My column this week is an unusual one — I wish to salute Rakesh Maria and his exemplary force of police officers, both men and women. This is not about a battle against terrorists, gangsters and other such activities that they are meant for. It’s about their civilian responses.
I remember years ago Congress MP Sunil Dutt telling me about the British Police, popularly known as ‘bobbies’, who were trusted implicitly by even a child to help him cross the road. However, in India people are rather scared of the police. So jaa beta nahin toh police aajayegi is the famous Hindi film dialogue. However, my encounters with the cops have been always pleasant — like that time when one policeman walked me under his umbrella in the pouring rain to the nearest taxi stand. Another time when a taxi driver was acting rather smart by pretending that he did not know the route from the airport to Churchgate, a traffic cop came over to see what the commotion was all about. Realising what was afoot, he scolded the North Indian taxi driver in Marathi, “Churchgate kuthe aahe, mahit nahi ka tula? Boot kadhu ka me atta!” He then gave me his number and said if at all the cab driver was tempted to throw me out of his cab en route to Churchgate, I should call him and he will make sure the nearest police control room van would race across and take remedial actions. I had no trouble at all until I reached my destination.
Now as I write this from my hospital bed, I realise if I am alive today it is entirely because of a whole troop of constables who saved my life as I lay fallen in my home for five hours without help until neighbours, on noticing the lack of activity, called the police. One young woman constable even climbed up my window to see whether I was alive or dead. She gave me 15 minutes to open the door but realising that I could not, the cops carefully unlatched the door without breaking it. They were with me until I made up my mind to which hospital I might go. When they realised that it was not going to be a government or municipal hospital, they politely told me that since they were government servants, admitting me to a private hospital would be beyond their call of duty. “However, if you wish, we should stay with you we are prepared to accompany you to the hospital, though beyond that we might not be able to help further,” said one of the cops.
At that point, I let them go as they had done more than what an ordinary citizen could have expected.
As journalists, we routinely blame the police for all neighbourhood ills and delayed responses to various situations. Normally, I as a private person don’t share details of my private life in public. But in this instance I wish to place on record the exemplary actions of the Bombay Police rather than allowing the incident to pass as just a routine event in the life of those who saved me. I know everything is not hunky dory with the police force. However, if the Bombay havaldar is now turning friendly and inspiring confidence among the ordinary people, it is a matter worth noting. I hope that this is not a one-off incident and there are many such inspiring stories among the common people of the city.
I salute the Bombay Police once again.