What’s the rush?

Arshid Malik

What’s the rush? This is one question that always jumps to my mind whenever I see an impatient person driving a vehicle trying to push ahead even while he or she is in know that the traffic ahead is deeply stranded. No matter how congested the traffic is, there is this somebody who will not stop honking the horn while almost climbing out of the driver’s seat and out of the window to hurl abuses at an intended someone who as per him does not know “how to drive a car”.This driver is the replica of almost every other driver to the left and right, front and back of this particular vehicle. All of them are in a rush. It is like a “gold rush”. Not to mention the cab drivers who don’t want to waste even the fraction of a second while in transit. These cab drivers hardly use brakes. It is a rush for all of them, but a rush for or to what?As far as I know Kashmiri people, they are just trying to push ahead of each other to get to a destination which does not demand punctuality particular to every counting second. This particular destination for the common people is mostly an office, where there is not much to be done especially during these chilly winters and for the cab drivers the cab station where they hardly get another turn at a rental the whole remaining day. Then there is these pesky little bugs, the auto-rickshaws who would slip right between your legs leaving you with the scare of your entire life. They never stop for anything and manage to slip into every possible slip and slot that is left open in a heavy traffic mess to make it even messier.

Oh! I forgot to mention the tippers, which I dread more than anything on the open road, which are colossally big orange colored death machines. The tippers and their drivers are well known for their defiance to penance towards all living things run-over. The very sight of a tipper approaching sends me hurtling to safety. These tipper drivers are seldom seen as the vehicle itself is quite tall and in all probability there is no stopping them once they have crushed someone. One can understand the urgency of the tipper drivers since they have to follow “No Entry” regulations till late in the evening and once the slot is done they are bound to bulldoze everything that crosses their path. This “emblem of death”, the tipper, denotes danger so for those who go out after dark be wary of this orange colored beast. The interesting thing is that once these tippers have unloaded the loads they are ferrying they rush back at almost full-throttle and settle down midway from their end destination, relaxing over hot Kashmiri tea and stuff. There is no rush then. I wonder how these tipper drivers breakdown their time, I mean what’s the rush.

Another perfect scene is at every traffic signal here in Kashmir. It is a wonder, first of all, that most people have started following traffic signals. As soon as the countdown to the signal turning green approaches the count of five, vehicles leap to the fore like blood-thirsty predators going for the prey. God forbid, if anyone crosses their line he or she is gone for good. Again the rush.

In this rush, scores of pedestrians get mowed down every week. Each and every day there is a column or more about people crushed to death by speeding vehicles, while some manage to survive. Most such “accidents” take place on the highways, while vehicles are over-speeding and at the same time taking over. Now, an unassuming pedestrian wanders an inch or so from the periphery of the road and boom, he is taken down. It is horrible, a death such as the like of being mowed down by an over-speeding vehicle. The more horrible thing is that no one seems to care or take notice of the fact that an increasing number of people are getting crushed to death by over-speeding vehicles. These figures about people crushed to death have turned into mere numbers to be collected later by some researcher and published in some study paper. The Traffic Police Department is the most faltering in this case. It is their duty to check over-speeding vehicles and inculcate some degree of discipline among the commercial as well as domestic driving community of the Valley. I wonder what the higher ups in the Traffic Police Department are doing to improve the safety of the drivers as well as the pedestrians here. Isn’t it time they equip their ground personnel with speed guns and stuff to check and contain the over-speeding menace in Kashmir. Maybe they should relieve a portion of their over-sized manpower in case they are short of money to buy equipment to regulate traffic better. For a 100 traffic cops 25 well-equipped ones doing their jobs honestly would suffice better. We could easily blame the governing regime for the all this but I guess that would not be fair, for each and every department in Kashmir and elsewhere has a life to itself and it continues to evolve or is supposed to evolve on its own over a period of time, no matter who is in the “chair”.  I squarely place the blame on the Traffic Department for the “cold blooded murders” that dot the everyday history of the Valley in the shape of people being run-over by reckless drivers.

Recently I read a news item as soon as I started my day in the office about a man who had been run-over by a Scorpio in Lal Bazar area of Srinagar. The person was cited to be quite aged and had succmbed to injuries on the spot. I drifted into a chain of thought about this “slaughtered” person who must have left home to run some important errand with the chill catching up to his age. Little would he have known that he would meet his death right on the road that very morning? And what about his family? How would they have reacted to the news of their all-of-a-sudden dead elder who had left the house quite “haleand hearty”? Who is to blame for their untimely loss and grief? Are there laws to bring justice to this unassuming grief-struck family and thousands others who have lost their loved ones to a missive culpability? If there are laws, are they effective. We, the people of Kashmir, have to stand up for every injustice done to us. Be it a stray bullet or a violating vehicle, we need to stand up for justice, for every innocent killed out there could be one dear to us.

We must, being the inhabitants of this “Sufistic” land, revive the ethic of patience and forbearing which has been the hallmark of our generations past. Sitting behind the coziness of the wheel in our luxury cars or racing for it to double our rewards we must realize that there are people around, who take life as it comes to them – those who cannot afford the luxury of vehicles or don’t even need one, and they have the right to life like all of us do. Attempting to bear likeness to some Michael Schumacher or just hitting it hard to rock our lives endangers the lives of others and we have no right to do that. We must act responsibly behind the wheel, and breathe deeply over the fact that by cutting across time we could be cutting the lives of our fellow people short. Just please ask yourself this, “What’s the rush” while remembering all those innocent people, known or unknown to us, and their aggrieved families who have been run over.

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