12 May 2015

Some thoughts on Salman Khan, drunk driving & rich people

Drunk driving in India is a peculiar thing. For one thing, it usually happens to the rich: it’s someone flush with daddy’s cash taking their new toy out for a spin, or someone deciding that that getting home in five minutes is more important than following traffic rules. I’m not speaking of the truck drivers who take drugs along the way to keep themselves awake. That’s a different kind of under the influence altogether. But as far as I can tell, if you crash your car because you’ve had one too many shots, you’re usually rich and have been brought up in a life without consequences.

The very first drunk driving incident that registered on my radar has probably gone off yours a long time ago. It involved a young man called Sanjeev Nanda, a BMW and mowing through six people including cops, back in 1999. Once he had killed them, he hurriedly drove his car to a friend’s house and had the bonnet and bumper cleaned of blood. Nanda captured everyone’s imagination —even in that long-ago pre-Twitter age — and most newspapers reported the anger and hatred people had for that Rich Person Entitlement he carried with him, almost waving it before him like a flag. The car was a BMW (strike one), he killed policemen on duty (strike two), he had a friend’s servant wash off the car (strike three), that friend lived in Golf Links, Delhi’s poshest neighbourhood (ding ding ding, you’re out!) If Nanda had turned himself in, if Nanda had maybe gone to the cops and paid them off, if, if, if, who knows, maybe we wouldn’t even have heard that story.

I’ve been thinking of Sanjeev Nanda since the Salman Khan verdict came out. I’ve never understood the blind hero worship of Salman Khan — he’s muscle-y, yes, but he’s not that talented an actor, he’s known (publicly!) to have beaten up his ex-girlfriends, some of them Bollywood’s most loved leading ladies, his reputation as a thug exceeds his reputation for fine cinema, and yet, “the fraternity” as I suppose we must call the opportunistic, much made up stars of Bollywood were behind him to a letter. “One mistake should not define a life,” one of them definitely said. But in this case, one mistake was a big, huge mistake. It’s not “one mistake” when you kill someone, it’s a choice you made to take someone else’s life. And by driving drunk, you’re indicating exactly that: I don’t care very much for my life, and your life is laughable. Plus the better designed the car, the less likely it is that the driver will be injured in all this. No, it’ll be the humans he chooses to mow over like they’re characters in a video game, plowing on till there’s blood everywhere and screams, and yet, the people you work with, the people you work for will still defend you, still call you the greatest human being since Mahatma Gandhi, and am I missing something here?

On the other hand, if Salman Khan’s car had bumped yours, loyal fan, would you still think he was amazing or would you be ready to go, an iron rod in your hand?

It was entirely his fault for driving drunk and people who argue that other people shouldn’t have been sleeping on the footpaths anyway, are barking up an idiotic — not to mention elitist — tree. As someone familiar with Mumbai, you’d know there are people everywhere. If not asleep, what if it was someone taking their dog for a walk? Or someone who couldn’t sleep going for a stroll? It’s not unheard of in Mumbai for people to be out at all hours of the night, and it’s not their job to mind the footpath for any crazy drivers who might decide to run all over it.

If I sound angrier than I normally do, it’s because I am. In two years at college, I lost two people (one a very dear friend) to drunk driving. One was because of one of those above mentioned truck drivers, plowing through city streets and into a car full of people. The other was a passenger in a drunk driving incident. Such a waste and a loss to all of us, and how we mourn them still. All because people like Salman Khan and Sanjeev Nanda think the world is theirs without consequences. Lock them up, put them away. Make it impossible to drive a car when you’re over the limit.

Maybe if you’re one of his supporters, you’ll think a little more about his crime now.


(A version of this came out in mydigitalfc.com)

1 comment:

  1. While I agree about most of what you've written I do not think that drunk driving is limited to the rich. Everyone does it, in fact the rich have chauffeurs to drive them around and money to pay for cabs, other people don't. Do you think drunk college students can call a cab every time they go out to a bar? I for one was hit by a very drunk tempo driver. Police let him off saying he is too poor while you drive a Honda City. In fact Bangalore auto drivers line up before bars at 9 in the morning to have their first quarter before they begin their day. Rich people when caught are drunk spoilt rich brats while drunk old people are just poor drunkards.

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