“Biting The Bullet” : Ajai Raj Sharma IPS

A friend of ours who retired as Director General of Police in Karnataka was often asked why he didn’t write a book on his experiences in the police force. His stock reply was that there were many things he could not talk about. He said he could not write anything other than the truth. This he believed would stir many a hornet’s nest amongst his erstwhile superiors, colleagues, and of course politicians of different parties, though a large number of them were dead and gone by then.

I was reminded of this when I read “Biting The Bullet” Memoirs of a Police Officer by Ajai Raj Sharma, IPS recently. Mr Sharma is of the 1966 batch of the prestigious Indian Police Service (IPS) and served largely in the Uttar Pradesh cadre. This book covers his memories of some of the most exciting and important events that took place in his career. He retired after 38 years meritorious service in 2004 as the Director General of the Border Security Force ( BSF).

In the initial years of his service, Sharma drew some very challenging assignments in the interior areas of the vast State of Uttar Pradesh, where the law and order situation was dodgy, at the best of times. Lawlessness and dacoity were so common that crime was a career option for many. This state of affairs was aggravated by the factors of caste and grudge feuds which went on for decades. He cut his teeth in the notorious Chambal Valley, and he writes about his experiences in the shadowy world of poverty, greed, informers, and sadists.

Mr Sharma’s competence at work is reflected in his being awarded the much coveted Presidents Police Medal for Gallantry twice in his career. He was tasked by two Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh to get rid of specific notorious criminals. He later was selected to be the Commissioner of Police in Delhi, a rare posting in those days for one from another cadre. During his period of office in the national capital, he was at the helm of affairs when the Hanse Cronje match fixing scandal took place and later when terror modules became active in Delhi supported and managed by the ISI. It was also during his tenure that the attack on Parliament took place. His book gives details of these cases and his role and involvement in dealing with them.

After serving his full tenure as Commissioner of Police in Delhi, he took charge of the Border Security Force. He writes of the many challenges this large force faces in manning the thousands of miles of borders with hostile neighbors. A porous border makes their tasks immensely difficult.

Overall, one gets the picture of a highly committed and conscientious Police Officer who was humane and tough depending on the circumstances. These days we often talk of the deteriorating law and order situation. Mr Sharma’s book gives the reader insights into life in the police service, the hardships the common policeman and police officer face, and the challenges they come across on a daily basis as they battle terror, crime, and the like.

“Restless: Chronicles of a Policeman” by Dr V. R. Sampath IPS

I must admit that I found it rather difficult to write a review of “Restless: Chronicles of a Policeman” by Dr V R Sampath IPS (Retd). On reflection, I think the difficulty was in distinguishing between Dr Sampath the person and the book he wrote. From what one gathers from the book, Dr Sampath is an admirable and talented individual. He comes across as being honest, upright and with a big need to satiate his inborn curiosity to learn new things. I particularly liked his message that we need to constantly re – invent ourselves in order to survive, if not flourish in a fast changing world. This message has huge impact as most people tend to become complacent with their successes. Consequently they feel all at sea when the world around them changes and makes their skills redundant.

This message has been exemplified by the author in his own life as he has transformed himself with the passage of time. As far as career is concerned, he started work in a bank then was selected to India’s prestigious Indian Police Service where he served with distinction for 25 years . Most of his batchmates would have stayed on in the Police Service and retired, but Sampath being restless left the service at the peak of his career. He still had a decade of service left before the age of retirement. He joined India’s private sector businesses and held important positions there, working with some of the country’s top most industrialists like the Ambanis and the Adanis, to name a few. He then left the world of business, to begin all over again as a student when he enrolled for the MFA program in Creative Writing in the United States. Of course, the fact that both his sons were well settled in the United States contributed, I would imagine, to this decision.

The book itself is in two parts, the first half ” Mechanical Life & Awakening” deals with his career as mentioned briefly above. The chronicles of a policeman were not as exciting as I imagined they would be. There are descriptions of waiting for cadre allotments, transfers, postings and the like but not too many incidents about his experiences as a top cop. The few that have been described have been very well written which leads me to believe that instead of the book being equally divided in two parts, I would have preferred if the book was 75-80 % about his policing days and 20-25 % about his explorations of life, for the many like me who are less spiritually inclined. He could later have written a separate book built on Part 2 of this book. Sir, by the way, as a child you read Erle Stanley Gardner and not Perry Mason.

The second part is titled,  “Exploration, Expansion and Integration.” As you will appreciate, this lifetime of diverse experiences enabled Dr Sampath  to think deeply of life and what it means in its entirety. Being of a scholarly and spiritual bent of mind, he did not rest content with his first Ph.D  ( about Airline Security) in India. He is currently working towards the Master’s degree in Fine Arts specialising in Creative Writing and subsequent PhD in Consciousness Studies at School of Consciousness and Transformation at the California Institute of Integral Studies. He summarizes the essence of his life experiences in one sentence: ” Life is accidental and random in occurring, unless your consciousness level is high enough to neutralise them.”

Dr Sampath said he, all through his life and career held on to his identity which has four parts. In his own words, he says, ” first and foremost , I am a Hindu; second, I am a Tamilzhan, third , I am a Brahmin; and fourth I am a Srivaishnavan. I am aware that all four have been under siege for hundreds of years. I am confident that one day, all of them would triumph.” Hats off to you, Sir.

All in all, if you are spiritually inclined and would like to explore what life means you would love this book. If not, the second part could be heavy reading as it needs concentrated attention as it has vast amounts of information and insight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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