Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What would you choose?

'Life' for one is a very tricky word. You can use it to describe your routine, or your general state of being, your surroundings. It may also encompass a lot of things which you don't think of, off-the-cuff, your passion for something or maybe your utter abhorence of something. Different people have different lives. You and me are no one to judge whose life is more meaningful and whose is not.

Life they say is the most precious gift given to you and everyone who has one. Isn't this what was taught to us when we were young?

Tired after a long day of office and classes, we CA students would just crash land into our homes. For Ruhi it was one extra lap. She had to wade through an insane stream of traffic for an hour and a half till she could call it a day. Monsoons in Pune are beautiful but only on the days you aren't working. We two-wheeler mounted rangers almost had to carry a change of clothes or a sturdy raincoat to spend 3-4 hours of a day riding on the roads. It was quite a crazy life, running between college, classes, office, clients, classes again and then home, each and everyday.

One night I recieved a call from her. She still hadn't reached home. Classes were over at 8 pm.

"Deeps! Where are you?"

"I am home, why what happened? Where are you?"

I am in Poona Hospital.

"You what?! What are you doing there? And how did you reach there? Its not on your way home?"

Hey I am alright. But can you come down? I've called home and told them I am stuck in extra classes.

"Yep! I'll be there in half an hour."

I couldn't make sense out of it at all. I grabbed my raincoat and just rushed. It was 9 in the night, the girl hadn't reached home and she was completely in the opposite direction from her way home. Mom was alone at home so at first I thought, I'll take her with me, but then I just didn't know what was it about, so I just told her some story and went. Pune roads are somewhat safe till about 11 pm in the night and I wasn't hoping to stay beyond that anyways.

I reached in about 30 minutes and entered the hospital with a pounding heart. I looked around and there she was. All wet, unruly hair, she was wearing her denim jacket but her kurta was soaked in blood. This was crazier than I expected, I made a dash at her.

"What the hell happened? Whats all this?" My mind stopped working.

She had stopped at a corner shop to get some notes photo-copied. This guy was on his bicycle. Another guy came recklessly from a connecting bylane, braked at the junction, and since the roads were wet, he lost control and rammed into him. The man on the bicycle was thrown off his ride, his head hit the pavement and he fell unconcious. Everyone rushed to the scene. The biker stood up limping. In no time, a crowd had encircled these two. Ruhi also ran towards the scene. The biker tried to start his bike and go. A couple of people held him, slapped him, but he somehow managed to get his bike started and sped off.

The bystanders stood around the unconcious fellow, but no one was ready to pick him up. For a few minutes, Ruhi thought someone will go ahead, but no one did. What are these guys waiting for? She heard some murmurs of 'a police-case', 'he is not going to survive', 'hassles' and no one was ready to come forward.

She decided to take this man to a hospital. She asked an autorickshaw driver to help her. He was ready to help on the condition that he would not enter the hospital door with her. They both put him in the rickshaw, someone accompanied him to hold the guy in the back seat and brought him to this hospital.

He had lost a lot of blood and it was a head injury. The hospital staff had already called the police. The doctor came by and looked at me. He had asked Ruhi to call someone from her family and he was not very amused to see me, I could see. He turned to me, "Listen you girls, this is going to be a police-case. The cops will come any time and your friend will be listed as a witness. Its going to be a big hassle which a respectable girl should not get into. Police stations aren't a place for a respectable girl. I wanted someone from her family to come and take her away. We can take care of this guy and register a complaint with the police." Sounded like a sensible thing to me and I turned to Ruhi.

I am not going home till I've report the bike number of the guy who did it.

"What?" "There is no need, its none of our business."

Then it wasn't my business to bring him here either.

"Its not as simple as you think. You will have to give a statement to the police and then maybe even go to the court to testify. This can go on for years, you know how court cases work in India."

So whats the big deal? Firstly, I am not the one who has hit him so there is nothing for me to fear the police. Secondly, all I want is to bring that *AH* to books, who thinks who can leave a man dying on the road and get away with it. A couple or 100 rounds of testifying maybe, versus, this guy's life! Whats heavier on your scale?

You have saved his life already, now you don't have to screw yours over it. You don't even know what kind of a guy that biker is. 8 of 10 chances are he is some messed up guy. I mean, who rides a bike recklessly in a crazy weather and then runs away leaving this guy on the road. He can be dangerous. Better still, he'll just bribe some people and get away.

I am not fantasizing about the fact that my testimony will put him behind bars. But I am more than convinced that this guy has to be identified and he should be ashamed of what he has done.

I think you are getting carried away with a surge of emotions right now. Its not as simple as you think. Lets go home.

Listen! If I was dying on the road like this man, I would be hoping with even the tiny wisp of life left in me that someone rescues me. And moreover, if there is a guy who did not care about another human life for the love of his maniacal bike rides, he needs to be checked.

You have brought him here and helped him enough. Do you think the man you brought here, would take the trouble to do all this for you, if he found you lying bleeding on the road?

I don't know! But what I do know is, if I stand up for him today, he would from now on! Let me see how much trouble I can get in, for helping an accident victim legally. Even I could have brought him here, thrown him at the door and gone away. But then I would be no different than those who were scared to bring him here, so much so, that they would rather let him die.


This one comes out of a heated discussion on the back benches of my 11th std classroom, on a leisurely afternoon. I was quite idealistic in my school days and I was the one who was on the Ruhi-side-of-the-debate. Strangely, I was the only one who thought that way. And like a recurring dream, I play this over and over again in my head, as to what would I do and how far would I go to help. I still have no clue what trouble I could get in.

It was 12 yrs ago. I thought maybe growing up and pragmatism would change me for the better, but unfortunately I still don't see why I should be scared of helping a dying man on the street for the fear of something as lame as legal hassles, hospital hassles and police cases.

Maybe, it was indeed that complicated to take an accident victim to hospital 12 yrs ago, and hopefully there is a little more awareness in people today and hopefully it would only get better from here. But the worth of a human life has been and will be the same, always.

Even a herd of animals running from a predator, do make an effort to save that one member who gets caught. Given that becoming a beast's meal is quite an ordinary form of death for them, they shouldn't really bother. But they still put up a fight for that one team mate.

Maybe I am just romantacizing here but... shouldn't our struggle to fight or withstand the system, be more rigourous, instead of choosing to ditch life?


zeno said...

It just depends on the context. Stereotyping it happens in one country but doesnt in other place, or i will stand by the principle or not doesnt works in a practical world. it might be a cynical thought, but hard hitting reality.
Well, I have malcolm gladwell to support my theory ;)

Deepa said...

How do find the exact write up for a particular context all of the times?! :) I am as boggled as Ramesh on this one!

But my counter question to you then would be, if it happens in some country (helping someone without any hesitation), which means it can happen in another country as well, its not at all impractical then.

Your link is quite true about how a human psyche works. It all depends on your situation at that time. But I can't get my mind to accept that you can turn your gaze away from a dying man and rush to make it on time for an appointment.

Ramesh said...

You are an angel in a sea of cynicism Deepa. At all times, under any situation, whatever be the context, your view is the right thing to do. Its not idealism; its character. Character is about doing the right thing, irrespective of consequences. It may sound impractical, but its the only sure long term bet. If someone had cared to follow the story of the hit and run guy, his life would have been one of irresponsibility and does anybody seriously thing happiness would come out of such a trait ??

Your posts have that unique knack of ringing in the mind well after I've read it. Well worth waiting for a month to see such a gem.

Ramesh said...

@zeno - As always a superb link; this time even more so. Afraid I don't buy into the Gladwell experiment - if context was all that determined action, much of the sacrifice you see in the world will not be existent.

zeno said...

@Deepa @Ramesh, I am really feeling glad on your compliments:)

I read a lot, and i remember the most, nowadays with google i have to remember is keywords. more like memory mapping. For all things else there is Google, If google had indexed it, i think, i can find it[u ppl have spoiled me enuf tat i have started to brag ;)] For this link, it really took me time, cause i was searching using monks monastery along with gladwell. Once when i changed to samaritan it was easy.
Even in my offline life, I am blessed with friends who guide me mentor me and train me a lot on all these kind of stuff ;)

Coming to Deepa's counter question, In US, one of my friend met with an accident, nothing but damage to car, three witnesses waited until the cops came, gave their witness and proceeded. No hassles. We see it as complete strangers helping a gal stranded all alone. A lady in the police station was complimenting on her dress!
Will this happen here? Can give you several other examples on what can happen at one country cannot happen here.[There in US, we staying alone single guys never had issue/hesitation/inhibition/second thought in visiting staying alone single gals and vice versa, journeys across two oceans and a time zone man a whole lot changes]

Coming to Ramesh, sorry sir, i am a cynic who thinks people who do social service are the most selfish hypocrite people! They do selfless service with out expect anything agreed. I do not doubt it.Dont they get happiness self satisfaction. Name me the price for happiness and self satisfaction.Priceless. They get priceless things and say selfless!
People who sacrificed cause it was the high priority in context.
Let me give you an hypothetical scenerio playing devils advocate. What if the guy who was riding the motorcycle was taking life saving medicines to his kid or mom in grave danger?
BTW, hope you would have read his outliers, blink and tipping point, if not they are definitive must!

Durga said...

Well I would certainly say one should do what one feels is right at that point in time. Of course, human life is important. For all you know, we may be the victim of somebody else's recklessness. And I certainly stand by what Ruhi said. Unless I do something of character, I won't set an example to others.

Deepa said...

@zeno- a guy who is carrying life saving drugs for someone, is in a situation of his own, he wouldn't even pay attention to someone needing help on the road. Its more for people who have the time to come and flock around, and still don't care enough to take an affirmative action.

@Ramesh- Thanks a ton! You keep me going.

@Durga- thats right, you should do what you think is right. but what is right is a point to ponder.

RamMmm said...

My first comment here, but I know you through your posts at Ramesh and zeno. :)

As zeno says in his comment in another post, you seem to be adept at churning out lonngggg posts (I am reminded of waiting at a railway crossing for a 100 wagon goods train to pass. :) Please take that as a compliment and not in any other way as I love trains)

My take on this post is ambiguous. It depends on the environment. I am all in principle to be a good samaritan. Unfortunately, society has made us think twice before being one. If the place is isolated, you are alone and you are there 'after the fact', (in this case, the accident (or was it one or faked!) happened not before your eyes), or if the subject was drunk, how open would one be inclined to step down and help? Calling 911 or any emergency services is non-existent here. But, not to belittle, I am happy to see that ambulance services are getting significantly better by the day on highways here and awareness is on the rise (people do leave space for ambulances with blaring sirens to pass on Bengaluru roads!!!). If there was a crowd at the incident site, the impetus to help would definitely be degrees of magnitude higher because of the relative safeness aspect. The fact that you are alone makes you think a hundred times.

I rambled on, but heh! that is what it is. :)

Deepa said...

@RamMmm- I know you too! :) And did you just beat me under the belt? But yeah, since these are stories they tend to be longer than the normal posts. Infact, after zeno's rap, I did rethink over the length, but it gets longer in tying up the loose ends!

Abt the post- Yeah, its not even that bad a world. You will find people who will come forward and help. But strangely these are people from whom you'll expect the least. I have seen people from a lower economic strata reaching out more in such cases, rather than people driving around on their 4 wheels.

And like you said, things are improving in India. Not that people are getting better but the emergency services are coming up.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe how many wonderful blogs are out there and how I seem to be running out of time more and more each day.

This was a wonderful read. The sad part for me is that this is a debatable issue. Realistically, though, I suppose I couldn't blame anyone for weighing the consequences their actions will have on their own lives, even if it is in the act of 'doing the right thing'.

Doing the right thing and where people draw the line shouldn't be a culturual issue, but I think zeno raises an interesting point. Here in America, Ruhi's situation would not be up for much debate. Most Americans, I feel, would have behaved in the same manner as Ruhi. Mainly because in a situation like that, the good samaritan is not faced with the same issues as Ruhi will be faced with in India. I believe the only difference in action by an American or Indian is due to the pressures placed on them by the differences in the workings of their societies.

For example, I think if we were to present the situation a little differently, and extend the line a little, Americans would then find themselves in a debatable situation. If instead of merely transporting the victim to the hospital, the good samaritan faced a dilemma of whether or not to perform CPR on the victim, I know many Americans would have the same debate about the liability they would be exposed to if the victim were not to survive. So really, the boundaries of what turn this into a debate say volumes about the different cultures around the globe and my wheels are just spinning thinking where those boundaries are at different spots around the globe.

Wrapping up, the world needs more RUHI!

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Deepa said...

@Hopfrog- A pleasant surprise to see you stop by! You couldn't have been more right about blogs. There are days when I can simply get lost in hopping from one lovely write-up to another.

Quite true about the circumstances surrounding a situation. But like you said, in America, even if a person stops with an intention to help, his humanity is alive; but if a society is so negatively pitched that it prevents someone from helping another individual, its killing humanity. That I feel is a dangerous sign!

sulo badri said...

woow... thought provoking post... read zeno's link too...

how much would one be willing to sacrifice with or without the emergencies?? that's a point to think... in an ideal world, we must do what we can do best at all times... n i want to be that... :)

Deepa said...

@Sulo- The will to do the right thing is the first step!