From being a homemaker to taking on a dual role as a custodian of the law as well, a cop, Manjari Jaruhar is a fine example of what you can do with your life against all odds. Through her book Madam Sir: The Story of Bihar’s First Lady IPS Officer she narrates her story with ease that also changes the narrative of “poor woman, what will she do now”.

Jaruhar’s story can be best described by Ava DuVernay, Amercian film maker, who is quoted as saying: “Ignore the glass ceiling and do your work. If you’re focusing on the glass ceiling, focusing on what you don’t have, focusing on the limitations, then you will be limited.”

The book states: “After an unexpected turn of events upended the homemaker role her parents had planned for her, Jaruhar overcame extraordinary odds to become the first woman from Bihar to join the country’s elite police cadre. A master class in courage, resilience and leadership, by a woman who broke new ground and thrived despite being viewed with disbelief and derision by her colleagues, Madam Sir is a stirring account of a sheltered girl’s rise to the top echelons of the Indian Police Service.

“But, one shouldn’t forget that Jaruhar also belonged to that privileged section of society where education was primary. Her story has lots of lessons for other women in similar circumstances. It is set against the backdrop of significant events such as the Bhagalpur blindings, the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and Lalu Prasad’s reign in Bihar, and looks at the Indian Police Service from the inside.”

A failed first marriage to a career diplomat and her journey from there is that of grit and defiance – against cliched norms. “The marriage was dead. And I was done with it. I accepted that there was nothing more I could do to resuscitate this relationship. I returned to Delhi and my parents came to take me back to Patna. But I refused – my first act of defiance in life,” she narrates.

“I went to Rao’s Study Circle in Connaught Place, instead, and enrolled myself to prepare for the UPSC examinations. I had made up my mind that, from then on, I would decide what I had to do. It was time to take charge of my life,” Jaruhar says.

Next, she explains what her strategy was when she decided to “reboot” her life, and what probably was the clincher for her getting into the IPS and not the IAS, which was the target. And, she narrates, “Just as I was thanking the panel and leaving the room with a sigh of relief, a big, burly gentleman, who seemed to be a police officer, suddenly shouted in a booming voice, “Stop, stop...I have another question. I stopped in my tracks and turned around.”

“If I ask you to shoot a person, will you shoot him? He asked me.”

“I was stumped.”

“A criminal is running away and I ask you to shoot him, will you? he asked again, more aggressively.”

“I thought about my answer for a second, my heart thumping. ‘If the law permits, I will shoot him,’ I replied in a calm voice. They said I could leave.

Of course, she cleared the interview. She got into the IPS, not the IAS, which was where everyone wanted her to join. It was only later that the she learnt that the officers do not have a blanket licence to shoot, but the law allows an officer to shoot under certain circumstances.

Through the book, she talks about the ups and downs in her professional as well as personal life. It is towards the end that she narrates how she looks back at her 34-year service as an IPS officer or as a woman IPS officer. “The reality is that the ‘woman’ prefix was as much part of my professional journey as the stars on my epaulettes,” she narrates in the chapter ‘A (Woman) Police Officer’.

While most women across professions can empathise with her professional as well as personal challenges as a career woman, a difference could be the family background and the support system that the author had.

She could not have summed it up better than this: “I feel one can be a devoted wife, a doting mother and a good officer; there is no contradiction in these roles. Throughout my service, I have always tried to balance by home and job, never waiting to give up one for the other...”

The book has a bare-all approach and an easy narrative. It is the journey of a woman who had the chance to prove herself against all odds

Madam Sir: The Story of Bihar’s First Lady IPS Officer

Manjari Jaruhar

Publisher: Penguin

Paperback: 288 pages

Price: Rs 399

Check out the book on Amazon here

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