Capt Bala's wisdom to the rescue

Broken lines divider at junction into Jalan Pujaan
from dual-lane Jalan Dato Jaafar
IT’S an understatement to say that I had an eventful weekend. On Saturday morning, I was at the Road Survival Skills Programme that was officiated by Johor public order and traffic police chief Superintendent T. Ravindran.

Organised by the Johor Women’s League (Jewel), this programme was facilitated by Captain Balasupramaniam Krishnan of the Malaysian Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association. Through an engaging and enlightening presentation, I learnt a great deal from Capt Bala, a safety activist and expert in crimes against women and girls.

He used real-life case studies in Malaysia to educate and empower the participants. Capt Bala was recognised as an Outstanding Young Malaysian for Humanitarian and Voluntary Services in 2004. He received the Young Humanitarian Award in 2005 for search-and-rescue missions after earthquakes and the Asian tsunami.  His experience and knowledge went a long way to open my eyes to many simple, yet effective, techniques to stay safe on the road.

I didn’t know I had to draw on my newly acquired skills so soon because on Sunday, I was involved in an accident.  For outings with my parents, I drive my mum’s car because it’s more comfortable for the elderly than my three-door car.

Dented rear end of my mum's car
As we were approaching our house, I kept to the right side of the two-lane Jalan Dato Jaafar and indicated to turn right. There was on-coming traffic so I slowed to a stop until it was clear to turn.  Suddenly, I felt a hard bump which was followed by the sound of another loud crash.

A taxi had rear-ended my mum’s car and a van subsequently crashed into the taxi.  As soon as I realised we had been hit, my first response was to see if my parents were all right and despite being quite shaken, we were calm.  All three vehicles had come to a standstill — mine on the right lane with the indicator still on, while the taxi and van were on the left.

When I got out of my car, I saw the taxi driver throwing his hands up in distress as he approached the van.

By this time, the van driver was leaning out of his window with his hand out-stretched.  Both men shook hands, probably to establish camaraderie or in apology, but the next words I heard confirmed that it was a male-bonding ritual.

With his finger pointed at me, the van driver had no qualms in loudly barking: “Itu perempuan berhenti baru signal! (That woman stopped before signalling.)”  Such an unjust and untrue accusation could enrage any self-respecting woman but because I knew what he was doing, I remained calm as he continued his tirade of accusation and self-pity.

The taxi driver seemed confused by how the van driver was drawing him into a “men-united“ front to pin the blame on me. But he was responsible enough to hail a passing taxi to transfer his passengers in their journey before entering the fray again.  I knew what I was up against and to spare my parents the anguish, I asked them to take a short walk home. Left alone with the two men, I remained silent as I listened to their suggested options.

By then, a few taxi comrades had stopped on both sides of the road and came out to inquire with the taxi driver. The van driver had also summoned another friend who promptly joined him there.  If there was one person I wished I had on my speed-dial, it must be Capt Bala. But the next best thing I could do was to apply the knowledge he shared in the programme.

I recognised the typical characteristics of a road bully and I was not about to become a victim.  While the men were discussing options on what to do next, I quietly wrote down the vehicles’ details, took photos and called my brother. 

I remembered Capt Bala saying, “Survival is a dying art” and he ended with the encouragement, “It’s up to you now!”

Everything happened in a split-second but I was absolutely certain of the facts.  I drive on this same stretch of road several times daily and have the discipline of using indicators well ahead of time.

To avoid any confrontation, I spoke very little during the discussion and when all options were exhausted, they reached a conclusion to lodge a police report. 

From the start, I was ready to refer the matter to the police but the other drivers were adamant about thrashing out the issue.  My brother met me at the police station and as I walked in, I could sense the irony as it was only yesterday that I was at the Road Survival Skills Programme!

The issue of safety is a matter close to every woman’s heart and this experience proved again how women, in the aftermath of an accident, could easily be intimidated by dramatic outbursts laced with false accusations. Women drivers in shock can also be overwhelmed by being out-numbered by strange men, who naturally stand together against “silly women drivers”.  I agree with Capt Bala, who said “Knowledge is important” because it was knowledge that has kept me composed sure and strong in that incident.

This article was first published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 28 July 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment