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Crash course

A high-pitched screech of brakes, and a bang! I?d just witnessed an accident. Had it been India, a brawl was almost inevitable, writes Akash Chopra.
None | By Akash Chopra
PUBLISHED ON JUL 31, 2006 12:07 AM IST

A high-pitched screech of brakes, and a bang! I’d just witnessed an accident. Had it been India, a brawl was almost inevitable. Even here in England, I expected a heated argument.

What happened next, though, robbed me of my Indian-ishtyle vicarious pleasure. Both drivers got out and got on to their cellphones, speaking calmly. A police car approached; the cops looked around a bit and filled out a few forms. Then both parties shook hands and went their separate ways.

Flabbergasted, I decided to get to the bottom of this peculiar behaviour. I was told that if I was ever involved in an accident, scooting from the scene was a no-no — it counted as a hit-and-run and with Big Brother cameras everywhere, I would land behind bars.

Instead, I was advised, I should get out, preferably with a pen and a paper, beam at the other guy, coolly give him my insurance details and then leave it to my insurance company to fight the legal battle.

But this incident transported me to an event in Delhi a few months ago. I was peaceably driving along when suddenly, a scooterist ahead decided to turn right without bothering to look behind or signalling his intention. I was not driving too fast but knew I couldn’t avoid hitting him.

As I managed to almost come to a halt, all three people on the scooter fell off, but escaped unscathed and fighting fit. I was out of the car in a flash, furious at the reckless driving and lack of respect for their own and others’ lives. But I emerged the villain of the piece — simply because I was driving the bigger vehicle — and soon there was a mob watching the proceedings. Some people supported me but the scooterist and his co-passengers were all for throwing me into jail. I obliged and called 100 immediately.

Within minutes, I realised my mistake — before I could finish the call, I was being berated for my arrogance in summoning the cops. I was forced to park on the roadside, pay damages and flee. Else the cops would be told it was my fault.

I was annoyed, but had no choice. So I swallowed my pride, let common sense prevail and was let off with Rs 200. But I had learnt a valuable lesson. In India, the underdog is always right. Justice be damned!

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