Last night, by the time I packed up my words and said goodnight to Mr. R (who was lost in a Radio 3 Prom broadcast), it was past 1 am. The night outside was slowing down. A car sped by occasionally, sending mega-molecules of water splashing. The Mandovi was still – bands of red, blue and yellow neon picked out the dark silhouettes of the boats fast asleep on the water.
I walked the veranda revelling in the (almost) silence, still missing the cool, never-ending stillness of England.
Then, I saw them. Two policemen patrolling the street outside our house. When I first spotted them, they were both busy, mobile phones gleaming brightly in the orange light. A rifle leaned casually against the garden railing. A baton swung in the damp air.
What were they doing there at that hour? Were they guarding the Post Office?
I stood there awhile, curious. They didn’t notice me. They didn’t seem to be particularly on alert – just out of place. During the time I watched them, they just walked up and down the length of the PO, swinging batons, checking phones, gesturing to each other and eyeing the last of the stragglers going back to their hotel beds.
I’ll admit I felt a pang of worry. I remember thinking how the presence of the police in India is rarely comforting to the general public. I certainly didn’t feel relaxed and protected by these two young men with one rifle between them. I was very concerned – was there a threat that local residents should have known about?
We’ll never know.
The night passed. The PO (and our house) still stands. The boys in khakhi were gone, hopefully home to a well-deserved rest.