This is a story from almost another time, even if it was only 20 years ago. A time when Bengaluru could love even a policeman and collectively grieve over his death. Not something we can say about policemen today, when the khaki arouses mostly feelings of intense dislike and fear, for all the wrong reasons. That’s why it’s important to recall Meesey Thimmaiah.
“It was cloudy and about to rain heavily that monsoon morning in August 1995, but nothing could stop my husband from going to work on time. As I prepared the lunch boxes for our three children, he stood in front of the mirror, oiling and combing his big moustache to perfection. Then he walked out the door with the children, to drop them off at school in Peenya and then head to work in his clean white shirt and khaki trousers. I stood at the gate, waving to them, and him, for a long time.” It was the last time Lakshamma would see him twirl his moustache. That afternoon, she would receive word that Meesey Thimmaiah had died.
Head constable (traffic) Thimmaiah had died saving a woman and her daughter from being run over by a speeding tempo that had disobeyed his signal to stop. He, who had been a sight to watch as he choreographed traffic at GPO Circle for years.
Thimmaiah joined the traffic police force in 1977, and he and G.R. Lakshamma, both natives of Koratagere taluk in Tumakuru district, were married a year later. “My husband always had a thing for big moustaches. In 1985, he started to grow his own moustache. Soon, people were calling him Meesey Thimmaiah. He loved it, and oiled and combed it everyday. The Police department even gave him an annual allowance of Rs. 500 for it,” Lakshamma, now 56, recalled.
The man was not only fastidious, “he was also very punctual and strict about his police duty. I don’t recall him taking leave at all. He never had any allegations or complaints against him. And he couldn’t stand people misbehaving in public or shouting abusive words.” Perhaps that was why he felt it was always important for him to be at his post – to ensure that people behaved. Oh, if only we had Thimmaiah on our roads today!
If the city lost a good cop, Lakshamma’s loss, needless to say, was far greater. Her husband, father to their three children, the family’s sole breadwinner was suddenly gone. Her eldest son T. Venuprasad was then only 13, the younger Arun Kumar 10, and daughter Chaitra just seven.
“I was so shocked I fell unconscious for sometime when I heard the news. But life had to go on, I had the children to take care of”, Lakshamma says. “Soon after the last rites, I began doing the rounds of Vidhana Soudha, asking the government to give me my husband’s job. I was willing to be a traffic policewoman”.
Lakshamma says she must have visited the state secretariat at least fifty times, but gave up hope after six months of trying. Instead, she joined a garment factory where she worked for two years. “I was getting a salary of Rs. 1,000. Meanwhile, the then Chief Minister Deve Gowda gave us Rs 5,000. And with some more money from other people, I was able to pay my children’s school fees and keep the kitchen fire going. After renewed attempts to get a government job on compassionate grounds, I was able to get the post of a second division assistant in the state’s Department of Industries and Commerce, where I work even today.”
Venuprasad took up a job as a driver in an IT firm when he turned 18, and continues in that job even today. Arun Kumar is a gym trainer. Both aspired to a police constable’s job to emulate their father, but failed. Daughter Chaitra, a post-graduate in commerce, too, tried and was shortlisted, only to be rejected because she was an inch too short for a police job.
The government awarded Thimmaiah a gold medal posthumously for his excellent service. GPO Circle, which he manned for several years, was renamed Police Thimmaiah Circle.