It’s been about three months now. The otherwise chirpy cleaning lady looked unusually quiet as she walked in. I asked her what was wrong. Her nephew, she said, was in the hospital. In coma. General Hospital.
He was sitting on the back seat of a bike behind two other friends while coming back from work when a truck hit the bike. He lay there for many hours before being taken to the hospital.
I asked about her nephew every day for the next seven days. On the eighth day, she didn’t turn up for work. I should have guessed. The boy was no more.
A friend from childhood, our next-door neighbour, searched me up on Facebook and we got talking on the phone. There was so much to catch up on after what seemed like a lifetime. She has two grown-up sons now. She told me her younger son recently had a badly fractured leg and was bed-ridden, undergoing physiotherapy. His motorcycle was hit by another motorcycle in an accident that left the other biker dead.
They had gone through a nightmarish time. But what shocked me more was when she told me that her elder son too had earlier met with an accident. On a motorbike. The boys are old now and find this a convenient mode of transport, she said. Helmets are out of question.
I can’t get the 20-something boy out of my head who came to fix our computers in the office, the only son of his widowed mother, who was run over by a car in the GPO Chowk a little more than a year ago. Head injury. Died on the spot.
There is a long line of incidents, accidents. People I know get injured and die, making me feel so utterly helpless.
Hundreds of thousands of users of this ‘convenient’ ‘cheap’ mode of travel are let loose on the roads without any specified road rules for them and other users of the road, and without any safety gear.
The insensitive babus sitting in their airconditioned rooms can’t stop praising how the motorcycles have turned into revolutionary wheels of economy, the engines of growth, turning people’s lives around. They seem amazed at how this cheap transport has turned ordinary people into entrepreneurs, whether it’s about selling milk or services or whatever.
My question is: at what cost? At the cost of the bikers’ lives and limbs?
Every other day, driving through the city, one hears the sounds of an ambulance stopping close by to pick an injured motorcyclist. The crowd gathered on roadside takes the life out of me.
The statistics from Rescue 1122 would be shocking. Is there anyone willing to check the number of injured bikers, the ‘engines of growth’ picked by these ambulances and being treated in hospitals?
What I find astounding is how a government machinery that got all the car drivers in the city to wear seat belts in a matter of three weeks has not made any serious attempt so far to get the motorcyclists to wear helmets; especially when more lives are at stake on this most vulnerable sawari.
The level of insensitivity and indifference is inexplicable. On all sides.
The motorcyclists couldn’t care less as long as it gets them from point A to B in the shortest possible time, with the least amount of money. The car drivers think of them as a nuisance on roads, ‘bloody poor’ who care so little about their own lives. The government seems fixated on making the entire city signal-free (making it safe and accident-free is not a priority).
It is time the managers of the city did something about the bikers’ safety as their first priority. Questions like how many more motorcycles and cars can the over-stressed city accommodate and public awareness about road rules could be addressed soon after.