There are many things that are a firm no no in any civilized country.

Chief among those would be to be courteous, at least civil, when stopped by a police officer. Now it seems impossible after the bout of lawlessness we have had in this country until January 08th ; but I belong to the old school and firmly believe that even though they maybe rude to you ( which naturally would only reflect who they are) it is important for you to be who you are – a decent human being brought up with values.

Having said that, I must add that in my experience, the majority of the police officers on duty in the streets are courteous and generally civil enough.

Concerning our topic at hand, the rant of the lady who drove the BMW at the policemen who stopped her, brings many social aspects into view.

When the video of the rant went viral, it not only went to seal the power of social media yet again in the way we perceive and see the world but it also was a moment that needled the men. Rummaging through comments on a social web site, I couldn’t help but think that some of the men commenting seemed to be indignant about the woman’s ‘inability to be a woman’. Others condemned her for challenging the policemen. When a video shot accidentally by a passer by who had no role to play in the actual happening garners enough views to generate a public opinion for or against her, it seems we are taking our social cues from a platform that no longer requires our wholehearted engagement. Which perhaps is not so comforting.

We forget that there are always two sides to every story.

From the woman’s perspective, maybe there were many reasons for her rant. Why do people rant anyway – it has come to be identified as an outlet for emotional break outs. Indeed, with a two and a half year old whom she is accused of breast feeding while driving – an offense alright but not enough of an offense, in my opinion, to warrant a two week in remand – just look at the big time rogues walking scot free around us and you will see what I mean – she could be suffering from either post natal depression or an emotional imbalance most mothers with young children are subjected to. Her husband too has confirmed this.

Do we as a society take the time to address mental illness as a daily occurrence among the sane and not necessarily the insane behind locked doors. Do we pay enough attention to this – although it is no longer taboo to see a psychiatrist, we still don’t focus enough on the different aspects of mental illness as an everyday malady. In the case of this woman, a sick child, an older child needing to get home soon and other family obligations may have been overwhelming. Most of us know how easily the boundary from tolerance to explosion can shift. This was her explosive moment – it was all too much to take and when the police stopped her, she had to  let it all out.

But sadly for our society, what got everyone’s attention was not even the lady’s rant and the reason for it but the car she drove. She drove a BMW and that sort of cemented why she ranted at the police – she had a BMW attitude. It is an interesting paradigm why a luxury car normally associated in other countries with wealth, elegance and style, gives rise in Sri Lanka to a sense of thuggery. Of course, as it is always the case in Sri Lanka, it has got everything to do with politics. In the recent past, up until the January 08th election, it was an open secret that those who had ill gotten wealth superfluously travelled around in brand new luxury cars such as BMW, Benz and Audi, to name a few. It came to a point that driving a luxury car was enough to get yourself branded as a rogue doing business with the corrupt government. So there lies the connection – she drove a BMW and so her rant somehow, in someway, has to be on the wrong side of the law. And in many ways, it was.

But it wasn’t enough , in my opinion, to warrant a harsh sentence. Wasn’t enough to get herself branded as a woman from the wrong side of the street. We have seen many women ranting over various circumstances – they didn’t know they were being captured on camera and were generally giving full vent to their feelings. This could easily have been one of those moments. Sure , to challenge a police officer and take his helmet away is an offense – but not enough of an offense  when we are daily told how much we have been robbed and stolen from, all in the guise of ‘development’ during the previous regime.Maybe a sound warning and a bout of community service could have sufficed.

My take on this is let’s be kinder to other people. Especially to women like the lady in question here. We don’t know what lives they lead, what their problems are. We cannot view a two minute video clip on Facebook and conclude that she is a woman to be condemned. As a society, we need to bring back empathy and caring. If we can.

Remember, as someone said, be gentle as much as you can – everyone is fighting some kind of a battle somewhere.

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