It was this bit of local news that prompted me to write this post. Do not dismiss this news story as just another crime. Crime sometimes walks right into you, your home. As it happened to me. In our Capital City, Delhi. Yes, here you go with my story. How I was robbed recently.
My wallet was snatched in the month of December. No, I was not out late in the night and I was not alone. I was on rickshaw (tricycle) going to nearby mall with my sister to buy woollens/jackets. It was 7 in the evening. Yes, it was dark. We were robbed on a busy road nearby our house. We had just hailed the rickshaw and were still on a well-lit road in front of the apartments.
Yet no matter how well-lit roads are, between apartments there are dark patches on road for two reasons: either a street-light does not work or there is quite some distance between two streetlights causing dark patches. It was between these two patches, two guys riding motorcycle snatched the wallet in my hands.
I tried my best to pull back my wallet, a foolish thing to do in hindsight. It brought the guy on pillion closer to me, he could have punched my face with ease. While I pulled back and screamed, the guy on the front, wrenched my hand away and they sped off. A tricycle is no match to follow a motorbike, given. But our rickshaw-puller was too shocked to react. It was all over in 30 seconds. My sister too, in the dark, didn’t witness wallet being whisked away from me, she was only concerned about my welfare. She thought that the guys had attempted to molest me or something of the sort.
I instantly dialled 100, it was too dark a patch to note the motorbike’s number. There was no light in the bike’s rear either. Guys who had robbed me just vanished. What did I lose? About 3k in cash (I hardly carry cash, but that day I had it handy so put it in wallet for shopping), 5 credit/debit cards, PAN card, some invoices, visiting cards, and some other documents.
After I called police, I straightaway started calling banks to block all my cards. Police arrived, meanwhile, at my residence, with their SHO and about 4 officers. Frankly, at the moment all I cared about was to block my cards. I kept police waiting till I had done that. I recounted the incident to them and told them it was too dark and rushed that I have no way of identifying the robbers. Yet I want to lodge a FIR. Well, they said that all I need to do was write the application and give it to them. They would drop a copy of FIR at my residence next day. How pleasant! I wrote the whole story out on their stamped paper. You think that was the end? No!
Policemen read my application and insist that I should delete the phrase “two guys on bike stole from me”, instead simply write “was stolen”, because then they will give a copy of FIR for non-cognizable offence. A crowd of bystanders emerged outside the house. But no one would butt in.
Policemen: Why do you want to mention two guys when you can not identify them. There is no benefit for you.
Me: I know there is no benefit, but I want this crime to be recorded.
Policemen: But there is no benefit.
Me: I don’t understand why you have a problem with this. It’s the truth, it should be recorded as such. Mera dil jhoot likhne ki gawahi nahi deta.
Policemen: I understand, but its not jhoot, just omission of a fact. Writing thi fact doesn’t doesn’t help you. I will myself bring the copy of FIR to you in morning, madam. You can then get your PAN card and credit cards re-issued.
Me: My PAN card and credit cards will be issued anyway. (sharply) Please just take this application as is. I will go now and rest. I will await my copy of FIR tomorrow morning.
Policemen: (darkly)Then you don’t get any copy. We will investigate, and you will need to come to police station every time we ask you to identify the guys. Investigation takes time, any way it wouldn’t help you. You won’t get your money back. If there were any benefit for you, we would have asked you to give application as is.
Me: But I told you I could not see the guys in dark! How can I identify?
Policemen: See! You don’t have any benefit. You did not see the thiefs, you don’t have bike registration number.
This went on for 2 hours until I finally decided to call my veteran uncle hoping he could help me to deal with this army of policemen (3 of them actually, others had left by then). My uncle promptly asked to speak to police officer. Police officer after asking my uncle’s profession was reverent. Yet his words had veiled threats. Sample this: Look, your daughter will feel harassed, she will need to come to police station again, and see its not good for her either to be meddling with criminals, See, she here comes home late from work,..blah blah.
My uncle gave in and asked me to do as police says. I hated it. Every instinct in my body refused to comply. Yet I complied in the name of family. It was my uncle who had ordered me to do so, my father too doesn’t disobey him. Next day I got a copy of FIR for non-cognizable offence. 😦
But this one act of compliance gave me several sleepless nights, I felt shamed. Shamed of seeking help from family. Shamed to give in to wrong thing. So much that I could not blog about it. Frankly, money lost was no dent on me financially, but the sheer act of someone taking advantage of me in full view of people was not acceptable. What if they did again? What’s to stop them?
In successive days, I noticed several other things that made this compliance of mine a very traumatic experience:
1. I noticed next day that, on the same road where I was robbed, there is a police chowki. I had not known because I have recently moved into the area. So police must know who those robbers were. The act was conducted in the compliance of police.
2. I met several other people, 3 women from whom gold chains were snatched, 1 guy, whose mobile was wrenched off his breast pocket, 1 women, whose shoulder bag was snatched. All in same area. None of their FIRs had been lodged. 2 of them did not even approach police because they knew it would be a futile trip.
3. It was dark, so how did those guys spot wallet in my hands. I mean, the guy’s aim was perfect. Well, they must have been watching me as I hailed the tricycle. Maybe the rickshaw-puller too was in compliance. I am not sure, but he insisted on taking a route that other rickshaw-pullers usually avoid.
Here are some tips that I can give you, from my experience, for such cases:
1. Be alert, be sure that you are not being watched or followed. It was cold, me and my sister were more concerned about wrapping our mufflers, so we failed to notice our robbers.
2. Never hold your wallet in your hands. Rather keep a shoulder bag. Though there is no guarantee that it will be safe, but it can be clutched better.
3. Do not walk on road or tricycle talking on mobile, there are common cases of mobile being snatched while you are talking. My mobile was saved because it was in my jeans pocket.
4. Try to get the robber’s vehicle number. It helps you in most cases. Calling police comes later.
5. Trust your instincts, sometimes it may be better to give your goods away to save your life or prevent bodily harm. And sometimes, you must stick on to your goods to save it.
6. Carry a pepper spray. Pepper sprays work better than knives as they come with high chilly factor and higher reach. Trust me, I know about it as I researched about it. In a metro city, it comes handy. This experience taught me that.
7. In the event of theft, cancel all your cards first thing. Also, ensure that you don’t keep any cards that you do not need or use. Otherwise, it’s a hassle to cancel a useless card whose details too you don’t remember. It happened to me, thankfully, my card had been cancelled long back due to no usage without my knowing about it. For once, I was not outrageous that bank did not inform about it. Keep the number for your handy in your mobile phonebook.
8. Dial 100 if you must call police. In Delhi, response time is 5 minutes and there is always a response because senior officials monitor the calls. I put this number to good use, even if loudspeakers are on late night, disturbing my sleep.
9. Keep a photocopy/scanned of all your documents like PAN, voter’s ID scanned. My PAN card was stolen, but I had a scanned copy of all my documents. It made re-issue of documents easier.
10. Keep your address in your wallet. A friend said ‘robbers’ returned the wallet to her without money, of course. I am not sure if putting address in the wallet has any disadvantage. My wallet did not have my address.
11. I am not sure if this one is true. I have read this in forwarded emails. In case your ATM card is stolen or you are under pressure to divulge your ATM PIN, it is better to give the reverse number. For example, if your PIN is 1234, you should give 4321. Your robber will get the money, but the bank will intimate the police considering this as your help plea. This site, though says that though this ATM PIN reverse technology exists, but none of the banks have implemented it.
12. Ensure that there are functional street lights outside your apartment. It helps long way to keep the roads well-lit. Currently, I am making a list of such nook and crevices near-by and I will give a written complaint to MCD.
12. Oh, and last but not the least, it helps to know someone in police. A friend told me his wallet was returned, after he called a policemen friend of his, who was in another department. Police and these crooks have their own network that works. If not policemen, make sure taht you ahve the number of a journalist, this will help you at least lodge a FIR if police refuse it. I have read several such cases in newspapers.
Do lodge a FIR. Or police, despite crime-in-your-face, will insist it is a crime-free zone. Feel free to add your tips to encounter robbery in the comments section.
Newspiece courtsey Hindustan Times