India is a fascinating place, to say the least. I’m so unsure of what I think of this country both culturally and politically. So much is so different, yet sometimes familiar and I’m conflicted.

Yesterday, in the Paharganj area of Delhi, I was witness to something I’ve heard is commonplace, but was unsettling, frustrating, and lots of other things. I don’t really know what to think. Either way, I think it’s important to know and see that every country, every place can and does have a dirty side.

I should add…this didn’t happen to me. I was just a bystander. I also don’t know anything about Indian law, politics, government, police or hotel management. What I know is what I’ve seen (but not heard: I don’t speak Hindi).

Here’s what happened. I met up with another traveler and met him, ——, for breakfast. After a delicious breakfast in a peaceful oasis of the Paharganj area of Delhi, we went back to ——’s hotel so he could meet up with his brother. There, we found a police offer eating lunch while ——’s brother was writing a report of how his phone had gone missing somewhere in the hotel (either his room, or his bag). The officer, once he finished his lunch provided by the hotel proceeded to question the brother and the hotel staff. about the incident.

The worker who had cleaned the room was eventually questioned, than slapped repeatedly. This boy, the worker, was accused of stealing the phone without an investigation or any proof. He was punished—physically—and then dismissed, fired from his job by his manager. He left the hotel; the report had to be rewritten so that the hotel’s name didn’t appear in the police report; and the officer and us enjoyed a cup of Chai. At one point, I saw the hotel manager slip something (a bribe?) into the officer’s pocket and eventually the officer left.

There are a lot more details to this story but it almost seems pointless to share. What I found incredible is the fact that an officer, meant to serve justice and law: accepted a bribe (be it food, water, chai, money), told ——’s brother to rewrite the incident report to the officer’s liking, physically abused a person who did not have a fair trial nor investigation, and the phone was still missing. How could something like this happen in a democracy? Is this a democracy? More than anything, this incident has made me think and made me question.

I don’t know if this was an isolated incident. I don’t know how often this happens, if it happens regularly, why it happens, or if it’s meant to. I just know what I saw and what I think. And much of that, for the time being, I’m keeping to myself.

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