'Meesey' Thimmaiah, the man who became Bengaluru Traffic Police's mascot

‘Meesey’ Thimmaiah
A  few days ago, when Bengaluru’s traffic police department tweeted a picture of their new mascot, a citizen remarked that he had a “nice name”. The department had introduced the mascot as “Meesey” Thimmaiah. While Thimmaiah is a familiar name in Karnataka, meesey is Kannada for moustache: the mascot’s most distinguishable feature is his full-bodied handlebar. 

Donning the white slouch hat, white shirt and khaki trousers that identify the men and women manning traffic in Bengaluru, hoardings featuring Thimmaiah are also cropping up across the city. In one of these, Thimmaiah is seen advocating seat belts; in another, he’s discouraging talking on the phone while driving. 

But for those who’ve called this city home for more than two decades, Thimmaiah isn’t just an illustration advocating dos and don’ts, he’s part of a history Bengalureans fondly look back at.  Having joined the force in 1977, head constable (traffic) Thimmaiah had policed some of the city’s busiest junctions for several years. 

Over 22 years ago, when city-based techie Afroz Pasha was still in school, Pasha and his friends would see Thimmaiah manning the General Post Office junction without fail. “As kids, it was very amusing for us to see a man with such a huge moustache,” recalls Pasha. 

Like Pasha, many school children would often tease Thimmaiah about his moustache as they passed by the cop. While some would shout out mucchad, others called him Veerappan (the sandalwood bandit).

“Our taunts would always be accompanied by a traditional police salute, but Thimmaiah sir was never irritated, he’d always smile and salute back,” says Pasha.  

In August 1995, many like Pasha would read about Thimmaiah on the front pages of newspapers: their moustachioed-friend had died saving a mother and her child from a speeding tempo. He had signalled for the vehicle to stop; it hadn’t. 

“He’s well-remembered by a generation that is just about going by,” says city-based brand expert Harish Bijoor. “His best known location was near the Vidhana Soudha, General Post Office junction and Coffee Board intersection.”

“Instead of roping in a celebrity to have continuity in our awareness campaigns, we went for Thimmaiah because we wanted people to identify with him,” says R Hithendra, additional commissioner of police, traffic. “He continues to be popular and is also an inspiration to the department,” he adds. After Thimmaiah passed away, hundreds of people wrote in to newspapers, and the General Post Office junction was renamed in his honour.   

The day Thimmaiah last left home, remembers his wife G Lakshamma, it was business as usual: while she packed lunch for their three children, Thimmaiah was oiling his moustache. The promise of a heavy shower, like the one expected that day, or sun, or sickness, couldn’t keep Thimmaiah from grooming his moustache and going to work. 

Thimmaiah, who had always liked big moustaches, had started to grow his in 1985. “Soon people had started calling him Meesey Thimmaiah. The Police department even gave him an annual allowance of Rs 500 to maintain it,” Lakshamma has said in past interviews.

Thimmaiah and his proud whiskers, feels Bijoor, are in some ways a reminder of “old Bangalore”, besides being a great emblematic representation for the city’s police force. “Maybe in the near future, the Police Commissioner’s office could have a small memorabilia store with Meesey Thimmaiah T-shirts and coffee mugs,” he adds.  

“He was probably our first definition of a real-life hero,” says Pasha. “For a ’90s kid, heroes were always movie stars, but he changed my opinion. This pot-bellied stout man, with a villainous moustache, had a heart of gold,” he says.  

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