ASHWINI A. writes from Bangalore: Road rage stories involving bold-faced names have become as common as traffic delays in Bangalore after Ashok Fernandes of Fotoflash (and brother-in-law of Congress leader Salman Khursheed) pulled out a gun and shot a driver who overtook him on Cubbon Road in the late 1980s.
But yesterday’s page one story in Deccan Herald by R. Venkatesh was something else.
“Youngest CEO in road rage case,” screamed the headline. As I read the first couple of paragraphs, I was relieved that it wasn’t yet another accident under the influence of alcohol or drugs; thankfully, it had taken place in broad daylight at 10.30 am on Ugadi, the Kannada new year day.
But as I dove deeper into the newsreport, I was shocked, then angered.
A seemingly minor accident seemed to have provoked the kind of overly aggressive, testosterone-rich behaviour from 22-year-old Suhas Gopinath, CEO of Globals Inc (in picture), that we have come to expect of our page 3 celebritities.
# After ramming his car into a van carrying a woman and her daughter, Suhas and his driver Nagesh reportedly started abusing Rajni Balaji, the mother who was at the wheel.
# When her daughter intervened, Suhas is said to have “pounced on the girl and assaulted her” leaving tell-tale marks.
# When the melee didn’t end, a foreigner who was in Suhas’ car is said to have got down and begun harassing the women.
For his part, Suhas claims it was all his driver’s fault; that the women provoked him; that he and his foreign friend did not get out of the car; and that the women were trying to extort money from him because he was a well-known person (although they learnt of his fame only at the police station).
Clearly, it his version versus that the women.
But what is revealing is that a youth icon, “motivated by the success path of Bill Gates“, should have lied that he was an IAS officer to get out of the mess, and that at the ripe old age of 22 in the 21st century, he should believe that “women should be confined to the kitchen, they come on to streets and create havoc.”
What is equally appalling is the brazen behaviour of Suhas’ mother, Kalavathi.
On learning that the women in the van had gone to lodge a complaint, Kalavathi landed in the police station herself with newspaper clippings of her son’s achievements to perhaps remind the cops of the trouble they would have to face if they took action on her son who was a media star.
Worse was to follow. In a move that could make scheming politicians look like novices, Kalavathi threatened the women she would get Suhas driver, a dalit, to file a case under the “civil rights act”!
Obviously, it is Suhas’ word against that of Rajni and her daughter. Still:
# Has Suhas taken the sobriquet of “youngest CEO” as a licence to do anything he pleases?
# Is being youngest CEO is really such a big deal ? Has media gone overboard on Suhas?
# Is responsible, mature behaviour too much to expect from our media celebrities?
# Has the dalit card become a brahmastra to be used with impunity?
Even if there was an element of doubt about Suhas’ reported poor behaviour during the incident, his mother’s name throwing act, and the threat of a rights’ complaint, removes all traces of it. Perhaps it is fair to assume that a pushy mother would not have had the time to teach some simple lessons in sobriety and decency?
The only silver lining in the report is the tight slap that Rajani delivered to Suhas. Hopefully, the slap and media expose of his pathetic behaviour will help the young CEO to learn a few lessons in public behaviour, something he has clearly missed in school, college and at home.
Photograph: courtesy petadishoom