startling banals

22 June 2007

Wither Happy Watchmen?

Anil has a great photograph of a smiling security guard. And I am struck by nostalgia.

3-4 years back, 'Trig' and 'Bakshi' were two major private security guard 'suppliers' in Bombay. Earlier we used to have institute watchmen at the hostels in iit bombay, but then they brought in private agencies. The institute got 'Trig' but in a few months a watchman was caught stealing in hostel 5 and 'Trig' was replaced by 'Bakshi'.

The regular iit watchmen got a lot of respect - that was the custom. We used to call them 'Watchman Saab'. Announcements on the hostel PA system (Public Announcement system - with speakers in every wing of the hostel) used to go like 'Watchman saab come to PA'. The watchman was typically a happy old character with a pot belly. One day I was waiting for a friend at hostel 6 PA system. A hostel 6 guy came zooming with his 'babe' on a bike and started parking it. With great comic sense and timing the watchman turned to me and said 'Ab dekho yeh log kaha jaate hai'. Within seconds they disappeared within the trees and grass towards Powai lake. And he had such a satisfied 'I told you so' grin on his wrinkled face. They were real wise old men these watchmen.

They got a house on campus, a decent salary, health facilities for family and retirement benefits. But then things changed and now the announcement became 'Security guard come to PA'. One regular lukhha night, a few friends and I were having a small chat with the 'Bakshi' night-duty guard at hostel 8 who lent us his machis. He told us of his life in short - he gets almost no holidays, shifts are arbitrary and he is paid 1500 per month, so he drives a rickshaw when he can. 1500 rupees in the year 2003 and no job security. The silent violence of globalisation.


I remember our guard - but he had (I would think) the better job of manning the only girls hostel in Engr. So, he got to see the last minute romances before the gates closed, announce gate calls from love sick paramours, and get all the spicy stories (who was seeing who now!). Ah, those were the days...
Blogger Smita, at 22.6.07  
hahaha. thats a lot of entertainment for him! he must be getting a lot of masala out there.
Blogger anish, at 22.6.07  
Thank you, Anish.

As they grow older their wisdom is like that of a statue who's seen everything just standing there :)

Some of them make for wonderful storytellers.
Blogger Anil P, at 24.6.07  
exactly! and they are the living history of the place where they have spent a lifetime. they are so much in tune with and comfortable with their surroundings that they become a part and sort of complete the whole picture :)
Blogger anish, at 27.6.07  

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