Saturday, August 25, 2007

Beyond the city limits

About four or five years back, four families set off to a picnic spot a little away from Bangalore. This picnic spot is famous for its waterfall and boating facilities. Soon the boys in the family, all four of them and a friend wanted to go swimming. They entered the water and were swept away by a powerful undercurrent, quite common in this place. All five of them drowned.

Seems like a newspaper article. But the story was/is not so simple and straightforward as it seems. While the boys shouted for help, the fisherman cum boat owners watched apathetically. They didn’t raise a finger to help the boys. They said the current was too fast and that it would be risky to enter the water. The actual reason? A rescue mission would get them a reward of maybe 100-200 rupees. But fishing out dead bodies is charged @ Rs10.000/- per body. The fisherman watched the struggling boys being washed downstream ignoring the frantic cries of their parents for help. After they were sure that the boys were dead, they came forward to help the parent’s fish out the bodies.

The news hit the headlines. Bangalore was shocked. People from all walks of life grieved for the family that had lost five strapping teenage sons. There were noises from the government corridors about putting more warning signs or perhaps prohibiting bathing in the place. The noises died down even before the bodies became cold.

The newspapers never reported the apathy of the fishermen or their Vulture like death watch over the boys. People still talk about this tragedy as the news made headlines, especially since another son from the same family had laid his life down for the country at Kargil just a month before.

The fisherman here make a killing (pardon the term) fishing out dead bodies with at least 20 deaths reported every year during my school and college days.

Recently a photographer friend of mine was knocked unconscious on a Whitefield road when his bike hit a stone. When he came to, he realized that his expensive camera was missing. While searching for his camera in the neighborhood, an old and wizened man came up to him and offered to return his camera for Rs 1000/-. My friend gratefully took the offer as his camera cost close to two lakhs rupees!

These are not one off instances. There are many such tales that are never told in the newspapers. The city, to the poor is a land of opportunity not only as a source of jobs but also a source of alternate income in the guise of city dwellers who make good pickings if utilized well in vulnerable situations. And some of the tales you hear of accident victims will leave you shaken. Many are robbed of their belongings. One man even died while frantic villagers twisted and turned his broken body to make sure that they had taken everything they could from his person.

It is not as if the poor/marginalized are evil. But their lot is very bad and like starving people eating rats, they prey on anyone who can get them a square meal or two.

If only the grislier account of an accident is made public, the government would be forced to put in checks and balances or issue advisories and warnings on highways.

p.s wishing all of you a very HAPPY ONAM!!!


J said...

The dark realities of life. Greed, poverty and a screwed up head.

Fleiger said...

That is really deadly. I would say similar things about people who don't want to help accident victims, as that might land them in trouble with police.

It is a bit apathetic for them to just stand by and watch people die, too. I wouldn't put all the blame on system/poverty. I mean, we have seen even poor people in Mumbai help each other during floods.

Alexis said...

That was horrible. But similar thing happened during the Perumn train tragedy. Drowning people being robbed. But during that accident, may be there were one or two rotten apples among the hundreds of brave and selfless men who risked their lives to save others.

But what you have written is cold blooded murder... I think these issues should be given more coverage and the fisher men brought to trail for manslaughter.

Reading the new papers gives an indication of how our society is changing and how cruel men and even kids can be. Today I read about two 9th standard students killing two kids of their own school to get a few day's holiday and that is just one such story where people under 14-15 years committing such heinous crimes.

Great post and a very relevant and timely one.

Wish you and all at home a very happy Onam.

gostana said...

that was real bad act from the people!

But I think it is the greed of the people rather than proverty. coz, if a similar accident happens inside the city, how many among the rich, busy & educated people will be ready to come out and help the people in need? I have seen people just giving a glance and driving away. The only difference here is they don't rob the victims. but these people are greedy about their time (& time is money for them!).

And you could also see that most of the times(in cities), the first one to give a helping hand during accidents will be a poor shopkeeper, driver or a roadworker.

gostana said...

btw, Happy Onam to you too... and let me know if you still have any "Methi" left at home. if so I will wish you a nice "Methi" ona sadya as well..!!

Josh said...

this one and the one u wrote about ur ex-colleague VK.. both made me feel real sick. my sunday will be lost in cussing human values.
some one said gravity is a myth.. its life that sucks. how true!

mathew said...

oh..thats really sad..digusting i would say..circumstances make a man bad..but this is rotten minds making blood money...

I remember once in Pune we saw a girl die in accident in the middle of the night and we called up the police from the site..and the kind of response those guys gave was so cold..they talked that if we were the one responsible for the accident..thankfully some locals came to help us then..

goodness of a person has nothing do with the social circumstances like Alexis said...The rats are everywhere...

eyeopener post..but a sad story on a sunday morning!! :-(
I need a compensation in poomanam..

Dhanya said...

This is a sad reality.. My friend was telling a similar story.. A begger was hit by a bus in airport road.. tho many ppl gathered there, no one took her to hospital.. Obviously coz she didn't have any money.. This guy was new to b'lore n he didn't know what to do.. he pleaded with ppl there to help him to take her to hospital but no one obliged.. Ppl were also like if u take her to hospital, the blame will be on u.. Finally he went to a friends place n asked what to do. they told about Sanjeevani and they called 1062. But again they said, they 'll come only if he is on the accident spot. So he again went to the place and that time they saw a man taking her to hospital.. But she lay there bleeding for 2 hrs n there is no hope of survival!!

And I had a similar experience like ur photographer friend. I lost my vehicle's RC book and someone called me and said it is with them but will return it only if I give him 2K !!!

Adorable Pancreas said...

I wish I could say something poignant, but I can't. I've never heard of anything like this before. Heard plenty of stories about people not stopping to help accident victims, but actually wanting them to die... I wonder if those men would have stood by watching if it was some relative of theirs who was drowning. I'm not sure if apathy is a crime, but it sure should be.

About those vehicle accident victims, how many of us would stop? Considering the end result, perhaps they're no better than the villagers. There are plenty of people who do help, but I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about the jerks who saw my uncle lying on the road, and refused to take him to a hospital.

And yes, happy onam to you too. All kinds of wonderful smells coming from the kitchen. :)

MC said...

hop hop hap hap happy on-am

Josh said...

u mite be aware of this.. still..

Pradeep said...

I'd only say realities of life. You get all sorts of people. True, media should highlight this aspect as well.

shruti said...

@silvy - I ahve left a detailed comment on Emmauel's site ( rape article) about crimes or apathy with which humans treat each other and I feel the same applies to this case as well . Would request you to go through the same and post your views.

Jeseem said...

shocking ... inhuman..
being poor is no excuse for being inhuman. And anyway I don't anyone in Bangalore is starving poor. such acts should be punishable crime.
and blaming the government doesn't help. What we need is to sensitize people to such incidents. We should have forums to make such inhuman acts public. maybe send these incidents to the press so as to shame people doing inhuman acts.