I presume that was to torment our eardrums to the point of us crawling forward an inch or two as well. We did not feel the necessity to oblige him nevertheless and stood our ground till the rest of the vehicles in front genuinely started to make a move forward.
Then we too, pulled up our car and….BAM! We had been hit at the back by the overzealous bus driver who, in his fervency to rush off to the next halt to grab a load of passengers so that he could fullfil his goal of driving along with a person hanging precariously from every nook and cranny of the bus, had apparently released the clutch prematurely and collided into us. We soon learnt however that he had a different version of the story altogether. He had not jumped forward, he shrieked. It was we who had slid back the few inches of margin which he had kept between our car and his bus and bumped into him. Why had his hand been glued to the horn, we asked. But he was not unprepared for that question either, not he! To warn us of course that we were sliding back! These falsehoods poured glibly from his lips as we listened in amazement. The only time we managed to silence him was when we asked how a car sliding backwards a few inches could cause sufficient impact to crack a break light, dislodge the buffer and dent the boot. Even that silence was not absolute. It was accompanied by some snorts and snide remarks. Later we realized that this volley of answers of his were not “on the spur”, but well thought out. Though this was an isolated event for us, for bus drivers such as he, this was one of numerous such events that they face. They have an answer prepared for every eventuality. The other trick is that they shout as loudly and as raucously as possible in order to intimidate the other party. In such a situation, it is up to the person at the receiving end to make sure that he is not bulldozed over and to be unyielding as to his integrity. The other person must do what is right. Anyhow I will not bore you all by giving all the details of how the traffic police constable arrived and told both parties to pull both vehicles to the side and stop and how we stopped but the bus tried to flee but was caught by the police further down the road and was ignominiously brought to the Fort police station. No, all those details are not necessary because my main objective in writing this article was not to focus on the many flaws of bus drivers since that sort of mentality, or rather the lack of any mentality at all is what is to be expected of the majority of bus drivers who drive on Sri Lankan roads. Why I wrote this, was to comment on the passengers of this particular bus. This was a bus travelling to Mathugama.
These passengers were in a sad situation indeed since that day there were train strikes and thus buses were the only option. Added to that misfortune was the fact that buses going to Mathugama were not the most frequent of buses. Therefore it came about that they could not simply hop out of this bus and hop into another because there was no other bus available. We sympathized with them, we really did. But at the same time, when a road accident takes place, there is a legitimate procedure that must to be followed, especially an accident which is not merely touchand- go, but which has caused significant damage. We need to report it to the police. It’s not a mere matter of whether or not we could claim from our insurance. If we did not report and let him go, later on there is always the possibility that he may have gone and logged a complaint against us, in which case we would be the wrongful party for not having reported. We insisted on the police reporting it in their log. However, considering the plight of the passengers we told the police to take our statement at the very last, after taking the statement of the bus driver and even after the police inspecting the scene of the accident, so that the bus and the people in it could leave and not get needlessly delayed. A good majority of the passengers also accompanied the bus driver and the conductor to the police station. After a few minutes they started getting restless, which is, I suppose, justifiable given the circumstances and their haste to get to their respective homes. Another few minutes and the restlessness increased tenfold and many of them started speaking with raised voices. It did not take long for this to reach the level of a mini riot inside the police station itself. People seemed to forget where they were, what had occurred and who they were speaking to. Many started shouting at the police officers and a good number of shrill female voices could be heard above the din as well. After taking the statement of that party, the police wanted to inspect the location at which the accident actually took place. So we stepped out of the police station. No sooner did we take a step outside, than the two of us were completely engulfed by what seemed at that time like a sea of angry furious people shaking their fists in our faces and with no end of foul words pouring from their lips. The women were not much better, if anything they were worse. I was quite alarmed but thankfully my husband kept his cool. Then when we reached the location, I was instructed to stay in the car and lock the doors. The irate passengers came and surrounded our car and from their behavior, I retrospectively wonder how was it that they did not cause even more damage to the car. There is a saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. Had they stopped at mere insulting words, however filthy, it could have been excused as deriving from the frustration that they were facing. But it was not so. That evening for the first time I saw through my naked eyes (as opposed to television or any other portrayal, of which we see enough) how humans transform into unthinking, irrational, illogical wild animals. Fists crashed down on our car, gruesome faces were pressed to the car windows with the owners of the faces uttering filth and one man went and punched my husband from behind (coward that he was he did not dare go in front of the person he was about to punch). According to section 312 of the Penal Code of Sri Lanka such punching constitutes the criminal offence of “voluntarily causing hurt” and according to section 314 such offence is punishable with “imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.
” Thankfully the police officers were present or else we may have sustained serious injuries not just to our vehicle but to our persons as well. Alas for our poor Paradise Island. There’s nothing much paradisiacal about its inhabitants. The term middle class implies those people who typically have had a reasonably good education, have a family house, and hold a responsible job with a fair salary. This section comprises more than 60 per cent of any country’s society. It is truly terrifying to think that this is the mentality of the majority of our fellow countrymen who serve as representatives of the Sri Lankan populace. Ignorance and lack of understanding is the root of not knowing how to use logic to calm raw anger. It is sense and understanding which differentiates us from animals. However angry or frustrated we may be, as humans we should have the ability to listen to reason and also to know how to behave in certain situations. This seems to be sorely lacking in our country and it is a huge failure on our part. It is very hard to believe that with this sort of mentality of a large majority of the country’s population, Sri Lanka will be able to genuinely move forward as a nation. Any dark cloud has a silver lining however, and this dark cloud was no exception. The silver lining was the police officers who handled our accident at the Fort police station.
One may even liken their behaviour to a gold lining in the dark cloud. The paience, the maturity and the complete impartiality with which they handled the situation is truly commendable. Their grasp of logical facts, their good common sense advice was admirable. I sincerely thank these committed officers and hope that all around Sri Lanka officers such as these will redeem the police force from the blackened image that they sport nowadays. By Thakshila Jayasinghe Dhammearatchi (26)
What more can you expect from a people with leadership at the top really going bonkers !!!!!
daya weerasinghe Thursday, 16 February 2012 12:17 AM
IGNORANCE ........most of the Sri Lankans are.....just look at the Parliment and the ruling family (elected by a nation of ignorance)
jeyarajah Thursday, 16 February 2012 03:56 AM
Thank you Thakshila to write such an article and make me understand the responsibility of a society.Your heading is really fantastic.It was very fortunete that you got a good silver line in the dark.Generally that too was dark in the case of poor innocent people.Your so called silver line appeared because you know some legal matters,and the police officers would have predicted your position.But just imagine how it would had been if you are an innocent low medium class of people. Thank you again.
faqi Wednesday, 15 February 2012 06:21 AM
Not surprised at all at the behavior of some of the passengers in the bus. The Police should have asked the passengers to stay inside the bus till the inquiry was over. Only the bus driver should have been questioned in this case as done in other countries. In any case the car was hit from behind and its obvious to anyone the bus driver was at fault. End of story.
farshad Wednesday, 15 February 2012 06:42 AM
A very good article which made me picture out the whole incident.
Not so proud to be Wednesday, 15 February 2012 03:53 PM
Well said Thakshila. I agree with your comments on the ignorance, easily led and sheep mentality that seem to be prevalent in the Sri Lankan society. Specially like you say 60% or so of the population are literate and educated.
Zarudeen Wednesday, 15 February 2012 04:35 PM
I am so happy to see a right thinking victimized citizen of our self serving society. I used to look at such social reactions in public placed and suffer in silence. You are great. You spoke it out in public. Hope and pray your writing will open eyes of many people
wernie Wednesday, 15 February 2012 04:50 PM
I t is a detailed story of a real incident that every one should read and learn the pathetic situation of our present society,many aspects of hunan behaviou,,in a situation such as discribed.A good one for a case study for students of sociology in the university.
Patta Pal Thursday, 16 February 2012 06:31 AM
Thanks for sharing your real life experience, let us hope someone translates it into sinhala and prints it in a Sinhala paper like Lankadeepa
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