Marine Drive could have been fun in the night if he were not a policeman. The sound of the waves hitting gently against the tetrapods, and the salty sea-breeze would have thrilled anybody, but not him, he who had walked the street every night for so many years. All he could feel was the heat radiating back into the sky, and the opprobrium of a lonely night.
Pandu walked down the pavement. His proper name was Gajanan Shirke, but Pandu was how the public called him. It called everyone in uniform Pandu. It could be irritating, but he had been called that so many times he stopped responding.
Lonely the night would not be. He would have company for sure – a few homeless sleeping on the pavement, a few drunks tottering aimlessly before they fell into some gutter. Now he could spot three louts sitting on the sea-wall, smoking away. Suspicious. Walk faster, Pandu.
The outlines became clearer. Two of them seemed to have long, untidy hair, and held what seemed were ice-cream cups. The one with short-cropped hair had just thrown a butt away, and was lighting another cigarette. All of them seemed to be swaying a bit.
This was clearly trouble. What were these three men doing, at one in the night, sitting on the parapet like this? He stood about thirty yards away, watching them closely. They seemed to be unaware of him, completely engrossed in each other.
Oh my god, homosexuals! Was that it? Homosexuals meant Trouble. With a capital T. The kind of trouble that needed a quick call to the police station. An arrest, and some tough questions. Perhaps a few beatings.
Or should he just warn them and drive them away? Could be much less hassle. But would that solve the problem? Why would they not come tomorrow? Make the place a haven for homosexuals?
That was trouble in all capitals. It could mean the papers would know, the Shiv Sena would know. They would start with shouting slogans, and move on to more violent methods. Bandobast duty in the daytime, suspensions, enquiries. Oh no. Not at this stage in life.
But wait. Maybe they were just three idiotic boys, just out of the pub. There was a tony pub on the end of the road that came from Churchgate. It had an English name, now what was it? Oh yes, Not Just Jazz By The Bay. They looked the kind to have come out from the pub. Let's look closer.
Long hair, torn jeans, cans of beer. Things attached to their ears that made them deaf to the world. Ice-cream cups from Baskin & Robbins. Very tony. Maybe homosexual, may not be. But definitely cash-rich. Likely to be scared stiff.
Two hundred from each as fine for 'making nuisance' should do. Fifty each. Now wasn't it becoming a good night? Taste the cool salt-breeze, hear the gentle ripples.
He walked a little faster, a little happier.