The sparkling Leela Ramji’s, 46, has been an invisible presence at Carter Road. For 13 years now, Ramji has been nonchalantly sweeping one of the city’s most famous landmarks. It was only when she was called to one of Bandra’s ‘By-membership-only’ that she knew she had done something beyond the ordinary.
Ramji was awarded the Best sweeper of Bandra, by the Rotary Club of Bombay Bandra. Ramji wasn’t alone. The ceremony was a welcome change from the usual, having categories like the best telephone linesman, the best nurse, the best municipal schoolteacher, the best cop and the best postman. The result? A roomful of smiles and six people walking back with an award and tons of gratitude.
Ranjiv Jhangiani, president of the club, said, “We have a special category of awards which we call the ‘utility’ awards. The purpose of this award is to ensure that people whom we are dependent on are recognised and awarded. This is when we decided to honour these heroes.”
A beaming Ramji said, “For 23 years now, I’ve been a conservancy worker with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), but never has anyone made me feel more important than today.” Ramji’s job includes sweeping the promenade as well as the road, and ensuring that the landmark looks like one. “There have been tough times, including those when I have had to lift stones with my bare hands.” Ramji joined the civic body after her husband, another conservancy worker, passed away 23 years back.
Another award winner was Shruti Vichare, the 46-year-old music teacher at Petit municipal school, Bandra. Since the past 25 years now, Vichare has been teaching music to kids between the age group of 3 to 10 years. “This period is the toughest since our job is to create an interest in music for kids at an age where its difficult for them to even comprehend the beauty of the subject fully.” Vichare considers singer Suresh Wadekar as her Guru. “Hence, there’s a certain sense of satisfaction I get when most of my students learn their basics and go to him. In a way, my life comes full circle.”
Anandini Thakoor, a Rotarian herself, said, “Everyone has glib ceremonies where celebrities are invited and awarded for their achievements. The real heroes, who silently fight battles for us and win them most times, are seldom rewarded. This was an attempt to do that.”