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Of Long Walks and Women in Police
I often take long walks. It is almost every day. I like the slow pace and the sights it affords. My relationship with my city, i.e. Ahmedabad, is defined by these walks. Sometimes these walks are along the same route. Other times I change the route to add a sense of novelty to it. The same route does not disappoint either because there is always something new happening every day.
While walking one day, I suddenly noticed two women police officers in a conversation on the side of the road. There was not anything special about it. It was not like I didn’t see them everyday. They were everywhere. They were on traffic signals, outside Police Stations, on Activas at the end of their shift going home. They have become as common a sight as people speeding through a traffic signal in the last four seconds. That was the thing. I was taking their presence for granted as if they were always there. I found myself thinking of a time when their presence was not a common sight. I can’t quite put my finger on when their presence on the roads became something ordinary, something you stopped noticing. Now whenever I see them I feel myself instinctively smiling. Sometimes I want to stop and talk to them, ask them about something. Though I never do and put it off thinking one these days I will.
Rebecca Solnit, in her book “Recollections of my Non-Existence” talks about what it means to have a voice. She says to have a voice means “not just the animal capacity to utter sounds but the ability to participate fully in conversations that shape your society, your relations to others and your own life. There are three things that matter in having a voice: audibility, credibility, and consequence”. I felt that voice in the sight of these women police officers on our roads. Their presence was conveying to me so much about my claim to a public space.
So much of change is about things becoming ordinary, when they no longer strike us as something out of place. I am sure that this change too, namely Women in Police Forces, is a result of so many incremental steps over the years. To one again quote Rebecca Solnit, “Things are one way and then another and the transitions are hard to mark”. From change in societal attitudes to a virtuous cycle of women inspiring more women to join have contributed to this transition. I admit that we still have a long way to go but I hope I continue seeing more of these seemingly ordinary sights on my walks.