On the second floor of an old commercial complex, Karikalan ushers in a group of students after collecting their bags in quick succession.
After a few minutes of slotting the bags in a storage cabinet, he plonks on a chair. “This is a newly registered batch. So I need to show the students around ,” says the 60-year-old security guard at a computer centre in Vadapalani. With security agencies springing up across the city and promising many value-added services, security guards have long ceased to be mere watchmen. From making the visitors write on the register at the entrance, guarding the customers' belongings, to even mediating in tussles among customers, the private security personnel are now required to multitask.
Sporting crisp uniforms, usually blue, the guards take positions in prominent areas in commercial complexes to assist customers. During rush hour, especially in the evenings on weekends, they handle a host of complaints about customers losing shopping bags, cell phones and sometimes, even children.
Personnel of NISA Security Services, manning Express Avenue mall, specialise in handling such complaints. “Nearly a hundred of our guards would walk along the corridors at frequent intervals. They would report to the Help Desk if a bag or child is left unattended for more than 10 minutes,” explains Abraham Varghese, Relations Manager of Express Avenue.
Toddlers are the most difficult to handle for these guards. If squealing is most common, some children would even toss aside the eatables given to pacify them.
At the entry points, the guards scan the customers' bags before letting them in. While handling fussy customers, their training in soft skills comes in handySecurity guards working with smaller companies are usually self-learners. According to P. Murugesan, who had been a security guard for a decade and now co-owner of Shakthi Security Force, ex-servicemen and youngsters are in great demand but the jobs are usually sought after by retired persons. “They are paid somewhere
between Rs.3,000 to Rs.8,000 a month for a 12-hour job. While the work as such is not taxing, there is a lot of risk involved.”
For instance, Kesavan, a 55-year-old guard at a residential building in Royapettah, braved two attacks from burglars when he was working with a small textile shop nearby. “I was nearly stabbed when I attempted to disarm the suspect by hitting him. He was eventually caught. It shook me badly but is still the most gratifying experience.”