A moving mission
G.S. Murthy, who began life in a press, has turned automobile engineer specialising in vehicles for the disabled. His vehicles are so well done, that they almost match the quality of branded products.
Murthy at his workshop. (Below) One of his creations, a modified scooter.
OFTEN, MANY of us do not know the mechanics of a vehicle though we spend half our lives on it. And we don't try hard enough to know. However, one compositor at a government press defies this common denomination. He not only knows the inside out of many a vehicle, he can set them right on his own, and in fact, make new ones out of them! And, hearteningly, he is a specialist in vehicles that help the physically challenged. You could say he is an automobile engineer, a philanthropic one at that, by default.
G.S. Murthy is all of 50. He quit his job last year and devoted all his time on his vocation the repair of vehicles. Not just repair, but modifications too. The story, though began with repairs. He is not a qualified automobile engineer. In fact, he has only passed the ninth class.
How did it all start? Murthy bought an AJS four-stroke motorbike for Rs. 2,500 soon after his marriage. The bike ran well for a while, but developed problems in course of time. He visited several mechanics, who didn't perform to his satisfaction. Finally, he homed in on one near Lalbagh. He decided to stick with the man to find out what he had the other mechanics didn't. In course of this, Jayaram, the gifted garage owner, taught him the A to Z of vehicles and repairs.
While Murthy learnt his repairing skills from here, another small incident actually gave him the idea of making one vehicle out of another!
He bought his son a pedalling car for Rs. 1,300. His son used it for about three months, and suddenly stopped. Murthy was baffled, and worried because it was an expensive present. He then thought of an idea to get the brat interested in the car.
He picked up a Luna engine, from the Cantonment gujri, and adapted it to the car. This cost him an additional Rs. 700. He then looked for a steering wheel at workshops in Marthahalli. One particular piece impressed him, and he fixed that on to the car. This value addition cost him Rs. 3,500. By now, the son found the contraption irresistible and began to spend all his time on it, driving round the house for hours on end.
Now, it happens that Murthy's house is opposite the Bannerghatta National Park, frequented by tens of hundreds of people. Naturally, the souped up car also became a side attraction, drawing curious crowds. In due course, the boy became such an expert he would even drive from Bannerghatta to Anekal, a distance of about 25 km.! Murthy then wanted to impress his son further.
He converted a 175 cc Rajdoot motorcycle into a car after spending around Rs. 23,000. This drew more crowds, who gawked at the vehicle. A brake inspector from Coimbatore was so impressed by it he bought it off at Rs. 40,000.
This purchase only galvanised Murthy. He began designing a number of 50 cc cars, while his son did the test-driving, as it were. Not surprisingly, many children who came by wanted to ride the cars. Murthy allowed them, charging Rs. 2 per child, and soon, these drives became a major attraction. Murthy then took his cars to places such as Vijayawada, Raichur, Mysore, Hosur, and some cities in Kerala. Everywhere he went, his cars were a major hit.
In 1993, Murthy hit upon the idea of making vehicles for the physically challenged. He made the first for a physically challenged person from Bannerghatta for Rs. 7,000. Gradually, he began designing more such vehicles, and till date has more than 100 to his credit.
The vehicles he has modified for the physically challenged include TVS Excel, LML, Boxer, and so on. How does he go about designing them? "I first study a person's disability before I work on a vehicle. I examine whether a person suffers from a disease such as polio, or an injury. Depending on the requirements, I give a final shape to the vehicle. One person's disability was so severe I had to design his vehicle keeping in mind the staircase in his office. The man, a government official, had fallen off tree and had damaged his spinal chord severely." Thanks to Murthy, the man is now mobile. Murthy then made a vehicle for a person who has been fitted with a Jaipur foot. A computer engineer who could not walk got a hand-operated vehicle. Murthy went on designingvehicles for a variety of people, and ended up making around 300 to 400 hand-pedalled cycles.
Before he gets down to work, he writes down all requirements, conducts a thorough analysis, and chalks out a plan, all of which may resemble an automobile engineer's trade! The finish of his vehicles is so impressive they could pass off for a branded product. He himself does all the repair work, if any, for his vehicles. So far, there has never been a disgruntled customer. His charges vary, according to the work he puts in. Today, his clientele come from as far away as Raichur, Gulbarga, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, and other places.
Many organisations working with physically challenged people refer are in touch with him. Murthy's wife says it is gratifying to see physically challenged people happy and self-confident with a little help from Murthy.
Murthy, ever innovative, has built what he calls track-o-motive, a car he designed on polymer wheels a big hit with tourists coming to the National Park a merry-go-round, automatic machines for sugarcane juice vendors in and around Bannerghatta, cages for lions and tigers, and other entertainment equipment.
Many automobile students from the nearby Venkateshwara Polytechnic come to Murthy for projects, and to learn his techniques. He plans to get into the go-karting arena, to teach children to learn road signals, and to make vehicles run on air! He is also looking to make a leg pump for two-wheelers and four-wheelers.
He can be contacted at R.C Engineering Works, No. 2212, opposite National Park, Bannerghatta, Bangalore 560 083, Ph: 7828559.
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