I had read about our “Nail Man” Benedict in newspapers and social media. I was excited to meet him in person …

Shivoo: Thanks for giving me your time.

Benedict: The pleasure is mine.

Shivoo: What keeps you motivated?

Benedict: My friend quit her job because of frequent punctures! A small nail on the road can change the life choice of someone. I knew my calling was right.”My Road, My responsibility”.

Shivoo: Have you achieved your goals?

Benedict: For the cause, a long way to go. For self, my ego requires more puncture so that I can be more humble.

“When I started to suffer too many flat tires I initially blamed tire quality, but soon saw a pattern to the whole fiasco, a coincidence that I could no longer overlook.”

In conversation with Benedict Jebakumar, a man who has collected over 70 kg nails on Outer Ring Road, Bangalore.

How did it all start? Why nails??

I am from Tuticorin. In 2011, I came to Bangalore. Prior to coming to Bangalore, I was in Hyderabad for 10 years. I used to cycle or ride to work every day, My route used to be from my home at Banashankari to my office at Eco Space on Outer Ring Road – a distance of nearly 20 kilometers.

I ended up with a flat tire way too often. A puncture repair shop was always nearby just a stone’s throw away. When I would see them initially I would be like, thank god they are such a godsend. This relief was temporary, as they would charge exorbitant rates to fix the tires.

When I started to suffer too many flat tires I initially blamed tire quality, but soon saw a pattern to the whole fiasco, a coincidence that I could no longer overlook. It started with, one day I saw a bunch of cobbler nails, they looked pretty new and were glistening. So I knew they were there by design. I began the silent battle against the conspiracy.

I decided to take the matter into my own hands. I began combing the roads actively with his bare hands it used to take a lot of time, as it involved me picking up each one of them individually.

I used to talk about this activity to my children and my friends. One of my sons – the younger one, came up with a suggestion of using magnets. It was like a Eureka moment for me.

Immediately he gave me one of his magnets and a toy also. So, I started tying it with a thread because I did not want to get off my cycle, but it was not that effective. So then I decided to attach the magnet to a metal rod or magnetic stick (with a powerful magnet) to pick up the nails without getting off the cycle.

“My son said why not use a magnet?”

I decided to take the matter into my own hands. I began combing the roads actively with his bare hands it used to take a lot of time, as it involved me picking up each one of them individually.

I used to talk about this activity to my children and my friends. One of my sons – the younger one, came up with a suggestion of using magnets. It was like a Eureka moment for me. Immediately he gave me one of his magnets and a toy also. So, I started tying it with a thread because I did not want to get off my cycle, but it was not that effective. So then I decided to attach the magnet to a metal rod or magnetic stick (with a powerful magnet) to pick up the nails without getting off the cycle.

So, as days went on, I could spot more and more nails. I call these spots as hot spots, where I repeatedly find these nails. Upon seeing more nails, so I had to keep changing my strategy of using higher magnets. Doing this day in and day out, between 2012 and 2013, I avoided this road, fearing these nails.

After a short back, I was at it again in 2014. This time I started collecting the nails also. The idea to documenting my progress was given by an old friend and mentor – J. Srinivasan. He was the one who told me to inform the authorities, go on social media as well as document my progress. Once I started doing that, there would be standard replies from the authorities, such as – ‘We will look into it’. But the next day, there would be nails again on the road. I don’t know what stops them from taking action. An arrest here and there, but nothing concrete has happened.

This entire exercise resonated with what my mentor had told me, ‘hey, do something for the public!’
At first, it was just theory. But when I started doing it, I could say that I’m indirectly helping another. This started giving me contentment, joy which has to be just experienced. This was a great learning and brought about great self-contentment.

What have been your successes on your way?

J. Srinivasan told me “don’t stop posting till they stop throwing the nails”. I started tagging BBMP and BTP regularly on the nails I used to collect. I also used to go and meet them regularly showing them the nails that were strewn on the road, which was posing as a hazard. My constant posting of pics caught authorities’ attention and soon couple of people was arrested. Interrogation by the police revealed that the two culprits were employed in the nearby puncture shops, and they deliberately threw the nails in a bid to increase their business.

“Don’t stop posting till they stop throwing the nails?”

In addition, to help raise awareness to the nail problem of Bangalore’s Outer Ring Road, I have set up a Facebook page called My Road, My Responsibility.

“To help raise awareness to the nail problem of Bangalore’s ORR, my Facebook page called My Road, My Responsibility”

As I wanted start the change. The main objective of this page is to spread the awareness of this nail menace to the public and to inform the relevant authorities through a central repository of all the relevant information and documented proofs. I am hoping that this will help other motorists realize the dangers they expose themselves to by driving on a road riddled with traps, and inspire them to take action. With over 9000 followers on the Facebook page, I am able to amplify the message.

I feel no single government body can be held responsible for this. The BBMP, the police and the BDA need to work in tandem if they plan to solve this. The volunteer group can use the Facebook page as a platform to post their experience, report to authorizes and also bring it to the notice of BBMP and BTP. This page has increased the likelihood of the authorities to finally take appropriate action against the fraudulent tire repair shops behind the problem.

With momentum in this initiative, I am hearing that there are more Benedicts in other areas which have started similar collection drives, as many Bengalureans have faced similar incidents occurring in other areas as well. The awareness about these incidents is increasing. This is first sign of change.

Next Steps?

In January, Benedict decided to move back to his home-town in Tamil Nadu.

I have carried the 70 kilos of iron nails along with me. I have a volunteer group who will help me in this “nail” crusade.

What we need right now, is a strong volunteer network who will come forward to collectively speak against this grave crime, else there is no way the matter will be ever resolved once and for all.

I have 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. There are over 1800 sign-ups right now.

How can people collaborate with you or your initiative?

My friend inspired me with his words ‘don’t stop posting till they stop throwing the nails’ and I believe my action may inspire some. We are in constant need of volunteers and do-gooders. If you feel you can contribute to our cause, please feel free to message me on our Facebook page (or benedictjkumar@yahoo.com) or you can reach us through contact@yourphilanthropystory.com.