It was sometime in early 2013. The Mumbai crime branch was at the height of the IPL probe — cricket, betting, and the son-in-law of an industrialist. It all looked dramatic, except the press found Himanshu Roy in his chamber, having finished interrogating Gurunath Meyappan, sitting with an expression between a smirk and deadpan nonchalance. For reporters who covered IPL, the trick that evening was to juice out details of one of the biggest scandals that year. And Roy, who was in charge, never gave away leads without a tease. That was Roy — always keeping the chaos under control.
A trained chartered accountant and great-grandson of the former dewan of Bansda, a princely state in Gujarat, Roy always had interesting stories to share. But nothing would come close to his love, Bombay. The city always remained the Bombay of his childhood, of his Campion school adventures, of the secular and vibrant vibe of his neighbourhoods.
In his early years policing villages across Maharashtra, friends say he took Bombay to the villages. “It was like he saw the village as a metropolis and broke the traditional ways of solving a case. He always had modern approaches to any case and each of them was practical,” recalls an officer who worked with Roy as a probationer in Nashik in the late 80s. From Ahmednagar comes another anecdote where he called community leaders to negotiate right on the spot, even as the police were pulled back. “It was unheard of those days. He used the simple formula “people should police themselves first, reserves are when we come in,” says an officer who worked with him on two of the biggest cases in those days.
Those who knew him in his early years recall a lanky Roy, always at the nets early morning at all his postings in the hinterland, playing badminton. “Once we all got late, so he made a constable play with him. He never waited for any of us. That is how punctual he was. Later, the constable and he became a net pair,” recalls a friend. It was his friendship with Ashok Kamte that would in the later years change his outlook towards the physical self. Kamte introduced him to bodybuilding. Having got tips from the late IPS officer, friends say they saw a different Roy emerge. “He started seeing the endless possibilities of a human body. He saw a physically fit police force as his new purpose and encouraged everyone to share his newfound ideology,” says a family friend.
No other police officer can claim credit for having been as much of an inspiration to the junior cadre when it comes to pumping iron as much as Roy. Be it IPL or Kasab, or even the endless cases he handled in his capacity as crime branch and ATS chief, Roy was in the gym every morning on the dot.
Being meticulous came easily to Roy, whose least recognised contribution to policing is his study of barricades. He studied the science behind barricades so minutely that he would drown himself in probing this simple crowd philosophy for hours, even sending officers to religious places to understand crowd behaviour. His interest in forensics led him to read some of the most reputed authors in the field, drawing comparisons to events at home with international cases.
For many who woke up to the news of his death, the details will haunt us. Roy will remain the charming officerwho always liked to hold fort, on his own terms. And then there will be the Roy anecdotes.
My favourite is from when he was appointed as a Mumbai joint commissioner. I found him standing at his desk to receive a cub reporter, a novel experience. Later, I was escorted to the door, which was even more surprising. A habit, I later learnt, he always maintained for women visitors. Years later when I once asked him, isn’t it tiring to maintain a certain image, he had simply replied, “Chivalry can be charming.” Sitting to write this, I can say, his death certainly was not.