If you grew up in Chennai in the late 80s / early 90s, it would be hard NOT to have heard about Ayyannan, a traffic constable. Now, on initial glance it is easy to imagine a traffic constable as a pretty uncreative job. How creative can you get with directing traffic?
However, Ayyannan was special!!! He had this choreographic way of directing traffic – expansive dance like movements to get the traffic criss crossing…. and NO, his way of directing traffic did not cause any accidents. Ive often seen him posted in 2 of the busiest traffic intersections in Chennai during the morning peak hours – Gandhi statue on beach road or Music Academy junction in Cathedral Road – both of which fed huge traffic from the residences in South Chennai to the business districts in Mount Road and Parry’s corner. There would usually be a small crowd who stopped in a corner to just hang around and watch him go about his “uncreative job”. People in passing vehicles craned their neck to watch him too. I remember The Hindu even doing a piece on him.
Unfortunately, those were not the days of the internet and when I just did a search for “Ayyannan Traffic Constable” on Google, it returned almost nothing. In this day of Youtube, his video would have gone viral…. Like a “Kolaveri”.
Ayyannan has helped me remind myself that there is always a more creative way, an more enterprising way, a passionate way of doing even the most mundane job. Face it, in every job, there is a portion which is a drudgery. My ex boss once told me. “Whatever you do, there would be about 20% of your set of things on your plate that you will not enjoy greatly. Its part of the deal”. In multiple stages of my career Ive usually found this 80:20 rule to be pretty true – at a broad level. Looking at it as a drudgery is a sure way to not enjoy it and also to do a bad job at it. Maybe there is a more creative way of looking at it.
Its not just about what you do, but also about how you approach it and how you go about doing it.