First of all, imagine a place the size of Wisconsin, with 140 million people in it. The people are mostly very poor and illiterate. The term "middle class" doesn't really exist and there's a huge difference between the income level of the rich and the poor. Of course, a place like this would be ridden with the usual problems like corrupt government, crippled infrastructure, stagnant economy and natural disasters (in 1991, we had a cyclone that killed 125,000 people).
Now that you've got a picture of our lovely land, I'll get on with the story.
Sometime in 1996, I was driving along this dusty road in a busy part of the town. It was in the evening, and as usual, the street lights hadn't come on. I was doing about 50 KM/h. Visibility was poor, so I switched on my high beam and a car coming from the opposite direction did the same. The result was similar to what expensive discos produce with high quality smoke machines and diffused lighting. I thought I saw something move in this haze, and by the time I slammed my brakes, I hit a rickshaw (a tricycle type passenger carrying vehicle), I think at about 20 KM/h.
Opened the door, got out. "Is anybody hurt?" I asked. It was then I realized that this was a big mistake. A mob had formed around the car, and people were shouting about "young, rich, spoiled brats out there to kill people". I looked at the people whom I hit. They were shaken, but not hurt. The passengers were two women, and this added to the "sentimental value" of the situation.
Two tough looking guys came forward, and they demanded we give them all our money, or they are going to burn down the car. What?! Who were they? They pulled out knives, saying that they were the neighborhood toughies and we were not in a situation to negotiate. They grabbed our money and watches, and told the crowd to get along. We drove off while we could.
One year later.
While driving in another part of the town, a rickshaw crossed an intersection without looking. I did what I was supposed to do (slammed my brakes) and naturally, I hit the rickshaw which flew off in the air, landing a few meters to the left. My path was clear and I got the hell out of there. Later I found out that this happened within 10 meters of a police station. I haven't been contacted by the authorities till date.
Lesson learned: Do not stop when you crash. Get out, and if you feel morally obliged, turn yourself over to the police. Let them bleed or die in the streets - it's better them than you.
I talked to somebody who had studied mob psychology. His advise was simple - "Son, you got a car. The people on the streets don't. They think that it's unfair that you own one, and just because you've injured somebody on the streets makes you a rich villain. It's far more complicated then that, but you don't need to know all that. It's in our culture and remember your training - GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN!"
Few years later - 2001. Similar story, but this time out by the country side. I was driving along a highway with a few of my friends about 150 KM away from the capital. In this particularly clear stretch of road, this motorcycle cut across us without even looking, and we hit it at about 50 KM/h. We thought the rider was dead. My friend (who was driving) got down of the car (mistake # 1) found the bike rider to be alive, and limping out of the road. He began yelling (mistake # 2) "My beautiful car! Bastard, why can't you @*$@* look where you're going?! You're bloody lucky that you're alive and you are going to pay for my car's damage..."
In the meantime, we were yelling "Get the @$#@ inside the car! Get in! Run!". He didn't listen. (mistake # 3)
Too late. That bike rider was from the village nearby, and we faced mobs armed with sticks and basic agriculture gear. No neighborhood toughies - just normal, everyday people going about their business. They started beating up the friend who was driving, and for good measures, the other person sitting in front. We saw them tear up their shirts, take their money, and beat them up with rather large sticks.
I blended in the background (go ahead, call me a coward), and found the bike rider bleeding in the ground. I told him that I know it is his fault, and a few innocent people are going to get killed for this. That's ok, because he is going die bleeding here too, because he won't make it to the hospital in time. Now, we can take him there, if we're still alive because we got a car. So, what's the choice?
He called a few guys off, and told them what I told him to say. There was a confusion in the mob. One group wanted to take all our money and valuables and burn down the car (to be thorough) and the other group wanted the bike rider to live. In this confusion, we carried that guy to our car, and drove off to the nearest hospital.
It was a 15 minutes ride during which we discussed (in a low voice) about the idea of leaving him in the roadside, or even beating the shit out of him with a crowbar. His negligence nearly cost our lives, and he certainly deserved this. Somehow, we didn't and we took him to the hospital. I'm not sure why we did that... maybe we couldn't be cruel enough?
All of us lived. Cuts, bruises, broken bones, internal injuries. But we lived.
In this country, vehicles get attacked a lot. If there's a political protest, vehicles will be damaged and burnt. In traffic accidents, the same. It seems to be in our blood - all the hatred and vengeance seems to be directed towards anything that has an engine and moves. In the highway, mobs often block the roads due to random jaywalkers getting squashed.
One of the most horrible things I've ever read was about this traffic accident when a bus crashed into a bridge, and the "rescuers", i.e., the bystanders came in, they grabbed the valuables of the dead and injured first, and then they proceeded in actually helping them to get medical attention.
Poverty and lack of authority can reduce human beings to savage animals. Some people claim that religion is a solution to this, but I haven't seen it work (yet). Rampage is in our culture since our independence. Imagine this - high school exams have been scheduled while there is a football world cup going on. So, the students are going to go rampaging in the streets, damaging random cars. Do you see the logic in this?
I really don't think there's a solution for this problem. In the meantime, if you happen to drive in this country, be extra cautious. If you hit somebody, just get out of there. If anybody tries to block your way, mow them down too.
Let them bleed or die in the streets - it's better them than you. Things work differently in the Bandit Land.