When I say ‘I means a lot’, I mean a lot.
I mean a life.
I mean a life that is safe.
I mean a life that is safe despite the hazards on our roads.
I mean the roads.
I mean the roads that I walk or drive on.
I mean the rules.
I mean the rules that I follow or choose not to follow.
I mean the rules that exist or should exist.
I mean the rules that are flouted day in and day out.
So I really means a lot!
And the lines that you have just read are NOT a poem. They have simply been written in a way that makes each line exist because it deserves to exist and deserves equal attention. But if you keep looking at these lines you will realise that they do look a lot like what happens on our roads. There is no rule and there can be an intense load or risk quite suddenly and without a warning.
The funny thing about roads, rules, and rights is that all three are woven thickly together and so one without the other may not really be possible. So if I am driving on a road… or crossing one… there are rules and rights that I can either care for or flout. Now because ‘I’ am always there, the three ‘I’s that I need to be very careful about, are:
Let me talk about them with examples. I was driving from Rani Jhansi Road in Delhi to CP… and as I turned into Deshbandhu Gupta Road, I noticed that the road was completely jammed. This wasn’t unexpected… but then I noticed that a few scooters and motorcycles took to the footpath and seeing them, even cars, autos and other smaller vehicles followed. Soon even the footpath was jammed… and the pedestrians were literally climbing on the boundary wall next to the road and walking on it.
‘This is insane!’ I muttered, and rolling down my car window, I asked a man on a scooter, ‘Why are you on the footpath, sir?’
‘None of your business,’ he replied, and added, ‘You too come if you want to reach your office.’
I said, ‘But I have planned for delays and will still reach on time.’ The man gave me strange look and said, ‘You have both time and patience. Enjoy’
Well, I think a large part of our road woes are because of impatience… and this is an outcome of sloth. We are lazy and we have no sense of time. We, therefore, start late and want to be early. Now there is an inherent paradox in this equation that cannot be easily solved. The inconvenience and the increased hazards to the pedestrians on the roads are thus because of impatience. You see anywhere and you will recognise impatience. It is there not just in those who are driving on the footpaths but also in those people who want to rush into the traffic to cross the road even in moving traffic. They simply do not want to wait for the traffic lights to go red for the traffic. Look at the hundreds of people who jump over the high railings on dividers… they lack the patience to walk up to the nearest subway. Look at the impatient driver who inches on to the centre of a crossing even though the traffic light is amber.
So yes, impatience has lot to do with road safety.
The examples that I have cited for impatience qualify for irreverence as well. However, let me give a few more to tell you how deep-rooted irreverence is. I forget the number of times I have seen motorists coming out of a lane and go the wrong way and against the traffic because they want to save going an extra 200 yards. This is both irreverent and foolhardy.
Every time my mobile rings and I am tempted to take it out and attend the call, a voice in me says: ‘You cannot be irreverent to the rules, can you?’ So I either let the mobile ring or hand it to Specky, my wife, to tell the caller to call again. But not everyone does this. I see mobile phones in one hand of so many drivers even as they drive with the other, that I feel like stopping them and to tell them that laws were not made to be broken. We really need to respect our laws.
How else would you define actions like driving on full beam or swerving through traffic? Irreverence, my dear reader, sheer irreverence.
My friend once entered office literally in jitters. He appeared visibly shaken and after a while, said, ‘I was driving to office this morning and coming at a leisurely speed when out of the blue a man jumped out of a gap in the divider and walked on. He walked as if the traffic was invisible. He did not even hear the loud screech of my braking car.’
‘Invisible,’ I repeated and made a note of this word. Yes, I have observed the behaviour of motorists at traffic roundabouts. Despite the signboards that are shouting hoarse that the traffic on your right has the right of way, they go ahead and bulldoze through. It is as if the signboards are invisible… and there is no traffic coming from the right. Yes, at times such situations do make me laugh but then this is a serious matter. When I am on the road I cannot treat rules as if they are invisible. I cannot treat the other motorists on the road as if they are invisible. I cannot treat other lives as if they do not exist.
There are times when motorists and other drivers on the roads choose not to see the markings… and so stop lines are left behind, zebra crossings are not noticed, lanes are simply there as road décor. But then there are instances when authorities like the PWD think that lines painted months back do not need another coat of paint. Thus authorities sometimes make lines invisible just as much as the drivers think they are invisible. Invisibility is a disease on our roads.
Let’s talk of other violations too. Who are jaywalkers? Are they impatient? Are they irreverent? I think they are both… and they are also foolish enough to pretend that the rushing cars and trucks and buses are invisible.
So what do we do?
We need to be aware of the three ‘I’s: Impatience, Irreverence, and Invisibility. In simple words, bury hurry, select respect, and sight right… when you walk or drive on a road.
15 December 2014