“I am so sorry. Listen to me. I’m so sorry from the bottom of my heart!”
I admit to few Australian adjectives, as I picked myself up adding “sorry isn’t good enough.”
He had just began passing me on my right then cut left across my path clipping my front wheel.My ankle was bleeding and the indent of my wallet into my leg left a painful bruise in my thigh.
“No listen to me. I’m so sorry. From the bottom of my heart.”
My unflattering thoughts included ‘why do people cut across the front of you, why not go round behind?”
“No harm done” says an old man in white Nehru jacket. Our eyes meet, and I nod in agreement. A young woman, (clearly anxious for future husband was smiling nervously), He had cut across the street to Bhopals Rainbow Treat to his future in-laws company.
Again: “Listen. I am sorry from the bottom of my heart. What can I do for you? I will do anything.”
“I don’t want you to do anything for me. I want you to be careful next time, so you don’t hurt anyone.”
I was about to cut into statistics: 1.5 lakh die on Indian roads, 20% are cyclists and pedestrians.
I chose silence and left. The day before I had another near miss, cut off this time by a man cell phone jammed into the crook of his neck in mid conversation as he swang round a round about nealy collecting me as I walked across it.
I ask again why?
People simply don’t look. They pull out then take a glance. They pull out and expect people to stop for them.
The constant cutting across paths means no one ever picks up much speed – that means plenty of scrapes but few seriously hurt.
I’m assured its because of traffic congestion. “Yes” I conceded, the madness of Bangkok and like cites any traffic space is fair game, so tailgating is a national port. If you don’t someone else pushes you back down the queue.
- But this doesn’t explain the bus driver parking his bus in the middle of a round-about.
- It does not explain the woman in who pulls up besides the line of parked cars infront of the subze wallah’s , stopping in the right lane that is bordered by a concrete , blocking all traffic behind her.
- It does not explain the truck driver that, stops in the right lane to change a tyre, never considering it would be kind to pull over off the road to let other cars by.
I have seen all three examples and more.
But does that say something of India’s psyche?
You can never really get ahead of the crowd. Those who do must break away and stay clear of the pack and the social norms that constrain others.
Indians are not oblivious to the world, but rather oblivious to what is of no direct interest to them says Pavan Varma in his book Being Indian. At first it made me angry. This single minded focus has helped Indians succeed against adversity.
However, every strenght has the potential to become a weakness. In excess, it may become Adadha, or disregard of others. Pushing the envelope of law unfortunately parallels variable law enforcement.
For every social action there is an equal and opposite reaction. India is very conscious of molding community> Within each group indiviidial voices are screaming to be heard.
Then I discovered, there is beauty in the madness.
Yes, at times this outback loving Aussie, used to 1 person every 5 square kilometres, finds the noise over reaching and stressful.
But it is in this madness that I have had my greatest breakthroughs.
I know what I am about to say may upset some of my Indian friends, so I ask you to hear me out before you judge. Here goes:
India has had so many luminaries and spiritual giants because India is not spiritual.
Each Indian has a spiritual yearning, that collectively is destroyed by the samsara of the crowd.
1. There are two way to get ahead: switch off and run ahead of the herd. Some corruptly ignore the rules and cheat.
2. Or those who look within so profoundly they are unaffected by the chaotic road kill of Indian life.
Life is balanced equally of good and bad, chaos an order. Where there is focused y public attention to a few masters, the equal but opposite disorder is scattered amongst the crowd.
Sometimes the power is focused on spiritual giants, sometime dictators of ill will.
These few can help give direction to the chaotic crowd.