A young man recalls being lost and found, and conquering fear in the process.
“When was the last time you were really afraid?”
Seated at my very first job interview, I could never have prepared myself for a perplexing, yet reflective question such as this.
My mind races back to the time I was six. And terrified.
It was the first time I had wandered from home, chasing a few friends while playing.
In five minutes, I was lost in a shadowy by-lane. That was the first time I experienced the full force of fear.
I narrate my incident to the panel seated across the table:
There I am, walking around crying. Desperately looking for something that would guide me back home. The world’s a different beast when you're a child who can’t find his mother when he needs her.
Everything is bigger.
Nothing seems familiar.
No sign of comfort.
At a crossroad, a man stops. He looks at me kindly and asks where I live. When I can’t stop crying, he consoles me and says, “Don’t worry, I’m just going to dial 100, and we will get you back home.”
Through my teary eyes, I see a faint image of the man describing me and our location over the phone. After that, things take a turn for the better. A police car arrives in about ten minutes. The people speak to my nicely. They ask if I can take them to my home. I can’t. So they ask if they can take me to my home instead.
We go from place to place, looking for my home. In the car, they reassure me. My tears eventually stop. I even smile a little. And then, bingo! Somewhere near our home, I’m identified by an uncle who lives in our locality. The police discover my address. You know it takes a village to raise a child. At home, everyone’s distraught. Soon, tears of sorrow turn into tears of joy when I drive up in a car.
Years later, my mother tells me what happened that fateful day. She tells me about UP100, an emergency response management system that has logged in millions of fulfilled citizen requests, and delivered millions of smiles in the process. Since that fateful day, I’ve lost my sense of fear. I grew up knowing help was always around the corner.
The panel look at me with rapt attention. It’s not easy being vulnerable at your first job interview. At least, it was worth it, when one of the panelists asks me:
“How soon can you join us?”
Launched in November 2016, together with Tech Mahindra and Mahindra Defence, UP100 is the World’s largest Citizen Response Centre for public safety and security to residents of Uttar Pradesh, India. Callers can dial 100, or access UP100’s services digitally via app or website.
Today, over 100,000 calls are logged every day at UP100. An all-women staff handles calls, providing empathy at the first point of contact to people with a problem. 98% of calls are answered within five seconds, and response time is typically 15 minutes for urban areas and 20 minutes for rural locations, enabled by a fleet of 3,200 GPS-enabled cars and 1,200 two-wheelers.
Underneath Uttar Pradesh’s 107,452 villages and 689 cities and towns spread across 75 districts, lies a safety net called UP100.