December 5, 2019
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Senthamarai, 65, and P Shanmugavel, 70, became an Internet sensation after beating back armed robbers.

On August 15, 2019, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami presented a bravery award to an elderly couple from Kalyanipuram in Tirunelveli district. The recipients were P Shanmugavel, 70, and his wife Senthamarai, 65.

Two men armed with sickles had entered their compound to rob them on the night of August 11, 2019, but the robbers were taken aback when the couple fought back with such fury that they had to flee.

Their act of valour went viral on the Internet, and made the senior citizens celebrities.

Shanmugavel recounts what happened that night to A Ganesh Nadar/.


“Some time ago there was a break-in attempt at my home, but luckily I arrived before the thieves could enter the house.

After that we installed a pair of CCTV cameras. We also got a pair of dogs.

On Sundays we regularly talk to our children. That night also we were sitting on the porch and chatting on the phone.

Senthamarai went into the house for something. I had just finished speaking to my younger daughter-in-law.

Suddenly someone from behind flung a towel over me and tried to drag me to the nearest pole. I grabbed the towel which was tightening around my neck. I screamed, but my voice came out broken as I was being strangled.

Many years ago I had had a heart problem, but now I am okay, so my wife thought something was wrong with my heart and that was why my voice was sounding strange.

I was still holding the towel tightly so he could not strangle me or drag me to the pole behind us.

Then another man appeared with a sickle in his hand and wearing a mask. I kicked him, and we both fell down.

Once the towel proved ineffective the first man also pulled out a sickle from his back pocket.

My wife, who had arrived by then, first threw her slippers at them and then everything that she could lay her hands on. I also started fighting back. Thanks to playing tennis I have a strong right hand.


I saw my wife picking up a chair to attack one man, so I too picked up a chair and rushed at them.

One fellow put out his hand over the chair and grabbed Senthamarai‘s mangalsutra. Luckily the chain broke or her neck could have been cut. We lost the chain though.

The two ran away, but we did not chase them as it was dark. The entire scuffle lasted for just a minute.

They had actually planned to tie me to the pole and then rob us, but that did not work out for them.

I found both my dogs were groggy. They had been given some food laced with poison. They did not eat food for two days after that, then they recovered and are now fine.

I know it was a pre-planned attack, as they knew there were dogs here and also that there were CCTV cameras. That is how they had drugged the dogs and wore double masks to escape the cameras.

After my graduation in economics I worked in Madura Coats from 1973 to 1996 and then took VRS. In 1979 I bought this land and in 1980 started farming here.

Though most of my people cultivate paddy or grow coconuts I chose lemon for two reasons. Kadayam, my village, is famous for its lemons and it is not easily perishable. Most vegetables and fruits are easily perishable so the farmer has to sell them in a hurry. I don‘t have that problem. We also have cows and poultry here.

I used to play badminton and tennis in college and continued to play tennis when I was working. My wife and I are physically fit as we work on our lemon farm.

We have three children, two boys in Chennai and Bengaluru and a daughter in the US.

Senthamarai used to play basketball and volleyball in school and as she works by my side on the farm she too is physically fit.

This farm is 4.8 acres in size and has natural fencing, the borders are lined with thorn trees. Now I am going to put up steel wire fencing as the robbers came through the farm and not from the main gate.

We are installing a siren which will be heard for a mile. All we need to do is turn on the switch.

Then we are adding four more CCTV cameras and a motion sensor light.

We are also getting two Doberman dogs and there‘s a trainer nearby who can train them.

I chose the Doberman over our native Rajapalayam hound as the native dogs are good for hunting, but not for guarding. Rajapalayams also don‘t have a very good sense of smell. But a Doberman can smell you and tell whether you are friend or foe.

We are going to continue living here and continue with our farming. Nothing has changed, except that we will have enhanced security.”

Conrad Contributor