Every year centenarian Jurrat Hussain Kazmi eagerly awaits the Republic Day, nostalgic about a bygone era that unfolded right before him. Kazmi has had the singular opportunity of serving the British, nawabs and Indian administrations in his career as a policeman. And on this day, the police department has been felicitating him as its longest surviving retired personnel.
Kazmi, who claims to have turned 115 this January, has been following the same schedule on January 26 for decades now. He starts the day with cleaning his antique teakwood coffer — his most prized possession. It was a gift from a dear friend and colleague during the British regime. It houses Kazmi’s medals, leather shoes, a tweed overcoat, silk kurta-pyjama and his favourite Rampuri cap, commonly worn by folks in western Uttar Pradesh.
“Dadu’s day starts at 4 am on the cold mornings of January 26 with the cleaning of his coffer and its contents, which he proudly adorns on the day. He irons his kurta-pyjama and polishes his shoes, a signal for us to get going and help him prepare for the felicitation,” says Sameer Ali, Kazmi’s grandson.
Sameer says the fact that his grandfather loved being a policeman is reflected in how particular he is about his attire and look. However, as luck would have it, this R-Day Kazmi couldn’t make it to the felicitation ground at Police lines, Bareilly. “Like previous years, he began the day with the same spirit but later complained of breathlessness and dizziness. Hence, we preferred to stay back home,” said Azadaar Kazmi, his youngest son, adding that it was the first time missed the felicitation.
Jurrat Hussain, while sharing his professional journey with HT, said his induction into the Imperial Police in 1922 was accidental. “We owned around 2,000 hectares of land in Kulbara village of Moradabad. Since we were zamindaars, I was never in the need of a job. Once when I was in Rampur, I came across the ongoing recruitment and thought of trying my luck. Surprisingly, I was the best performer in the trials and was inducted,” reminisces Jurrat Hussain.
He fondly recalls that his first salary of Rs 10 was paid to him in silver coins. The year 1947 was a turning point for him. “Nawab Raza Ali Khan, the progressive and last ruler of Rampur, took over the Imperial police. The nawab was our new employer,” shares Kazmi.
The princely state of Rampur merged with the erstwhile United Provinces in 1949 after the nawab signed the instrument of accession to the dominion of India. “And I was asked to join UP Police as constable,” he adds.
In 1952, he was posted at Thana Quila in Bareilly where he eventually settled down. His career as a policeman in three different regimes concluded in 1970 when he retired as head constable. However, confusion about his age arises due to a discrepancy between the years of his retirement and birth recorded as 1902 in his document.
Kazmi, who has 11 children and over 100 family members, fervently believes his long life is the result of his good deeds.