Sudhakar Kamble’s unique journey began with humble beginnings. Hailing from the Sarood village in Kolhapur and growing up in a town where matriculation was the highest one could aspire for, the odds as he puts it, was stacked against him, the trajectory of his life was already written. Despite the academic limitations, a young Kamble was steadfast in his studies and earned good grades.
His performance in school earned the respect and adoration of his peers and elders alike. Reminisced how this adoration and faith shown towards him served as the source of his motivation to aspire for excellence, in his pursuits. However, despite harbouring good intentions, his life took a drastic turn following high school.
“Following the completion of my matriculation, I travelled to Kolhapur and took admission in the science department of the Swami Vivekanand College, situated on the banks of Panchganga river. However, soon things got exceedingly difficult for me as all my life I had studied subjects in the vernacular tongue. The sudden transition to everything in English as a non-native speaker was indescribably tough for me. Coping was quite challenging, and it reflected in my grades,” narrated Kamble.
Transition from Civilian to Airman
Preceding joining the Indian Air Force (IAF), Kamble’s awareness towards the Indian Armed Forces was confined solely to the Indian Army. He described, “During my time in school, my uncle tried to inspire me to try and join the armed forces, the IAF in particular. At the time I wasn’t aware of the other two services and had only known a bit about the army, so my uncle had to sit and explain the intricacies between the tri-services to me, the seeds had been sown.”
“It is funny to think of looking back.” He added.
Kamble proceeded, “In February 1979, I was at the library perusing the Indian Express and an article about the enlistment in the IAF grabbed my attention. I applied for the test and sent a manually written application to the enlistment center in Mumbai. Anyway, I didn’t expect to hear back from them, and was doubtful whether I would even clear the initial application.”
To his surprise, Kamble heard back from the enlistment center and was happy to get a letter from them. “After around 15 days, since I had sent my transcribed application, I heard back from the enlistment community and got a letter illuminating me about the composed assessment. I was required to go to Cotton Green in Mumbai. Fortunately for me, this assessment required academic acumen up to tenth grade only, and I was promptly accepted.
“They additionally recommended that I work out and focus on physical fitness. Since I was unable to manage the cost of membership at a gymnasium, I informed them of the same, following which they recommended bodyweight exercises, along with a healthy diet. Noticing results over the course of a month, I further pushed physically.”
“I travelled to Mumbai with my maternal uncle for the assessment. There were over 2,000 prospective candidates and a vacancy of only 30 posts. The selection test was for five days, and stage-based. I successfully cleared all my evaluations and was selected to join the IAF as an Airman. I received orders to join from 25th May in Mumbai, where I was given my preparation authentication, and my train ticket for Bangalore as my training would begin. I also received a remittance of 150 rupees which was an extraordinary amount back then.” described Kamble ecstatically.
Life in the IAF
With a stipend of Rs 150 Kamble arrived in Bangalore for 15 months of rigorous training. “Upon reaching the training establishment I noticed that I was among an excellent company. Everyone around me was highly intelligent and immensely hard-working, driven, and eager to serve their country. It is the combined energy of my training batch that got me through 15 months of physically grueling and intellectually stimulating training. Upon the completion of my training in Bangalore, I was moved to Kalaikunda close to Kharagpur in West Bengal and from there Kalaikunda to Jaffarpur in Calcutta.
“I returned to Bangalore in 1983 where I did a year long change course. Following which I was posted to the Chabua airbase in Assam, where I served till 1987, following which I was posted to Belgaum to the managerial preparing organisation. I was posted there for five years. In 1992 I moved to Ambala where I served for an exceptionally long time and afterward in 1995, I resigned from the IAF at 32 years old with an annuity.”
Post-retirement most people go on to set up their own organisations or invest more energy with their friends and family, be that as it may, Kamble had different plans. “I resigned at 32 years old with full benefits, however, one’s early thirties is no time to sit at home, so after retiring from the IAF, I worked for a private sector company in Kolhapur, for quite some time. During my time in the private sector, I had sent an application for enlistment as a Police Sub Inspector (PSI) and heard from them to appear for assessments. I am proud to say that I broke every single parameter by an immensely wide margin.
I was dicey at first, yet what eventually persuaded me was a debate going on within my mind, I asked myself if what’s stopping me from joining? Why not take up a new challenge? Life in Khaki will be another experience to look back on,” expounded Kamble when asked what propelled him to join the police force.
In December 1996, Kamble at that point went to the Maharashtra Police Academy (MPA) in Nashik where he was once again a recruit, this time as a police trainee. Upon graduating from the police academy, he was moved as a PSI at Azad Maidan Police station. He said, “I went through a lot of moves prior to being in charge of the Powai Police station in February 2020.”
While Kamble accepts that working in the armed forces and in the police, force is uniquely distinct, they are two entirely different worlds both of which gave him diverse life experiences. He maintains that his erstwhile service in the IAF cemented the foundation required to be an effective hard-nosed police officer.
Commenting on this dichotomy in experience as an air warrior and a khaki man, he said, “Defence and law enforcement are significantly distinct from one another, despite both being uniformed public services. In the armed forces we never truly interact with the community yet as a police official it is a public interface profession, dealing with people on their worst days. There is a different level of sensitivity involved.”
Lessons Learned in the IAF
Kamble fondly remembers his years in the IAF and told this correspondent that he was moulded in dress blues, “The IAF undoubtedly shaped me as a human being and for the good. It imbibed in me a sense of discipline and hard work which holds me in good stead to this day! Everything about the IAF is state of the art, be it the tech, quality of staff, facilities like grounds and libraries. My time in the force gave me opportunities I would not have been presented elsewhere. I have made the most of it, reading, learning, all of which prepared me for the next challenge.”
“All the life skills I’ve picked up during my years in the IAF encouraged me in building my profession in the police force.” Kamble further reiterated.
Most Challenging Investigations
Kamble worked in the Mumbai Police since 1996, in his 24-years-long law enforcement career he has closed in numerous cases. “There have been near countless cases which we cracked, however, there was one case, much later on in my police career which stands out like a sore thumb. This investigation is from my last stint in the force as Sr. Pi Powai Police Station.
“While sifting through old case records, I found the case of a young girl, Dipali Yadav, a 13-year-old who was missing for months. Given the age of the missing girl, we immediately began our investigation, however, were unable to locate the teen. With support and direction from our seniors in the force, we began a thorough investigation.”
He further narrated, “We had finally made headway and after painstaking police work, we cracked the case…however, we did not like what we found. Our team discovered that she was killed. The murder involved two perpetrators. The duo killed her and then tossed her body parts in the ocean, to avoid detection and identification. This case still haunts me from time to time.
“Another case that stands out is from when I worked at Dongri Police headquarters. The illicit drug trade was at an all-time high, and through thorough police work and human intelligence, we were able to nab 14 Nigerian drug dealers in a hair-raising police operation!”
Dealing with Occupational Stress
Kamble believes self-control and a stoic outlook are essential for a good police officer. He speaks about the differences between his stress levels in the IAF and Mumbai Police from his time in the air force and as a cop. “There wasn’t a great deal of occupational pressure during my years in the IAF as the work hours were adaptable, technology driven and more corporate like. However, in the police force, there can be a ton of occupational pressures, due to the number of cases that come to us, the grim nature of the job and external pressures.”
He went on to say, “Residents rightfully so expect a speedy resolution to law enforcement related issues however on the flip side, police have mounting case pressures and a paucity of time, and clock in other worldly work hours. Despite our occupational realities we must generally remain sharp-witted, cerebral and strive to work through our reality. For me, personally, yoga and meditation helped deal with the rigors of the job. “
Speaking on about stress on the job, Kamble philosophised, “We can never truly allow ourselves to live with stress, it would be a dreadful existence. Handling touch cases was my job it was my responsibility to handle cases involving human depravity, plain and simple! If I had allowed stress to take over, then it would have been difficult to solve such cases and do my job. I have also had the unparalleled support of my boss’s and associates, all of whom have consistently upheld me and supported me when the chips were down.”
When asked if he has any advice for young and budding police officers, Kamble replied, “Yes, I went them to always remember that they are in a position of public trust and responsibility. The police force is a public service, not an avenue for self-entitlement! One must always remain squared and not give in to the temptations that come with holding such a job in law enforcement.”
When asked if he has any advice to citizens to better improve police-community relations, he had this to say, “Firstly, I encourage residents to abide by the law, the law is not a mere suggestion. It the foundation upon which our society can effectively function. It is a seemingly simple suggestion however one often not paid heed to.” He also touched upon the need for people to maintain cyber safety and awareness, as there is a significant surge in cyber frauds.
Beyond the Uniform
Speaking about his motivation for contesting elections, the aspiring politician said, “Many politicians get elected on the basis of promises made to the community however do not deliver. I am of the opinion that politics which in essence is a public service, is done at the grass-roots level, I intend to intermingle with the people, understand their issues, aspirations, and expectations from their elected officials and strive to resolve it.” He went on to say,” I have been working in and around this area as a senior policeman and therefore have a pulse for the community’s issues. I aim to work as a liaison between the state government and the people.”
“Politics if done well has a great potential to alleviate challenges faced by a community, I have served in two distinct forces and will continue to serve the people. I am a soldier first and foremost and soldiers get things done, no matter what! Exclaimed Kamble signing off!