Breaking rules is a free thrill to us, if we don’t get caught or injured. Young bikers get a kick out of not wearing the compulsory helmet and challenging the regulations of speed and overtaking. They are aware of the law but hooked to teasing it.
In almost every city, when the traffic cop is a little slack, teenaged drivers zoom through non-existing gaps between four-wheelers, jump red light, occupy the zebra crossing, and honk like mad within nanoseconds of the signal’s turning green. Seeing them, I recall my days when I believed that rules were meant to be broken.
In Class 7, I broke my ankle after falling off a mango tree while plucking raw fruit in spite of repeated warning from the caretaker. I was off road for three months but back to my ways in the next mango season.
Staying at Hans Raj Hostel of DAV College, Amritsar, I was fined Rs 20 for throwing boiled-egg shells on to the second floor. As a “barsaati” (promoted temporarily because of vacancy) captain in 1964, I mowed down a buffalo driving a Dodge Power Wagon from Chaardwar , where I was officer in charge of advance workshop detachment, to the “bara khana” (grand feast) venue at the company headquarters in Tezpur.
At Bhopal, my commanding officer saw me driving a Royal Enfield 350 cc motorcycle at breakneck speed and barked: “I will have to perform the unpleasant duty of informing your parents that captain Cheema has been killed in a road accident.”
Why are Indian men especially eager to break rules? Perhaps, to escape the monotony of our unadventurous lives, get over the drudgery of slogging for livelihood and always worrying about the future of our children. Not that the women are behind; it is just that the rule monitors, the majority being men, let them off. A bewitching smile, a “sorry” tucked in the red lips is good enough to win over the burly cop whose gaze strikes terror in every man behind the wheel.
Women’s duty-conscious image also goes in their favour during corrective campaigns. Men would not bat an eyelid before picking up a street fight, while women, at least it is believed, will weigh the pros and cons. Go ahead, countrymen, carry on breaking the rules. No one is watching you, except your conscience. Now don’t ask me what that is.