Wednesday, April 24, 2013

We on Our Roads

I just went through this article, and I couldn't agree more.

The article points towards some research findings that being rich robs you of your empathetic nature.

It's really true according to me. Recently, I was discussing on a related matter with a friend of mine about the behaviour of people residing in posh apartment complexes. Particularly on how they find it perfectly justified for them to waste resources like water, electricity and food, just because they have paid for it. It seems when my friend suggested in one of the casual conversations to one of his acquaintances that we should be considerate on such matters, the other person there said, 'that's not life!'

Can anything be any more degrading than to believe that being considerate is no more an option for humans?!

Before this article gets dismissed as another social bitching piece, I want to bring to your notice another issue: about how we look at our right to use public infrastructure, particularly roads. We have no order on our roads. They are polluted and dangerous. But above all, our roads are excessively crowded. The road cries out in pain when yet another car gets added to this mayhem, even if that car is yours or mine! Cars are the main reason why our roads are so dangerous, not the other vehicles like autos, 2-wheelers and buses, however much we might like to blame them for the chaos, and to take pride in our awareness of the mannerisms of more orderly roads of other countries. And that's simply because cars are so inefficient in terms of everything: fuel, space, maneuverability. Once we give up for good all the other more efficient and compassionate modes of travel for a car, what's this we are trying to convey by criticising those other people who scramble around for that little space we have left them with on the roads?

Please consider using public transport sometimes. Please use a 2-wheeler instead of a car if you can. Please take out your rusty bicycle for little personal excursions in and around your locality. It's good for your health. It doesn't pollute. It glides smoothly and noiselessly on the roads and quickly gets you to your destination. It burns up that fat in your body which you struggle to burn on the treadmill in your air-conditioned gym.
I have seen people going further than not accepting the nobility in minimalism. By calling such acts vanity in the disguise of simplicity.

Start by taking the first step: by accepting that it is good to be considerate and compassionate on the road and elsewhere. Please have the courage to accept that the people who have chosen not to crowd and pollute have done an act of integrity. They deserve your respect and admiration; not ignorance and definitely not scorn. And accept that if you aren't able to do the same thing, it's not a happy choice, but has got to do with some limitation on your part: distance, lack of fitness, or -- as is most probably the case  -- mere laziness, or even worse, vanity.

Please stop giving the lame excuses about pollution. Adding to litter just because there's already a heap of it lying there isn't justified. Same applies to corruption. Why doesn't that apply to pollution and crowding? Just because you hate inhaling polluted air, you decide to contribute to this state by pumping in loads of CO everyday by preferring a car to a two-wheeler or public transport? Isn't that selfish and inconsiderate?

I have been driving a 2-wheeler for 25 years (a dozen of them in Bangalore). I have been riding a bicycle for even longer (a dozen of them in Bangalore again). I can't say anything about tomorrow. But I am alive today. I haven't been knocked down so far by any rogue driver. And I can vouch for the fact that I am less unhealthy than I have always been in large part due to my on and off (progressively more on than off) bicycling. I believe that, despite the dangerous conditions of our roads (which I don't fully deny), a lot of your own safety depends on you. Being a bit cautious, and not depending on the same from others, does the trick. It may slow you down, frustrate you a bit. But that's a lot better than risking your life or not cycling at all.

I am sorry to see that while many of the people of my age group are finding their way back to healthier and fitter lifestyles, younger people find it their prerogative to desire cars as a necessary luxury as soon as possible to mark the fact that they are doing well in their lives. What a pity! Isn't it the same mentality as that of thinking that you have every right to consume as much resources as you wish as long as you are paying for it? Wake up guys! Learn that the need to show off one's achievements is already bad enough. To think it one's entitlement to potentially disastrous modes of vanity is nothing less than criminal.

The happiness of doing well in life comes with a bunch of responsibilities. Achievement devoid of commensurate awareness, knowledge, thinking, compassion and wisdom is not worth a farthing to anything including yourself. Simply because any such happiness simply can't exist. Consider not searching happiness by inflating your ego endlessly. There are other more direct and less disastrous ways to seek happiness. And they don't eventually end in a naught.

Well, before I turn too acidic and digress, let me conclude with a wish list:

  1. That we all had behaved better on our roads. 
  2. That we had been more respectful to the people who built it, and to those who laid down rules and directives for good driving.
  3. That we followed rules without having to be watched over all the time.
  4. That we showed some respect to our fellow users of the road by keeping distance, by not overtaking too much, by not driving non-linearly, by not honking too much. 
  5. And finally, that we had respected the fact that the space on the road and breathable air in our atmosphere are both exhaustible resources, and had taken to less polluting and less crowding modes of transport wherever possible.

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