Yesterday I met the additional commissioner of police- Sir Kamal Pant at the commissioner’s office. It was the first time that I have ever gone to the Police commissioner’s office anywhere in my country. It was the first time that I have spoken to an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer. It was the first time that I was asking the police traffic personnel deployed around the area, directions to where the police commissioner’s office was. And I don’t know if it was just in my head but somehow whenever I asked the police which way I should go to reach the police commissioner’s office I saw on their faces a curiosity to know why I was heading there. An amused smile. Why was a young girl like me headed to the commissioner’s office? To meet whom? The Commissioner? Really? Why? And for me too, while I asked I couldn’t believe what I was hearing myself ask. Saying it out aloud was also a way for me to come to terms with what I had been asking for. I asked if I could meet my police officer as a citizen? Asked whether I could ask him a few questions that I may have? Can I just have a chat with him? Or can I talk to him only when I have a problem? Is he too busy for my naïve enquiries and have larger tasks at hand? All these thoughts flooded my head but I convinced myself that at the root of it the police force exists in my country to protect me. I am the weak that these special people are there to safeguard. And therefore they must interact with me and I with them. It gave me courage to go to the Police commissioner’s office and speak to him as a citizen wanting to speak to the police. Commissioner or not. Period. And I’m glad to report that I could. Did you know that you too can speak to the additional commissioner of police on weekdays between 3 and 5 pm without prior appointment? Like I did yesterday. And I was happy to know that such an opportunity for contact existed.
Did I tell you that I enjoy firsts? Firsts make me quirky. They make me happy. They make me feel excited and the experiences always leave me thrilled. They bring to mind past experiences of firsts… like the first time I walked into a police station to ask if I could volunteer, like the first time I bathed in a river in a village. They also bring to mind my many fantasies, looking around for an opportunity to be rolled out into action- like to ride in a submarine, to make Gajjar ka halwa and offer it to my beat police officer over a chai conversation with him amongst the many other.
Hmn… Why do I write “him” and not “her”above. When I think of the police officer in my country, instantly images of male police officers come to mind. What image comes to your mind? In all of the three police stations that I have gone to so far- they have all been such male dominated spaces. I saw on an average 3-4 women working there either as support staff or lady police officers compared to the 20 male police officers at the station hovering about. Most of my interactions have been with male police officers. Why are our police stations such male spaces? Can women not protect? Why don’t we have more women officers in the force?
So I made my way to 1, Infantry road and entered the police commissioner’s office in Bangalore. My entry involved this I.D slip issued to me with my name, address and the name of the officer I was there to meet. They then photographed me and let me go in.
I saw around me – Police officers- of all kinds: The ones with one or two stars, some with the Head constable symbol of three stripes, some carrying guns, some with no signs, but all with their quintessential hats, the khaki uniform and the black polished shoes. I am fascinated by the Bangalore police’s hat. It’s a hat which is curled up at one edge and has a tag “BCP” on it. BCP stands for Bangalore City Police. And I think it to be very stylish. I think it gives them a very cool look! In Pune where I have grown up and lived for most part of my life so far I have seen Pune police men (mama’s as they’re colloquially known) wearing if at all any hat- a small one, not so large and majestic as the ones I see on the heads of the Bangalore city police.
I saw vehicles- mostly white or black coloured ones- fiats and Innovas and sedans. They too carried symbolisms of the Police and the red siren. I looked, observed. Smelt. I absorbed the atmosphere that is the commissioner’s office and felt content.
I met Officer Pant. Told him that I was there to seek permission from his office to volunteer with my jurisdictional police for a week. I told him why I wanted to do this. The conversation was in English. He was welcoming and listened to me. He asked me further questions on why I was wanting to do this. He asked if this was a university requirement as part of some project. He asked me what work I would do. He asked to see my ID. He asked about my course- Development. And I tried to explain to him what my course was all about in the best way that I could since I’m still trying to figure out a whole lot of it myself. Development remains such a broad domain and there’s just so much one could do with this course. It really just depends on the student’s area of interest and how you see it through with the resources that university facilitates one with. But largely my university hopes to get development practitioners on the field- working from the social sector’s perspective since there is a crying need of fine quality practitioners on the field in this sector. Not restricting students to this but largely campaigning in this direction. He told me that he shall think about my proposal and get back to me on this in a week’s time.
As I hoped for the best and was getting out of his office after thanking him, I had an urge to photograph him and his office and the silver coloured large amulet like symbol etched on his wall. I wanted to thank him for protecting me in Bangalore. But I didn’t know how this would play out. I was thinking if that would be an intrusion into his time. I wasn’t too sure. Hence I walked out of his office. Quickly. Before my fantasy gets the better of me and spells out the words from my mouth to ask. May be I should have just asked.
I came out feeling proud. I experienced membership. I felt respected. I felt like a participant. In our large democracy. I came out feeling good that as a citizen in this country of 1.2 billion people, my voice was heard.
Kudos- Bangalore City Police: I have a good feeling about you and thank you for making my experience such!