The Kolkata Traffic Policeman
Kolkata is a busy city. It is not as busy as any of the other Indian metropolises or even some of the other major cities of India. There are few industries left. So not many people from other states come to set up shop. Instead, the young and the educated leave the city for jobs in Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi.
Among those who are left, no matter what, are the traffic policemen and women who patrol the city and maintain law and order. Their job is most challenging during the ten days of Durga Puja. Even though most of the police force is Hindu, they are barely able to celebrate the Puja the way we are able to.
The city is 'sensitive' and the traffic snarls that the city suffers makes their presence mandatory. In numbers that are greater than usual.
The consequences of their deployment is felt right away. The cars move, the jams are reduced to a minimum and hooliganism is reduced. But all this comes at a cost. A cost to the men, women and even kids who work as the ubiquitous Civilian Traffic Police Volunteers. They make the Puja tick.
The busy city however largely ignores them. True, they do have a reputation of corruption. That is unlikely to go away soon. But their presence goes almost totally ignored, except when they give you a 'case'.
As a Bengali, I understand the significance of the Durga Puja. I have always made it a point to spend some time at home during the Puja. I have travelled from Mumbai and Bangalore to spend even a couple of days to do some pandal hopping. The policemen and even the civic volunteers are forced to go without all these festivities.
This time during the Pujas, it rained. Quite heavily in some places. Men stayed indoors. The melas put on a desolate look. The visarjan was made difficult. There were far less cars on the streets as well. But the white clad 'ghuskhor' with black gumboots was on the streets.