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She Was A Much Respected Police Officer Today, But Once Upon A Time…

My parents aren’t supportive of my decision. They are worried that there will be issues when fixing my wedding and later, in my married life.

Amrutha was nervously seated, clasping her sweaty palms together though the 5-star rated air conditioner in the room blew cold air. She settled her gaze on the floor, avoiding eye contact with the person on the opposite chair.

Her mind wavered as to what she was about to hear because that person was no ordinary woman, as her name was enough to send tremors in men.

Mithra Rajavel!

A dedicated IPS Officer who tirelessly worked to prevent crimes happening to women for over twenty years, after which she voluntarily retired from service, thereby joining as an instructor in the women’s police academy. It is because of her best practices that crime rates against women in India are still dropping every year.

“Your academic scores are good. I have seen you in the fields. Why do I sense some uneasiness during the physical training? You know you can trust me and tell me anything that bothers you.” Mithra was concerned.

Her soft tone boosted Amrutha’s confidence to speak.

“Ma’am! Usually, girls from my community don’t prefer to enter the police force. To me, this is my ambition. My parents aren’t supportive of my decision. They are worried that there will be issues when fixing my wedding and later, in my married life. I tried convincing them by quoting that when Mithra madam is successful in her profession and personal life, I can also be. Their arguments distract my mind and I realize I am losing focus.”

Amrutha spilled her heart but did not notice the momentary change of reaction on Mithra’s face.

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“Your determination makes me proud. There will be obstacles on the path to reach your goal. But it is important to remove them so that you stay engrossed. Bring your parents tomorrow, I’ll talk to them.”

Amrutha felt relieved. With a cheerful smile, she left the room after thanking Mithra immensely. She never knew that her words had gripped Mithra’s mind and made her travel into the past.

A few days after Mithra’s fourteenth birthday, she, along with her parents, had gathered to watch her aunt Nadiya’s twenty-fifth dance performance. She was a trained classical dancer. After the function ended, a sudden scream emerged from the makeup room, which was located behind the stage. Rajavel rushed to the spot to see Nadiya squirming in pain, covering her face with her palm. By then, Mithra and her mother Ranjani had also arrived at the scene. Rajavel indicated Ranjani to take Mithra away. She did not understand the situation but was worried about her aunt.

Nadiya spent six months in the hospital. She returned home, hiding her face in a shawl. From the hushed talked between her parents, Mithra came to know that someone had poured acid on Nadiya’s face and the police could not nab the culprit due to lack of evidence. There were no possible suspects to inquire, and soon the case file turned cold.

Nadiya locked herself in a room and never came out. It pained Rajavel even more because to him, she was like a daughter. With ten years of age difference between them, he took utmost care of her after their parents passed away in an accident a few years ago. She did not accept more therapy or counselling sessions because her dream of becoming a renowned dancer was already burnt along with her face. Ranjani always ensured there was food and essential things available all the time because she never knew when Nadiya would step out of her room.

At that young age, Mithra couldn’t understand why the police could not find the person who committed this heinous crime. But the agony of her parents and the captive life of her loving aunt decided her future. At any cost, she wanted to become a police officer, and, to her parent’s surprise, she topped the civil service examination.

“Aunty! Today is my first day as a police officer. Before I join duty, let me recite my pledge.

I, Mithra Rajavel, will try my best to find the person who did this to you. I will work to ensure the safety of women. My priority will be to push the criminals behind bars who intend to harm women in any way.”

The door remained closed.

The vow continued.

Soon, Mithra was seen as a fierce lioness in the department. She did not care about organized crime but focused on violence against women in any form. Steadily, she grew up the ladder. Every time when she solved a case, she would write all the details including the punishment ordered to the offender on paper, and push it under the door so that her aunt could read not just her victory but also know that she had saved another woman’s life. It turned into a routine. Though Mithra was unable to trace her aunt’s incident, she felt such news can heal her to some extent and it certainly did.

One fine morning when Mithra was sipping her coffee, she heard a faint musical tone. Trying to follow the source she ended in her aunt’s room. Her eyes beamed with joy as she heard the sound emerging from her aunt’s ankle bells. Yes, she was dancing. Mithra quickly informed her father, who broke down crying in happiness.

“I am proud of you, my child. You made it happen.” Rajavel hugged her daughter, who was in tears as well.

Mithra had her own team, and their motto was to prevent crimes rather than letting them happen because she knew even if the criminal was punished, the invisible scar left on the target can remain unhealed just like her aunt. She increased night patrol teams and created separate groups for women’s safety. If anyone feels someone is stalking them, then all that was needed is a simple phone call and her team would be there the next minute. Since they would be dressed as normal people, the chances for the stalker to escape was low. It was applicable to domestic violence and slowly dowry death was turning into history. In all cases, she personally ensured the victims returned to their normal life.

The first part of Amrutha’s sentence was true. She succeeded in her profession. The latter one?

During an important investigation, Mithra met him, Vikram, a bold officer who handled cases that were highly influential. He did not care if it involved a politician or a senior officer. With concrete evidence in hand, he ensured they were counting prison bars. A spark triggered in both, but Mithra was sceptical about getting married. Rajavel and Ranjani welcomed Vikram’s proposal because they were happy that he was also in the same profession and believed their understanding would be great. More than anybody, it was Nadiya, who was overwhelmed with happiness.

Mithra put forth a condition that Nadiya should accept for the surgery and attend her wedding, only then she would get married. It was because of Mithra she re-invented herself, Nadiya couldn’t deny. Rajavel’s happiness knew no bounds to see his dear sister’s face out of the draped cloth and freed from the cage.

Mithra and Vikram were a happy couple at home and in the workplace. Like any pair, Mithra sensed a gap between them after five years of marriage. She did not pay much heed to it until when one of the woman officers in her team informed her that Vikram was having dinner with another woman and they were walking close to each other. Mithra asked to shadow them and found it went on for a few days. She instructed two officers to warn the girl thinking that would solve the problem. Only later she found the problem was with Vikram, as she herself saw him with another woman.

She confronted him. He smiled back.

“Listen! Don’t make it an issue. You were not there when I needed you. Secondly, I don’t force those women, they just fall for me.”

He sounded like it was no fault of him. She has dealt with arrogance and attitude in many men. A betrayal from her loved one? It pained. Walking out was easy, but that would not just hurt her parents, but her aunt who found more happiness in seeing them together. She knew it was impossible to continue living this way and came up with an agreement. Their life as husband and wife was already over inside the four walls. They would stay together provided Vikram does not cross his limits at home and in turn, she will pose as his wife whenever needed. Both their families will continue to believe like how the world sees them as a perfect couple. It benefited them for more than a decade.

Their eighteenth wedding anniversary arrived. Vikram insisted on arranging for a party at home. Mithra agreed half-heartedly but conditioned that the venue should be a hotel because anyone coming home may detect the gap between them, noticing the way things were arranged.

On the pleasant evening, many top officials turned up with gifts. Mithra was happy that her parents and aunt attended the function and were lovingly greeted by Vikram. After the formal cake cutting, while attending to the guests, Mithra received a message in her personal number. A college student was slashed by a man at the railway station. Mithra excused herself and drove to her office, which happened to be nearby. Her team was already on track to nab the guy. They also alerted her about the status of the girl who was immediately rushed to the hospital. After she received confirmation that the girl would survive, she returned home. It was past midnight.

Mithra was shocked to see the lights still on, with gentle music floating in the air. Her mind guessed what if Vikram was continuing the party at home for people whom he cannot invite in open space and warned her about the situation she was about to encounter. Slowly, she opened the door. The sudden stench discomforted her. She observed keenly. Her wild assumption turned true.

Paper cups, cigarette butts, vomit. There were even a couple of broken flower pots, the mud spilling out, oddly angled flowers with broken stems. And then because it was all so depressing, the overturned plastic chairs and food half-eaten on Styrofoam plates, she knew in that moment that she would have to make up her mind about it all. Did she really want to be here? After he crossed the boundary that was agreed upon? He should have been too drunk, still, it wasn’t acceptable.

Mithra knew she had to decide. It was time to move on. She analysed her options and soon picked one. In a click, her influence got her the job at the training academy, and in the name of switching jobs, she moved to another city. This was also something she liked, to train the young tigers. Vikram never objected as she knew he cared more about his status in society for which he will continue the plastic relationship between them.

Mithra’s mobile buzzed, bringing her back from her reverie. She answered with a smile.

“Mithra! How are you, dear? How is Vikram? Are you both talking through video calls? When are you visiting us?” Nadiya asked eagerly.

“Soon, aunty,” she replied.

The second half of Amrutha’s sentence? Mithra sat back to think.

This story had been shortlisted for our October 2021 Muse of the Month short fiction contest. The juror, Himanjali Sankar has commented: “This story uses flashbacks effectively to make the protagonist come to certain hard conclusions about her own life. A fast-paced story spanning a couple of decades which raises certain basic but important questions about how success is multi-faceted and how important it is for us to face certain truths about our own lives. The messaging is powerful and conveyed perfectly but not done in a manner that is preachy or overdone.”

Image source: a still from the film Naachiyaar

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