Little over a decade ago, I had just learnt how to drive a car, and, sorry; I must learn to be specific. I had learnt to drive a car in India. Yes, here, it takes more effort, selfless commitment, definitely more skill, and sheer bravery to even just want to learn to drive a vehicle here, let alone actually drive.
Not even attempting to give you an idea of what it takes, here’s a picture I took on a holiday in Rajasthan a few years ago.
That said, every once in a while, random scenarios would pop up in my head. About what if I was driving and ‘this’ happened, or, how would I react if someone on the street did ‘something like that’. It was probably a natural part of getting accustomed to the newly acquired skill and to getting used to how perspective changes when you are behind the wheel.
I remember one of the ‘possible scenarios’ was about who would be to blame, if a vehicle was driving within the speed limit, and if it were to inadvertently hit someone who decided to dart across the street at the last second. It would give the driver almost no time to react, so then, could the driver be blamed for the fault of a reckless pedestrian, who, well knowing the risks, still decided to test their luck. The answer came back a resonating, ‘no‘. The driver could not be blamed. I then reassured myself with the example of trains, saying that trains travel at specific speeds, and have considerably large stopping distances, so if someone decided to cross the track when a train was close, and got run over, it couldn’t possibly be the engine driver’s fault, knowing well that crossing tracks is unsafe, and that crossing streets recklessly, equally so.
It all seemed fine. Till yesterday. Yesterday, a speeding train in the state of Bihar in North India, ran over 37 [yes, you read correctly; thirty-seven] pilgrims who were crossing the track at the time. It was tragic. And it was the fault of the pilgrims. But for those who of you who don’t know what followed, angry crowds nearby went on a rampage, setting the train on fire, and attacking and killing one of the engine drivers, leaving the other one in a critical condition. [the news article]
So my theories on ‘who’s to blame’ went out the window. India. A superpower. Among the most promising economies, is still incapable of identifying who’s at fault in something as obvious as this unfortunate incident. It also gives one a glimpse into who we are. Not who we are capable of being, but instead, of who we have stooped to become. Hopefully not for long though. Knowing risks, we’ll still expect the other person to take preventive measures, while we try to kiss a runaway train, while we try to break Border Collies speed records while crossing before speeding cars. Yes, that’s who we have somehow become.
However, on the brighter side, and incidentally yesterday itself, there was a story that ended the day on a note of optimism. Bombay’s public bus transport service, the BEST, has been infamous for menacing drivers who break signals, who have run over pedestrians, and damaged vehicles as well. In my family itself, we have two to three incidents to narrate, of how BEST’s impatient drivers have damaged our cars just because they were in a blind frenzy to zip through bus stops and go home.
But last night was different. I was driving mom to the market to pick up some groceries. The road I was on, required me to take a right turn to get into the market lane. However, before I could take the turn, there were vehicles coming from the opposite side, and passing my car on my right side. I had to wait with the indicator on, as 5-6 cars whizzed past. A BEST bus was approaching too. While I could have quickly made the turn, knowing them well, I decided to wait for him and the few cars behind him to pass. However, to my complete surprise, he stopped the bus, and signaled for me to take the turn, while cars patiently waited behind him. Still confused, I made the turn, mom still wondering if that had actually happened. Thank you, Mr. BEST driver, for the pleasant surprise.!
Well, we all have it in us to change. We all have it in us to make a positive difference. It all comes down to us deciding to make that choice.
“If I can change, and you can change, everybody can change.”