the lunch break, as I was sipping coffee in the canteen, one of my colleagues joined me. He is an avid reader of detective and spy fiction and an avowed devotee of the movies of this genre. Consequently, he has acquired a distrust of any and every obvious situation. If somebody forgets to put sugar in his cup of tea, or for that matter puts it in excess, he sees a 'conspiracy' behind it. A sophisticated, aware and alert personality is his description of himself. A nasty, paranoid eccentric is what his acquaintances describe him as!
"What do you think of this latest news?!" he asked me, his eyes dancing with excitement.
"What latest news? The honest cop story?" it was the sort of news that seemed to be exciting everyone.
"Yes! What do you think of it?" he persisted.
"Well it seems that there are still some really honest people around, even among he cops," I opined and then just to stimulate him I added, "Or do you have any other theory?!"
"He is an intruder!" he said in an impressive whisper. "I have come to know through my sources in various agencies that his papers have been sent to the investigating authorities. There is a strong suspicion that he might not be a cop at all, but someone masquerading as one!" Of course this fellow's imaginary 'sources' in various 'agencies' are a standing joke among all those who know him.
While returning home, I stopped to buy some fruit from a street vendor. A policeman came and took ten rupees as his daily 'due' (erroneously, irrespective of its periodicity, know as hafta) from the 'unauthorized' hawker. I was still there when he came back running after a couple of minutes and handed a ten-rupee note back to the fruitwalla saying, "You have given me two ten rupee notes, by mistake, instead of one!"
He must have read something in the look on my face, which was a confused mix of expressions, as he said with a sheepish smile, "You see, now we have an image to uphold!"