Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Into the sunset; ride hard, ride safe.

Why is it that we are drawn to the spectacular and unperturbed by the mundane? What is it in our collective psyche that will pander to the visually arresting, the vilified horrors and the verbally abusive? And why will the voice of cold hard facts always be bested by the clown with a joke?

Case in point: When the news of 26/11 broke, most Indians (and other folks around the world) were outraged. And in their belief, rightly so. Here was the collective failure of a nation's security process being beamed live into your household. What better way to bemoan the sorry state of affairs and also express solidarity in grief? Hey, they went out for dinner at the Taj and instead got shot at!!! Can't one get a decent meal outside anymore? However, being a complete cynic with scant regard for the efficiency of our entire internal security process, I couldn't be bothered, actually. My reaction was apathetic at best. 

But I am not a hard-hearted doomsday prophecy believer. Far from it. I feel just as much sympathy as the next man for someone's loss. Yes, sad as it was for the poor souls who perished and their families and loved ones, the only thing that really bothered me was the fact that the terrorists were able to attack targets with such military precision and impunity. Frankly, I still feel that the loss of the 160 odd lives during this terror attack is only outrageous because of the fashion in which it happened. And when they went too early, it was with the whole nation watching, sympathizing, crying and grieving. In all the spectacular glory that 24 hour live news can bring to tragedy. 

Yet, there are hundreds of ordinary nameless and faceless Indians who meet an all too similar fate every single day. They go out on the road to attend to their business, and sadly never return alive. Unfortunately for them, they do not meet such a spectacular end as the folks who died in Mumbai did. And so their deaths are hardly ever front page news or covered live on TV. Their obits are written in the back pages of papers, in small print. The grief of their loved ones is just as real. And the tragedy of their deaths is just as damning.

Some statistics from the India Today magazine, Nov 12 2009 edition. Read full article here.

Every hour (in India), 13 people die due to road accidents, the highest in the world. Every 10th person who dies in road accidents is an Indian. Every day, about 250 people die in road accidents, or an astonishing 1,14,590 each year. That's a horrific number and even more horrific considering that the majority of fatalities are the sole earning members of their families: 85 per cent are male and 70 per cent are in the working age group of 30 to 59 years.

Can you even begin to comprehend the social and economic toll of such damning statistics? Almost every one in India who will ever read this blog will know of a friend or a close relative who has died in a road accident. Do you remember how it plunged the entire family and friends in grief. Ask the father who's buried his son. Or the mother who raised her children without a father. Now, add the fact that we are not a very mature market for life insurance and with our lack of any real social security; the financial impact of the loss is an all to familiar tale that everyone's heard. And the grief is greatest only when it hits close to home.

In the race for economic development, we seem to have forgotten some of the basic things that mark a socially progressive country. Or is it that we just couldn't be bothered till tragedy strikes home?
Watch this space. I am only getting started.

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