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It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's Superwoman! (Part II)
June 10, 2000

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Kiran Bedi, India's Superwoman
"Kiran Bedi is a great woman. India needs a few more people like her, not just in the police force, but in every field in fact," my cousin Babalu told me, reflecting the sentiments of many people here in Delhi.

I had heard of Kiran Bedi from the documentary movie "Doing Time Doing Vipassana," which was a big hit in alternative theaters in San Francisco, before I left on the World Trek last year. I figured she would be an interesting person to meet while we were here in India, but I had no idea what a Superwoman she really is. Once you meet her though, it doesn't take long to catch on.


atrocity - an act of cruelty; monstrousness
inhumane - lacking pity or compassion
proactive - acting before something happens, instead of waiting to react afterwards
instill - to introduce by gradual, persistent efforts; to implant
caste - a social class within Indian society that is separated from others by hereditary rank, profession and wealth

Over the past few weeks here in India, we've not only had the extreme pleasure of meeting this remarkable woman, but also of visiting some of her numerous community service projects and of hearing story after story praising her achievement from Indians we've met along the way.


From excelling at academics to being an international champion at tennis, Kiran Bedi went on to become India's very first woman admitted to the Indian Police Force. I was impressed enough that a woman would attempt to join a position of such power in such a male-dominated society, but I'm even more impressed after realizing what a prestigious office the Police Force really is. Here in India, it seems everything is all about exams. My cousins always seem to be studying for one exam or another, be it to gain entrance into a certain level of school, or acceptance into a university, or to qualify for some field of studies, or to get a job. If it's something remotely related to education or work, then there's an exam for it. And with a population as big and bright as India's, you had better believe that there's stiff competition too! To join the Indian Police Service one first has to score high in the Civil Service's Exam for all of India's top government positions. This is said to be I ndia's hardest exam, harder than pre-med and engineering!

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She took on what no one thought was possible and succeeded
Immediately upon entering the police force she set out to bring the correction back into the correctional facilities. "I brought about a whole new dimension to policing, reminding people that policing can heal, policing can treat, policing can correct," explains Dr. Bedi (did I mention that she also holds a doctorate in the field of drug abuse and domestic violence?!).

"What nobody else was able to do, she did in Tihar Jail, India's most infamous jail. It was a complete mess before she came in. There were inmates committing suicide, police atrocities, all sorts of inhumane things happening. Since she has come into the police force, none of this happens anymore," my cousin told me. In Tihar Jail, she started drug rehab programs, education, and Vipassana meditation courses. This drastically altered prisoners outlooks as well as their relationships with the officers.

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Amazing! But this Superwoman didn't stop here! She took things a step further. She started looking at the causes that lead people to a life of crime and began a number of community service projects aimed at crime reform. "Instead of merely being reactive to policing, I decided to be proactive and preventative," she explains.

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My cousin Babalu, 20 yrs. old
She started off with drug rehabilitation and after winning a national award for service in 1994, she started the India Vision Foundation. The vision: to save the next victim. Dr. Bedi realized that the neglected children of prisoners were in a vulnerable position to fall into a life of crime themselves, so the foundation began by focusing on education for these children. From her work with drug rehabilitation she noticed other factors that seemed to lead youth into a life of drugs and crime. So the foundation started to expand to include a number of other children in crime-prone situations--children living in poverty and children from neglected families. This is what lead Kiran and her colleagues to start the much needed gali schools in the slums of India.

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Kiran Bedi's foundations operate in slums like these
Visiting these schools in the slums of Delhi was such a wonderful source of inspiration and joy. The changes the India Vision Foundation and Dr. Bedi's other foundation Navjyoti have instilled in these children is remarkable. But do you think a superhero would stop there? No way! She keeps on going! Dr. Bedi's foundations have branched out to become primary support structures in the slums and rural communities in which they work. From drug rehab and primary education, they have gone on to facilitate adult literacy, vocational training, women's empowerment, and counseling. jazzkirsunil.jpg-Sunil Verma, on the right, is the Associate Director of India Vision Foundation and was our awesome translator during the chats

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Thanks to Kiran Bedi, these children will have a chance for a better life
All this while still working full time within the Police Force, being a full time committed and loving parent, and touring all over the world to share her inspirational progress! It's amazing to see how much one person can do with her life, her time.

"The most important wealth youth have is time," explains Dr. Bedi with a twinkle in her eyes. "Independent of caste, religion, or geography, everyone gets 24 hours a day to build on. We can waste it away, or we can build on it, and make the most of it. God makes no (distinction) giving European youth 24 hours a day and maybe an African youth 10 hours a day, a youth from India 12 hours, and maybe 7 hours a day for a youth from somewhere else. No, everybody everywhere gets the same. It all depends on how all of us make use of this 24 hours in our thought, action, and deed. How we invest our time and work. Or, we could waste it away consuming and fretting and fuming. The choice is ours." pose.jpg -Kiran Bedi is an inspiration

Related Links

To learn more about Kiran Bedi, click here.

To find out about the Vipassana meditation courses she established, check out this link.

Though I may call her a superhuman, Kiran Bedi is actually a human just like you and me, with just as many hours in a day as you and I. If she can enact such positive change in the world around her through hard work and dedication, so can we. Come on, there's a superhero in all of us, it's just waiting to be unleashed! Just imagine what the world would be like if all of us simply tried.


p.s. - Please e-mail me at

Abeja - Trains and plaid mini-skirts…a trip to Southern India
Jasmine - Far Out Places, Familiar Problems
Kavitha - It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superwoman!!!!!!

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