This defiant Dostoyevskian figure is a fixture on this bridge. I’ve been seeing him in this pose on the bridge ever since I can remember, most mornings when I drop my boys to school. He’s clearly not quite right in the head, but seems none the worse for it. At times I see him carrying stuff, so it appears he does odd jobs in the area. At any rate, he seems to lead a stable life.
Last week, it was my auto driver who pointed him out to me and told me it was the same person. I couldn’t believe my eyes! His matted hair and beard had gone, and he looked diminished as a result (see photo below). The auto driver told me that a Corporation van had drawn up next to our hero the previous afternoon, a few uniformed men had jumped out of it and pounced on him, dragged him inside the van, shaved him and cut his hair, after which they gave him a bath. The van is apparently equipped with a mobile bathroom and prowls the city looking for hobos to clean up.
I was sufficiently intrigued by the auto driver’s account to phone the Corporation and ask for more details. According to the official I spoke with, the van did indeed go out on rounds, but it was not equipped with a mobile bathroom. Hobos now recognize the van on sight and take to their heels as soon as they spy it. But those who are careless enough to be nabbed are taken to the Corporation Relief Centre at Palluruthy and — deloused.
The experience, however, doesn’t seem to have improved our hero’s frame of mind. In the top photo he looks every inch the proud master of his fate, whatever it may be; below, he looks distinctly aggrieved.