After Math

The best time to prevent a problem from happening is after the problem has already happened.

Just the other day people in our housing society got into a heated argument, almost verbal fisticuffs, over a video circulated over, what else, WhatsApp, of a child being run over by a car within the secure boundaries of a housing society. Somewhere. May have been in our building or may have been in some other. No way of knowing for sure. May have been in our colony or may have been in some other. May have been in our city or may have been in some other. May have been in our state or may have been in some other. Such was the relevance of the video to our society residents. The only certainty, based on the physical features of the people involved, and the car model involved, is that it was recorded in India, if we assume for a minute it was a real video.

It might have been recorded yesterday or it might have been recorded last week or it might have been recorded last month or it might have been recorded last year or it might have been recorded any time before that. The only certainty is that it was perhaps recorded after the time when video recording technology started becoming commonly available, perhaps twenty years back. Moreover, it seems that neither of two main characters in the video, the child and the driver, were known to any of the people involved in the heated discussion. Over this undated and possibly morphed video, with unknown characters, residents of our housing society got into a real-time heated argument, with name-calling and walkouts from the virtual group.

But that is us. We Indians, at least most of us, are caring, sensitive people. We will not shy away when a needless fight, at least a verbal argument, looms, particularly over events already transpired, at an unknown time, involving strangers. We will not turn away like cowards when there is an opportunity of offering homilies that shed a new, well researched light on the situation, like “people must drive carefully” or “parents must ensure children play in safe areas” or “traffic lights should work”. How would we know if they did not tell us? Did you?

And always in a timely manner. Like for a few hours after a child has been hurt by a careless driver. Like for a day after a fire in a building that firefighters were unable to access because of the path being blocked with castaway furniture. Like for a few days after firecrackers have been burnt on a festival adding to atmospheric pollution in the winter months.

We don’t waste time in preventing problems before they have happened, or even offering homilies. How would we squabble over it afterwards if the event was not allowed to happen? Forcing others to discover for themselves that “people must drive carefully” or “parents must ensure children play in safe areas” or “traffic lights should work”.

In the days, months, and most thankfully, years when a child did not get hurt, how many times have we seen residents get into a huff about someone driving rashly inside the society? Or been careful themselves while driving? How many times have we come across a resident chiding an irresponsible parent for letting their young children play without supervision? Or not let their own children play without supervision? Never, right? In fact, some residents of our society wanted to permit holding skating classes for young children on a section of the road. Since an accident had not happened in the skating class in the past as there was no skating class, it was safe to allow an accident in the future. “We just need to be careful.” “We just need to post a guard there.” “The trainer is an adult, he will ensure children are not hurt.”

When an errant driver hurts a child of irresponsible parents, all hell breaks loose with insightful observations that should have been implemented earlier. Mostly by someone else. Like the society management. Or the traffic police. Or the government.

But complainers abound. Trying to fix a problem even before it has happened. Trying to prevent people from living their life. Always complaining.

To all those complainers who complain about overcrowded vans picking up even more children going to school, I say, “Why should they not? Have you heard of any accident involving overcrowded vans ferrying school children in the last twenty four hours? So what if there have been accidents earlier?”

To all those complainers who complain about people blocking corridors with big planters and bicycles and spare furniture and impeding passages for emergency services to operate, I say, “Why should they not? Have you read about a fire breaking out in the last few days where firefighters were unable to access a flat on account of corridors being impeded? So what if there have been instances earlier?”

To all those complainers who complain about traffic cops turning a blind eye and letting cars drive in the wrong direction on roads designated as one-way, I say, “Why should they not? Have you seen an accident in the last week in which a vehicle driving the wrong way was involved? So what if there have been instances earlier?”

In any case, if a problem does happen it is someone else’s fault. Like it was the train’s fault that it  continued to move on the tracks laid out for it instead of getting down into the fields to avoid people standing on tracks to watch a performance near Amritsar. Like it is the government’s fault when devotees rush to the most crowded places in the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad to get the most bang for their holy buck and a stampede ensues.

I feel safe. If I ever get hit by a speeding truck or a car travelling in the wrong direction on a one-way road, or get caught in a stampede at the Kumbh Mela, I know well-meaning people will try to solve the problem by squabbling about it and offering well researched homilies for almost twenty four hours.

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