Action Hero Citizen

Smile. Smell. See your niegbourhood- your people. Reach out. Intervene. Collaborate with the guardians of the State to make a difference. Inviting citizens to be Action heros through small acts sincerely coming from the heart.

Tag: The first time I..

Directions to the Commissioner’s Office please!

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?DSC_0037 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.DSC_0040

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?images

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.DSC_0042DSC_0041

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!

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The first time I walked into a police station..

I decided to go visit and hang out at a Police Station in Yelahanka, where I am staying at the moment. I did this for several reasons amongst which the foremost was to know my police personnel better, know what a day in their life looks like and know about the process of filing a First Information Report(FIR). My attempt is at being an aware citizen. To know better and be empowered by knowing.

I went into the Yelahanka Police station (near the NES Bus stop), greeted the police personnel who were hanging out outside, introduced myself briefly and told them that I was interested to do volunteer work with them. They were amused. Faces smiled at each other, some amusing remarks were exchanged between them in Kannada and they led me onto the police people at the reception desk. When I told him the same spiel, he was amused too, had an expression that said “Hmn.. This is the first case of such a sort and I don’t know how to deal with this” and led me to go on and speak to the sub-inspector in the thana. The Subinspector asked me what my purpose was. I told him my purpose was to know better, know how a day in the life of a police inspector looks like. And he asked, again- “But, what’s your purpose? Like a study or some such?” Somehow my purpose was not good enough. Or rather it was hard to explain. I smiled. And nodded and repeated myself this time trying to be more coherent. He told me to wait and speak to the Inspector (Station House Officer) and I said that I’ll be happy to hang around.

So I sat near the reception and the police station guard. I had my notepad with me and I was scribbling in it intermittently. I looked around, observed keenly- their ways, movements, reaction and actions but was cautious not to be intrusive. The Police inspectors passing by looked at me and I at them. I smiled. They found it strange. They smiled back and asked the other police man about me. They heard my story, looked back at me with a smile and walked on. Half an hour went by and they still saw me sitting there. A Crime branch inspector called me. I went into his cabin and we chatted. He asked me questions about what sort of a project I was doing, why and how I wanted to volunteer at the Police station. He asked about university, the course I am studying. He asked where I’m from. Somehow, I’ve noticed that whenever I say that Kerala is my hometown there’s an instant smile on the enquirer’s face- such was the case too with the crime branch officer. His face lit up and we talked a little about the natural beauty that is my hometown-Kerala. The officer sitting next to the crime branch officer said that he likes people from Kerala. And I sat there feeling amused and smiled at him. It amazes me how Kerala works in my favour every time and how my religion plays against me at other times. The fascinated station writer called me next and he wanted to see my ID card. I showed him my college one and it carried my full name with my middle name “Joseph”. I don’t like how it gives away the fact that I’m catholic. Or at least supposed to be one. What interests me is how dynamics change instantly by descriptions like where you come from, which religion you follow or don’t follow and the language that you speak.

 

 

100 questions I want to ask my Police

I think the task of policing a country, state, city or even an area is quite a task. While the Army, Navy and Air force- the guardians of my country go about their mammoth duties of protecting my border amongst many other things that they do, I am curious to know how the police force in my area organize themselves to protect me at the local level. I am curious to know what a day in the life of my police personnel (Civil police as they are called) look like. I want to set my enquiry into this field since I see these police men and women on the streets in my area; interact with them sometimes but not enough and somehow don’t understand sufficiently about the lives of these everyday native heroes. These are the men and women who protect me while I sleep at night residing in this area of Yelahanka in Bangalore presently- they’re tangible and I feel in control when I see and know about my surroundings well. Hence I am on this quest.

My mind is racing with questions…

I am curious to know who you are. How many people you are? I want to know how you work. What departments have you organized yourselves into to protect me? I want to know about your ranks (am fascinated by your insignia) and how you have divided your work between the different ranks?  I’m not too big a fan of hierarchy since I think it curbs creative, independent, free thought. That sense of one above the other may hinder uninhibited thinking that each one of us has through our own experiences- each so different from the other. But is such a hierarchy required for your functioning? And if yes, what is the rationale behind it? I want to know what work you do. Do you have too much of it? Can students possibly volunteer to help you with your work? If yes, How? Which areas? In what way? Do you know how accessible you are? How approachable you may be? And all of your employees? Do you know your citizens? The people under your jurisdiction? Have you met them? When? In what context? How many times? What have you spoken to them about? Has the conversation been around a crime? Or a problem which they seek your help with? Or have you spoken to your people about how they might feel today? Ask whether they are happy? Have a conversation with them about a new Bollywood movie or song? Conversations over chai and samosa?

And to the citizens I ask:  Have you asked the police officers that you see around you in your locality, about how they might be feeling today. About whether they have eaten well and are getting enough rest. Have you thanked the police that patrol your area in the night and keep you safe? Do you know how the life of an officer who is on night duty looks like? They sleep during the day and work when you sleep. They may have families. How do these police officers spend time with their families with such work timings? Do you understand how hard their work is? Their difficulties? What it takes to do what they do?

I want to ask these questions and more. I seek to explore these areas, understand the interface between the citizen and the police. My hope is to arrive at possibilities that may exist. My attempt is at being an aware citizen. To know better and be empowered by knowing. My attempt is to develop an action hero citizen profile and BE an Action Hero Citizen. How do I say “I Never Ask for it” while being an action hero citizen? What am I ask for while being an Action hero Citizen?

I invite you all here to my experience.

O yeah! Bring it on!