‘Being a parent means having your heart walk outside your body.’
I never understood the gravity of this statement until I became a parent myself. And Dr Shubhangi and her husband, Sanjay Tambwekar lost their heart on 9 September 2014.
Two months after losing their 24-year-old daughter, Arundhati, in a gruesome road accident, the parents started The Arundhati Foundation which, among other things, raises awareness about road safety with particular focus on accident prevention, bad road conditions, influence policy as well as accountable parties to rectify such situations.
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“I wish I did not have to start this foundation under such circumstances, but then a majority of organisations stem from some personal loss and are in memory of someone. Instead of wallowing in pain, my husband and I decided to start the foundation just two months after Arundhati’s death.”
Arundhati, who was pursuing a postgraduate degree in Clinical Pathology at Christian Medical College (CMC) in Vellore, lost her life when a truck hit the bike she was riding pillion on.
“She was riding pillion wearing a helmet. What do you say to that?” asks the anguished mother who asks for action from the government and the society.
Road-safety is a two-way street; while the government needs to do a lot to improve the general infrastructure, we need to contribute equally to that, says Dr Shubhangi.
And this is where the Foundation is trying to fill gaps particularly with ‘Vikram’, their road safety project under which the Foundation filled 60 potholes, conducted cleaning drives, and 10 road safety campaigns. Dr Shubhangi says that this is just a drop in the ocean.
“We undertake age-appropriate sensitisation training in schools and corporates. Collaborating with other nonprofits, we raise queries on the city’s traffic black spots through relevant RTIs, make suggestions on traffic management to traffic authorities and work at the grassroots level for road safety,” says Dr Shubhangi.
Arundhati foundation also works on various social issues. They have instituted an award to foster and recognise excellence in academic work in the fields of Pathology, Laboratory Medicine, Transfusion Medicine in collaboration with CMC, Vellore and is given out every year in November. It provides sponsorship for one hearing-impaired person for speech therapy or a hearing aid upto an upper fixed budget. It also sponsors Pathology textbooks for undergraduate and postgraduate levels to deserving female students.
The thing that enrages the couple who lost everything in a road accident is the blasé attitude of people toward road safety.
Why break a rule to begin with? The amendments that have been introduced to the Motor Vehicles Act are being ridiculed and youngsters are now spending their time making memes out of it. Follow them and you’ll never have to deal with the consequences.
With their daughter’s untimely death, the lives of Tambwekars have changed forever. “As a parent, the worst moment for me was to send her death certificate to various places. That completely and totally changed us all. So much so that sometimes we fail to recognise ourselves.”
Dr Shubhangi urges everyone to be mindful and respect their and lives of others on the road, she says, “Please remember that the helmet or seat belt that you are wearing is not to appease the policeman, it is to ensure ‘YOUR’ safety.”
Even if out of every 100 people we meet, three understand and follow traffic rules and become aware, I will find some solace in that, shares Dr Shubhangi.
The next time you are on the road, remember that you are not just responsible for your life; by being reckless, you risk your life, the life of others and of families waiting for the return of their loved ones.
Be mindful. Be careful.
Details of the foundation and the work they are involved in can be accessed via their website here.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)