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Brats on Wheels

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We, the Government
By Hugh and Colleen Gantzer
Once again the citizens of Mussoorie have sent out a message loud and clear: “We Stand United To Defend Our Common Interests.”
While we Indians in the world’s largest democracy went about the fabulous task of electing our government for the next five years, our little town also did an important bit of housekeeping. Led by a strongly apolitical City Board, consisting largely of independent members, a message went out loud and clear: “The tourist season is approaching. Let’s get the Mall back to its pristine glory.” So the Traders and the Hoteliers; the permanent residents, retirees and their families; the teachers and transporters: all of them got together and decided to remove their own encroachments on the Mall. They did not wait for the civic authorities to do it: they did it all themselves!
This is something we had to put in the public domain. In our Mussoorie, as in most towns, cities and even in megalopolises, citizens moan and groan about civic apathy but that is, largely, a prevailing background noise. It is like the strumming of cicadas in our oak forests! When the chips are really down, Mussoorie rallies. This is probably because our permanent population is so small that everyone virtually knows everyone. This, very likely, is what must have prevailed in the old Greek city-states in which democracy was born.
This, however, also has a negative side. No Mussoorie person wants to step on another fellow citizen’s toes. This bhai-bhai phenomenon has given rise to the seeming immunity of the dangerous Brats on Wheels.
The word ‘Brat’ probably originated in the 15th century for ‘a beggar’s child’. In the harsh conditions in England, in that period, beggars could hardly look after themselves to say nothing of their children. The conditions, in that cold, wet, land, were possibly worse than those affecting beggars in our India today. This is why beggars’ children were considered to be self-willed, uncouth and anti-social. Mussoorie’s brats are exactly the same, but for diametrically opposite reasons. Their parents are rich but they want to become richer and, therefore, they have no time to discipline their progeny. To make up for the lack of quality time with their children, particularly their sons, they over-indulge them. In Mussoorie, they give them scooters and motor cycles and then allow them to go their own reckless way.
Their argument is that their kids need to get to school on time. But does that entitle them to endanger the lives of others?
Mussoorie, today, is plagued by young men driving vehicles, either hired or owned by their fathers, at excessive speeds and quite unconcerned about the safety of pedestrians. Moreover, when these offenders, often under-aged for a driving license, are caught by the traffic police, their indulgent fathers step in to bail them out! When we asked why the police have not stopped this, we were told that they did not have enough personnel. This is why we were relieved to read GP’s front page report on Saturday, 25 May. After further enquiries, and one unexpectedly false lead, we learnt that the police have enough people now to enforce traffic rules. Here is what we feel could be a solution:-
• When a brat is caught violating traffic rules, stop him.
• Take possession of the keys of his vehicle.
• Park his vehicle in the custody of the nearest policeman.
• Inform the owner of the vehicle that the keys can be retrieved after 8 p.m. by the owner, personally, from the police station, after producing proof of identity.
For a second offence, name and shame both the owner of the vehicle and the driver in the most effective way that is legally permissible. If the under-aged brat is using a hired vehicle, take action against the person who hired the vehicle to that reckless youth.
Essentially, it is our responsibility, as We, the Government, to ensure that our citizens are protected from the dangers of reckless drivers.
And if you, Big Daddy, want to condone the criminal act of your progeny, remember that the next time you walk on a Mussoorie road you might be crippled for life by another spoilt Brat on Wheels.