How a small-town girl became an IPS officer: the incredible story of Shalini Agnihotri

Hailing from a humble background, Shalini Agnihotri had a burning desire to make something of her life. With sheer hard work and perseverance, she achieved everything she dreamed of

How a small-town girl became an IPS officer: the incredible story of Shalini Agnihotri

While growing up, Shalini was inspired by the aura of civil officers and the respect they commanded. She knew then that this was the life she wanted for herself. It was a far-fetched dream for a bus conductor’s daughter, but she was diligent in her pursuit. 
As a little girl, Shalini wanted to improve the lives of those around her. She strongly felt everyone should have access to opportunities irrespective of gender or background. Even as a child she knew education was her ticket to success.   
Today, as an IPS officer, she believes one can achieve anything if they put their minds to it – and she’s proved it by example. She gives due credit to her family for the unshakeable support they provided her in helping her in achieving her dreams. She wants to inspire other girls to dream big and works towards the cause of educating girls in India.
We spoke to Shalini about her journey, the obstacles she faced, and her many achievements. 

What inspired you to join the police force?

Ever since I was little, I knew I wanted to get into the civil services, although I did not know what kinds of jobs there were and what I would want to do. As a child, I remember being inspired by the respect commanded by people in civil service jobs. 
I prepared hard for my UPSC examination and made it to the IPS in 2011. As part of my training I worked on the field as an under-trainee. It was then I finally realised my calling. 
In any kind of distress, a police official is the first person people think of approaching. I believe even a simple act by us can improve lives. Hence, the job offers immense satisfaction. I want to rewrite the image and perception the police have in our country. I’m inspired by the chances I get to contribute to making this society safe, secure, and a better place to live.
Being a police officer has helped me grow immensely as person and I take pride in my job. Today, as an officer, I feel empowered.

Tell us about your student days and how you came to join the IPS?

I was a back-bencher and mediocre in my early days at school. However, I pushed myself and did really well in Class X, scoring 92.2%. In Class XII I was disappointed as I got only 77.4%. Post this, getting a professional degree became a challenge. 
I finally joined the prestigious CSK HPKV Palampur College of Agriculture. It was in college that I explored a lot of things – sports, books, extracurricular activities, etc. It gave me a lot of confidence and the will to pursue my dreams. 
Getting into the civil services was a distant dream for me and I’m proud to have achieved it. No one in my family is in the services – or, for that matter, a Class B officer. I was a nervous wreck before my exams; I couldn’t sleep for days. But I was determined to give it my best shot. 
I have been extremely fortunate to have supportive parents, teachers, and friends who believed in me and my dream. 

Being a lady IPS officer, what are the risks involved? How do you deal with them?

There are no gender-specific risks in the police force. However, I would say a lady officer has to play a dual management role. The stress involved and the short time given for making decisions makes it a very taxing job. The toughest time for families of police officials is during festivals and important events – while the general public can enjoy themselves, we are always at work, away from our families. 
However, once you join the force, you know the risks involved and the training makes you competent to deal with such professional and personal challenges.

Can you single out any event in your life that defines who you are today?

As a child, I remember travelling on a bus with my mother. There was a man standing beside us. He was holding the headrest of the seat on which we were seated. My mother requested him to remove his hand multiple times, but he did not listen. He then got agitated and asked my mother if she’s the DC to be issuing him orders! 
I was hugely impacted by this random person insulting my mother for no fault of hers. Being young, I did not know what DC meant, but I gathered that a DC was a powerful person. It was at that moment I decided I wanted to become one. It also taught me the importance of respecting every human being – irrespective of gender, religion, or social standing. 

How did your family react when you told them about your decision to join the police? 

I did not tell my family I was appearing for the exam. It was only after I passed that I informed them. They could not understand which exam I cleared and what it meant. But when I explained, they were pleasantly surprised. When people started congratulating them, they realised it was a big deal. As parents, they were naturally a little apprehensive about the job profile, but they knew I was happy and this was my chosen path, so they supported me. Now they are very proud of me.

Can you share some memories from your life at the academy?

Life at the academy was a dream come true. The academy is a spectacular place to be. It has so much to offer, yet it is never enough. My training there made me test my physical limits and pushed me to do better. It was an amazing opportunity to get to know so many people from different walks of life. I was a passionate and enthusiastic outdoor person. Being chosen as the best probationer strengthened my belief in hard work and honesty.
You were awarded a trophy for being the best all-rounder female officer trainee. Tell us more about this memorable achievement.
It felt nice to be the best in the group. I remember the day I arrived at the academy; I told myself that I was going to enjoy and live every moment, and give my best. I was not going to let any failure set me back. I believe it was my childlike enthusiasm, positive energy, and dedication that helped me.

Were there any roadblocks you faced? How did you overcome them?

There were a few roadblocks that came my way. There was lack of clarity, guidance, and resources to prepare for the UPSC exam. Add to it the low confidence of coming from a very humble background. But I managed to beat the odds.
Clarity: I gained clarity by reading a lot about the exam. I used to read everything available on the internet, magazines, newspapers, etc.
Guidance: There was no direct guidance. However, before the interview, I met a few serving officers and picked their brains.
Resources: I was totally dependent on my scholarship and the university library.
Confidence: The entire credit goes to my family and friends. They believed in me and made me feel me I could achieve anything I set my mind to.

Your journey from being a bus conductor’s daughter to an IPS officer is inspirational. What advice would you give young girls with big dreams?

Dreaming big comes with a huge responsibility, not only for yourself but many others whom you can inspire. Hard work and dedication can make any dream a reality. There’s nothing you can’t achieve; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the interview are personal and do not reflect the views of TomorrowMakers.


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