“How is the hero below the stairs?” inquired SP Jagatman Shrestha with a grin, when he met traffic icon and Inspector Sitaram Hachethu.
The question arises why SP Shrestha addressed Hachethu that way?
In 2050 B.S, when he was posted as the in-charge of New road, SP Shrestha was the in-charge of the police station there. They worked together under the same roof, though the departments were different.
“We wear ties and smart uniform proudly; but during those days there were no office rooms to work. We were like refugees(laughing).We would carry important documents of the public like the license, blue book and others. But there was no safe place to keep them. They were locked in a wooden box and distributed,” he recalls the past gloomily. When he approached Shrestha for a office, he asked him to use the basement below the stairs. Hachethu was not disheartened. Instead he placed a table below the stairs and started working. There would be small crowd for documents below. He would smoothly handle things. Gradually, he grew popular among the people.
That memorable whistle !
After the 2045 earthquake, late king Birendra visited different sites of Bhaktapur. When the king arrived in his locality, a huge mob gathered around the king. Suddenly from somewhere arrived a policeman caring a stick. He whistled so loudly that the crowd which was out of control; all of a sudden calmed down. He was 22 years old then. This scene had a long lasting effect in his mind as a curious youth. That unknown police personnel became his role model. He wanted to become like him.
The local people of Bhaktapur were not that friendly to police. Neither was he, before the whistle incident. They would sometimes pelt stones during the fairs and enjoy the scene. After the incident his attitude towards the police force completely changed. In 2046 B.S he passed the exams for the police force and chose the traffic service. The family was not happy about it. But he developed great passion and loved his job. He is the first person in the police force from his family.
Passed SSC for mother
He learned that he had failed the exam of grade ten. But that didn’t affect him much. As usual he loitered around with his friends and when he returned home in the evening his mother was weeping. His elder brother gazed at him in fury and said that was all because of him. His mother had not even taken meal because of the news. This shuddered him for the first time in his life. And he vowed to pass the exam. He worked hard and passed grade ten for his mother.
Home leave only once
During the interview he recalls of having taken a home leave only once during his service. In 2051 B.S he took a 10 days leave to built his new house. Never ever after he applied for a leave until his retirement. He did take weekly leaves and that was enough. Sometimes that would also be given-up.
“Traffic system is a concern even of the commonest person. We may not approach civil police without a problem, but traffic personel are in touch with the public every minute in urban areas,” he stresses.
First media coverage
In 2051, a daily paper named ‘Mahanagar’ published the first news about him. During those days he served at new road. He was the one who removed the road side vendors to enable the proper flow of traffic in the area. This encouraged him a lot. He felt as if he was rewarded. He was continuously covered and followed by media then after. Many a times he made headlines and banner news too.
His better half Biju Pradhan is a under-secretary at the Department of hydrology and meteorology at Babarmahal in Kathmandu. She is a good wife and an affectionate mother too. Their daughter has done Masters in Urban planning and son is doing Civil engineering under scholarship in Japan. Once Hachethu had been to pay his kids fees in VS Niketan. When he was asked about the section they studied in, he answered he didn’t know. The people around laughed. His personnel life was totally handled by his wife. He is thankful towards his wife for releasing him of the home affairs.
“Service to public is first for me, then family,” he says. He has been out with his wife only four times so far. Such is the devotion towards the job. Now after retired life, he has started staying home and knows what a family is !
Chemistry behind marriage
After he failed the SSC, he started working at Sano Thimi college library. After some days a beautiful girl started coming to a nearby office as a lab assistant. They began going together to the canteen for tea. One day she invited him to her sister’s wedding. He was happy and told her he loves partying and would dance in her sister’s wedding. She was disappointed with the reply. She actually wanted him to approach her parents for her hand. One day after their intimacy grew further; he went to his would be brother-in-law’s office in Kuleshwor to ask for his sister’s hand for marriage. His qualification was the first thing he had inquired. And he was just SSC pass. Therefore he passed the I.A for his wife’s sake. So, he studied for the sake of these two important ladies of his life.
One day they met before the holidays would begin. They were sad that they would not meet for 3 consecutive days because of public holidays falling one after another. And without thinking much they ran away and got married. The 3 days public holidays tied their nuptial knots.
News about son
It was early in the morning, he heard on the sets that there had been accident of a young boy called Shirish. Something very cold pinched his heart, as the name was a familiar one. His son also carried the same name. Then he asked about the surname. The voice replied Hachethu. When he rushed to the accident site, the victim was his own son. After treatment he was fine. The incident left deep marks in his heart. He heard and relayed many accidents on sets. But as a father it was totally different experience of pain and anxiety. This incident also made him to take stern and strict actions to implement the traffic rules.
Also, once a bus conductor was caught under the vehicle near Soltimod. Half part of his body was trapped by the overturned bus. Any moment could damage the part below the waist. A very cautious action was required. He requested crane from Kuleshwor and the man was safely rescued with not much harm. His happiness had no bound following the success of the operation.
-Drink and driving programme(mapase). He was the one who introduced the concept after returning from a training in Japan. In Japan people are fined upto three lakh rupees for drink and driving.
-Built 4 traffic buildings in Darbarmarg, Satdobato, Koteshwor and Kalimati.
-One way traffic in Mangalbazar.
-Nagpokhari road near the Nandi
school in Naxal. An abandoned old house in the area was dismantled for the same after a long snag.
-Along many others. By the time he retired, he proudly owned 129 awards and prizes from the hands of President, Prime Minister and other dignitaries. He served the traffic police department for 29 years and is fully satisfied with his duty as a traffic police officer. The 53 years old gentleman is still energetic like a teenager. Respecting his activeness and dedication he has been re-appointed in traffic service to look upon the traffic flow of the valley even after his retirement. He is indeed a traffic celebrity and a good human-being !