A week back I published a post which unintentionally hurt some people and some people had some painful memories re-surfaced. My intention was not to provoke and hence am SORRY for any unintended hurt caused.
Now last week there was another conversation which was about accepting the possibility of death whenever travelling by any mode of transport. I was told/nay accused of having a fatalistic attitude.
Now for people unknown to the word, it means somebody who believes that all events are subject to fate or inevitable necessity, or determined in advance in such a way that human beings cannot change them.
Now, while for other things I believe in free will, for travelling purposes, I chose to believe in what will be, will be and be at peace with whatever happens. The reasons are simple enough and I will share for all three modes, road, train and air.
a. In roadways, in India 157,000 people died last year. I don’t know driving hence have to rely on drivers and most bus-drivers just know how to drive rash. Most vehicles are not maintained. Ideally either in a government or a private vehicle, the name of the driver, photocopy of his driving license detailing since when he is driving (number of years) and when was it last renewed, age of the vehicle, its PUC (Pollution Under Control Certificate), maintenance certificate of the vehicle and when it last happened should all be on board of such a vehicle. If one digs deep enough, I am sure there would be a law stating that but it’s rarely something that is put into practise.
Apart from that practises such as lane and speed discipline are something that people have heard of but never adhere to. Besides bad and drunken drivers, faulty road design also leads to a heavy price. Interestingly, last week the Honourable Supreme Court ruled that no bars or restaurants serving alcohol would be within 500 metres of State and National Highways.
In a step right out of a nightmarish movie, most states denotified state highways to urban roads. This actually would also have the consequence that the urban roads would not get either the same funds or maintenance as they were getting before they were deemed highways. You can tell how powerful the liquor lobby is by the mere fact that they were able to get the order modified within 24 hours of the first order.
b. Railways – While I love Indian Railways I have to be a bit fatalistic as it’s a network overburdened and I don’t see it changing during my lifetime. If we were to quadruple the existing network and also make it a semi-high speed one, say something on the range of between 200-250 km/hr .
While the Indian Government is saying it will do unprecedented doubling and electrification in 2018 it can only happen if Indian Railways ends it exclusive relationship with loss-making SAIL to get rails. There are indications it might happen. But there are other bottle-necks such as litigation on taking private land and changing land-use both of which are challenges for it. In short, I don’t see the situation happening soon.
c. Airways – My friend is and was under the impression that all is well with the Indian Airways or Indian airlines in general. But the Government’s own records show that there were close to 35 near-miss accidents in 2014-2015 which is roughly around 3 accidents per month. Interestingly, there are no figures of similar nature in 2015-2016 . The figures however do share that airways in India is going through an unprecedented growth phase. Given the infrastructure crunch that is there now and will be for the medium future, accidents and near-misses would only become more as airport expansions are a bureaucratic nightmare, hence very slow .
There is a policy though to have secondary airports all over the country. If this becomes a reality, it would de-bottleneck the metro airports as well as cities like Pune, Nagpur as well. Pune has been having between 20-25% growth rate for the last 2-3 years but as it has a low base and just recently has got some more space and timings to grow it will take time for it to be noticed nationally. And it is in such cities the possibilities of accidents is much more due to unprecedented growth rate happening as well.
Now while I have shared of the above three travelling ways, I sincerely believe and pray before each journey ‘if an accident has to happen, pray I’m not hurt, if I’m hurt, I hope it’s fatal’ I wouldn’t want to be much more of a responsibility to my mother than I already am. This is my personal belief for myself. This doesn’t mean I don’t either respect or don’t do hats off to differently-abled people who just by being alive and struggling each day are heroes and inspiration to us all.
It just means if somehow I could influence the outcome I would like to be in one outcome so others don’t go through pain much.
d. Media – The first movie which doesn’t talk but is all about fatalism is the ‘Final Destination‘ Series. While the movies have been categorized as horror, for many Indians it probably is ‘Que sera, sera’ .
There were also two South Korean disaster movies which I saw earlier in the year ‘Tunnel and Pandora‘ both beautifully made but both show a certain fatalistic attitude towards how the events happen and the acceptance of people. While both the movies show positive ends as most movies who want to do commercially well do, reality might have been more pessimistic, who knows. Pandora in particular seemed to be very much based on the Japanese Fukushima nuclear accident which happened in 2011 and in fact mirrors exactly what all I heard, saw and read in the news at that time. As India is and was too thinking of having Nuclear reactors for our power needs, that might have been the reason I gave it much more attention.
Another movie which in part shares the blame for under-investment in Indian Railways is the movie ‘Burning Train‘. It is a beautifully shot movie giving a slice of how Indians make a riot and laugh at themselves when travelling. The only trouble with the movie that it planted the seed of fear in both the railway-using public as well as the Railway Board and we had chronic under-investment for 3 and a half decades and a bit more. Now the present government while dreaming (as shared above) however much they do I don’t think we could recover from the 3 and a half decades of under-investment anytime soon. We would have to invest at double or even quadruple the rates at which money is being invested in today’s Indian Railways to just fulfil expectations of yesterday, forget today. But again ‘Que Sera Sera’ to the rescue as this again is outside my hands for though, even if we somehow get the money, getting land to railways for its projects is another big challenge. There have been claims of inadequate compensation by farmers and such cases take years to clear up.
In the end, ‘Que sera sera’ is the only way we can live with uncertainty that both the present and future brings to us. It doesn’t mean we don’t strive for our rights or strive for a better future for us and people beyond us.
I would love to know what people think and if there is a better way than this to make peace, have your sanity and still live with the uncertainty that life brings.