First time cab driver Harbhajan Singh had a night to forget in New York this Tuesday. This was all due to poor English skills. Originally from Ludhiana, Harbhajan arrived in the US this June. After failing a truck driver’s license exam, he applied for a taxi driver’s license. It took him three attempts to get this license.
Speaking through his interpreter, fellow undertrial Gurbaj Singh, Harbhajan shared his version of the events. Officer Remy Langton signaled him to stop on the night of 15 August, and after some questions related to food, he arrested Harbhajan.
As per the formal press release issued by the NYPD, Officer Langton stopped Harbhajan as he was playing very loud Indian music in his car that night. Remy suspected him to be driving under influence like a few other Indians earlier that evening. He asked the accused if he drank before driving. The accused replied in the affirmative,”Yes, I drunkard”, post which Remy had to arrest him.
Subsequent breathalyzer and blood tests did not reveal any alcohol in Harbhajan’s body. The police tried to question him further over his confession but his poor English skills did not help. Fellow undertrial Gurbaj Singh cracked the case when he was roped in to be the interpreter.
Gurbaj Singh told the police that Harbhajan actually said, “Yes, I drunk curd”, which was misunderstood by the police.
This incident has created a lot of bad PR for the NYPD among the immigrant communities of the city. In order to win back their trust , the NYPD has enrolled Harbhajan in an English speaking school. During his release from custody, Harbhajan expressed his relief on being released. “I am thankful that I free. I will drive taxi into people and all markets (sic)”, a statement that worried the police immediately. Hopefully, the English speaking school will address those fears.