30 October, 2007

A local gentle man

It was a perfect English summer day. I was walking back from work on a fine evening. I love walking not only because it helps me in spending calories, also because I can observe more things that are happening around me. I like observing. I like to watch and look at things in a different way. Sometimes it is a bit scary to walk through tunnels or sub-ways where there is fewer crowds. It is not exaggeration to say that in UK. Many skulls are broken only in the undergrounds by disturbed youths. So though there was this subway near a ring road, I preferred to cross the road on top than using the subway. Just after crossing, I noticed him. Only few people are so impressive, attractive to be looked again. I looked back at him. I stopped and looked seriously at him.

He was very old. He was wearing Torn clothes. He had a long beard and was picking up rubbish on the road. He was to himself. I stopped and asked him whether he was alright and he did not bother about me. He did not look around and was just doing his job. I wondered at him and his clothes. I did not expect someone to be so poorly dressed in UK. I walked few steps and looked back at him. He did not bother about me and sat on the side road pavement and gazed at the traffic on the ring road.

I saw him few times at distance and sometime very close. He had never bothered or cared to look back at anyone. Then there was news about him in the local newspaper. He was called as Fred and lived near the ring road, inside a tent donated by the local council. It seems he has been there for at least 30 years living like that near ring road. I could only wonder how he could withstand the cold temperature and live in such a tent for so many years.

After reading more about him in the local newspaper, I became more interested about him. Once when I was walking closer to the tent, I saw him sweeping the place around his tent. He kept the place around him very clean. He hardly spoke to anyone. I read the news about him to my children. My daughter who is of 6 years old was very much moved and asked me why not bring him home, so that we could offer shelter. I was almost on tears when she told this. My kids wanted to look at the old gentleman and I promised that I shall take them one day to show him.

I cannot fulfil their promise. I knew this yesterday from the local newspaper. Fred had died. This was a great shock to everyone who lives in the town. He was respected by many people who live in this town. Few months before he became a great hit in the internet when someone set up a website for him, and there were thousands of visitors from all over the world who visited his site.

He was offered houses and benefits many times by the local council and he refused them. He did not want to live in a house. It seems he was born in Poland and held as a prisoner during the world war. For more news about him you can read http://www.expressandstar.com/2007/10/30/fred-takes-mystery-to-the-grave/
I admired his life for the way he has lived. It is rare to see someone who had lived in a very simple way in much advanced world. He was a true gentleman, and he was served food daily by the meal on wheels section of the local council. The lady who visited his tent had commented that she saw a shadow sometimes in his tent when she kept the plate and few times she had seen a hand taking the food. She had never heard a word except ‘Thank you’ sometimes. Only last week when someone had asked him whether he needed anything, he showed his torn trousers. He never said anything. But the next day, the person who had asked him got him a new trouser.

Fred I respect you and your feelings! I am not offended that you never said anything to me when I asked you whether you were alright.

You will be always remembered by me and my family Fred!

May your soul rest in peace!


Arul Kumar said...

That was a good post Balaji.When i read the link , it also said that he was a holy man in the Hindu and Sikh community at wolverhampton

Jo said...

God bless his soul. It's good to know that you took your time to communicate with this man because many people show them as exhibition pieces.

Jeevan said...

Even I can’t forget this post about an unusual personality from the royal country. The pictures on the link bring the situation to feel. I just wanted to shake hand your daughter for think so innocently and cared about the old man. Hugsss :)

Rama Iyer said...

That is very nice of you to have spoken to him. I am sure he would have felt good even though he did not respond. Your daughter too is simply sweet. That is what innocence is all about.

May his soul rest in peace

Balaji S Rajan said...


Yes. You are right. There is a Hindu Temple closeby and the Hindu and Sikh devotees considered him to be a holy man who was living without expecting anything from anyone still contributed to the society by cleaning the place around him. He has never begged in those 30 years.

Balaji S Rajan said...


Thanks bro. But I just feel that I could not show him to my kids. We should never postpone few things if we want to do them.

Balaji S Rajan said...


You are right. The first time when I read news about him on the first page few months before, I screamed " Oh. This is the man whom I see often near the ring road". I was almost on tears when my daughter expressed her views. I am glad that the kids are concerned about others.

Balaji S Rajan said...


Thanks. Yes, I did not bother for that. But thought why he was not replying back. I came to know more about him only when there was a news about him on the first page of the local newspaper. Later I came to know that he is an icon and many people have grown up seeing him. Now there are hundreds of mails from different parts of the world to the local newspaper. Most of them have commented him as a gentleman. The council is waiting for someone to claim his body. If no one turns up, the council may take for his final ritual.

Swatantra said...

You are an amazing person, i am sure people around you must be feeling the same way.

May GOD bless MR Fred's soul rest in peace.

Balaji S Rajan said...


Thanks. I am a very ordinary simple person. I try to keep the people around me happy. I have been brought up to honour others and help others. Helping others is a passion for me. But many times we are mistaken by others. What to do?

Dan said...

Happy Diwali Balaji.

arvindh said...

A touching post. Looks like an artist was inspired to sketch and paint him.

Balaji S Rajan said...


Oh.. yeah. Did you read about it. In fact, the first time I saw him, I felt like sketching him immediately. I think I vaguely sketched him while travelling. I must search for it now.