‘Diligent’, ‘prompt’ and ‘big moustache’ – these are what people think of when they recall head constable Marichikaiah Thimmaiah, fondly known as ‘Meese (moustache) Thimmaiah’. Those who have passed the General Post Office (GPO) traffic signal at Ambedkar Veedhi road in Bengaluru can hardly be oblivious to Thimmaiah’s statue installed near the signal. Ask traffic police officers nearby about him and you will be sure to hear tales of respect and discipline.
Installed in 2019 by the Bengaluru city police in collaboration with Fortis Hospital to pay tribute to Thimmaiah, the bust of the celebrated traffic cop, along with his trademark bushy imperial moustache, symbolises sacrifice and valour, according to officers.
Born in 1953, Thimmaiah was a police constable who served from 1976 to 1995. A native of Koratagere in the state’s Tumkur, he was famous for his smiling face and selfless dedication towards service. Thimmaiah manned the GPO circle for several years until an unfortunate incident led to his death while the constable was on duty. On August 26, 1995 he was run over by a speeding vehicle at the GPO circle while trying to save the lives of a foreign woman and schoolchildren.
According to the Bengaluru traffic police, Thimmaiah’s statue symbolises the good relationship and mutual respect between the Bengaluru police and citizens. In fact, to honour his bravery and sacrifice, the GPO circle has also been renamed as Police Thimmaiah Circle and he is now the mascot of the Bengaluru traffic police in their road safety awareness campaigns. According to various media reports, Thimmaiah dealt sternly with passengers who travelled on the footboards of buses, traffic violators and drunk drivers with his long lathi. Neither could he stand people who shouted or used abusive slurs.
Gopinath V, who is currently the traffic inspector of Cubbon Park traffic police station, recalls how Thimmaiah manned the GPO circle while twirling his big moustache. Recalling his first encounter with Thimmaiah, Gopinath said, “When I was in college in the 1990s, I happened to violate traffic rules by driving on the wrong side at GPO Circle. Thimmaiah, who was deployed there, gave me an earful. As college students, we used to literally take a ride around the GPO Circle just to catch a glimpse of him working. He was very affectionate towards youngsters and that is what pulled many young college students, including me, towards him.”
Retired traffic officials who worked with him recall how VIPs used to gesture respectfully from their cars in response to Thimmaiah’s graceful salute. M D David, a retired police officer, said, “He was the only traffic police constable who got a salute back from VIPs. He was a rare, yet decorated officer. He also made sure to stop the movement of heavy vehicles if schoolchildren or other pedestrians were crossing the road. He used to visit schools and colleges occasionally to train students in traffic signalling and he always carried that infectious smile with him that people, especially youngsters at that time, loved about him.”
Puttaswamy, who currently works as assistant sub-inspector (traffic) at Cubbon Park station, says the statue was built as a memorial to celebrate Thimmaiah’s selflessness and also symbolises commuter discipline. “A lot of Bengalureans used to visit Thimmaiah sir personally and talk to him. Some to just check out his moustache as well. Not just commoners, even young police officers loved to meet him. During my early days when I was joining the police department, I used to talk to him and listen to his experiences. He was polite, but also very strict when it came to duty. Motorists actually did not violate rules after spotting him at the traffic signal. He was a true inspiration and a role model for young police officers then and now,” he said.