I haven’t written much about my father.

This December, it is 17 years since his passing away. We miss him a lot and I hope to record more experiences with him in this blog. Some details are blemished to tell a story.

My father V.Gopalan spent plenty of time as an active member of the local community. His goal was to make EVR Nagar the best place to live. Every evening, he would gather with a group of his friends behind the Raja Ganapathy temple to discuss matters of the community and the Association. Matters such as security, roads, dues collection. garbage collection, taxes, liasion with Srirangam municipality etc were top of mind.

At one time, I got involved in a colony wide initiative. A spate of late night burglaries created a lot of angst amongst the colony residents. Despite requesting additional police patrols in the midnight to 4 am hours, burglaries continued. After heated discussions, the Association decided to create a community night patrol team. My father spearheaded its creation and organization. The patrol team took turns walking around the community from 11 PM to 4 AM. As a young lad, I felt a sense of thrill to walk around outside at 11 PM with a bunch of adults and other friends. My brother Renga was a key member of the squad and it felt great to take on a common enemy with him. He even recruited some of his non colony friends to walk with us. Drinking tea at midnight with the patrol team was a nice bonus.

“I asked you to join for the headcount and not to be the head. Get to the back of the group.” remarked Mr Venkatraman to his enthusiastic son Radha as he excitedly jostled his way to the front of the walking pack. That was the highlight of Day 1. No burglaries were reported that night. Residents however complained that they didn’t get much sleep.

The patrol team operated for 6 months. My father knew it would not scale for a long time, so he proposed hiring a bunch of full time security personnel. Three folks were hired and the community patrol team was allowed to lapse. That was a sad day for many youngsters who felt excited to be up and about at night.

David was hired as one of the security guys. A tall, retired Army guy, he biked from Jeeyapuram to EVR Nagar for his duties. That was easily a 7 mile distance. My father agreed to let him use our verandah to rest up before and after his duty. Upon arriving at 6 PM, he setup camp and proceeded to rest there until 11 PM. Our Verandah went off limits for casual chats in the evening. Everyone in the family got annoyed, but my father wouldn’t reconsider.

We tried to make the best of the situation to entertain ourselves. David slept soundly from 6 PM to 11 PM and from 4AM to 7 AM on our verandah. One day, we hatched a plot to tie him to the iron grille adjoining the verandah. Working in hushed tones and with gentle hands, the three of us managed to loop a rope through his epaulet and tied the two ends to the grille with my sister Kamala showing great skill in knotting. We waited for a few hours to see what would transpire.

“What’s this pulling me? Oh, God, something is pulling me”, wailed David slowly as he tried to sit up and get ready for his duty. “Someone has tied a rope to me Sir”, he complained to my imaginary father standing there. Sitting up, David turned on his flashlight and surveyed the situation. After a few tense moments, he untied the rope gingerly from the iron grill and mumbled something about kids.

Observing this action from a dark corner overlooking the verandah, the three of us burst into muffled laughter. Mission accomplished, we thought. The mission – Boot David from the Verandah.

“What you all did to David is unacceptable”, our father warned sternly. “He is protecting the colony at night and that’s a good reason to let him use our Verandah”, he declared. Looking down, we retreated temporarily. However, the mission is not over, we thought to ourselves.

A few weeks later at the crack of dawn, David leapt up from the Verandah and screamed “Aiyo, who poured water on me?”. In this strategy, we instigated our maid Jaya to just splash water on the verandah under the guise of cleaning it in the morning.

Despite all the hassle, David didn’t take a hint and neither did our father. David’s “Occupy Verandah” movement continued until he was let go to accomodate a younger agile professional. The thieves were getting smarter.

Miss you Dad! Your dedication to improve the EVR Nagar environment was remarkable indeed.