Difficult Daughters And Loving Mothers

Some time back, my sister and I were having a discussion on marriage vows.

“For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish”

We said how difficult it is to commit to another human being like this – for better or for worse?  Is it even possible to love another human being so unconditionally? Our parents teach us that it is.

I do not know what makes my mother continue to love me when I get from bad to worse! What I do know is that even at the age of 29 I can throw tantrums because mothers can’t break-up with their children.

Few years back, I was crying about something to my elder sister. She tried to console me with reason. It did not work. She tried to give some positive examples. I got even more angry.  No matter what she said, I continued to be hopeless. Finally, she said that I need to STOP, because it is very upsetting for her and my parents when I cry like this.

“This has happened to me! You won’t understand! Only I can understand! I am the victim here! Not you!” I snapped.

“Nothing can happen to you alone! Whatever happens to you affects the rest of us! And maybe I cannot understand. But you don’t understand either how painful it is to watch someone younger than you, who you love, suffer, and not being able to help them!”

How tough it must be for parents?  I don’t know what it must be like to constantly worry about a grown-up child. To keep telling them that everything will be okay when in your heart you are too scared to imagine that it may not? To feel like it is your primal responsibility to protect them and make them happy, and yet feel powerless because the universe does not care. Or because God does not listen.

How do they deal with it? How does a mother feel when she cannot really make things right for her child? Maybe she can solve the manageable problems first. She can cook her daughter’s favourite dish. Or tidy her wardrobe. She can still do whatever she can in her human capacity to make life easier and better for her child. And the thing with mothers is that they keep doing it. For adult children. Then their children. How exhausting it must be! Both physically and emotionally!

I have blogged about this before:

Just a couple of days back, my mother had packed my tiffin box with fruits and salad. I got busy with work and brought back the food home, untouched. After dinner, my mother started eating the leftovers.

“How come you are eating the pomegranate, I thought you didn’t like it. Never seen you having it.” I asked.

“It’s not that I don’t like it, slicing the vegetables and fruits is a pain. I give it to you and your father, but don’t bother slicing for myself.” she replied.

There are small (big) things that our mothers do for us. Sometimes it may be having the leftover rice for dinner because she is too tired after making rotis for the rest of us. Or maybe buying that ridiculously expensive dress that I was drooling at the mall, and then claiming that it was on a sale.

We notice that they do all of this. We just don’t thank them enough. If we did, how many thank yous would we owe them each day?  And who says I love you and  thank you every day anyway?  

P.S.

Today is my mother’s birthday. She does not check Facebook regularly. On her last to last birthday, I had to tell her that people have wished her on her timeline. She is supposed to reply or at least ‘like’ their post. She had asked me if she has to comment on their timeline or hers. On her last birthday, she had requested me to respond to all her birthday posts because what if she makes typos! I had refused. I told her she should learn. She will comment just fine. And she did. Perfectly! She has not subscribed to my blog because she does not check her emails. I doubt if she will read this post today. But I hope she does! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KBC And Women Empowerment

Started watching Kaun Banega Crorepati since Monday. The show has unexpectedly changed my daily routine as someone who goes to gym / walk late after dinner. Now I have to complete my exercise before 9 pm so that I can watch it peacefully. I don’t know after how long I am watching something on television. The good old days when we ran to the kitchen or the wash room during a break. For the longest time that I can remember it has been Netflix, and Hotstar, Ozee (Mom misses her Zindagi channel) and Altbalaji. (Don’t judge me… I am a fan of Sakshi Tanwar and could not resist Kar le tu bhi mohabbat).

Coming back to the show, last two episodes there was a female contestant from Uttar Pradesh, Archana Vijay. She was full of spunk. I would have loved to see her win more. She said some things on the show which I could completely relate to:

• How every girl is told to get up early, do household work etc so that she is prepared for marriage! As if marriage is the sole goal of our existence!

• As a perfect career advice people give young women – Why don’t you do B. Ed and get into teaching. It is perceived as such a future husband, future in-laws and future children friendly profession! Well, what if the woman is not interested in that?

• She also talked about how following tradition blindly makes no sense. We have conveniently adopted all kinds of new techniques to save time and effort. Why be regressive when it comes to women?

People always say society is like this. People are like that. What can we do? What can we possibly change? Well, nobody is expecting anyone to change the society. But we can at least take charge of our own life. This lady started a cyber café. She speaks up against what she does not feel right. She is not badtameez, she is just logical. I loved the example she gave of aata chakki. But regressive people don’t like logic. Logic defies tradition.

On a completely irrelevant note, she referred to her husband as her “Mister”. Mr. Bachchan interrupted her and clarified that she was addressing her husband and that some people may not get it as it is a very UP thing. Throughout my childhood I have heard people say, “Humare Mr. yeh karte hai, Unki Mrs. nahi hai.. etc.” The fact that I did not find it odd at all, was a reminder that I am quite rustic myself! 🙂

One of the questions asked to her was ‘Which movie has won the National Award for a social message in 2017?’ The answer was Pink. How could I have missed that? A movie with the message ‘No means no’ won an award. The same movie that so many progressive people failed to understand and said,‘But why did the woman go inside a room with an unknown man? What was she thinking?’ Mr. Bachchan then reemphasized that message – No means no whether the woman is your wife or girlfriend.

The next contestant who came on the show spoke about female infanticide. I missed that part but my mother later told me that he coaches women for competitive exams.

By the end of the show, I felt really happy. A financially empowered woman who spoke her mind. A man who wants to empower women. A movie on woman’s consent winning an award. And the greatest superstar of all times spreading the message.

Image source

How Do You React To Married Men Jokes (On Women)!

A bus full of housewives going on a picnic fell into a river, all aboard died. Each husband cried for a week, one husband continued for more than two weeks. When asked, he replied miserably – “My wife missed the bus.”

A man inserted an ‘ad’ in the classifieds: “Wife wanted.” Next day he received a hundred letters. They all said the same thing: “You can have mine.”

You get the idea – The married men jokes that get circulated on whatsapp. It is not just men who share it but women too.

I have received messages from several women saying that they feel offended by these jokes. But when they express their discomfort, they are told that they are “Too sensitive” or “Take it easy” or “It is just a joke, relax!!!”

I have blogged about how I feel about it before. Sharing an excerpt from the old article:

Jet airways launched a scheme where a husband can take his wife free on their business trip.
After big Success of the scheme, Jet Airways sent letters to all wives asking about their experience?
99% wives replied
What scheme??
Which trip??
and When was it??

Do married men really have women throwing themselves at them? That women will jump at the first opportunity to travel with men who are not their husbands? Is cheating a joke? What if I edited this joke:

Jet airways launched a scheme where a wife can take her husband free on their business trip.
After big Success of the scheme.
Jet Airways sent letters to all husbands asking about their experience?
99% husbands replied
What scheme??
Which trip??
and When was it??

Is it funny anymore? Do we circulate jokes like this? I guess because women don’t get to go on business trips (sarcasm!)? Or maybe society does not consider it acceptable that wives could cheat on their husbands, and then laugh about it too!

Without making this post any longer, and as requested by a reader, would like to know how do you react when someone sends such a joke?

1. Come-on! It is light-hearted humour! I find it funny.
2. I don’t find it funny. But I don’t mind it either.
3. I unfollow such people or exit from such groups.
4. I try to make them understand that this is offensive.

Have you ever watched a movie in a theatre alone?

A close friend of mine had pre-booked two tickets for a movie at a theatre near her place. (Let’s call her Preeti). Much to her disappointment, her companion ditched her due to some some last-minute work. A couple of hours before the show, she made some frantic calls and messages on Whatsapp groups to ‘donate’ her two tickets. Given the distance and time constraints in a big city, it is not surprising that nobody was able to make it on such a short notice. The tickets were wasted.

I asked Preeti why she could not go for the movie alone. She wanted to watch it. The theatre is walking distance from her house.  She said that she did not want to go alone. It would be too weird. People would be staring at her. She would feel too conscious. I told her that it is a multiplex in a mall. Not some single screen theatre from 20 years back.

You need to be more brave in life! I said to her.

Now, Preeti is a girl who has been staying away from her family since college. She has an MBA degree. She lives with flat mates and is fairly independent. She does not remember the last time she borrowed money from her parents. She pays all her bills.  No wonder, she became defensive at my statement. She said that she has traveled alone in an airplane / train. Isn’t that brave enough? There are so many people who do not even do that.

I told her that doesn’t count. She does not have an option there. What would she do? Not go home for Diwali / Christmas break? Or search for people with the same hometown in office and align travel plans as per their leave balance?

I asked a couple of more friends. Here are few other situations we discussed:

  • No friends have showed up at office
  1. Have lunch alone at your desk
  2. Try sitting with some other group for today
  3. Go early for lunch so that there are less people
  4. Skip lunch
  5. Just go alone!
  • Friend’s birthday coming up. No company available to go shopping
  1. Keep asking all the people in phonebook until someone agrees
  2. End up gifting after her birthday
  3. Pool in with someone who already has a gift
  4. Just go alone!
  • Original example. Planned to go for movie, tickets booked. Companion ditched last minute 
  1. Ask the neighboring Aunty / housemaid to join
  2. Curse your friend, make him / her feel guilty and stay home
  3. Try selling it in black
  4. Just go alone!

I think you all know by now, I have always exercised the last option. Sometimes, because nobody was available. Sometimes by choice. It doesn’t matter. I have ended up enjoying being by myself. I have never regretted the time. It has always felt good and refreshed. (And not lonely and pathetic)!

Bottom line is, if I have company great. If I don’t, it will not stop me from doing something!

So, to all the ladies – If you ever find yourself in such situations, don’t be afraid to spend time by yourself. Give it a try at least. Don’t outright reject the thought.

Who knows, you may end up feeling very empowered and independent! 🙂

Are accidents really just ‘accidents’?

I read the post of a mother who lost her 23-year daughter in a road accident.  The girl was riding pillion wearing a helmet.  There was a pothole.  She fell, got hit by a truck.  The truck driver never got punished. Though there was an FIR, nothing much happened. It was an ‘accident’ after all.

Another post was of a woman who lost her 32-year-old brother in a hit and run case by a speeding Mercedes driven by a ‘juvenile’.  The man was simply crossing the road near his house, carefully when an over speeding car driven by a ‘minor’ hit him.  There is a video of the incident caught on CCTV. The case is going on.

These families are now crusaders for road safety.  They try to create more awareness about poor habits such drunk driving, texting while driving, not following traffic signals as well as take measures to fix bad roads.

You could read more about them if you follow the links. Needless to say, it is extremely disturbing and unfair.

How would  it feel to lose a loved one, because some idiot decided to be on the road?

I had started driving two years back.  I was a slow and careful driver to begin with.

I remember the day I had got a tiny, first scratch in my brand new car. As I touched the scratch, it broke my heart. My perfect little car had to suffer because of somebody else’s stupidity.

Since then, I have had two accidents. Nobody got hurt, thankfully. I was alone both times, and it was not my fault.  The first time, it was with a cab. I don’t think the driver had any license, or registration.  He had snatched my phone and had bullied me into giving him lots of money. Remember the movie ‘Hindi Medium’, where the ‘poor guy’ extracts money out of the guy who was driving the car, even though he had deliberately got himself hit? The scene was meant to evoke sympathy, as the guy had put his life on risk for money for his friend.  I thought it was a horribly wrong message in an otherwise good movie.

The second accident was when a minibus hit my car and another two wheeler. I have blogged about it here. This time, I was smarter and called the police. It was still a lot of hassle.

Two accidents, major repairs, and money extraction by a callous driver later, I have become EXTRA careful.

My ‘grandma driving’ has been subject of ridicule. The jokes come from all kinds of people. Even the ones who do not know how to drive. Or the ones who may know theoretically? but have never driven:

  • I insisted that my friend  who sat in my car on the front seat must wear a seat-belt.  His response: ‘You drive like a bullock cart. I don’t need a seat-belt!’ I wanted to reason that the seat-belt would protect if somebody hits us from behind because no, not all drivers on the road drive like me.  Never mind!
  • Near my office, there is an empty, broken road, with dogs and pigeons resting during the day time. Now, pigeons are supposed to fly when you come near them. But on that quiet day, and quieter street, there was this one pigeon that was refusing to move. I stopped and honked.  There were some guys nearby who motioned me to keep driving, and it would eventually fly. I thought it was cruel to take a chance with hurting the poor bird. I reversed my car a little, and then drove a distance away from it. The guys laughed at me.
  • I was waiting to take a right turn at an intersection where there are no signals. It was not a one way, and there was traffic from both sides. One of my office cabs came after me, took a quick turn in high speed, while I continued to wait. The next day, one of the colleagues who was in that cab, asked me why I was so scared to take a turn. I told him that I was not scared. I was just waiting for the traffic to slow down.  ‘Traffic will be there! In that only you have to go inside! Otherwise you will keep waiting!’ he said with a wise, broad smile. ‘No I will not keep waiting. Every day, I manage to reach home! Maybe I have to wait an extra minute,’ I replied politely.
  • A neighbor was talking to another one about how she was anxious that her 18-year-old son had just started riding a motorcycle. She felt that two wheelers are unsafe and that her son was young. The other woman laughed at her ‘unreasonable fear’. She said that he is starting out late as 15, 16-year-old kids manage to drive.

I know of friends who drive recklessly. Are they ever shamed for their driving skills? No. In fact, they are considered cool and confident. One friend proudly told me how she had driven her team to an event within 20 minutes on a road that takes an hour, saving them from the disaster of being late.

We all know of people who drink and drive, and manage to get away with it. We know of teenagers, and adults who do not know how to drive, yet learn on the roads. We know of people who jump traffic lights. ‘Itna to chalta hai’ is the attitude.

Why do we take pride in putting our lives and more importantly other people’s lives at risk? Is it really something to be proud of? This must be the attitude behind the juvenile who ended up killing the man I was referring to. His parents must have thought it is not a big deal to give the keys to their minor son.

Underage drivers, drunk drivers, bus drivers, cab drivers or heavy vehicle drivers who callously drive on the roads probably may not be following my blog. But someone like the lady who trivialized driving by teenagers might be reading this. Or the colleague who believes waiting for two more minutes is a waste of time.

Is it worth it?

It is time we stopped shaming people who are doing the right thing. Let us pass on the shame to the ones who think they can get away with anything.  This kind of attitude that we have is more damaging that we think.

Next time we hear of someone bragging about their son / daughter who is driving without a valid license, let us shame them for being irresponsible parents. When we are in the car with that friend who breaks all rules, cuts into lines and has no respect for speed limits, let us not encourage him / her.

Let us ask these daredevils to join the circus. Or apply for positions of stunt artists.  The road is not the right place for them to showcase their skills.

Our roads, our legal system, other drivers on the road are all factors beyond our control. But our attitude is.

Everybody Can Be Happy. It Is So Simple.

The other day I went to sit by the pool side after returning from gym.  I was feeling very depressed.  It is difficult to identify what exactly was the trigger. Recent death of a relative, talking to a friend who is initiating divorce, reading about a young married woman committing suicide, cribbing to another single friend how there are no good men any more (left for us), or following up with my friend on her mother’s chemotherapy. Was I upset because relationships are so fragile? Or because of the cruel reminder that our health can betray us any time?  The only thought that had pretty much built a home in my mind (Please excuse my Hindi to English translation) was that life is unfair and meaningless.

My apartment building has those beach like benches by the pool side. I love sitting there after working out. It gives me some peace. At that time of the night, nobody comes there.  I like to look at the reflection of the moon in the water.

But that day my blissful ‘me time’ was suddenly interrupted.

A woman barged in with her toddler. He would have jumped right into the water, had she not stopped him. It seemed the kid had just started walking. I am assuming he had been on a walker before. He was running around without much control. It was as if there should have been a break button on him. I think he had not yet fully understood that he was not on a walker anymore.  The mother was running after him.

He looked at me. There were  tears on my face I had not bothered to wipe. I ignored him.  I was avoiding making eye contact. The mother also looked at me with a smile. I ignored her too.  Usually, when any person looks at a baby / kid they do smile. The mother must have thought I am such a rude (kharoos) person. She had put her sling bag next to my bench. But then I guess my disinterest made her change her mind.  Had she seen my tears? She moved to the bench farthest away from me.

The kid had too many questions. He was talking about himself in third person.

‘Rishi go in pool!’

‘Rishabh you cannot just go inside the pool. You have to know how to swim!’

‘Rishi go sim!’

‘No you can’t go swimming. You have to learn it first.’

‘Mamma go sim!’

‘Mamma also needs to learn first.’

After saying some more random things, the kid gave up the thought of being in the water. He thought of a new game. He would run all the way from his mother’s bench to my bench, touch it, jump, go back and repeat the same ritual on the other side.  While on the other side, his mother would greet him an adoring look, on this side I would ignore him looking blankly at the sky.  By now, the mother was sure that I wanted to be left alone. She would tell her son to not come towards my bench. But why would he listen? He continued to hold my bench and jump each time looking at me for some reaction.

Finally, I think the fifth time he did it, I looked up at him and smiled.  He immediately looked away, shyly but not without a sense of triumph.  He did this for another few minutes until his father came to take them home. At first, I was smiling at him politely, out of an obligation.  But soon, the smile turned genuine. He was quite amusing to watch!

The whole day, or for a few days, I had been talking to people who were trying to make me feel better.  But the problem with adults is they are too logical. Words do not help sometimes.  Maybe, a small child’s persistent efforts to make a disinterested stranger smile does.  He does not know anything. Cannot even pronounce his name. Does not understand the concept of swimming. Does not see tears.

But he thinks that everybody can be happy. What is so difficult? Just like he can walk right into the pool. So simple. Why complicate things?

Thank you unknown kid. The brief interaction I had with you made me feel better. Better than the well-meaning advice of mature adults.

 

 

The trade-off

Two years back my sister and I had both gone to our parents’ place for the holidays. My niece loves dressing up, and like most girls she wants to look good. As my sister, she and I clicked a selfie together she said to me:

“I want curly hair, like you. I hate my hair!”

“Your hair is so pretty and thick. Why do you want my hair?”

“No… I want curly hair. Mine is straight. Give me your hair!!”

She said with the defiance of a determined seven year old.

“Fine. I will give you my hair. But I will take your height in return. I always wanted to be a tall girl. You can have my curly hair but good luck standing first in the assembly line, the way I did at your age!”

“No!!! Why do you have to take my height? You could take my fashion sense if you want!”

“I have my own fashion sense. I am giving you my hair! I deserve better. Give me your height!!”

She thought for some time whether it was a sensible deal. Finally, she said, “No Mausi!”

“See. This is how it works. We don’t like some things about ourselves. And we like some things about others. But every time we want to be someone else, we forget that we can’t just get that thing. We will get their problems and lose our strengths too. So better just be happy and grateful for what we have!”

I was trying to teach her something. But it turned out to be a lesson for me.

There is no perfect trade-off in life..

I Wish I Could Write My Child’s Destiny

It was sometime in 2012. I had just started living by myself in a PG in Bombay. This was the first time I was living away from my parents. I was 24. Not that young. Still, it was very tough for me.

My parents had found a PG close to my office. My mother was thrilled to discover that in the same apartment complex, there was a lady who had her own catering business. She had personally met that lady and fixed my breakfast and lunch dabbas with her. She said she felt relieved that my “food problem” would be solved.

I hated my job. I was terribly homesick. I wanted to go back to the comforts of my home, and the affection of my parents. I would call my father, pleading to leave my job and come back home. His response?

“Small towns don’t have opportunities like Bombay. It is a great company. Work hard, build you career. This is life..You have to be strong! ”

I recently read a quote somewhere, that “Behind every independent woman, there is a father who believed in her, and not the society.”

Today, I am so grateful that my father made me independent and strong, brave enough to face everything that happened in life thereafter….

Coming back to Bombay. I had some good friends, but I was pretty much lonely and missed my family badly. Amidst all this, food was a big solace. The dabba system that my mother had fixed for me turned out to be pretty good. The owner who my mother had met was Divya Aunty. Despite living in the same complex, I only interacted with her on the phone while placing orders. She was an extremely kind, compassionate person. She would ask her staff to put a plastic spoon in my breakfast, knowing that I rushed to work and ate in the cab. When I would be unwell, she would send something light like khichdi, along with nimbu paani. Sometimes when I would get bored of the regular Indian food, she would send pasta or noodles. It was not just a business for her. She was a motherly figure. She truly cared.

I was going home for holidays. I thought I’ll personally tell Aunty to discontinue my dabba for the next week. I wanted to meet her, since she had been so good to me. I did not know much about her, except that her husband was usually away on business travel and that she had two grown up sons – probably in their early 30s.

The delivery boys who I saw everyday let me in the house. Her house was aesthetically decorated, much bigger than the place my landlady had. It seemed they were quite well off. Aunty greeted me with a warm smile. I had an image of her, based on our interactions on the phone. I had imagined a sweet, cheerful, voluptuous lady in a salwar kamiz. Instead, she was very thin, almost pale. She wore a formal shirt, and three-quarters.

I thanked her and told her how I absolutely loved her food. She asked about my mother. We engaged in some small talk. Whenever I talked to her on the phone I always thought she would be an upbeat person. But in person, she looked sad. It was the first time I was meeting her. I was not sure if I she was unwell, tired or stressed. Was she just having a bad day?

“Everything okay, Aunty?” I asked. A question probably too intrusive for a first meeting.

“I am fine beta.”

I immediately regretted asking her. Even if there was something bothering her, she would not tell me – a customer whom she supplied dabbas in the very first face-to-face meeting.

“Somebody asked me recently beta, what is it that you want.”

I was surprised at the conversation I thought had ended but listened intently.

“If someone could make a wish of mine come true, beta I would ask God to be able to write my child’s destiny. We want the best for them. We do the best for them. Still we can’t protect them from what they would face…”

Her words pierced me. So deep. So painful. What was the reason behind such a profound thought? What was her son going through that she so desperately wanted to fix, with all the fierce protection of a mother, and yet utmost helplessness?

I never found out. Why I am writing about this now?

It has been one year since Pratyusha Banerjee committed suicide. Watching the video of her mother’s advice to other girls and boys on her death anniversary was heartbreaking. Another boy in Mumbai recently killed himself, allegedly because of failing in exams and failure to launch his start-up.

What must these parents be going through? The child who they raised and loved, and taught everything about life decided to give up on it? They must have done everything they could, but could they write their child’s destiny in Divya Aunty’s words or rather change it?

No. No parent can write their child’s destiny. The child will fail at something at some point or another. It is inevitable. Be it an exam, a job, a relationship or worse. But is it really a failure or just a phase? Is there any person who has always been successful, at everything? We get to know them after the point they became successful. Do we know what they went through before that and how much they struggled?

Children must learn to be strong. If not for them, atleast for their parents. There will always be problems, but they can choose how much empowered they want to be, by the obstacles life throws at them. It is not a philosophical thought, but the ONLY way to survive.

And the only way parents like Divya Aunty can live without carrying the unfair burden of fixing their adult children’s lives on their feeble shoulders.

Indian Roads, Women Drivers and Rage

I would like to narrate an incident that took place this week.

I was going to meet a friend at a restaurant near my house. A very dear friend, who I was meeting after three and a half years. The excitement was apparent on my face, as people in office asked me why I was so happy.

We were planning this meeting for the past 3-4 days as she was in town only for a week. I suggested a place close to my house, as I could drive till there. I left from my house and was taking a U-turn, when a mini-bus hit my car and two scooters that were parked on the other side of the road. There was a loud bang. It took me few seconds to understand what had happened. I slowly parked my car in the left, my hands shaking from the impact. Immediately, some men ran out of the bus and started yelling at me. It was not a public bus. They all looked like hooligans and were ready to fight.

My car was badly damaged from the left. One man came and banged on my car window. He was apparently the owner of the scooter that was hit by the mini-bus. Ideally, he should yell at the bus driver for bumping into his scooter, right? But what this wise man said instead was that the bus driver was trying to “save my life”, therefore it is my fault and that I should pay the damages.

The fact that I do not understand the local language, probably gave them a better reason to take advantage of the situation. Some 20 men came out of the bus. They would stop any passer-by and the mob kept growing. Random people joined, to accuse me of causing this accident.

They told me that the bus conductor is badly injured and is “dying”. I called the police immediately, and asked for an ambulance. I also said that I am scared, as there is a mob of some 30-40 men around my car. I called my family, who would reach soon.

Now these men had started getting more aggressive. They all looked illiterate, and dangerous. They were asking me to come out of the car while I was talking to them through the window. The only person who was somewhat decent looking was the two-wheeler owner, who was unreasonable enough to demand the money for me, for damages caused by the bus. I told him that I have called the police and I will not leave until this is sorted. But I am not getting out of the car, as the mob is very frightening. One of the men who heard me, banged on my car window and yelled

“Why can’t you come with us, do you think we are animals?” I wanted to say, yes, you do look savage and calling you an animal is an insult to animals.

Then a man came out of the bus (apparently, the conductor) and lay down on the pavement. Everybody gathered around him. They asked me to take him to the hospital with them, in their bus. I refused and said that I have already called an ambulance. They insisted that I accompany them in the bus, as the man might die if there is any delay. I told them that I will not come with them, and that the police and ambulance are on their way.

But I noticed that the man who was “dying”, did not look hurt. There were no signs of blood. It seemed it was all just staged to scare me and extract money. They heard that the police is on way, so the bus driver and the “dying man” fled.

My family arrived after half an hour, though it seemed like eternity as I waited in my car. It was very dark by now, and I was scared. The traffic policeman who came did not care to hear me. Most of the mob present now had not even seen the accident. But I guess they had all decided to gang up against me. The policeman told me, “You should have been careful at the U-turn”.

I told him, “Do you know what speed I was driving at, and what speed the bus driver was at?”

My father who had now arrived added, “Mini-bus was over speeding,” to which the policeman replied “The lady was driving. How do you know, you were not there?”

I told him, “Sir, by that logic, nobody who is talking to you right now was there. The driver of the bus has left. These random people who are narrating the incident to you were not even there. Yet you believe them?”

We then drove to the nearest traffic police station. My father had called a former colleague of his for support, a senior government official who speaks the local language and was well-known at the station. Seeing her, the behavior of the officers at the police station magically changed. They agreed that it was a “clear chain accident case” and obviously not my fault.

I filed an FIR. I had to leave my car there, and it was picked up the next day after filing a report with the RTO. I enquired about the “dying man”. It turned out there was absolutely no injury and him pretending to be hurt and unconscious was just for special effects. My car is now under repair. Yes, it is insured. The bus was also seized by the station.

Here are my thoughts:

1. I was unnecessarily fighting with my family for a couple of days before the incident for the most stupid reasons. When the accident happened, all I cared about was being safe. Yes, life and health the most important things which we take for granted.

2. Our culture is undoubtedly misogynist. All the men from the bus had a sense of entitlement. The road was theirs. They were at fault but they all wanted to teach me a lesson. The scooter owner also thought it is easier to harass the lone woman for money, as it is easy to bully and scare her.

3. This is not the first time that I have seen people ganging up against the person does not understand their language. There is absolutely no principle of who is right or wrong. The fact that somebody is an outsider is enough to make people unite blindly.

4. If the senior official had not come to station, I would have had a hard time getting my car. The police would have probably asked me to pay for damages to everybody even though I was the victim in this case. In India, if you don’t have any connections and contacts, God bless you!

5. I kept replaying the incidents in my mind that led to the accident. Me talking to my friend, discussing where to meet, rejecting places that were far away, finishing a report just in time to leave from work etc, all the time wishing that I had not left home at that moment. And yet, this was not a big incident. I was not even hurt. Still, I was traumatized by it, and the whole experience of going to the police station, filing an FIR, dealing with the hooligans and then the police was very unpleasant.

My heart goes out to the people who have lost their loved ones to accidents. I don’t even know whether to call it an “accident” when certain irresponsible people who don’t care about their actions decide to be on the road. They know that they can get away from it, and there is absolutely no fear. The families of these road victims are now fighting for better road safety and fighting with the legal system to ensure that nobody else goes through the hell they went through.

I would like to thank the following groups I regularly follow, and pray for these families.

The Arundhati Foundation
Mercedes Hit & Run