Ashok Need Not Have Died !

Jun 9, 2010

“Some men make a womanish complaint that it is a great misfortune to die before our time. I would ask what time? Is it that of Nature? But she, indeed, has lent us life, as we do a sum of money, only no certain day is fixed for (re) payment. What reason then to complain if she demands it at (her) pleasure, since it was on this condition that you received it?” (brackets supplied)

 - Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman philosopher, statesman and orator, Italy (BC106-43).
Who is Ashok? He would have been added as one more number to the statistics of death of Indian road accident victims. But, in his case, when Conrad Ashok Kumar Pashan died in a two-wheeler accident at Valencia Circle, Mangalore on June 2, 2010, local citizens gave vent to their rage holding a protest Rasta Roko near Valencia Circle. Ashok was pillion–riding, with his cousin Michael D’Souza riding the vehicle. He was being reached to Bajpe airport to catch a plane to Dubai, to resume his job in Sharjah. According to eye-witnesses, Ashok was thrown off on the road when the bike skidded and the rider lost balance as the tyre swerved on the edge of the incomplete, unmarked and unprotected concrete bed. This happened at 7 AM and though Ashok was rushed to the nearby Fr. Muller Hospital immediately, he breathed his last at 8.30 PM the same day.

On the funeral day, June 3, the angry crowd of protesters stopped the hearse carrying Ashok’s body in a coffin and dipped their head in final homage to yet another victim of road accidents in Mangalore due to the negligence of road building contractors and nil or poor supervision by the babus of Mangalore City Corporation (MCC). It may be noted that by June 5 MCC woke up from its criminal slumber and smoothened and leveled the road surface and tapered off the side aprons – a case of locking the barn door after the horses bolted off.
Why did Ashok go on a two-wheeler to the airport while other air passengers zoom off on high-end cars? This reflects the life-style (or lack of it) of the Pashan family which is now rooted in St. Josephnagar at Jeppu, over a century-old and still the largest housing colony in Mangalore - promoted by 130-year-old Jeppu Workshop. It was suggested that a taxi could be hired. But, Ashok, with only a small hand-carry-bag with three sets of clothes in it, decided that a two-wheeler was good enough. Incidentally, it was his first home visit after he got his job in the Gulf in 2008. On his maiden journey to the airport then also, Michael had reached him on his two-wheeler. This reflects the economic condition of the Pashan family.
Ashok is the elder of the two sons of Pascal Pashan who had come to Mangalore as a young lad from his ancestral homestead at Kokkada in Uppinangady taluk. He worked as a sacristan at Milagres church for eight years and later as a clerk in Cascia Tile Works and AR D’Souza cloth shop on Market Road. Married to Theresa in 1967, the couple had two surviving boys – Ashok, born in 1969, and Santosh Stephen, born in 1971. Pascal died in 1979, leaving the responsibility of bringing up the two sons to their 39 years old widowed mother who is now frail and exhausted with several years of chronic, debilitating illness and frequent hospitalization.
It is in this setting that Ashok had to struggle through high school earning his SSLC and later do certificate courses from St. Joseph’s Industrial Asylum (Jeppu Workshop) training school in carpentry and interior decoration. Among his notable works is a specially carved chair (with a co-worker) to enthrone Pope John Paul II on his historic visit to Bajpe, in 1986, where he delivered a sort of sermon on the mount to the multitude assembled on the vast plateau. The neatness of his work is also seen in the wall-to-wall show-case he had made for the “Middle Room” in his small, cozy home. He has also hand-carved, without usual electrical tools, the main door of the house, with his artistic prowess reflected in the door panel with a ship motif in relief. Ashok took orders for furniture, show cases and interior decoration and executed them at sites.
Meanwhile, his younger brother, Santosh, completed his PUC and starting as a canteen worker and ended up owning the small canteen close to Don Bosco Hall on Balmatta Road. While the younger brother married at the age of 35 years, Ashok, now 42, put off the topic of matrimony, with the burden of supporting his closely-knit joint family upper-most on his mind.
Enter Michael, Theresa’s brother’s son, who gave Ashok his last ride.  Now 41 years, he has been member of this close-knit family from the age of six. He has a shop in Kulsheker selling stationary, providing travel services and securing PAN cards. He was still shell-shocked and in a daze when I visited the bereaved family on June 5. The visit brought back to me the lines of Henry Wardsworth Longfellow, US poet and scholar (1807-1882):

At first laying down, as a fact fundamental,
That nothing with God can be accidental.
The bereaving household seems to have absorbed this philosophy. It was a picture of serenity, resignation and dignified mourning. There was no breast-beating and blame game. But, that is no reason to absolve callous road contractor mafia and MCC babus  of their criminal acts of omission and commission leading to death traps. Ashok got 5 minutes of media exposure. But, others have been killed and gone silently without trace beyond the bereaved families. Ashok need not have died. But, having died, his death should bestir the concerned to act and save others from potential death traps. If this is done, Ashok would not have died in vain. This is a wake-up call to the slumbering babus of MCC and their colluding contractors.  One can only conclude with John Milton, English poet (1606-1674) in Paradise Lost:
Awake, arise or be for ever fallen!
John B. Monteiro, author and journalist, is editor of his website (Interactive Cerebral Challenger)


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Comment on this article

  • Nadeem Hameed, karkala/UAE

    Thu, Jun 10 2010

    Why are you people dying to be in bangalore? You want the best and u know karnataka is the place..How many kannadigas hav u seen in kerala?

  • alwyn sequeira, kulshekar

    Thu, Jun 10 2010

    seeing the photograph of his family really ones heart melts,what i find in india our life has no value, ashok died, protests were made, but this does not affect our thin skinned politicians and govt workers, i dont say all of them but the one who are responsible for the death of this young man who was the backbone of his family,may god bless his family nd give them the strength to bear the loss

  • Anand Dsilva, Dubai

    Wed, Jun 09 2010

    I second Mr Colin Dsouza's comments. Currently the rule is only the rider of the two wheeler must wear a helmet. Many are reluctant though. Research shows that 80% of the injuries are head related. Most of them wear helmets without buckling the strap and others wear helmets used at construction sites. I go further to say that pillion riders as well as children sitting in the front must be made compulsorily to wear a helmet. I do not understand the logic of only the rider being required to wear a helmet.

    It is apathetic that there are no road signs on Indian roads. Humps do not have road markings, generally a small plant is placed in front of huge craters and there are no humps or sign boards at important crossings. Even the police leave their gates on main roads that otherwise they use in the night for noting vehicle numbers without moving it aside. On the whole the administration and our people are simply not aware of traffic rules, road engineering, signage boards etc as required for risk free and smooth traffic. We have just made a small transition from bullock carts to motor vehicles since Britishers left.

    Ashok was clearly a victim of negligence of the road work. I believe there is a dispute between the residents and MCC. Until the verdict is given atleast the other half of the stretch of concrete could have been completed. What is now left is less than 50% of the road that was in existence earlier.

  • philip, mangalore

    Wed, Jun 09 2010

    Mr. THOMAS, kannadigas ar intelligent and educated yes, they are also kind hearted, well mannered,and also respectful to other fellow citizens of india. while you mallu's are not. then why is there such a big influx/migration of keralites to karnataka for education and healthcare and to live there too go hike in UP and Bihar istead of Bahrain mr thomas.....

  • Srikanth Shenoy, Mangalore

    Wed, Jun 09 2010

    @ Mr. V Thomas Bahrain. does your comment have any relation with this topic.
    i suppose u should have conveyd your condolences to the family and tried to find a solution to help them so that they come out of the present senario.
    Do you feel at this point of the time it is right on our part ( as you say brilliant kannadiga's) to speak on political issues ?

    Brilliance Speaks for it self ...

  • Paul, Valencia/Dubai

    Wed, Jun 09 2010

    We all blame MCC for negleigence.Agrred.Why didnt all these leaders who where protesting not awake before.This valencia road from Kankandy till Nadiguda is half done.Why did Eric put a stay on cuting of trees. Does'nt he has woodden chairs or furniture in his house made of wood. People of Valencia should protest in front of his house.Our Valencia was one of the best roads .Now it is one of the worste roads.The steep near Bishop lane(near to more supermarket.) is going to cause a big accident one day. The vechiles coming into the main road from this lane it such a steep that if the poerson has to apply breaks his vechile will just slide backwards.The vechiles the coming on from the main road do not have the courtesy to stop even if they see a vechile comming from the oppiste road.. There should be a speed braker put in front of "More supermarket." Corporater of valencia is just good for nothing.If she had little guts &power our valencia wouldnt have been like this same goes to Ivan Dsouza..Atleast now let these so called protestors show in action.
    How the roads in front of Palemar house,Nagaraj shetty's house done very broad & good same way why cant Ivan Dsouza do this in Valencia. All are only for positions.
    I request daiji to mail this sugeestion to these person so theat they open their eyes &do some omprovement for valencia.
    As i dont have these peoples mail address. Let us not loose any life in these roads at valencia.Let us keep Valencia safe .

  • Colin M. D'souza, Raleigh, U.S.A.

    Wed, Jun 09 2010

    Ashok's case brings back memories of June 06, when my cousin Rathan Pinto passed away in a similar manner near City Hospital.

    Following safety norms set by the authorities is definitely one way by which we can avoid dire consequences of such accidents. Instead of pointing fingers at the administration and hospital services, don't you all think that as responsible citizens, we should propagate safe driving standards, usage of helmets for both the rider and pillion rider and adherence to traffic rules and regulations.

    Safe driving standards will be difficult to enforce by the authorities, given the number of vehicles and complex road network. That is where citizens who are protesting against poor road conditions, should concentrate on safety education for motorists. We do not have the power to influence the administration over night but what we do have in hand is the ability to influence our friends and family.

    The reason I raised this issue is because I have been involved in a car-bike accident and the rider of the bike survived his fall only because he had a helmet on and I thanked my stars for his effort to follow safety procedures.

    I yet hold the contractors of the road and the hospital responsible for my cousins death, but I very well know within me that things would have been different had he used a helmet.

    Please get your family n friends to wear a helmet (A good one n not those cricket helmets), buckle up in a car etc. that is the best you can do to see them again.

  • ayub malpe, mangalore

    Wed, Jun 09 2010

    so sad ! my heartfelt condolences to ashok's family.May god bless them with courage to face the situation.May his soul rest in peace.

  • V. Thomas, Bahrain

    Wed, Jun 09 2010

    Why, the govt. has signed MOU worth 4 Lac Crores with Global Investors !! Oh it is how easy to fool the Kannadigas !! I was under the impression that Kannadigas are most intelligent & educated people, but, since two years it has been noticed that Kannadigas are worst than people of U.P. and easy prey to greedy Politicians. God only can save us.

  • Jawar D'Souza, Doha/M'lore

    Wed, Jun 09 2010

    These contractors are so careless that they leave the open pits ungaurded. Once my sister who is a school Teacher fell into one of those pits and had to be hospitalised and the police man who regestired the complaint was saying to say that it was her fault, Such is the situation in our city. Safety is not being observed once the accident happens then they think about safety. No one should be allowed to work with safety norms. Its better to give contract's to big companies who follow the safety norm's, no one is bothered until it happens to them.

  • Fr Francis Rodrigues, Mangalore

    Wed, Jun 09 2010

    Late Pope John Paul II visited Bajpe-India on 6.2.1986. Then he visited Delhi in November 1999.

  • Albert D'Mello, Dubai / Mangalore

    Wed, Jun 09 2010

    Mangalore seems to be the step-child of the Karnataka government. There are many questions that come to mind - Where does the money earmarked for Mangalore developments disappear? Why is very little invested on infrastructure projects? Why does Mangalorean civic officials and businessmen make a big noise about inviting investments to the city when the infrastructure is not in place? How many more young lives will be lost before the govt finally wakes up?


    Wed, Jun 09 2010

    it happens only in INDIA

  • map, Mangalore

    Tue, Jun 08 2010

    We will hear more of these kind of accidents in coming days as monsoon sets in. One of the area which is dangerous for two wheelers is near HDFC Bank, Kadri, where-in interlock tiles have been laid and become slippery during rains. There is also an open pit which is not filled.

  • prasanna, mangalore

    Tue, Jun 08 2010

    a case of locking the barn door after the horses bolted off says the author. i think its sheer negligence. or rather apathy. "what can you do?" attitude.
    there are probably 10-15 schools in the city limits. on how many days has anyone seen a cop during school hours? yes there was a loner for a couple of days when a nursing student died near scs last year. probably they are waiting for another disaster to happen. maybe they think as they are govt employees they too have 10 to 5 jobs!
    its not enough if you catch a lone terrorist in bhatkal or uppinangady. there is something called preventive measures. this the administration should learn from other states. its amusing to see 6 to 7 cops at hampankatta circle during peak hours in the evening. what are they doing? catching some hit and run case, in that traffic?

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