Being an eldest kid of a family where our childhood upbringing was guided by a disciplinarian father who was working in police force, was a kind of constant battle between a free will of a child and a regimented life. My father was a mid-level senior police officer who was strict and very effective police officer of his time. His initial struggle as an orphan whose early childhood was of deprivation and little support had made him a self-made person of some repute. But his obsession towards his kids, not to suffer from such struggling time, made him over protective and strict disciplinarian. He was a mix of doting father and over ambitious ones towards his children. Being first among them, I was apple of his eyes as well sufferer of his worst of anger. Of course, most of the time, it was my fault and childish irresponsible behavior which resulted in his violent ruthless behavior but in hind sight his behaviors were also guided by his uniform training of police force where ‘punishment’ or ‘danda’ was considered panacea of all ills. Somehow this affected me a lot and I become more of a pacifist by nature, over friendly and more compassionate towards any deviant behaviors around me. Also, to an extent, though we enjoy his perks of being police officer like free movies, free vehicle rides etc., but to an extent I also start hating the uniformed job where obedience and subservient rules the roost. But destiny has some weird plan for me.
In 1981-82, I left Bihar, where my father was posted and came to Delhi to complete my graduation. The graduating years from Kirori Mal College (KMC), Delhi University was transformative years for me. Though, I was a below mediocre student, but surprisingly I did reasonably well in my graduation and post-graduation days. Those were the time when every student from Bihar had dreams to be successful in UPSC candidate. Most of the student like me were not even knowing these government jobs in real sense but success in this examination was treated as getting ‘Nirvana’ and achieving highest level of social recognition being a successful student. It was more of a pride and relief to the family than anything else.
1988 was the year when I started my first job as teacher in one of the college in Delhi University. I was happy and contended too with the job as I thought that I may not be able to get another job. It was neither regimented nor high pressure job and hence for my nature, it was a right fit. But destiny has other ideas and I don’t know how I qualified in UPSC examination in my third attempt. It was a bolt from blue to me, but as my rank was around 550, I thought that any civil service job must be good for me, without realizing that ultimately I was allotted a little known uniformed job of CISF. Before allotment, absolutely I had no idea what is this CISF except my own childhood friend and roommate from civil services preparation days was also allotted the same service and he was a serving officer. So I thought of taking his guidance a bit about the nature of the job as I wrote earlier that I had a little aversion towards uniform forces because of my own childhood experiences. But more than that being a fat kid with low physical fitness, I was having a fear of failure in training, looking odd in uniform, unable to command, and shyness of supervising large number of men were certain other hiccups for which I was not ready. Hence, I did not join CISF immediately and avoiding it an extent. Later, with some persuasion, cajoling and family pressure, I joined CISF as Asst. Commandant and went to ‘National Industrial Security Academy’, (NISA) Hyderabad, for our basic one-year training. I did not go for so called ‘Foundation Course’ with other services as there was some confusion because of my avoiding to join CISF for a long period of more than a year.
Anyway, the joining was a shock to me. I reached late evening to Secunderabad station by Andhra Pradesh Express, where a mini bus of CISF Academy was waiting for me. It was almost like 40 minutes of silent journey in a dark bus, I reached Hakimpet, a small hamlet outskirt of Secunderabad town. The hamlet was absolutely a place of nowhere. It was almost 15 KM away from main Secunderabad city. The Academy (NISA) was at time was in the process of construction and there was no specific accommodation for officers. Only one hostel accommodation was ready in which 10*8 feet room was given for two probationers. There were 8 rooms in a flank and then it had common toilets. For the probationers who came from foundation course, it was a shock because of lack of facilities like other established academies (LBSANA, NPA etc., but for me it was just a below a notch from comfort as we were directly landing from universities, where the hostel facilities or outside rented accommodation were as similar as our CISF Academy of early 90s.
In the academy I was received by a mess Inspector, who seems to be little uninterested and aloof. I was allotted a room and has been told that one more officer will join me in that small dingy room. It was late in evening so they provided me a palatable dinner. I met some of other fellow officer, who were also not very enthusiastic about the surrounding. But as the mess officer informed me that you have to wake up early for some official work and therefore I went to the room and tried to sleep. Very late in night, don’t know when, another guy came to my room and told that his name is Srikant and he has also been allotted this room. As we both were tired hence I did not speak much except thinking that how I will survive in this small room with this unknown gentleman. Thankfully, the guy proved to be of great intellect, humble, simple and like- minded soul with whom I developed a brotherly life long relationship.
Coming back to culture shock of the uniform force, started early in the morning with trimming of our hair to the shortest which we call as “Katora cut” to fall-in while walking, Jai Hind and greetings to everyone, a regimented time line, parade etc., make our life completely upside down. But somehow my own regimented childhood upbringing and exposure to police force, helped me a lot to immediately adjust to the new environment. However, this proved to be traumatic to many of my friends who were also part of the same batch. At times I saw them turning negative, hostile and not so flexible with a difficult physical rigorous routine of that time. But most of them became more confident, physically fit and obedient to the system. At later stage the perks of the uniform service also makes them more malleable to the service and in spite of some cribbing, they adjusted well to the hierarchy. I was also one of them who adjusted to the system and managed the service journey with some hiccups and push and pull. However, my physical demeanor and health was one of factor which never allowed me to be part of successful careerist in uniform. The reason was being an overweight obese personality of mine which is an anathema to a successful uniform persona.
The struggle with weight also affects my own personality as well as character. Many a times I realized my weakness but couldn’t able to do anything being an obese from very childhood. The training days help me a bit but still I was back to original of almost 110 KG after finishing training. In 2006-07, CISF suddenly changed the rules for promotion and informed that if a person is more than his normal weight, he will not be promoted ever. That was a rude shock for me, but it also gave a determination to reduce myself and show the department, that I can do it. The year 2008 was the year when I started my journey of reduction and within 10 months’ time I reduced by 34 KGs to be promoted in higher rank. But this was also a reflecting time for me because many of my friends suffer due to this rule. This was the time when I decided to get out of the system on first opportunity and go back to the civil life where such draconian orders can’t be a regular affair. In 2014 I got the opportunity and left the uniform job and shifted to more civilian job of a corporate world.
I’ve appreciated both my experiences in uniformed service and civilian life. The uniformed service, while regimented and with a higher risk profile, offered a respectful and dignified atmosphere, characterized by a subordinate- senior relationship. It was process-driven, less individual- oriented, and had a comfortable environment. In contrast, private civilian life is more individual-focused, boss-centric, and driven by personal initiatives. Both realms were equally enriching and rewarding, providing recognition and support throughout my professional journey. I am grateful to colleagues in both spheres for their tremendous support, leading to a satisfying and contented retired life.