Monday, 16 February, 2009

Let the kids walk a bit

You are rushing to office on a bike. The road is blocked with haphazardly parked cars. Isn’t it normal that your blood pressure rise and you curse those stupid car owners/drivers? Well, I used to face this every weekday when I was in Chennai.

Unny used to drop me at office before proceeding to his office. There is a school along the road we took regularly. (The other option was an even more crowded main road with many signals.) Parents or drivers stopped the cars at the school gate and took the kids to the classrooms, creating major traffic blocks. Not to mention the incessant honking! Everyone competed in getting as close to the gate as possible. If they could get the car to the classroom, I guess, they would’ve been extremely happy. I used to get furious at this insensitivity to other road users. Why couldn’t they park the cars where it caused less inconvenience to others and get the kids walk a short distance to the school? Need the kids be pampered so much?

However, I also thought that I was just being jealous. My typical middle-class character couldn’t digest the comforts enjoyed by others. We have only a bike. I was getting irritated because they had cars. So, other than sharing with Unny, I kept my complaints to myself. Unny said that one could not expect those people to behave the way one wanted. Ok, fine, I said. I’d try to finish the chores and get out of the house early, even if it meant getting up earlier than 5 am.

Later, I remember reading about some other schools in Chennai banning the dropping of kids at the school entrance, citing the same reason – traffic congestion. I was happy to know that I was not alone in finding this as a problem.

Today, there was further justification to my anger. Though, in Mumbai, I was not caught in any such traffic jams, I was really happy to read the news “The State Transport Ministry mulls ban on cars for students”. According to a report by DNA, the ministry aims to keep school areas free of vehicular congestion and also spread the message of equality among students.

The proposal is at a primary stage, and there’ll be a lot of hurdles to clear before it can be enacted as a law. Still, it’s a welcome move.
It is inspired by the Cathedral and John Connon School in Colaba, Mumbai, which promotes the use of school bus or public transport by its students. Meera Issac, principal of the school, and Indrani Malkani, one of the parents, launched this well-thought-out ‘Model School Bus Service’ in 2002. According to them, parents welcomed this move and that was why the plan worked for the past six years. Even taxis are not allowed near the school gate. A wise move indeed!

Now, we have a car. But I am glad to realise that I retain the old mindset. I never try to park the car close to my destination, even for a short duration, if that causes nuisance to others. I may use the car for convenience, but I can still walk.

I hope those kids also get to walk a bit.

Friday, 13 February, 2009

To tie the knot or rakhi?

I’ve been doing it for the past eight years. It’s become a habit for me - to hold Unny’s hands when we walk together. Sometimes, people stare at us. I don’t care. For me, it’s a comfort.

It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow. I don’t celebrate it. Does anyone need a day to celebrate love? Can’t we celebrate it every day? Every moment? Neither do I celebrate other such days as Women’s Day, Friendship Day, Mothers’ Day,... It’s obvious that these days are promoted by those with vested interests. But, I am not against anyone celebrating these Days. It’s their prerogative.

Some people think otherwise. The so-called protectors of Indian culture do not want anyone to celebrate Valentine’s Day. They are planning different things. Apart from violence, which they plan anyways, one group (which one? I forgot) has threatened that anyone publicly displaying their
affection will be either made to marry each other or tie a rakhi.

Is holding hands a public display of affection? When we go out tomorrow, will we be asked to tie the knot or tie the rakhi?

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