Let us ask a fundamental question. Why do we use mirrors? It makes us feel good, makes us feel confident about our looks or otherwise or sometimes props up our vanity. It sometimes verges onto narcissism, a word coined after the poor Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection and ruined his life. Let me be little more specific. Why the mirrors are used on a two wheeler? The answer will be quite different. But if I say that I found a town where mirrors are not so much in use atleast on the roads on two wheelers, does that mean the denizens of this town are free from the ills of vanity or I can say they don't care much about their looks or they have excellent road sense that a rear view mirror is superfluous.
As I was riding my scooter through the dusty pot hole filled roads of Dharmavaram, a small town around 40 kms from Puttaparthi, I found it quiet difficult to negotiate through these cluttered chaotic roads. To get some space for my scooter to manouvre, I was adding to the already existing chaos with the harsh sound of the croaking of a frog of my Honda Eterno. As one motorcyclist came just in front of me, the artificial frog croaked full throated but there was no clearance from the fellow in front of me. I tried to search for his face in his rear view mirror to gesticulate him to move out. I found none. When I turned around, to my surprise, I was the only narcissist or a vain fellow or I can say the one who scrupulously follows some basic road rules, in that posse of motorcyclists.
I remember when I went for my first driving license test, first because I failed a couple of times once in prelims and the second time in practicals not because I was not competent enough but because I had a soft corner for Anna Hazare and had made an iron resolve not to contribute my part to this ill of the society. One question asked in the written test was about the importance of rear view mirrors. I answered it correctly- It helps to keep an eye on the rear side beyond the peripheral vision of the driver during parking, lane changing or taking a turn.
I grew curious to find out why I was the odd man out in this group of motor cyclists. Dharmavaram is a busy town always bustling with activity due to its roaring silk saree business. One can hear the sound of people working on their looms in many of its labyrinthine by lanes. It also has a rail head which is an important junction to reach the spiritual town of Puttaparthi. The railroad bisects the town into two. During peak hours of traffic the level crossings across these tracks are very busy. I reached one such level crossing and waited patiently for the train to come. Many motorists were scurrying away with their two wheelers, bending their vehicles and passing underneath the iron bar of the level crossing. With the deftness of an accomplished gymnast the riders took the two wheelers near the level crossing, bent it low cleared the hurdle and sped away riding the vehicles.
Either side of the level crossing, there were boards which had broken backs, twisted arms, disfigured faces as they had angered the two wheelers with their message and bore the brunt of their fury. Still they were holding fort and trying to scream a message to apparently blind eyes,
‘Danger: Don’t cross the tracks when the gates are closed.’