"Write a 500 word essay on road safety" -our 5th grade teacher
"Huh?? Road what now??" -our class
NO!! I did NOT just make that up.
Thats the amount of knowledge that the average 5th grader has about road safety. Now of course, that wouldn't matter much. Except for a little show on television called Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? The stupid one...with Shahrukh Khan in it. And if there's one thing that those precocious little tweens have taught us, its that the average Indian is, in fact... NOT smarter than a fifth grader. Now I hear those gears inside your head beginning to rumble, and before you shout out QED, or Eureka, or some such euphemism for success, i must inform you, that it is sooo NOT our fault.
The role models in our society (no not Shahrukh Khan), our dads, our uncles, our moms, our older brothers, okay...maybe Sharukh Khan too, a little bit... have taught us one thing about rooad safety in this fine country of ours... It DOESNT EXIST... Yes, road safety in India is just like a Suhel Seth column, a minor inconvenience, to be ignored by all and sundry.
This is epitomised by our walking on the left side of the road. Now, the only reason why we walk on the left side is because, in most countries in the world, drivers drive on the right. Hence,in most countries in the world this was used as a safety mechanism, to view the oncoming traffic(Thnks Roshan for the info on that one). However, the smart people who print our books, kept the correct side to wlak on as left, while most of our early cars were right side drive, a side effect of the British Raj. As a result, we end up walking in the direction of traffic, and have no clue whatsoever about oncoming traffic, other than when something hits us of course, from behind.
And here, we also have a saying that goes something like,"BAAP ka RAASTA hai...", and while the idiom does not really guarantee you ownership of a few National Highways, unless you are Kamal Nath's son(not related to me in ANY way..). What it does guarantee, is that most people dont even bother walking anywhere but the center of the road. And of course, we do have more bovine, than human pedestrians here. So that makes it even worse, when you are trying to drive through a narrow road. And well, bikers have not really learnt the significance of overtaking from the left. Faced with acres of road space on the left, and you driving on the extreme right, chances are, the bker will probably zoom past you from the left.
And while its easy to criticise the roads and the people traversing them, I would like to end on a positive note. A friend of mine, who wasnt carrying his license, was accosted by a policeman...paid a bribe, and drove off. Now this would be a pathetic reflection on our society and blah blah... Guess how much the bribe was?? A mighty 5 rupees.. :P :D