Leaves of life (2017) is an autobiographical piece of writing that is meant to inspire girls between 15-25 years of age. The book contains stories from the life of Meeran Chadha Borwankar, 1981 batch IPS officer. The stories contain a treasure of learning from the life of hers and to make it more impactful, she has mentioned a course of action that young men and especially young women must take in their lives. The book is full of real life, interesting anecdotes from her career. She wants to contribute to the leadership skills of the youth and motivate to join government services to lend a helping hand to make this country even more successful.
The day couldn’t have been any more special when I write about an iron lady on International Women’s Day. I wish all the amazing ladies reading this post, a happy Women’s day. You are amazing!
About the author
Meeran Chadha Borwankar is a 1981 batch IPS officer from Maharashtra cadre who was born and brought up in Punjab. Her father was also in police services which inspired her to choose police services despite male domination in the services. She is a postgraduate from DAV college, Jalandhar and is also a Hubert H. Humphrey fellow. She has worked in Nashik, Kolhapur, Mumbai, Aurangabad, Pune and Delhi. She has received a number of awards for her exemplary contribution to the police services including President’s police medal.
The book is of interest for
- Civil services aspirants
- Young women
- People searching for insights on police services in India
- Civil servants serving the country
Premise of the book
The book contains 27 very short stories for which Meeran has already mentioned in the starting that she is not a fan of long winded books and does not want to inflict the same on her readers. For the same reason, the book is only 117 page long with 27 stories!
The first story is named Rock No. 10 where she mentions her struggle of not being able to climb above rock number 10 and giving up before that. She was the only lady officer in the batch of 1981 police officers at Sardar Vallabbhai Patel National Police Academy. Despite all the odds, she climbed the rock number 10 and she never quit any of her trainings due to physical hardships. She advises readers to list issues that one has been scared of doing and then take up one by one.
Scared of heights? Go for trekking.
Scared of water? Try swimming.
Scared of loneliness? Try being on your own.
That’s how you learn and conquer your fears.
Then she tells a story from her Jalgaon days where she had to help girls who were victims of sexual molestation by rich and influential young boys. She noticed a communication gap between the girls and their parents.
Besides the legal part of the scandal, a major lesson for me personally was to understand the huge communication gap between the parents and the victimized girls. Many of them told me that they could not confide in their parents as the first thing they would have done is to stop their education. During the investigation of the scandal, I saw the ‘India and Bharat’ divide that is so often talked about.
Due to presence of her son at the police station, Meeran noticed that girls were more comfortable and confident. The scam also made her aware of the arrogance ans ignorance of youth who tend to ignore the valuable insights of their parents which might be actually very useful. She also talks about sensitisation of police forces to handle such cases.
This part of her writing has been my concern for a long time. The police forces are often found to be very insensitive about the emotional trauma that a survivor suffers from. They tend to disrespect the survivors and put the onus on them for the crime committed which is not the right way to deal with the situation. This can be changed when women will come together and occupy every place in governance, workplace, and positions of power so that they come together to show the sisterhood.
I often comment about the rape culture in India that men come in groups to rape women while at home, the woman’s mother only suggests her to keep quiet and let nobody know about the rape.
Women need to come together.
In the story Small town girl Meeran talks about being comfortable with yourself, irrespective of the place you come from. Not knowing English is not something to be ashamed of.
Many times during school and college, I resorted to mugging or cramming my English chapters. However with age, I learnt that language is a tool to communicate and the importance of English need not be blown out of proportion as we tend to do.
The same goes with dressing sense, or table manners. You have to be comfortable with yourself.
Being comfortable with oneself is a great achievement indeed.
In the story Everyone loves Rani Laxmi Bai she narrates how she could control rampant corruption and thefts at Mumbai port. She has enlisted all the steps that she took to control all that while being posted as DCP Port in 1987-89. She suggested to record thefts not as property loss but as criminal cases and stopped the posting of single officers at the port, they were posted in a group so that they cannot indulge in corruption. Meeran also used to take rounds in the port area in the night.
The night rounds used to be in my official car. However it seems that the story making rounds was that “the lady DCP comes at night on a motor cycle with her two year old child at her back, to check staff at different fixed points.” The crux was that port thefts declined even if it was the Jhansi ki Rani image thay was responsible for it.
My personal favorite is the story, Steady are the hands that rock the cradle. A batch mate of Meeran at the officer’s academy objected to the fact that she has scored quite well in the revolver shooting and wanted her to repeat the shoot.
Ustad (the physical trainer of Meeran) declared loudly
‘Sahib, we are seeing this for the last nine years, women officers have steadier hands and have always been shooting well. In yoga, shooting, horse riding, marching where skills and not physical peer alone is required, women do better than most’
This fact debunked all the theories which deem women unfit for physically hectic jobs. I would also like to add a point here. Women are not trained physically and thought to be weaker physically. Well biologically yes they are by a margin but they are made “socially” weaker. Physically, the most productive years of women are gone in bearing a baby which renders them physically unfit for many jobs. So saying that women are physically weaker than men is not justified!
Exposure to foreign cultures…a whole new world describes the experience of Meeran in United States during her Humphrey Fellowship. Due to cultural exchanges she got to meet new people and experience new things, food, clothes, cultures which inspired her a lot. She inspires readers to communicate with people from diverse backgrounds and do more and more cultural exchange so that we become more tolerant of each other.
In Days of learning, she talks about her initial days in Maharashtra when she was being taught by her fellow staff and seniors.
My days were spent learning Marathi language and Police procedures. Police officers and staff became my teachers. Once they realised that I was keen to learn, they were at their best, sharing all the information. It is a pity that many of us think that only senior officers have the sole right to knowledge.
I cannot stress more on the fact of being humble and accommodative of your staff at workplace. Sure, you might be at a senior position but rest of the staff matters as much as you do. Respect them for their talent, skill and knowledge.
She talks about citizen police coordination in a number of chapters. I have observed that police is an agency of government which seems quite distant from common citizens. We are too afraid to approach the police and often bemoan about their ineffectiveness and lethargy. Well there are some officers like that but most of them work tirelessly to ensure our well being. Police officers need to be encouraged by us and the trust deficit that exists between citizens and police need to be reduced. The faith in law and its agents, the police must be restored and we should try to understand them more by participating with them. We can volunteer or do an internship with them. I had quite a negative outlook towards police officers but this book has made me appreciate the efforts put by Police officers.
Meeran’s character is a reflection of a strong woman that a girl should aspire to become and a figure that parents should aspire to emulate in their daughters.
This women’s day, let’s pledge to come forward together and make women reach the pinnacle of success. If women won’t rise for women, who else will?