Keep those car keys away from your kids

The mum must be a wreck. What's her role? And the key man, the lawyer. Is the lawyer being yelled at or pleaded with?

By Nivriti Butalia

Published: Sun 14 Jan 2018, 9:00 PM

Last updated: Sun 14 Jan 2018, 11:25 PM

How tiresome, the recent news from Delhi, of yet another young man taking daddy's car out for a spin and killing a not-so-young man in the middle of Delhi University. How tiresome, how repetitive, how heartbreaking.
How is it that parents who read these reports will still allow their sons (also daughters, sure; but is it just me or do you tend to hear less of reckless female drivers?) and friends of the sons to take the car out for a joyride to college? What is the fathers' line of defence? In this case, we don't know much about him except that he's a businessman and that his son probably didn't tell him what he got up to that Wednesday afternoon after college.
Will dad's defence to the neighbours and whispering crowds what I can already hear in my ear? "How can you stop them? Beta (son) will get upset with me if I take away the keys." Or, "Arre , don't worry. He has a licence. He knows how to drive. He's been reversing the car - 'backing it' - since he was a teenager." Or, "I want him to enjoy the luxuries I never had at his age." Really, what must Abhinav Sahni's father be thinking? Will he blame himself? Will he sleep very much? The mum must be a wreck. What's her role? And the key man, the lawyer. Is the lawyer being yelled at or pleaded with?
Is everyone in the family now pointing fingers at the Sahnis, but didn't earlier open their traps to advise them to not indulge li'l Abhinav so much - if they did, that is, and this wasn't just some stray incident that went very wrong, and one that Abhinav Sahni will deservedly live with for the rest of his life. Will Abhinav Sahni feel guilty the year he turns a year older than the by then long-dead Shiv Nath? For he will probably be way out of jail by then, given how he's already out on bail, and may not even land up there, for all we know, for all the faith such cases in the past have inspired. It's the same repetitive, horrendous narrative: brat son drives father's powerful luxury car that brat can't control but is thrilled to accelerate the life out of?
Did he even know? Did Abhinav Sahni's father even know? In which case, poor dad, stupid son. But they weren't the ones hurled in midair in the afternoon of January 10 by the impact of heavy speeding steel machine, bleeding on the road. That would be Shiv Nath, 50-year-old? What of him? What about his father? Is - was- he a father? How is there such little detail about him, as if the status of homeless means fewer people loved him.
We will read this story again. Like we've read it so often in the past. The website, IndiaSpend, reported that in 2015, there were seven hit-and-run cases every hour in India. Seven every hour. And more than 20 per cent of those accidents were caused by drivers either on a learner's licence or without a licence. What does that tell us? What of the people who've been hit? People are too scared, too averse to getting involved in a police case. So they don't help bleeding people on the road in obvious pain. But at least some good soul rung the cops.
Last month, when Arvind Kejriwal's government said it would bear the cost of treatment of acid attack victims, burn victims and those in road accidents. I thought it was a good move. High time. Except for Shiv Nath, this didn't count for squat.

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