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Heed the words of Wordsworth: Stop here, or gently pass

Should one stop to help or wait for others to take the initiative?

Gulf News

I came across two contrasting images as I perused newspapers and magazines as part of my daily reading diet.

The first was that of ‘disaster’ tourists driving down to neighbourhoods in the US to see for themselves the effects of super storm Sandy. They had seen vivid images on TV and and read and heard of nothing else for weeks. So, they were determined to view the evidence with their own eyes.

Some of the homeowners who were busy cleaning up in the aftermath were annoyed at this intrusion and couldn’t understand why people get a kick out of seeing destruction.

On the other hand, far away in New Delhi, India, there is a taxi driver who has made it his mission to stop and help accident victims lying on the road. This is an all too familiar sight in a country where road accidents claim a reported 1.5 million lives each year.

Many of these deaths could have been prevented if the victims had been rushed to hospital as soon as possible. But most onlookers and passers-by are reluctant to get involved in what they perceive as an endless stream of red tape and/or police harassment.

However, none of this deters Suraj Prakash Vaid, the 60-year-old driver. When he sees people lying in a pool of blood, their life slowly seeping away, his first instinct is to help in whatever way he can and he follows through on the instinct.

This is where he differs from you or I. We all are saddened by senseless tragedy and many of us are haunted for days by the sights we have seen. We stop, we watch and wait for someone else to take the initiative.

Stock response

But this humble cabbie’s actions are inspiring. He immediately stops and picks up the grievously injured, places them gently in his cab and rushes them to the nearest hospital. Reading this most of us would come up with a stock response — one must never move an accident victim as any movement could be life-threatening.

Over the years, he has learnt to look for signs that indicate the severity of the injuries sustained and knows when to leave well alone and call for an ambulance instead. So, the man who had never felt the need to own a cellphone, bought one to use in crises like the ones he encounter so often.

But Suraj doesn’t wait to count the cost. His only aim is to save a life if he can. And what he has experienced is far from what most of us imagine. He says he has never been harassed by the police and that the gratitude of those he has saved has been reward enough.

To be moved beyond merely feeling sorry or transfixed by a gory accident scene is what distinguishes the ordinary everyday heroes from the rest of us. Most of us are quick to find excuses not to go that extra mile for a perfect stranger.

A common experience while driving here in the UAE is the sight of traffic slowing down suddenly. As you slow to a crawl you imagine various scenarios. These could be anything from an unexpected diversion to an accident.

By the time you reach what seems to be the roadblock you realise that there’s nothing happening on your side of the divider. The flashing emergency lights of the police vehicle are on the other side.

What all the rubber neckers have been doing is slowing down to stare, seemingly mesmerized by mangled vehicles, and trying to reconstruct the incident in their mind’s eye.

So, the next time you are tempted to look over the other side, remember how easy it is to cross over. And there might not be a Suraj to save you.