Drive carefully and slowly

This is a real life incident, and a long narration, but there’s plenty to learn.

It’s 8.45am on Sunday, 11th of Feb 2007, and I’m all geared up, this time with lots of sun screen and a cap, to ride back to Aero India, this time specifically to get a look at the exhibition. My teenage nephew rode along for the thrills. We were hardly out of home, when the wind took his cap away. I stopped the bike, he ran back and picked up his cap, and we were riding again. Barely half a kilometer down, at the Domlur (Shanti Sagar) intersection on Airport Road, a woman throws herself and her 7 year old kid right in front of my bike, with only 20 feet between us. Even with my reasonably OK reflexes, it was impossible to stop in that distance at a speed of 45+ KMPH. Despite my efforts at braking as hard as I could, I hit the kid. The boy was bleeding. My nephew and I were not injured. We know how our public is, they want to get involved at first chance, and punish the guilty. This time, several people and a traffic constable had witnessed the accident, and they immediately absolved me, and scolded the woman for her action. We immediately put them in a rickshaw and sent them to Manipal Hospital. I sent my nephew back home.

While I dragged my bike to the side, the constable had radioed in and an inspector on wheels had arrived. He got a quick and dirty lowdown on the situation, inspected my bike (which was now inoperable because the clutch was broken due to sudden stopping while in gear), and agreed to give me a ride to Manipal Hospital. From Manipal, we went to Hosmat Hospital, the most reputed accident injury hospital in Bangalore. The doctors there said that besides minor scratches, there were two injuries on the back of the head, one was a superficial cut and they stitched it up. The other was a blunt force injury and they would have to do some scans to detect any internal injury. Since the boy had not lost consciousness and was responding well, they decided to release him, advised his parents to keep watch, and bring him back for the scans if they noticed any abnormal behavior. This was such a relief, because any internal injury would have meant disaster.

Back to the accident site to retrieve my bike, I was told to first visit the police station. At the police station, I met another inspector, who told me that the parents had the first choice of filing a complaint against me. The police had the second choice of filing a case of driving with negligence. And he was raring to file the case. The only choice I had was to get the parents of the boy to write a letter to the police stating that they had no complaint against me. If I did not get the letter, and even if the parents did not file a complaint, the police would file their own case, and would confiscate my bike and drivers license till the case was closed. The inspector did not care about what actually happened at the scene or that there were witnesses. He was completely unwilling to hear me out. All he wanted to do was to charge me. He was all ready to prosecute me.

If a complaint or case was filed, and even if I won, it would take years and years, I would end up spending thousands on legal expenses, and the bike would become thrash in the police impound. I had to find the parents and get that letter. The hunt for the parents was not so difficult. They came to the police station with the boy. The boy's father was also illiterate and a construction worker. He didn’t want to file a complaint. He only demanded that I pay him five thousand rupees towards treatment costs and then he would give me the letter. Even though I knew I was not responsible for the accident and could walk away, in my heart I felt that I had to take care of the boy. I could see that these people were poor and had nobody else to look up to. I told him that in case they later discovered it was an internal injury, five thousand rupees would be peanuts and would not take care of the medical expenses. I offered to undertake all future medical expenses related to the injury, whatever it may cost, including costs of any surgery. That made more sense to me. But he was stuck to his demand for cash upfront. This had now turned into blackmail.

It is common knowledge around here that these poor and illiterate men care little about their kith and kin, and any spare money they can garner goes into fulfilling their alcoholic needs. I understood that if I gave any cash upfront to him, he would party all night, and leave the kids future to fate. Then it wouldn’t matter If I gave him five thousand, double or even ten times of that. A lot of people tried to convince the father to accept my offer, but he didn’t budge. Even the cops suggested that I give him something, get the letter, and forget about the whole thing. It was a difficult decision. By this time, although I had taken it upon myself to take care of the boy's medical expenses, I had started to lose my energy due to the attitude of his father. Under pressure from the cops and my cousin, I agreed to pay him cash, get the letter, have the bike released, and forget about the boy. When the father agreed to two thousand five hundred, it was crystal clear that this was his booze money. No father would otherwise compromise to such an extent for his son's future.

At the end of the day, I had spent eight hundred in the hospitals, given two thousand five hundred to the father, and five hundred to the cops. Yes, the cops get their share too. And five hundred was only from me, I don’t know how much they took from the father. The cop's angle is hidden in the beginning, but it becomes so clear at the end. They played us all through.

Mind you, this was despite several witnesses to the accident including a policeman. If the same incident had happened in a deserted area or in the absence of a policeman or in darkness, you can’t even imagine the ordeal one would have had to go through. If this doesn’t wake you up, here’s news that will. I was told by the cops and others around that there have been several incidents where accidents have been staged by people, even if it entailed real injury to them, only to grab as much money as possible from the innocent driver.

My sincere request to everyone is: please drive slowly and carefully. Even if you are the safest driver around, you have to tackle rude and obnoxious drivers and illiterate pedestrians. You know better.

I’ve become extremely irritable after this incident. I’m shouting and screaming at every other person. My overall emotional state is in turmoil. For the first time, I don’t feel like saying cheers.

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