In the afternoon of this summer in sweltering heat, I was exiting from Tollygunge Post ofce, after collecting quarterly interest of deposits. At that time a well dressed young man of average height in late thirties, immaculately clad in branded attire, wearing costly sneaker, appeared before me, near the gate of the post ofce. Folding his hands, he bowed his head with reverence, and uttered “Namaskar Sir.” I returned his greeting affectionately and said “I am sorry, I could not recognize you”. At this he said “I am Polu of Chetla”.
On hearing his name I tried to recollect, looked back in retrospection. A deep cloud of oblivion cleared gradually. An image of a turbulent boy of 17 or 18 years appeared before me and memories of the days of my tenure at the New Alipore Police Station as Ofcer-in-Charge came back to my mind. I saw him as a budding rough of Chetla, close to the vicinity of Tolly’s Nulla (Adi Ganga), where he was terrorizing the business of Chetla Railway Sidings, shop owners in charge of the construction sites of the area, and complaints of extortion, bullying, assault, etc. were pouring in the PS against him and his associates. As such his name as well as names of his friends was entered in the Rough Register of the PS as budding ones. The personnel of the PS were looking for him. He was on the run to evade arrest, and nally he was nabbed from a hideout near his residence, while he was engaged in gambling. He was treated in the PS in the manner the rough boys were dealt with in those days of late eighties when application of third degree torture was not completely abolished. He was in police custody for several days. During his stay in the lock-up, one night I brought him to my ofce for questioning. In course of interrogation, I studied his socio-economic condition. I learnt that he hailed from a poverty stricken family, who resided at a slum that have sprung up along the bank of Tolly’s Nulla in an unauthorized manner. His father was a daily wage worker who had to feed six members and being the only bread earner had a hard time. He could hardly provide food to them. Polu had studied until class IV and chose to leave Calcutta Corporation School out of abject poverty and took to petty crimes due to frustration. I could feel his potential; and his way of life could be changed if he was offered an employment for the survival of his family. I cautioned him if he did not mend his ways he would drift towards the world of crime and society would look down upon him as a dreaded criminal in future. After prolonged questioning, cajoling, I told him that I would arrange for his employment, but he must promise that he would lead a normal life, work sincerely and abandon the path he was pursuing then. He assured that if he was given an opportunity for his livelihood he would work hard to establish himself as a responsible citizen.
In those days, the business of real estate developing was gradually heading its way in Calcutta and its vicinity, though at a nascent stage. I summoned a property dealer cum developer at the police station who was constructing a building in the area and was facing trouble from the rough elements of the locality. I cited the name of Polu and requested him to collect building materials from him. On hearing his name, the property developer became scared and stated that he himself was the victim of Polu’s activities. Initially, he refused to oblige, but on my insistence he however agreed on learning that I would stand guarantee for his misdeeds. The developer kept his assurance and agreed to buy sand, stone chips and allied materials from Polu at a reasonable rate and Polu on the other hand supplied. The developer at the initial state of transaction offered credit facilities. Polu devoted himself as a supplier of building materials and gained condence of the developer. Thereafter, no further complaints against Polu were lodged at the New Alipore PS during my tenure there. I left the PS after around 6 months. The matter submerged into oblivion and I met him after a couple of decades, and in the meantime I retired from the service.
This is Polu, now standing before me. He narrated the story of his graduation to an established civil contractor in the rural areas of South 24 Parganas and how he stabilized himself by his hard work and sincerity. He still remembered me with high esteem and was grateful to me for that day. He said that I had turned the ow of his life in the right direction at an appropriate time by offering him that opportunity. He repeatedly requested me to visit his home and sought my blessings for his prosperity. He came to the post ofce to collect the matured amount of his Fixed Deposit in his chauffer driven car which was parked at a little distance from the post ofce. He offered me a lift to my house, but I politely declined as I was going for some work in Central Kolkata.
He bade farewell and as he walked towards his car, I gazed towards him. It faded away from my vision. I stood there for a while amazed over the meeting, and simultaneously my heartlled with joy for doing a little good towards the society by setting the path of that young man in the right direction, ultimately him becoming a successful businessman. There are immense opportunities for the policemen to serve the society and earn regards and respect from the public. This sort of good work brightens the image of police in the eyes of the public, who reckon the police as friend, and not as anadversary.
About the author: Tapas Kumar Palit is a retired Assistant Commissioner of Police who served in the Kolkata Police from 1966 to 2001 and currently is the Secretory of Ex Police Officer’s Guild.