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Khaki tales

If a survey were to be done today, asking a random section of the general population about which animal an Indian policeman resembles the most, the results may not be very surprising. First, immediate thoughts are likely to be a reflection of personal experience and in the absence of that, popular caricatures.

Art and literature have often taken the liberty to compare humans to animals, the best examples perhaps being George Orwell’s Animal Farm and Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse. Such works are not only a cause for amusement, but are also likely to bring about introspection and healthy criticism. Most of these comparisons draw on qualities of the said animals which are undesirable among humans. However, these animals we share our planet with are not all that bad.

Returning then to the first question, a number of parallels can be drawn between the animal kingdom and the men in khaki. A policeman is bound to meet an uncomfortable situation or two during the performance of duties. A nasty order from superiors may call for a disappearing act, through a change of colour to silently withdraw into his or her surroundings like a chameleon. An imminent threat in the form of a recording camera may be met with the defence of an octopus, which is known to release dark ink to temporarily blind the attacker and slip away in the resulting chaos. And anybody who has ever argued with a policeman on the road can only find his true ally in the bear that has faced the wrath of the skunk’s misty spray. The experience, in both cases, is likely to have a lasting impact.

Then of course, there is the pack of wolves, with a clear hierarchy and distribution of functions. The pack’s every move is a coordinated attempt at self-preservation. However, the discipline of the pack does not stop the insecure ones from buttering up to their leader. The honeybee is always drawn to its beloved nectar, and ready to sting and die in protecting the hive. Such fierce protection is a common trait among the police too, especially witnessed in guarding the armoury which is found in almost all police units. We also have the dog which is a loyal, undemanding, unthinking friend. It dutifully warns of any danger, and will often put itself in the line of fire to save the master. On the other hand, the comical housefly has only one thing on its mind, rubbing its hands in glee at the prospect of alighting upon a fine dump.

One should certainly not forget the big cats or rather the kings of the jungle. They will roar out their warning before an attack, but the attacks often fail when unaccompanied by stealth, which in policing terms is the discrete collection of information before a raid. The cat is more likely to catch its prey by watching and patiently waiting before it leaps. In any case, whether or not the tiger is watching its prey, two distinguished fellows are certainly watching the entire proceedings from the branches above. The monkey, whose chattering about all things concerning others can only be explained by the fact that it has little else to do; and the silent owl, which considers itself wise, but is in fact a birdbrain.

It is evident then that a policeman has to play out various animal characters in the jungle of his professional life. At times, he chooses the role, but more often roles are simply assigned due to the nature of work and circumstances. Whatever be the case, there is no denying that the policeman is a beast of burden, trudging along, carrying a massive load of public expectation.

atul.vishwanathan@yahoo.co.in


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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 1:00:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/khaki-tales/article35513847.ece

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