080104.ht.Kushwant Singh-malice column
Thursday, January 04, 2008
A Policewalla’s story
Memoirs of retired Generals and Civil Servants rarely make good reading. They are so full of their achievements that make their readers feel inadequate. What is permissible in a biography is not good in an autobiography. Maxwell Pereira’s The Other Side of Policing (Vitasta) is an exception. Though he made to the IPS, spent 34 years as a Police Officer in various parts of India and retired, loaded with medals for distinguished service, he does not boast about them. On the contrary, he makes fun of himself and others under whom he served and writes felicitous prose. One also tells us quite a lot about problems facing policemen in our country in which many are prone to indulging in lawlessness from time to time.
His account of the anti-Sikh violence of November 1984 following the assassination of Mrs Gandhi is revealing. He was perhaps the only police officer to open fire on a mob lynching unarmed Sikhs and burning their property while on its way to Gurdwara Sis Ganj in Chandni Chowk. When he narrated his exploit to his seniors he received a cold reception. He was never asked by any of the nine Commissions of Enquiry looking into the programme to tender evidence before them. However, he was honoured by Sikh organisations with Siropas —robes of honour.
Pereira had scant respect for most of his seniors. To him: “A boss is like a diaper always on your ass and usually full of shit.”
He was born in Salem (Tamilnadu), had his training in Phillaur (Punjab) and retired in Delhi. I give one example of his style of writing to prove his competence in wielding his pen.
“Though I had met Sikhs in Bangalore before, landing midst a sea of Sikhs in Punjab was understandably traumatic. To me, every Sikh looked just like another, and it was months before I learnt to distinguish between two, that too just by telling myself one was taller, the other shorter, or stockier and so on. Identifying by face features remaining my bete noire forever! Their colours fascinated me, so did their processions through the roads, led by the punj piyaras carrying banners and nishan sahib, with the blue and yellow attired nihangs in their humongous turbans and in full war finery doing their war dance with battle cries and sword fights. I never got tired of watching them. The Punjabis could not pronounce my name Pereira, Pareda, Pededa, Periyar or whatever — before settling down to plain and simple Pyara Singh!"