Of Policing, Proficiency and Poetry: Tejdeep Kaur Menon

An IPS officer, poet, social worker, daughter, mother and wife – these are the real life roles played by Tejdeep Kaur Menon on a daily basis – on the occasion of Women’s Day, she shares a bit about portraying them all flawlessly.

March 8th every year is celebrated as Women’s Day, hence the entire month is usually dedicated to women. During which, strong women of today are celebrated, for just being themselves. Keeping that in mind, we decided to catch up with one such woman of substance, who has made it truly on her terms.
Charming, passionate and strong are words which describe Tejdeep Kaur Menon to the hilt. It is only when you meet a personality like this that you realize how women, too, in today’s world are out there to make a mark for themselves. Presently the Director General of Police, heading the Telangana State Special Protection Force and the Government Printing and Stationary Departments, she has published four anthologies so far which apart from women’s empowerment include poems about conservation of Nature and protection of its biodiversity.

Read on more to know more about this Top Cop, her poetic side and the problems she faced because of her gender, in the male-dominated field of hers.

By Anahita Ahuja

How’s the journey so far been?

Tough… really tough. Sometimes things are quite rocky and then it settles down. I guess there isn’t any other way either. After all, one has to keep their head above the water, no matter what, right?

What about the support of your family through this?

Well, parents are always supportive. They know that you set out in the big bad world and you want to leave your mark, but apart from that, not everybody is supportive at all times. Also, there are times when you need much more than just support, for example, when you’re in districts on duty and your kids are young. That’s when they need you and you need them. Such problems exist and sadly there isn’t anything one can do about it.

One wants to be a good mother and a good wife but too many things happen at the same time. It’s sad that proving years in a woman’s career and the child bearing years come together in her life – whether you accept it or not. But now it is all behind, so I guess all’s good.

“I really want more women to join the forces. They need to come in large numbers and feminize this so called masculine institution“

What about the husband…?

From your husband, it isn’t really the support that you need – you need love, you need him to be that big cushion, and you need constructive feedback. Thankfully for me, that’s what he has been doing. He’s been trying to pitch in his bit to make me feel that. In fact, so often he’s been putting himself behind to give me support – but in his job also he needs a lot of support, it varies from time to time. Sometimes he’s on the ramp while sometimes I am.

How do you balance it all?

Balance the marriage? You love each other so much that you decide there is nothing else in the world that is more important than each other so you both work and find a way. And if you ask me about the work front, then it is best described as a see-saw. When the profession needs it all, you don’t even look at the family and then there are times when you’re needed at home, so then you put that one hold.

What made you get into this line?

My grandfather was a police officer, so I never wanted to look away from it. I grew up wanting to be this and I worked towards it.

Do you remember your first day at duty?

Yes! I joined as an officer in Vijayawada when K.S. Vyas was the Superintendent of Police. And for me, I was totally awestruck! Here was a man who was booming and I seemed to be one woman surrounded only by men. It was quite something! Back then, I didn’t realize that I’d require much more than I thought. In a world full of men, I did have to go out of my way to be what I desired.

What were the other difficulties you faced as a woman?

The biggest issue that existed back then were the toilets! There were no toilets for about 30 years of my life – in fact, throughout my career that’s been an issue, there would be no toilets anywhere, leaving me stuck. I’d have to plan my time, my day to get to a toilet or dig up a trench and put a tent to be able to use it. When I was pregnant especially, it was a major problem. The other was when you were not doing too well and you had your menstrual cycle – to be able to deal with that was tough, too. But then slowly you learn to cope with all these things and overcome them. Having said that, things are better for today’s woman, but we really went through the hard way.

Also, now we have fully paid maternity leave; my time it was only for three months and the concept of paternity leave didn’t exist. No one ever thought that the father was needed at home when he had a baby. I worked till the last day of both my pregnancies. In fact, I remember, after I had my Caesarean, my maternity leave was canceled!

Ouch! Must have been really tough…

Yes, it was. But then, I wanted to save each day of the leaves for when my child was born as I knew that my baby would need me.

Getting here has not been easy. Especially because we women are stuck in a labyrinth somewhere – at some point something will pop up and hit you, one needs to make sure you regress. It is not a conducive or congenial atmosphere – people might give it different names but the real reason is only your gender.

Moving on, what are the qualities that have helped you rise in your career?

I feel I am courageous, friendly, I introspect well and I am gender fair– neither very feminine nor masculine – I have tried to keep a balance and that helps, I think. I am very hard working and meticulous with whatever I do, and multitasking comes very easily to me – it has its own flaws and takes a toll but it does help in many ways. I am a good homemaker so I could always quickly finish tasks at home and then focus on work. I have a lot of empathy; I have been through hard times myself so I know what it is to go through rough patches.

 What advice would you want to give to working women?

If you decide that you have to work and that you are going to live off your work, then give it your best shot without any compromise. Learn to be male friendly – men don’t understand – one needs to tell them for them to. For example, if you need to go home early, then you make sure you tell them why and explain the reason, they will understand. Try and not be frivolous. Another thing is seek the support from your family. Tell them about the work pressure you’re going through and ask them for help and support. Someone else will take care of the meal, or get it from outside and then wash the dishes. This will help you be at peace. If you keep getting angry without telling them, it will only frustrate you and nothing else.

You’re quite a lot into community service…

Yes, I am deeply involved in Conservation and Rejuvenation of Water Bodies and Forest areas. Under the leadership the TSSPF, I have adopted the Ameenpur Lake, Fox Sagar and Ananthagiri reserve forests and initiated measures to ensure they remain as bird sanctuaries without being lost to urbanization.

I have also been closely associated with working towards tackling crime against women, welfare of policemen and social work, including blood and eye donation campaigns.

How do you manage your time?

Well, there is nothing else I do! (laughs)

Let’s talk about Tejdeep, the poet…

I’ve been penning my thoughts down as poetry ever since I can remember. They were even published at my school and college level, and I always received a lot of compliments for them. But back then, I thought that only the English could write English! (laughs) What gave me more satisfaction was when my work was used for social causes. So far they have been used for eye pledge, blood donation, cleft lip and palate issues, police welfare and HIV campaigns.

I’ve published four anthologies – Caught In A Stampede(1995), Five Feet Seven And A Half Inches (1997), Minnaminni (2001) and Oysters In Pain ( 2004) – which have been appreciated and acknowledged by literary critics and journals in India and abroad, and won me many awards too.

It feels good that it is not just poetry about one soul meandering somewhere but meaningful words together that are multidimensional.

What else are you passionate about?

The most important part of my personal life is my granddaughter Bani. Through love for her we rediscover our love for humanity. She is one of the biggest inspirations in my life.
My garden and house. I have a lovely home and a beautiful garden that I am trying to make into a butterfly park – I have 12 species of them! I have large birds and bird feeders in my house, which again, I love.

Is that what keeps you busy in your free time?

Yes, apart from that, I spend time with the family. I have an elderly mother, so I have to take care of her.

I enjoy spending time with my son Shabad and daughter-in-law Deeptha. Shabad has been a fountain head of support to me. He’s always been there to give advice, encourage and motive me.

I am an administrator/co-founder for a group called The Global 100 Sarees Pact Group. It has over 15000 members where we promote wearing sarees. We started this group because we saw today’s working women don’t prefer the most dominant attire of our country.

“Working women should learn to be male friendly – men don’t understand – one needs to tell them for them to”

And what inspires you?

Success, love, affection and appreciation. But thinking about it, I don’t quite need more inspiration, I am self motivated beyond a certain point and that’s what keeps me going. It is when I feel I’ve done a good job, with internal satisfaction, I feel like it is worth it all. If at any point, I am able to change things for the better, that is more than enough for me. So mine are all internal sources.

Any message before you sign off?

I really want more women to join the forces. They need to come in large numbers and feminize this so called masculine institution. It is only then, that there will be a change in it.