I tried to balance myself very carefully as I took each step with great caution. No, I was not performing any acrobatics or balancing trick. I was just walking on a busy street in the city. I could not walk on the footpath as the slabs of the pavements were removed and piled up in a half hazard manner. Some parts of it were dug up and the remaining parts, occupied by the vendors. It was impossible to walk on the road, as the traffic was very heavy.
Walking on the streets of Bangalore City is indeed a great feat. The vehicles were parked on both sides of the narrow street and the pushcart vendors occupied remaining part of the street. In the midst of this, vehicles were trying to vie with one another in their race to reach their destination, dodging potholes and road humps, totally throwing all road rules to the winds.
What has happened to the civic sense of the citizens? Being an honest and educated citizen of the locality, I felt it was my duty to bring about awareness among the public regarding their civic duties.
I was a bit thirsty, I thought I could have some tender coconut water and then go about my work with refreshed enthusiasm. I spotted a tender-coconut vendor with a bunch of green tender coconuts tied to his cycle. I stopped him and after a bit of bargaining, asked him to pick a coconut with plenty of water in it. He picked one and said, "Madam, I have chosen the best one for you. Once you taste it you will ask for more." I felt happy that he was friendly and helpful. He started chopping off the top layers of the coconut right in the middle of the street. I started sipping the sweet water watching to see if he would clear up the chopped bits strewn all over the road. He did not seem to be bothered about it. I remembered my mission and told him that it was our duty to keep the roads clean and that he should carry a basket with him to pick up all the pieces and take them to the nearest garbage bin. He just sneered at me and said, "Why are you bothered, madam? Rasthe nimda…….? ( Is the road yours……..?)" It was the first blow to my civic sense awareness campaign.
Well, it takes time for people to understand. Then, I turned a corner of the road and bumped against a car that was parked right at the blind turning. There was no street-light. So I was concerned about the unwary motorists or scooterists who would take a turn at the corner at their own peril. I looked around to see if the owner of the parked car was in sight. In a few minutes he came to his car with a huge shopping bag and very leisurely opened the car and put the bag inside. This was my chance. I went up to him and told him how the parking of his vehicle at the wrong place might cause inconvenience to others and may even lead to accidents. I do not know how much of it he heard. He got into his car, banged the door and retorted, "Why don’t you mind your business? Rasthe nimda……..?" Once again I had to swallow the humiliation.
I kept saying to myself that I should not become discouraged and that I must exercise patience. The coconut vendor was an uneducated person; but the gentleman who drove the car could have been more polite, I thought.
A few days later, I was returning home after visiting a friend when suddenly a ball hit me on my back. I turned around to find saw a few boys playing cricket on the street. I thought if I could cathme young, I could make a difference. I went up to them. There was an expectant look on their faces. They had perhaps rehearsed in their minds how to react if I chided them. I started straight away saying that they should not play on the street as it was meant for vehicles. It obstructs smooth flow of traffic and would also cause accidents. They should play in the playgrounds or in the parks. They looked bored. One boy mustered up courage and said, "We have been playing here everyday and nobody told us anything. Why are you giving us a lecture now? Rasthe nimda……?" That was the last straw.
I have learnt a lesson. Every citizen has the right to use the road as he likes. Nobody can encroach upon his rights. The roads are there to be used as garbage dumps, parking lots, playground and everything else that you can think of. Civic sense and civic responsibilities are in the textbooks to be studied and answered in the examination. They also serve as useful topics for the politicians’ orations. We just have to accept things as part of our system and learn to live in harmony with them. The road is not mine, it is everyone’s property. What right do I have to question them?
I feel that one should not give up . We have to keep telling the offenders that they are wrong . I face this quite often – more and more from two wheelers using footpaths. I keep telling (at times shouting) them that it is not ‘ their ‘ space. Yes, some do shout back asking whether it belongs to me (sometimes some of them tend to get curious and ask whether it belongs to my father etc). I guess it will deter at least 10 % of them from repeating the offense