September 17, 2010: Madhurima Das (Age-16, Student, Class XI)- Hit by a local train near Dumdum Cantt.
4 days later, September 21, 2010: Paramita Jana and Bidisha Mandal (Age: 18, First year college students)- Hit by a train near Sealdah.
5 days later, September 26, 2010: Lakshman Singh (Age: 32, Painter)- Hit by a train between dumdum and Baranagar.
48 days later, November 13, 2010: Priyanjana Roy (Age: 20, 2nd yr student, Surendranath College): Hit by a Sealdah-bound local train.
These are not the statistics of railway accidents over the last 60 days, nor of the accidental student deaths in the period, they are the people who died because of their love for “staying connected”. Well, let me explain a bit:
Madhurima was a young girl of 16, a class XI student from Baidyanath Girls’ School. She was returning home from a morning tuition class, chatting on the phone. While crossing the railway tracks, she was apparently so engrossed in her conversation that she didn’t notice the approaching train. The locals shouted to her but to no avail. She was hit, sustained severe injuries and died on the way to the hospital.
People were still discussing about the incident and prevalence of cell phones among the youth when tragedy dealt a double blow again 4days later. This time, the victims were Paramita Jana and Bidisha Mandal. They were classmates at college and close friends. In what seemed like a replay of the earlier incident, Paramita was glued to her cell phone and didn’t notice the coming train, barely 100 meters away. Bidisha, her friend, tried to pull her to safety but ended up becoming a victim herself...who would have thought that a friend could lose her life for her friend in this manner…
These incidents were supposed to have instilled caution in the people and it was believed that they would be more careful at crossings now until 5 days later, when Lakshman Singh, a house painter, was hit in the same fashion again and with the same results. The only change this time was that instead of chatting, he was listening to music on his phone, with the earphones plugged in.
Using the cell phone has been a produce of the recent times, an evident effect of lowered costs and increasing connectivity. Gone are the days when there used to be one land-line at home (and often people had none), and even neighbors used to quote that number for their calls. Now every home has at least as many phones as the number of members and more often than not, the number of cellphones is even more with a single person having multiple numbers. This has predictably led to a rise in the number of hours we spend on the phone. Experts argue that this phenomenon, after the advent of e-mail, has led to the most dramatic drop in individual productivity. In trying to pay attention to the chatter on the phone, we tend to neglect what is happening around us. The results are sometimes dramatic.
Talking on the phone while driving has been the cause of most number of avoidable accidents after drunken driving, but there is awareness spreading on the issue. One can find posters and photos promoting safe driving all along the roads but there is little awareness of the evils of using the phone while walking. In fact, we have mobile companies advising “Walk when you talk”. I myself witnessed an incident when a friend was so busy texting his girlfriend that he didn’t notice the newly dug ditch on the road. He was relatively lucky and just fractured a limb.
I have been writing all this not to advise on the perils of cellphone use and for a change, I won’t suggest anything either but next time you “Walk and Talk” or Walk and Text, please do a favor: Ask yourself one question- Is this call (or sms) worth my life? This answer would not just save you from numerous possible self-inflicted “accidents” but also save your loved ones a thousand worries and possible misfortunes. If you still feel the urge, think about their world without you- how would your parents or your little brother/sister, your girlfriend or your best friend cope. Still want to chat? Okay, if it’s so urgent why not stand-and-talk, instead of walk-and-talk? It would just cost you some time. Time, no doubt, is money but then is money more important than your life?