The Good Samaritan of Bengaluru who fills potholes to prevent mishaps, and perhaps deaths

A 51-year-old businessman, Syed Shahi, stops at every pothole he comes across and fills them to save people's lives.

ByChetana Belagere

Published Aug 26, 2022 | 9:00 AMUpdatedAug 26, 2022 | 2:19 PM

Bengaluru potholes

Every time Syed Humayun Shahi spots a pothole on a Bengaluru road, he stops and sets out to fix the problem.

First, he seeks out a construction site in the vicinity, and then starts sifting through the inevitable debris for broken paver blocks, stones, bricks and concrete, all the while stuffing suitable fragments into a plastic sack he always carries with him.

Once satisfied with his haul, he returns to the pothole to fill it up with the rubble he has collected. He even stomps on the strewn debris for good measure — just to make sure his patchwork repair holds.

Job done, Humayun moves on, eyes peeled for the next pothole.

So why does he do it? After all, he is not an employee of Bengaluru’s civic body; he is a 51-year-old businessman.

“I believe it is my responsibility to ensure lives are not lost because of these potholes,” the Good Samaritan said simply when South First approached him.

“I feel it (the city’s pothole problem) is not just mine, but should be everyone’s concern.”

A tragedy the trigger

An incident early in February 2021 set him on his unusual routine, said Humayun; he was on his way to work when he saw a young girl fall off her bike after running into a pothole, and come under the wheels of an onrushing truck in Bengaluru’s Lingarajpuram area.

Syed Shahi next to a filled pothole

Syed Shahi standing next to a pothole he filled. (Supplied)

“I saw a young girl breathe her last on the spot,” he said. “I later learnt her name was Tasdeeq Bushra, she was 19, and was a medical student.”

It was then that Humayun decided to do his bit for society — by filling up any pothole he comes across — not only in Malleshwaram where he resides, but various parts of the city.

His score: More than 350 potholes in the past two years.

Humayun said he was never without his plastic sacks — those are always kept ready in his car and scooter — to collect debris.

His preferred mix for the rubble is, of course, concrete mix, but if that is unavailable, he uses wet mud; the stomping finishes the job.

Conceding that this kind of filling was not a scientific way of fixing a pothole, he argued: “It is still better than leaving it unfilled.”

Turning a blind eye

Humayun said it was not about what he did to ensure there is no pothole-related accident, it was what “other citizens of this city did that is important”.

“It is evident from the number of potholes we come across every single day that the authorities and the departments concerned have turned a blind eye to this issue,” he said.

“But why aren’t the citizens doing their bit?”

Potholes of Bengaluru

Potholes in one of Bengaluru’s busy roads. (Supplied)

Humayun also said he has seen people tripping over because of the potholes, who, if lucky, escape with minor bruises.

“But they don’t do anything about what caused the fall,” he rued. “They could at least call the authorities and get them to fill the pothole.”

It is not as if Humayun has failed to inspire anyone; his 21-year-old son, a law student, and some of his relatives and friends, have now begun to follow his lead.

But as of now, that seems to be the extent of his impact.

He is philosophical about it. “I can’t expect everyone to be dedicated to this,” he said. “But I would like people to at least inform the authorities if they can’t fill the potholes themselves.”

No end to pothole menace

A civic official told South First that Shahi’s efforts were appreciated, and that the authorities were working on a war footing to fill potholes. “Due to the rains sometimes the work gets slower,” he explained.

But despite his protestations, Bengaluru’s “pothole deaths” seem to be continuing. Even on Tuesday, 23 August, a 44-year-old man lost his life after he fell when he lost control of his bike after hitting a pothole near Sunkadakatte, leaving him with severe head injuries. He died later in the hospital.

Opposition leader Siddaramaiah took the issue to Twitter: “Infrastructure of #NammaBengaluru in shambles. In an unfortunate incident, an innocent man has succumbed to pothole. My deepest condolences to his family. Weak & incapable @CMofKarnataka @BSBommai is in deep slumber, and even repeated warnings of High Court has not woken him up.”

Siddaramaiah was referring to the multiple warnings that the Karnataka High Court has given the civic authorities.

₹20,000 crore down the (pot)hole

In the past, similar instances have led to citizens and netizens running hashtag campaigns.

Faced with rising criticism over the city roads, the civic authorities in May identified about 10,000 potholes and said that efforts were on to fill those.

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had earlier said that ₹20,000 crore has been spent on road-related works in Bengaluru alone in the last five years.

All that money does not seem to have filled too many potholes.