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The Road Manners Club

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Tina and Sonu were neighbours, and they lived in what was once a quiet, cheery locality in Bangalore. But that was before Bangalore was transformed into just another big, ugly, chaotic and suffocating Indian city.

They were now in their early teens, but Tina and Sonu could still fondly recall being pushed in their prams by their mothers down the road to the neighbourhood park. How empty the road that ran outside their homes had seemed then! There was hardly any traffic””just a few occasional cars, but even those were rare. But now the very same road was clogged with vehicles””even big trucks and noisy buses. What a dreadful din they made all day! And the thick grey clouds of smoke that they sent up in the air! It was now almost impossible to amble down the road as the children used to every day after school. What made it even worse was that the road””like many others in Bangalore””simply had no pavement””which made walking on it almost as difficult as tip-toeing on egg-shells!

One day, Sonu’s mother sent him off on an errand to the local shop. An unending line of cars rushed down the road and Sonu felt tizzy. All of a sudden, Sonu spotted a little kitten, scared out of its wits, struggling to cross the road. Sonu was about to call out to it to stop, but before he could do so a large car zipped past. It ran over the hapless kitten and rushed ahead. You can’t imagine how devastated Sonu was at what had happened. Forgetting the errand he hadset off to do, Sonu rushed back home, sobbing and wailing and quaking with fear. When he told Tina about what had happened, she was aghast.

‘These car-drivers think that they own the streets! The bigger and more expensive cars they own, the greater license think they have to do what they like on the roads,’ she protested. ‘They won’t care to stop for a poor kitty, or a blind man or an old woman or a poor vegetableseller pushing his little cart!’ ‘Remember how quiet our lane once was?’ said Tina wistfully.’We could even fly kites and play ball and spin tops on the road then! Sonu, there must be something that we can do about our road now. If things go on like this, we won’t even be able to step out of our homes with all that traffic. I shudder to imagine what damage the noise of the
vehicles is doing to our ears and their smoke to our lungs.’ ‘Hey, I’ve got a brilliant idea!’, exclaimed Sonu. ‘We’re going to set up the Road Manners’ Club!’ ‘Road manners? What’s that,’ asked Tina, quite taken aback.

‘Well, if you have things like table-manners and office manners and other such stuff, why not something like the manners you should observe while driving down the street?’ Sonu replied. And that was how the Road Manners’ Club came into being. It had no office of its  own””naturally, since Tina and Sonu could not afford that. On the days when people flocked to  the nearby office where driving licenses were issued, Tina and Sonu would be there, sitting on the pavement with the gailypainted banner of the Road Manners’ Club slung across a tree behind them. You should have seen how busy they were, distributing the leaflets that they had prepared among the folks who would soon receive their licenses to drive on the roads!

The leaflet, crafted by the children after much discussion, consisted of a set of five simple Road Manners, and a sixth line was an appeal: 1. Please remember that you don’t own the road. You are simply a user. . Please remember that the  road belongs to everybody, and not just you! And ‘everybody’ includes cats and dogs, birds and mice, cows and donkeys and every other creature who
might want to use it. 3. Please remember that the big must give way to the small. And that means Mercedes Benzes give way to Marutis,
who give way to Nanos, who give way to cycles and push-carts, who give way to pedestrians, who give way to birds and four-footed animals. 4. Please don’t horn unless really necessary. 5. Please try to walk if you can really do without driving. That’ll help others (with less noise, congestion and pollution) and it will help you, too””walking does wonders for the system. 6. Join us in requesting the authorities to build proper pavements so that people can walk down the roads without fearing to be run over””as we used to when we were kids.

Some of the folks who took the leaflet that Tina and Sonu still continue to distribute have learnt a thing or two. And that might make a small difference, don’t you think? Who knows, if those few people begin to listen to what the children have to say, a kitten or a pedestrian crossing the road somewhere may be spared a nasty accident.