Sunday, September 02, 2012

The Craziest City in the World. Why Pune Doesn’t Like Helmets and Why It Should!

                                                        The sky can fall on our heads
By Gaurav Parab

There is a place east of Mumbai known as Pune. Its claim to fame is not the universities, or being mentioned every time someone says Mumbai-Pune expressway, or being the correct answer in a quiz every time you hear Badminton.

Pune has a unique distinction. It is perhaps the only place in the entire world where its citizens protest whenever somebody tries to enforce the helmet rule. No typo. I repeat. Pune protests like you will not believe it when somebody says go wear a helmet. Its leaders go on fasts, takeout processions and refuse to eat anything including Chitale Bandhu Bakharwadi.

Pune has a lot of pretty Iranian women. Just for the record.

Delhi based readers would say, “Even if all our uncles are ministers,WE WEAR HELMETS. What’s wrong with Pune? What is wrong with Aundh? (Pronounced O + NDUH by Delhites) We know ministers! Now, where can I get some chole bhature?”

Pune’s local leaders don’t care much for exploding bombs. Or hastily constructed speed breakers that throw people to their death. Or a metro system that was first mooted fifteen years ago. Yet they take out mock funeral processions of helmets to protest an administrative body’s decision to enforce helmets in their jurisdiction.

If you are from Pune, you would have seen this happen every two to three years. Somebody makes a rule to wear a helmet. And the police go all out and penalize everyone who does not wear one including bus passengers and electricity poles minding their own business. The local tabloid runs pictures of policemen riding around without helmets. The helmet sellers make billions and send the money to Mauritius.Then Sunny Leone attends Janmashtmi. People forget.  People keep dying. Years later, somebody once again brings up that uncomfortable rule. Helmet makers celebrate and go party in Thailand.

We seethe, we steam and gutka laced saliva froths out of our lips when someone says Helmets are a good idea. Pune’s arguments is….hold your breath. Helmets cause back aches and cervical issues. They are a medical hazard. Like Uranium enriched Anti- Tank Missiles, and Greek food. Scientific. Very scientific. Breathe again.

If some of our leaders were working on the Large Hydron Collider, they would have discovered the perfect recipe for Wada Pav.

“What purpose do helmets serve?” they ask with straight faces.

But I am a simple man and I like to take people along. I treat the question as an innocent, doubt ridden query that deserves a patient answer. What purpose do helmets serve?

Let us start from the basics. Helmets protect that thing on your shoulders that is so full of weird thoughts and images of Iranian women scattered  around Pune city. The head. Heard of it? Helmets protect that. They are not a fashion statement, they are not a weight to be carried around, they are not an apron worn by contestants on Masterchef Pimpri Chinchwad. They improve your chances of surviving a day on these roads from hell. Like the glasses that you wear help you see things better and not cause trauma on your nose and your ears.

A helmet is the missing thing that sent two of my friends to their deaths. A helmet is that missing thing which made another friend a vegetable for life. A helmet is that missing thing which almost took away the life of a close family member. A helmet is that missing thing that everyone who reads this has probably lost someone to in the course of their lives.

A helmet is that thing which saved my life and the life of my fellow rider when a speeding scooter in blinding rain nicked us and sent us flying years ago. Chances are a helmet is that thing which saved the eyes, head and lives of many of the readers of this blog at some point in their lives.

I have been wearing one for ten years. The only back trouble a helmet has caused is when it was in my bag on a flight back after a long road trip.

A helmet is a good rational idea. It should never be a topic of discussion. You should not have someone ask you to wear one as a matter of law. If you are a parent, you should insist that your child wears one. If you are someone’s child – you should insist your parents wear one ( Note: Two if both are riding together). Even if you are one of those irritating teenagers that sing Jo Tera Hain Who Mera Hain – go tell your friends it’s a cool and hip idea to wear a helmet ( If that is how it is put these days). Heck, paint Che Guerra on it if you want to.

If you don’t want to wear protection, go ahead and kiss that asphalt with your head. But don’t go on telling young impressionable minds that helmet causes neck pain, hair loss, spondylitis, corruption, drought, impotency, and the printer running out of ink.

If you really want to take a mock funeral, why not take out one for every sixth SMS that we could not send in the last fifteen days. Pune wear a helmet and tell everyone you know to do it as well.