Punjab police in a colonial hangover

Punjab police is one of the oldest and the most traditional departments of the province, and its culture, history and behaviour patterns are all rooted in the British era. The culture and tradition still persist in the department, and are something like a colonial hangover where the officer still presides over his underlings like a sahib bahadur of the British Raj.

This ‘locally-produced’ sahib bahadur is an interesting spectacle to watch. He has a university education and speaks a concoction of English and Urdu, and still takes his pauses to find the equivalent word in Urdu of a word he knows only in English. When he is unable to find the word, his reader, who serves as an assistant to the officer, senses the tense environment and jumps in to dissipate the tension by whispering the word if he knows it, or, to announce that ‘sahab ka lunch/cha’aay time ho gaya hay’ [Sir will have lunch/tea now!], and everybody just leaves the office.

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Sahib bahadur also has mood swings, and he starts feeling better after a rather generous and verbose rant at the other end of which stands in utter submission any of his subordinates who unfortunately happens to be present there at the time.

The underlings also recognise the fact that their sahib is other-worldly, who happens to speak English with a pop of Urdu, eats while using knives and forks, likes to eat things that others do not, like fried rice or spaghetti, and coffee and toasted bread or croissants in the morning, and always uses paper towels.

So they call him Noori; made of light. The underlings recognise the fragility of their Noori officer and take special care of his mood and temperament, and certain matters often never reach the officer and are sorted out by the underlings; the Naari; made of fire.

So the sahib bahadur sits untouched, and, of course, regally on his leather-upholstered swinging chair enveloped in his grandiosity, and the Naari softly tip-toes around him, lest they excite his Noori fragility with their Naari presence.

The lines above may sound satirical, which they actually are, but have been written in good humour. Nobody should take it personally, especially the Noori officer.

It must also be recognised that the one who has written these lines is also identified as a locally-produced sahib bahadur, but he happens to acknowledge the fact that things should not be like this and that we should try to push ourselves out of this colonial hangover.

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AHMAD KHAN

RAWALPINDI

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