Durga talks about life with Kerala State Transport Commissioner Rishiraj Singh
By Shevlin Sebastian
At 6 a.m., on a day in February, 1987, Durgeshwari Singh was woken up by her mother at her home in Jaipur. “Durga, you are not going to believe this, but the boy has come to see you,” she said. “So early?” said Durga, feeling shocked.
So, while her mother busied herself with talking with Rishiraj Singh, Durga got ready. It was at 8 a.m. when the two saw each other. “My first impression was that Rishiraj looked so strict, while I am just the opposite,” says Durga, who at 19, was six years younger than the prospective bridegroom.
Rishiraj was frank from the beginning. “He told me that even though I belonged to the royal family of Jaipur, I must not expect much in Kerala, where he was posted,” says Durga. Rishiraj said that as a police officer his pay was only Rs 3000 a month. “We will have to manage with that,” he said. “You will have to live in a small house. Are you sure you want to marry me?”
Durga had no doubts. “I realised that he had a mind of his own,” she says. Rishiraj also liked Durga and said yes immediately. When Durga's mother said that maybe Rishiraj could consult with his father, he replied in the negative. “It is I who is getting married, and not my father,” he said. And when asked about the dowry, Rishiraj asked for Rs 1. “He still has that note with him,” says Durga. Later, when Durga asked why he had come so early, he had replied, “I wanted to see you before you put on your make-up,” he said.
The marriage took place in Jaipur on November 1 (Kerala Day), 1987. In traditional Rajput fashion, Rishiraj wore a pink turban and came to the venue on a white horse. He was received by Durga's godfather, Colonel Bhawani Singh, the titular Maharaja of Jaipur.
For their honeymoon, the couple went to Kovalam. “I was seeing water and so much of greenery for the first time,” says Durga. “And when we walked on the beach, Rishiraj was always walking five feet ahead, so I was running to catch up with him. I still am.”
Regarding his plus points, Durga says, “Rishiraj is a good and honest human being. He is like Gandhiji, but I cannot be Kasturba. From the time I have been married to Rishiraj I have never been able to buy a pair of gold earrings, because we could not afford it. If a police officer says he can afford to buy gold, he is lying.”
Asked about how many officers are honest, Durga says, “Only 10 per cent. Dishonesty does not mean only money. It can be perks. Favours. Good postings. Free air tickets and holidays. Most of the time, the wives instigate their husbands to take bribes.”
In fact, when Rishiraj, as Joint-Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), was investigating the Adarsh Housing Society scam in Mumbai, some people came to the house to meet Durga. “They did not dare approach Rishiraj, because he would have thrown them out,” she says. They offered Rs 50 crore if Rishiraj would go easy on the probe. “Only a person like Rishiraj could say no, and abide by the rules,” says Durga.
Rishiraj received his ethical values from his grandmother. “She played a very influential role,” says Durga. “She would tell him stories about the glorious exploits of Rana Pratap Singh [the Rajput ruler of Mewar].” Rishiraj's grandfather, Shiv Dhan Singh, as well as his father were in the police force. Both had a reputation for honesty.
Meanwhile Kerala's Transport Commissioner has been labelled a superstar by no less a star than Mohanlal for his ceaseless efforts in bringing down the alarming accident rates in Kerala. “It was very nice of Mohanlal to praise Rishiraj,” says Durga. “My husband knows what it is like for parents to lose a child. Thanks to his work we are receiving the blessings of so many people.”
Durga also feels blessed that Rishiraj is her spouse, but there are drawbacks.
One is that he is hardly ever at home. “He is a police officer 24/7,” says Durga. “The job is his passion.”
When the children, Chhatrasal, 24, and Yashodrara, 23, were younger they did miss his presence. When Rishiraj was Commissioner of Police, Thiruvananthapuram, he would come home late at night. By this time the children were sleeping. Then they would leave for school early in the morning when Rishiraj was fast asleep. “Sometimes, they would ask, 'Why doesn't Papa comes with us to Kovalam?” says Durga. “Why don't we have picnics? Why can't we go to the Taj hotel like the children of other officers? I tried to explain why he could not come. After a while, they got used to his absence.”
But today Rishiraj is very close to his progeny. “He cannot think beyond his children,”says Durga. “They joke around like friends. They are free to talk to him about everything under the sun.”
And the family loves the state. “Kerala is beautiful and green,” says Durga. “People are very nice to us. They are educated and intelligent and can identify who is the right and wrong officer.”
Meanwhile, Durga is proud of Rishiraj's achievements. “He made a mark as a DIG [Deputy Inspector-General] in the Special Protection Group looking after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” she says. “He excelled in the CBI. Our family has seen a lot of good times with him. I would like to get married to him for seven more lifetimes.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)