CHENNAI: If you are a school-goer, the first and last person you would meet at the school would be a person in khaki uniform. The ‘watchman’ is a vital clog in the school machinery. When his employers are long gone after a day’s work, the entire place comes under his watch. Even when during school hours, one does not enter without being subjected to his numerous questions. It was an easy decision, then, for this reporter to feature 57-year-old C Radhakrishnan in the ‘Humans of Chennai’ column of City Express. Now in his 20th year as the watchman of SBOA Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Anna Nagar, he takes his job as seriously as he did when he first joined in 1996.
As a child, growing up in Thrissur in Kerala, he had an uncontrollable desire to wear a uniform. That his neighborhood counted IAS and IPS officers was to his benefit. The only child in the family, Radhakrishnan approached a bureaucrat for a job as early as in Class 6. But he was told he was too young for it. “A person in his uniform gets huge respect and he will continue to get it,” he says.
Upon completing his 10th year of schooling, he packed his bags for Chennai, where his relatives lived. After spotting an advertisement for all India recruitment by the Army, he decided to apply. “So, on one fine morning in 1978, I walked several kilometers from my residence to Pallavaram. There, I was selected as Sepoy.” His first posting was at the Madras Regiment in Wellington.
After serving for 16 years, Radhakrishnan gave his VRS and retired as Havaldar. “I had two young daughters. I had fulfilled my dream to be in uniform. Now there was nothing more.” He returned to Chennai in 1994. But in the next few years, he donned the uniform again, after getting a job at SBOA school. “When the Correspondent offered me the job, I had no expectations or even hesitations. In fact, I was pleased to be a watchman.”
His daughters, both of whom received education at the same school, have made him proud. While the oldest completed her BTech and is working as an IT professional, the youngest has already landed a placement job in the final year of her engineering degree.
Talking about the public perception of a watchman as one who always stands and salutes to passers-by, Radhakrishnan says, “Who doesn’t salute? Even an IPS/IAS person salutes his superiors. But, even then we don’t salute everyone. We are doing it to honour those we like. There is nothing wrong.”
Radhakrishnan, who has a year-and-a-half to go before his retirement, concludes, “We know everyone who comes and goes. It is a position which is very important and I treat my job with the respect it deserves.”