SHE stands at the minimum qualifying height for her job. She
gave up sari soon after she entered the service; today she wears trousers with kurta
and a Jawahar
jacket, a faint imitation of what Rajiv Gandhi wore. She packs in herself unbelievable
energy, and is the only Indian police person to receive the Magsaysay Award.
She wishes a day had a 25th hour, for it is filled with her commitments, She has solutions
to all sorts of problems and people are keen to hear her even on matters which she has not
specialised in. She photographs well even now in her fifties, and if she is put before a
television camera she falls in love with it. But you take a risk if you are sparring with her,
as Tim Sebastian of the BBC did some months ago and lost face for himself in India.
That is Kiran Bedi for you.
There is much to Kirans up bringing which has contributed to her current stature. She
was her fathers favourite of four daughters, wham he treated more like sans. At school
and in college, an extrovert Kiran showed spunk and spirit, and took to tennis at a time when
not many women wore shorts and played before the piercing male stares in Punjab. She won the
womens Asian title. Tennis gave her the first public platform and helped build up her
public personality. Donning the police uniform was, there- fore, simply exchanging the tennis
kit of whites to one of khaki.
Kiran has remained a trailblazer, picking up issues which had to be resolved. Her score
card has failures too but women all over the country looked up to her. Her male colleagues
fretted and fumed on how to handle this mercurial woman in their charge, whether it was
getting her to shift the awarded contract for traffic publicity during the 1982 Asian Games or
her tiff with the chief minister of Mizoram a decade ago.
When it was decided to fix Kiran by posting her as chief supervisor at the
Tihar Jail in New Delhi, the officials committed a big blunder, She emerged out of that
confinement with a Magsaysay in hand.
When Kiran presents a case she is intently heard. A scrap of a typed page, listing the
equipment for the Police Training College in Delhi, which she handed to the Union home
minister became a proposal for 16 computers, 16 shooting simulators, a multimedia projection
system and an indoor gymnasium, costing over Rs 3 crore. The speed at which the proposal was
executed is unlikely to be rivalled.
Kiran Bedi is vulnerable on one count. She does not like to talk about her family, her
friends, or her marriage. An art connoisseur and industrialist in Amritsar, her husband Brij
Bedi prefers to work for his favourite city and stay there, leaving Kiran the rest of the
world to herself.
I have often wondered where will Kiran end up. She has reached a certain stratospheric
level, which denies the intimacy of private life. Her yoga sessions are the only time she
shuts up in her world. Her daily schedules are maddening, and her international commitments
make her the most travelled police officer in the country. Then she has to tie up her lecture
engagements in the country with her police duties.
She has inspired a film Tejaswani in which Shantipriya enacts four
episodes of Kirans real life. Kiran is a star in her own right. If women have taken to
police profession in India with gusto, it is due to the example she has set, In Kirans
own list of the women she admires most, Indira Gandhi is way up, And between the two women,
the women of the country are all wrapped up emotionally as one strong gender.
(Gautam Kaul, DGP Indo-Tibetan Border Police, was Kiran Bedis
guru in Delhi Police.)