I had not taken her seriously when my one week old wife Neerja had, during a serious conversation, casually remarked,
“People flaunting big mustachios cannot be very brainy persons because their intellect comes out of their head and rests in their mustachios.”
I had not only disbelieved her but had also felt offended because in my younger days I also used to keep mustachios (medium sized) which I used to straighten of and on, and then twist them at the ends to make them look like those of Devanand in ‘Hum Dono’. When she realized that I was taking her remark to be a caution against my sword-like mustachios getting bigger and thicker, she clarified soothingly,
“This observation is not my own but that of my Papa (who was also an I.P.S. officer), who had a sixth sense of assessing people’s personality correctly. He had come to this conclusion after observing the behavior of quite a few of his relatives and colleagues, who sported big mustachios.”
Although I have never admitted it to my wife, her remark was one of the reasons among others of my saying good-bye to my well-nourished and well-flourished mustachios later in life. However, the strongest reason for this painful parting with my mustachios was not her remark but my posting as S. P. Basti under Mr. Ram Singh, D.I.G. Gorakhpur range. Mr. Ram Singh was a British-timer police officer and he was also a match in white color and handsome looks to many British officers. He had come for annual inspection of my district in an evening of winter season and was scheduled to stay there for two days. During those good old days Annual Inspections of districts used to be of great importance for S. Ps and preparations regarding office records, crime reports, investigation results, prosecution of cases, etc. were given as much importance as those of white-washing of office and residential buildings, of piloting, escorting, receiving, feeding and keeping-in-good-humor the D.I.G.
I am not revealing any secret of the administration by confessing that no district officer likes a very hard-task-master type of inspecting officer and I was no exception. I had received the D.I.G. at the P.W.D. inspection house with as smart a salute and as loud clicking of my heals as I could manage. I was quite impressed to note that the response of the D.I.G. was no less smart. Actually he appeared to overshadow even the guards in smartness when he was presented with a guard of honor. I was getting overwhelmed and over conscious in dealing with such a smart D. I. G. His mustachios, which were double the size of mine and more straight than mine, were poor consolation. In fact they were only further unnerving me. However, one trait of the D. I. G. gave me an inner hint of his not being such a hard-task-master; and this was his unstoppable habit of enjoying every free moment of his life in twisting his mustachios.
After the D.I.G. had visited the lavatory, settled down in the massive sofa and the initial formalities sugarcoated in flattery like ‘I hope the journey was not too tiring Sir.’, ‘Thankfully the weather is quite pleasant Sir’, etc. were over, the orderly dressed in a freshly washed shining white dress brought tea in a freshly washed shining white tray. The properly trained orderly served the tea first to the D.I.G., and then to myself in accordance with the protocol of our ranks. The Dy. S.Ps., R.I., Inspr/ Kotwali, and a dozen other police officers were waiting outside for any of them could be called for any question relating to work or, more likely, for any arrangement of personal comfort to the D.I.G. Their ears were standing erect like that of a rabbit lest any of them miss to hear the call at the first stance. Although the older and experienced among them were comparatively relaxed, the younger ones were on the verge of wetting their pants (frankly speaking, I did not check anybody’s but I strongly suspect that the fidgety young Dy, S.P. (under training) would have found it hard to keep his trousers dry).
Unlike his external demeanor I found the D.I.G. to be rather chatty, because once the tea slipped into his throat - dexterously bypassing his thick mustachios - he started talking about 'shikar’ (big game like tiger, leopard, etc.) and enquired about it’s availability in the district. I would have loved to say “yes” and I hated it the most to tell him that although Basti was full of forest during British days, now there does not exist any forest big enough to support ‘shikar’. I had expected some disappointment on the face of the D.I.G., but I could not see even a trace of it when he spoke,
“Oh, it's immaterial. I have had enough of ‘shikar’ during my police service. In fact when I was S.P. Etawah, I had even kept a tiger as a pet.”
I was more amused than impressed to hear that, because that seemed to me to be the most effective way of keeping scores of ‘Fariyadis’, who swarm the S.P.’s residence right from early morning, at bay. However, apparently I said (as if surprised and overwhelmed),
“Really Sir. That is fantastic.”
My expression must have created an impression of extremely keen interest in listening to the story of Tiger-Pet, because thereafter the D.I.G. kept on narrating every detail of it so incessantly that it was only after about an hour that I could manage to interrupt him to extend invitation of dinner at my residence at 8 P. M. The D.I.G. thankfully accepted and as only about an hour was left before dinner time, I took my leave hurriedly.
The D.I.G. was punctual to the dot. His punctuality again unnerved me a bit because he had arrived at my residence before any other guests- D.M., Judge, C.M.O., etc. - had come, and I thought that he might not feel particularly pleased about this. I received him and requested to sit on the main sofa where an ‘Angithi’ was kept in front to keep him warm. I sat by his side on another sofa. The D.I.G. soon made himself comfortable and restarted the story of the pet tiger from the point it was left untold at the P.W.D. inspection house. However, before he could make much headway, the D.M. arrived. The two of them greeted each other, and soon after the D.M. had made himself comfortable, the D.I.G. told that he was narrating the story of a tiger whom he had kept as a pet during his posting as S.P. Etawah. Then in order to keep the D.M. abreast, he restarted the story from the very beginning. And then as other guests kept on coming, he restarted it quite a few times for the ‘benefit’ of each of them. The constipation caused by over consumption was getting writ large on some faces, when my wife tactfully intervened and announced the dinner. We moved to the dining room and the dinner was eaten in comparative peace.
However, after the main course was over and we had moved back to the drawing room the D.I.G. picked up the lost thread without waiting for the coffee. After the coffee was over, other guests started excusing themselves because it was getting late in the wintry night. The D.I.G. stopped in between only to say good-night to them. After the last guest had left, the host (myself) remained the only audience, who was as much captive as submissive. So the pet tiger’s story continued until late night and ended only after the tiger died of constipation despite vet’s untiring efforts to loosen its bowels.
I was totally exhausted by the time the D.I.G. left for the inspection house and was mortally afraid that during the long drawn inspection next day I might fall asleep. Next morning I was woken up early by my wife because the D.I.G. was scheduled to inspect the parade in police lines. He came as punctually as ever, inspected the parade and appeared quite pleased. Then I went home and glanced through the pile of files on my residential office’s table before proceeding to office for inspection. The D.I.G. came, went to each and every room of the office, spoke pleasantly to the staff and then took the inspecting officer’s seat. I put files of police buildings, crime, prosecution, etc. before him for his perusal. He opened one of them. I was looking at him with trepidation because he had picked up the dacoity file whose number was fairly large in my district. Then to my surprise he asked,
“Dwivedy, have you not prepared an inspection note for me?”
I had not expected this because I knew that inspection note is dictated by the D.I.G. to his C.A. The D.I.G. noticed my consternation and added,
“Don’t worry. You write it at your leisure and send a copy for my signature.”
And then the inspection was over. Subsequently I sent a draft inspection note to the D.I.G., which he signed and issued. Only alterations that he made were for adding a few clauses in my praise.
One day when we were exchanging pleasantries, the veteran D.M. asked me,
“How did your inspection go?”
On hearing the details from me he had a hearty laugh and told,
“You really earned those praises by hearing him so patiently. However, this is nothing as compared to the story of a British-timer I.C.S. officer who was commissioner of Varanasi division. He had inspected Gorakhpur district (during British period Gorakhpur was within the jurisdiction of Varanasi division) for seven days. He remained busy in ‘shikar’ for all the seven days and never went to D.M.’s office for inspection. After his return to Varanasi, he sent an inspection note, which read as follows,
‘I went for inspection of Gorakhpur district and stayed there for seven days. I had inspected this district last year also, and written an inspection note. I have nothing to add. The D.M. is very familiar with each block of the forest area of the district, and (therefore) he is doing extremely well.”
I asked the D.M., “Did the commissioner sport big mustachios?”
“Oh! He did and loved to twist them incessantly.”