'The nylon noose was around his neck; a suicide note was in his hands.'
Sub-Inspector P Jeevan was working through the lunch hour and was about to break for a late lunch when the phone rang at the Aberdeen police station in Port Blair. He was the day officer in charge and had spent the day dealing with a family dispute and an accident case at the station.
As he answered the phone, he checked the time. It was 3 pm. The man on the other end was hysterical. 'My brother has just told me on a video call that he is going to commit suicide,' he said breathlessly.
In his eleventh year in the Andaman and Nicobar police force, Sub-Inspector Jeevan was awarded the home minister's medal for excellence in 2022 for investigating a rape case. The perpetrator was convicted to 20 years in prison.
The decade plus experience in the police had equipped SI Jeevan with the tools to deal with emergency situations -- but this time it was a race to bring back a man from the precipice of self-inflicted death.
He knew he had to act fast. He asked the man on the phone line to focus and relate to him the background/surroundings of what he saw in the video call.
'It was a dilapidated room. There was sunlight coming in from the gaps in the bricks,' he said. The description was vague.
Sub-Inspector Jeevan then asked the caller if he heard any sounds, but he replied that the video quality was poor and could not pin-point any sound that could help identify the location.
SI Jeevan further asked the caller about his brother's profession and where was he usually at this time?
He told him that he was a tour guide; and till about half an hour ago was in the area called Junglighat.
Junglighat is spread over a large area. SI Jeevan knew that area well. He remembered that there were some abandoned dilapidated government quarters in that area and decided to go there immediately.
Simultaneously, he contacted the Location Based Service [LBS] and gave the mobile number to find the GPS coordinates of the man who was attempting suicide.
SI Jeevan along with Head Constable Umesh Kumar and Constable Mohan, did not wait for the GPS coordinates. They jumped into a jeep and drove to Junglighat.
Within three minutes of receiving the distress phone call, the team had driven out of the police station on the rescue mission.
SI Jeevan checked the time; it was 3.03 pm.
3.07 pm, they reached Junglighat.
En route, they telephoned the hospital and asked for an ambulance. They kept calling LBS till they received the coordinates. The GPS showed the location within a 100 metres radius of an area which had a wedding venue, a sports ground and a residential area in Junglighat.
A set of dilapidated quarters was also in this area.
The policeman drove straight to the dilapidated quarters and found the man in the first house they entered. He was in his early 30s; a nylon noose was around his neck, the other end of the rope was fastened to the ceiling. A suicide note was in his hands.
"He was at a height of about four metres. We immediately held him and brought him down," SI Jeevan says over the telephone from Port Blair.
The man was drunk and crying bitterly. "He just kept saying he did not want to live. We gave him water and tried to calm him by talking to him. His brother had also reached by then," says SI Jeevan.
They then brought him to the police station where he was counselled further by the policemen. He told them that he was in severe debt and did not have money to pay the interest, leave alone the principal amount.
Repaying the loan was going to take him years and suicide was his only way out. He threatened that he would kill himself once he was out of the police station.
The man was Telugu-speaking and SI Jeevan tried to reason with him in his native tongue. The others in the police team continued speaking to him and persuaded him to drink water.
By then the man's mother had also reached the police station and was crying hysterically, his wife stood beside her in stumped grief, other relatives gathered around.
Legally speaking, the job of the cops ended after they rescued the man from committing suicide. Providing him help and counselling was not part of their mandated duties, but the cops went beyond their call of duty.
"They empathised with him and understood his pain. They did not talk down to him or reprimand him, but dealt with him with compassion," says Isha Singh, IPS, Assistant Superintendent of Police under training in Port Blair who is attached to the Aberdeen police station.
The police kept him at the station for an hour. They organised a vehicle and took him to the government hospital. The police team sat through the entire hospitalisation procedure. They ensured that he got admitted in the psychiatrist ward and discussed the details with the doctor.
"What really moved me was that the person who was unable to cope with the harshness of life found compassion and empathy in a police station," says Assistant Superintendent of Police Isha Singh.
"Of course, there are other narratives of the police that exist and are also true, but such acts of goodness by the police are also real, taken for granted and invisible," the young police officer adds.
As the wife tried hard to control her tears, she only uttered one sentence; 'My child's life will be ruined,' ASP Singh recalls.
Andaman and Nicobar had the highest suicide rate in the country between 2019 and 2022. Last year, it was the second highest after Sikkim.
"Suicide or attempt to suicide leaves scars that persist through generations and we need to talk about it," says ASP Singh. "The police that evening not only saved a life, but a family and their generations to come."
Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com