Cartoonist cop

He was among the backbenchers in school.

Written by Ananya Bhardwaj | Published: June 17, 2012 1:54:49 am

He was among the backbenchers in school. Turning a blind eye to the algorithms and formulas being scribbled on the blackboard,he focused on the facial details of his teachers. He quietly sat in a corner,with a sketch book in his hand,scribbling images,practising strokes and attempting caricatures of his teachers and often landing into trouble.

“All I waited for was the art class. I still remember the seventh period as the art class,when I would simply jump and occupy the first bench,right under the teacher’s nose,” he says. The other hobby he had in childhood was to collect old stamps,coins,rare books,newspaper clippings and sketches from magazines.

Decades later,the sketches that Rajendra Singh Kalkal,now 40 years old,had drawn in his notebook and often invited punishment,have become part of a coffee-table book of Delhi Police. His hobby of collecting various articles has culminated in his becoming the head of the Delhi Police Museum at Kingsway Camp. “I work as a kabari (scrap dealer),” he says and laughs. “And I am very satisfied and content with it. To research,dig out and preserve old things with historical value is my job,and I had always dreamt to be in this position.”

Kalkal,who joined as a sub inspector with the Delhi Police in 1991,spent most of his time chasing criminals,while his sketchbook lay abandoned in a corner.

Kalkal the artist never actually wanted to become Kalkal the cop. “My father was in the Air Force and wanted me to join the forces,hence I had to sit for the police exam. My father never thought that my caricatures and sketches could fetch me enough money. I was made to sit for the exam,and that’s how I joined the police.”

After joining the force,he never got the time to return to his sketchbook,or the books and articles he had collected. “I often felt this is not what I was born to do.” he says. “I could see that the police department is a repository of artefacts,but no one cares to preserve them. But as an SI,there wasn’t much I could do.”

The breakthrough came in 1999,when Kalkal was deployed in the security team of L K Advani. Though scared,a determined Kalkal could not stop himself from indulging in his old hobby. “I drew a caricature of the minister and presented it to him. To my utter surprise,he gladly accepted it and also suggested that I should sketch for newspapers and magazines. I still remember that day. I felt somebody had released me from my shackles. That day I took to sketching again,” he says with a glint in his eye.

After that,Kalkal not only drew caricatures for many leading politicians including Sonia Gandhi,Lalu Prasad Yadav,Manmohan Singh and Sushma Swaraj,he also worked extensively on research projects including the one on the role of Delhi Police in the revolt of 1857. As a result,the Delhi Police offered him a post at the Delhi Police Museum which earlier used to be a one-room Martyrs’ Memorial that few took note of. “The Delhi Police wanted an artistic man who knew history and art,and could take charge of the museum. They approached me in 2003 and I gladly accepted the offer,” he says.

Every morning,Kalkal used to visit old police stations. He spent hours in record rooms of these police stations,national archives and old sights looking for interesting documents,inspection registers,old FIRs and letters dumped in corners. “After collecting the FIRs,which were usually in shikasta Urdu,I used to go to Madarasas and get them translated into English. It is very important for people visiting the museum to know how the nature of crime has changed over decades.”

Kalkal found the first FIR registered in Delhi and displayed it in the museum. He came across old documents that would sound amusing now. One FIR is about the theft of a dozen bananas. Another FIR was registered when someone’s pajamas were stolen.

Kalkal has also added many old letters written by Jawaharlal Nehru,inspection registers and old photographs of Delhi Police to the collection. In a corner in his office,he has displayed all his artwork,including the caricatures. He also sketches for Delhi Police magazines,calendars and brochures and participates in poetry events.

Kalkal has also drawn portraits of many senior Delhi Police officials,who have displayed them in their offices. “To be on the safer side,I never distort features of officers. What if that offends them? Politicians are used to looking at their cartoons in newspapers,but not my senior officers,” he says with a smile.

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