For just one hour on September 1, 11-year-old Riya Bodke lived her dream of becoming a police officer as she sat on the chair of the senior inspector at NM Joshi Marg police station while its usual occupant taught English poetry in her classroom down the road. Riya switching her life with senior inspector Ahmad Pathan for a day was the subject of a short film produced by the non-profit Akanksha Foundation, that the Mumbai Police posted on its Twitter handle Monday. The last in the series of films – that included schoolchildren switching places with chefs and CEOs – this one has proved to be the most popular one.
The three-minute film opens with Riya entering the police station, which is a short walk away from Sitaram Mill Mumbai Public School in Parel, where she studies in Std V. After introducing herself to the station house officer, she is led into Pathan’s cabin. In the film, while Riya proceeds to take attendance at the daily parade, Pathan simultaneously conducts attendance in Riya’s classroom, before reading out poetry. “We are really pleased with this video. They (the police) work very closely with the local community. It is a rough, unstable community. We are glad that the video has reached out to an on-ground audience,” said Abha Raja, senior associate, marketing, Akanksha Foundation.
Back in school on Tuesday, Riya recalled how bhaiya (Pathan) “told me that for one day, you be the commissioner.” A class captain with the ambition of eventually becoming head-girl, Riya said that she had learnt several qualities from Pathan. Being prodded on what these qualities were, Riya replied immediately: “Being courageous, taking ownership and being honest.”
Riya added that these qualities would help her in her academics. School leader Mandira Purohit explained that when the idea came about to shoot the film at the police station, they were looking for a confident student. “Riya is not at all shy. We wanted to break the stereotype of a boy becoming a police officer,” she said, adding, “Moreover, Riya was not intimidated to enter the police station. Were you?” Smiling broadly, Riya shook her head as Purohit affectionately pulled her cheeks.
Pathan, who confessed to having been very impressed by the 11-year-olds he taught for an hour, said being part of the film was just as rewarding for him. “I had a certain perception about a municipal school but I am glad that changed after visiting the school,” he said. The foundation runs the school for children from low-income families in partnership with the BMC. Riya’s visit to the police station, Pathan said, would also help other children overcome their apprehension of the police. “This will help take away the fear of the police from children. Riya has a desire to become a police officer, now she will get wings,” her said.