Memories of a lifetime of friendship
Padam Rosha pays a tribute to S. N. Mathur, former
Inspector-General of Police, Punjab, and Director, Intelligence Bureau, a friend and batchmate, who passed away recently
IN the dying
hours of 2011, my friend Shiv Narain Mathur passed away. He was
sitting in a sunny nook with his wife Prem and son Siddharth on
the afternoon of December 31, sipping soup when he simply left.
"Only saints go like this," people said.
N. Krishnaswamy wrote, "From the day, we got together at
Mount Abu 64 years ago, I sensed there was a saintly quality
about him, which at once drew me to him and kept me close to
him. To my mind, he lived and died a saint." Another
batchmate, C. V. Narasimhan, says this noble and gentle soul was
"never a mere policeman but a police gentleman all the
How do I
compress a lifetime of friendship and affection, given so
generously, into a thousand words? We both studied at Government
College, Lahore, in the pre-Partition era and got our Masters’
degree from that unique institution. The Mathurs were an
enlightened and close-knit family. They lived in Purani Anarkali,
while I was in the hostel across the campus. Shiv acquired a
rare insight into the nuances of Urdu poetry from a Muslim
scholar, who was a friend of the family and also his tutor. We
both took the All-India Services Examination in July, 1947 and
were selected for the Punjab cadre of the IPS. We met at Mount
Abu on September 14, 1948.
S. N. Mathur (second from left, with his hands at the back) poses with a group of officers. The photograph was taken during the investigation into Partap Singh Kairon's murder at the Rai rest house. Mathur had stationed himself at the Rai Police Station, where he held camp for more than a month
there was hardly a day when we did not speak to each other and
shared our joys, laughter and woes. We had our initiation into
the Punjab Police with the traditional ragra at the
Police Training School, Phillaur, designed to toughen up the
recruits. In this curriculum, the cross-country gallops, with
crossed stirrups, was the stuff nightmares are made of. Shiv was
an only son, devoted to an extended family. He married Prem, a
wonderful life companion, and pillar of strength, in 1950. His
parents, a picture of dignity and affection, lived with him
Shiv and Prem
had the responsibility of arranging the marriages of Shiv’s
three younger sisters, which they did with grace. In 1956, I was
posted at Ambala when my mother was afflicted with a tumour of
the brain. She had to be taken to Delhi for radiation therapy.
For more than a month, my father, brother and sister stayed with
Shiv, while my mother was admitted to a hospital close by. Shiv
and Prem vacated their bedroom for us and insisted on sending
every meal to the hospital.
eight happy years in the IB house on Gupkar Road, Srinagar,
where he proudly displayed his patch of tulips and the cherry
tree, which intruded into the sitting room on the first floor.
In 1959, both Shiv and I, took 10 days’ leave and motored
through Rajasthan in a leisurely manner, along with our
families, to Mount Abu and back. As we were approaching Ajmer
Sharif, I remember, Shiv sang an ode in Bhojpuri, "Walliyan
ke Sardar, Ajmeri Khwaja."
We tried to
meet every year on September 14, to celebrate our joining the
police. In 1958, I was the Superintendent Police,
anti-corruption, in Delhi, and Shiv was the Assistant Inspector
General. I went over to the Police Headquarters, and we debated
how to commemorate this auspicious day but our options were
severely limited by lack of funds. In the end, we stretched a
few rules and borrowed Rs 10 from the accountant. We took the
afternoon off and went to Standard restaurant in Connaught
Place, where we had the tastiest pastries ever.
I don’t think
I need to elaborate on the outstanding success Shiv attained in
all his assignments. It is all on record. The best testimony is
the affection with which he is remembered by the people he
served and his colleagues in the department. This is just one
example of his dedication: In 1965, he was posted as DIG, Ambala
Range, when the Chief Minister, Sardar Partap Singh Kairon, was
murdered. Shiv simply moved his headquarters to the Police
Station, Rai, and lived and worked from there for quite a few
weeks. This was certainly one of the most thorough and intensive
investigations carried out by the Punjab Police. The befitting
climax came with Ashwini Kumar’s blitzkrieg into Nepal and the
capture of Sucha Singh. All the four accused for Kairon’s
murder were eventually convicted and hanged.
In 1975, he was
posted as Chief of Police in Punjab and I was in Srinagar when
he rang up to say that he had just got his orders for
appointment as the Director, IB, and the first person he wanted
to tell this wonderful news was me.
courageous battle Shiv ever fought was his fight with cancer. In
1992, almost two feet of his large intestines had to be removed.
And then followed months and months of radiation and
chemotherapy. It was heart-breaking to see Shiv after each
gut-wrenching episode of chemotherapy, and how painstakingly he
gathered strength but never said a word about giving up. It was
inspiring to see how family and friends rallied round him.
But then, life
continually renews itself and before I end, I must mention the
arrival of Shiv’s granddaughter Nandini, Siddharth’s
daughter, who was a little bundle of joy. So much happiness she
brought into Shiv’s life! He could spend hours talking about
her antics. A couple of months ago when she joined nursery
school, you couldn’t find a person happier than Shiv. So
farewell, my friend, till we meet in the promised land.
bulandi par aur hum bana sakte,
'Arsh' se idhar hota kaash ke makaan apna
The writer is a former
Director-General of Police (Security), Jammu and Kashmir