I end most of my training programs and discourses with this story:
A man noticed a boy being drawn in by the waves. The boy was drowning. It was evident that the boy did not know swimming. The man ran and dived into the sea. In moments, he caught the boy by his hair and pulled him back to the shore. The boy had by then swallowed a lot of water. The man extended the first aid he knew and the boy started breathing again. Knowing that the boy had been revived, the man moved on… almost as if he had done nothing. The man would have hardly walked a few steps when he sensed someone holding his legs tight…it was the boy who he had just rescued. Holding the legs of the man, the boy said, “Thank you for saving my life.” The man smiled at the boy with a lot of affection, held him by his shoulders and said, “My son, it is okay about your thank you, but please make the life I saved worth living.” The boy was moved and the man moved on.
Little did I think that I would meet a man who is a living testimony to this story. The words of Richard Bach “ What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly”,- always linger in me. Providence it is that I met a man for whom what appeared to be the end actually turned out to be a beginning; what appeared to be scars turned out to be stars; what appeared to be death turned out to be a turning point; what appeared to be the end turned out to be a bend; what seemed a date with death eventually turned out to be a date with destiny.
The year was 1989. A young IPS (Indian Police Service) officer, just twenty-eight years of age, was undergoing his training at Tuticorin. All the officers led by the SP(Superintendent of Police) Anoop Jaiswal, had gone on picnic and had hit the beach. After a while, one of the waves attempted to consume the young officer. He was drawn in and nobody noticed what was happening. Moments later, the SP spotted the officer, his face covered with froth and blood, almost floating on the surface. Taking the help of a few others, he pulled the young officer to the shore. On examining him, the SP realized that there was no pulse. Fortunately, the SP knew that it takes a few minutes for death to happen when a person drowns in the sea. Screaming “Oh God” and acting with tremendous presence of mind, the SP saved the life of the young IPS officer. The fairy tale ending to this incident is that the officer's wedding was scheduled just a week later an it turned out to be a happy occasion.
Two years passed by. The year was 1991 and the day was May 21 st . The Same IPS officer was now posted as ASP (Assistant Superintendent of Police) at Kancheepuram in Tamilnadu. It was just 10 days since the birth of his first daughter. The family was still in a state of celebration. It was around 10.20 p.m. The place was Sriperumpudur. The ASP was standing just 3 feet from the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and controlling the crowd with his ceremonial stick. A mighty blast happened… a human bomb had exploded. The heat of the explosion was estimated to be over 2000 degrees centigrade. Rajiv Gandhi had been assassinated, and many people, up to eighteen feet in his vicinity, died on the spot. The mere impact of the shock waves took away many lives. The ASP too was thrown in the air. He suffered 22% burns and multiple fractures. Hundreds of steel pellets had penetrated his body. He lay in a pool of blood. The ASP was immediately removed to a hospital. Though the survived, he had to be on six months ‘special disability leave'. Even today, he has hundreds of steel pellets in his body… but he lives on with anew found sense of purpose. In his won words, “Apart from the physical recovery, I had to fight the mental memories and also the spiritual injuries. But in six months time, I came back as a better and stronger person. I am not free of that memory even for a single moment. But then, a man who has had two near-death experiences has nothing else to fear. I have touched the jaws of death twice and returned as a survivor. Now, every breath is a bonus for me. Probably the Lord has larger plans for me.”
“ My son, it is okay about your thank you but please make the life I saved worth living.”
Existence blessed him with two extended opportunities to live and he made a life out of it. Today he can stand up and proclaim, “In my own ways I have stamped my presence. In my own ways I have touched thousands of lives. In my own ways I have been worthy of every breath.” With great joy, through this edition of ‘A Salute', Frozen Thoughts salutes (a police officer, isn't he?) Prateep V. Philip.
I asked Prateep, “Could you elaborate on what you said, ‘ probably the Lord has larger plans for me'?” Prateep said, “Let me first explain the ‘Lord' and then come to the ‘larger plans'. As a boy, I was always fond of history- not out of academic interest but because I liked regarding about the lives of great people. I was greatly inspired by Napoleon Bonaparte. He changed the map of the world and left a lasting impression on the law and letters of the world; of course, a lot of bloodshed too. I somehow identified myself with Napoleon. On July 31, 1979 I met a friend of mine called Royce. He was on a bike and I was on my bicycle. Seeing a book on Napoleon on my bicycle carrier, Royce asked me, ‘Why read Napoleon? Why not Jesus?' ‘Napoleon is good' I said. Royce replied, ‘Napoleon is good, but Jesus is the best,' and he added, ‘Imperfect men cannot enter holy God'. Royce paved the way for the growth of my spiritual intelligence. He showed me to have a quiet time with God. Bible reading became a part of my life. At 17, Jesus became a part of my life. Jesus means ‘He means ‘ He saved', and I know that he has saved me and is saving me.”
“Speaking about the ‘larger plans',” Prateep elaborated. “On 21 st May 1991, I lay on the ground, writing in pain. Trapped in a mass of bodies, I was dying of thirst. A young boy came up to me, took my head into his lap and gave me water to drink before accompanying me to a nearby hospital. Right through the journey to the hospital he kept pouring drops of water into my mouth. I asked him what his name was, and he replied, ‘Purushothaman ( the ideal man-the best).' After leaving me at the hospital, the boy disappeared. I have not heard of him or met him since. World over they believe that police are supposed to be ‘friends of people', but in that boy I found a ‘friends of police'.”
Prateep continued. “When I was young, like most common men, I too had a phobia of police. I observed that in a lot of people ‘Fear of Crime'. So, when I joined the Indian Police Service, my aim was to humanize the Police force and make it more people-friendly. Purushothaman, by acting as a ‘friend of police', had already planted the seed, which was nourished and nurtured in my mind. And it was that seed that sprouted as a mass movement called ‘Friends of Police'. I pioneered the now internationally acclaimed ‘Friends of Police' Movement, which was later accepted as an International Blueprint for Community Policing.
The movement aims to bring the police and public closer. The public come to know of all the good work that is being done by police and extend help to the police. The police on other hand gain information regarding public sentiments on various issues. The FOP movement today acts as a bridge between the police and the public. I started it in 1993 in Ramnad District of Tamilnadu. Within a few months of its inception, nearly a thousand walks of life volunteered to become recognition of my work, I was awarded the inaugural British Gurukul Scholarship for Excellence and Leadership (1997) for a multi-disciplinary study of management at the London School of Economics. On 4 th July 2002, I was on among five police officers to receive the prestigious new 15,000 Queen's Award for innovation in police training and development.”
Out of curiosity I asked him, “ Has the image of Police now improved among the public?” Prateep replied, “The man donning the khaki uniform is perceived as a corrupt, brutal person, given to frequent us of violence and torture. Every lapse is attributed to ‘corruption'. On the other hand, good work done by the police is rarely noticed and still rarely appreciated. People don't realize the complexity of the policeman's job. At one end he is expected to be soft and kind with public, and at the other end he has to be tough and demanding with the criminals. During the day he needs a tone of voice that can reverberate through the building and that same evening it has to be affectionate to the family. A man in the armed forces is trained to kill; a policeman is trained to save. So he has to be swift, without being impulsive. A policeman's job is to deal with a lot of dichotomies. Through the FOP movement, we have certainly made a beginning in educating the public uniform, but we still have a long way to go.”
“Bureaucracy too must be a big problem for a policeman,” I added. Prateep clarified, “Bureaucracy is a problem in any democracy, but I have also had the privilege of working with some wonderful people. In fact after seeing the success of FOP at Ramnad, the Chief Minister announced the extension of the FOP movement to the entire Tamilnadu. Again as SP of Dharmapuri district, I started a Victim Assistance Program and the Chief Minister sanctioned a corpus fund of Rupees two crores for Victim Assistance. In my case, though a lot of changes I had attempted were met with resistance, they have also received a lot of endorsement.”
In his illustrious career spanning 16 years, Prateep was selected in 1997 as one of the twelve future leaders of the country and was introduced to Queen Elizabeth II at New Delhi. He was nominated for the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service. He was also awarded the ‘Communal Harmony Award' from the Institute of National Integration. He has served as SP of four different districts, as SP of Narcotics Intelligence Bureau of Tamilnadu, as Principal of Police Training College, as DIG SIT, Chennai, as DIG Intelligence, as DIG Tirunelveli Range and now is Chief Vigilance Officer at Chennai.
This eventful journey of peaks and valleys began on 9/9/61 when Prateep was born to K J Philip and Thangamma in Bangalore. Prateep did his schooling and college from St. Joseph's and he believes that ‘Faith and Toil', the motto of his school, has shaped his entire life. An aptitude test was conducted on Prateep when he was in his tenth standard, and he was told, “You have a very investigative mind. You may become a police officer.” Prateep, who in one of his interviews as a school kid said, “I am striving form mediocrity towards excellence,” passed out his Pre University at ‘First' in the state of Karnataka. He secured the National Talent Search Exam Scholarship and was also awarded the National Merit Scholarship. He secured the highest aggregate in B.A.(1983) and secured a University rank in his M.A.(1985). He then worked with State Bank of India as Probationary Officer for two and a half years. He has been an IPS officer since 1987. Prateep is married to Sakhi, and Interior Designer, and has two daughters, Nimisha and Nishali.
Prateep has a flair for languages and knows besides English, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, French, and German. Prateep also has a way with words. Right from his childhood, Prateep has maintained a personal journal titled ‘For your eyes only' and ‘Keep a record to break the record'. He used this journal to record his own list of Do's and Don'ts, his prayer list, and all the quotes and one-liners that he coined by himself.
Prateep elucidated, “The process of maintaining that journal has made me an inspiration to many. A Thermostat is set to a temperature, which it regulates. The mercury level in a thermometer rises with a rise in temperature. Every human being can be like a thermostat, setting his standards with values and principles, and regulate the happenings of his life. Else, he can be a thermometer and succumb to the vagaries of life. A continuous rise in mercury level will eventually cause the thermometer to burst-that is why many so-called successful people commit suicide, unable to manage stress. So I have taken it on me to be a ‘Value Transmitter' to people. I also love to play with words and coin acronyms. To me, IT means Insight Technology, and ATM means Any Time Motivation. For example, to me, IPS means Image, Performance, Substance. Image is the psycho-spiritual aspect; Performance has to do with your competencies; and Substance is what you have. Every body takes care of all the three, but the order is important.. were the order of priorities is IPS, that person's life has an impact on posterity.”
The pinnacle of Prateep's life has been evolving a form of thinking called ‘Equilibrium Thinking'. Explaining it, prateep said, “In all these years of working with people I have realized that the greatest thrill is changing a man. While there are wells of well-being within us, we have only been taught to develop our capabilities, but haven't been taught to develop our ‘copabilities' coping with situations. By over focusing on the power of positive thinking, we have failed to recognize that positive thinking alone does not generate sufficient power to overcome the ingrained negative attitudes, habits, and values. Positive Thinking is only half the truth; it is not the complete truth. It is not enough to plant the seeds; we also have to remove the weeds. We have to teach man not only to be positive but also to beat the negative. We are what we are because of our strengths. But we are not what we could be because of our weaknesses. While training, training is conscious conditioning. In all our training, we have ignorantly ignored the other side of man. So I have evolved a simple technique called ‘Equilibrium Thinking'.”
With the glow of ‘Eureka' in his eyes, Prateep carried on. “Equilibrium is produced when the positive is affirmed and reinforced, and the negative is denied, weakened and uprooted. The prime statement of equilibrium thinking is ‘BE AT IT TO BEAT IT'. ‘Be at it to Beat it' is a kind of soul pulse. For example, ‘Be Calm, Beat Anger'; ‘Be loving, Beat hatred'. Attitude being nothing but a habit of thought, by consistently repeating these auto commands with one's mind and heart, one can create a sense of equilibrium within oneself.”
And then he added, “Today I am taking ET to the corporate world and training police personnel on it. A number of prison reforms have been carried out, but I am attempting at prisoner reform through ET. It is my vision that ‘Equilibrium Thinking' will one day replace ‘Positive Thinking' in the world.”
So when I asked Prateep, ‘where do you go from here in life', he replied, “My life has always been led with the flame of faith, and faith is always subjected to test. There are people for whom their faith is buried within the circumstances of their life, but in my case, my faith circumvents the circumstance itself. I remember once sitting on the seashore at Marina Beach in Chennai and whispering to myself, ‘I am just a grain of sand, but God's horizons are wide'. I have this faith that is His wide horizon, He has a greater plan for me.”
I got out of my seat, hugged him and said, “Love you, Prateep.” Two grains of sand were together for five hours and it is needless to say that everything around them seemed to be in a state of perfect equilibrium.
|"I observed that in a lot of people 'Fear of Police' is greater than the 'Fear of Crime'. So, when I joined the Indian Police Service, my aim was to humanise the Police force and make it more people-friendly. I pioneered the now internationally acclaimed 'Friends of Police' Moverment, which was later accepted as an International Blueprint for Community Policing. The movement aims to bring the police and public closer."|
"A thermostat is set to a temperature, which it regulates. The mercury level in a thermometer rises wiht a rise in temperature. Every human being can be like a thermostat, setting his standards with values and principles, and regulate the happenings of his life. Else, he can be athermometer and succumb to the vagaries of life."
|"It is not enough to plant the seeds; we also have to remove the weeds. We have to teach man not only to be positive but also to beat the negative. We are what we are because of our strengths. But we are not what we could be because of our weaknesses. While conditioning is unconscious training, training is conscious conditioning. In all our training, we have ignorantly ignored the other side of man"|
|"People don't realise the complexity of a policeman's job. At one end he is expected to be soft and kind with public, and at the other end he has to be tough and demanding wiht the criminals. During the day he needs a tone of voice that can reverberate through the building and that same evening it has to be affectionate to the family. A man in the armed forces is trained to kill; a policeman is trained to save. So he has to be swift, with out being impulsive. A police man's job is to deal with a lot of dichotomies."|