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When speed kills

It’s not an exception but a trend: inebriated rich brats drive their expensive luxury car rashly, and often end up killing people. Most cases go unreported

Two weeks ago, 51-year-old Turkmenistan national Gulshat Alijanova was killed, three others were critically injured when a speeding Bentley car banged an auto-rickshaw she was travelling in. The speeding luxury car was driven by Asees Singh Chadha, the 19-year-old nephew of business tycoon Ponty Chadha.

As per Madhur Verma, New Delhi’s Deputy Commissioner of Police, Asees Singh has been charged under section 279 (rash driving) and 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code.

This case is not an exception but one of many examples where a teenager or a young man from a rich family while driving expensive cars in a reckless fashion, mostly under the influence, end up killing people on the road or mowing down poor people sleeping on the pavement, or pedestrians.

Not long ago, in this hit-and-run case, Sidharth Sharma, 32, marketing executive in a multinational company, was trampled to death while he was crossing the road near Ludlow Castle School by a speeding Mercedes driven by a teenager of 17 years who was out on a pleasure ride with friends.

This happened around 8.45 pm. The impact was so strong that car’s tyre burst open. The teenagers emerged from the car after it came to a grinding halt, according to eyewitnesses and fled the scene. Later, the driver employed by the teenagers’ father claimed that he was behind the wheel, though he changed his statement later.

The capital was horrified as the video of the accident went viral on the social media.

Rich kids and big cars make a deadly combination on the road. These young men have strange idea of how to have a good time. Speeding in a big expensive car gives them thrills — in most cases, they are inebriated and end up losing control of the car. Most of the time, fortunately, no one gets killed, and the matter remains unreported, or influential parents make sure that it doesn’t get reported.

There’s one such young individual who joined Amity University last year. High on ‘spirits’, he liked to drive late at night inside his “metal fortress” — Audi S6 — at dazzling speed, fueled by both adrenalin and alcohol in his blood. He picked this reporter from AIIMS crossing at 11 pm on a Saturday evening and reached Gurgaon’s National Media Centre in 15 minutes flat. He did stop at a couple of red lights, like pit stops, and that was it.

These big cars are like expensive toys for them, and their world fanciful: they enjoy the danger when man and machine are pushed to their limits. The night was spent partying, with some dozen luxury cars parked outside. “German cars can take the pounding of rash driving while Japanese cars are fairweather friends,” one of them was heard saying.

Parents encourage their kids, as long as they don’t get killed. The instructions are clear: If you meet with an accident, just leave the car and take a cab back home. Late at night, girl by your side, speeding in a luxury car, is a sign of leading the high life. “My father tells me ‘Big cars are safe, you’re safe inside’,” he says. If things go wrong, it can be managed, mostly.

There are many instances when after an accident, the rich brats just leave the scene, their car worth a couple of crores languishing by the wayside.  In some cases, it takes the police a while to figure out who owns the car and who was driving at the time. Like the white Lamborghini Huracan that crashed on Noida-Greater Noida Expressway last year. It was ascertained after much investigation that the owner was Italica Motors and was being driven by one Vaibhav Singh in his early twenties.

In 2015, well past midnight near India Gate, a yellow Lamborghini Gallardo, driven at a speed of 150 km per hour, hit the pavement and turned turtle. No one was injured, the driver fled; it remains a mystery who was driving the car.

But then sometimes drivers do get killed, for it’s not easy to tame a sports car, it requires lot of practice. The classic example is of a real estate tycoon, 28-year-old Anukool Rishi, speeding in a Lamborghini Gallardo Valentine Balboni special edition car a few years ago. It crashed on the BRT corridor in the wee hours few years ago. His family wasn’t even aware that he had purchased the luxury car for Rs 2.2 crore just a month before he met his end.  This may seem a cliche, but speed thrills and also kills.

There are big names involved in such crashes: Salman Khan, Sanjeev Nanda, Janhavi Gadkar, Alistair Anthony Pereira, to name just a few. Patricia Uberoi, a sociologist of repute, describes the vehicle’s engine power as a domineering metal that resonates with the psyche of driver. “A moving car is neither a public space nor private sphere,” says Uberoi, “[It is] a liminal space where people can shed their duality for a while and do things they would not otherwise do.” That makes them dangerous.