Image and Narrative points contributed by Anil Gajanan Kale, Pune
IMP Research Intern : Priyanka Balwant Kale, Pune
Taken in 1960, this photograph is of my father Gajanan Vishwanath Kale in his police uniform. My father was one of the many officers who served the British Empire and post independence, he continued to serve the Indian Republic. He became a police officer on a whim, but he fulfilled his duty with extraordinary sincerity as a policeman until the end.
My father, Gajanan was born on April 11, 1914 in Nashik, Bombay Presidency (now in Maharashtra state). He was one of the six children of my grand-parents, Vishwanath and Kashibai Kale. My grandfather, a medical practitioner of Ayurveda, a vaidya, was also the headmaster at a local primary school located near the theatre Chitra Talkies in Nasik.
In 1909, a British Magistrate (and historian) named AMT Jackson was assassinated in the theatre by a nationalist named Anant Kanhere. The colonial government sought to punish the suspected culprits but needed strong evidence. It so happened that my grandfather, the headmaster, whose school was next to the theatre, would handle the school keys and the administration threatened to frame him with false testimony claiming that the suspected culprits entered the theatre through his school with his help. My grandfather refused to comply and it led to his forceful resignation from the job. He established an Ayurvedic practice formally in the neighbouring village Dindori, but died soon after, when my father was just four. The untimely loss of her husband left my grandmother, Kashibai destitute. She had to take help from relatives and neighbours to raise the children, while working odd jobs. To top it all, my grandfather, secure with his job as the headmaster, had given up claims on their ancestral land in his home village Wada-Padel in favour of his brother.
As a teenager, my father, Gajanan began tutoring his Marwari classmate Jhumbarlal in English to earn some money. But by the time the results of his own graduation (matriculation) were announced in 1930, his mother passed away too. His mother’s wish was for him to pass the exam and make her happy, and so on her death bed, he told her that he had indeed passed the exam before the actual results were announced.
My father began looking for jobs with the help of his younger brother Vishnu who was doing sundry jobs in Poona (now Pune). In Poona, his linguistic proficiency got him the job of a Marathi typist at the newspaper office of Dnyan Prakash (a formerly popular newspaper) and he learnt to type in Marathi and English fluently. It was rare for government jobs to be advertised in newspapers; social contacts were the only means to receive information about employment opportunities. But while typing out some material, my father chanced upon an advertisement for the recruitment of a police sub-inspector that promised a better earning. On a whim, my father, blessed with a good physique, imposing personality and height, sent in his application and it was accepted.
The District Superintendent Police (DSP before commissionerate) of Poona called for the candidates to gather at the police headquarters grounds. There were no written tests, or interviews – only a physical examination. The DSP quickly scanned the physical features of all candidates in queue and selected some five to six candidates. Gajanan, my father was one of them.
After his training at the police school in Nasik, he began his career as a sub-inspector, a high ranking position, in the police forces under the British Raj. His first posting was in Jalgaon, Khandesh. As a high ranking official with a decent salary he now owned two horse-driven carts. He also became a proficient horse rider, a skill that was compulsory for all officers. He fired his gun for the first time, early in his career, near Chalisgaon, when a mob attacked his police party, and a shot in the air dispersed the mob. Since relocations via postings were frequent, he was transferred to Bedar, Udgir, Humanabad, and then to some southern Indian districts but most of his time he was posted in Poona. In Poona, he was home inspector and he served under renowned commissioners like Julio Rubeiro and the first IGP (Inspector General) of Independent India, VG Kanetkar.
Around the 1960s, when he was assigned the task of controlling the Ganesh Utsav procession, an accusation of a muslim labourer throwing dirt on Ganesh idol of Mandai Market was reported. It turned out that there was no communal angle to the incident, and the labourer was mentally unstable, but it escalated into a riotous situation. My father tactfully arranged a meeting between the heads of communities that dissolved the tension, and averted a riot. His tactful and diplomatic skills without political leanings, and complete transparency led him to be promoted as the Assistant Commissioner of Poona – Posted in Nagpur he became in-charge of Anti-Corruption Bureau. During his service in Nagpur, my father would disguise himself as different characters to catch the culprits in the act he had been tipped off about. He even caught a peer, a Police Sub-Inspector in midst of accepting habitual bribes in broad daylight. His creative methods to catch criminals, plus his honesty, loyalty and transparency, impressed his seniors and he was made in-charge of Crime Investigation Department (CID) Pune, where he solved intriguing cases.
Due to earlier hardship in life , my father Gajanan had come to suffer from asthma that returned with a vengeance. So on grounds of non-optimal health, he was denied a promotion to Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP). My father was not one to give up and he confronted the Inspector General on grounds that a health condition was not sufficient cause to deny a promotion. His contestation was acknowledged, and he became the Additional DSP of Solapur.
My father retired from service in 1970 and passed away in 1974. I believe that my father’s positive spirit and generous nature is reflected in the photograph- an upright cop who did his best and with a head held high in integrity and dignity. He held a keen interest in classical music and learnt to play the harmonium. During the organsing of Sawai Gandharva music festival, he wouldn’t miss the opportunity of meeting the extraordinary artists like Bhimsen Joshi. He taught his children English, Arithmetic, and Sanskrit. With disregard to conventional gender roles, he also knew sewing and cooking well – skills that he even taught his own daughter-in-laws, while encouraging them to earn a living for themselves.
The addition of this Photo-Narrative to the archive has been made possible due to the generous consideration towards Research Internships by Nazar Foundation, New Delhi.
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