Growing up in India, I never had a problem crossing roads. You know, you learn. You adapt. Before I left home for an experience of life in Europe, I never thought about these things – which were a part of my daily life in India. Greetings for example, about which I wrote in my previous post. And now, what comes to my mind is : Zebra crossings.
I had learnt about the concept of zebra crossings quite early in my school textbooks, but never saw anyone using it the city where I lived. I learnt how to cross roads, just like everyone else. It was never a problem – I could say so, because I’m still alive. Looking both ways on a one way road, turning your head left-right, left-right, and hoping to ace the timings once again. Smooooth! No dikkat at all! I was a pro, just like everyone else.
But when I first went abroad, I was alone, and too excited about everything. It was my first ever experience of living alone in a new country, and I certainly wasn’t prepared for the culture shocks! So I’m in France – during the first few days – and I’m crossing the road, as if I own it. A car comes speeding and the driver gives me a stare which clearly means “Are you stupid?” – And thats when I realize, they do have this zebra crossing thing going here in Europe, and quite seriously at that! So they weren’t talking about some fictional land in the school textbooks!
Three years in Europe, I’m pretty used to crossing at Zebra crossings. At the signals, waiting for the red light to turn green for the pedestrians. And where there were no pedestrian signals, I would uselessly wait, not knowing that the cars would stop themselves if I’m walking on it. So well in time, I learnt the ways of this blessing that is the zebra crossing!
But every time I came home to Delhi for the holidays, I experienced a reverse culture shock. The first time I came back during the summer, I actually started looking for zebra crossings. Something I had never bothered to observe before. To my surprise, we never notice the zebra crossings, because helloooo!!! The vehicles are ON the zebra crossing when the signal is red! And poor pedestrians are zig-zagging to cross the road. In some other places, the white lines are sooooo light that they are almost invisible. But who cares? Because we are experts in crossing roads – because we are, what they call, Khatro ke khiladi!
I noticed that near the Connaught Place area, they do have these pedestrian signals, which were quite a relief, but even in that case, the vehicles are still ON the zebra crossing. And then, this incident that happened just a few days ago : I was in CP, and had to go from one block to the other. There was no signal there for the cars to stop, but I saw a zebra crossing. A couple walking in front of me jumped right onto the zebra crossing, while the cars and autos were speeding towards them. For a second I thought maybe the vehicles would stop because pedestrians crossing on a zebra crossing where there’s no traffic signal. But no, they didn’t. Khatro ke khiladi managed to cross the road alive, zig-zagging and stopping at the right time, hoping another vehicle doesn’t crash into them!
On a very serious note, this is an issue of concern. Growing up in the capital of the country, I only learnt about road ethics and safety in theory, and never practically because nobody follows them! Since the last three years, everytime I’ve come home after an year abroad, I don’t venture out of the house alone at least for week, because I’m scared! And I’m not even exaggerating. I’m scared to cross the road. Scared because I might have forgotten the skills to watch both sides of a one way road, hoping not to die. Scared because I’m out of practice!
It is my request to every one who drives, to be more careful, and follow rules for the combined safety of everyone around! If today I managed to cross the road safely, there must be someone out there who didn’t, and a life was lost!
As a side note, I would like to add that we must also not be scared to speak up about these things. Personally, I too think twice before saying it now, because everytime I compare life in India with my experience abroad, they say “Haan zyada angrez ban gai hai tu. Bhool mat yahi se gai hai!”. Lol, I know that, and it doesn’t mean that I don’t like being in India anymore. In fact I am so happy to come back! But certain things make you think, and react! And that is why, I chose to write about it. Doing things because that’s the way its done, will not help us create a better space to live in. Together we can make a difference!