Ever since I got a job in one of the government departments, I have often faced two alluding questions from my friends, relatives and colleagues. Everyday my routine starts at 7.30 AM, the time at which I will start walking to the bus stop. My office is 6 kilometres away from where we live and I will catch a bus to reach there. Morning, alone in the office, I could finish works faster than during the office hours. Usually there will be so many people at the bus stop, thanks to the tardy schedules and services of the State Road Transport Corporation buses. But we will wait there and over time this waiting has become a ceremonial procedure.
I am really grateful to the road transport department because this leisure time, the time we [now it has become a good company of people from every section of the society] have to wait for the arrival of a bus, has been too joyful, we will joke, laugh and then curse the department in one voice demonstrating the great uniqueness of our country, unity in diversity.
Our unity is demonstrated here, when we criticize the bureaucracy and the government services in one voice. Our unity is demonstrated here when we scorn in one voice “You never know the good”. But now I must return to what I said first about two alluding questions. Everyone I meet will first ask me “why don’t you buy a bike or a car?” Within no time, they will shot another question “why don’t you marry, my friend, you are 28 and you got a nice government job, why you waste your time, get married, have some children early and you will not regret in life”.
I am sick of these questions. Usually I will smile back at them, weary smile it will be, of course. Sometimes I will pretend as if I am not hearing them at all, like trying to hear a devotional song coming from a distant loud speaker of the temple or I will gaze over their shoulders, like I saw a bus coming from distance. This way I don’t want them to get embarrassed due to my own embarrassment. Some will understand my disinterest and will divert the conversation to other matters; some even though they knew I am embarrassed, once again press me to respond.
If it is the latter case I will casually respond “I don’t want a bike at present but am really thinking of a marriage”. Even that reply makes them happy, seeing the prospects of my buying a new bike and get married in near future. Now they can relive their pressure that they are sure, I will be like them, I will also have a conventional life and maybe I will also enjoy life like them.
The matter is that I am not interested in vehicles. [The second question may be put to rest; there are things that are meant not to be discussed] Most of the men at my age or younger are crazy about bikes and cars and are willing to spare anything to [mis]use it just for fun. Here in our village, it is hard to find a youngster walking to the market to buy something or going for a visit in a bus.
On the contrary I can find many of them walking to the gym, in shorts, [the old lungi is now replaced with Bermuda] their heads high with pride about their muscular bodies and with a self satisfactory feeling of all and sundry noticing them, envying the way of their looks. The old guard, sitting in the veranda of the nearby tea shop, sipping tea and chatting, express their displeasure on the way things change, culture change, character conduct and behaviour change and finally the generation change. “The old times were so good” they says, “These new boys know nothing”, “what extraordinary things they wear” says the other“Kaliyugam, what can we do!”, they usually conclude expressing their utmost disappointment that things are never going to be good in this world and pray God to call them back to his place as soon as he thinks it fit.
Even in village like ours, gyms have become an essential part of life and culture, gyms emerging like a tea shop cum bakery. The youngsters, they will not walk, will not work either as our fathers and grand fathers did in their little pieces of land. But they will do anything to boost their muscles, they will raise 50KG with their powerful hands, they will sweat over running in the treadmill, but will not walk, instead use bikes. They need bikes to go anywhere. Raise the speed to 80km/hr and dash through the road without a silencer, making every man in the road side dumbfounded, slitting their eardrums, making some girls watch the scene with amazement and at the same time making the parents feel a shudder pass through their hearts.
Sure, private vehicles like bikes have become a vital part of our lifestyle. But we must certainly stop its misuse and overuse. The powerful vehicle companies and rapacious oil companies will undoubtedly resist any move to initiate an awareness campaign against the misuse and overuse of vehicles. By reducing the usage of private vehicles and depending more on public transport system, we can strengthen our nation, create jobs, protect our environment, save our lives and most importantly we will save precious energy resources for our future generations.
Don’t blame me, I will support any future oil price hikes if the move could stop as many people from using their own vehicles and depend the public transport system. But the governments must do a lot in order to reinstate the public transport system to be more commendable, advanced, cost effective and reliable. Timely schedules and reduction of charge will certainly attract a lot of people to depend public transport.
A positive step in this regard will convince people to give up using private vehicles for their day-to-day travel, it will eliminate the traffic jams in big cities and the unwarranted wastage of petroleum products, making roads to remain in good shape, reduce the number of accidents and save thousands of lives and keep the environment safe. We can give up the comfort of the AC vehicle, spend a little time is a bus stop, know our environs and enjoy the satisfaction of joining a great effort.
This is an effort that we ourselves have to initiate. Nobody is with us to guide, nobody is with us to persuade, nobody is with us to monitor and we have to be responsible to ourselves, to nature. Let’s pledge to save our nature with our small but a great step.
By: Ganesh Hari Prakash