There continues to be a lot of curiosity around women in police. Every time a girl opts for khaki, those around her raise their brows in concern. How will it be like, who will marry her, how will she raise a family, oh there are unlimited work hours, what about her safety?
I remember that as an under-training officer whenever I would be out at night for patrolling or surprise checks, my parents and particularly my father would call and ask, ‘Tere naal kinne gunman ne (How many armed personnel do you have with you)?’, and I would emphatically say ‘Oh, there are many of us’. It’s not easy for our caretakers to reconcile to the fact that their tender ones, who till recently were under constant supervision, guidance and protection, must suddenly take on the world.
Once you wear the khaki, it becomes you, it is your soul, it is inseparable. Even if the journey of a khaki-clad woman is not easy, she gives the uniform a different dimension. When ‘she’ is khaki, it is the colour of courage, the colour of compassion, the colour of confidence, and above all, the colour of sacrifice in the service of the nation.
In that role, a woman is a police officer, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a daughter-in-law and a mother, all at the same time. Recent incidents in the capital and other parts of the country show that khaki faces challenges of varied kinds from innumerable quarters. And a woman police officer’s professionalism and competence get judged every time she encounters a situation. There is a natural comparison with a ‘male’ colleague, and if he could have done it better.
Facing violent mobs is part of our routine duties, and at times, segments that are part of the crowd use the opportunity to rough up women officers, deriving sadistic pleasure from taking on women in positions of power, with khaki a vivid symbol of it. Also they look upon us as ‘soft’ targets. They think they can deter us from leading, from doing our duty, and compel us into retreating by violating our personal space.
However, they fail, as they do not understand that injury to any woman or man in khaki is not an assault on the individual but a collective blow against every one of us tied by the thread of khaki. We take pride in it, as we stand up for crimes against women and strive towards making social spaces safer for them.
As part of the job, like every policeman, we sacrifice own families. Most days our children have gone to sleep by the time we reach home. There are no regulated meal times, not just for us but our families too. Asked about my children’s ages and classes, I often take a minute before I can reply. The first question my children, aged seven and five, ask me when I get home is do I have to go back. They know that even if I am sleeping next to them at night, I may have to leave anytime because duty calls.
More than half the time police personnel have to seek extension for their children’s school homework because we forget to look into their notebooks. My children are growing up without me, literally.
Since my husband is also in the police service (Devender Arya is DCP Southwest) our days are quite similar — endless, routineless. Quality family time is difficult to come by, simply because it is unusual for both of us to be home at the same time. There is no concept of a weekend because the week never ends. And on all occasions warranting celebration like festivals, we have to be extra vigil and alert. There is also a great deal of role reversal, with both of us playing mother or father depending on our availability. But, since police personnel have committed themselves to the service of the nation, I feel families have to be ready for these sacrifices.
While all professions come with their share of hazards, this call for a little extra puts a police job apart. Every time we fall, we resolve to rise up, stronger than ever, surprising everyone, including ourselves.
I write this today, with all my love, for khaki and women in khaki. Dear colleagues, let no one bottle the genie, continue to make magic in everything that you do, wherever you go.
“Har ladai ki tarah, iss kashmkash mein bhi saath hain/Ek dusre se hum hain, hamare ik se jazbaat hain (Like every fight, we are together in this one too/It’s not you and me who make we, but we are one and the same).”
Arya is a 2009 batch IPS officer currently serving as DCP, North West Delhi