Does anyone else feel sceptical about the little “bomb-checks” that take place outside the parking lots of movie theatres, malls and hotels? The ones where a bored-looking security guard positions a stick with a tiny mirror at its end under your car and pretends to study it from a couple of angles before waving you on?
Apart from being such a soporific process, it has to be commended for its pointlessness. What is the sense of looking for detonating devices only on the underside of vehicles, and that too a small portion of the underside (determined strictly by the starting position and convenience of the lethargic security man who happens to be doing the checking)? What about inside the tank? Living as we are in a time when simply visiting a crowded public place has become a nerve-wracking affair, I demand that each car be disassembled in its entirety before it is allowed inside a parking lot. (Hypothetically, if they forgot to reassemble the vehicles, it could only improve Delhi’s traffic situation.)
Once, outside the Select mall, I encountered a marginally more creative security man who asked me to open the car’s trunk. But having gone this far in dauntless pursuit of excellence in his duty, he contented himself with giving a friendly squeeze to the spare tyre lying inside, while completely neglecting the heavy cloth bag on the side. Exactly what parameters are these people using? The randomness of it worries me.
My one experience of a security-checker who took his job very seriously was at the Siri Fort Auditorium parking lot a few years ago. I was late for a film screening, but this man was in no mood to let me pass. For starters, he was unimpressed by the press sticker on my car. “Half the vehicles in this city have those,” he snorted. “Any competent terrorist would be sure to get one.” In fact, he was more suspicious now. “Kaun se newspaper ke liye kaam karte ho – Times of India ya Hindustan Times?” he asked, reciting the only two paper names that non-journalists in Delhi know about. When I told him I was a freelancer and wrote for various publications, he laughed like Gulshan Grover: “Hum bhi alag kisam ki gaadiyon ko check karte hain. Shaayad hum bhi ‘freelancer’ hi honge.” (“I check different types of cars as well. Maybe that makes me a freelancer too.”)
After mocking me in this way he circled the car, glanced into the back-seat and asked me to take out the packaged review copy of a stout new book I had just picked up from the Penguin India office. “Itni badi kitaab aap padhoge?” he asked shrewdly, “ya iske andar kuch chipaaya hua hai?” He tapped the thing a few times to check for signs of hollowness before handing it back. Then he twirled his stick at me menacingly (as if to say “If I find out you’re a suicide bomber, I’ll give your scattered body parts a nice whacking”) and let me go.
I must confess that at the time I didn’t care for his unnatural dedication to the job, but he has grown in my estimation. Today we need all the obsessive security checkers we can get.
(From my Metro Now column)