The Lack of Self-Preservation

No, today’s piece is not about the World Cup final this evening. In any case, there is nothing more I can say that hasn’t already been said by someone or the other.
So here’s some food for thought this Saturday morning.
Last Saturday, I was in Goa for a short half-day meeting. During the drive from the airport to one of the South Goa villages, I kept looking out of the window admiring the greenery and the cleanliness. Suddenly something struck me. There were no footpaths on any of the roads. I saw children and adults, going to school and church respectively, walking on the left side of the road, with their backs to the traffic.
All of them were trusting their bodies to the vagaries of the cars and trucks that were thrusting ahead in the same direction they were walking in. If any of these vehicles were to lose control, they would have no idea what hit them. There was no instinct of self-preservation that would have made them walk on the opposite side of the road so that they would face the oncoming traffic and could take some evasive action to avoid stupid drivers and errant vehicles, if the need arose.
I thought this was perhaps a Goa thing, but you see this even in Mumbai, for example in our quiet street in Matunga, where mothers with babies in strollers will walk with their back to the traffic.
It is as if we love tempting vehicular fate.
Which is what those who ride scooters without helmets do all the time! Two weeks ago, I was being driven from the airport to the city-centre in Hyderabad, when the car suddenly hit a small traffic jam…there was a crowd on the left side of the road and each car was slowing down while driving past. I too craned my neck and saw a kid, dead on the road, next to his fallen bike, with no helmet in site.
Driving on Indian roads is a dangerous daily affair and riding bikes and scooters is doubly so. On top of that, most of us refuse to wear helmets…despite the fact that it is proven beyond doubt that helmets save lives. Even if we are forced to wear helmets, as happens these days in parts of Mumbai and Delhi, the pillion riders don’t wear them…as if during accidents, miraculously, nothing will happen to them!
It used to be the same story with seatbelts, but that situation at least in the metros seems to have improved. In the smaller towns though, it is still a rarity to find someone wearing a seatbelt.
It’s the same story with adults who drive with children in their laps in the front seat of a car. During a collision, the child will act as a buffer between the adult and the dashboard and may even die protecting the adult. I have written about this before, but this is a daily occurrence, especially in residential neighborhoods.
As it is when mothers drive with small children in front seats and worse in the back seats without car seats. One jerk and the small child could easily be flung around in the car with dire consequences. There is a reason why in the developed world car seats are mandatory, but we obviously know better!
Somehow we are just not focused on self-preservation and the preservation and protection of those around us. Or perhaps we just don’t value our own lives to the extent we should! Or maybe we can blame it as usual on ignorance!

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