Building on barriers: Tenkasi police inspector's journey from cop to Mr. Tamil Nadu
After another draining day at work three years ago, then 48-year-old Stephen Jose told his fellow police officers that he would like to take part in a body-building competition.
TENKASI: After another draining day at work three years ago, then 48-year-old Stephen Jose told his fellow police officers that he would like to take part in a body-building competition.
It was routine for the khaki-troop to indulge in humour by the day's end, to escape wallowing in the horrors of their case files. Jose's comment received the most laughter that day. Almost as much as the proud joy the men shared on January 2 this year, when Jose was adjudged Mr. Tamil Nadu.
"At first, my interest did not pass muster with my friends and colleagues. Can't blame them, as I was already 48 years old. Though I had kept my body fit since my college days, my fitness was not up to competition standards," the Courtallam police inspector says.
Age wasn’t the only factor that was not on his side. The inspector had lost his right-hand elbow joint in a road accident at Kamuthi in 2010. "The crash happened while I was on night-patrolling. Doctors could not fix the fractures, and finally they joined the bones with corrective screws. I could not even lift a half-litre water bottle then. Gradually my condition improved and I began to lift weights."
However, another accident was awaiting him at Murappanadu in 2016, in which both his knees sustained injuries. Later, he was also advised to undergo a surgery on his left shoulder; he hasn't done it yet. "If you search for reasons to quit your dreams, sure there will be many. But if you decide to grind it out, success lies ahead," Jose says.
Soon after he took a decision to take part in a body-building competition, he began to work out doggedly, after toiling during the day. Gradually, his colleagues realised he meant business and began to espouse the cause.
Jose first took part in the State-level body building competition held in Madurai in August, 2019, and managed to win the ‘best men physique’ award. In his second attempt at the Mr. Tamil Nadu title, he finished third.
Most of the contenders were youngsters and winning the third spot tempered his mettle. On December 19, 2021, Jose struck gold in the bodybuilding competition organised by the Tirunelveli District Amateur Body Building Association, and won the Mr. Tirunelveli title. The State-level competition was only two weeks away.
This time, the entire police department rallied behind the 50-year-old, and buoyed him up. Tenkasi SP R Krishnaraj gave him permission for daily workout, and thus Jose began rigorous preparations. With eight-pack abs and a chiseled frame to match, the Mr. Tamil Nadu crown was 'khaki-hued' this year.
"The public and media often poke fun at pot bellies of policemen. Being fit is a requisite for our job. I am encouraging young policemen to focus on fitness. Daily workouts will alleviate job-related stress," says Jose, who started as a sub-inspector in 1996.
And mind you, Jose is not another inspirational quote on a billboard for the department. He is one of their best investigative officers. Higher officials hold him in high regard as he has a knack for cracking murder cases that have long gone cold.
"In 2013, a Class 8 student was killed by some unidentified people in Moonradaippu. This case remained unsolved for three years. It was assigned to me in 2016 and the murderers were hunted out in just 15 days," Jose recalls. Several SPs and DIGs have bestowed awards on the inspector over the years.
He is an inspiration for all of us who don khaki, says Krishnaraj. "Jose's journey is a shining example of what one can achieve with dedication and hard work. He did not let age become a barrier for his dreams," he adds.
Like American writer Mark Twain said, "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."