Indian Roads, Women Drivers and Rage

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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

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