Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My Idol. My Grandfather

This is a little story that I have been wanting to share since a long time now. It’s special, very close to my heart, something that makes my heart swell with pride and brings the widest smile. And the hero of this story is My Idol. My Grandfather.

His name was Bhalchandra Ambadas Haldipur. We all fondly called him Daddy.

The ONLY person I have ever been scared of. And that fear came from the immense respect I had for him, for the school of discipline he belonged to. I was all of 10 when Daddy passed away in 1992 but the memories that he has left behind as a result of his deep-rooted values and beliefs, charming personality, the aura he created when he was with his family and friends, his tongue-in-cheek humour in the most difficult times, his last words to me - are all nuggets that help me move on and lead a life in all its fullness.

This is why he is special -

He joined the Bombay City Police in 1939 as Sub-inspector and retired in 1975 as the Deputy Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).

Thoroughly “clean” and incorruptible, he was known for his tireless and thorough investigations, and fearless drive against crime during his hectic career spanning 36 years in the Police Force. Whether working in the Crime Branch or Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), he remained a courageous, fearless crime-fighter who led his men from the front.

He was forced to leave his studies midway and join the Police Force. But he went on to become a successful Police Officer of his time and won accolades for his achievements when he was awarded the President’s Police Medal in 1956 and the President’s Police & Fire Service Medal in 1975.

My grandmom has always had interesting tales to tell us about the way he worked and one of my favourite anecdotes is the way he nabbed two of Mahatma Gandhi’s killers – Narayan Apte and Vishnu Karkare in 1948. What set him apart in his investigation procedures was a set of sketches he drew during his chase and trial of the killers.

Sifting through the album containing yellowish sheets of these sketches, my grandmom would go on to say, “Daddy was part of the special cell to trace Gandhiji’s assassins. A team set out to scour the country for the absconders soon after January 30th, 1948. And he was asked to track Apte and Karkare, two of the co-conspirators of Nathuram Godse in the assassination. He was posted in the Red Fort, Delhi during the entire trial period. He drew images of whoever he met – be it the then DSP of Delhi , a sub-inspector at Gwalior, a Pune tailor or an IAF official, for record. During the chase, for weeks he did not come home, and we didn’t know where he was. (You’ll are lucky to live in the day and age of mobile phones. I wish I had some such help to avoid the sleepless nights wondering where he is and how is he.) He survived on raw eggs and followed the two from Gwalior to Ahmednagar (their hometown). During the days, he would go hunting for both, with guns and during the nights, he sketched those he met or interrogated, with pencils. The day Apte and Karkare checked into Pyrkes Apollo Hospital near Regal Cinema in South Mumbai under assumed names, Daddy finally nabbed them after waiting there for them for seven hours.”

Besides this, he was a key official in the Justice Kapur Commission set up by the Govt. Of India to investigate into various events leading to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

During the completion of 150 years of Mumbai Police Commissionerate, he was declared as one of the most important Police Officers from the Mumbai Police division to have significantly contributed to the country in the immediate post-independence era.

And this wasn’t it. There was more to him.

A body builder. A Pole Vault Gold medalist at the National Olympics in 1940. A multi-linguist (he had passed three examinations in Urdu while in service). Started the Annual Ganesh Chathurthi festival at Santacruz Police Station. One of the founder members of the Senior Citizens’ Club of Bombay. A music and instrument buff. A sincere friend. A loving husband, father and grandfather. And beyond all, a selfless and modest man.

He never discussed his work at home or spoke about his achievements and never let anyone promote him either. All he said was, “I am working for the public and not for publicity.”

He is the real cool dude who won hearts at work and in life for his discipline at a time when there was no media, no PROs, no unnecessary tamaasha.

If I had a time machine, I would have had only one wish – more time with Daddy but I’m glad I have no such privilege because he would have only been disheartened to live and watch the country go to dogs today as far as corruption and discipline are concerned.

For now, all I have to say is Happy 95th Birthday Daddy.

We miss you!


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