Recently I was involved in a road accident, which happened — I will confess here — due to a grave error on my part: I tried to observe some road rules on a Chennai road.
And this is how it panned out: I, driving on the extreme left of the road, had to slow down my vehicle as a schoolgirl in front had difficulty negotiating a pothole that was large enough to qualify as a separate electoral constituency. Even as my vehicle was coming to a near halt, a biker from behind rammed into my vehicle because of the proven scientific fact that a normal person, at any given moment, can either drive a vehicle or observe the traffic rules. He can’t accomplish both simultaneously. (In Chennai, traffic norms are technically possible to observe —- please write down this safety tip in bold typeface —- at indoors only).
After slamming his vehicle into mine, the biker, however, did what any reasonable person will in the circumstance: Kept zipping faster. On the other hand, the young schoolgirl also cycled away hardly noticing that an accident had occurred on account of her.
When an accident occurs in these parts, two things invariably happen: 1) A crowd rushes in from almost nowhere. 2) Starts offering first aid? No, starts offering advice to whoever is in a state to listen. That means, basically to anyone who is technically not dead or dying.
You may have been sleeping in your bedroom on the first floor and a rogue lorry somehow might have ploughed through the walls and stopped short of ramming into your bed. And you know what words will emanate from those who have purportedly rushed in to help you? ‘Indha lorry drivers eppodhum ippdithaan rasha-a ottuvanga, naama thaan safe-a irukkunam’ (These lorry drivers are always rash. Only we have to stay safe).’
Similar words were hurled at me too. ‘You should have been more careful,’ a voice from among the gathered knot of people began in general terms. How could I have been any more careful? I had half a mind to tell him that the only safety precaution I could have possibly taken to avoid that mishap was to somehow prevent beforehand itself the biker, who hit me from behind, from starting from his house itself.
‘Was he drunk?’ another one popped. This seemed a very sane question, provided I were a cop conducting breath-analyzing test. But even before I could internalise his query, the man pronounced the answer with finality, ‘only drunkards drive this fast’.
There was an awkward silence for a few seconds before someone chimed: ‘You are lucky. Last week a similar biker mowed down a motorist in the next street. He died on the spot as his skull had broken open.’
This is a bizarre, morbid fetish. I mean this urge to recall and recount a more gruesome accident in the most ghastly terms to someone who is already in some sort of trauma. In an emergency, there will always be someone at hand with the capacity to make it seem worse. Usually the tragedy junkies are those ones.
Your dad has been just wheeled in for an undetected emergency and your nerves are jangling in trepidation as you wait in sweaty-palmed tension. And step in will this helpful friend. ‘My uncle’s friend’s cousin was taken to hospital with a similar problem. First the doctors said that there might be a block in the passage to the heart. But after treating him for a week, they suspected that there might be an infection in the gall bladder and sent him for more tests and scans. When those turned out to be negative, they came to the conclusion that the problem may be in the pancreas. But you know what, after spending nearly Rs.20 lakhs and one month in the hospital, the doctors finally managed to detect the reason for the bleeding: They spotted the axe wedged in the man’s stomach’.
Coming back to the accident I was involved in, seeing the commotion, a beat constable walked up to us asked what happened.
Even as I was narrating the story, he cut me short with the question: ‘Did you note down the registration number of the bike?’
‘But he sped off even before I could realise that someone had hit me,’ I weakly ventured.
‘Tcha, when educated people like you are not alert, how can we catch such offenders?’ he shot back accusingly.
‘Can you give me a general description of him? I mean how did he look like?’ the cop asked.
Not wanting to get snubbed again, I enthusiastically ventured forth and provided in precise detail the facial features of the biker that I was smart enough to note even as he was speeding away: ‘He wears a full-mask helmet, sir’.
With my lead, I am hopeful the cops will net him soon.