Wildebeest behind Wheels: All you need to know about Colombo’s roads


Do you ever wonder what causes drivers to behave the way they do on our roads? I often do, since I tend to presume that we are not all that bad in real life. We just seem to permit a miserable, self-centered spirit to possess us each time we take the wheel.

Let me begin with a simple illustration. It’s raining and there is bumper to bumper traffic. The traffic lights before you display the colour green, and it is your rightful turn to go. However, there is very little opportunity for you to proceed, since your lane is neatly obstructed by vehicles traveling across it. If one vehicle decides to chance the red light, it is often followed by three or four opportunists who feel the necessity to tag along for moral support. And just to put the icing on the cake, the bus behind you honks impatiently with the hope that somehow you are Moses and you didn’t forget your magic staff.

Now what is the root cause of this predicament? Is it the lack of education, poor infrastructure, incompetent driving or just plain bad manners? In my opinion, the primary source lies elsewhere. The reason for what has been described by some as the worst driving in the world (barring India of course) is simply the existence of herd mentality.

Sri Lanka’s roads are indeed a step back from civilization and a step into the wilderness. Only the strongest may survive, and by strong, I mean drivers who possess the skill and the confidence to stake their claim using an array of weapons which includes curses, glares and, of course, a well-tuned horn. All this effort merely to gain a few extra minutes (and perhaps lose a few extra hairs…)

So why put it down to herd mentality? Ask yourself a few simple questions about our drivers and the issue may become slightly clearer.

1) Why is it that we take a few minutes to react to a green light, whereas we honk profusely when the driver in front of us fails to react instantaneously to an amber light?

2) Why is the use of the horn and the head lamps second nature to us, while around the world, they are reserved for emergencies?

3) Why is it that hardly anyone ever offers an opportunity to another vehicle to access his/her lane, while hardly anyone ever displays gratitude to the few that permit such access?

If you really think about it, there’s absolutely no valid reason for the lack of road etiquette in this country, except that we’re just not used to it.

Individuals that have driven abroad remain appalled at the abysmal standards seen here, and as much as it dents the ego, they are often correct in their analysis. The sad fact remains that everyone agrees that the standards are poor, yet continue to contribute towards perpetuating these standards. And please, let us not point fingers at the buses and the taxis. It would be a shame to admit that buses and taxis set the benchmark for everyone else to follow.

The fundamental issue to be addressed in this case relates to how people approach the law in general. Law must under most circumstances be buttressed by some form of sanction. Though sanctions themselves can be disincentives to violating the law, it seems inevitable that modern society demands that there be some manifest framework of positive incentives for upholding the law. This, if you really think about it, is a ridiculous position to hold. However, in the case of road rules, the lack of such manifest incentives simply proves the existence of this “ridiculous” predicament.

So, are we to be likened to a herd of hoofed beasts that needs to be driven by incentives in order to follow a simple set of rules? I hope not, but the signs remain discouragingly negative. The solution to all our road woes may lie within a simple law-abiding attitude. Or is it really that simple?

Thank you for reading.




~ by Archangel on May 7, 2007.

63 Responses to “Wildebeest behind Wheels: All you need to know about Colombo’s roads”

  1. One reason you folks may have this problem is that your roads cannot support the number of vehicles out there. So more vehicles in narrow roads leads to more traffic. And more traffic leads to flared up tempers. The problem is clearly to do with improving the quality and capacity of the roads. If drivers are less stressed out they would probably be more courteous.

  2. i totally disagree with splinter. the outstation roads are pretty gud the last time i checked. and that doesnt seem to stop oncomin traffic tryin to murder u.
    btw, ADD…this was a boring post. hahaha. okok, kdding. u hav a point…but the whole thing abt the law makes very little sense to me. and u didnt think abt how easy it is to get a license in sri lanka…i havent bothered to get mine coz i’m never there to drive…but i know lots of ppl who just paid $5 to get their license. so may be ppl dont really KNOW the road rules to actually FOLLOW them!

  3. i agree with isabel. i learned driving in sri lanka and didn’t know that a stop sign at a T intersection means you literally have to stop. i always thought slowing down was enough until i got a ticket.

  4. What’s a stop sign?

  5. Bloody hell. We should first ban three wheelers. Their reckless, they cheat and they are multiplying like rabbits. They are the cause of all this shit.

  6. What’s an intersection?

  7. Niran, disco bob… You guys shouldn’t be driving if you don’t know simple stuff like that. Or are you being sarcastic. But you are probably shitty drivers or people who take threewheelers and encourage them to break the road rules so you could get to your destination faster.

  8. Disco bob and niran, you guys seem like people who shouldn’t be out on our roads. I bet you use threewheelers regularly and encourage those bastards to break the rules just to get to your destination faster.

  9. BTT, do you drive a lorry or a bus?

  10. just repeatin urself wil not get ur point across, tuktuk. And trust me…u dont want to provoke any of these ppl. Hahaha…
    Btw, 3wheelers r pretty needed. They’r quite convenient. We need to make sure all the 3wheeler drivers get their licenses properly. Isn’t it possible to just drive properly?
    And wut abt buses then? Huh? Those guys r way crazyer!

  11. Dear all,

    I have an hypothesis, this is, that we SL’ens, have an inherent anarchistic tendency, that is only allowed to manifest itself, by driving.

    The power of having an vehicle at your command, the threat posed by other motorist to your precious posession, the sublime insanity of speed, all bring about a feeling, i guess, of, on one part, protection for ones own possession, and on the other of trying to outdo every one else on the road.

    Just think about, most of us, if we run into someone while walking, or if we find that our path is blocked by someone while walking, would, mostly, politly move around that person, or say sorry,excuse me etc, and continue on our journey.

    However, if the same were to occure while driving, its mostly ‘a fuck you you shit cunt!!!’, and a blare of the horn, that is most likely to occure.

    does anyone agree?

  12. You’re onto something. But why do we treat out ‘precious little possessions’ with such little care when we try to return the favour to someone who cut us off 10 kms ago? Does the precious possession induce anarchic tendencies?

  13. Its the chiken run. Its not that that person trying to return the favour cares less about the vehicle, but he is banking on the fact that the other values his/her more. Its when both refuse to blink, that we get the crashes.

    Also, it makes for good little debate on whether, if you accept the fact that we actually ‘love’ our Vehicle, as to why we would put it at risk playing any such game. At what point does our pride, overtake our protective feelings, if at all…

  14. Yes, it doesn’t quite make sense to have protection of possessions as a priority and at the same time drive recklessly to avenge some past indiscretion of another driver.

    Of course, Ranil has a valid point. Particularly if we are to consider our reactions on the road as subconscious and often irrational responses stemming from the priorities he lists down. And if these are indeed irrational responses, the relevance of herd mentality is clear.

    Thank you for reading.

  15. Is it possible that we drive badly because of the anonymity of being behind the wheel. I mean, you don’t mind being rude, crude and an absolute dick because the person you’re pissing off doesn’t know who you are. Of course, this doesn’t explain why people in the west are nicer drivers than they are people.

  16. Niran, I drive an allion. What do you drive? This has got nothing to do with what i drive. It’s just that people seem to have these major theories but all we have to do is tighten the screw on threewheelers. Don’t forget the threewheel gang culture. Most of them are criminals and drug addicts. It’s crazy that no one agrees with me that this is a huge problem. And with our mayor being what he is, we should be shittin bricks.

  17. Disco is tempted to invite his favourite tuk tuk driver to read this blog, but he’s worried that the bugger will want to ram his two stroke bajaj up the elitist ass of every allion driver he comes across, just in case it’s BTT.

  18. Wow, nice car and all tuktuk. How many perches is your house built on?

  19. i sense a btt bitch slappin. Get out while u can! Hahaha.
    but really. i think btt Has a point. I heard abt this gang culture. A friend of mine had been hit by a 3wheeler. And when he confronted the driver, a whole bunch of other 3wheeler dudes had come there to intimidate him. they obviously rule the roads. so yeah, sum1 shud do sumthin abt it.

  20. isabell, yes something has to be done. I don’t mind the guys driving as much as I do the whole gang thing, which are two distinct problems. I find that you can generally honk the guys out of your way. See them driving in anything other than a straight line and just plant your palm on the horn. It works, always. The guys just freeze!

    As for the gang thing, it’s a law and order problem. Not a traffic one. Banning the wheelers means all those thugs have less money and nothing to do with their time. Wow, that’d sort out a lot of problems.

  21. Niran, I agree that it is essentially a law and order issue. However, traffic regulation of three wheelers may be an option worth considering. Were you aware of the attempt to introduce the Indian model where each three wheeler has a meter installed and must be registered with the authorities before it is used for hire? This attempt was shot down by the three wheeler community which was backed by influential political forces. If three wheeler drivers have the potential to block policy change, then we do have somewhat of a problem on our hands.

    However, I find it ridiculous that the blame should be placed on one section of the driving community.

    Another familiar illustration:
    On the way back home I experienced the classic example of road etiquette, Sri Lankan style. Turning into the road from a parking position I noticed ample time and space for my vehicle to successfully enter the road. However, the car approaching from quite a distance in fact dramatically increased speed (intentionally or instinctively) to prevent my entry.
    This is perhaps an illustration of herd mentality which somehow sees permitting another vehicle entry as a sign of weakness or admission of defeat. Ironically it was an Allion.

    Thank you for reading.

  22. ADD you and I have traveled in Indian three wheelers with meters, and know fully well that the sobs don’t ever give you the meter fare. It’s all an elaborate hoax to coax people into getting into the trishaw without bargaining.

    In any case, aren’t three wheeler drivers stakeholders in a policy debate on whether to fit little gadgets into their precious “Road Boy” or “Sunils Turbo Carged 4×4”?

    I guess the Allion is the new CTB Lanka Ashok Leyland huh? Master of the (potholed) road.

  23. Isabell, don’t judge others by your poor argumentative standards.
    I heard about the threewheeler meter policy. They had just muscled it out. Threewheelers provide a service and therefore the general public should have a greater say. All other countries seem to have taxi meters so why can’t we? Coz we have a threewheel driver for a mayor?
    And that joke about the Allion was bad taste. I can tell you, if you took threewheelers out of the equation or at least put some restrictions, the Allion behind you would have given you the room you wanted. IMO, people are stressed out and just want to get home as fast as they can.

  24. Disco once travelled with a three wheeler association leader who told him that despite his best efforts, and the efforts of his union (which had several hundred members, if memory serves), the meter law was prevented by politically connected tuk tuk gangsters.

    The point being that you can’t tar all the tuk tuk buggers with the same brush, just as you can’t assume all drivers of Allions are small-minded elitist arseholes like our friend BTT here.

  25. And don’t insult Isabell.

  26. Ok Disco Bob, so not all threewheel drivers are pricks. And not all clowns are funny. But the gangster culture is still there. And everyone here knows it. There’s no reason to blame ourselves coz we do not control the roads. They do. We only play by their rules to survive and get about without too much trouble. I can’t help it but I need to be flexible in order to get about on these fucking roads. Sue me, but it’s the government’s job to ensure that the road rules are followed and that the threewheelers don’t scare all of us. Not mine my job to enforce law and order. So agradevaduta, stop whining.

  27. i think ppl r naturally aggressive. & the moment their identity is not revealed like when they’r in a car, their true selves come out 2 play. Bad drivers r just cowards. They stay behind their shutters & mess wt every1 else. so yep, it’s sl culture 2 drive badly. Ha ha. Mayb cultural education is the answer. The way ADD puts it…there’s nothin any1 can do. that’s not true…we can still change…JUST KIDDIN…ha ha ha…

  28. Lol. Don’t you people have a civil war to solve?

  29. Grace, most Sri Lankans are able multi-taskers!

    BTT, please don’t take this the wrong way, but were you ever abused by a tuk tuk driver? That might explain your phobia, though your apparent conviction that they are the sole cause of trouble on Colombo roads is still unconvincing. What about bus drivers, souped up pseudo drag car racers, Prado/Pajero gangsters and security personnel? And then there are ordinary people who behave badly when they have a bad day, or need to take a leak… It’s a widespread problem exacerbated by shitty roads, corrupt policemen, overpopulation and a simple lack of etiquette.

    While Disco has never, ever, been scared of a tuk tuk driver, he finds qualified support for BTT’s point that this is primarily the government’s problem. Yes, we do need a better road infrastructure, and yes, we do need to apply the law more often. Perhaps we even need a cultural attitudinal change. But if the government’s not doing any of this, then the least we can do is start a vigilante group of masked marauders who prowl the streets and mete out rough justice to all transgressors. Who’s with Disco?

  30. Wonder which trouble free region Grace is from? ADD might be able to help…

  31. Grace is from down under. A touching show of concern.
    Disco, I like your vigilante idea. Count me in. May be I’ll call myself Archangel.

    Thank you for reading.

  32. Down under huh? If those inmates put their troops where their mouth is and commit more than the pitiful 1400 troops in Iraq, perhaps they’d be able to kill enough terrorists so that the Opera House won’t get bombed to smithereens in 2016.

  33. I think there is a lot for everyone to learn here. May be no one has thought of the threewheel problem because we can’t do without them. So i think the government needs to put a taxi service which is properly managed and controlled. We can’t allow underworld thugs to rule our streets.
    Grace, don’t think people here find you funny. I don’t know how you found your way to this site. So why don’t you go suck on a squash ball. 🙂

  34. ‘My’ thinking best articulated:

    “Be it known, then, that there are two ways of contending, one in accordance with the laws, the other by force; the first of which is proper to men, the second to beasts. But since the first method is often ineffectual, it becomes necessary to resort to the second. A Prince should, therefore, understand how to use well both the man and the beast. And this lesson has been covertly taught by the ancient writers, who relate how Achilles and many others of these old Princes were given over to be brought up and trained by Chiron the Centaur; since the only meaning of their having for instructor one who was half man and half beast is, that it is necessary for a Prince to know how to use both natures, and that the one without the other has no stability.”

    – Machiavelli

  35. Dear everybody,

    I am Simiththiarachchi. I am the Founder and Principal of the Trishaw Training College, Homagama. This is a very interesting conversation. I must thank the writer for writing it. traffic is a very serious issue in our tear drop island.

    Mr. BTT, I invite you to come to our college and see for yourself that trishaw drivers are not gangsters. gangsters go in pajeros and intercoolers. poor people earning an honest living go in trishaws. There are some bad eggs ofcourse. But you name me one omlette, which doesnt have? Also do not treat Ms. Grace like you are a gangster. We are a hospitable people, and must welcome this lady whose proud nation beat us in the glorious world cup final, to discuss these serious issues with us. Ms. Grace, are there trishaws in Sidney?

    Thankyou Mr. Disco Bob for your support. we are a service, and proud to be one. But yes there are problems. These bus unions dont want us to get metres because then their business will go down. Also lots of poor boys are driving trishaws without learning properly. That is why I started the college. Then the pimps and prostitutes are also using their own trishaws and we are getting the blame.

    The trishaw is a good vehicle. It is the poor mans family vehicle. The poor and middleclass taxi. The tourist attraction. The exciting race mobile. Colombo must get more, better trishaws and less intercoolers and prados, and these big cars that Mr. BTT is driving. There is no room to broaden Colombo roads. So we must lessen colombo vehicles. More trishaws and marutis is a practical solution to these problems. More buses also, and forcing big cars to park outside. Will Mr. BTT agree if such a law is passed? Then he cant show off his car? Then what?

    And dont ridicule our lord mayor. If a corrupt lawyer became mayor, all the BTTs in the world will be happy. But when an innocent trishaw driver gets a chance, they all start shouting profanities. Mr. BTT, Colombo traffic was a big problem long before our lord mayor came. Show me one article you wrote then?

    I am a responsible citizen. And my duty is to serve the people by providing high quality training to your friendly neighbourhood service provider – the trishaw man. Our motto is “Dignity through Service”

    Thank you very much for posting this. I am very happy because this is the first occasion that i am writing to the internet.

    God bless.


  36. Herds seem to follow rules. Some die in the process, but herds by themselves seem to be an adaptation to circumstances, a “learned” behavior. We also know that some herds no longer exist.

    We have to change how we use the road and how we behave, how do we do that?.. like everything else is begins with me, do I know the rules, can I be patient in traffic, am I courteous, will I run red lights?

    I feel that at times, people on the road do not know the rules, their responsibilities, rights.

    Here is a question, why do right handed pedestrian mothers endager their children by walking with the child on the side of the road?

    Another, why do we not educate people to walk facing traffic, why do we not demand better standards for small towns and cities in the form of pavement and walking areas?

    I think we can do something about this, we can contribute to the improvements in our lives.

    Remember how MADD came into being? It can be done. Everthing is possible, a start is needed.

    Education, training, rules, enforcement, expectations, incentives and rewards all need improvement in SL for better outcomes and lower traffic death and injury. Shock therapy may not work. Or am I wrong?

    But, I think all here would agree that change is needed urgently. Yes, some of us may be anarchistic, why is that? Is it because we think that the rules are not appropriate for us and that we can can act out side it? Simple rule breakers?! Systems tend to break down in peculiar ways.

    For example the use of hazard lights to go through an intersection, is this an innovation or bad practice? I am yet to see the the Traffic Police advice people about this.

    Courtesy, I think is a learned behaviour. It is most needed under stress and strain. Long preparation is needed. I think there is woefully inadequate awareness about possible adverse effects due unprepared, ill informed drivers and poorly maintained verhicles on the road as well as poorly educated pedestrians.

    I have seen, in different settings, the rules of the road change drastically in their use as traffic volumes increased. A seemingly slow breakdown. Nothing seems to be done while problems mount, a little tinkering here and there but tempers flare, people die, then action or attempt at it.

    As some have commented in this discussion, coping behavior is needed, adaptation is necessary, but the “main problems” have to be identified and solutions attempted, roads are bad and not properly signed, not properly policed and rules enforced, training, education is needed for drivers and users of the road, feedback is needed so that improvements are made, information has to be shared, solutions proposed, discussed, implemented monitored.

    I dread seeing laden trucks on winding roads or on gradients, so much knowledge is needed to control that momentum and so much can go wrong. Brake systems fail under strain if improperly used over a journey. I am surprised, as are many others, that there are not more traffic deaths. But, SL is up there as a place with a very high rate of traffic accident, death and injury.

  37. Mr. Shakku Master

    I am in full agreement with what you are saying. Mr BTT – do you have any more abuses for him?


  38. Shokku, thank you for your valuable comments. I hope this type of alternative thinking would provide the platform for some notion of reform. We should discuss this at length when we meet next.

    Simiththi, Sir, your involvement in this discussion is most appreciated, though I am sure many still doubt your authenticity. Satirical as it might be, you raise some important issues. I hope dear BTT is not too discouraged.

    Thank you for reading.

  39. One question before all of you gang up on me like a bunch of threewheeler drivers.
    So many many complaints! Mr. Shokku masta, do you have any practical suggestions to improve the situ? Like i said it’s the government’s job. ME is useless when the government won’t do anything about it. So what do YOU have in mind?

  40. Dear Everybody,

    I am an authentic citizen of this blessed motherland of ours. I am not like an ancient Greek satire. If you want to accuse people of being satirical, i think BTT is more satirical of the typical Sri Lankan upper middleclass – wanting the Government to do everything good, blaming the loer classes for everything bad, and agressive against all foreign opinions.

    If I can give an answer to his question to Mr. Shakku Master, the most practical suggestion to improve the situation is to make sure that you drive better. The only thing we have control of practically, is ourselves. I always tell this to my young students. Give yourself the highest standards, and you give yourself dignity.



  41. See the problem of road traffic in ny for example. so many people, so much of taxis…but still the situation in srilanka is much worse. why is that? because there are fewer law abiding citizans. and the police are really corrupt. so we know we can get away with it on most occasions. i was stopped once of overtaking when there was a straight line. i was amazed that they even stopped me. but then i thought they should anyway stop because it is against the law. the police are not doing there job. even speeding and running red lights, if you show you are important or if you are willing to give a bribe you can get away with it. so the citizans just feel as if they can get away with it. so driving has poor standards. thats it.

  42. Ranil, I disagree that our attitude towards others is different while walking as against to while we are behind the wheel. If you were to take a walk down the Nugegoda pavement during rush hour (or heck… any time during the day) you’d be lucky to ever hear a word ,or even receive a nod, of apology from those bumping into you. Anything that you may extract, not necessarily apologetic, would merely be as a result of an enraged look thrown in their direction or an angry word shouted out behind them. So, the cause of the problem is not so simple. Your hypothesis is blinkered.

    I shall now be very frank, and many of you may not quite stomach well what I have to say. But do consider it. My reasoning on the matter is still rudimentary but I hope you will se the point I’m trying to make.

    Not everyone on our roads has a problem with the conditions we experience to a point that they feel a conscious effort must be made to change the status quo. While some of these people (us?) try hard to be courteous and law abiding on an individual basis, a very few others may dare to influence others to do the same with varying degrees of success. But such individuals are in the minority. A far greater number of Sri Lankans, although not adverse to the occasional rant, are by and large comfortable with the relative pandemonium and lawlessness that is prevalent.

    This, I dare say this is a result of breeding. Although it does have a large bearing on the matter, I won’t quite say it is a question purely of social class. The root of the disease lies in ones natural craving for upward social mobility. To put it in a nutshell, those more comfortable in there social status are able to spend more time on imparting values and value systems on their offspring that are based on their gathered stock of knowledge on social dynamics and general issues of concern. However, those less comfortable and constantly struggling to move out of their current social status would not have similar time to spend either on imparting knowledge or even on gaining a stock of knowledge for themselves in the first place. It is obvious that the level of satisfaction of our status increases as we move up the rungs of the social ladder. Concurrently, the amount of effort and time required to be put in to tasks, necessitated by the unquenchable need to rise up the ladder, that have little intellectual and social value (i.e. tasks geared purely towards ensuring basic survival) decreases.

    Added to this, in a society where upward social mobility is extremely limited due to economic stagnation and inequitable growth, people tend to linger over generations in the very same social class. Harking back to my previous point on time available for knowledge gathering and grooming children, it is therefore clear that, for example, over time the stagnated middle class would have starkly different values and value systems to those of the stagnated working class. What is moral and right to one section of society would not seem so to the other. What is a priority to one section would not be a priority to the other.

    Also we must consider here the suspicious and paranoid feelings that could build up between people of different classes. For example, the manner an upper middle class individual would look upon the intentions and actions of a three wheel driver or bus driver. It is understandable, that from his point of view, the three wheel driver follows a life more primal to his. Primal, not in the economic sense but in the social and even cultural sense. A superiority complex develops. Similarly, the three wheel drivers builds up a suspicious attitude of the middle class individual, and considering his lesser social and economic standing, and being of a culture more prone to community and group based reasoning flowing from the economic conditions in his social strata, he would tend to ‘gang up’ to protect himself better from ‘the man’ or the ‘big wig’. This in turn strengthens the opinions formed by the middle class individual, further compounding any adverse inferences he may draw towards three wheel drivers. The cycle so continues.

    In the context of a larger number being of the ‘lower classes’ in Sri Lanka, the larger the number would be coming from a place where they do not see calm and organized traffic flow to be a priority or an essential requisite of what is righteous to them.
    They have no reason to be genuinely or greatly uncomfortable with the status quo as it exists on our roads. This flows from their understanding which is necessarily formed from their value system. And so I end hoping you would agree that it is important for anyone making a critique of our Sri Lankan road habits to consider who we as Sri Lankans truly are and have become. Then, we may be able to identify a larger problem where economic stratification has lead to stagnating and perpetuated social and ultimately moral stratification/variance that may not be conducive to an organized and smoothly operated society.

  43. Adharmishta, thank you for those comments. However, in deciphering what exactly you are attempting to say, I wish to point out two key issues.

    Your main contention is that “[t]he root of the disease lies in one’s natural craving for upward social mobility.

    Now leaving aside the fact that this is not a supported diagnosis of the problem, I find that the rest of your argument is untenable in relation to your main contention. You seem to suggest that “a larger number being of the ‘lower classes’ in Sri Lanka, the larger the number would be coming from a place where they do not see calm and organized traffic flow to be a priority or an essential requisite of what is righteous to them.

    The first major flaw in your hypothesis is that you seem to equate “economic stagnation” with persons “less comfortable and constantly struggling to move out of their current social status”. Remember agitation for upward social mobility is essential for individuals from one social standing to progress into the next. It is the latter group (which is less comfortable with their current status) that ensures the progression of society, and it is these very sentiments that succeed in warding off apathy. So I find it curious that you label the very individuals that seek to counter economic stagnation, as “not hav[ing]…time to spend either on imparting knowledge or even on gaining a stock of knowledge for themselves.
    Since this observation applies to all classes that are inherently uncomfortable with their social status and frustrated with the stagnated position they reside in, it is apparent that you are also referring to the educated upper middle class, which through time and effort strive to progress to the rich upper class, why, because they too are not comfortable with remaining stagnant within their upper-middle class status. So your analysis that (1) economic stagnancy and struggling for social progression are one and the same; and (2) this results in an apathetic attitude towards our roads, is wholly unfounded.

    The second major flaw in your argument is that it does not take into consideration social stereotypes. It fails to explain where the arrogant Pajero driver fits in. It fails to explain why individuals, who by appearance alone signify their high class status, continue to perpetuate poor standards. It fails to explain the defensive attitude of Allion drivers such as BTT. It fails to explain bribery and corruption, amply supported by the upper-middle class and upper class drivers, which in turn complements poor road standards. My observations on our roads are not limited to three wheeler drivers and buses, but rather to everyone. That is why I argue that it is a problem ingrained within our psyches causing one to wonder whether herd mentality plays a crucial role in the dynamics of the problem.

    Drawing a clear line between competing classes to explain the failure of families to adopt and impart good values, is clearly an amateuristic sociological analysis. When formulating generalizations, one needs to question whether there are sufficient exceptions to dislodge the generalization concerned. And in this case, I have highlighted far too many exceptions for your generalization to stand. I look forward to some clarifications.

    Thank you for reading.

  44. Dear Adharmishta,

    My contention in the post alluded to by you, was that we, that is those taking part in this blog discussion, would, in person be polite (i assume), but faced with a similer provocation on the road whlist driving, would react in a less polite manner.

    However, in the event that you still find my hhypothesis to be blinkered, i must apologies. I do not have sufficient time to engage in penetrative empirical research, when posting a mere comment on a web-blog.

    As for your second contention, that “[t]he root of the disease lies in one’s natural craving for upward social mobility.”, could you please clarify the term social mobility?

    If such social ladder climbing is associated with just making more money, then perhaphs your contention can hold water, ( and i mean can, it is still a unverified hypothesis that you have brought out)

    However, the social mobility that i am aware about, is not only the acheivement of a higher bank balance, but of the social airs and graces that have coincided with people who have had the luxury of being brought up financially secure.

    Money without manners, is only, in my humble opinion, only half the job done for any social climber.

    If the above does not in any way relate to your post (i did not read it all), i apologies further.

  45. By upward social mobility it was mobility through financial strata i was referring to. Those who are newly upwardly mobile, or struggling to do so from the lowest financial classes would be those you identified to be the money without manners type. I explained why this is I think this is so. I’m sorry if you feel maligned by my previous comment. That was not my intention.

  46. It is the latter group (which is less comfortable with their current status) that ensures the progression of society, and it is these very sentiments that succeed in warding off apathy.

    It is clear you have misunderstood my point on economic stagnation. While I see agitation for upward social mobility as an attribute common to most of us (be lower, middle or upper class), the economic stagnation I referred to flows from a larger macro-economic stagnation. This frustratingly would leave many making valiant efforts to progress meeting with failure due to a lack of a conducive environment for such progression. You have made a broad assumption that the group less comfortable with their current status ensure the progression of society. Unfortunately in the current Sri Lankan situation, and especially amongst the lower financial classes agitation does not assure progress as you have assumed.

    I fear you are guilty of the self same amateurism I have been accused of and do indeed accept. I am no expert but these are merely conclusions drawn from untrained observation. Very similar to the observations I noticed in all your posts I have read here, and I hope your ego would not decry your better judgment in accepting the realities of the economic situation of the country. An economic situation which results in a dearth of possibilities for progress available to the poorer sections of society.

    Also, at no point did I equate economic stagnation with ones level of satisfaction in his or her financial, and thereby often social, status. Ecomonic stagnation is an additional factor in the sri lankan context, which contributes to generations of the same family going through the difficulty of having insufficient time to spend on effective child rearing and knowledge accumulation. In fact as more generations pass in this static position, the ability and intuitive efforts made towards those two attributes would grow increasingly weaker. Therefore, due to lesser and lesser time spent on those attributes, and the fact that economic stagnation results in stagnation of those people in that condition, a poor value system is built up. Of course I did not generalize that this would always be the case and in social analysis I assumed this was a given. But since it seems I need to spell every detail out to you, who seems to be intent on merely engaging in a debate, I shall so spell it out. “While in the majority of cases I see my observation as holding true, there would be exceptions where a poor family is able to break out to a higher financial class. It is at this point, if they are able to remain in that class for long enough, that their value system re-education would begin.”

    Since this observation applies to all classes that are inherently uncomfortable with their social status and frustrated with the stagnated position they reside in, it is apparent that you are also referring to the educated upper middle class, which through time and effort strive to progress to the rich upper class, why, because they too are not comfortable with remaining stagnant within their upper-middle class status. So your analysis that (1) economic stagnancy and struggling for social progression are one and the same; and (2) this results in an apathetic attitude towards our roads, is wholly unfounded.

    Once again I stress I did not limit the thirst for upward mobility to the lower financial classes. This is a common human condition, but the difference being (I hope you are capable of identifying that this differentiation I am identifying right now and indeed identified at in my earlier comment, draws into question your allegation of my over-generalizing) that people the higher up the social ladder they are, the more time they are able to spend on the two attributes I alluded to earlier. Therefore, even though the middle class themselves may stagnate (although less so due to an enhanced skill set when compared to the lower classes better adaptable to the prevailing macro-economic condition) they stagnate in a state where they have more time to spend on child rearing and knowledge accumulation. The fact that they have to spend less time devoted ensuring basic survival needs are met contributes to the relatively higher level of comfort.

    Therefore, I fear your claim that my connection of the attitude on the roads of the majority who are from the lower financial classes (especially the bus and three wheel drivers who are the worse offenders) to economic stagnancy and financial and social strata is unfounded, is in itself founded in a failure to understand the consequences flowing from the sociological observations I have made and which I feel are justified.

    The second major flaw in your argument is that it does not take into consideration social stereotypes. It fails to explain where the arrogant Pajero driver fits in. It fails to explain why individuals, who by appearance alone signify their high class status, continue to perpetuate poor standards. It fails to explain the defensive attitude of Allion drivers such as BTT. It fails to explain bribery and corruption, amply supported by the upper-middle class and upper class drivers, which in turn complements poor road standards.

    In response it is apparent you have generalized. I am not of the opinion that all pajero drivers are arrogant. Also, the middle or upper class owner of the pajero rarely would drive his own vehicle. It is possible the arrogant pajero you seem to have a grouse with may actually be the chauffer who himself is obviously from a lower financial class. Also, the high class I speak of is not merely a higher financial class. It is those who have stagnated in or have been long time members of classes which are more conducive to building value systems possibly more attuned to my tastes and, I dare say, yours, who I identify as being the minority who seek better conditions. The few who have been able to move up only recently to higher classes would obviously not bear those same value systems. So, my previous comment would help explain your indivudal , who by appearance alone signifies their high class status, and yet continue to perpetuate poor standards.

    I apologize for poorly constructed comments, but my late lunch hour is precious and I have no time to proof read for better presentation and clarity.

    Thank you for your response.

  47. you should switch to a provider that allows those commenting to use html editing as well.

  48. Adharmishta, I am slightly amused that you seem to have taken this a little too personally. If you read my amateurist blog, you would have realized that that doesn’t happen around here…well at least, not amongst the respected contributors.

    Thank you for your clarifications. Your post now makes a little more sense, and perhaps it is a lesson to all of us that verbosity does not always equate to intellect.

    However, I find that your observation that the ability to impart good values on children is limited to individuals who are the crème de la crème of our society, wholly unacceptable. Good manners do not stem from the fact that one comes from a good stock. If you take the educated middle class, the fact that they do not have magnificent financial prosperity, together with the fact that they possess a genuine desire for improving their social status, does not necessarily hamper parents from teaching good values to their children. It is simply ridiculous to assume that only “those who have stagnated in or have been long time members of classes which are more conducive to building value systems” are capable of imparting such values. You underestimate the power of education. Your opinion is skewed by over-cynicism and lacks the necessary confidence you ought to have in individual conscience. You seem to possess the paranoia and suspicion you yourself complained about.

    This is where your analysis has gone terrible wrong: you have cleverly (or not so cleverly) labeled the group that abides in road rules and follows road etiquette as “those who have stagnated in or have been long time members of classes which are more conducive to building value systems”. Where can we find such a class of people? The truth is (and this is where you gracefully bow out) that the “class” of people you refer to is not a social-economic class at all, but rather a crosscutting group of individuals who, besides their economic background, have been fortunate enough to be brought up well or have in fact educated themselves. The fact that this group of individuals have been brought up well, may be explained by a variety of reasons inter alia the school they attended, their religious background, their family cohesion and their life experience. To generalize them as having come from families comfortable with their social status is too obscure to take seriously. Thus, this group of individuals may actually be present in all the socioeconomic classes you refer to, thereby negating the influence of their social status as being the main contributory factor in determining whether or not they would be better drivers.

    I hope you enjoyed your lunch break. I know mine was very amusing.

    Thank you for reading.

  49. My apologies. In fact you are a well-respected, though amateuristic contributor on this blog. I appreciate the time you’ve spent on your essays, though I now feel it should have been put to more constructive use.

    Thank you for reading.

  50. i concede. i am now dharmishta

  51. I agree with adharmishta. This can explain why threewheeler drivers act like that. They come from bad backgrounds. Its a shit thing to say i know. But the apple dont fall far from the tree right?
    We must do something about it or we would have to drive like them to survive. Driving for me is not the MOST important thing. So i’d rather drive badly to get to work on time. But if you took those bastards out of the picture i would not need to drive badly. That’s easy to understand for all of you right? Especially niran who i think has finally admitted defeat.

  52. BTT i never advocated removing anyone or taking anyone out. Literally hundreds of thousands of families make their livelihoods by providing transport services via three-wheelers and buses. This fact alone would ensure there would never be sufficient political will to ban three wheelers regardless of the moral value of such an effort.
    You say you drive an allion… but frankly from what i gather from the things you say, you don’t seem old enough to be legal even on a moped.

  53. BTT, don’t mistake a certain distaste for conversation with intellecual inferiors for admission of defeat. In any case, you haven’t answered the last question I posed you. How many perches is your house built on?

  54. Dear mr. Dharmishta,

    I must agree with Mr. archangel and disagree with you. you cannot say that people drive badly because they come from one type of social class. And you cant justify that statement, by saying that people from such ‘low’ classes do not want to teach good morals to their children. I come from what you would refer to as such a class. and I believe in dignity and doing what you can. that is why I started my TTC. mr. BTT on the other hand, has admitted that he drives badly to get to work, and he is from your social class.

    Now I have a simple question. In Colombo, how many people drive cars and pajeros to work, and how many people drive trishaws? I have another question. How many ‘upper middle class’ people have cars driven by ‘lower class’ drivers, or travel in trishaws, and tell the drivers to go fast? They are telling them to break the rules, without telling directly. Colombo traffic is bad because of BTT. he is equally responsible.

    These people like Mr. BTT are selfish and thoughtless. They don’t care whether they splash a pedestrian with water, or cut into another lane, or get onto the wrong lane and then cause a traffic block because they are not turning and all the people behind want to.

    When Sri Lankans from any class go abroad, they dont break the traffic rules. they become careful, good drivers. But here, because the rules are broken by everybody, and because they can blame the lower classes – threewheel drivers, bus drivers, police ralahamis – for the bad situation, they will be selfish and drive badly. But abroad, they are scared to. They are selfish cowards! that is why Mr. BTT has not even replied one of my questions. because he also is a coward.

    I am not angry about being labled ‘lower class’. there is dignity in being lower class, because there is dignity in labour and service. That is what I am trying to get my trishaw students to learn. That is also why I have worked hard to learn proper english – because otherwise, people like you wont take me seriously – as if knowing english makes you more intelligent.

    Thank you


  55. I suspect Simitti you have had a reaction born of an indoctrination towards politically correct thought. You have failed to think outside the box you have packed tightly into. you have also taken my conclusions out of context. I did not say that people from the lower financial classes do not want to teach their children, but that they are unable due to time constraints due to the extra efforts they need to take to merely ensure survival. People of relatively highter classes have more time on their hands as they may ensure survival and even comfort with, not per se less effort, but with less time devoted towards those efforts.

    I do not have the necessary statistical data to answer your questions, but I believe that the conclusions you allude to from the questions you ask may be in themselves questionable. You seem to have bought into the stereotype that three wheel passengers shout at the drivers to ikmanata yanna all the time and that hence the fault for their bad driving lies in the hands of the passenger and not the driver. I would like to point out to you that I haveoften informed three wheel drivers that I am in no hurry and they could consider not blasting their way up pavements and down the wrong side of the road for ‘my benefit’. I, similarly to you, draw a conclusion here that may or may not be supported by statistical evidence, but my conclusion being that my manner of dealing with 3W drivers is not the exception amongst people from classes who share my value system. I would also like to point to you that BTT is not one such individual and on there is a high possibility that he is only recently upwardly mobile in the social context. My knowledge on vehicles is insufficient to deduce if the fact that his driving an allion aided in his mobility.

    Your observation on the behavious of people from ‘your class’ – i highly doubt you are from such a class – when they go abroad goes to prove my point that the reason the traffic flow is such in colombo is due to the people from ‘your class’ being in the majority. Therefore they merely conform easily to the existing situation. When they go abroad they are in an overwhelming minority causing them to either have their licenses suspended or causing them to conform, with difficulty, to the standards there.

    I would also like to point out that there is dignty in the ‘higher classes’ as well. If not for those classes there would be no business, commerce or semblance of order in this country which allowd your three wheel drivers the facilities to take bank loans/ have three wheelers available for purchase i nthe first place, have the necessary infrastructure to allow their TTC principles to blog on their behalf. The dignity of either of these higher or lower classes I dare say is nothing to with morailty or good conscience, but a primal selfish need to ensure survival and take whatever oppurtunity presents itself to secure such survival. ‘your class’ has the three wheeler, my class has his business enterprise or private practice.

    Thank you simmit. You are amusing.

  56. I think I’d like to vouch for Simiththiarachchi’s authenticity. Tsk?

  57. i think i’d question your honesty… tsk tsk 😉

  58. Dear Mr. Dharmishta,

    I refuse to respond to a person who calls me a fraud. Not because I am insulted – you are not important enough to me to be able to do that – but because if you believe I am lying about who I am and where I come from (and you havent given one reason even for it!) nothing else I say will be considered.

    I think you think I am a fraud because you cant think out of your box. because according to your box a threewheel driver (which i am not by the way) cannot be blogging in english and as an equal with you and your business friends.

    if you are more open, i might respond. especially because eyour arguments are very weak. just one example – who do you think has more time for their children? a threewheel driver, or a CEO or Big shot lawyer? I’ll tell you onething Mr. Dharmishta. community life is much stronger in the lower classes – and family is the central unit of community.

    and just one more thing. I never said there was no dignity in upper classes. dont put words into my mouth. I believe in human dignity all round.


  59. tell me then, where exactly is this TTC of yours, principal sir. I’m sure agradevaduta wouldnt mind you advertising your service here. Also, maybe all those wannabe 3W drivers who blog and have so much time to spend online would benefit from knowing where to contact you or your hallowed institute.

  60. Go to galkirimulla junc, second left, then again the next left, the next right and then take the right fork, another 100 meters and then you’ll get see a black gate with two flower pots by the side.

  61. Dear Mr. Dharmishta,

    I never asked you to prove if you are a real person by giving me the address of your work place. I expect nothing less from a person who is having a dialogue with me as an equal. I don’t need any publicity for my TTC either. It is a non profit organisation that is operating very healthily.

    If you want to carry on this conversation, do so on terms of equality and basic respect – which means you trust that i am not a fraud, like i am willing to trust that you are not either.


  62. We cant blame on only few group like trishaw or bus drivers for problem. We all are part of this problem. All road users drivers/passengers/pedestrians should responsible.

    We have big attitude problem. We don’t like change and we don’t like except our fault. We are good to blame to other but never try to do correct thing.

    I believe 75% of road users don’t know road rule, They do what ever they can to go faster.

    following is few things I suggest to this problem in another forum

    1. implement very high traffic fine scheme and revise road traffic act
    2. Drivers as well as pedestrians must obey road rules and if not heavy fines apply
    3. sack all driving instructors/examiners and cancel all driving school permits. Then appoint new examiners and driving schools after proper exam and checking requirements.
    4. All learner drivers should pass knowledge test before hit in to road with “L” sign
    5. Every learner driver should complete list of tasks and should drive in different speed zone/traffic situation with examiner and should pass every task to obtain licence.
    6. Every new driver should display sign in his vehicle to let other know he is new to road
    7. all major roads must have island to divide two way traffic.
    8. NO shop fronts/home for major roads
    9. no road side parking in major roads.
    10. every building should have enough parking space in there premises
    11. All gov vehicles should have different numbers ( eg GOV XXXX ) and should print Gov logo and and of department in all 4 sides and on roof top too.

    Public transport.
    12. All buses should run under single authority( both CTB and privet buses.)
    13. Bus owners own only title of bus and only monthly standard amount he will receive from bus authority.
    14. All drivers and conductors will get monthly salary.
    15. Buses should run on time table and not for cover targets.
    16. Bus Tickets are must
    17. bus lanes should mark in necessary roads.

    18. Same as buses Threeweeles also should have some single authority.
    19. All drivers should attend/pass training course for driving and customer relations.
    20. Must have taxi meters
    21. Must have taxi ramps
    22. Passengers could report for malpractice

  63. Folks, the article at this link http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2007/05/15/car-nage/

    should provide some insights to many of the issues raised.

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