November 17, 2006

Road lessons

In the middle of a spell of travel here and there, much of the time with no web/newspaper access ... and when I got a newspaper a few days ago, I found out about a tragedy on Carter Road. Here's a short piece I wrote about it for DNA Westcoast (today November 17).

***

So let's see, what lessons are there to learn from the recent deaths on Carter Road? Well, going by the letters columns which I'm addicted to reading, more or less any lessons you choose. Try some, won't you?

  • If you tend to drive fast, don't worry. Salman Khan can and will help. So says letter writer Chandrakant Kotian. His advice is to "fix a poster of Salman Khan on the windscreen with the words Aaram Se Boss. It might help you slow down." Slow down, not least because your vision through that windscreen will be suddenly restricted, perhaps severely.

  • Those who were killed were the ones who actually broke the law. So says letter writer Anjum Samel. He believes the city "has become one big orphanage and the migrants keep pouring in." Yes, and these migrants sleep on the roads, so Anjum would like the Motor Accidents Tribunal to "take cognizance of whether the victims have transgressed the law" in so doing. And if they have, punish them! What's death got to do with it, after all?

  • What those people in the car were doing that night was "deviant behaviour", says letter writer Denis Khan. And the "triggering factor in all deviant behaviour is a lack of parental/societal love." So if these kids had only had more love from parents and others around them, they may not have mowed down people sleeping on the road.

  • The big surprise in this tragedy, for letter writer Ian Pereira, is that the people in the car were all Catholics. After all, says Pereira, Catholics were "till recently, respected for being disciplined." I'm thinking of a perennially drunk college chum and a builder I know who cuts some serious corners, among others, when I say I find it hard to agree with Pereira. But that's what he says.

    So there you have it, some lessons that people have taken from the tragedy.

    You might also think about some others.

    For one, the way we build roads. After all, these dead people were not "migrants" "pouring" into the "orphanage." They were labourers brought there by a contractor to work on Carter Road. Such labourers invariably, and I mean invariably, live in shacks on the pavement of such roads and sleep outside those shacks on the road. Just so are our roads made even more easily drivable for Corollas piloted by party-goers.

    While you're thinking about that one, you might also think about the toilet facilities such contractors provide for such labourers. Just an aside, you realize.

    For another, which is related, the way we develop. In 21st Century wi-fied India, we have a large number of people who can afford sleek speedy cars. We also have a large number of people who both build the roads for the first set, and sleep on those roads at night. Are these two sets of people unmindful of each other? Should they be? What does that say about how we develop?

    As I said, you can take away whatever lessons you like. But choose carefully.
  • 9 comments:

    Anonymous said...

    Per the news report linked,

    - the labourers were actually sleeping on the pavement not the road that makes it IMO more serious.

    - the occupants of the car were drunk.

    - they were probably speeding.

    Also support the other points raised though about the workers deserving better, safer accomodation, sanitation.

    I dont see the relevance of partygoer, Corolla etc.

    If a sober DDS getting home in his jalopy, from a long session rescuing tsunami victims, driving at the speed limit, going round a bend runs over somebody who is sleeping on the road- not the pavement-

    I feel he is as guilty as rich partygoers returning in Corollas who have blown up a lakh of rupees in mindless selfish enjoyment (other things equal- sobriety/ speeding etc).

    regards,
    Jai

    Shivam said...

    Typical commie propaganda :)

    Neela said...

    I'm also surprised to see (I think) that you are the first Indian blogger covering this incident. Was it just not wildly publicized and so there was low awareness or have we just lost all sense of outrage on drunk driving?

    As a comparison there was more back-and-forth and outrage on the IIPM thing than on this incident.

    n!

    Neela said...

    Oh, and just one more thing; Is there an association like MADD in India - People Against Drunk Driving or something like that?

    n!

    Anonymous said...

    I would like to change my mind regarding my first comment.

    - actually I think a sober DDS is more guilty than rich partygoers, other things equal.

    Because DDS's writing is on a higher plane morally, and such a person is more guilty if he does such a crime than somebody who is doing only selfish enjoyment.

    regards,
    Jai

    Dilip D'Souza said...

    Neela, I don't know about any MADD/PADD chapters in India. Perhaps there should be.

    I haven't had time to check, but I can't believe nobody else has blogged about this.

    In any case, it has got pretty wide publicity in the Bom papers, coverage every day over the last few days. You should have seen those huts on Carter Road. They have since been removed altogether (I believe several of the families working there have gone back to AP).

    Anonymous said...

    Did the people pack up and go or were they forced to go (kind of like "cleaning the streets"). If the latter, its sad.

    I haven't been catching too much of the coverage but its good if the mainstream media doens't let this slip. Even after justice has been done. I think one of the issues is how easily we rationalize, then feel sorry for the driver and finally integrate them into mainstream society. The first step in this slippery slope is pointing out extenuating circumstances. The boy was truly nice, the labourers were sleeping on the pavement, we all drink and drive, it could happen with a flat tire etc etc etc. Yes, all this could happen but it doens't make the current action any more right. All it does is dilute the outrage that is required to push to get such crimes heard on court.

    Jai, I am puzzled about why you would bring in people's professions or interests into a judgment of a moral action. The person doens't matter. There is no tallying up of one's moral worth such that I can do a few charitable actions in the morning and then its justifiable for me to mow down peopl ein the afternoon. Similarly, I wouldn't hold DD to a higher moral standard than a drunken party-going type. If your reasoning is correct, none of us should do anything other than beahve utterly badly so that all standards can be comfortably lowered.

    n!

    Anonymous said...

    Dilip:

    Did the people pack up and go or were they forced to go (kind of like "cleaning the streets"). If the latter, its sad.

    I haven't been catching too much of the coverage but its good if the mainstream media doens't let this slip. Even after justice has been done. I think one of the issues is how easily we rationalize, then feel sorry for the driver and finally integrate them into mainstream society. The first step in this slippery slope is pointing out extenuating circumstances. The boy was truly nice, the labourers were sleeping on the pavement, we all drink and drive, it could happen with a flat tire etc etc etc. Yes, all this could happen but it doens't make the current action any more right. All it does is dilute the outrage that is required to push to get such crimes heard on court.

    Jai, I am puzzled about why you would bring in people's professions or interests into a judgment of a moral action. The person doens't matter. There is no tallying up of one's moral worth such that I can do a few charitable actions in the morning and then its justifiable for me to mow down a few people in the afternoon. Similarly, I wouldn't hold DD to a higher moral standard than a drunken party-going type. If your reasoning is correct, none of us should do anything other than behave utterly badly so that all standards can be comfortably lowered.

    n!

    Anonymous said...

    Anonymous n!,

    The first comment was mine and, I admit I am not very comfortable with it on a re-read. I just reacted to the Corolla.

    The other one was somebody else pretending to be me. If they wish to explain the 'higher standards' let them.

    I've had a small discussion with DDS by mail to clear it up. I ve taken this blogger ID and wont be posting anonymously again.

    regards,
    Jai