Thursday, July 30, 2009
We owe this to ourselves!
I have known Nithin for five years now. He was a teenager when I first saw him sometime in late 2004. He had come to me for a leave certificate for his friend. Though I have known his family for over a year by then, I had never met Nithin till then. A jovial and very good looking boy in jeans and Tee-shirt introduced himself with “Hello Doctor, I am Nithin, Shibu Thomas’ son” Since then I have met him several times and in him, I had noticed a very balanced young man who was very protective of his younger sister Nimitha.
He also did baby-sitting for the grannies at home when his parents and other relatives went out on tours. Though I can’t claim to have “Known” him in the real sense; I can emphatically say this was a very nice boy and the first born child of his generation in a very reputed family in Kochi. Obviously he was the doting son, adorable grandson, friendly nephew and an ideal big brother to different people in his large family.
And today at the age of 23, he is gone forever; another victim of a road accident. While waiting at his mourning home for his body to be brought down from Kozhikode, ironically I noticed an article on Malayala Manorama. That was about how unsafe our roads were and it had Malayalam Movie-Star Suresh Gopi spearheading a campaign for responsible driving.
What is responsible driving? I have noticed so much of arrogance, rudeness, recklessness and absolute lack of values on roads in Kochi. I myself have been a victim of road-rage; not to forget my own anger and occasional skirmishes. I have steadfastly refused to buy a two-wheeler for my wife. Though she got one of our common friends to canvas for a scooter; I flatly refused saying, “You are my only wife and I need you. I will pool in a little more money and buy a Nano for you but NOT a two-wheeler”
It is true that when the time comes everyone has to leave, irrespective of age, gender or class. But haven’t we seen too many of these two-wheeler accidents costing us precious and young lives? So much so, I have developed a fear of two-wheelers. We can perhaps call it “Bikeophobia”.
I frequently feel what can be described as an “Impotent Rage”. I get so agitated when the reckless youngsters drive through busy roads crisscrossing bigger vehicles and missing death by the proverbial whisker. Yes, I do shout at those kids but I also know there is no use. They would’ve disappeared by then. It is the associated feeling of “Immortality” that drives the boys of this age and in turn leads them to doom. My rage is impotent because I know I am not going to make an impact. Everyone is in a hurry to go somewhere. All warning signs and traffic curbs are of no use when an entire population has no value for ‘Human Life’.
What can we do to prevent these tragedies? Though I know I can do precious little; I am confident WE can do a lot. WE the people should act and act fast. I believe we must come out with a number of changes on our roads. All the people can suggest more ideas for better coordination of traffic. I am enumerating those things I believe could help.
1. First of all bad roads lead to bad traffic and bad traffic leads to road-rage and this leads to all problems. I believe pot-holes are killing more people today than AIDS. We must demand and get good all season roads that don’t end up as continuous terrains of potholes after the second rain. Can our ‘Elected Leaders’ assure that?
2. Enforce traffic rules very stringently. Don’t spare anyone. Heavy fines should be collected from all offenders without any intervention. The police should consider catching offenders in live action and not just gratify themselves with parking fine collection. Over-taking from the left side, over speeding, jumping the line and rash driving; all offenses should be dealt with strictly. Six months are enough to teach a society to ‘behave’. But is our Police-force up to it?
3. Bus-drivers and Auto rickshaw Drivers inside the cities and the truck drivers on highways are the worst culprits when it comes to rude and dangerous driving. Take them for counseling, teach them, discipline them and if they don’t reform, debar them from driving. But will our unions allow this?
4. Buses, two-wheelers and three-wheelers should be compulsorily brought under speed-checkers. Those wonderful inventions that prevent a vehicle from going over 30 - 40 - 50 kilometers per hour are a crying need. But who will bell the Cat?
5. Two-wheelers kill in one more way too and this is an insidious and hideous manner. With the availability of multiple choices of bikes and easy loans, every youth worth his or her name is on a two-wheeler today. They literally live on bikes or scooters. Due to the convenience, fuel economy and ease of parking anywhere and everywhere; we see young people depending upon the ‘bike’ even to visit the grocery store just a few meters away. This is breeding a generation of lazy people who don’t like to walk at all. This will result in more and more cases of Hypertension, Diabetes Mellitus and Heart Attacks in young people. Only by educating the youth to use vehicles only for distances more than one kilometer, we can get some semblance of reason into our life. But will anyone agree for this?
I don’t know how many people will listen to me or agree with me; but these are my sincere, honest and passionate views. I believe ‘WE’ can make a difference!
One passionate request to all the parents of young boys, “Love your children for sure, but don’t pamper them and certainly don’t buy them the fancied monsters called Bikes”. I can tell you how shattering it is to see Shibu and Jasmine, those young parents who have lost a very young son. I hope we will not have to lose another Nithin every other day!
Let us save our youth... We owe this to ourselves!