Assistant Sub Inspector M.A. Damodaran has retired from the police force after more than three decades of service
By Shevlin Sebastian
One of Kochi’s best-known traffic policemen, Assistant Sub Inspector, M.A. Damodaran, 55, will no longer be seen on the streets. On December 31, last year, Damodaran retired after 33 ½ years of service. On that particular day, there is a mood of celebration at his house at Monappilly in south Tripunithara. Children are milling about. Friends and relatives arrive, with beaming smiles on their faces.
A shamiana has been erected in the courtyard, with chairs and tables arranged in two long rows. Inside the house, on a low table, are placed several trophies that Damodaran has won during his long and dedicated career.
Daughter Priyanka, 11, points, with pride, at a picture in a glass-paned wall cabinet. It shows Damodaran receiving the Chief Minister’s Best Policeman Medal for 2007. Says a wistful Priyanka: “I feel very sad that I will no longer see Papa wearing his uniform.”
The man himself is at Traffic (West) station, near the High Court, to sign off on his last day and will be returning with his colleagues for a farewell lunch.
Outside Damodaran’s house stands neighbour M.K. Thilakan, 38, who works for a lawyer on Banerjee Road. “Damodaran is a self-made man,” he says. “He has always worked sincerely for the people.” Whenever Thilakan walked past the Madhava Pharmacy junction and Damodaran spotted him, he would always offer him tea from a nearby shop, even though he was busy directing the chaotic traffic.
As Thilakan talks, Damodaran’s wife, Soudamini, 45, an Anganvadi teacher, wearing a cream silk saree and a gold necklace, comes out. She gives the impression of being calm and patient. “Whatever work my husband did, be it as a policeman or at home, he did it with the utmost sincerity,” she says. “I am proud of him.”
Soon, there is a buzz among the guests: Damodaran and his colleagues have arrived! They troop into the house. Priyanka pins the Chief Minister’s silver medal on his uniform. The policemen, several of whom are in plainclothes, stand next to Damodaran, as photographs are taken. A few shake his hand. There are more visitors, and this time, it is the policemen from the nearby Hill Palace station.
E.M. Shamsudeen, the ASI of the station, who began his career at nearly the same time as Damodaran, says, “In 30 years, there has not been a single allegation of corruption against Damodaran. He is an exceptional officer.” From the reaction of the visitors, it is clear that they hold him in high esteem.
Soon, it is time for a lunch of chicken biriyani, an onion salad and lime pickle. It is only by 3.30 p.m. that all the guests leave. Damodaran steps outside and stands under a tree. “I feel very sad that my career is over,” he says. “What I will miss most are the relationships I had built up over the years with so many people.”
As the slanting rays of the sun falls on his face, one can easily see his eyes well up, but he manages to regain control of his emotions. “Now I fear that the people will not recognise me, because I will not be wearing a uniform.” He pauses, looks at his body and says, “I feel so fit and energetic. I could have easily worked for a few more years.”
Assistant Commissioner of Police, K.B. Venugopal, 46, of Traffic (West) feels that 55 is too early an age for a policeman to retire. “60 would be ideal, or at least 58,” he says. “Somebody like Damodaran, who has the energy of a 35-year-old, could have easily carried on.”
Circle Inspector D.S. Suneesh Babu says that Damodaran had a tremendous enthusiasm for the job. “He was willing to work at any time, especially during the peak hours,” he says. “He had such a natural talent in managing the traffic.”
Asked about his future plans, Damodaran says he will look for a job, as befitting his experience and skill. If that does not happen, he will do social service and continue to take care of his family.
It seems the right time to ask him about what advice he would give a young man joining the force today. “A policeman should know the rules and follow it to the letter,” he says. “He should be truthful and serve the people with the utmost sincerity. He should treat people equally, whether rich or poor, and should show concern for the downtrodden.”
And on the subject of corruption, he says, “There is a simple way of avoiding bribes: always live within your salary.”
But will a new policeman be able to follow Damodaran’s advice because he may soon realise that, just like in society, corruption is also widespread in the force? The chances are high that the young man will barter his integrity for money. So, it seems that what Damodaran’s friend, P.V. Mohan, 51, said, could turn out to be true: “I don’t think there will be another Damodaran in the police force.”
(Permission to reproduce this article has to be obtained from The New Indian Express, Kochi)