W’end Links: White Tiger, Road Safety and the Loony Fringe
First this weekend, a post by Sandeep in which he explains why Aravind Adiga’s ”White Tiger” is award-winning India-bashing. To Sandeep’s analysis, I would add this nugget (Hat Tip: Sh Kak; emphasis mine)
Michael Portillo, chairman of the five-member judging panel, praised The White Tiger…
“What set this one apart was its originality,” Portillo said. “For many of us this was entirely new territory — the dark side of India.
“It’s a book that gains from dealing with very important social issues — the divisions between rich and poor and the impossibility of the poor escaping from their lot in India.”
Next, a fascinating scheme involving “naked” streets (i.e. streets without road signs, traffic lights etc) being trialled in London which suggests that the apparently mindless chaos on Indian roads may actually be saving lives and increasing road-safety!
Brief excerpts from all the articles below:
*** Excerpts from When an Award is Not Just an Award ***
…Beating predictions by bookies and others, debutant Indian novelist 33-year-old Aravind Adiga’s book ‘The White Tiger’ was declared the winner of the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction for 2008.
…Balram begins at the very bottom, without so much as a name; his family call him only “Munna”, or “boy”. His mother might have named him, but she was too busy dying of TB. His father was too busy pulling a rickshaw, weakening himself to be claimed by the same disease. A schoolteacher has to name him instead; later, a local official decides on his date of birth in order to facilitate the stealing of his vote.
When luck and a ruthless eye for the main chance land him a driving job in the “Light” of New Delhi with one of the landlords’ families, the moral darkness only increases.
We do meet someone who might almost be a sympathetic character – the idealistic, New York-educated landlord’s son for whom Balram works – but he proves soon enough to be weak rather than virtuous, accumulating a record of betrayal that makes Balram’s route to the top seem almost straightforward.
The White Tiger is a furious and brutally effective counterblast to smug “India is shining” rhetoric – that particular slogan is never mentioned, but the election it lost is crucial to the plot – which also directs hard, well-aimed kicks at hypocrisy and thuggery on the traditionalist Indian Left.
Traffic lights have been uprooted and drivers must negotiate their way across junctions, forcing them to slow down and establish eye contact with pedestrians.
In the town of Drachten, the removal of traffic lights at one major junction has resulted in accidents falling from thirty-six in the four years before the scheme was introduced to two in the next two years. The average time for each vehicle to cross the junction fell from 50 seconds to 30 seconds, despite a rise in the volume of traffic.
Owen Paterson, the Shadow Transport Minister, visited Drachten and other Dutch towns. He told The Times: “There are some great ideas here which I would like to see in Britain. It’s the opposite of the 1960s ethos of separating cars and pedestrians. By removing road signs and traffic lights and changing the appearance of the road, you avoid the impression that areas are designated just for cars.
“The idea is to create space where there is mild anxiety among everyone so they all behave cautiously. No one thunders along at 30mph on a high street thinking that they have priority.” Mr Paterson said that putting up more speed limit signs and painting more lines on the road had failed to make streets safer. “Instead of the State laying down the rules, we need to give responsibility back to road users. It’s about creating an environment where it just doesn’t feel right to drive faster than 20mph.”
Some aspects of the shared space approach have already been adopted on London streets that have high numbers of pedestrians. At Seven Dials in Covent Garden, the road surface has been altered to give it the appearance of a pedestrian area and kerbs have been lowered to encourage people to wander across the street.
In Kensington High Street, almost 600 metres of railings have been removed to allow pedestrians to cross where they want. The results have discredited the belief that railings prevent accidents: in the two years after they were removed, pedestrian casualties declined three times faster than the London average. Traffic engineers believe that drivers are now keeping a sharper eye out for pedestrians because they know that they may cross at any point.
…Martin Cassini, the report’s author, said: “Removing lights removes barriers to traffic flow and improves behaviour. If you observe a junction where the lights are out of action, there is rarely congestion. People approach slowly, wave each other on and filter in turn. Lights and other controls hamper instead of harness human nature, causing untold delay and harm.”
*** End of Excerpts ***
*** From God save Hinduism from the Hindu lunatic fringe ***
“Christians are setting their own homes on fire to get good compensation. There are rivalries among Christian groups. They are attacking and killing each other.”
60 Christians have been killed in the wave of retaliation that has followed the dastardly murder of Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati, but Prakash Sharma, chief of the Bajrang Dal, has been quoted in The Times, London as saying:
“How can you be sure Christians are not killing each other?”
A Catholic nun has told the Orissa police that she had been raped by four men, an incident confirmed by a medical examination, but Subhash Chauhan, Orissa’s chief of the Bajrang Dal has been quoted by The New York Times as saying that:
“…the nun had not been raped but had had regular consensual sex.”