The edginess any normal human being feels on Calcutta roads is multiplied many times by the sight of numberless drivers and pedestrians talking on cell phones. There has been another death at a railway crossing in Khardah, of a young woman traversing the tracks walking a bicycle with one hand and holding a cell phone to her ear with the other. This is far from the first death in this way, even far from being among the first few. Roads, driver’s seats and railway tracks are not places for talking intensely on cell phones — there was a time when they did not exist but the world did. True, an advance in technology and an easing of life’s stresses are more than welcome, but only if the device really does lower stress, not increase it. If it is necessary to seize the phone every time it squeaks and burst into conversation, whether in the middle of crossing the railway tracks or a busy intersection, or while turning a steering wheel on a crowded road with multiple signals, then it has succeeded not in increasing just stress but the risk to life — one’s own life and those of others — as well.
In this case at least it would be unreasonable to blame the police for not hauling up every driver who talks on the phone while driving in spite of warnings. He, and others like him, are not immature idiots. Nothing in the world could be so urgent, no boss or partner or parent so importunate, that a conversation must be carried on while walking or driving — sometimes with the phone stuck between raised shoulder and lowered cheek while both hands grip the handlebars of a speeding two-wheeler — or in the immediate vicinity of tram or train tracks. A minimum of sense, consideration and responsibility can be expected of someone who is using a machine. If people require the police to enforce laws and penalties about cell-phone usage on the roads — because they might die or kill — they should not be using cell phones.