Cut to the chase
Formidable cop, retired IPS officer Meeran Chadha Borwankar's by-the-book character meets a disruptor in Inspector Chougle. What happens next is a series of cases from her own career
I was getting irritated, feeling lost too. Lost because we had made no headway in this headless case, literally. I was also apprehensive of the local media and my seniors losing their patience. Having found a decapitated dead body on the national highway, hands and feet tied, in a gunny bag, had been a gruesome sight to say the least. No clue for forty-eight hours and here the local inspector seemed more worried about my stay and food arrangements than in solving the case. It was the last straw."
Thus, begins a chapter in Inspector Chougle (Vishwakarma Publications), a fictionalised version of the cases handled by Dr Meeran Chadha Borwankar, retired IPS officer who served as the Joint Commissioner (crime) in Mumbai, Commissioner of Police in Pune and Chief of Maharashtra Prisons Department. The story is written in the first person, representing Borwankar, and has a prime character after whom the book is named. The 62-year-old 1981 batch IPS officer says, all the chapters in the book, each a case of its own, are based on the cases she encountered while in the force.
"Instead of attributing certain characters to different officers, I created Chougle who symbolises, what we call, the thinking of a field officer. The way their thought process works is what I have pinned down in one character."
Chougle, is practical and action oriented, says Borwankar. "He is critical of delays in the criminal justice system and looks for short cuts. I, as an IPS officer, am portrayed as bookish. For instance, if there's a trial that we are unable to expedite within the system, Chougle finds a way out while I am unable to. But, I stick to my document-based policing and cut a sorry figure in the book most of the time."
Why would someone portray themselves in this light?
Borwankar says simply "because this is the reality".
"Most of the time, IPS officers emphasise systematic investigation as per the criminal justice system. It's there, but it's not working. He [Chougle] represents short cuts, which surprisingly, work. In one chapter, for instance, he picks up a violent husband and throws him out of the house. I say that counselling is a better way, but it requires patience and is a time-consuming system. In India we are running short of both, patience and time. It may work in the end, but the wait is so long that people and our own officers tend to lose patience. The book is a satire."
In the case of the headless body too, another inspector calls Chougle who uses his good offices with a forensic doctor to help identify a nearly decomposed body. It's what cracks the case, though at the time it's called 'Halph Detection' (because the identity isn't confirmed, neither is the killer).
Has Borwankar ever felt the need to follow Chougle's methods?
"There have been several occasions when I took Chougle's way out. I don't agree with his methodology, but I felt helpless."
The book is Borwankar's second. "The first one, titled Leaves Of Life (in English), is a motivational book targeted at youth who, like me, may have studied in small towns and in Hindi medium, and may not have the advantage that an urban upbringing provides. To them, I wanted to say that they should have confidence to do well. If I can, so can they."
Borwankar, who now works in the field of criminal justice system, writes columns and is on the boards of some companies and NGOs (including one that deals with the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act), says writing fiction came naturally to her.
Chougle, himself, was a character that came from a column that she writes for a national daily. In responding to a story of molestation in Bengaluru, Borwankar for the first time invoked the Inspector, using his perspective to suggest that the man be thrashed to fix him. Borwankar herself represented the book-and-trial method. "I got so many phone calls and SMSes saying Chougle is right. Many people didn't realise he was a character, some reporters wanted his number to interview him." "I wrote eight episodes about Inspector Chougle for a web publication Indus Dictum, again, with good response."
In fact, she says, even as recently as three weeks ago, while at a meeting in Niti Ayog, New Delhi, a law college professor from Hyderabad told her that he'd read about ACP Chougle (unwittingly promoting him). "Perhaps that's the title of the next," she laughs.
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