Mr Naidu was bold and outspoken. The residents dotingly called him the ‘hero’ of our colony. They could recognise him from a distance by his white stubble and amiable smile. He looked up to Mahatma Gandhi as a role model and was inspired by his philosophy of non-violence. Like the Mahatma, Naidu never fought shy of speaking up against injustice all his life.
After his retirement, Naidu would spend his morning hours with his small charkha in his modest flat. With his two daughters well-settled, he had plenty of time to work for the betterment of the colony. As a member of the welfare association, his activities ran the gamut from meeting the local councillor regarding civic issues to inviting the area SHO once a month for an interactive session with colony residents. He even kept track of whether the local MLA was utilising all the funds meant for public welfare.
Patience and a silver tongue were the two weapons in Naidu’s armoury. Whenever he found any resident indulging in illegal constructions in his flat, he never got into a verbal spat; he would gently request them to not violate the rules. Most of the time, people did listen to him. But some residents, much as they might respect him, refused to do so. Naidu’s wife feared for her husband’s safety. After all, it takes all sorts to make a world.
The Stakhanovite Naidu’s biggest challenge came when a polluting factory was operating illegally from the colony. It posed a health risk to residents. He met the factory owners and requested them to stop their business activity. They threatened him with dire consequences. The residents, who had thrown in their lot with Naidu, got cold feet, while police looked the other way. But the threats failed to cow down his spirit.
One evening, a group of lathi-wielding goons, hired by the factory owners, waylaid a defenceless Naidu near his flat. Their intention was to intimidate him into submission. How wrong they were. The spunky Naidu didn’t even panic and stared them down. He believed the valiant die only once. The factory was sealed after a month and Naidu emerged as the real hero. But he was humble enough to thank the residents for their support.
A few years ago, Naidu passed away in his early seventies. If today the colony has become a better place to live in, it is all because of this feisty social crusader.