Life is Cheap

Very cheap in India. Alistair Pareira, a 21 year old, in a fit of drunken driving, ran over a bunch of sleeping people a few months ago in Mumbai. He successfully killed seven (including one pregnant woman and two children) and injured eight others.

Those who died were poor. The judgement was that it was a case of rash driving. The judge Ajit Mishra ruled that the drunken driver was not guilty of culpable homicide but was just guilty of rash driving.

The driver is a rich kid. It is amazing how badly the police mess up an investigation when rich people are invovled in a crime.

I am reminded of the incident of the wine-shop in Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.” The carriage of Monsieur the Marquis runs over a little child and kills him.

With a wild rattle and clatter, and an inhuman abandonment of consideration not easy to be understood in these days, the carriage dashed through streets and swept round corners, with women screaming before it, and men clutching each other and clutching children out of its way. At last, swooping at a street corner by a fountain, one of its wheels came to a sickening little jolt, and there was a loud cry from a number of voices, and the horses reared and plunged.

But for the latter inconvenience, the carriage probably would not have stopped; carriages were often known to drive on, and leave their wounded behind, and why not? But the frightened valet had got down in a hurry, and there were twenty hands at the horses’ bridles.

“What has gone wrong?” said Monsieur, calmly looking out.

A tall man in a nightcap had caught up a bundle from among the feet of the horses, and had laid it on the basement of the fountain, and was down in the mud and wet, howling over it like a wild animal.

“Pardon, Monsieur the Marquis!” said a ragged and submissive man, “it is a child.”

“Why does he make that abominable noise? Is it his child?”

“Excuse me, Monsieur the Marquis–it is a pity–yes.”

The fountain was a little removed; for the street opened, where it was, into a space some ten or twelve yards square. As the tall man suddenly got up from the ground, and came running at the carriage, Monsieur the Marquis clapped his hand for an instant on his sword-hilt.

“Killed!” shrieked the man, in wild desperation, extending both arms at their length above his head, and staring at him. “Dead!”

The people closed round, and looked at Monsieur the Marquis. There was nothing revealed by the many eyes that looked at him but watchfulness and eagerness; there was no visible menacing or anger. Neither did the people say anything; after the first cry, they had been silent, and they remained so. The voice of the submissive man who had spoken, was flat and tame in its extreme submission. Monsieur the Marquis ran his eyes over them all, as if they had been mere rats come out of their holes.

He took out his purse.

“It is extraordinary to me,” said he, “that you people cannot take care of yourselves and your children. One or the other of you is for ever in the way. How do I know what injury you have done my horses. See! Give him that.”

He threw out a gold coin for the valet to pick up, and all the heads craned forward that all the eyes might look down at it as it fell. The tall man called out again with a most unearthly cry, “Dead!”

He was arrested by the quick arrival of another man, for whom the rest made way. On seeing him, the miserable creature fell upon his shoulder, sobbing and crying, and pointing to the fountain, where some women were stooping over the motionless bundle, and moving gently about it. They were as silent, however, as the men.

“I know all, I know all,” said the last comer. “Be a brave man, my Gaspard! It is better for the poor little plaything to die so, than to live. It has died in a moment without pain. Could it have lived an hour as happily?”

“You are a philosopher, you there,” said the Marquis, smiling. “How do they call you?”

“They call me Defarge.”

“Of what trade?”

“Monsieur the Marquis, vendor of wine.”

“Pick up that, philosopher and vendor of wine,” said the Marquis, throwing him another gold coin, “and spend it as you will. The horses there; are they right?”

Without deigning to look at the assemblage a second time, Monsieur the Marquis leaned back in his seat, and was just being driven away with the air of a gentleman who had accidentally broke some common thing, and had paid for it, and could afford to pay for it; when his ease was suddenly disturbed by a coin flying into his carriage, and ringing on its floor.

“Hold!” said Monsieur the Marquis. “Hold the horses! Who threw that?”

He looked to the spot where Defarge the vendor of wine had stood, a moment before; but the wretched father was grovelling on his face on the pavement in that spot, and the figure that stood beside him was the figure of a dark stout woman, knitting.

“You dogs!” said the Marquis, but smoothly, and with an unchanged front, except as to the spots on his nose: “I would ride over any of you very willingly, and exterminate you from the earth. If I knew which rascal threw at the carriage, and if that brigand were sufficiently near it, he should be crushed under the wheels.”

Later that night the Marquis is stabbed to death in his bed. Round the knife stuck into his heart is a messasge which reads “Drive him fast to his tomb. This, from Jacques.”

Author: Atanu Dey


10 thoughts on “Life is Cheap”

  1. This brings back memories. I remember back in ’97, a couple of my dad’s colleagues’ sons were involved in an accident, where when they were racing their scooters they lost control and rammed into an old lady sitting outside her hut. She died. They paid the family off. I didn’t know those kids too well so I can’t say if they were sorry.I certainly hope they were. What has always stayed with me is though everyone spoke in hushed tones of disapproval, it was evident that everyone, deep down, approved of the outcome. That the kids didn’t end up in jail. I don’t really know how to qualify it, but there was this element of ‘hota hai’.

    I see a lot of people expressing outrage in the media, but that in no way suggests that these people would have acted different if their kids or relatives were involved. I know it isn’t fair to apply a common standard for judging everyone’s intentions, considering I’ve only known a small fraction of them. So let me speak for that fraction. They sure as hell will feel angry and sympathize with the poor people in the incident. However, deep down I know that if this had been their kid they wouldn’t have thought twice about ‘bailing’ him/her out the same way the Pareiras did.

    Like you said, life’s cheap. We live in a pretention of a democracy.


    What do the dead care?


  2. When the Police of the country is largely corrupt… much is possible.

    Do not just ask for better standards from the rich and successful, ask from the marauding mobs as well – who regularly go on rampage in cities across india – Rajkumars death – lynch a policeman! Thats what they did.

    Unless the law is fairly and equally applied to all – nobody would abide by it.


  3. I fault those sleeping in dangerous locations for making their lives cheap too.
    There is a herdish mentality everywhere but appears more prounounced in india.

    My father was laughed at in india when he wore a helmet on when ridging his moped by nearly every one in bhilai.
    They used to say at least purchase a scooter if you are going to wear a helmet.

    It taught me an important lesson early on which is to give a middle finger salute to unsolicited advice givers.

    Incidentaly he also allways wore shoes while riding and asked my mom to put on a salwar and not sit sideways.

    Indian roads are still kayotic whith fat grandma sitting sideways people with prescription glasses not wearing them while riding.
    Hell i got a license in india without ever taking a road test.

    As far as we knew we were the one of the 3 families in the street of 30 family who bought legally mandated insurance.

    Every one used to say oh jee yeh to bhilai hai accident ke baad bhi steel plant walon ko insurance mil jayegi.

    It aint the rich kid who is as guilty but every one.


  4. I ran accross this priceless gem.

    Anthony, who owns a metallurgical unit where he makes dye moulds, sounded angry as he said: “My son is being held in a lock-up as a common criminal. Salman Khan did the same thing (mowed down pavement dwellers) four years back. Did they put him in the lock-up?”

    So indians should do what they did with Salman Khan.
    Adore him, Engage in mental masturbation* and watch mr Paraiera’s movies.
    And the great Indian American community should pay him money to come shake his ass on the stage and take some more dough back home.

    *whenever watching BollyWood(mutthy muth) a double handed mental masturbation technique is required hands going up and down the temple.


  5. Such tragedy cause senseless pain and loss all around the world, all we can do is renounce violence in our personal lives in order to make the world a better place. All life has value.



  6. I have question, even though it is not related to the above incident.

    How should we judge if an action is RIGHT or WRONG?
    A) Based on the result of the action.
    B) Based on the the action itself.


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