Monday, August 11, 2008

It Happened Yesterday... Who Is Responsible?

He took the opportunity of the absence of his family to hang himself. Finding himself alone in the house, the harassed man tied a rope around his neck and took his own life. He was a police inspector, no less. It happened yesterday and he lived in the building opposite to mine. Neighbours say he was harassed at the workplace, by his boss. So, yesterday, a Sunday, when everyone woke up in a dazed somnolence to a lazy day of lolling in bed because it was raining like there was no stopping, he took his life. Suicide, atmahatya, they say callously, even jokingly, injuring of the soul. His colleagues (none of whom might have said a comforting word when he was alive) brought a hearse to take him for post mortem and then took him to the crematorium. He was decked fully in flowers and a white sheet and they chanted, “Ram nam, satya hai,” as they took him for cremation.

I must have seen him; even bumped into him many times we must have crossed each other in the street or at the nearby shop. The rented place I now live is on a street that has policemen living in police quarters called “police lines” on the opposite side. It gives me a sense of comfort and security to have so many policemen around me. There are no thefts, and I can leave the door unlocked and go to the nearby shops and find that nothing has been stolen. The thieves are afraid of the “police lines.” At night I can sleep undisturbed by shadowy forms I had seen slinking away into the shadows at my own place a few sectors away. There is a highly placed woman officer – may be a commissioner – who drives a big car every morning to work, and I like the efficiency and grace with which she carries herself and her uniform. That the police force can have harassment was a shocking realisation.

The keepers of the law need a better life, I am not afraid of saying. They are doing a tough job and the perquisites aren’t good enough. They put in long hours, are made to stand for hours, and end up without sleep and proper food. A friendly inspector who lives in the “police lines”, with whom I spoke on my morning walk (Is it him?) confessed that where he was posted there wasn’t even a small dhaba and he had to drive for an hour to find a place that sells vada and pav. They were doing 24-hour duty during elections when their job wasn’t over until the ballot boxes were sealed and safely delivered.

Imagine doing such a tough job and not being disillusioned! After such a tough day, when one isn’t compensated enough to pay the bills, afford a good education for their children, leave alone spend an evening in the mall or multiplex, one would feel an intense alienation, a sense of being unwanted and uncared for by the world and by one’s superior officers.

In such a circumstance, a casual comment that slips unknown past the tongue, a deliberate jibe, a joke intended to hurt a person can have lethal effect on any man. Just as it did on the police inspector on that rainy, gloomy Sunday morning. Who is responsible? Society? Government? Is there a solution? May be counseling could help. Or, may be, just guessing, they could be paid better.

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