A traffic cop shows a young and homeless Deepika the path to a sensible future

Mahendran recalls that he used to watch the mother sell fruits by the roadside and the family take shelter near a car parking area adjoining the police station during nights. 

Published: 16th January 2022 11:06 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th January 2022 11:34 AM   |  A+A-

S Mahendran helping Deepika with studies on a Sunday lockdown in Chennai. (Photo | Debadatta Mallick, EPS)

By Online Desk

CHENNAI: S Mahendran, a traffic cop attached to the flower bazaar police station in the city has a duty other than regulating traffic at two vantage signals - to show a Class VII girl that through education is her path to a sensible future.

The girl is Deepika. Her mother, Sudha (36) sells fruits for a living near the flower bazaar police station while her father Ranjith (40) is a 'gaana' singer who sings at funerals.
Deepika is the fifth of their six daughters.

Mahendran, a resident of Kundrathur, usually regulates traffic at two vantage points in the city. He also gets to regulate traffic near the flower bazaar police station. In his spare time, Mahendran, a BSc Mathematics graduate, prefers to teach school students, Mathematics, Tamil and other subjects. He does it at his house and near the police station when he meets children. It was during one such occasion when Deepika happened to stumble upon the traffic cop when he was teaching a small group of students.


"He was teaching other children when I went and joined the group," Deepika recalls the first time she met the cop.

Mahendran recalls that he used to watch the mother sell fruits by the roadside and the family take shelter near a car parking area adjoining the police station during nights. 

The family was allotted a house by the government somewhere in Ernavur. Since shifting to the place would sabotage their livelihood, the couple decided to live with their daughters by the roadside in the city. 

Deepika's eldest sister had studied till Class X. Her third sister suffers from an intellectual disability.

Ranjith said that it's practically impossible to stay in Ernavur since his wife is doing business in the city. Ernavur is about 14 km away from the city. Hence, the whole family sleeps in the car parking area near the police station during the night. For bathing, refreshing and other purposes they use a public convenience located nearby.

He said that Mahendran used to watch Deepika doing her homework sitting on the pavement. He once checked her notebook and was impressed by her handwriting. Since then they became friends. 

Sudha purchases fruits from the wholesale market in Koyambedu and sells it for a marginal profit. 

"What she earns a day is hardly enough for our food," Ranjith said.

(Photo | Debadatta Mallick)

For Deepika, it's too early for dreams. When asked what she want to become, "athellam onnum theriyathu," (I don't know all that) she quipped. Then she thought for a while and replied, "I posed my teacher this question, he said, "you can become depends on how you study." The answer was so evasive for her that she didn't understand. "I have this thought to become a teacher," she continued.

"Sir, is there any good hostel you know?" she asked.

"Why is it you're thinking about hostel now, you're finding it difficult to study now at the place where you stay?"

"Nothing like that. I simply asked."

Then she called her father and told him, "Sir says he knows a good hostel."

Meanwhile, she said that Mahendran mostly teaches her Mathematics and Tamil.

"She's now fluent in Algebra. She's a brilliant girl," Mahendran signs off.

(Photos & Text By Debadatta Mallick)


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