“It is not only our job, but a form of public service”. These were the humble words of Alagarsamy (29) and Saravanakumar (27), the two rope car operators, who played a crucial role in rescuing 23 devotees who were stranded in rope cars at the Palani Hill shrine on Wednesday.
The duo was the first to respond when the devotees were trapped inside eight rope cars after a centrally-operated shaft developed a snag. The devotees, who were dangling at a height of almost 200 feet, were already panicking when passersby and temple authorities were informing the Fire and Rescue Services.
Alagarsamy and Saravankumar not only helped in rescuing the devotees, but played a vital role in keeping them calm while a rescue operation could be mounted.
They climbed up to the rope cars using nylon ropes with Alagarsamy going from the foothills end. They helped fit the chairs that were sent up by rescue personnel and fitted with ropes to transport the devotees. The duo also oversaw the rescue of each devotee.
For his exploits on Wednesday, Alagarsamy, chief operator of the rope car service, earned the sobriquet of ‘Spider Man’ from local residents. Hailing from a poor family in Palani, Alagarsamy did an ITI course for fitter in 2002 and had worked with a private company in Coimbatore. He returned to Palani after seeing a newspaper advertisement for machinery work at the Palani Temple. Being an avid climber from his school days, Alagarsamy enjoyed the training given by temple authorities including in climbing ropes and rescue operations. Interestingly, his family, including his father and wife, were never comfortable with his choice of profession. However, he remains committed to the job. Even though I have been approached by other companies with job offers, I will not leave this work as I enjoy it and it is useful to the public,” declared Alagarsamy. When the rope car service got stalled on Wednesday, Alagarsamy was asleep at his house. With his quick thinking, he ascended the ropeway from the foothills end. He was also accompanied by his deputy, Saravanakumar who too hails from a poor farming background.
He joined the temple rope car service in 2005. “My family always encouraged me in my work. My wife Maheswari would even provide suggestions on work issues and always seek to boost my dedication,” he revealed.
Maheswari recollected with pride her husband’s achievements, including the rescue of two persons from a stranded rope car in the 2008 accident in which four devotees were killed.