Views & Reviews
Of reckless, drunken drivers
Imagine you sat on a Sumo for a really long trip, stretching to over 8 hours, with full faith in the driver; the one and only one, controlling the engines, the stirring, the wheels, and ultimately determines whether you reach your destination on time or not. Or who knows, you don’t reach at all sometimes. The duration of travel between Kohima and Tuensang is a rigorous one, demanding hours of being on the road and a whole day is quite easily spent travelling in that long stretch. It is also a tiring one because of the deplorable road condition, and yet, people commute from the state capital to Tuensang or vice versa everyday, for reasons of their own.
It wasn’t too long ago that I happened to be travelling from Kohima to Tuensang on a Sumo for the first time. Maybe it was just my luck to have hopped into a Sumo, unusually packed with the exact number of passengers that the vehicle can accommodate, increasing the number of head counts to eleven, when the driver is also included. The packed Sumo wouldn’t have mattered so much if the driver, in the process of covering kilometers after kilometers managed to smoothly take us to our destination.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. After quite a great deal of miles and villages were behind us with few stoppages in between, the driver had changed how he drove from where we first started. Following a particular stop, everything about his driving took a different turn. He drove, not with the dignity of a committed, trustworthy and faithful driver, but sheer recklessness, least bothered about the safety, let alone comfort of the passengers. By then, the reason we all knew was because alcohol had ruined his good sense of driving.
With every turn, it became scarier than the first and in that moment, our lives became uncertain. Forget about reaching Tuensang, none of us knew if we were going to survive the absolutely uncontrolled ride. And in such a situation, who could have argued with a seemingly angry drunken driver when he is literally in control of the fate of the vehicle.
But thank God for tender mercies, the driver parked somewhere after much pleading from the passengers. Then and there, he got down, his totally drunken face showing in full, and absolutely in no position to drive us where we intended to be. I am sure all of us were deeply angered. But it would have been meaningless to argue with a drunk, who has lost whatever good sense that is in him.
So, we were there in the middle of nowhere, not so worried about getting to our destination on time but just grateful that we were in a safer place than enduring the uncertain ride, which could just easily fall into a gorge, a deep valley, anywhere where our lives would be hanging on thin threads. The only consolation being, the Sumo drivers also seem to have that sense of looking out for each other, which is also why, I believe, two Sumos stopped. To make a long story short, one of the Sumo drivers drove the Sumo we were in, with the drunken driver in the front seat, while one of the passengers drove the other Sumo and together we proceeded again.
By then, the drunken driver was fast asleep, and I thought, even hoped, he would feel guilty when he wakes up but when he actually did, he showed no regret whatsoever. While the other driver who took charge of our vehicle shamelessly declared that all drivers drink and that, it was unusual our driver to have gotten drunk that easily. I mean whose lives are they kidding?
Everybody understands that it is such a rigorous, painstaking job to drive for that many hours everyday. But that, they drink to forget the tiredness or for whatever else it is that they drink, is totally not justified. We came across tea stalls that had notice boards on their walls, saying, use of alcohol in that particular stall is strictly prohibited. Ironically, those are the same stalls serving alcohol to these drivers.
Seriously, whose lives are they playing with? How dare they drink and drive as many as ten passengers in one vehicle and still confidently think they can make it home safely? If anything happens, can they claim responsibility? Can they bring back a life lost in an accident?
Drivers cannot afford to drink and drive for any reason whatsoever. They cannot take the liberty of playing with the lives of innocent citizens who commute from one place to another everyday. I am sure it is not just the Kohima-Tuensang stretch but this one pretty much shows the picture of our drivers in Nagaland. There needs to be a mechanism that checks on this. Notwithstanding the fact that it is such a shame to call our state a dry state, drinking and driving should be absolutely prohibited. And by that, I mean not only in letter but in spirit.
It may be a one-time experience for me. But there are hundreds of people, most of them, innocent villagers, who travel such long distances to finish much of their tasks. If we cannot ensure road safety for these people, then, we are also very far away from achieving the greater goals that our state may have.
~Vishü Rita Krocha.