My friend, who lives on the 21st floor and is the nationâ€™s No.1 exporter and foreign-exchange earner, has been practising for some time now as to how to live in a police lock-up incase he is arrested for some excise discrepancy one of his companies may have committed in 1977 or earlier.
So, when I called on him this morning on my way to work, I was not surprised to see him having his breakfast in a small cell that he has constructed in the middle of his drawing room. I understand it is modelled on a cell at the Gamdevi police station, which is the station he is likely to be taken to if arrested.
"I see you are practising," I said, putting my hands between the bars to greet him.
â€śDonâ€™t put your hands inside, the police might think I am trying to pass out some incriminating Grindlays Bank, Singapore branch, documents,â€ť my friend warned.
â€śCome, come you do not have to play-act all that much,â€ť I said. â€śIt is all right that you get a feel of what it is to be in a prison cell so that you are not completely demoralised when you are pulled out of your house early in the morning and put in one of them, but you do not have to go that far that you cannot greet friends.â€ť
â€śIn business, you have to be prepared for all eventualities,â€ť my friend said, trying to sit on his wooden bunk and evidently finding it uncomfortable. â€śI have had my staff put bugs into this bed, so that I can get used to them by the time I am arrested.â€ť
â€śTrue,â€ť I said. â€śIf the other businessmen had your foresight, they would have taken the arrests in their stride and not gone running to the press to complain.â€ť
My friend had a bite of hard, dry bread, and drank some watery kanji, then remembering his duties as a host, said to me: â€śPlase order whatever breakfast you want with the butler there is some very good parma ham and farm fresh eggs flown in just this morning. They can scramble up an omelet for you. I have to stick to this Arthur Road food in case I am sentenced in spite of all the efforts of Mr. Nani Palkhivala.
â€śI am sure things wonâ€™t come to that. And you donâ€™t expect me to have a hearty breakfast while you are in prison!â€ť I said, politely refusing to order the omelet.
My friend said: â€śI have stayed in this cell for 21days at a stretch, which is probably the duration of the remand the court will give me, pending further investigations. And now, I think, you should go visiting time is over. It is only be cause I know Mr. Soman that they are permitting me to have an occasional visitor.â€ť
So, as I was leaving, I tried to cheer him up: â€śLook, if they were going to arrest you, they would have already done so, since they are permitting me to have an occasional visitor.â€ť
â€śThatâ€™s what you think,â€ť said my friend. â€śLet me tell you, there is a lot of time yet. They arrest businessmen till they are 82 years old.â€ť