This is for you, Suren….

Suren Anna, your 7th “death” anniversary has just come and gone. Even if it is your 70th death anniversary, consolation cannot come for the simple reason that your killers are still at large. Your killers are still at large somewhere. On that fateful day in March 2006, when you were riding your tiny Bajaj Sunny Scooter, two racing rascals on two motorbikes whizzed past you on either side, without hitting you, but close enough for you to have a heart attack. Shopkeepers saw you struggling to maintain balance after the bikes whizzed past you, and helped you lie down on the road, where you instantly died. No blood. No wounds. But what a deep gash those two vagabonds, those two racing rascals inflicted on your heart that it never recovered? Because this is a common platform I am limiting the use of expletives, because those two racing rascals cannot be called otherwise. Without knowing who those racing rascals were, how could we even lodge a complaint? They had come so fast, none of the people around could even note their numbers, except for the fact that they came in two separate bikes – the witnesses to the event were unsure even of the make of the bikes since those racing rascals were so fast. No one knew who they were – those two racing rascals – but they are still at large somewhere. Those killers.

Those two racing rascals perhaps did not know that they would be snuffing out a life from a 56 year old man by their act of dare devilry. They perhaps will never know the pain that they caused to a family, to so many people, by their act of dare devilry. They might have impressed their girl friends or themselves or their friends, but they have left their bloodied hands on you – your death is a result of their dare devilry – nothing more, nothing less. Those two racing rascals would perhaps never know that you had gone for getting food and medicines for Ma, since Ma was not well that day. Those two racing rascals would probably be congratulating each other that they whizzed past a middle aged man on a slow scooter and outwitted him, little knowing that their act of dare devilry had caused a death. Those two racing rascals might never know how they have hurt and killed an innocent man like you.

When your younger brother who is a doctor, was at the casualty ward that day, and when they wheeled in your body and said, “road accident case” – little did he know that he would be looking at the face of his dead brother……

When the news of your death was reported by the local press, I hope to God that those racing rascals saw it and repented. Since no one knows who they were, we can only hope.

Suren, most of the bike manufacturers advertise speed as their bike’s USP. There are many movies promoting this fast speed bike USP for many years now – In the movies, no one really gets hurt – but in reality, hundreds, nay, thousands get hurt everyday on Indian roads. Statistics say that India witnessed one road accident every minute in 2011 which claimed one life every 3.7 minutes, one of the highest in the world.  Among the states, Maharashtra topped the list with the highest number of road accidents at 68,438 followed by Tamil Nadu with  65,873 accidents in 2011.

There are various kinds of bikes that showcase their speed and their agility on poor Indian roads. Most of these two wheeler riders who race in city roads to show off their skills not only get into trouble, but unnecessarily cause accidents such as yours.

Road rage has become a very common feature today on Indian roads. The slow riders/drivers are often shouted at, and teased. As if the speed matters. If one were to check these rash drivers, one would hardly find any justification in their speeding. Most of them would be going to do some mundane chore. Very rarely would you find a person rushing for a real emergency. It may be a movie, it may be to meet a friend, or worse still, it may be to buy some provisions. But the speed will be the same. These drivers and two wheeler riders who cause the deaths of others can never be at peace throughout their lives, knowing that they have killed someone. There are “weavers” today on city roads – they “weave” into the traffic in and out – Just a few days back I saw a motorcycle rider crushed under a lorry near our house in the evening around 7 p.m. It was really really sad to see the parents of the dead youth who were inconsolable. But how many parents indulge in their children’s two wheelers? In the city, in the town, and even in the villages, you can often see UNDER AGED children driving motor bikes – How can the limited police force control all this? But the parents, surely can – the parents, surely can curb these tendencies of their children. But unfortunately, it is parents who buy their children motor bikes most of the time, simply because the child wants the toy after seeing a movie or his/her friends.

Suren, most of the bikes that are there in today’s market have racing features. The bikes are sold for these features. The karma of the deaths of the people either on the bikes or caused by these bikes will surely be on the manufacturers of these kind of bikes. These bikes may be good for some foreign country or for some country roads, but for an Indian urban road, speed cannot be the only criteria….Safety is a much more important criteria.

The blood and karma of each of these deaths can only be on the manufacturers of such killer bikes. Why manufacture bikes that can go at 140 kmph? Is there any road on any city in India that can cater to such speed except at test tracks and racing tracks? These manufacturers can never understand the pain of losing a loved one in such accidents because they themselves would be going only in cars… These bike manufacturers can never be sympathetic to the thousands losing their lives because it is the USP of speed that sells their bikes….ably assisted by movie makers who market speed….

The dumb, “I want to catch up with the Jones next door” type of boys and girls queue up to buy the bikes that speeds and thrills, forgetting that if ever they lose control, they are going to pay heavily, with their own life, or with someone else’s…..It is a different thing that bikes are an essential part of city life today. We need transportation, and bikes are the best form of transportation – easy, fast and convenient. But how safe it is, is a different question altogether. The danger for bike riders come mostly from other bike riders…..

Suren, some day, I hope you meet your killers in the next world. And when that happens, I hope you are able to ask them why they did what they did, speed racing, and ask them whether it was worth it. No matter what anyone does is not going to bring you back from the dead. But if I too am around in the other world by then, Suren, those two racing rascals would surely be going around with broken jaws, for I know you are a forgiving man……

Saying it when it matters…..

For more than forty years she had taken care of me, and not once had I said that I loved her. In our family, we don’t easily tell things like that. It is always in the background, and it is best left unsaid. We are not a very expressive family, and I have not hugged her much. Some years back when I hugged her on impulse, she said she felt good. From then on, I have been hugging her every time I met her.

My father was a very straightforward man, and very little money was there to take care of us eight children. She was always careful that no food gets wasted. Feeding a large family of 10 was no mean business, but she always managed to feed everyone without complaints. In fact, there were times when we had jokingly called her “Jesus” for her ability to feed the entire family with very little food, like some fish curry and a loaf of bread. She used to make small dishes out of leftovers. One of her favourite leftover dishes was the “paniyaram” – the bananas which go very ripe that they can’t be eaten, she used to mash them into a pulp, add a bit of sugar, salt and mix it with atta and fry them as doughnuts – It became a favourite dish between me and her, and since I was her last child, she always made it even with fresh bananas, just because I liked the paniyarams.

She was a pure vegetarian, but she always made very good Non-veg dishes for all of us. On my birthday, invariably she will send my elder brother Sharo to get crabs – for she knew I loved crabs. Only she could cook the crabs that way. I have traveled a lot in the last two decades to various parts of the country, but have never got to taste crab the way she used to make it.

When my father died, she took over the mantle of the head of the house without much ado, and did what was necessary. For more than 25 years, she never forgot even one Ammavasai day. Every Ammavasai day, she will make pumpkin, drumstick leaves or agathi keerai, and offer them to the picture of my father kept in the puja room. She will fast that day and will only eat a small portion of the prasad. All of us children will line up to pray and receive the prasad, a hand mixed mixture of all the rice and side dish that was offered. That prasad always used to taste different. Many a time, we children have tried the combination – But the taste of her hand mixed prasad always eluded us.

20 years back, when I joined Railways, I was feeling lost being in a large organization like Railways. I wrote to her that I felt “lost”. She sent me a card, of a picture of a wooded forest, with the words, “Sometimes if you don’t get lost, there’s a chance that you may never find your way” – That card adorned my table for many years till it got tattered.

All these memories came flashing as I raced to towards Chennai, as soon as I received the news that she was admitted in the hospital and that her condition was serious. At the hospital, I saw her connected with so many tubes and instruments. She was happy to know that I had come. She stayed in the hospital for a week and died. Just the day before she died, afraid that we were losing her, I held her hand, and told her, “Ma, I want you to know that we all love you very much” – She looked at me, her eyes moistened, and she said, “Yes, I know. That is why all of you are taking such good care of me”

Now, it is more than three years since she died, and I am ever grateful to God for having given me the opportunity to say that we loved her….. Every now and then, whenever I miss her too much, I remember that day of having told her that we love her, and that gives some relief. Saying it when it matters has become a very important thing to me now.