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Sunday, Sep 25, 2022
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City Snippets

Chennai Corner

If a car stalls on the road, if it is going too slow, if it turns around suddenly on the road, you can be sure it's a woman behind the wheel. I'm not saying that-- but many men do. Is it true?

Chennai Corner
Chennai Corner
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Hands Free, But Are Minds Free?
South India, and in particular Tamil Nadu, to most people outside the state represents "softness"--in attitude, in manner, conduct, in interactions between people. But that famed "softness" is completely absent on the road whether it is the autorickshaw driver who gives new meaning to the word aggression, the bus driver who apparently drives to kill (much like Blue Line bus drivers in Delhi), two wheeler drivers who take corners from the left and also treat the traffic-clogged roads like a race track, and car drivers who are so intent on their mobile phones that their focus is not on their driving.

When I used to drive in Goa, my policy was never to pick up a ringing mobile unless I edged the car to the side. But even my own friends admit that they catch up with others while driving. Of course they say they are on "hands free". But my question is: "Are your minds free?" Because you need it to negotiate your way through traffic. My next question: "Before the mobile, didn't you wait to get home or to the office to use the landline so you could "touch base" with friends? So where's the fire now?"

Dr Ravi Samuel, who does cognitive therapy for his patients at his T'Nagar clinic, says increasingly gadgets like the mobile phones and PCs ( because of the Internet) are creating loneliness among families. Taking the office home was an expression earlier, now it is a reality. The mobile phone is so intrusive that like the ad jingle it follows you everywhere you go.

Intel Inside, Idiot Outside
Many say that Chennai is the most livable of all the metros. In Mumbai, it takes long to get from Point A to B because of distances and bottlenecks on the road, Bangalore is going the Mumbai way although distances are not so vast, but in Chennai the newly-inaugurated flyovers are doing the trick even though most sane people will not get onto the roads between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. But for how long? Already, Tamil Nadu's vehicle population at one crore, makes it No: 2 in the country. And when it comes to two-wheelers, the state is the undisputed king having 82.05 lakh motorcyles and scooters. What's more, 5,800 new vehicles are being added everyday.

Little wonder that Chennai's accident rate has gone up by 74 per cent between 1996 and 2007. It has overtaken Delhi in the number of accidents recording 3.59 per thousand vehicles. And more shockingly, it has more fatalities per thousand at .47 whereas Delhi's statistic is 0.40. And with such a high population of two wheelers, it is no surprise that they were involved in the largest number of fatal accidents.

Are Women Better Drivers?
If a car stalls on the road, if it is going too slow, if it turns around suddenly on the road, you can be sure it's a woman behind the wheel. I'm not saying that--but many men do. Have you known a man stopping and asking a woman directions? But for all those who bash women drivers, here's a news flash--women have better traffic sense. In 2005, 850 men died and 5,697 were injured as compared to 205 women who died and 1,271 injured in road accidents. In 2006, 1,166 men died on the road as compared to 170 women and 5,467 men suffered injuries in accidents as compared to 1,255 women. Even if one factors in that men drivers and riders outnumber women, what the statistic shows is that the number of women who died in accidents declined whereas the number of men who met their maker went up. So women have better sense QED.

Nobody's Child
This week a DNA test had to be done to resolve the tussle between two families fighting over a male baby while there was a female baby nobody wanted.  We might all sit in judgement about the attitude that led to the fight over whose wife delivered a girl but was given a boy because of RSRM maternity hospital's incompetence in tagging the mothers properly, but the truth is that even in educated, wealthy families the attitude is the same. I know of many women who complain that husbands/ mothers-in-law did not come to see them because they had delivered girl babies. Some months ago, a three-month old girl was abandoned in a cinema hall in Coimbatore--the mother handed over the child during the interval to a couple sitting next to her but never returned--and she was taken charge of by Anbu Illam, an NGO, which handed her over to the Peace Home at Kalapatti.

Twin Boon 
But the good news is that Dharmapuri district, once notorious for female infanticide, is slowly changing. Last November, the cradle baby reception centre at Dharmapuri started in 2002 by then Chief Minister J Jayalalitha to curb female infanticide, welcomed its 1000 and 1001th baby. In 2002, parents dropped 168 babies in the cradle. By the next year, the scheme caught on and 215 babies were abandoned. However, the number of girl babies being unwanted has since declined--in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 (till November) the number of girl babies found in the cradle was 156, 161, 161 and 140 respectively. Of them, 51 babies have gone back to their birth parents as a result of counselling. It has also helped that women officers from the district collector downwards have been posted in this district. This has been a twin boon--because women officers are more sensitive and more importantly an "all-woman district" has sent the message to families that girl children can grow up and be "big" officers and therefore not a burden on their parents.

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