When I pass by Bombay promenades overlooking the sea, I see a line of cars parked with two people inside them. Usually every car contains a man and a woman, and they’re there because there’s nowhere else to go. Why not? Space for lovers is scarce in this city.
Motorbikes will be parked as well, rider and passenger holding hands, leaning on each other, talking with smiles, sometimes arguing. Lovers are oblivious to other pairs; they are of the same flock and tend to respect the privacy others require out in the open. The compulsions for being here are understandable too. No one wants to be here doing this, whatever this is. There is too much tension here. The police have to be watched out for.
When the police come, it is usually a rude surprise. They turn off their motorcycle headlights and quietly approach cars in which they suspect “vulgar anti-social activity,” as a policeman put it to me once. This term is used to describe a kiss or a clench. They flash a torch onto startled faces, park their motorbike and indicate to the driver that he (it is mostly the man) is needed outside. This man will spend some time pleading, begging. The police will stand by firmly, pulling out a reciept book, asking the man if he has any shame, asking him for his parents’ number and his address, as well as the girl’s. But then, slowly, the policeman will soften, tell the man that what he’s doing is wrong. By now the man knows what’s coming. This pattern is as familiar and expected as breathing. He pulls out a wallet and offers a bribe. They will negotiate and the cop will leave, but not before chiding him gently for his indescretion, telling him to repent and change for there is still time left.
This happens everyday in this city. There is simply no place left to hold hands without someone complaining about vulgarity or troublesome questions by passing police.