Flood Survivor

It Never Rains, It Pours: Flood Survivor

I usually love the rains. Sipping coffee when it is raining is very relaxing. But after this (2018) monsoon, things will never be the same again. It started in May with what seemed like a cloud-burst. Then, there were incessant bouts of downpours. Initially, the problems were limited to waterlogging, potholes etc. The first reports floods came in Kuttanad (Alleppey).

By August 15, when the nation celebrated Independence Day, Kerala began to witness the wrath of nature. Reports said the dams across Kerala, mainly Idukki dam on the Periyar and Shabarigiri on the Pamba, were overflowing. Yet, nobody estimated the magnitude of the calamity in store. On August 17, many districts sounded a red alert. I live in Haripad, Alappuzha, which flooded because of improper maintenance of dams in the nearby districts.

We heard that several leaders blamed the rising waters to beef-eating sinners in Kerala. I believe we reap what we sow. It was just a natural process after ecological rampage. I remembered the Bible quote: Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall, no one is exempted from actions of nature. My phone had not stopped buzzing all this while.

My aunt called from the US kept advising me to “take your necessary certificates, get off and reach some safe zone”. We started rearranging and shifting our items, even packed our trolley and backpacks with the essentials in a bid to move out fast since the water level was increasing in the nearby river. That night we slept very late. At 6 am, we woke up to find the courtyard in ankle-deep water. The passersby, familiar faces, were all hurrying to safe camps.

My friends and neighbours were running away from their homes near the river, leaving behind a life’s worth of savings and memories. When I asked them where they were headed, they said they didn’t know. “Everything is gone! We are running to save our lives at least”. By the next day, I realised that things were getting worse. There were rumours that the water may rise to 3 metres.

I am 5 feet 3 inch and don’t know how to swim. Can you imagine how frightened I was! I called for information about relief camp in the vicinity and whether we could move there. One was being run by an uncle of mine from his new house which was multistoried. That evening when water rose in our compound steadily, we made our decision to leave.

I bundled some clothing, my documents wrapped in plastic covers and some food item and left for my uncle’s place. Our trip there was a long way through knee-deep pools of water. Thankfully, the relief centre was equipped with landlines and a generator, which helped us charge our phones and stay in touch with friends and family. We also managed to get groceries from the nearby town for the next few days via service trucks and rafts.

Day passed, with no relief from pouring water, nights were moonless and the birds silent. Three days later, the sun broke and I heard an ambulance. There were boats and rafts all around our building, and some tractors loaded with people. It looked as if entire town was moving past. From the balcony of our building, I saw a bridge nearby and army men rafting in. There were monstrous sounds of helicopters over us too. The water on the ground was at stomach-level and people of all age were climbing up the ladder handed out by the rescue operators.

Even at such moments, people joked about ‘how a beastly vehicle has turned out to be a saviour’. We were taken to a proper relief camp where we felt safer and calmer. I met many friends who had run away from the flood. There was mobile connectivity and even food was available, though overpriced; imagine paying Rs 80 for a bun! Over the next few days, radio was our only way for information and entertainment.

And we realised how informative its programmes were. I volunteered to visit other camps with supply of food and water. I found young and eager volunteers performing services to assist officials and in some cases even in the absence of any official. Some heroes don’t wear capes. With water levels residing, we decided to return to our house. The route was dotted with abandoned houses, covered with grime, broken walls and damaged vehicles.

Some people were busy cleaning and rearranging their lives. We found the floor covered with slime and mud. My parents, my sister and I got down to the job of cleaning, an effort that took us three days, and yet the stains on the walls and floor refused to go. We had lost our washing machine, motor pump and many other gadgets to the flood, and battled poisonous snakes that had nestled into the compound.

But I also picked up valuable lessons for life. We heard about marriages, festivals and other celebratory functions were either postponed or observed humbly in relief camps. I know some people donated their dowry money to the disaster relief fund. Onam came, and people celebrated its true spirit – “humanity”, and “Maveli naadu vaanedum kaalem manusherellam onnupolae”, the concept of Ram Rajya advocated by Mahatma Gandhi. We were helped by strangers, whose names we forgot to ask, whose castes or faiths we never bothered to know; there was unity without any barrier.

Aadhaar II

Aadhaar II – 'It Has Made Life Easier For Me’

And then began the drill. Arranging for a new cylinder could take days so I had to be on my toes, praying that the cylinder does not go kaput at an odd hour. The first exercise was to take the empty cylinder to the distributer, hoping that a refill was available. On many occasions, a refill wasn’t available. We were told that the truck with new cylinders would be arriving ‘shortly’. The word ‘shortly’ here meant anything between a few hours to a couple of days.

Our job was to wait and order food from outside, or beg for a cylinder from unobliging neighbours. Or if the wait becomes too unbearable, the last resort was to buy a refilled cylinder from the black market by paying a good extra price. However, my Aadhaar card has been a godsend for me. I linked my 12-digit Aadhaar identification number to my LPG consumer number.

It has helped me in getting my cylinder refilled on time and at the same time has helped me save some money. I now get the LPG subsidy amount, which is about Rs 300 – Rs 350 directly transferred to my bank account. Though, the amount that is transferred is not much, the amount that I manage to save is enough to sail us through the month. There are other benefits too.

Buying a sim card, for instance, has now become easier. Earlier we had to produce a big bunch of documents for procuring a sim card. But now, all I need to give is my thumb impression and Aadhaar card.

The government must start programmes to make people aware about the benefits of the Aadhaar card. In my personal capacity, I always try to make more people aware of the benefits. I am happy that the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar scheme. Several housewives like me are beneficiaries of the scheme.

Juvenile Home

‘I Found Freedom Inside Juvenile Home’

I had always enjoyed hanging out with my elder brother and his group of friends. That night of January 2015 was no different. Just that the night played out an endless medley of nightmares for me. My brother and his college seniors had planned to watch a movie together and I decided to tag along. While coming out of the movie theatre, my brother and his friends got into a violent argument with another group of drunken men.

Things happened at the speed of light. My brother was singled out by those men and they began to thrash him viciously. For a second, I thought they will not stop till my brother is dead. I picked up stones and began throwing them at the attackers. One of the stones hit an attacker on his head and he fell down like a tree. There was blood. His friends tried to move him but he wasn’t responding. Petrified, my brother and I ran away.

We did not go home that night and stayed at a dharamshala. In the night, my mind was clouded with repetitive thoughts. Running away from the scene did not seem like a good idea any more. A voice inside me kept telling me that I had killed someone. I called up my parents and recounted the entire incident. My parents decided to go by the book and took me to the police station. Since I was 16, I was sent to an observation home for juvenile delinquents till the Juvenile Justice Board decided my fate.

Here, I found myself surrounded by strange inmates and bullies. I was found guilty of attempt to murder and was sentenced to spend two-and-a-half months in the observation home. I could see my future dimming before my eyes. For the first 15 days, nobody from my family came to visit. It took me some time to comprehend the fact that my parents had disowned me.

At the juvenile home, the bullies would make a newcomer wash other inmates’ clothes and run errands. There were all kind of boys: some kept to themselves; others moved in groups; then there were those whom even home staff avoided to confront. But I was lucky to find a counsellor who heard me out patiently and offered valuable guidance. I started to shed my burden of guilt to him. A simple task given by my counselor turned my life.

I was asked to draw a list of all inmates, who were willing to leave behind their past and start afresh. While most of the inmates at the home would talk about running away to plan other crimes, there were those who wanted a respectable life. Our counselor asked the latter group to read books and acquire knowledge. Soon, other inmates began to look up to me and approached me with their queries.

I discovered that I had a natural flair for public speaking. Whenever a senior official from court or a judicial officer visited the home, I was invited to deliver a welcome speech. It is funny how the ‘confinement’ taught me to speak freely. But I was oblivious of the challenges that awaited me in the world outside, the ones that would tie me up in invisible shackles.

After being released, living with the family and trying to lead a normal life was an uphill task. I was barred from leaving the house. My family was embarrassed of my conduct, and I found it hard to come to terms with the dejection. I missed my books and wanted to get back to formal education. Meanwhile, my father also passed away and my older brother became the head of the family.

I requested him to let me go out and get in touch with my counselor at the juvenile home. To make ends meet, I took up a job at an automobile workshop. That was the worst time of my life. People exploited and mistreated me. Arbitrary pay cut, no leaves and an exploitive work schedule took a toll on me. But my counselor stood behind me in these times and suggested that I re-appear for my Class XII board exams. He even took care of all the expenses. I studied hard and managed to clear my board exams with a distinction.

My counsellor was happy with my marks and roped me in for some para-legal volunteering. At Delhi’s Legal Aid, my new job was to conduct legal awareness programmes and help people access legal aid. There, by sheer chance, a senior law official told me that he had once heard my speech at the juvenile home. He recommended my name to a football academy to be trained as a coach. There, I found a renewed love for the sport – something that I had forgotten in the course of time.

I began coaching football. This job has not only given a sense of respect but also provided ample opportunity to pursue my graduation from Delhi University. My day starts at 4 am and ends at 9 pm. My schedule is packed with college, coaching and martial arts training but I love it. I have also started a non-profit organisation to raise awareness on various social issues. I have turned a new leaf, and have no time to look back at my dark past.

Amir Khusrau

Under the Spell of Amir Khusrau

Ten years ago, Pradeep Sharma Khusrau decided to dedicate his life to spreading the work of Khusrau throughout the world, and in the process, he acquired a large, enviable collection of books, music, postal stamps, records, audio and video cassettes, CDs and DVDs on the poet saint. Sharma has even guided students to complete their thesis on Khusrau. His story in his own words:

The biggest feat a human can achieve is to find the purpose of his or her life. Until then, we are just wandering souls, in search of our calling. But, I have found mine. Thank God, for the night a decade ago, when I happened to listen to a rare gramophone record on the writings of the legendary saint, poet and musician of the 13th century – Amir Khusrau.

The record was titled ‘The Multi-faceted Genius of Amir Khusrau Dehalvi’. I was so spellbound by the poetry that I kept playing the record over and over again, all night long. His poetry was crafted to fit all forms of Hindustani music – classical, semi-classical and folk. The record also had riddles called, keh (sayings) mukarnis (denial) which were specifically written for adolescent girls and children. The writing style, the selection of words, left me sleepless. Next morning, I rushed to the market to look for more literature on Amir Khusrau.

I was surprised to find the sheer dearth of books on Amir Khusrau and his works in book shops and universities. So, I decided to delve deeper. During my quest, I met Mohammed Yunus Salim – the former Governor of Bihar. He is the founder member of Aiwan-e-Ghalib Society and All India Khusrau Society. He had a few books on Amir Khusrau and he presented three of them to me. One of them was titled, ‘Amir Khusrau Dehlvi’ (edited by Dr Zoe Ansari).

It is touted to be the world’s most comprehensive encyclopaedia on Amir Khusrau. It is a compilation of national and international writings on Khusrau and was published in 1975. After reading that book, I realised that multi-faceted is an understatement to define Khusrau’s personality. I was amazed to know that he was not just a poet and a Sufi saint, he was an astrologer, a linguist, a mathematician, a historian, a musician, a warrior, a philosopher, a scholar, and an instrumentalist.

He taught in the most prestigious universities of world and his works transcend different subjects. He is regarded as a legend in Central Asia (where his roots are).  The more I read about Khusrau, the more attracted I was towards him. Disappointingly, much of his work in India is now lost. What remains is largely in the Persian language.

It was shocking to find such neglect of one of the greatest poets India ever had. None of his original works have been translated and published. There are commentaries on his work, but they have been made in a scattered manner. I decided to dedicate my life in preserving and spreading the work of Khusrau. I took a vow to get his Persian writings translated in Hindi, English and Urdu, so that Khusrau can reach out to as many people as possible.

The challenge was to find Persian language experts, who could take up this project, with very less remuneration. I did not belong to a very affluent family and could barely make living with my career as a journalist and cartoonist. Still, I managed to get 5,000 pages translated from Persian to Hindi and English.

And got two books published —Qiran-us-Sadain (Conjunction of two lucky planets) and Matla-Ul-Anwar (Dawn of Lights). Four more translations are ready to be published. I have written three books, ‘Amir Khusrau Ek Bahuaayami Vyaktitv’, ‘Hazrat Amir Khusrau Ka Atal Bharat Prem’ and ‘Amir Khusrau Dehlavi’. I have written the first e- book on Amir Khusrau in Hindi for Ministry of Culture.

Now, I run the Amir Khusrau Academy in Delhi and have 35 more books in the pipeline. Though, I haven’t done a PhD on Amir Khusrau, many students have written their thesis on him under my guidance. I keep in touch with authors and publishers from all over the world to collect Amir Khusrau’s as many works as possible. In the last 10 years, I managed to collect 200 rare audio and video recordings of Amir Khusrau’s music from all over the world.

I have 2,500 books and manuscripts of and on Amir Khusrau in various languages; 100 gramophone records; and 200 rare paintings, illustrations, postal stamps etc. I participated in various projects on Amir Khusrau with organisations such as ICCR, IGNCA, UNESCO, Aga Khan Foundation, INTACH, Sangeet Natak Academy, Urdu Academy etc. I have sent copies of Khusrau’s Persian works collected from across the world to various scholars in India, to see if they are willing to translate any of his works voluntarily.

To my delight, a few of them have shown interest and have started the translation. My dream project is to re-write the history of Indian literature in the context of Amir Khusrau. It is challenging, but it’s worth it.  Khusaru is a one of the greatest writers and poets of the world, but his work ought to reach the common masses.

His teachings on Hindu-Muslim harmony and communal integrity are especially relevant now. Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia found his greatest disciple in Amir Khusrau and I aim to exit this world as Khusrau’s biggest follower, admirer and messenger.


'I Support, Guide Parents of LGBTQ Kids'

about a gay son coming out to his mother and the challenges she faces in accepting him.  

I am a member of the LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & Queer) community and have worked on gay rights for almost 20 years now. In all these years, I realised, how the parents of LGBTQ community members need support to bring up their children. We all know by now that it is hard for members of LGBTQ community to come out of the closet. But have you ever thought how it feels for the parents who first realise that their child is a homosexual or a bisexual! In a society that is largely homophobic, the trauma, and the stigma faced by them has largely been ignored.

When I was directing my film ‘Evening Shadows’ about a gay son coming out to his mother and the challenges she faces in accepting him, I came up with the idea of forming a support group for parents of LGBTQ community members. When parents first come to know of their child’s sexual orientation, which does not conform to the society’s accepted norms, they are shocked. They tend to go into a shell and start blaming themselves. ‘Where did I go wrong?’ they would ask themselves.

Loneliness follows. They stop connecting with their children. My film portrays these issues and has been doing well in the film festival circuit. But my real audience were the Rainbow parents. I wanted them to see the film and know that they are not alone and that it is not their fault. So, in 2016, a portion of the money that was raised for funding my film, by my company, Solaris Pictures, was donated to kickstart a parent-support group called, Sweekar-The Rainbow Parents. Some parents, who were actively speaking up at public platforms became the founding members of the group. Now the group has over 40 parents from cities, such as, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune. We found that women are more accepting of their child’s sexual orientation in comparison to men.

For them, their child is more important. This is reflected quite clearly in our support group as it majorly comprises mothers and has about five fathers. One grandmother too needs a special mention too. Sweekar conducts it meetings once in every three months in Mumbai. Parents share their experiences and anxiety with each other and extend emotional support. Several myths and misconceptions about the community are busted at these meetings.

We plan to start a helpline for LGBTQ members and connect parents from all walks of the society. The focus would be to train the members of the group so that they can sensitise their relatives and friends about LGBTQ people. Some of the parents have become very vocal on LGBTQ rights and readily participate in public meetings, discussions and workshops.

They also participate in Pride marches across the country. Recently, a parent participated in a Pride march with me in Vietnam. Parents themselves have been promoting and managing the group. Harish Iyer and I support and help the group. The LGBTQ community rejoiced when the Supreme Court has decriminalised Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, but this is just the beginning.

There is a mountain of challenges that lie ahead. There are several parents in smaller towns in India, who need help. Even in big cities, parents have had a tough time in accepting their child’s sexual orientation. We have had parents, who left the support group. Some said that they have already accepted their child. But some were just not convinced.

Even after a lot of discussion, they perceive it as a ‘disease’ which can be ‘cured’. It is difficult to take some parents on board but not completely impossible. We are getting there slowly. They will be proud one day.

Menstrual Cycle

‘I Must Break Menstrual Taboo. Period’

Prachi Kaushik —a 33-year-old, Delhi-based social entrepreneur decided to break this taboo. She runs an enterprise ‘Vyomini’ which produces biodegradable and low-cost sanitary napkin, Rakshak, manufactured by marginalised women.

I grew up in a country, where sanitary napkins are still sold in black, opaque poly-bags. Talking about periods has been a taboo in our country. For an Indian woman, periods are ‘those five days’ when life suddenly comes to a halt. Naturally, working on menstrual hygiene would not be a cakewalk — I was well-aware of the enormity of the task.

Luckily, I had done my homework. Before starting on this project, I had worked with hundreds of underprivileged women educating them on the issue of menstrual health. But, taking this idea to another level by starting an enterprise single-handedly had its own risk factors and apprehensions. The words ‘period’ and ‘sanitary napkins’ were enough to make people squirm.

Besides this, convincing my family of this ‘strange’ choice of career was another task. I was 32 and unmarried. Quitting my contractual job with the Delhi government, and keeping the idea of marriage aside — to start a social enterprise — were not easy decisions. I did not belong to an affluent family and could not afford to take such risks.

Nevertheless, I was motivated. I had interacted with hundreds of poor women, who even though, understood the importance of menstrual hygiene, could not afford pack of sanitary napkins for Rs 20. Even today, women across our country of ‘jugaad’ are compelled to use harmful products as sanitary pads. They use sandbags, plastics, papers, leaves, ash and a plethora of other unthinkable things. In 2016, I started my social enterprise — Vyomini, with the help of some friends.

My team and I soon began work on the design of the napkin. We made sure that the napkin was completely bio-degradable and contained no plastic fibre. We employed women from economically weaker sections for manufacturing the napkins and giving them a final shape. After two years of rigorous work, we finally launched — Rakshak, earlier this year.

It is a low-cost, biodegradable sanitary napkin, with prices starting from Rs 5 per napkin. Eminent people have come forward to promote the cause of ending ‘period poverty’. Member of Parliament, Meenakshi Lekhi launched Rakshak; and Mrs Worldwide India 2018 — promoted Rakshak on International Menstrual Hygiene Day. We have conducted workshops across the country to educate women about the importance of menstrual health and the hazards that non-biodegradable sanitary napkins pose to the environment.

In Delhi and NCR alone, we have reached out to over 2 lakh women. After two years of launching Vyomini, sanitary napkin production plants are being run in Jhajjar and Hisar in Haryana; Sultanpur Mazra in Delhi; Bhubaneshwar in Odisa and Navi Mumbai in Maharashtra.

So far, we have sold 5 lakh units of ‘Rakshak’, produced, marketed and manufactured by more than 500 underprivileged women. The product has also reached to women in Bangladesh and Nepal. People now call me ‘Pad Woman’.  People may call me a young achiever, but if we look at the larger picture, this is an achievement for the society as a whole.

Police Encounter II

Police Encounter II – ‘Are Cops Above Law?'

Chirchita village in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, have decided to boycott the next elections. Reason: they want justice for Karamvir Singh’s family who lost their son Sumit to a ‘police encounter’ in Noida. The 22-year-old youth was mistaken by a police party for a gangster going by the same name, tortured and then allegedly silenced. The family approached the National Human Rights Commission and have dragged UP police to court for a ‘state-sponsored murder’. Karamvir recounts the events that led to an upheaval in his village:   My son, Sumit was a simple 22-year-old boy. He did not have too many big dreams. While many youngsters from our village joined the armed forces, Sumit just wanted to stay back and work on the farm. On September 30, 2017, I sent Sumit to the nearby market to buy pesticides.

That was the last time we saw him alive. He came back home, lifeless, wrapped in a shroud. His body punctured with bullets. Sumit was abducted from a tea-stall in the local market. Locals, who were present in the market that evening told us that a white SUV stopped there and five strongly-built men walked out. They approached Sumit, asked his name, and pulled him inside the car. The wait seemed endless. There was no news for the next few days.

Then on October 2, we were told to give Rs 3.5 Lakh to the Noida police for a ‘challan’. And then they would let him go. However, the police refused to let him go. We heard rumours that Sumit was soon to be killed in an encounter. Shocked and scared we reached out for every possible person/ organization for help –the UP DIG, National Human Rights Commission and the chief minister’s office -but to no avail.

On the night of October 3, I lost my son to a fake encounter. The concocted story seemed straight from a badly-made Bollywood thriller. Sumit, along with three others, ‘robbed a bank’ and was trying to escape in a car when the encounter took place. While the others easily managed to escape the wrath of the very efficient UP police, Sumit was killed in an exchange of fire.

The police claimed to have found some weapons, but in their account, there is no mention of the cash that my son and his ‘gang’ had looted. There are several burning questions demand answers. My son had never ventured out of the village, yet the UP Police claim that he had 12 criminal cases against him in Noida! Eyewitnesses, who saw Sumit being forced into the car, came running to us when they read about the ‘encounter’ and saw Sumit’s photo in the newspaper.

The UP police will never admit this, but they mistook my son for someone else. There is another youth of the same name, in his mid-thirties who has many cases against his name and is absconding since 2011. My son lost his life because the police thought he was a dreaded gangster of the same name. Any admission to this huge faux pas will leave the police red-faced. It has almost been a year since Sumit’s state-sponsored murder.

Life at home has changed. A dull silence prevails. The air is filled with paranoia. We do not let our younger son Praveen venture out after sunset.   There have been two Maha panchayats in our village with senior political leaders in attendance. Even the late BJP MP Hukum Singh attended one of them and with his help, we approached the National Human Rights Commission. After an inquiry, the NHRC has issued a notice to the UP government and police.

The hearing of our case at the High Court will be coming up soon. Another maha-panchayat is scheduled to be held in October. We have full faith in the judiciary and our well-wishers, who have been a pillar of support. We keep getting calls from unknown numbers and offered an obscene amount of money for settling the case.  But we are adamant.

We want justice for our son. We will continue to demand justice from the Chief Minister and the Prime Minister, or else, we will boycott the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha polls. A khaki uniform doesn’t absolve the police of their crimes.

Cop On Encounter: ‘There’s No Time… You Kill Or Get Killed’

A UP Police officer, who chased and gunned down a group of notorious gangsters in western UP, later faced accusations of a fake encounter. Truth prevailed, he told LokMarg, as the enquiry cleared him all charges. The officer recounts the hazards of carrying out one’s duty in khaki.  

That night in October 2009: Far from the bustling city, we were on the trail of a black Mahindra Scorpio, that was speeding on the Noida-Greater Noida expressway. A notorious western UP Gangster was going to Bulandshehr, my informer had tipped me off some time back.

The Black Scorpio in front of us, was his ride for the night. We had waited patiently outside near the Mahamaya flyover in Noida for over 5 hours and followed it for eight kilometers.

Finally, we managed to intercept the vehicle. We came to sudden halt. Before, we could ask them to come out, the men inside the car opened fire at us. We ducked in defense. At the speed of lightening, our fearless driver rammed our car into theirs from the side. He pushed their SUV towards carriageway, leaving no option for them to move.

Four armed assailants stepped out of the car and swiftly ran towards the fields near the expressway, while shooting at us. We had expected lesser people and country-made guns. But the manner in which they kept spraying bullets at us, we realized their weapons were rather sophisticated.

We were forced to fire in retaliation and ran after them towards the fields. I felt numb. All I could hear was the loud thumping of my heart. They might easily hide in the dense forest, we feared. This was the best opportunity for us to catch them and the darkness and the wilderness weren’t of much help.

After running for a while, I found myself staring at a seven-foot deep pit. One of the many pits that you come across at the Yamuna ravines. And right across the pit were two of the armed gangsters.

I had to act fast. Before they could fire, I shot at them, killing both of them. Another man, popped out from his hideout and started running. He too was gunned down by one of our men. The fourth man managed to escape.

We recovered sophisticated weapons from them which they had bought for carrying out kidnapping and dacoity like cases. The media was quick to reach the spot and started their live coverage. The next 24 hours, went by like a dream. My team and I were projected as national heroes. But soon, a media trial started, stripping us of all the glory.

‘Why didn’t Noida’s Dabangg police officer shoot them on their legs?’ a news anchor shouted at his top of voice. I wish I had! Back home, in the comfort of my living room, I replayed the incident over and over again in my head. Was it possible to catch them alive? I wondered. Every time the answer I got was a ‘no’.

For us it was either kill or get killed. The topmost officer of the district summoned me the next day and told me there will be an inquiry into the incident. He had asked me to stay prepared for media trial and the court proceedings.

As I was taking my leave from the meeting, he said a few words of encouragement that have kept my spirits high till this date. He said my team and I were very brave, and that the incident will act as a deterrent for highway crimes. An inquiry was conducted in the case.

It kept me on my toes for some time, since I had to travel to Lucknow and Allahabad. Finally, the court decided the case in our favor. I served Noida for another nine months and was transferred to other districts of Uttar Pradesh. Since this incident, there have been 11 more shoot outs, but this particular case is known as my ‘claim to fame’.

(The officer, currently a Deputy SP, requested not to disclose his identity)