Wednesday, September 27, 2006

“Pollution and crowds made my son faint”

Permission to reproduce this article has to be obtained from Hindustan Times

Dad defends a seven-year-old son who runs 70 km and collapses

Shevlin Sebastian

“Just one second,” says Padmacharan Mandal. “Mritunjay felt faint for one second and you guys in the media made such a hullabaloo. He was okay immediately.” He is talking about his son who collapsed at the 70 km mark, at Kemp’s Corner, on his run from Kalyan to the Gateway of India, a distance of 80kms on Sunday morning.
“You have to understand he is a boy from a village in Orissa,” continues Padmacharan. “All of a sudden, he is running in front of crowds, in front of such huge buildings he has never seen before and there was so much of pollution. So he fainted for one second.”
Mritunjay, who is sitting next to his father, in a blue tracksuit, says, “Just one second. My reputation has been spoiled.”
It is a big sentence for a seven-year-old. I try to visualise myself at seven and all I could recall was the desire to play football all the time and how to avoid going to school. So, clearly, this seems to be a tutored dialogue.
Padmacharan, 42, with a grey stubble, thin hair and chapped lips, looks 15 years older. He is an ayurvedic doctor and has an elder son and two daughters, besides Mritunjay. When asked whether he was exploiting his son, he says, “Not at all. He loves to run. He has been running ever since he could walk.” He says that as a doctor, he ensures that Mritunjay gets a medical check up every six months. “He is perfectly fine now.”
It’s bad manners but I lean forward and touch the boy’s forehead with my palm: he is cool as a cucumber.
“There is no exploitation going on,” says Shrikant Kumar Padhi, president of Rashtriya Oriya Yuvak Pratishtan.
In the midst of the questioning, Mritunjay suddenly starts drumming on the table with his fingers. He looks relaxed except for this tiny hint of nervousness: every now and then, his right leg twitches.
As the photographers come closer to take pictures, his father whispers something in Oriya and the son immediately comes up with the ‘V’ sign.
So what are the plans for the future?
“I want to run in the Olympic Games and win a gold medal,” says Mrintunjay. “What is the Olympic Games?” is the question put forth. For once, the boy’s eyes blink and there is a silence all around.

Monday, September 25, 2006

“I want to play for India once again”

Permission to reproduce this copy has to be obtained from Hindustan Times

Newly married and completely recovered from a shin injury, a confident Vinod Kambli wants to play for Mumbai first

Shevlin Sebastian

“I was 13 years old,” says stylish left-hand batsman Vinod Kambli. “One day, there was a match at the Azad maidan. Our team was batting and I was at No. 3. When a wicket fell, my father came into bat. He got 110 in just 60 balls, while I got out after scoring 50. Later he took eight wickets. How many sons have a chance to play with their fathers in the same game? This is one of the best memories of my life.”

We are talking in an exercise room in Leena Mogre’s fitness gym in Khar. A few minutes earlier, he had come with his wife, Andrea Hewitt, a model, whom he married on September 8.

“You are twenty minutes late,” says the pony-tailed Mogre, as music pulsates from the several speakers around the gym.

Kambli smiles and shrugs his shoulders. He is broad shouldered and sleek, in white T-shirt and shorts, with silver earrings, while Andrea is slim and pretty, in black leotards.

Andrew Leipus, 36, the former physiotherapist of the Indian cricket team, waves out. Kambli raises a hand in greeting. The Australian is helping the injury-prone bowler Ashish Nehra with some weightlifting and is also guiding Kambli’s fitness regimen.

Kambli has the look of happiness of a man who has just tied the knot. Husband and wife stand so close to each other, there is no space for a knife to go through. So how does it feel to be married?

“Andrea loves me for the person I am,” he says. “We were friends earlier, but it turned to love later. In the past few years, I have gone through bad times, with a serious shin injury and jaundice. During all these times, Andrea stood beside me.”

Later, Andrea confirms what Kambli has said. “I liked him as a friend,” she says. “It turned to love when I realised what a nice human being he is. He is caring, loving and sweet-natured. And, despite all the bad times he was going through, there was always a smile on his face.”

This is Kambli’s second marriage. His earlier marriage to Nicole ended in divorce and they had no children. Understandably, a week after his wedding, he did not want to talk about it.

“It is in the past,” he says.

In and out

As for Kambli’s cricketing past, it’s been quite a few years since he played for India. So does he miss the limelight? “Not at all,” he says. “People still love me. They keep telling me I can play for the country. But my first goal is to play for Mumbai and do well and then play for India.”

It does seem like an uphill task. At 34, time could have run out for this prodigious talent. “Age is not a criteria,” he says. “I just need another chance. I have made nine comebacks so far; this is a record by itself. Whenever I was dropped from the Indian team, the Mumbai team would help me to make a comeback.”

And the feeling from Mumbai is mutual. “If he is fit and scoring hundreds, which he is capable of, he can easily stage a comeback,” says Milind Rege, chairman of the Mumbai selection committee. “He is that good. But the desire to come back has to be there. It is not enough to say ‘I want to come back’. We are all frustrated that Kambli has not started playing for Mumbai.”

Kambli’s father, Ganpat Kambli, 72, feels his son can play for India if he starts practising regularly. “There is a little over a year’s difference in age between Sachin and Vinod,” he says. “If Sachin can still play for India, so can Vinod.”

Tough life

Kambli’s initiation into cricket happened because of his father. When he was three years old, Ganpat used to take him to watch him play the Kanga League matches. His father was a bowler and Kambli would lie on the grass and sometimes go to sleep. “During the lunch break, my dad would give me his big bat, and I would start playing,” he says. “That is how I started enjoying the game.”

The turning point in his career came when, at 12, he came under the eye of famed coach Ramakant Achrekar and moved to Sharadashram Vidyamandir at Dadar, where he met Sachin Tendulkar and their destinies intertwined. They scored that memorable world record of 664 in the Harris Shield in February 1988, and things started changing. “All the breaks in our careers came after this record,” he says. Today, the childhood friends are still close. “Sachin Tendulkar is my friend, philosopher and guide,” says Kambli. “We say a friend in deed is a friend indeed and he has always been there for me. We have kept alive the friendship because we respect each other.” It has been an unusual friendship because of their differing backgrounds.

While Tendulkar had a middle class upbringing, Kambli came from straitened circumstances. His father, a machinist at Guest Keen Williams, worked in Bhandup, and the family initially stayed at Bhindi Bazar, before moving to a chawl in Kanjur Marg. Since school started at 7.20 am, he set out at 6 am. After school, he would play cricket at Shivaji Park till 7 pm, hang around with Tendulkar, eating vada pavs, till the latter went home at 8 pm. Then Kambli would go to a friend’s place and spend some more time. Because the trains were crowded, and he had a large kit bag, he would only take the last train home. “I always travelled in the luggage compartment and I can still recall the smell of the fish and the vegetables,” he says. His mother would be waiting at the station at 1 am and take him home. After a few hours sleep, he would be back on the grind.

Kambli made his one-day debut in 1991 and his Test debut in 1993. However, while Tendulkar has soared, Kambli has stuttered. “People should not compare me with Tendulkar,” he says. The striking thing about Kambli’s career was how short-lived it was, especially his Test career, which lasted around two and a half years. His one-day career totalled nine years, with many breaks in between. He would be in and out of the Indian team; there was talk that he was distracted by the glamorous life; there were disciplinary problems, too.
“Kambli did not have a mentor who could have guided him at that young age, like the way [elder brother] Ajit Tendulkar kept an eye on Sachin,” says Rege. His wife Andrea agrees. “If he had somebody to help him when he was young, he would have been able to avoid the mistakes he made,” she says.
But then, you live and learn. And the good wishes of the fans will always be with him, because he is a nice guy. As Rege says, “Even after 10 years, Kambli is the most popular guy in the Mumbai team.” So, with a little bit of luck, sustained commitment and lots of runs, he should be back: first in the Mumbai team, then Bharat Mata!

Career stats

Test debut: January 1993, Versus England
Last Test: November, 1995. Versus New Zealand
No of Tests: 17; Average: 54.20; Runs: 1084; Highest score: 227. 4 centuries. 3 fifties
One-Day Debut: October 1991. Versus Pakistan
Last One-Day Match: October 2000. Vs. Sri Lanka
ODI’s: 104; Average: 32.59; Runs: 2477; Highest score: 106. 2 hundreds. 14 Fifties

Sun, sea, sand, surf… and danger

Permission to reproduce this copy has to be obtained from Hindustan Times

Lifeguards risk their own lives to save others but rarely get any gratitude in return

Shevlin Sebastian

Gap-toothed Arvind Kelvekar, 54, will never forget this incident. “Two men were drowning at the same time,” he says. “I held both and was trying to bring them back to shore. But it was proving to be tough.” He realised he had to leave one man, in order to save the other. Both were over fifty years of age. When Kelvekar brought one man to the shore, the members of the other family said, “Why did you save this man? The good man died.”
Kelvekar later discovered that the man who was saved was working in a bank while the man who died was unemployed. “I had to make a split-second decision,” he says. “I do feel bad that I was unable to save both of them.”

For Manohar Keshav Patel, 55, he remembers how, some years ago, four men were drowning. Both Kelvekar and he managed to save three of them. When he went to get the fourth, a 25-year-old, the man grabbed him and did not let go. “We were going up and down,” says Patel. “I begged him to leave me and he said, ‘No, I cannot, because I will drown’. I said, ‘My job is to save you but he did not believe me.’ Patel gave up hope but when the man swallowed too much water, “he let go of me and I managed to swim around and pulled him by his hair to the surface and later to the shore. I did CPR [cardiopulmonary resuscitation] and that revived him. Later, I gave him a cup of tea.”

Kelvekar and Patel are one of six lifeguards, employed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, who have been doing the job on the Juhu beach for the past 29 years. Six others have retired and now another four-- Anil Vasan, 20, Rohit Patil, 19, Sunil Jadhav, 27, and Dinesh Mangela--have joined the team, on a five-month contract, at a monthly salary of Rs 6000.

On a breezy Wednesday afternoon, the youngsters come into the lifeguard’s room at the YMCA building, near the Shivaji statue, in a rush for the 2 pm shift. The room has a table, which is so rusted, it is amazing it is still standing. Rust is running riot on the steel almirahs and the lockers. A clothesline runs across the room and, through a small window, the sea breeze blows in constantly. However, in a marked contrast to the gloomy surroundings, are the brightly coloured yellow buoys and red tubes placed at one corner and they look in very good condition.

Vasan puts on a blue T-shirt. This is part of the kit given by the BMC: swimming trunks; a whistle; anti-fog swimming goggles; a pair of binoculars; a life jacket and two T-shirts.

These lifeguards were selected after passing swimming tests conducted by the Fire Brigade. Thereafter, they had to undergo a course on how to rescue people, administer first aid and CPR conducted by H2O Water Sports Complex at Chowpathy.

They had barely started work when, in a joint operation, these boys saved eight men who had come to swim in the morning and suddenly a hole was formed below where they were standing and they started to sink. When there is high or low tide, holes develop because the sand is swept away. Rohit Patil and the others rushed in and threw tubes and buoys. “I felt good when we saved them,” he says. “However, the people who we saved just walked away.”

This is one of the unusual experiences of the lifeguards. Time and time again, they have saved people but the gratitude has been desultory. “They rarely give us anything,” says Kelvekar. However, there was a businessman from Khar, who had been swimming with the help of a tube but it slipped away from him and he started drowning. “I saved him and after a few days, he came and gave me a shirt and trouser length,” he says. Amazingly, this was the only gift that Kelvekar has received in 29 years on the job.

On another day, I go across to see Dr Kiran Harsora, deputy executive health officer at the BMC, at his air-conditioned office in Lower Parel. “Owing to super-annuation and retirements, a few vacancies for lifeguards have come up,” he says. “So, we decide to fill up the posts.” So far, 23 men have been appointed and they have been distributed on the beaches on Dadar and Girgaun Chowpathy, Goregaon, Andheri, Malad, Gorai and Juhu. “This is a temporary appointment for five months,” says Harsora. “The BMC has yet to decide on whether it should have regular posts.” Harsora says there is a growing awareness in the BMC and the public about the need for lifeguards.

Advice by lifeguards
The most dangerous months: May, June and July, because there are strong undercurrents.
Just go in till the water is at waist-level and remain there. Don’t go further than that, especially if you don’t know swimming. People get excited and love to go deep.
Swimming in the sea is different from in a swimming pool. There are currents and whirlpools in the sea; in the pool, the water is still.
The most deaths take place on Sundays and public holidays.

The elusive lifeguard

On a sunny Thursday afternoon, I land up at Girgaum Chowpathy. There are the usual couples, snuggling with each other, families taking a walk and a group of schoolboys having a blast in the sea. But where is the lifeguard? I walk up and down the beach and he is nowhere in sight. I ask a group of fishermen who were having their lunch, sitting cross-legged on the sand and they tell me to go to the nearby H2O Water Complex run by actor Sunil Shetty. But the H2O employees say the lifeguards sometimes come for a chat but they usually stand on the beach. So I go back and notice a small shack on one side. I part the sack, which acts as a curtain, and ask the man who is sleeping there whether he has any idea of the lifeguards. He works for the BMC but says he has not seen him. He asks me to ask some workers who are cleaning up the beach. One of them says he sees a lifeguard in the early mornings and has not seen anybody now. From the beach, I call up Dr R.P. Dengle, medical officer, health, ‘D’ ward and he says, “A lifeguard, Kiran Gardhe, is supposed to join at 3 pm but he does not have a mobile phone. He is wearing a white shirt and shorts, with a BMC cap.” Unfortunately, I am unable to spot him. A day later, he tells Dengle that because it was low tide, he was hanging around the bhelpuri plaza. But I had wandered around the plaza and had not seen him. Dengle says there are two other lifeguards, Manoj Balekar and Santosh Patil on the roster.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The eyes of this cop are on you

Permission to reproduce this article has to be obtained from Hindustan Times

Sanjay Aparanti, DCP, who has recently been enforcing the High Court directive on cable operators, monitors paedophiles, prostitutes, call girls, obscene music videos, vulgar film posters and wife swapping

Shevlin Sebastian

“A few days ago, I was supposed to cut the telecast of Zee TV, because of its violations of the Cable Television Network Act,” says Sanjay Aparanti, 42, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Social Service Branch. “So, I despatched my team at 8 pm to do the job. I told them I would come later. At 8.45 pm, on my way to the studio, I got a call from a woman. She told me that she had heard that I was going to cut the telecast and she wanted me to do it only after 10.30 pm.” Apparently, there was a programme about 9/11, which had been aired the previous day and the second part of the programme was being telecast that night. “Mr. Aparanti, I know you are a good man and I am sure you will do this for me,” she said.

Aparanti had fifteen minutes to decide. He called the television office and was told the telecast had been stopped. He spoke to the manager of the channel and told him to resume the telecast because there was a request from ‘one of your customers’. “I wanted to give the pleasure of viewing that particular programme for, maybe, a lakh of people,” he says. The channel resumed telecast and at 9.05 pm the woman called and thanked him profusely.

Aparanti tells me he does not know who the woman is but he felt happy when he made the decision. When he reached home, he was astonished to discover that his wife and two children were watching the same telecast. “The channel was taken off the air later,” says Aparanti, with a smile.

This is one event in an incident-packed life of the cop who looks after law enforcement in the city. Aparanti keeps an eye on paedophiles, raids brothels, traps call girls through sting operations, deals with piracy and counterfeit goods, sends publishers to jail for publishing obscene material, investigates the wardrobe malfunctioning of models like Carole Gracias and Gauhar Khan during a fashion show, confiscates decoders of cable operators, tries to limit the obscenity shown in music videos, targets vulgar film posters, tries to trace those who morph pictures of film stars on nude bodies, and keeps track on the orgies and the wife swapping in the city.

Can he police all this effectively?

“I have been constantly striving to deal with these subjects with sensitivity and sincerity,” he says. “But I have to tell you that at the end of the day, I am confused. In the wake of globalisation, our traditions have been shaken up. Everybody is in a crisis. Even I am in a crisis. I know what to do but I am confused about how to go about it. Because, in the end, I don’t want to interfere with personal freedom.”

One who has interacted with him often in the past few weeks has been Ravi Singh, 46, vice-president of the Cable Operators' and Distributors' Association for Maharashtra. “Aparanti is a gentleman,” he says. “He has enormous patience. He is always trying to understand our viewpoint and does not harass you.”

A doctor cum policeman

The surprising thing is that Aparanti had qualified as a medical doctor. He had set up a dispensary and was doing well but felt vaguely unsatisfied. He wanted to contribute more to society and the best way, he felt, was by becoming an administrator. So, he sat for the Maharashtra Public Service Commission examinations in 1989 and got through. However, according to his ranking, he was given the slot for policemen.

It is clear he has no regrets because, he says, the job of the policeman is most interesting. “I see the whole gamut of life,” he says. “Every day, I see something new. And that is great.”
In fact, he says, the world can be divided into those who are in the police and those who are outside. “The non-police person knows that wrong things are happening. But I know the reason why they are happening. Most people know only one part of life, while the police knows life in its entirety. A policeman is more mature than the rest of the population.”

“But the public does not think so,” I say.

“That is a different story,” he says.

Few demands

It has been a long journey for him. Aparanti was born in a village in Thane district, the son of teachers. There were six children and life was tough. “A teacher’s salary is not much,” he says. As a child, he delivered newspapers and happily gave the money to his mother. “My parents taught me to keep my demands in control,” he says. “Then you get more pleasure with a smaller amount of money. This is helping me now. Because there are temptations now I can resist easily. And I am dedicated to the job.”

It seems so. He spends an average of 12 hours a day in the office. He leaves the house at 8 am and plays squash for 45 minutes at the Police Gymkhana. From there, after a bath, he heads for the office.

After a day’s work, when he reaches home at 10 pm, he has a hot water bath and sits on the sofa and maintains silence for one hour. “It takes me one hour to get the office out of the system,” he says. “My wife keeps talking to me but I don’t reply. She enjoys doing this because I don’t entertain her calls during the day. I have told her, her time is one hour at night and one hour in the morning.”

Is your wife happy with you, I ask.

“I don’t know,” he says, with a smile. “I think she is happy because I don’t interfere with her.”

To find out, on a Friday morning, I go across to meet Vandana Aparanti, 40 at the first floor apartment at the police quarters on Carter Road. It is a tidy apartment with a 27” Videocon television set holding pride of place. There is a picture of a tranquil Buddha on one wall and next to it, near the door, there is a white board with markings in red felt pen. Aparanti and Vandana met in college, fell in love and they have been married for 23 years. They have two children, son, Saunvedan, 21, who is about to embark on a post graduate degree in human rights in Britain and Sangini, 11, who is in Class seven.

When asked about the brief amount of time her husband spends at home, Vandana says, “We try to make the maximum use of whatever little time he has with us. In fact, I write on the board everything I have to discuss with him. Because there are so many things to tell him.”

Vandana, who is a social worker, says Aparanti has taken up police work as a mission to serve society “and I have always been supportive of his mission. I never feel that something is wrong because he is not at home. I always feel he is doing the right thing.”

Saunvedan, who is leaving for Britain in late September, says his father has a thankless job. “There is too much stress and pressure,” he continues. “He needs more staff and less working hours. The bureaucracy is not as efficient and is not able to deliver as much as it should.”

He says these are the reasons why he did not opt to follow in his father’s footsteps and has decided to serve society by working for non-profit organisations.


‘Prostitution should not be legalised’

Do you think it is right for two people to have sex before marriage?
If you are going to marry that girl, it is okay to have sex with her.

Suppose two young people have recreational sex?
I don’t agree with it at all. When I was in college, we treated the girl students with utmost respect. Young people should not indulge in pre-marital sex because the girl gets victimised. Man will enjoy himself but for the girl, in the end, she is looking for a lasting relationship. A woman does not have sex just for the sake of it.

Should prostitution be made legal?
No, because a woman does not go into prostitution because she derives pleasure in the act. I have talked to more than a hundred women and I have realised that it is only when they have no other source of livelihood, they take to prostitution.
The moment prostitution becomes legal, things would proliferate. Making people aware of the dignity of woman is very important. In our society, if a woman is not a wife, I am supposed to treat her like my sister, or mother or maasi [aunt] or child.

Would you arrest Vatsayana if he wrote the Kama Sutra today?
I have not read that book, but I don’t think it has anything to do with the exploitation of women. But the Kama Sutra cannot be relevant today because there is so much of porn, which has flooded the market.

Do people get corrupt by viewing erotic material?
Yes, they do. Sex is overpowering. Only if you have read good literature and seen good movies and listened to classical music, only then you can withstand it. But how can you enjoy porn when you know the woman has been exploited? I have always seen agony in the eyes of the women who take part.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Jailhouse talk

Permission to reproduce this article has to be obtained from Hindustan Times

For Swati Sathe, the superintendent of the notorious Arthur Road jail, keeping an eye on 3000 edgy inmates is a job that has its charms

Shevlin Sebastian Mumbai

“No criminal is 100 per cent black or white. They are not watertight compartments in a human being. Sometimes one is wrong, one is bad, one is negative.” That, summed up, is Swati Sathe’s approach to correctional administration, the technical term for handling inmates in a prison. The jail superintendent of Mumbai’s notorious Arthur Road Prison elaborates, “Even a murderer has a bright side. One may be a good singer, another may be an artist. I have also found that most criminals are good with their hands. I see that clearly when they make the decorations for the various religious functions we have here.”

At first glance, Sathe, 39, looks like an ordinary housewife, in her yellow salwar kameez with a maroon dupatta thrown carelessly over her shoulders. Unlike most women, she wears no rings or bangles. She has a firm, no-nonsense air about her. But when she smiles, the brown eyes soften and become warm.

An unsmiling constable serves us half-cups of tea as we talk in Sathe’s office, which looks more like a hospital room, with its pale blue tiles and fluorescent lights. Her table is bare, except for a couple of files, with a white string holding the papers together. Behind her, on a door, is a small sticker of Shirdi Sai Baba. To one side, leaning against one wall is a lathi.

“Think of the ‘93 BBC (Bomb Blasts Case) accused,” she continues. “They have been in jail for 13 years. A person can achieve so much in that time. Take my own life-- 13 years ago, where was I? Imagine, if I had spent the last 13 years in prison, what a waste it would have been. Is it any surprise that most of them are bitter, angry and frustrated?”

In the silence and austerity of the room, it is difficult to believe that just a few yards away, in inhumanly cramped barracks, live the most notorious gangsters, hoodlums, TADA detainees, the ‘93 blast accused and killers of the underworld. 3000 of them in a prison meant for 804 people.

Unusual choice

Now here’s the puzzle: Why would a woman want to spend her life keeping an eye on such an edgy collection of people? Sathe smiles, “I joined this profession because I wanted to do something different. I did not want a 10 to 5 job.” Not even in the police department. “To catch somebody is a routine police job,” she says. “But to correct somebody is more difficult and interesting.”

Sathe, the first woman to be appointed jail superintendent in India, admits, “I was appointed as an experiment. My seniors wanted to see whether I could handle this responsibility. But I was not afraid at all.”

It has not been easy of course. She says she had to work towards acceptance by colleagues, the staff and the prisoners. Especially the prisoners, who doubted if she could solve their problems. “But after 11 years in this profession,” she says, “I have realised there is only one distinction in everybody’s eyes: Whether I am a competent or a incompetent officer. Not whether I am a woman.”

Sathe certainly has her work cut out for her. The Arthur Road prison is horribly overcrowded (around 180 prisoners stay in a cell meant for 50), the food is of poor quality, sodomy is said to be rampant and prison guards, it is said, collect a hafta to provide goodies for those who have the money to pay.

And the number of deaths in custody are rising, the latest being Gateway killer Uzer Patel, who, the police say, died of Aids. Sathe defends herself: “At Arthur Road prison, prisoners come from all over Maharashtra for better treatment, which is not available at the district level. So, some of them succumb to their illnesses.” And Patel? “When Patel entered the jail, he already had a lot of health problems,” she insists.

What about the sodomy? Not as bad as is reported in the press, she says.

And hafta? “Once your image is established, nobody will dare offer you a bribe,” she says. “Initially, people would test me by offering me a plot in some housing society. Others would say, ‘Madam, your house looks very simple. So many big people come to your house and you live so simply. Let me decorate it for you.’”

She says she dealt with all of them with her 3-C formula:
1) Do not entertain Corrupt people.
2) Do not entertain the Chaaplus (flatterers).
3) Do not entertain the Chuglikhor (those who tell tales).

During my research for this piece, I was intrigued to discover that even a tough-as-nails jail superintendent can have rumours of the personal kind floating around her. When I ask her about them, she looks unfazed. “This happens with every working woman in India,” she says. “There is a saying in Hindi: Haathi chalta bazaar, to kutte bhonkte hazaar ('When the elephant walks through the market, the dogs will bark'). In my profession, when people want to bring a person down, they will accuse a man of being corrupt, a woman of sleeping around. As for me, I am answerable only to my conscience and to God.”
The balm of music

Sathe was born in Kolkata, the daughter of a scientist who worked in the central government. She studied in Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Chandigarh and did her masters in social work in Nagpur, specialising in criminology and correctional administration. After sitting for a state public service examination, she was selected in 1995 and, following a two-year probation, she became superintendent of the jail at Satara. There, she conducted innovative tobacco-free and health camps. Later, she had stints at Akola and Byculla, before getting the prestigious Arthur Road posting in February 2003. In March 2005, she became the principal of the Jail Officer’s Training College in Pune. A little more than a year later, she was posted once again to Arthur Road prison.

Has the constant interaction with criminals deadened her sensibilities? Killed something inside her? Sathe shakes her head. “When I go back to my family every day (she stays in a three-bedroom quarters on the top floor with her husband and daughter), I feel a sense of peace.” Incidentally, it is compulsory for the jail staff to stay in the prison.

“You have to meditate a lot,” she continues. “You have to listen to good music and read good books.” What kind of books? The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma and The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown are those that come to mind for her. And what kind of music does she listen to? Strictly classical-- singer Kishori Amonkar and flautist Hari Prasad Chaurasia. “Good music relaxes you,” she says.
Like the average over-stressed Mumbaikar, Swati Sathe needs to let go sometimes, I guess.