In memory of Sajid Iqbal Khanday, a great friend and an inspiration.
Another day another life taken away, more than 35 people has been killed while driving to their destinations on the roads of Kashmir. Even after so many deaths, the streets are still dangerous to walk leave alone driving. An accident is met with a shock and disbelief by friends and relatives of the departed. It leaves us to question the government who in the name of Bijli, Sadak and Pani (Electricity, Roads and Water) came into power but the conditions are still the same. It also calls for introspection to us, “do we believe in road safety?’”.
We Kashmiris take this thing very casually and most of the time saying “ Yemis Mout Aasi Lekhit,Su kyah kar?” (if death is written in your fate, what can you do?). This attitude lives in all of us, the only persons who take road safety very seriously are our mothers. They will keep saying “Tez ha chalawzini” (Don’t drive fast). But we never listen especially the “Stunt” generation.
The figures with Kashmir Times denote 913 persons have been killed in road accidents in over 3 years in Kashmir.In last two months more than 30 have been killed in a road accident. Almost every day we read on the newspaper headlines about a death in an accident. A deep sigh and a pity on the dead, we forget about it.
In Kashmir it’s very easy to get a driver’s licence. Even an underage teenager can get one. You just have to pay RS 3500 (Standard Rate) to the agent and you will get the licence in few weeks.The driving test is to go forward and reverse
around equidistant poles and if you did it well, Voila! You have got a licence. Ignoring the basic knowledge and knowing of the traffic rules and ethics. For the Heavy Motorable Vehicles you just have to drive up and down a steep climbing road and you got a licence.
Every year on the dangerous Pir Panjal Highway which connects Jammu to Srinagar scores of accidents happen daily. The majority of them are the TATA Sumos, which if you see drive like if they were Ferraris or even a roller coasters (knowing the condition of Kashmir roads).
After passing the tenth exams which are as important as IIT even more than that socially speaking, every youngster wants a New Pulsar in his home. Doesn’t matter if his parents can afford but he still keeps nagging, apparently his friends have got one after the student loans that every bank is giving. Falling into the Khanmoal trap, they buy them one. The guy keeps going fast, to up the speedometer like its taking virginity of the bike. Bam. Panic grips the house, his mother cries, pulls her hair, curses his father why he brought him one. The anguish continues, the mother rubbing her hands. She lands into the hospital, her son entangled in the pipes and other confusing hospital gadgets. Her son’s eyes closed, stomach rising up and down. The mother is relieved that he is alive. She falls into unconsciousness seeing the wounds that are on his beautiful body. The doctor speaks to the father in private, “He will not be able to live any more, and you should start arranging necessary things for his funeral”. The father almost having a heart attack, falls down, remembering how he watched him when he started walking, making sure he didn’t fall. The day his son learnt to ride a bicycle, how he looked at his father with a joyous look on his face. The fall he had how his father ran to him and took him to the compounder’s house in a curfew. Everything is gone for them, Every dream has been crushed. Death they say has no mercy.
Now we have on our hands the new stunt maniac generation of Kashmir. These youngsters filled with a new trend of doing stunts, to make them feel cool and impress the girls. Around tuition centres or the boulevard fore-shore road, you would see tyre marks left by them. Armed with 150+ CC bikes they have racing competitions and stunt shows. The bikers have clubs and post videos on YouTube wearing no stunt safety gear whatsoever. The veterans of these stunt gangs have met with so many accidents, so many injuries but this has become like a drug to them.
Romana, a High School student who died after a stalker tried to pull off a stunt. Faizan a Teenager, speeding was killed by a truck out of nowhere. So many incidents like these have taken lives and lights out of their parents. The pain of losing your only son, daughter or a friend is endless, you never stop grieving. Then come the Trucks, armed with slogans like “HORN OK PLEASE” “USE DIPPER AT NIGHT” “LOVE IS A POISON” and many funny things, come alive during the night like the wolves. The come in packs, enveloping the skies with heaps of dust that our ancient roads carry. The other drivers are blinded and they just ram into them. Death.
One old man told me in the Old City that the roads you drive on are either meant for Tongas or are the canals/rivers filled with the soil, like the graves of the dead. The government believes in that man, trying to dig up a lost civilization underneath. The dug-up drains are so deep that they can fill a double-decker bus but when tiny polythene enters inside, they can’t survive. Once more dug up, keep digging. Dug deeper we may find petroleum or blue diamond sapphires.
It’s time for all of us to stop making fun and being funny about dangers that we face on the roads. Not the Traffic Awareness campaigns that our Police do, but raising awareness from our home. Let’s start saving lives and minimizing the danger on our roads. The time has come to stop the dance of death.