Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Death on a road

A speeding Honda Accord took the life of a biker and a rickshaw driver today morning. I knew the biker. He was an acquaintance from the area I grew up in and shifted out of in 2009. He wasn't a close friend but someone I knew in the neighborhood. Someone in the other team with whom you play cricket on the road when you were a kid. Someone who you nod at, or smile to when you walk by on the road. Someone who died today morning and left behind two kids, a paralyzed mother, a father and a wife.

This Bombay is different from the Bombay of the past. The past when the streets weren't as dangerous and as risky. We used to follow no-entry signs, we used to drive on the right side of the road, we used to follow signals. We did this together. That’s how things would work in Bombay. Things are a system in Bombay. A system that people follow. Follow out of habit, out of discipline, out of respect, out of fear.

No more. Slowly and steadily over the past decade, there has been a systematic decline in following these rules. Today? You break a no-entry when you can, when it suits you. You drive on the wrong side of the lane because it’s easier. You break a signal because you can't wait. In some cases you do it all together. So, you enter a no-entry, drive on the wrong side of the road and break a signal while talking on the cell phone while driving.

We all do it because we know we can get away with it. Maybe what’s changed is that the traffic police has been woefully inadequate – or even apathetic – to keep the discipline up in a city where more cars seem to be added every year than traffic police.

I’ve seen parents furiously breaking these rules to ensure their kids reach school on time. I’ve seen educated, well-to-do, middle class, rich class break these rules as often as I’ve seen cabbies, auto-rickshaw drivers, truck drivers, even traffic police breaking these rules. It's now a habit. It is something that is taken for granted. It is something that everyone does because everyone else does it. It is something that kills people. It is something that killed this guy I knew today morning.

When did this city break down? When did we stop caring? When did we start honking at someone who actually waits for a red signal to turn green? When did we start laughing at someone who drives all the way down a lane and takes a u-turn, instead of simply riding over a divider to get to get to the other side of the road?

Moments like these leave me with despair and anger and frustration. At the city, its residents, its people. That can take such tragic loss of life so lightly and move on with life. As I know even I will eventually. We are trained to. Life goes on. And yet, for some life is over.


Deep said...

Mumbai is slowly becoming like Delhi like cities. Everyone is in hurry. People want to reach everywhere very quickly. Doesn't matter if reaching early is important or not but they want to reach first.

This is basically happening due to poor governance. I don't mean to say that people are not responsive for this but yeah governance is responsible too.

We have narrow lanes, bad roads, flyovers are mostly matter of jokes. When you step down from the house for drive, the first thing comes in mind is the traffic.

So this has led to people getting frustrated.

Deep said...

Sorry for some reason I was not able to post more characters.


Another problem is, there is no enough place to breathe. Buildings, vehicles everywhere. No open space at all. So this makes people irritate as there are too many things happening around you. I remember the time I go to office. It's just 5 minute from home but traffic and people near the signal always drive me crazy.

Sad state I must say.

Shweta Baxi Tyagi said...

Its not about Mumbai, its about people A. People are no longer sensitive to the well being of others.

Everyone wants to be 'first' in the race and do not hesitate harming anyone along the way.

I understand your pain and despair. We can only pray.

Arun said...

I have always believed there are three problem areas which cause this: bad roads (because of which people are swaying/swinging constantly), poor education (you can get a licence without giving a test and driving schools anyway merely teach you to honk)and poor policing (Haji Ali signal, for instance, has 6 cops on an average waving people through instead of catching people parked illegally on all joining roads which causes jams. Anyway, why do cops wave at traffic when the lights are working?)Nobody gets caught for jumping lights, driving the wrong way etc because if the cop on duty is not carrying his book, he will not bother. If you can get away with a bribe of, say, Rs100, why should anyone fear getting caught? I disagree with Mumbai having a lack of space, because if you look at most roads, they are very broad. It's only that 40% of that space is taken by hawkers, pedestrians and parked cars/taxis.

k10 said...

We are at fault. We jump signals when the guy behind honks his head off. We think it is ok to take a right turn at a no Right turn signal at 11 pm. We thing it is ok to park in a no parking area in the middle of a busy steet. We think it is ok to bypass driving school to learn how to drive because my uncle / chacha / tau/ driver can teach us.
And we think it is ok to say the above is ok.