He completes the policeman’s look

Sixty-four-year-old R. Jan Basha’s routine begins with a phone call from a police station. Once he reaches the station, he spends the rest of the day sitting in the corridor mending or making caps for the men in khaki — his trade for the last three decades.

A resident of Minjur, Mr. Basha is no new face in police stations in north Chennai. Every day, he visits one police station in this part of the city.

He spreads a sheet on the floor and keeps his work kit — a neatly packed cloth bag with wooden handles — next to him. Inside this bag are a few half-stitched caps of blue, white and khaki colours.

Once engaged in rolling beedis, he learned the trade of making police caps from his friend. “There used to be frequent strikes in the beedi sector. So, I asked my friend to teach me how to make caps. This is how I started in 1990,” he said while making a cap for a sub-inspector at the H3 Tondiarpet police station which is among the most frequented stations in north Chennai.

He also regularly visits the police stations at Elephant Gate, Flower Bazaar, North Beach, High Court, Tiruvottiyur and R.K. Nagar. Occasionally, he goes to Sembium, Triplicane and Gummidipoondi.

Once an order is placed, he takes the measurement for the cap. In a hour, a new cap with the emblem is ready for use.

He makes white caps for traffic policemen, blue ones for police constables and khaki for sub-inspectors. He also makes the belts.

“They call me or I visit a station every morning. I take a train from Minjur and reach the police station by 11 a.m. I complete the orders for the day and wrap up work by 2 p.m. They pay me immediately,” he said.

When he started he charged ₹18 for a blue cap and ₹25 for a khaki cap. Mr. Basha now charges ₹250 for a cap.

“If they provide the khaki cloth, I charge ₹150 per cap,” he said. Festival time fetches him huge orders. He travels to Tiruvannamalai during Karthigai Deepam and to Velankanni during the annual church festival to make caps for many of the policemen deployed on security duty.

However, he prefers not to keep the tricks of the trade to himself. He says he has taught the trade to two persons, who now work in Karur and Neyveli.

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