By ANJALI NAURIYAL
Hard Work and Success happened. Life happened on its own terms and happened fast and now its nearing retirement time for Ashok Kumar, IPS, one of the most popular DGPs Uttarakhand has had.
Life was what happened to him when he was busy making no plans whatsoever. There were plenty of ups and downs, but he enjoyed the journey of discovery at close quarters. There were moments of mountaintops and moments of deep valleys of despair, but every single event in his life offered an opportunity and he embraced it each and every time.
Childhood in Panipat District
“Actually, I had never planned anything for my life. I just explored the self in the journey of life,” he confesses. The only time I really worked hard was for the Civil Services, the rest just happened,” he reveals with a smile. “We were a shopkeeper’s family in Village Kurana, Panipat District, though my grandfather was an Ayurvedacharya. All of us siblings had to man the shop by turns. I did like sports and would love to play village games like Gulli Danda. Like all other youths in the village I too dreamt of joining the forces, which was considered a huge achievement in the village. Our village school was only till 8th and later it went up to 10th. Our Maths teacher was a record holder of the village school. No one had broken his record for years. As I was sharp in Maths, he would often say in class, this boy will break my record one day. Now this got registered in my mind somehow and kind of put pressure on me. But, it so happened, that one of my very hard working seniors broke Masterji’s record. So, now, everyone wanted me to break his record. I did that with 712 marks in class 10.”
“One of my very fond memories is of the day of my final results. My mother would start preparing and distributing sweets from morning, itself, knowing full well that I would emerge the topper each time.”
15 paisa postcard decided choice of Sonipat
“Sonipat was very far from my village compared to Panipat. But a 15 paisa postcard made me choose. This college offered me double the scholarship than what was offered by the Haryana board. I was in the merit list of the Haryana board.”
“All my teachers wanted me to become an engineer or a doctor. But I was mortally afraid of dissecting frogs. So, the engineering stream was decided and for class 11, I came to District Sonipat.”
“Here, eighty percent students were from farmers’ families. Shopkeepers’ families were about 5 percent. And the remaining were from artisan and SC families, etc. These farmer boys, who would make fun of me and considered me a weak guy, dominated the class. They would challenge my toughness and fitness and say we work 8 hours in the fields and you are a weakling. I would take their challenges and the entire day beat them in their own game of cutting the crop faster than them in the fields. It used to be shocking for them. In Sonipat, the target of the entire class was Kurukshetra Engineering College (now NIT or National Institute of Technology). Three Jain brothers whose father was Superintending Engineer with the Delhi Electricity Board had joined here to avoid the 10 plus 2 plus 3 educational format.
Two of those brothers were preparing for IIT. I heard the name IIT for the first time from them. Under their influence, I too gave the exam. Again, I would give the credit to my mathematical skills and found myself on the rolls of IIT Delhi.
Love for Literature
“My reading habit developed in school itself. I had read the Mahabharat in class four. Mahabharat, I must have read 10 times in the winter holidays. What appealed to me were the war scenes. The 18-day War was really fascinating. Ramayan, I read in class 10, and found it a little dull compared to Mahabharat, though we would witness the Ramlila in the village every year. Then a senior friend introduced Osho Rajneesh to me, gave me his books and explained how his ideas were truly revolutionary. One idea that struck me was that he insisted that we all should write a daily diary if we wished to be close to ourselves. So, from the first day of class 11, I began writing my diary. And that’s how I culled 70 percent details for my book Human in Khaki.
IIT Delhi Days
IIT Delhi, where he did his Mechanical Engineering, was a culture shock for him. The youngster from a Hindi-speaking background was faced with batchmates from English speaking backgrounds. “Here is where I raised my level up within a semester by obtaining A Grade in English. There were very few like me in the general category. Though from the reserved quota, there were those who went into depression due to caste or community differences. But I rose from rock bottom thanks to my energy levels. I enthusiastically participated in various activities and bagged several accolades such as the best author, best captain, best secretary, etc. I also promoted a movement advocating that exams should also be held in Hindi,” he shared.
Continuing, he added, “In those days there was a lot of talk of Brain Drain or the White Elephants that IITians had become. So, I decided not to go abroad. Though I must add that, eventually, it was the IITians who changed the image of India from being regarded as a country of snake charmers to that of software nerds.”
“I did my internship at Usha Fans and literally could not cope up 8 hours of boring work. So, the myth of Mechanical Engineering broke for me. That’s when I decided to try for the civil services under the influence of two batchmates. I worked hard for two years, the only time I burnt the midnight oil. I was never studious. I loved the preparation for this exam. This was so different from studying for mechanical engineering.”
IPS provided great job satisfaction
“When I joined the IPS it was with a vision and intention to serve the country. But, I was disillusioned when many of my fellow IPS officers thought otherwise. It was shocking for me. But in the long run there were many who did commendable work within the cadre. To begin with, I was in a dilemma whether I had joined the right service, but today I can say that I made the right choice.
I loved working for the people and loved to connect with them directly and address their issues. I have enjoyed policing and working to cure society of its illnesses. From being called a freaky guy I came to be known as a workaholic. My work became my hobby and I loved winning the love and admiration of the people though there were many brickbats, too.”
Finding the right spouse
“As an IPS officer, I was flooded with marriage proposals. In those days, there was a lot of dowry offered and many approached my parents. But simpletons as they were, they never got carried away by those offers. When they asked me, I said I wanted an educated and working wife and so we selected an alliance through a matrimonial column and that is how Alaknanda came into my life. She was the first girl I met through the matrimonial. My in-laws were shocked that there was no demand from our end, he recalled. “The starting phase of marriage was tough. My salary was Rs 3200 and a saree in those days cost about Rs 3500 and that was quite an issue between us but gradually things changed. We built our marriage on teamwork.” “Mutual respect, a healthy dose of admiration and never-ending love and grace did the trick for us. And today we are blessed with three grown up children ready to conquer the world.”
Ashok’s better half Alaknanda Ashok is an achiever in her own right. Presently she is Dean, College of Technology, GB Pant University of Agricultural and Technology. She did her BTECH and MTECH in Electrical and Electronics Engineering. Thereafter, she did Digital Image Processing at IIT Roorkee. 31 years of marriage have been wonderful years. She is full of praise when she talks about him. “I admire the fact that a simple man from a totally village background made it a point to introduce a humanitarian approach in his policing efforts. He has always given priority to people’s problems. When our salaries were not too much even then he was always ready to support his family. He motivated me to start earning myself to add to the comfort of the family. He encouraged me to do my PhD and willingly looked after the kids when I was busy. ‘Human in Khaki’ was born out of his desire to highlight the positive side of the police. His love for sports and fitness and time management is a good lesson that all our children have imbibed from him. He is an ideal not only for them but his entire village and community. He is particularly sensitive to women’s issues.
Pics: Bhumesh Bharti