Thursday, December 29, 2005

lifelong dedication

Early morning air at Delhi’s pragati maidan is chill, crisp, and clear. He is also fresh, enthusiastic and his body movement reflects his efficiency. However, as the day approaches to early noon, scenario dramatically changes. Combination of old and new cars, scooters with the straddled three passengers, trucks stuffed with turbaned laborers, bicycles, rickshaw pullers, bullock carts and most important of all cows, all fight desperately for space, jostling with each other and blowing their horns or shouting like mad. They turn this tranquil early morning traffic junction into chaotic miasma.

Amidst all this, master of this junction is trying his best to orchestrate the chaos into semblance of some orderly cacophony. Dust, sweat, carbon monoxide fumes are slowly filling up every pore of his lungs. His swift limbs do not have the same vigor of the morning but they have not become docile either. Only sign visible on his face is that of irritation when he sees commuters are not obeying his gestures. In sheer frustration, he resorts to his only equipment that was given to his rescue -a whistle that is tied to his pocket. He draws it out to exert his presence on bullying drivers.

Now with a shrill whistle in his mouth and a ‘fine book’ slowly protruding out from his trousers pocket, he now feels like a real cop. Some of the faces in the vehicles are familiar but barring an occasional bus or truck driver, no one acknowledges his presence. He is aware of the danger of sneering remarks and a volley of abuses if he were to unintentionally stop a car that belongs to government official. He knows he has to be careful to impose a fine on someone violating rules, chances are so called ‘educated’ ‘influential’ people inside the car would threaten him with dire consequence of unceremonious transfer with their contacts at his headquarters. If he were to stop a lady, there is a lurching fear in his mind of lady charging for harassing her being a weaker sex. He knows his job is tough but he carries on.

During my recent trip to Khartoum, I saw African colleague of our Delhi traffic conductor at the busy intersection. I was on my way to the office and was being driven around in the downtown of the Khartoum city at 9.00 am. At a busy cross section, everything suddenly has become so organized. Vehicles stopped at the designated places, there was no honking. In the middle of the road was a traffic police officer wearing faded dark blue trousers, white full sleeve shirt that was almost turned dull gray with noxious gases emitted by rickety old cars. He had a cap but he preferred to tuck in his pocket at this time of the day in the winter.

He looked fragile. Wrinkles showed all over his body and his hair was ash white, it definitely gave an impression that he had retired long ago. Then what was he doing at this age directing the traffic? I was told that this man completed his service from traffic police 10 years ago but he refused to quit the job that he was doing since last 30 years. He has been there on the same traffic junction all his life directing traffic with his hands. After his retirement. He continued to do what he loved most, directing the traffic without asking for any remuneration.

It is no surprise that Police, Government, and General Public were touched by his dedication. Police decided to keep him on their payroll for lifelong. Govt did not introduce traffic signals at this junction and let this man to be the boss of this cross section. When people arrive at this junction acknowledges his presence, become very civilized and obeys the orders of this old man. He is so busy with his acrobatics that he does not have time to reciprocate the greetings of his visitors. His work goes on and on, every day of the week all through the year from 8.00 am to 8.00 pm.

People now have dedicated this square by his name. A small tribute to the lifelong dedication to the job!!!


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