24th December 2017 was a day that changed many a lives that I know of. I was in the middle of a nearly 3200 kilometre train journey from Assam to Kerala when I was informed that my uncle had met with a road accident. He was driving a car, returning from his new born grandson’s choroonu ceremony in Trichur, Kerala.
A retired space scientist from VSSC, he was my local guardian for seven years (2000-07) while I studied at Sainik School near the state capital, Trivandrum. He was amongst the fittest and intellectually sharpest septuagenarians that I know of. What was initially thought of as a minor accident turned fatal, as the extent of internal injuries, came to the fore in the days and months ahead. He succumbed to them after nearly seven months of intensive care in one of the most advanced hospitals in Kerala. By the time he had left the body, he was barely a shadow of the living great that he was.
His, wasn’t an isolated story.
As the quality of Indian roads improve and the capabilities of our vehicles rises, so does the rate of accidents and the number of avoidable and premature lives that are lost.
Recent death of renowned musician Balabhaskar and his two year old daughter had broken the hearts of lakhs in Kerala and beyond. This tragic accident was only one among three accidents reported in ‘The Hindu’ newspaper on that fateful day, just from the southern states. Sadly, there isn’t a day now, a road accident and associated deaths fail to find column space in our daily newspapers.
Today wasn’t any different either, as I shockingly read about an accident that happened in the outskirts of Bangalore. A speeding car had rammed into a two-wheeler on a flyover taking with it the lives of a 41 year old and his 12 year old son. The report went onto say that the father was taking his son who complained of headache to a nearby clinic. The crash was so impactful that the boy’s body got crushed and severed around the waist into two halves. He was a 6th standard student who only wanted his headache treated. As per the report, both the riders were without helmet and the car driver fled away from the scene.
A few weeks ago, I was witness to another fatal accident, this time on the access controlled peripheral expressway, NICE Road, connecting two ends of Bangalore. After taking the toll from Electronic City, I was speeding my way to Tumkur Road exit to attend to my next client meeting of the day on the other end of the city. A few miles down the road, traffic began to slow down and eventually came to a crawling stop. There had been an accident in the opposite carriageway. A speeding car had hit a scooter and the rider had died on the spot. A middle-aged looking man, wearing light blue denims and a stripped t-shirt, he was lying in a pool of blood with severe damages to his upper body & head. He was without a helmet.
I’m overcome by numbness when I come to think of these victims and those moments that mattered. I am sure I’ll never forget the face of a van driver whose body was pulled out from under an overturned van climbing down the Valparai hills on 1st January 2017. I will also never forget the man in denims & t-shirt who lay still on the NICE Road. And so many more.
Momentarily we bring down the speed of our vehicles and drive cautiously. Soon that moment passes and we all get back to the hurry-burry of our daily lives. Driving recklessly to that next stop. As if we are invincible. Thinking such an accident would never happen to us.
We need to change!!!
Bloomberg reported in January 2018 that there are nearly 150,000 yearly deaths related to road accidents in India, or 400 deaths every day.