Fresh from a trip to the great expanse of North America, Ishan wonders how far we have to go before we can consider driving to be a safe exercise in our own land
As much as I still love driving, it’s no longer the relaxing activity that it once used to be. While I still find driving therapeutic, in that it allows me to spend some time with myself and my music, driving in our country is slowly progressing to a level where, instead of looking forward to it, I’ve started to dread even the thought of it.
It’s not just the fact that our road conditions oscillate between tolerable, bad, and downright horrid, or the fact that there’s hardly any lane discipline or respect for road rules – as I grow older, it’s more the awareness and lurking fear in the back of my mind that at any point in time there could be a pedestrian trying to dart across the road in the pitch dark, making it impossible for me spot him or her, or a tractor trolley coming straight at me on the wrong side of an expressway with not even a semblance of a headlight, leaving me scrambling to avoid what would most certainly be a near-fatal collision. While in my younger days there was the bravado that one’s reflexes are still in top-notch condition, today, the older and wiser me craves a drive in which I don’t have to face these hazards everyday. Because, you realize that while it might be fun to play this Russian roulette on occasion, eventually your luck will run out.
And there are a million other dangers lurking on our roads – unmarked speed breakers, construction debris, no streetlights, overloaded commercial vehicles parked anywhere with no regard for other road users – that are an everyday occurrence. The point is, instead of the authorities helping the commuter in our country, they work against us with lax procedures and scant respect for private property, not to mention the time and convenience of an average citizen – these are issues that simply don’t figure on the radar of our civil servants and politicians.
What brought this into sharper focus was my recent trip to Canada, which has one of the harshest winters in the world. When I landed, it had been snowing for days, and the average temperature stayed well below the freezing mark. But is the average Canadian’s daily commute to be affected? Nope, absolutely not. Authorities there are prompt in what they perceive as their duty to make sure that average citizens do not suffer unduly. So, even if it snows heavily, the snow ploughs will be out in full force overnight to make sure that the next morning’s commute is not hindered. And this is not just in the metro’s, but also in the countryside where you can’t spot a living being for miles – the snow ploughs were always at work, making sure people could go about their business. And, here, we’re surprised every year that the monsoons have arrived once again, which cause our arterial roads to turn into rivers – a problem we haven’t been able to solve for years, despite its yearly occurrence.
I wonder what it’ll take for attitudes to reach a stage where there’s a realization that proper infrastructure is a right, not a privilege. Now, you may say I’m simply spouting gyan, but I’m just contrasting the attitudes of public servants who want to actually serve, as opposed to those who want only to fleece.
Anyway, while I dream of such unlikely candidates, I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2013.