Paying a Bribe

February 2016, Mumbai.

To be fair, we were breaking the law. Yet despite breaking the law thousands of times before, this is the first time I’ve paid a bribe. I can only hope that every time I pay a bribe in my life it will be when I am actually breaking the law.

I met Paddy at Crawford Market around 9pm. Neither of us fancied paying 170R for Kingfishers so we bought a bottle of rum (that I can still feel) for 400R. We walked to Colaba and mixed said rum into a couple of bottles of thums up.

After turning down lots of massages and marijuana a policeman came up to us and said something like ‘drinking’? We pointed to some empty water bottles and said, “pani, coke”, and walked in a direction of less people. We eventually found a place with no people and lots of rats where I thought that no copper would ever bother searching. I thought wrong.

After a couple of hours and most of the bottle, telling each other stories and watching the water, Mr Copper turns up again and asks us for 1’200R for drinking in a public place. He definitely searched for us, and where we were was a place with no people, and no copper would be walking there randomly. We made almost no move, and only talked to each other about our options. I suggested the possibility of running., which Paddy was not interested in. In retrospect it’s probably better that we didn’t. In the tiny likelyhood of us getting caught it would have been much worse. I also suggested, quite unwillignyly, that we go to the station. If i’d have been by myself I may have been more inclined to do that, out of interest. But it wasn’t fair on Paddy for me to carry out such experiments on his time. He suggested paying something to get it over with.

Luckily, after some time of the policeman refusing to believe we were ‘super-shanti’ as I was telling him, a boy came over and started to translate. A second copper came over around that time, who according to the boy, was telling the first copper not to seek more money than we offered. I had already tried to suggest how much he wanted, but he hadn’t understood me. With our new translator, he did understand, and the boy asked how much we had. We opended our wallets in a way to hide anything large we might have, and I handed over 210, and Paddy 400. The copper was absolutely delighted, gave me back the 10R note and shook our hands. I wonder now how if it would have been alright to give him half that amount. I didn’t offer Paddy to make up the 100R difference he paid, because I’m a dick.

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