By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD
I spotted him sitting on the roadside near the gate of the Catholic Centre on T.N. Narasimha Murthy Circle which is more popularly known as Millennium Circle. Yes, there are a few landmarks like that in our city which are almost unknown by their officially given names simply because people who have known them the way they have been known over the years, refuse to call them by any other name! For instance, the age-old names ‘Ballal Circle’ and ‘Highway Circle’ continue to stick to their respective spots simply because of the two hotels that once stood there.
Although our civic authorities have named them after more famous personalities, no one knows them by their new names! Ask any city bus conductor to give you a ticket to any of these two places by their official names and he or she is only likely to stare back at you with a confused look till you explain where you want to go.
Now, the man I am talking about caught my attention because he was selling miniature oil lamps, a relic from our past which perhaps no one needs these days! And, he seemed to be at a great disadvantage because he was trying to make a living exclusively out of this trade as he was not selling anything else ! That is why I decided to make a U-Turn and spend a few moments talking to him. It was only when I got out of my car and approached him that I noticed that his right arm was missing, a double and greater disadvantage indeed !
I found out that he was Mohammed Akheel from Akola in Maharashtra who was a member of an itinerant group which made those lamps out of old tin cans and sold them at places where they camped for a few days before moving on. He told me that he was actually a worker in a cotton ginning factory until he lost his arm when it got dragged into the machine he was operating. With his arm gone he could no longer work as a machine operator and had thus taken to selling lamps that were hand-made by a group of his friends. I felt happy that this man had chosen to tread the more difficult path of honest toil, sitting on the roadside in sun and rain, when many others with a fate similar to his would have chosen the easier option of begging on roadside. I asked him why he had not thought of taking on an easier and more paying job of either a watchman or a lift operator. His answer floored me. He said, “Sirjee, I simply cannot abandon my friends who stood by me and my family for many months after my accident. It is not easy for them to make a living as not many people buy oil lamps these days. Although I am one-handed I thought that an extra hand to help them sell their wares would help them a little to do better in life!”
Wizened and touched I decided to buy two pairs of his lamps. I would perhaps need them sometime to guide my own thinking and thus light my own way!
Two humble souls stand safer now !
It is a very good thing that our civic authorities have thought of shifting the statues of Bhujanga Rao Jagadale, the Policeman and Anche Basappa, the Postman that have for over 112 years adorned the entrance of our Mounted Company Headquarters away from where they stood all these years to much safer places a little away from the road.
This stretch of Lalitha Mahal Road which was once very calm and bereft of traffic has now become very busy and it is common to see lorries and private busses rushing along it recklessly at great speed. I was, therefore, always worried that one of them would one day knock down our dear Policeman or his comrade the Postman ! Thankfully, now that they have been shifted, all Mysureans can heave a sigh of relief that these two humble but iconic souls are going to be safe for all the years to come.
As a child I would never let my dad drive past these two statues without stopping our car and letting me get down to salute the Policeman and pretend to collect the letter that the Postman was holding out. And when I became a father and when my own children were very young I would always stop to let them do the same whenever we drove past that spot. My daughter Sarah would go a step further and proceed to read the letter she pretended to collect. And, thanks to her very fertile imagination, each time it would be from a different relative and each time the content would be different and more interesting thus sending us all into peals of laughter !
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