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Countering the Thief’s Ingenuity
History, Geography and Anatomy of Locks
Raghu’s 37 year old collection is a representative sample of old and ancient Indian padlocks from various states. The collection has some 650 plus different locks, the oldest of which may be about 700 years old, though most range between 100 to about 250 years. The smallest is about a fourth of an inch long, and the longest, nearly 30 inches (2.5 ft), with the smallest weighing about 3 gms to the largest about 30 kgs. In appearance, the locks have a wide range too: from the religious, to patriotic and fun themes, you can see a wide range of fauna, people, leaders, deities, gods, and sundry everyday objects. While some are shaped like these objects, others have intricate etchings on their surface. The complex sophistication of mechanical thinking, combined with craftsmanship results in a variety of mechanisms and tricks which will stagger even an accomplished engineer today. There are locks that open as we expect to – with a single key, to those which need up to five keys. There are often hidden and surreptitious steps which function as virtual keys. These are trick locks, not unlike mechanical puzzles. In some, the keyhole is so cleverly concealed that finding the keyhole is the first level challenge; in others what are visible are pseudo-keyholes where you may be wasting time; and then there are those where the key and the keyhole are both true and real, but you cannot insert the key into the keyhole unless you have a good feel for topology. There is the one which opens with specific verse or aayat from the Koran. Another that rings a bell when the key is turned. And so on…
Clearly, the locksmiths of yore took their craft seriously, combining ingenuity of mechanical-thinking with artistic inclinations. In times when mechanically securing wealth was the only way to protect it, this was critical. A ‘tasting menu’ of the locks can be seen outside Kotak House (formerly ING Vysya House), on M.G. Road, Bangalore, where seven locks from Raghu’s collection, sculpted in four ft bronze stand as a symbols of safety and security for the Bank.
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Raghu is an academic, author, corporate citizen, columnist and a hobbyist.
Raghu is an Adjunct Professor at Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto. He is former Director, Schulich School, Hyderabad Campus (2015-2020); former Professor of Finance, IIM Ahmedabad (1982-2001, former President, ING Vysya Bank (2001-2004), and former CEO, GMR Foundation (2005-2018). He is, or has been on numerous boards of corporates, stock exchanges, educational institutions and hospitals and various national level committees of the Finance Ministry, Securities & Exchange Board of India, Institute of Chartered Accountants of India etc.
Raghu has authored over 15 books, and written over 600 articles and papers. His book Games Indians Play (Penguin 2006, 2019) has been a national best seller. His forthcoming book with Penguin-Random House is on Behavioural Economics.
He has probably the country’s most varied collection of old and ancient Indian locks.
Raghu has a Phd from IIM, Calcutta.
He is settled in Bangalore with his wife, Meena.