Each week Megan Nicol Reed asks a public figure to choose three of the seven deadly sins to confess to. This week Mandeep Kaur enters the box.

Our first Indian-born female police officer, Kaur works as a senior constable with the family harm team in Counties Manukau. The 50-year-old is profiled in Womankind, a book featuring New Zealand women making a difference.

There's a description in the book of you on stage, wearing your uniform, at the 2016 Diwali celebrations in Aotea Square, dancing the bhangra in front of 20,000 people. Your proudest moment?
I think the moment I was most proud was when I was first given that uniform. It was so difficult to have that because there were so many barriers I had to come across, physical barriers, cultural barriers, and to achieve that uniform was the proudest moment for me.

Can you take me back to that feeling?
It was very emotional. I couldn't believe I have this uniform in my possession. Although I was 35 years old when I joined the police, I felt like I was behaving like a child when I got it, a child who had never seen, you know when you get the new clothes you just want to …  this was something very special.


When you first came to Australia and then New Zealand - a young woman in search of a better life - you worked as a door-to-door salesperson, in a petrol station, as a cleaner, a taxi-driver. In the book you say it was your first office job that filled you with pride though. Why was that?
In New Zealand there's no good or bad work, work is work, but coming from a culture where being in an office is considered to be something of more prestige, and me coming to this new country where I didn't have English-speaking capability as much in those days, I was really struggling. So it was a milestone for me working in an office because when I used to work as a cleaner, looking at people that sat in the office, I'd just have that inferiority complex of "I'm not good enough".

As a little girl your mother told you if you were a boy you could grow up to be in the army or the police. In the ensuing years, when you'd see men and women in uniform, would it make you envious?
No, not really because it was more gender-related. You sort of accept it's not for you, maybe I wish I was male, or there was equality in the genders. Then, when I [went] to Australia, I saw a woman in the uniform working, it was something I really admired, but I never thought of me being in it. I never felt like it was for me, it was for them, for people from this country. I am an immigrant, so I never really related myself. Until the day when I got it, it wasn't really like envious about it, it was more like, yeah, I can do it, and then giving my best to it.

When you immigrated you had to leave your young son and daughter behind. Did you look at other women with their children during those six years you were separated from yours and feel envious you could only mother from a distance?
I dearly missed my children, even thinking of those six years brings tears in my eyes now, the pain remains within me, but I don't think I'm a person who holds that, why other people, not me. For me there was a hope that I know I'm in a better place where one day my kids will join me.

Why did you choose envy when it doesn't seem to be something you experience?
Because how you react to a moment is completely within your hands, you could be envious or you could be accepting it.

At the age of 17 you were married off to a man who treated you badly. You work with women who are being abused in their own home. Does domestic violence make you angry?
There were times when it did make me angry, that was the reason for me to step out, to resolve that situation, no, I'm not going to stay in this, I'm going to move out. Other women … yeah, it doesn't make me angry, I get determined to help, because I don't think if you get angry you can ever be productive, ever make wise decisions. I think that's where my [Sikh] religion perhaps comes in again, because we learn to subdue those feelings. Even dealing with some offenders, I never lose my plot, I always try to communicate with people, always try to see the best.