I had failed to clear the Financial Management examination in the second semester (out of a total of four) of M. B. A. and was to re-appear for it along with the students of the following batch. However, their examinations were postponed by a few months, instead of being held along with those for my fourth semester. So, I had to vacate the hostel room and return home. The year was 1999.
As luck would have it, one of my batch-mates had been placed with an Internet service provider at Indore itself, after the completion of the post-graduate course in management. Since I had his address, I expected to put up with him for the day or two that I would spend in the city. When I got there, though, he had shifted residence but a neighbour was able to provide me with the new address. I did not find him at home there either and, since it was already rather late in the evening by then, decided to look for a hotel room. I found one near the hostel, which was good as I was familiar with the area, having lived there for nearly two years.
Soon after I had settled down to read a text-book, following dinner, there was a knock on the door. I opened it to find that three armed policemen, a sub-inspector and two constables, had come to visit me. They wanted to know the reasons for my presence in the city and when I told them about the examination, they asked for proof. As I was to collect the hall ticket/admission card for the examination from college the next day, I was at a loss for words. Some anxious thoughts crossed my mind during those few moments of silence.
For the uninitiated, it should be prudent to mention here that police in India are known to often detain people without formally arresting them for several days or even months. They have also been reported to use torture to extract 'confessions' and to declare those killed during 'interrogation' as 'dreaded terrorists' killed in 'fierce encounters' or to simply dump the corpses in canals or rivers.
In any case, I told them that I did not have the hall ticket/admission card. They asked whether I had any other form of proof and I pointed towards the book on the bed. Fortunately, it was sufficient to convince them and I felt relieved when they left.
Enquiries from members of the staff revealed later that the keepers of the law, summoned by a telephone call, had been to the hotel only to see me. They had specific instructions to inform the police whenever a Sikh, Muslim or Tamil came to stay.
Apparently, Mr. Shahrukh Khan, who was very distressed recently on account of being detained at an airport in the United States, simply because he is a Muslim, felt that way as he, being a film star, has probably never been subjected to religious or ethnic profiling in India, unlike mere mortals like me. I had been introduced to those concepts rather early in life.