One FIR for a ‘lost’ phone please…

So it was that after my iPhone was flicked, I was advised to file an FIR in the police station. It could be that the phone could be used by someone else to do something I wouldn’t do and might have to end up answering for that. Better to have it registered that the phone wasn’t mine anymore. Also, there was a chance that I could use the IMEI number to get it blocked by the carrier. Well there are a lot of carriers these days, so I wasn’t particularly sure this could be done. But still. Also, it had to be registered as ‘lost’, not ‘stolen’ as stolen would put a liability on them to find it and such cases would add up on their record and make them ‘look bad’. There’s enough literature in the blogosphere to discourage me from going in with a ‘stolen’ complaint. And yes, there is enough literature in the blogosphere to also convince you that theft in BMTC buses is more common than punctual buses.

So I got down at Chandra Layout and started finding out where the Police station is the old way. I asked a bus conductor at the depot and was shooed along a road. I walked along, saw a police officer starting an Activa and asked him next. He gave me an annoyed grunt, waved me back to the crossroads and projected me further up, all without a word and a disgusted look on his face. I found it soon enough and entered the place. A constable was lounging outside, but I decided to head in. A distinct feeling with law and order policemen that if you even talk to them they’ll ask you for money, so speak to as few as possible.

My previous experiences with police stations have generally been negative. They either question your motive for having a phone or asking a police certificate, or being where you were, usually to punt you off to some other station, and if that fails ask you how much you earn to squeeze out their proportional entitlement. Once, as a student needing a certificate for my project at CAIR, I had opened up my wallet, shown the Rs. 15 I had, seen him take all and asked him to return Rs. 5 so that I could get home. They are generally a shameless, uncultured, uncouth lot defined by and indistinguishable from the kind of people they have to routinely deal with.

So this time, I entered and saw one guy behind a desk. Late 40s to early 50s. Given to making funny statements and getting laughs out of his minions. One of his minions, a constable, older than him, on the verge of retirement, sat at the other perpendicular side of the table. There were a few more people writing into a book and they disappeared while I was there and didn’t bother me much.

“What do you want?” he asked. “Lost my phone” I said. A North Indian father with his teenage daughter had come along by then. He looked at them with raised eyebrows and was told “My daughter lost her phone”. “Everyone is losing phones these days” he smirked, with appropriate reactions from the constable. “Maybe you should track down the thieves” I didn’t say. “Where?” he asked them. “While on scooter. Roads are so bumpy here. It fell out” the father offered. He looked at me.
Me: “I got down from the bus and it wasn’t there. So in the bus”.
Him: “Where?”
Me:”Nagarabhavi bus stop.”
Him: “That would be Vijayanagar police station”.
Me: “But you’ve put up boards all over there proclaiming Chandra Layout police station?” (“Ella kade Chandra Layout police station antha board haakondideera alli?”)
I surprised myself. He went inside. I went to the constable. He offered me a sheet to write a complaint. The father was already writing it down. I started writing it down, found writing with no soft backup difficult and pulled along one of their books with a paper cover to place the paper on. A few sentences on, I realized that there was a carbon sheet inside the book and I was well weaving my sentences into one of their books. I moved the book away just in time for the senior guy to come back and pick it up. Thankfully, he decided not to peek inside and kept it aside. I wrote something down asking them to “kindly intimate me if recovered” along with IMEI and Sim number details and handed it to him.

He had already wiggled out from the father that the phone was lost in Rajarajeshwarinagar and was telling him that he should go there and file the complaint, not at this station. He even helped him change the appropriate lines, now extra-helpful that it wasn’t a case for his station. The father-daughter soon left. He took over mine.

Him: “Where did you lose it?”
Me:”In the bus. I got down at Nagarabhavi Circle”.
Him:”Where did you get in?”
Me:”The petrol pump bus stand”(showing hand behind my back, not keen on letting him punt me to some other station. There are enough petrol pumps in Chandra layout to douse his doubts.)

“OK.” he said after reading it, “you can go now”. The smirk was back. I waited. “You haven’t asked for acknowledgement here.” I didn’t counter him this time. He was even helpful about asking me to add one sentence at the end. I did that and he passed it on to the elderly minion, who pulled out an acknowledgement book and wrote out the numbers – Sim and IMEI. I had to dictate them slowly, making sure I mixed up the Kannada and English getting him to translate some and not translate others. He took his time, struggled and finally finished the job, handing it over to the senior.

He took a look, while talking on the phone, and signed and stamped the little receipt. I started stretching my hand, but the ack made it back to the old man. I knew there was going to be more and this was the interesting part, for them. “Do you want a xerox of this letter?” he asked me. I declined, eyes firmly on the acknowledgement, knowing that a xerox of a letter with just my signature would be of no use. Over to the old minion.

Old Constable:”Where do you work?”
Me:”Software Engineer”
I could guess the next question, “How much do you earn?” and then the entitlement that I’d need to fulfill. I slowly stretched my hand out, while looking at the ack all the time. Being a minion, he responded to outstretched hands asking for something by just handing it over. I took the ack, looked at it, said “Thank you”, gave them a smile and turned back.

“Wait…come here” the old man called out. I walked along, my job done and already mentally far off from the station.

I walked along to Airtel and asked them about blocking the IMEI. “You have to talk to the handset maker” they said. I called up Apple support and got this from the fake-accent putting Indian: “Sir, Apple is a hardware manufacturer. We also provide software and some services. It is up to the carrier to enable ordisable the services. We also allow third parties to develop services that you could run on our OS and perform specific functions. For what you are asking, our liability for this service ends with the hardware. For voice and data related queries and services you would need to talk to your carrier and if they provide such a service, we would not hinder/block them. Of course, there are also third party services which you could have used for this. Apple also provides a platform for them. Blah blah.” No kidding.

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12 thoughts on “One FIR for a ‘lost’ phone please…

  1. IMEI blocking can obviously be done only by the operator. Airtel is skirting their responsibility here. Try once more and mention something that will scare them (cellphone can be used for violence or terrorist activity). There must be a Airtel Twitter account too. Try asking that one too.

    About police station: the few times I needed to deal with government folks, I either said I was a student or just as engineer. You can create a designation creatively that is true but gives them no idea that it is about software. If they smell easy money, they will ask for moolah.

    1. Most of these guys skirt it unless you know someone there. And such threats will only bring it to me. One of those things about India that frustrates.

      Am no longer in my 20s to claim student. 😛 These guys don’t care. Usually it’s how much you had in your pocket that matters.

      1. Hmm…There was a time I was like you, just before I returned. 🙂 PR and all they don’t care. Competition in India is a race of snails.

  2. To be frank, I don’t think I would have the guts/energy to file an FIR at a police station, no matter what nefarious use my phone would be put to. But for the price of an iPhone, I would surely try to make sure the bastard who stole it would not be able to use it 🙂

    1. Yes sir. I agree with that sentiment. But if you have to get through life here, you have to pick your battles. Am still learning it the hard way though. Tend to be idealistic, all it makes me is more stressed.

  3. Sridhar,

    It came as a surprise discovering you have a vibrant blog. I stumbled upon it and find there is a lot of nice material here. My best wishes to keep it ever going and growing. I haven’t explored all of it. Have you written any carnatic music reviews?

    gopi mama

      1. This morning I wanted to copy your mail id to send u a fwd from my yahoo account where your id is not stored . In gmail I gave your name, just a few letters..vaidya.. and a list of all communication with you came up. At the top was an icon which even now I can’t make out what it is. I clicked it and it led to your profile page and then on to your blog.

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