A picture of Abhijeet Gurav is placed on a table while another picture hangs on the wall in his room in Andheri (East). His parents, Laxman and Sharmila, stare at the photographs, trying to make sense of the accident near the Bandra-Worli Sea Link on December 19 that killed the 22-year-old.
Three motorcycles crashed into one another just 500 metres away from the toll booths, killing one and injuring two.
Gurav was not speeding on his motorcycle. He was wearing a helmet. So what killed Gurav ?
According to the police, Gurav was with Tushar Pagi , 18, who was riding pillion that night. On the way, Pagi asked Gurav to stop for a toilet break. While he was merely five feet away from Gurav, a two-wheeler crashed into Gurav’s bike, followed by another biker crashing into them. The first biker who crashed into Gurav was allegedly performing stunts.
Carter Road, Bandra Reclamation and Kherwadi flyover are infamous for late-night motorbike races and bikers performing dangerous stunts on roads meant for traffic.
For the many bikers who modify their vehicle into a racing bike, the Carter Road is their own race track, according to police. For bikers just racing for the thrill of it or to win a cash prize, the stretch from Bandra Reclamation to Kherwadi flyover is another spot.
Last year, 4,071 bikers were booked for rash driving — the most, followed by car drivers — by the Mumbai traffic police, out of 9,446 cases across the city.
Bike racing, which is illegal, used to be announced openly in the city until 2015. For example: There would be an announcement declaring the starting spot of a bike race from Bandstand at 1am on a Monday. The prize money for these races would go up to Rs1.5 lakh.
However, after repeated police crackdowns, bikers have now formed groups relaying information of races through messages, making it harder for the police.
According to some bikers, there are ways they can pursue their interest without putting anyone in harm’s way.
“The blatant ignorance of the law is rather appalling since a police beat chowky is located on the (Carter Road) junction and there’s also the additional police commissioner’s office,” said Pravin Yadav, part of a biker group called Free Flow Thumpers.
“Recently, we alerted the police about a biker performing stunts on the Carter Road. He was taken to the police station, but he got out next day after paying a fine of a few thousand rupees. Now, that may stop him from riding dangerously for a few weeks, but he will surely get back to it once he arranges the money,” said Yadav. This priority for safety is what separates Yadav, one of the 78 members of his club, from the rogue bikers.
“We usually take road trips on bikes and we only go ahead with it when bikers have proper riding gear. Lately, we have stopped riding in Mumbai owing to dangerous conditions. If we plan to get out of the city, we meet at Powai Lake as early as 4am to avoid traffic,” added the software company employee.
But in some cases, ensuring personal safety is not the solution to the problem.
Sharmila cries every time she mentions her son. “It was not even his fault. He had simply gone for a ride and was returning home. Bikers who put others’ lives at risk should be dealt with sternly,” she said.
A few blocks away from Gurav’s house, his friend, Pagi, lives with his parents and a younger brother, Harish, 17. Pagi’s father, Ramesh, has sworn to not get his younger son a licence unless he is of age and properly trained.
“Harish had been asking for a bike, but I am against it as he is not an adult yet. When I heard of the accident, I took Harish along and we waited at the police station for three hours. I wanted my younger son to understand the perils of dangerous driving.”