Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Accidental Deaths??

I don’t really understand why I think of death and dying these days. Dying is the only sure thing in this world and yet the very thought puts one off. But somehow the process of ageing and dying of natural causes seems acceptable. But when young lives are lost sometimes for no reason or fault on their part one does feel depressed. I recently heard of two young men, newly married and sole bread winners of their family, who lost their lives in road accidents. Both were driving motorcycles given to them as part of the dowry demanded by their parents. Both belonged to the lower middle class. One worked as a daily wager under a contractor and the other sold dosa, idli in a push cart. After the release of Dhoom and Dhoom-2 rash driving has become a fashion among young men. But in the cases mentioned the former was driving at full speed in a highway and failed to notice a sharp bump and was simply thrown off. He was at least responsible for what happened. The second man was crushed to death by a speeding lorry trying to turn at an intersection with a golchakkar (roundabout).

We in India always look for the easy way out. I don’t know about other states but definitely in Jharkhand and probably in Bihar passing a driving test is not mandatory and license is often issued without the candidate ever setting his eyes on the issuing officer. Till some 10 years back the motor training institutes charged an additional fee for the license and once the 2 week’s training was over it was assumed that he/she automatically qualified for the license. Thankfully the practice has been stopped and a kind of mock test is conducted and I haven’t heard of anyone’s application being rejected or of a person who failed the test. I sometimes wonder whether accidents would be reduced if issue of license were not so easy.

Then there are train accidents. I do not doubt the efficiency of our engine drivers. They are responsible for the safety of passengers and are properly trained. But as in the case of a father ferrying his son to school in a jeep who did not exercise caution while crossing an unmanned railway crossing, we Indians are always in a hurry. Signals annoy us. We do get a kick out of overtaking from the wrong side and ignoring traffic rules. Smooth flow of traffic is an alien concept and I saw it for the first time in USA. No honking, no overtaking and all commuters kept to their lanes. Pedestrians are treated with care and motorized vehicles stop at intersections whether there is someone crossing the road on foot or not. I went to a Labor Day sale and my daughter found a parking space with great difficulty. Such was the crowd. But people were relaxed. No jumping queues or any such thing. It took us 45 minutes to pay the bill at the check out counter but we did not hear any one grumble or mumble.

Is over population the cause for our insensitivity towards rules? Why are we always so hyper? Even at the doctor’s clinic we wish to push ourselves and are allowed to go first. Are not the others patients too? Young lives are lost due to this tearing hurry, rules are broken, palms are greased but lessons are seldom learnt.

Then there is the other kind of accident. One in which the stove bursts and a young bride is burnt to death. Or a young girl with a promising career is found hanging from the ceiling and the law finds her husband innocent. And another girl equally beautiful and with an even better career marries him. Parents in their haste to get rid of their burden – read daughters – don’t even bother to verify the details of the first wife’s death. Social boycott of the boy and his family is unheard of. It is whispered that the girl was somehow at fault and we all tend to believe the boy’s version. Some 20 years back a girl known to me died of a mysterious cause. She worked in a reputed company and her colleagues insisted on a post mortem. The girl’s father backed out saying that he had 2 more daughters to get married and he could not afford to antagonize his son in law who had connections in high places. Another girl from the same town married him and walked out of the marriage saying that he was schizophrenic and it was impossible to live with him. The man later committed suicide and the family admitted that he was indeed mildly schizophrenic. Proper treatment could have saved him as well as the girl married to him. I don’t blame the boy as much as I’d blame his family and the parents of the girls who married him. It is generally agreed that an alcoholic, gambler or anyone with personality disorders would be okay if they got themselves a wife. The truth is that with a wife to bear the brunt of his behavioral problems others in the family can breathe easy.

Sorry to sound pessimistic. I cannot help it. Young lives are not only important to their families but to the nation as a whole. We lose them to accidents, illness and insensitive social practices like dowry. When they manage to survive we let them become terrorists and anti socials who in turn take away more lives. And we accept all this as fate or destiny.

I end with the story of my colleague Dr. SP. She was unmarried and lived alone in the top floor of a house in the heart of the city. Her family lived in Ranchi. During Holi we get a break of a week and very often around the same time Good Friday, Easter and Ram Navami are celebrated. So if a few days of casual leave can be managed one can take around 10 to 12 days off. SP had told her land lady that she would be leaving for Ranchi early next morning and would return after about 10 days. So when one did not see her during the days that followed no one really missed her. A week later I came to know through a neighbor that the local papers carried the news of her death under mysterious circumstances and it was only on account of foul smell emanating from her room that people became suspicious. No one had any clue about the motive for murder. The saddest part was that while all of us in college mourned her death, her parents could only think of the amount she would get as provident fund and were glad that just a few months back she had given her father’s name as nominee. When asked to file a case her father politely refused saying that it was not possible for him to attend court in Jamshedpur since he lived in Ranchi, We never heard from him after that. SP was a smart girl with a brilliant career and a bright future. We often think of her although it is more than 15 years since she died. We try to figure out the motive behind her death and miss her in our own way. We heard that she had booked a flat in Ranchi and had drawn some heavy amount to pay the builder and the killer had perhaps been tipped off by the bank staff. But these are just speculations and nothing was proved.

Had the judiciary been faster in deciding on cases such as these people like SP’s parents would perhaps have the motivation to file a case and the unsuspecting public would know the cause and be more cautious.

If only girls are allowed to offer their opinion during marriage negotiations and the dowry menace done away with…………

If only parents thought twice before sending their wards to school in overloaded vans and three wheelers………..

If only traffic rules were drilled into our youngsters and breakers of these rules punished and penalized…………….

If only the state and central governments could ensure education for all children of the school going age…………

If our movies stopped depicting law breakers as heroes……….

If only the value of every life lost in this manner were realized by every one of us………..

Finally if every mother could be like Neelam Katara and fight for justice……….

I wonder if I am asking for too much to happen in too little time.


Ugich Konitari said...

HHG, add UP to Jharkhand and Bihar. Many years ago we suddenly noticed our neighbor's young son driving their Maruti. At around the same time my son was doing his driving test at the Wadala RTO, Mumbai. He had taken driving classes to get some road practice, done lots of practice on campus himself, and he passed the test and duly got his licence.

When we asked our neighbor about their son and when did he get his drivers licence, we were told that "Lucknow se mangwa liya . 200 rupaya padta hai..."

If only parents showed some honesty in front of their kids....

Bhavana said...

Hi G'mom, First time to your blog. Nice one.
Accidents are the absolute worst.I'm so amazed that in spite of the number of accidents, people refuse to wear helmets. I just can not understand their logic at all.

I really thought dowry death's are coming down escp in urban areas and is a thing of past.
Society/Parents need to change their attitude towards girl children in seeing their final goal as marrying them off to a "good boy"! I still know so many people who think the ultimate goal for their girl is to marry her off. If she studies well/works that is a bonus, but marrying her off is the main thing.

hillgrandmom said...

to add--And if only daughters were not considered burdens!

Poornima said...

What about the fuss people make at airports when the long security procedures dont suit them?! When it involves the slightest inconvenience to ourselves, we suddenly forget that following due procedures result in our overall safety, & ask loudly if they know who our fathers are. Once we're triumphantly out of the airport (or wherever), we wear our 'Security Expert' caps again & debate Home Ministry Lapses & Porous Borders..

Realistic and insightful post (as usual!)HHG.

chitra said...

Another post and You echo my sentiments too.
speaking of issuing a license- but who wants that.In Dindigul and around I find 8 year olds riding bikes and parents pillion reading.Young boys riding cars also quite common.i think parents need to be educated first. I have written a post on similar lines 'kids on two wheelers' on manchitra.word press.com

Shachi said...

Oh I so agree with your take on these topics.

People break rules for the thrill of it....and the sad part is there is no penalty in India. Here in US we would have to pay $300+ for a red light violation and possibly suffer higher auto insurance premium. So we would think hundred times before doing it.

About deaths, its sad to hear about the incidents you have listed. It's not a fair world to all....and hence I feel blessed every single day for all that God has given me.

R's Mom said...

Amazing post..so much echoes my sentiments also...I totally agree to 'hillgrandmom --And if only daughters were not considered burdens!'

apu said...

This post really touched a chord with me. All this year, death has been on my mind too somehow, perhaps because I lost a young cousin in a traffic accident. More recently, my maid's young son killed himself, for no one knows what reason. But yes, you are right - rash driving, not wearing helmets etc is seen as cool. Every day here in Bangalore, I see bikes carrying 3 young men, no helmets and purposely zigzagging between cars etc - all "just for thrills" - I don't think they realise the pain others will go through if something happens to them.

apu said...

And - in general - people break rules because they can get away with doing so!

WhatsInAName said...

You are so right, HHG. If only we all were more law abiding and true citizens, many of these accidents could be averted. Even I just heard of a death on road of a 50 yr old woman whose daughter is going to get married in april. Sad, really sad. What a waste of life! And for no fault of her own.
I pray and wish for better moral, social and responsible sense in people too.

Hip Grandma said...

Ugich:You're right. UP is no better. I think the people in these states are far too naive and law makers and breakers alike take the unsuspecting public for a ride.

Bhavana:Fatal accidents can often be avoided by taking a few precautions. But as long as the traffic police accepts bribe and lets off offenders nothing can be done about it. Educating our youngsters may help. Dowry deaths may have come down a bit. But no, they are not a thing of the past. Adding to the dowry manace is the preference for a male child. Even qualified lady doctors are pressurized by the husband to abort the female child.

hillgrandmom:I think Kerala is the only state where the girl child is welcomed. Every where else it is the male child to continues the race. What rubbish. Don't girls inherit the parent's genes. I better not get started.

poornima:Sons of big shots talk as if every rule ought to be bent for them. And we have our ex prez Dr. Abdul Kalam who took a security check in his stride and accepted it without any fuss. That is because he had nothing to hide.

chitra:This happens here too. Boys and girls around 8 and 10 ought to be riding bicycles to develop a road sense. Parents think that buying motorized vehicles for them before the accepted age is a status symbol. Then the innumerable tuition and coaching classes they attend. Parents get them a two wheller to save themselves the trouble of escorting children. So what if they indulge in rash driving or overload the vehicle. You are right. Parents need to be educated first.

Shachi:An evening in the lock up for breaking rules and jumping signals should be enough. But who cares .....as long as palms are greased no one is going to be punished. Here again parents of underage children are to be blamed. I heard of a father who'd give his son extra money to bribe the police if needed.

R's mom:Thanks. The situation is changing for the better among the educated middle and upper middle class. But certain communities are yet to understand that it was society that makes rules and in order that a direction is given for its proper functioning male issues were given the responsibility of looking after parents. It is not as if a girl has no responsibility. The general mass has to be educated.

apu: 'I don't think they realise the pain others will go through if something happens to them.'

Apart from the pain they cause others they may themselves be crippled for life. Movies are also responsible for the stunts they perform. And they also have no fear of getting punished. They should be made to spend a night in custody as I said before.

WhatsInAName:'I pray and wish for better moral, social and responsible sense in people too.'

shoba said...

One thing I have noticed is that in India, life is valued less than in US. Of course, when it comes to near and dear ones, people might be careful and if accidents happen despite being cautious, we cannot help it.
I have had life threatening surgeries in both US and India.The doctors in India seemed to be less cautious than the US counterparts and of course more insensitive. It could be just fear of litigation in the US that makes them better..but even when people talk about death, it seems to be offhanded back home. It is sad, but that is what I have experienced.
But, for people to realize that life is short and that their body is a temple, I think, unless one has gone through life-altering experiences, be it health or a death of a loved one, things are always taken for granted.
If some mishap happens while driving, importance will be given for license. If a stampede happens when pushing each other in a line, he/she will be careful next time. That is human nature,unfortunately.

Swapna Raghu Sanand said...

I felt so depressed after reading your post because every point is so relevant.

In UP, kids drive autos recklessly and the cops don't even bother to stop or check them.

Harassing girls for dowry has not slackened even a little bit. I hear about it all the time from people I know. What angers me is that parents don't even give their daughters a chance to protest. I see young girls being forced to marry against their wishes and they are from solid middle class families. Parents need to ramp up as much as the law makers do.

And as for law, it is so complicated and cumbersome that a layperson avoids it like the plague!

Hip Grandma said...

Shoba:I feel over population and lack of awareness about rules is also a cause. But what baffles me is that people are aware of all routes to escape penalty but when it comes to rules they are so insensitive.

Swapna:In Bihar/Jharkhand it was the practice to give a lumpsome amount as dowry and the boy's family would use it to buy jewelry and clothes for the bride apart from using it to bring a group of people to represent their sode. These days they accept dowry and expect the girl's family to give her jewelry as well as the train.bus fare for their group to come over for the wedding. Alternatively the girl's family is expected to go to the boy's town for the [erformance of wedding rites. Either way the girl's family is made to pay. It is good that girls are becoming independent and boys refusing dowry at least in some communities.

Praveen said...

I think it is high time punishments were made severe for rash driving (road rage) and procuring "quick license".

My friend lost his life this June and no case was registered.

Human life is priceless and no one realises it!

Hip Grandma said...

Praveen:It is unfortunate that accidents that could be easily averted are allowed due to the lack of will on the part of the authorities as well as parents. The attitude of the police also needs to change. Public apathy is mainly due to this attitude of inconsiderate police officers who look for a scapegoat in every considerate common man.

Cantaloupes.Amma (CA) said...

I know a "Road Test" is a MUST in Bangalore / Mysore area in Karnataka. Well ... its a must if you are applying for the license on your own. THere are so many driving schools which "offer" you the license for extra fees. So unfortunate.

Anonymous said...

Nice post.

Hip Grandma said...

CA:You are right and the unfortunate part is that no one seems to mind.Corruption is kind of accepted as part of life.


Gauri Gharpure said...

we get reports of fatal road accidents every single day. and these are the few incidents that get reported, my hunch is that an equal number or more are not even reported..
apart from accident, it's the police case hassles that delay treatment. a teen has been languishing in the hospital for almost a week now with a leg on which a bus ran over..i really fear for his leg

Hip Grandma said...

Gauri Gharpure:True, the inhuman approach of the police and their tendency to look for scapegoats does put one off and many fatal road accidents are not even reported. I wonder if the situation will ever change.