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August 06, 2018 06:29 AM


Rupali Ganguli recalls the terror she faced as she became a road rage victim
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August 4: Prachi Zade, a secondyear BCom student, is waylaid by her former boyfriend, Akash Pawar, 23, and stabbed to death in broad daylight. No onlooker comes to her rescue.

April 5: A woman commuter on a CST-bound local train is attacked and molested by a man in full view of passengers. No one attempts to even stop the attacker.

October 17, 2017: A 16-year-old girl is left with a fractured nose after she is assaulted by a man in full public view at Nehru Nagar, Kurla, allegedly after she protests his lewd comments at her. Onlookers do nothing to stop the thrashing.

For Rupali Ganguli, who became a victim of road rage on Friday along with her minor son and 20-year-old caretaker, the “saddest part” of her ordeal was onlookers’ apathy.

The television actress, who sustained injuries on the left arm when two men abused and broke the glass of her car’s window after her vehicle brushed against their bike, says she kept screaming for help, but other motorists just watched. “Nobody even bothered to get off their vehicle. Nobody came forward to help. The muchtouted spirit of Mumbai is long gone.”

Ganguli joins a long line of victims of the ‘bystander effect’, a social psychological phenomenon in which individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim when other people are present. Several factors contribute to this phenomenon, including ambiguity, cohesiveness, and diffusion of responsibility that reinforces mutual denial of a situation’s severity.

Ganguli’s assailants were quickly caught, but she and her child are still reeling from the nightmare. “I had never been that scared. I have come back from work at the oddest of hours, but I never had such an experience,” she says.

She says she took her foot off the brake while turning back to face her son at the Bharat Nagar signal junction in Andheri West at 8.30 am on Friday. The car moved a little ahead and brushed against a bike. “I didn’t even realise that my car had touched their bike until one of them started to bang the bonnet. He started hurling abuses at me. I folded my hands and apologised, as I had my son and my 20-year old caretaker with me. I didn’t want to get into a brawl with them around.”

The men — Mahesh Mokal, 30, and Akash Dhatkar, 22 — however, did not allegedly relent. Dhatkar, who was on the pillion, got off and banged the car, terrifying Ganguli’s four-year-old son. “I tried to reverse my car but couldn’t because there were other vehicles around,” she says.

Dhatkar then allegedly smashed the car window. “Some shards of glass cut my hand. Seeing my bloody arm, my child started to scream. I managed to get away and took him to school, but the authorities told me to take him home as he was petrified,” recalls the actress.

A shaken Ganguli calmed herself down enough to approach the Versova police soon after. “The policemen were extremely helpful. In my state of panic, I had forgotten to note the bike’s licence plate or take the men’s photographs, but they tracked the bikers down quickly,” she says.

After being caught, the bullies were apparently the picture of contrition. “They apologised profusely and so did their mothers,” says Ganguli, who feels the men couldn’t recognise her in her “morning avatar”.

Asked to explain their behaviour, the men’s only defence was that they “were very angry then”. But forgiveness will not come easily. “The licences of such people and their vehicles should be confiscated,” contends Ganguli, who says her child was so shaken by the ordeal that he hasn’t been able to sleep soundly.

“I’m scared about retaliation now. These men should mend their ways, at least for the sake of their mothers,” she hopes

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