When we left Gwalior around 10 am, the concierge at the hotel said, “In your Innova, you should be reaching Indore in 10 hours.” About 450 km. We gave ourselves three extra hours: on the way, we’d be stopping a few times to chat up people. After Shivpuri, the constituency of former state minister Yashodhararaje Scindia, the road became difficult; but after Guna, the parliamentary constituency of her nephew Jyotiraditya Scindia, it became impossible. As the evening darkened, the highway—a stretch of rubble, mud mounds, craters and loose metalling—led us deep into the heart of a dark nowhere.
We tried some country detours that had been suggested to us. We found them equally back-breaking. After a particularly rough ride that covered all of 70 km in three-and-a-half hours, we gave up all hope of dinner at a restaurant in Indore; around midnight, we stopped at the first roadside dhaba we spotted. A bunch of policemen from Indore were having drinks with their dinner. They had a tale of a road to tell.
The policemen had started from Indore at six in the morning, escorting a prisoner for a court appearance in Gwalior. They couldn’t make it to the court before seven in the evening, well past court hours. A magistrate unfamiliar with the area would have given the police team a piece of his chagrined mind. The one on duty had probably encountered such delays before: he asked the policemen to leave the prisoner in the local jail so he could be produced in court the next day. He knew if the Indore police took him back, the wheels of justice would run in reverse slo-mo.
“So how do you patrol this route?” I ask the assistant sub-inspector. Rum makes him blunt. “We usually don’t.”
Doesn’t that lead to an increase in crime? “No, the people are nice. Only rape cases have...