KOLKATA -- Commuters look out in surprise from windows of cars and buses. Some passersby occasionally stop to click pictures. The subject of their interest is a man who literally makes managing busy traffic on a bustling east Kolkata road a song and a dance.
Braving the heat, Ashok Gupta, 59, in a fluorescent orange jacket and helmet, shows off his innovative dance steps while directing vehicles near Gate No. 4 at Rajarhat's Eco Tourism Park for 12 hours a day, six days a week -- managing to draw a smile or two from passing commuters.
A resident of Hooghly district's Dankuni, Gupta is not a traffic cop. He has been appointed by a private security company that has been outsourced the job of flagging through heavy vehicles supplying material for the ongoing Garia-Airport Metro railway project.
According to Gupta, people's smiles keep him going, notwithstanding the hectic nature of his job against a meagre pay cheque.
"Some people ask me why I do it. In today's busy life, people often don't get enough time or reason to smile. So I'm trying to make people smile through my dance steps," Gupta told IANS.
"The more I see people smiling and appreciating (what I do), the more I feel encouraged. While managing traffic under the scorching sun for so long, this music and dance steps leave me energised," he said.
Gupta, an avid fan of Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar, constantly plays old Hindi numbers like "Chala jata hu... Kisi ke dhun pe" and "Ek larki peheli baar" on his cell phone.
"I face no issues in managing the traffic while dancing. I just connect the head phones of my mobile to my ears and get lost in the music," he said.
He has been doing the task for seven years now. But such is Gupta's passion for the work that he goes beyond his assigned responsibility.
While he is supposed to pass the heavy vehicles ferrying materials for the metro project, Gupta has proactively taken up the responsibility of managing the general traffic as well.
"All traffic sergeants in this area are happy with me. They've asked me to keep doing what I'm doing. They say I am doing a good job of managing traffic," Gupta said, a sense of satisfaction and excitement manifest in his voice.
The traffic marshal claimed he has danced on the road before but never got any recognition. "It is the love of the people of Rajarhat that has really encouraged me in my dance," he said.
"Some people, who frequently travel through this place, tell me they feel something is missing when I'm not there," he continued.
Sharing Gupta's enthusiasm, his young helper Biswajit Saha claimed that the amount of effort he puts into his work inspires others in the locality.
"We are proud of him. The way he works for 12 hours daily with a smile on his face motivates youngsters like us," Saha said. But the road has been far from smooth for Gupta.
"My sons initially objected to my dancing and said I am ruining the family prestige. But after seeing the people's response, they are happy now. They say 'you are a great man'," they said with a chuckle.
Locals simply adore Gupta. "I've seen him before. It is wonderful how he is spreading love and happiness with his dance. Whenever I pass through this point, my eyes automatically turn to him," said IT employee Santanu Paul.
Posing with a bunch of school kids for a selfie, Gupta said a positive attitude to life and enjoying his work are his twin secrets.
"I want to tell today's generation that whatever they do in life they should do it from the heart and enjoy it. There is nothing like getting pleasure and satisfaction out of your livelihood," the dancing marshal added.
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