Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Inviting Trouble?

I’ve owned a 2-wheeler for 10 years now. Can’t believe it! I still have it and it still works! The first thing that I bought after I got the bike was a helmet. I can’t really remember going anywhere on the vehicle sans my helmet.

I’ve always tried to figure out why someone would resist wearing one. My own friends try to resist it to the extent possible. I’ve been the butt of endless jokes about how my helmet is so big while my bike is so small. (It’s not about the bike, people! It’s about the head!)

On the “IT Super Highway” in Madras, I’ve seen so many young people, proudly displaying their identity tags, weaving in and out of traffic, without a helmet. I thought that was appalling until I moved to Hyderabad. Almost nobody wears a helmet in Hyderabad. Worse still, rear view mirrors are optional add-ons to 2-wheelers! The bike comes with one rear view mirror, but if you don’t want it, the dealer will charge you less for the bike. I wonder if it works the same way for other bike parts. Like the brakes for instance?

I saw something morning that has left me extremely troubled. I grew up right here in India. I know for a fact that a 2 wheeler is a family vehicle. "Buland Bharat ki buland tasveer, hamara Bajaj”! But what I saw this morning was most unusual. A family of 4 was traveling on a scooter. The wife sat at the back. The husband was riding. The two children were standing in the space in front. None of them was wearing a helmet. (Was I actually expecting them to?) The older child, about 3, was holding the 6 month old baby and standing. The baby was leaning over the handle bar and trying to wiggle out from the brother’s arms. All this on Bellary Road, which is the NH7! What were they thinking? My thoughts went to hundreds of thousands of couples who crave babies and, for reasons unknown to us can never have them. And here, in front of me, I had a couple that had, not one, but two, children and yet, one that couldn’t have been more careless.

My friends tell me about Indian couples in the US who allow their children to ride in the front seat of their cars. Why? Because the child “doesn’t like” to sit in the car seat at the back! I can’t remember exactly when I was permitted to sit in the front seat of my parents’ car. It was clearly after I was 13 or older. It was all right if my dad or mom seemed like a chauffeur, but that was the way it had to be. My doctor friends in Hyderabad would never let their 3 year old ride in the front seat. My friend would always sit in the back with the little one if she refused to sit by herself.

Is it true that we don’t realize the value of something as long as we have it? Are we bound to realize this only when we suffer a loss? As always, yet another fac(e)t of life that will most likely remain outside the realm of my understanding.


Tambourine Girl said...

Hey there :)
Got here from your comment in my blog :)

I like this space!

will write a worthier comment soon! :D

Caffeinism said...

Actually you are right. Neither do I wear a Helmet at times...especially if I consider the distance too short. And I attribute this to the hot and sultry climate of Chennai...

I remember when I was in coll it was considered very un-cool to wear helmets!! I wonder where junta get these ideas...I think the best way to propagate wearing helmets is to make sure two wheeler advertisements project wearing a helmet as clever and cool. Maybe some amount of creativity is required in this product to give it a fresh look, thereby infuse new appeal to it and lastly all two wheelers should come with a helmet!

Raaga said...

@Caff: I meant to tell you the last time we met. Please do wear one everytime you get on to the bike :-) At least you know that it is hot and sultry :-)

@TG: Thanks for dropping by! Will wait for the comments :-)

Sunanda said...

Yeaah...I have been ridiculed a gazzillion times for wearing a helmet for my dear old tvs 50. As if riding that and getting hit by a speeding vehicle is less dangerous!!! To get the youth to be more responsible is very difficult. The probable solution as caff said would be to design some coole headgears.

Mukund said...

i've been wearing helmets off n on depending on my mood until i had an accident this february, when the helmet definitely saved me! now i've made it a practice of wearing everytime! but if u notice, many of those who wear helmets dont actually strap on the buckle which defeats the purpose totally!!

P.S: by the way, andha dabba vandiya poi bike'nu ellam solli joke adikka koodadhu :D

G'man said...

Ya! I guess the parents need to know how dangerous it can be for the kids to be standing in front. In US there are strict regulations, which impose the use of car seats. Strict adherence to law (=> less maamool vangum mama) can also help.

I remember my sister visitin me with my one year old niece. I was so scared/conscious to be driving with the baby. One needs to be atleast a little conscious of the stakes in hand.

Raaga said...

@Vakil: Dabba vandi? It still gives me 50-60 kmpl. What more does one want in times like these??

@Sunanda, G'man: yeah, it has to come from within. :-)