She was big, burly in her cop's uniform and heavy-duty blue jacket, embroidered with her last name. Her hair was neatly tied up in a short bun, her blue eyes gazed sharply about as she stood at the entrance to the theater. Officer E was the off-duty policewoman who was providing security at the theater in a seedier district of uptown where M was performing with her dance troupe.
There had been another cop on the previous night's show, but I had noticed little of him, beyond noting that he pulled up a chair near the coathangers and sat for the hour during which I manned one of the ticket tables.
This day's cop was different. She declined offers from us to supply her with a chair. She stood there quietly, swaying back and forth a bit occasionally, shuffling back and forth over the length of a few feet. One of the volunteers brought her a box of samosa and pakoras, as they started boxing the snacks which were to be sold during the intermission. She took it with murmured thanks and placed it on a newspaper rack next to her standing place.
After the rush of main arrivals had slowed down to a trickle of latecomers, a couple of last stragglers came in to buy tickets. "Has the show started yet? It's only 4:30!" I handed them the tickets noting, "The show started on time at 4." They had missed practically three-quarters of the first half.
"Indian Standard Time", I said apologetically to the policewoman, as she raised her eyebrows over the exchange. A tiny smile passed her lips.
"Parking is really hard to find in this area, isn't it?" I inquired in a conversational tone as I settled down into a chair at the table near her. "I parked near the library and walked down here, couldn't find on-street parking in the afternoon when I arrived."
"I couldn't find parking either,"she admitted."I'm parked in a no-parking zone near a dumpster."
"That shouldn't be a problem, seeing that you are a policewoman, I guess."
"Nope, they know me around here."
Next, assorted casual chitchat, in which I learned that she lives with her elderly parents and is going there for dinner without having to change out of uniform, that she works 4 ten-hour shifts every week and the police department will be moving to 5 eight-hour shifts that she isn't sure she will like.
'But think of how much better it will be for your health to be able to maintain more normal hours!" Her expression tells me that she is unimpressed by my attempt to highlight its advantages.
"Don't you get tired standing all the time?"
"I'm afraid that I wouldn't be able to get up if I sat down." Yes,she does look tired, inspite of the alert stance.
Around this time, one of the other ladies came over to ask if she would like a cup of masala tea, which she gratefully accepted and sipped, commenting on how she liked its gingery flavor.
Soon after, I was called inside, and stayed to watch the second half of the show. Officer E had vanished by the time I got outside again, off to dinner with her family. The lobby was crowded with the exiting audience, excited cast and their family members.
The next day, I remembered the embroidered name and idly googled it to see to which police station she might have been attached, and came across articles about allegations of violence and intimidation by a female cop dating back to the 1990's and another incident in 2007(both involving other cops, not regular citizens).
Was this the same policewoman who was at the theater? I can't say for sure, but the age and name do seem to match up. Maybe the 'harmless' lady cop that I had been chatting with so casually was more than she seemed, a flaming temper kept under control until an excuse came up to unleash it.
Rather like Ma Durga, I suppose, and appropriate enough, since one of the show's themes was about the Devi and her destructive as well as protective capacity!
(On a side note, I really ought give up googling people. Sometimes, it leads you down rabbit holes down which you shouldn't have gone! )