Purshottam Lal, IPS, Punjab
Middle: The Tribune, December 7, 2001
Passing the test! P. Lal
The minister’s countenance showed curiosity and amusement. I had just finished explaining to him the police side of a case. I had spoken in Punjabi, a language at which I was yet imperfect. I had spoken haltingly, and probably, nay, certainly, with wrong grammar, syntax and accent.
The minister was in the chair, in a monthly meeting of the District Grievances Committee in Gurdaspur. It was the autumn of 1972. The Deputy Commissioner, the district heads of government departments, MLAs and the MP from the district and other political representatives were in attendance.
My boss, the District Superintendent of Police, was, however, not present, being on leave. The DSP in-charge of Batala, a subdivision of the district, was also on leave, and I, an ASP then, almost fresh from the IPS Academy and hailing from Uttar Pradesh where I had had no truck ever with the native language of Punjab, was deputising for him, under a local arrangement ordered by the District Superintendent.
“You seem to be ill at ease with Punjabi”, the minister remarked.
“Sir, it is not my mother tongue,” I tried to defend myself. “I hail from UP. However, I have already learnt the language quite a bit. I was even awarded a medal for proficiency in Punjabi as I stood first in the language examination at the IPS Academy,” I informed the Minister in broken Punjabi, again haltingly, keeping back the fact that there were only two non-Punjabis who were required to take the language examination, and I had come out to be the better of the two!
The minister didn’t seem to be impressed. “Okay,” he said with quizzical eyes, “I shall pass you if you tell me what “Sewa” means.”
“Sewa, sir”, I almost stuttered, in broken Punjabi which he and others must have been barely able to understand, “means service like the one that Shrawan Kumar did to his parents.”
“Alright,” the minister looked expectant.
“And, sir”, I added, “it also means greasing the palm to get the work done.”
“Yes, yes, “the minister now looked happy and satisfied.
“And, sir, in police parlance,” I continued, “it may mean thrashing a suspect or the wicked and the crooked to extract a confession or to give him a taste of the police powers.”
The minister now seemed to be genuinely happy and declared before all and sundry: “You have passed the test!”
Middle: The Tribune, February 23, 20004
Remembering Atwal by P. Lal
AT long last, it was done! More than 55 years after our Independence in 1947, the shame written in para 14.29(2) of the Punjab Police Rules, 1934, was wiped out. The 69-year-old rule commemorated the memory, interalia, of J.P. Saunders, the then Assistant Superintendent of Police in Lahore, who was gunned down by Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Shaheed Shivram Rajguru on December 17, 1928, for having rained lathi blows on Lala Lajpat Rai who had died as a result thereof. The rule related to the founding of a charitable fund by the name of The Saunders-Chanan Singh Memorial Fund (Head Constable Chanan Singh was also killed in the shootout). The Punjab government vide a notification issued on May 13, 2003, amended the rule and renamed the fund as the Shaheed Avtar Singh Atwal Memorial Fund.
Atwal was gunned down at the steps to the Golden Temple, Amritsar, on April 25, 1983, as he emerged out of the temple after paying obeisance there. He was posted then as Deputy Inspector General of Police, Jalandhar range.
Atwal was born on February 23, 1943, at Sirsa. He came from the Army background. He joined the IPS in 1969, the year in which I, too, joined the service. We did our training together at the National Police Academy, then at Mount Abu. Atwal was assigned 1964 as the year of allotment in the IPS on account of his Army service.
Atwal was suave, mild-mannered, upright, and honest to the core. In social get-togethers, he would win the affection of everybody, specially of ladies and juniors.
When the war broke out with Pakistan in December, 1971, he was posted to Gurdaspur as additional superintendent of police. I was already posted there as an assistant superintendent, and had to myself a kothi on the jail-road, allotted by the district administration. Atwal and I were bachelors then. I offered him to live under the roof of my house. He gratefully accepted the offer.
One evening, we decided to go for a movie. There were only two cinema-halls in the town at that time. Atwal gave a 10-rupee-note to the constable-orderly, and instructed him to go to a particular cinema-hall, purchase two tickets for entry to the balcony (Rs 3 per ticket) and wait for us out there.
After a while, we — Atwal and I — walked up from our residence to the cinema-hall, a distance of about 2 kilometers. Atwal shunned the use of the official jeep for private purposes.
There stood the orderly at the entrance to the theatre. Atwal demanded of him the tickets. “The owner of the cinema didn’t let me purchase the tickets,” replied the orderly.
The owner, standing close by, folded his hands in salutation. “You are our guests, sir,” he said. “You don’t need tickets for seeing the movie,” he added.
Atwal insisted on the tickets, saying that he was there in his private capacity; the owner, all the time declining to sell the same, and anxious to oblige him (and me) by way of a free passage to the balcony of the hall.
“Alright, if you are not giving me the tickets, we would not see the movie,” Atwal said and turned back, ready to walk away.
The owner then relented and gave us the tickets against payment. We enjoyed the movie, and happily walked back to our kothi on the jail-road.
Middle: The Tribune, October 24, 2018
The loss of a dented helmet
THE hullaballoo over the use of a helmet by two-wheeler women riders of a certain faith reminds me of my own days in the early part of my career when I was posted as a Superintendent of Police in the Punjab CID at Chandigarh.
I had a Lambretta and a Fiat, the former for most of the daily chores, including commuting to the office in the Civil Secretariat in the Capitol Complex from my rented residential accommodation; and the latter for gallivanting in the city along with my newlywed wife on weekends!
The use of a helmet by a two-wheeler rider was compulsory even in those days. I had purchased one of high quality, meeting with ISI standards.
I left the office one evening with the helmet in position, tightly strapped over the chin. As I drove on, a cyclist in the front took an abrupt right turn. I instinctively applied the brake and saved a collision with the cycle, but the scooter skidded. I lost balance and, in a moment, was on the ground, sliding fast till my head struck the round concrete base of a pole. I felt a jerk but I got up, apparently not much harmed. A scuffle ensured with the cyclist, both blaming each other. A colleague from my department, on his way home, happened to arrive there on his scooter (wearing, of course, a helmet). He intervened on my behalf. Meanwhile, the DIG, CID, our boss, also happened to pass that way. He stopped and enquired about the matter. Clearly, the cyclist was at fault. However, the matter was amicably settled between us.
It was then that I looked closely at the helmet. It was badly dented at the point of impact but had absorbed the shock to prevent injury to my head, which could have proved fatal.
I replaced the damaged helmet with a new one. However, I kept the old one in my car. On weekends, when I went out with my wife for joyrides in the car, I would notice many a scooterist riding without a helmet. Sometimes, I would reach out to one, especially at the traffic light points when the signal was red and all would be waiting, and show him or her the dented helmet, recounting the story behind it. Most would not understand and seemed to deride me thinking that I was crazy, but I remember one who promised to purchase a helmet and use it.
I disposed of the helmet when I was transferred out of Chandigarh. I wish I had not, for then, I could have used it now to try to convince non-conformists of any faith and any gender of the usefulness of a helmet.
It makes all the difference between life and death.