April 14, 2007

Country you know

In a country you know, there is a raging debate over Narayana Murthy's patriotism, because he played an instrumental version of the national anthem so as not to "embarrass" foreigners present. There is another raging debate on Sachin Tendulkar's patriotism, because he insulted the national flag by cutting a cake coloured like it.

In this same country you know, migrant labourers working to improve a Bombay road were asleep on that road late one night last November, when one Alistair Pereira drove his Toyota over them, killing seven. On Friday April 13th, that young man was "acquitted of [charges of] culpable homicide or murder", but "found guilty of rash and negligent driving" by a court in Sewri.

The court sentenced him to ... six months in jail.

Yes: if you kill seven of this country's citizens, your fellow human beings, your punishment will be six months in jail. Even that, subject to appeal.

But please do not worry particularly about public reaction to this sentence. Because -- so lucky! -- it came down when people are occupied with a far more vital discussion in the same country: about patriotism that may or may not flow from cakes and instrumental versions.

You do know that country, don't you?


Unknown said...

I think the no one should be sleeping on the road, It was an accident, something that can happen to anyone driving in bombay, there are people sleeping everywhere on the dividers, signas, left n right of the road....
Drinking and driving is a crime and should be punished but equally to blame are the people sleeping on the roads.


Anonymous said...

are you not worried about getting a court notice for thinking such unpatriotic thought...? but then this could be any country you've witten about

acrain said...

Though questioning their patriotism is as extreme stance, it would do Murthy and Sachin good not to set an example of using national symbols indiscriminately.

A corporate of the stature of Infosys should check with the Home Ministry before any rendition of the National anthem. And though its unlkely that Sachin had anything to do with the baking of the cake, it would be wise of him to realise that as a national symbol himself, his association to anything negative or positive would be magnified manifold.

A warning from the highest authorities would be in order more to dissuade people from rampant misuse of these symbols of India.

Boskoe said...


I agree with you - people seem to be missing the point nowadays.

Anyways, I think the problem is much more with the shoddy way the entire investigation was carried out. In light of the "lack of proper evidence", probably the court could not do much beyond this.

- Biju

Samir said...

Unrelated aside: Narayan Murthy is seriously considered to be Presidential material in India and even Kalam endorsed him for that. When Scott Adams started the "Bill Gates For President" movement, it wasn't taken half as seriously.

wise donkey said...

patriotism is about the flag and the anthem, constitution, and the concept of justice perhaps has nothing to do with it..

perhaps its easier to answer sms polls and burn effigies and target a person than to even think about the legal or the social system..

and on an earlier comment..yeah people shouldnt sleep on the roads, after all, they have a choice, right...

Anonymous said...

I predict an 'sms campaign for justice' over the next week.

Did you catch Vatal Natraj's "deport NRN" comment? :)

Anonymous said...

Satish: People were not sleeping on the road - they were on the footpath. Last I checked, there was no law to say where you could or could not sleep. But there was a law that you couldn't run over other people under any circumstances. And if you actually step on the footpath to run over people.. well.. With a driving license comes responsibility. Accidents are different. Drunk driving is complete and utter callousness and should be severely punished.

And people SHOULD not be sleeping on the footpath? Like they have a choice? Where on eath in overpriced Bombay do you think migrant daily wage workers can sleep anyway? I am curious to know.


km said...


Dilip D'Souza said...

Satish, there are photographs taken immediately after the accident which show the huts of the victims smashed, because Pereira's car rammed into those huts.

But having said that, I agree with you: equally to blame are the people sleeping in their huts. What gave them the idea that they could do that and expect to live through the night?

And the irony is that the people killed were working on improving that road to begin with.

Anil: "using national symbols indiscriminately"? "warning from the highest authorities"? Because a man cut a cake? Please give this some thought.

Biju, but that's the point. Why was the proper evidence lacking? What did the police do with it? and why?

Thanks, n.

And km: Dr Quackenbush will see you now.

Anonymous said...

1. The drunk and drive + footpath +huts cast a different picture than what was said in the first instance:

"... migrant labourers working to improve a Bombay road were asleep *on that road* ..."

I continue to believe that nobody has a natural right to sleep on the road, regardless of choice.

a. Consider one of us slept on the road for lack of choice, and another on a two-wheeler came around a curve, hit the sleeper and was killed in the resulting accident. The sleeper had maybe a fracture.

Is the sleeper still a victim and the (dead) biker the culprit?

b. A person doesnt really have the right to sleep on a footpath either, but a "collison" btwn pedestrians and the sleeper will not have very serious consequences for either.

c. I think we can agree that the offence does not materially change:
- if the migrant workers were planning to cut open the road next day and leave it that way.

- if they were run over by a drunk poor truck driver who worked for a charity in his spare time.

2. NRN and JGM
The stated reason for switching to instrumental mode "embarassment to foreigners" disturbs me the more I think about it.

I have no quibbles with the legality of the instrumental version / alleged "dishonour" to the Prez etc. and I think everybody overreacted to it.

Sachin episode is way too silly to comment on even.

3. Not that this makes it Ok, but unluckily this is the way it is not just in India but most places, items like (1) are just dominated by items like (2).


Anonymous said...

On thinking a little more about this, I realize the biker is responsible for his own safety; its very clear in situations where there is an unexpected new obstacle on the road/ bump/ pothole.

However I think whoever placed that unexpected obstacle/ bump /pothole especially if unauthorized also bears some responsibility. Usually they skate, especially in India.

I cannot quite wrap my mind around the idea that the placer of the obstacle is a victim, even if he placed himself.

I can understand that the biker should do all he can to avoid hitting this human victim than he would perhaps for an unexpected non-human obstacle.

I realize I am running against majority opinion on this thread. I do not mean to offend anyone with my other-angles input and am hoping we all have the bandwidth for it.

I hope not to attract insinuations like that " ppl in huts shouldnt expect to survive the night*" I request everybody to consider that they say more about the speaker than about the recipient.

* suggested counter on these lines is to say that I equate human life with a bump on the road. This response can perhaps be very satisfying to the person making it.

Musings on India said...

Satish: Dont mean to be rude but do you think if people had a choice they would like to sleep on the road? Would YOU if you had a choice? No one is denying that it might have been an accident caused under the influence of alcohol. But dont cover things up by saying that people who sleep on the roadside have a choice. Wow!! I never thought there would be people who actually believed that. I guess you learn something new every day.

Charu: What is so unpatriotic about the post? I doubt if there is any need to go in denial about the sorry state India is in. The post is quite good and makes one think if one wants to think that is.

Anil: Have you never admired an Aussie cricket fan wearing a Aussie national flag bikini? Or a south african one for that matter? Who do think she is routing for wearing that bikini? Rajasthan? :-) How are these small things related to one being patriotic or unpatriotic. Patriotism is a feeling. Its in the heart and mind. Whats it got to do with symbols? I dont get it.