The average Indian parent takes pride in micro-managing every facet of their child’s life. So why don’t they set their priorities straight when it comes to their safety out on the open roads?
A few days ago, I was at a casual gathering of friends, some years younger than I am. It was one of those gigs where everything was so casual that you didn’t really keep track of the time and things began to get late. Around ten in the night one of them said she would have to leave because her very protective parents got overtly worried if she stayed out too late on a week night. Although taken aback by the idea of a curfew at her age (curfews at my home stopped working effectively when I was around 16 or 17 because I kept defying them), as a father to two daughters, I understood her parents’ concerns. Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that there was something wrong with the whole protective parents business from an Indian perspective.
Of course we want our kids to be safe. Just like in any other part of the world, no city in India is entirely safe. For anyone. The usual crop of bike-borne thieves, pickpockets, rapists and general louts abound. Combine that with our natural fear of the after-dark hours and our aversion to risk, it is easy to understand things like curfews or insisting that we be told where our children are going to be or with who. Why then, do we not insist that our children wear a half-decent helmet at the very least?
Take that girl I was talking about earlier on. She has to report back home by a certain hour because beyond that, when the roads get empty, danger might be lurking at every shady corner. Yet, her regular helmet is a hand-me-down that has been in the family a fair few years. And I kid you not, her family is one of the better ones who won’t let her out of the house without a lid. So I would attribute that hand-me-down headgear to lack of knowledge about degradation of helmet components over time rather than to negligence. But there are so many others, people I know, who wouldn’t let their children go on a college trip because of what might happen and are yet perfectly happy to let them loose on the roads without even a proper helmet, forget riding gear.
I have tried to understand this notion, and continue to try, albeit with slim chances of success. I see neighbours buying every conceivable scooter and motorcycle for their children, but there is little thought of buying a good helmet as well. They’d rather spend their time, money and effort into exercises in exorcism where said scooter or motorcycle is taken to the temple and blessed. Where said child wears a tilak as a mark of the blessings of the Gods each day he gets astride the said two-wheeler and heads to college. Honestly, I don’t have a problem with that. In fact, given that Indian roads are possibly among the top ten most dangerous places in the world, a bit of help from the Gods (whichever one you put your faith in) is entirely desirable. After all, more people get killed in road traffic accidents in India than from fatal diseases. Why not also give our children a good lid to go with their steed, and with it the safety that you’ve always wanted to give them? And now, I will put a lid on it.