Holly and Kiran Bedi
Julie Costanzo

Known as an icon of integrity, she has rocketed up the policing ranks, yet she’s never aspired to a desk job. And today, as Joint Commissioner at the Police Training College in Delhi, Kiran Bedi is rarely spotted lurking in her office. Instead, she’s out interacting with trainees, and they respond almost magically — no commander dread here, even in this ultra rank-conscious country.

“I think if you give a lot of concern, and interaction and compassion and joy, you get it back” she says. “I’ve seen cold interactions, and I know they’re dull.”

She’s an unlikely cop — one who instructs by reward instead of fear, who places equal emphasis on humanity and toughness, who uses meditation as a training tactic, who sees her job as one of healing. She took a “backyard” prison posting and gave it a major facelift with revolutionary ideas for reform.

In Kiran’s world, cops should do more than bail people out of bad situations; they should work to create a more humane community. She’s chronicled her experiences and philosophies in several books and has received heaps of rewards honoring her efforts.

She says she learned about fair play on the tennis courts and about facing fear by losing her mother a few years back.

“You’re afraid of losing something you love most, and I think I loved her the most. And I lost her. And after this, there’s nothing more to lose. I’m today fearless.”

Kiran doesn’t count any failures in her myriad police postings, beginning with her enlistment as an officer in 1972. She’s on a mission to make every endeavor a success, or as she puts it, she’s on a “constant audit toward perfection.” A bit much for the Western slacker, perhaps, but her warmth and humanity make it all tolerable — inspiring, even.

She finds peace and energy in motion. She walks every morning; when she’s on vacation, she doubles her regimen — just for fun.

From the Interview:

“Diva means sunshine. Sunshine which lights up the whole world, in its own phases, but it lights up uniformly and universally, and which is so integral to life and living.”

“[Police work is] one of the finest healing jobs…I was getting so much love, it is important to give it back. You can’t just take it. You have to give it.”

“I think every Indian has a habit of looking for an anchor… And once they get anchored and if they’re convinced, they’re settled, their search stops. And they keep going back to the anchor if they’re in trouble.”

Coordinates: India

Kiran Bedi

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Delhi, India

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