If your car stops at a traffic light in Delhi, the chances are that sitting on the front seat in the car next to yours is a cold-eyed security guard with a mean looking gun, the barrel pointing directly to you.
It can be a very unnerving sight, though Delhi people are used to it. But for us from Bombay, where security it represented by underfed constables and potbellied inspectors, the entire security network is rather oppressive. No doubt, we have our own crime and shootings also, but they are restricted to Dagdi Chawl and Prabhadevi petrol pumps, and we never do see them.
There are security people all over Delhi, and they must be the best in the country, because they look like policemen, with their AK-47s, or whatever, not like policemen in other places with their outdated 303 rifles that would take three minutes to first lift down from the shoulder, then open the magazine, load, close the magazine, lift back to shoulder, take care of the recoil aim, and fire.
In Delhi, a person is known by the kind of security he has. If it is the Black Cats, or its present equivalent, then the person is at the top of the security status and could be either the prime minister, or the late prime minsiter's family, or Ashwini Minha, editor and proprietor of the Punjab Kesri, a paper that has dared the terrorists. In the process, Mr. Minha has lost his grandfather and his father to terrorist bullets, plus several members of his editorial staff and the vendors of his papers. But the fight continues.
Mr. Minha, I understand, is at the very top of the hit-list, and I have not been able to figure out whether he enjoys this status or is frightened of it. Well, I am sure he is not frightened of it.
I remember him taking me fore lunch once at a restaurant called Richey Rich. In Delhi, they have these embarrassing names for their restaurants and their wives (Pinky) and husbands (Jolly). We were accompanied by three dozen security men, and, when we reached the restaurant, they all fannned around us, some facing inwards, some outwards, some on the steps of the restaurant.
I was never so embarrassed in my life. Fortunately, the Delhi citizens are so used to these displayed, nobody bothered to even look at us.