On the Golden Gate Bridge
One of my favourite features of Facebook is the ‘Memories’ feature - where FB pops up old posts which you had posted on the same day - but years earlier! I just love it!
My memory is legendarily bad - and when FB throws up an old pic or post of something I had talked about years back - it brings back forgotten memories! It is simply magical.
Today FB popped up pics of our visit to the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco - which we had visited 8 years ago. I had forgotten this - obviously - and this suddenly jerked me back there.
The Golden Gate bridge is an iconic structure of SFO, and one that I had always wanted to see! It is as important a landmark for SFO as the Empire State building is for NY, or the Washington memorial is for Washington DC.
It is so beautiful - one can say various facts about it...like the fact that it is almost 3KM long, or that it was opened 83 years ago, or that it was an engineering marvel which really opened up access to the town etc etc - but for me, the major takeaway was how beautiful it is.
The Americans realise that it is a beautiful structure - and they took pains to ensure that people can enjoy the bridge. While it is an important driving bridge - with more than 100,000 vehicles crossing it everyday - they ensure that it is open to cyclists and pedestrians, and was built with walkways on either side. They have a visitor center and a gift shop - with a cafe, exhibits and rest rooms. Lands and waters under and around the bridge are homes to varieties of wildlife such as bobcats, harbor seals, and sea lions - and the bridge and areas around it are used for wildlife spotting.
Compare this to the behaviour of our Indian bridge builders - take the Bandra Worli sea link … pedestrians and cyclists are strictly not allowed...no stopping anywhere to see the beauty...no walkways or pathways...just drive over and get lost! They don't care about beauty, or tourism, or wildlife, or culture - or anything at all. Just pay the toll - and drive away fast, before I challan you!
Police in India are not concerned with people having a good time - they just want to reduce suicides and accidents - not because they care about you, but only because they don't want to fill in paperwork (and to be fair...fishing out dead bodies is no picnic either for the poor guys…)
But the point is still true - that Indians throw out the baby with the bathwater. The Indian attitude to suicide - the legal governmental attitude - is still rooted in 19th century British laws - which are based on Biblical and ancient Christain rules about suicide being a mortal sin. Thus attempt to suicide is illegal - if you succeed, you will go to hell....and if you don't succeed, you will go to jail.
In fact, in Mumbai the Police force all multi-storey buildings to lock their terraces to prevent anybody from having the opportunity to jump from there - and threaten to arrest the society office bearers if they do not comply.
Coming from this background I was very touched when I saw these suicide helplines at many places on the Golden Gate bridge. The American authorities do not restrict you from enjoying the bridge - but instead, try to help the tortured souls who are thinking of ending their lives. ‘There is hope!’ they say… ‘Don't take that fatal step!’
After all - you can’t take away the soul-crushing depression, desperation and whatever is torturing that person’s mind by restricting access to a bridge or terrace. He or she will just find another way. What that person needs is help - not police bureaucracy and bullying.
I was very touched - what a compassionate thing to do.
As I went forward - I saw another poignant thing… a placard in the memory of … an Indian girl! Gauri Govil … who died aged just 2 years! Oh no! She was born in Dec 1995 and died in Dec 1997!
I was quite curious - who was this girl? Why was the sign here? So I googled it - and found the sad story. This poor guy was happily videotaping his little girl playing on the bridge - when she suddenly fell through a gap in the floor! It was just a 9 and ½ inch gap...and she fell through that to her death!
"She basically straddled the curb and just fell into the slot," Somavia said. "One moment she was there, and the next she's gone. It was 170 feet straight down, and there was nothing to stop the fall. It happened so quickly, it blows you away."
The father dropped the camera and with several others attempted to reach down and grab the girl, but it was too late. Panic-stricken, he ran to the closest emergency phone on the bridge, only to find that it did not work.
The girl was flown to Children's Hospital Oakland, where she was pronounced dead an hour later.
Poor girl...Poor dad...Poor family…
But life is not all about suicides and accidents and all kinds of depressing stuff - There is also love and happiness!
I saw a lock which a loving couple had affixed on the bridge, as a mark of their unbreakable love. I wondered where they were now, and hoped that they were still together and happy.
And of course, my bubbly brat cared two hoots about all this depressing stuff!
She was more intent on running all across the bridge and proving to her cluck-cluck mother hen that she was fully capable of crossing the bridge on her own steam. Ha!
I blog about my travels - and the thoughts they set off! Sometimes the simplest destinations can be the most thought-provoking!