Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | June 10, 2009

Night Guards

“Night-guards” always fascinated me. I was so proud when my father used to be one! Oh no, that was not his profession but it was a voluntary activity, that he used to indulge in.

Here I elaborate as follows.

As I mentioned in my last post, Jyotish Roy Road was not the best places to stay. As children, we were always warned by our parents not to venture into the adjoining slums riding our bicycles. Everyone knew that those slums housed criminals. As children more than the drug peddlers and thieves, we were concerned about the “Cheledhora” (kidnappers who kidnapped children). We were very scared of them because they are the ones who kidnap children and turn them into beggars. Apparently, the nearby slums had some Cheledhoras too. However, these scary thoughts hardly deterred us to visit those slums and our parents were liberal enough to allow us some leeway. However, a few visits to those slums ourselves did make us ourselves realize that many people living there did not indulge in honorable professions after all. This belief was further strengthened by some incidents of thefts in the locality. We as children avoided our adventure into the slums too, because after those incidents we were not only scared but also totally convinced of the existence of the “Cheledhoras”.

The elders however did not quite take these things lightly. Most of them including my father took upon the onus on themselves to protect the residents of Jyotish Roy Road from any unwarranted incidents. That is when they decided to become the night-guards.

I was fascinated to say the least. A young me felt that as if my father has joined some sort of superhero group. It was winter and whenever my father went out for his scheduled duty at around 11: 00 PM with other neighbors, I imagined him fighting some goons. I was very young you see and unlike to-days’ children I lacked exposure to television, internet etc. Therefore, I had imagination. And what better I could have imagined when I knew that my father wore a woolen cap (popularly called Monkey cap – possibly a Bengali invention to protect against a mild winter in Bengal) and carried a big wooden stave while walking on the dark by lane called Jyotish Roy Road. I felt so proud and sometimes wanted to accompany him too but I was not allowed.

The night-guard system was good help though. It ensured that the criminals knew that the residents would not take their activities lightly. In fact, one of the thieves was caught red handed by the night-guards before he could carry out his act. I was not just proud after hearing the incident but also felt left out. Alas! Youngsters hardly ever get chance to play super-heroes.

I don’t really remember when did this night-guard activity stop but it showed a few things. Some of them are as follows:

First, it is not true that community service was not existent in India. It is just that with time urban population has become more aloof and ignorant.

Secondly, it is also not true that all Bengalis possessed a huge ego (now we all know what that means), as undertaking community service equaled many people from different strata of the society to undertake a particular job. None bothered whether one appreciates a B-grade film at home and the other has a taste for Mozart. There was no categorization in terms of caste, creed, culture and more importantly preferences. Everyone joined hands towards a common goal and none provided any excuse to shy away from responsibilities.

Thirdly, and most importantly in a small way from this activity I could witness if you are really concerned then you can do a lot to save your prized ones. Action indeed speaks much louder than words.

I was proud of all the night-guards including my father.

11 June 2009

PS: Really to sad to see this. Such parents should have criminal proceedings against them. In some ways, my post above looks meaningless when I saw this video. I was privileged to have been brought up by sane people.



  1. The night guards! This was so amazing to read! The thought that people could actually do this, instead of just installing an extra alarm system, heartens me a lot :-)And about the video, what can we even say?

  2. I have been part of just such a posse of night guards myself in my youth, not once but three times in three different places, and I am sad to say that my experiences were not so happy ones! The biggest problem was that of ‘drop-outs’… people who retained their enthusiasm for only the first few days, then started looking for a chance to go to sleep on duty, and stopped coming altogether from the second or third month onwards! And these shirkers put the burden of extra duty on the more sincere ones, so inevitably there was a lot of grumbling and eventual bad blood, until the laudable effort petered out… and, as a thief I knew once laughingly said, ‘These things never last: we keep a low profile for a few days, then it’s back to business as usual!’

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