Chennai: Remember a tall and well-built man in a khaki pant and khaki shirt knocking on your door the first day of every month?
On opening your door, you see the man salute you and say, ‘Salaam Saab’. By then the kids in the house would have run for cover, fearing him. Pay him a paltry Rs 10 and he leaves with a hearty salute.
These men, called Gurkhas, hailing primarily from Nepal, used to guard our place at night.
Actor Sathyaraj in Anna Nagar Mudhal Theru made these Gurkhas famous as he played one of them in the movie.
However, with the mushrooming of flats came security guards and advent of agencies providing watchmen for round-the-clock vigil at the apartments and business establishments. These Gurkhas have gone missing today.
“The sounds of cane hitting the ground and whistle is not heard any more at night. I grew up watching a Gurkha who used to pedal his way throughout my area after dark. He carried a cane and a torch with him and there were lots of stories told by people then about him. Hearing about his valour, I made him my superhero then. Sadly, we miss such men today,” says Sukumar, a resident of Nanganallur.
He adds, “What is surprising is that he knew the names of almost everyone in the area. He was good at spotting a newcomer to the locality.”
“Until a couple of decades ago, there used to be no police patrol. And CCTV cameras were unheard-of. Gurkhas were our guards. We slept happily then as there were very few incidents of robberies. Today, we have 24-hour security by guards in uniform, gadgets to maintain vigil. But crimes are on the rise,” says David, teacher in Tambaram.
The introduction of watchmen changed the trend. Today, Gurkhas are employed in hotels, textile shops and construction areas. Many have even forgotten the daredevil stories of their forefathers, says Ganapathy, who runs a security agency.
Above all, they are honest. You can trust them. They can adjust to any region and never complain of fatigue. They have strong muscles and don’t tire easily, he adds.