For over two hours on Saturday August 14, beginning at 9.30 am, I carried out this experiment, around the intersection near Jayanagar’s fourth block bus terminus. In that duration, out of 48 car drivers and passengers who stopped along the kerb and opened the car door on the right, 35 did not bother to watch out for oncoming traffic. That’s around 80 per cent.
Remember the accident reported in the papers a few days ago, where a car driver opening his vehicle’s door caused the death of a two wheeler rider who rammed into the open door as he came riding behind the car? It takes just a split second to snuff out a life with a thoughtless gesture, and no amount of monetary compensation or imprisonment of the guilty driver can bring that life back for the family. And yet we had, even after reading about that recent accident, 35 people (that too, in just one small area, in the space of a couple of hours) still opening their car doors without so much as a backward glance.
Of those 35, I caught up with 11 and asked, "Don’t you think you should first look out for oncoming traffic before you open the door? Do you realise that you could kill someone coming behind you?"
Of those 11, three just looked at me and walked away. Three smiled and pushed off wordlessly. One said, "Nimmage thondare aitha?" (Did it inconvenience you?) One said "Aayithu" (whatever that means) and only one pondered over my question and conceded that he ought to have been careful. If this is the level of civic awareness among car driving, educated and moneyed citizens, can we really blame autorickshaw drivers for overtaking on the left even at bus stops (which could again, kill someone trying to get into a bus and getting in the way of the auto)?
The truth is that we, the people, do not monitor our own behaviour and have ego problems about showing consideration for others, whether in traffic or in queuing at a counter or at bus stops. Sixty three years ago, we the people gave unto ourselves a new constitution that listed citizens’ rights, but democratic governance also involves obligations along with rights. Thoughtless or selfish behaviour is described as “law of the jungle” – and that’s what we see, increasingly, around town. ⊕