Honour lies in playing one’s role well

by Sankar Sen

The Central Police Training College (CPTC) in Mount Abu was the training institution for officers of the Indian Police Service in the 1950s and the 1960s. Training was tough and backbreaking, and there was an overwhelming emphasis on drill, parade, horse riding and physical exercises. To many raw young IPS probationers, training in the CPTC was a harrowing and agonising experience.

Coming out of the cloisters of colleges and universities, they were shaken by the abrupt and dramatic change of the environment and at a loss to adjust themselves to the tough and toilsome rigours of police training. They were constantly reminded that police service was not for the weak and faint-hearted. Some even thought of throwing in the towel and resigning.

The chief drill inspector in our days was Mr S. Spadigam. He was from the Malabar Special Police and came on promotion to the CPTC in the rank of the Deputy Superintendent of Police. Short, well-built, swarthy with curly hair, he was a terror in the parade ground and used to roar at us whenever any lapses came to his notice. He had eagle eyes and could detect mistakes and even minor lapses of the probationers in the parade ground even from a far distance. He had a repertoire of stinging words and phrases and made lavish use of them without discrimination while reproving us in the parade ground.

He was cut to the quick when he felt that IPS officers were not seriously trying to overcome their inadequacies, and feared that they would become butts of disparaging comments of the subordinates when they go out of the portals of the Training College and step in the field. He would take serious umbrage at any sign of indiscipline or sloppiness of the trainees because he genuinely felt that poorly trained, ill-equipped and indisciplined officers would not be able to command men under them.

While upbraiding some of us, once he said that the young IPS officers were the police leaders of tomorrow; they were destined to command large bodies of men but their subordinates would not listen to them if they lacked in the qualities of leadership. They must carry themselves with becoming dignity.

But the dreaded martinet would totally change outside the parade ground. He would be genial, extremely affable and civilised, and would treat us with unfailing courtesy and consideration. It was like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.

Spadigam was just not a rough-hewn police officer. He was well-read, and particularly well-versed in English literature. He could quote “appropriate lines from Coleridge’s ‘Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner‘ or ‘Gray’s Elegy‘. He once quoted lines from Tennyson’s immortal poem “Charge of the Light Brigade” to highlight the need for defiance in defeat.

He carried himself with dignity. Though a fairly junior officer in police hierarchy, he was never sychopantic before senior officers. During discussions also, he would put across his point of view without equivocation. Probationers as well as other outdoor trainers feared, but respected him and this respect he had earned by his total commitment to his job and compelling personality. He showed us that honour lay in acting one’s part well.

Even now when I recollect our days in the Police Training College, Mount Abu, the well-built swarthy figure of Spadigam strutting across the parade ground and fuming at the awe-struck probationers flashes before my mind’s eyes. Generations of IPS officers of our times will remember this human volcano with an ice-cap.

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