This Man Collected 70 kg Nails to Save Tyres from ‘Puncture Mafia’
When 42-year-old Bengaluru-based Benedict Jebakumar comes home from work, his family no longer expects him to come back with, say, a bag of fruits.
The family has now grown accustomed to his routine, where the systems’ engineer on reaching home spreads dozens of iron nails on the table, and goes on to patiently count them.
For the past four years, Benedict has been combing the public road between his home at Banashankari and his office at Eco Space on Outer Ring Road – a distance of nearly 20 kilometres – every morning for those teeny iron nails on the road that invariably puncture a vehicle's tyres.
Benedict has till date collected nearly 70 kilograms of iron nails. Speaking to The News Minute, he says that he just cannot turn a blind eye to this menace – a ‘grave crime’ he terms it.
Benedict moved to Bengaluru towards the end of 2011. As he began to cycle to work every day, he found that he ended up with a flat tyre way too often.
That a puncture repair shop was always available just a stone’s throw away was something that he was initially grateful for. But he soon saw a pattern to the whole fiasco, a coincidence that he could no longer overlook.
A suspiciously high number of nails were found near make-shift puncture shops on the roadside. He began to "fish out" a minimum of 15 nails each day, especially from the HSR-BDA Bridge.
When his conscience could no longer ignore this crime that continued to unfold daily before his eyes, Benedict decided that it was time for him to act. In 2015, Benedict started a Facebook page called "My Road, My Responsibility," and began to regularly post images of his day's "collection."
Every morning around 7 am, Benedict leaves home on his cycle or bike and spends at least two hours "fishing for iron nails."
"Initially whenever I spotted a nail, I would get off my bike to pick it up using my bare hands. A few months later, a magnet that my younger son gave me came in handy," he recalls. His latest "tool" is a modified fishing rod with a bigger magnet attached to one end.
Despite his diligent efforts to get rid of the menace, Benedict feels that it is unfortunate that it continues to persist:
"Eradicating this issue is not the responsibility of a particular civic body alone. The BBMP, the police and the BDA -all are responsible. There is not one CCTV installed on that road to monitor the people who plant these iron nails in the wee hours of the day."
Though many volunteers have time and again joined Benedict in combing the roads, he feels the sore lack of a consistent effort from the citizens to address the issue.
Benedict believes that his persistence always overpowers the frustration he feels for not being able to find a foolproof solution to the same.
"I began to make use of social media to connect with the officials. I used to regularly tweet to the Bengaluru City Police and the BBMP. In a couple of instances, the police arrested two persons red-handed, but the problem still persists," he rues.
On the positive side, this self-appointed vigilante speaks about how championing the cause has made him conscious of a citizen's responsibilities.
"Ever since I began to collect the nails, my manner of travel has changed. I became more focused on the road, and now not even a single nail goes unnoticed," Benedict chuckles.
Come January, Benedict is set to shift to his home-town in Tamil Nadu. The 70 kilos of iron nails are all set to go with him. His wife Ratna laughs when asked about her husband's unusual hobby.
"He summons all of us every evening to count the nails…. where does one make enough space to store them?" she exclaims.
With less than a month left for him in Bengaluru, Benedict hopes that someone would come forward to continue the cause he has championed.
He also created a Change.org petition a few months ago to drum up enough support from the public, so that the authorities have no choice but to address the matter.