QUEEN'S ROAD: Love is blind, and this explains best the power of strange love for trains and railway stations that made S Shankar to stick around the Bengaluru City railway station performing voluntary work for the last 24 years.
This 42-year-old was a big mystery to the railway employees initially when he first arrived at the railway yard of the station in 1991. But over the years, he has become a much sought-after helper there.
Shankar’s main contribution is changing display boards on coaches, a job usually done by a person who goes by the designation of ‘helper’ in railway circles. Each train is assigned a staffer to carry out the job.
Shankar does this for six to eight hours a day and five to six days a week. Sometimes, he works for long hours, stretching into the nights. Every day, he boards a bus from Vijayanagar, where he stays with his father, to reach his workplace. Shankar is said to be mentally challenged and has some difficulty in communication.
“He is useful and harmless. So his mental condition does not pose any serious problems to anyone. Moreover, he is so efficient at this job,” said B Sudheendra, senior section engineer, mechanical department.
When asked what he likes in life, pat comes Shankar’s answer: "Yeshwantpur and Cantonment stations." This helper speaks the jargon of top railway officials as he can reel off any train number instantly, knowledge he has acquired over the years.
Educated only up to Class 5, he can speak Hindi, English, Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu. "His dedication is really touching and railway officials or helpers often buy him food or tea and give him Rs 10, Rs 20 or Rs 50. A couple of top officials pay him Rs 100 a month from their own pockets," says Sudheendra. The contractor in-charge of railway helpers pays him Rs 500 a month to acknowledge his service.