Fruit Shell Helmets

I was amused to read this news report this morning.

It seems that there are motorcycle taxis in Nigeria with laws requiring pillion riders to wear helmets. To avoid this new law, instead of helmets, riders wear dried fruit shells, paint pots or pieces of rubber tyre tied to their heads with string.

Some motorcyclists complain that helmets are too expensive.

Some passengers refuse to wear them fearing they will catch skin diseases or be put under a black magic spell.

“They use pots, plates, calabashes, rubber and plastic as makeshift helmets,” said Yusuf Garba, commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission in the northern town of Kano.

As I read further, I realized the situation was not as amusing as I had at first thought.

‘There are tens of thousands of Okadas buzzing around Lagos, a chaotic city of 14 million people, many of them given to unemployed and illiterate youths as part of poverty reduction programmes or on hire-purchase schemes run by businessmen. Most have never been taught traffic rules.’

And what about the situation here in India?

In India we do not take any rule or law seriously. We feel that laws are made to be broken. And we do not even have the excuse of widespread illiteracy, as in Nigeria.

Remember the tragic case of Mohammed Mukharram, a twenty year old student who was shot dead by army guards after he trespassed into an army officer’s house in the high security defence area in Bangalore? This sad story happened because of speed-racing.

Traffic rules are flouted habitually by Indians- we think this is our birthright!

Car drivers often exceed the speed limits. Youngsters think it is ‘cool’ to hang out of the window of a car. It seems many drivers do not know what seat belts are there for.

How many times have we seem motorcyclists with their heads bent to one side while driving because they are talking on their cell-phones? Often, instead of two riders on a bike, there is a whole family of four or five people. And the way some motorcyclists weave from side to side while speeding along- the less said the better.

In villages, auto rickshaws often ply, overflowing with eight or ten people instead of three. I did not believe that these many people could fit inside a rickshaw, until one day I actually saw ten people alight from one.

After the Mumbai terror attacks, we, Indians, are ready to do whatever we can, for our country. Maybe we can start by following ordinary, everyday traffic laws?



  1. This was insightful. Fruit shell for helmets is innovation taken to a new height ! But, more importantly, i think the point that you raise about us being much more sensitive to the law of our land and to follow it at all time…Well, thats a new ask. An ask that is not an ask..but an important necessity to comply with !And you are very right. We can start here…The signal is green. Lets Go !


  2. The fruit shell helmet sounds very funny. Maybe at traffic junctions, while waiting for the light to turn green, one can take it off and start eating.Just one small thing about the literacy levels:Nigeria overall literacy levels:definition: age 15 and over can read and writetotal population: 68%male: 75.7%female: 60.6% (2003 est.)India overall literacy levels:total population: 61%male: 73.4%female: 47.8% (2001 census)Lagos literacy levels could be marginally less or comparable to an average Indian city.


  3. Yes we do not take rule or law seriously.. More so with others life…If i am correct , the Car Aveo advt shows the entire football team travelling..thought the message they wantto convey is more space..isnt that illegal to show more people travelling in a car then legally allowed?


  4. Kavi- As you say, this is innovation taken to a new height. Though I wonder how this could have fooled the traffic police!L.V.S.- Thanks for the comparative figures for literacy levels.From the news report, I had the impression that illiteracy was much more in Nigeria than in India. It seems not.:)Sunder- I haven’t seen this advertisement. I don’t know whether such an advertisement would be illegal or not- but the companies show pretty much whatever they want, in advertisements!


  5. Manju, Very interesting. As you have so rightly pointed out – we Indians take pride in not following traffic rules – or any civil behaviour as such. I have seen so many youngsters, who drive with their helmets hooked under their arms – just to be worn if confronted by a traffic policeman. In trains, people just litter the whole place, through rubbish on the floor – without even an iota of concern that somebody else might be using that very space after they get off.. It is just revolting.. Unless all of us try and be civil and try and do ‘basic everyday traffic rules’, there is no point in expecting our country to change.. As they rightly say, our leaders are a reflection of the society!


  6. Indian ‘Jugaadus’ may well have found a way to manufacture cheap helmets! Environmentalists may just find the idea of having non-polluting bio-‘degradable’ helmets very appealing too. Ratan Tata has found a cure for four guys on a bike but he does not know that they will fit 16 into the Nano, if required!We are like this only!One small thing. That boy who was shot dead trespassed at 2 in the morning and did not respond to the sentries, out of fear/panic. I don’t think any military man would have been spared had he not done what he did at that hour and had the the guy actually been a terrorist…there have been many instances of jawans being killed for being just wee bit slower than the guy in front, in dark…


  7. Smitha- Yes, driving with helmets under their arms is a common sight here in Mumbai.Littering in train, too. Seems we have a lot to learn- mainly good civic sense. :)Vinodji- I meant that the whole thing started with the boy speed/ drag racing every weekend- which is against the law. Which was why the police chased him.I do understand that once he trespassed into prohibited area at night time, the military personnel had to react the way they did. Especially in these days after the Mumbai terror attack.


  8. In Nigeria they need to be educated about the need for wearing helmets first, I guess.I find most young people hate wearing helmets because of the weather, the heat and sweat, and also the weight of the helmets, some complain it causes neck problems. I feel instead making helmets compulsory everywhere and giving our police some more means to make money, we should create awareness. And make lighter, better ventilated helmets.If it was my kids I know I wouldn’t dream of their driving two wheelers without helmets, but if they were to drive without helmets I don’t like the idea of some police men trying to harass them, specially a girl. Parenting should be left to the parents.


  9. dont even talk traffic rules and indians with me! the only reason i hate driving is because noone follows any rule ever! it makes driving so stressful not to mention dangerous. we flout and dont care a damn. if we get caught ,we bribe the policewala. we bribe our way thru everything!in some ways we seem ethic-less.


  10. IHM- Yes, creating awareness is certainly important.Mandira- Good point about bribes. It is partly because Indians know they can bribe their way out of anything that they do not see the need to follow rules.


  11. Vinod, I had a laugh reading your comment ….vinod – you are graduating towards ” fine satire” and i am liking to read this than your greatly analysed posts -:)


  12. Very true Manju!!! Ha, atleast I found one person who agrees with me that a change which we want to bring after Mumbai can really start from following simple rules like traffic [though there is no direct relavance!]To be honest with you, after one year in UK, when I went back for a month break, a significant observation I made in my city was ” Arrey Yaar, We have lane discipline, we even have roundabouts!! Shee how come I never knew this before?”Hmm I never noticed coz, I was not aware of traffic rules, I gave my driving test but not a single question on lanes/lane changes/roundabouts and rules…..isnt that surprising?Ya, there are 2 main reasons for this chaos we created -1) No updates provided to Users – no publicity2) what you said, we think rule breaking is a cool thing to do not a mistake!and all in all, huge population too…..well, I observed, London is not at all clean compared to Chester in which there is lesser population. All we can do is HELP OURSELVES coz its all in our hands!


  13. Sahaja- My driving test was just the same! No questions on anything.And for the practical part- I was not even asked to drive on the road. Just had to park the car!


  14. Hmmm. As a law-abiding citizen of the U.S., we, of course, abide by our laws.:-)Oooh, I hardly got that typed out without cracking up!We speed, of course. I think that is a major issue. But seatbelts are a law and everybody I know — except for one — wears them. Helmets are NOT a law in all 50 states. Minnesota, for example, does not require that you wear a helmet. HOnestly, everyone should — I have a cousin who went from a talented, intelligent artist to the world’s most annoying 12-year-old-trapped-in-a-45-year-old body, all for the want of a helmet.Pearl


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