What makes our everyday people exemplary? What do we not have common with all these exceptional people and those we are so used to see every day? Not the exact questions any of us usually have in mind, dealing with our own problems and complexities on a regular basis. For curiosity’s sake, I found the topic very interesting while visiting my beautiful city during festival time.
Let me tell you a tale. It’s about a group of men, not to mention an exceptional one, wearing all-whites, who have their eyes rolling on our roads throughout the year. Valiant in nature, I found these men on many roadsides, junctions as well as in the midst of a crowded lane instructing and aiding pedestrians. The Kolkata Traffic Police, like any of its counterparts throughout the country, was seen doing a thankless job and the most bizarre thing of all was they didn’t expect the gesture for the good of it.
Intrigued by nature, I spoke to some of its officers to know the unturned pages of their life’s book. What I found was far from intriguing, rather sad.
“My family does not feel abandoned during these days,” said Somnath Mitra, Additional OC (Tollygunge Traffic Guard) speaking on how does his family feel during the days of Durga Puja. “I have done shifts spanning more than 16 hours a day during those times, sometimes going back home at 7 or 8 in the morning after a long night shift,” he added.
A law keeper’s job is a lousy one as most of us would conclude. However, I was fascinated to hear the life stories of one sitting only a couple of inches away from him. His daily life, his strategies to deal with emotional backlashes kept me in a loop, a rather poetic one at that.
How does one keep doing what he is doing day after day? How come his persona does not creep out and asks for a stop to all this? What makes an entire group of men gets charged up when the morale should be at an all-time low? I fell in awe in what I heard next in the conversation.
“I feel happy whenever I think that I have been able to guide so many people to visit the Goddess,” Mitra said with a smile on his face. “Don’t you grow weary of your jobs on these special days,” I asked Mitra, whose answer had a touch or two to his responsibility, dedication, and sacrifice mixed in it. “Well, that’s my job,” he replied with an equal width of a smile on his face. “I have been here for more than 20 years and not a single day goes without a tremendous level of job satisfaction,” he said.
Not just the vehicles, I found myself appeased to notice the flow of pedestrians throughout the city during the Pujas. Talking about pedestrian control, Nilesh, Addl OC, HQ Traffic Guard, said “We installed guardrails, barricades to keep the flow of the pedestrians intact,” before complimenting Mitra’s statements on another day and another time, “a natural flow of the pedestrian results in satisfaction not only among the people but also us.”
Surprisingly, a similar response awaited me from the ranking officer of Lalbajar Traffic Control. “My family knows my responsibilities and I try to keep a balance between those at home and on duty,” he responded when asked about his feelings during the days of the Pujas when it becomes a day to reunite with your loved ones.
The show of compassion towards a sea of unknown individuals surprised me. Although it might have its humanitarian effect, it had a more profound impact on a strong sense of responsibility which made me note down all of it.
With glimpses of the Kolkata Traffic Police’s finest performing their hearts out in the Durga Pujas, I also remembered the FIFA U-17 World Cup and the huge crowd as well as traffic in the Salt Lake areas. Managing a brand new four-lane highway, the traffic guards did an exceptional job controlling the never-ending waves of pedestrians as well as vehicles in the area.
Speaking about strategy and the outcome of the initiatives, Inspector Pankaj Kumar Ghatak of Beliaghata Traffic Guard seemed enthusiastic. “We communicated with the Bengal Police extensively to manage the rush,” he said before adding: “They asked us to create a space for 700 vehicles and we managed to create one for a thousand.” Pointing out a perfect execution, the officer revealed that the co-operation with the people was terrific and no complaints have been recorded during the time of rush.
Duty that denies festivity
The control room stays jam-packed during the Pujas,” said Asst. Commissioner, Upal Banerjee. Already one of the technologically sound police forces in the country, the responsibilities of the cops, both in the house and outside usually gets skyrocketed during festivities, elaborated the officer. “Most of the government and all the privately owned offices provide a two-day leave to all their employees,” he said before adding: “Whereas we, as the traffic police of Kolkata have extended work hours keeping a watch on the roads intact.”
With an experience of being on the force for the past 28 years, the officers also illuminated how the personnel deals with mental pressure during the festivities.
“The comparatively newer section in the service gets homesick in their initial years. However, as the years pass by, our responsibilities come out and I feel the rush to be on duty to be more interesting,” he revealed.
With several conversations as those listed above, a clouded mind has been relieved of the clog. If I had come to know about something, it was about the sense of responsibility of the Kolkata Traffic Police. Among the best at what they do, I feel these men deserve much gratitude for their selfless services than they are used to now. A symbol of sacrifice and duty, the Kolkata Traffic Police indeed deserve to be greeted, not with our preconceived judgment, but with oodles of warmth and hospitability, for this is the high tide of time to carve it into reality.
By Sourav Dey