Introduction: Tell us about yourself, your background and what you do currently
I am a doctor , a pathologist. I am the first born of doctor parents. I was born and brought up in Goa from where I did my graduation and post graduation in Pathology. I had a short stint abroad and did Medical Microbiology before returning back to India.
Along with my husband Sanjay, I started The Arundhati Foundation in the memory of our daughter, Arundhati, who we lost in a road traffic accident in September 2014.
We now work in the sphere of Road Safety, creating awareness and promoting road safety among children and young adults.
Tell us about any current projects or initiatives you wish to promote
Our current project ‘ VIKRAM’ is a program which works at different levels. The first, creating awareness about the magnitude of the problem in India. India has the dubious distinction of being the nation with the highest number of road traffic accidents and deaths in the world.
Over 400 people die on Indian roads every day. Most of these deaths are entirely preventable.
We create awareness by conducting road safety sessions in schools, colleges and offices targeting children and young adults. This is the age group which is the single-most affected section of our population.
Secondly, we engage in active citizenry by interacting with the local municipality by raising complaints and suggestions about bad road conditions, calming the traffic, prompting the municipal body or traffic police to take action. Many a times, we fill pot holes using a cold mix (Shellmac) in our vicinity on our own.
Finally, we try to influence road safety related issues and policies along with other NGOs like SaveLife Foundation, like the recently passed Good Samaritan Law and the New Motor Vehicle Act that is currently being reviewed in Rajya Sabha.
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?
We knew, from the outset, that we have chosen a very difficult path. The change in ‘authorities’ may not take place. Our laws are archaic. Our enforcement is poor. Our road infrastructure is poor.
Apathy of the general public towards this very important aspect. Simple things like wearing a helmet for self protection has to be enforced! The careless attitude when it comes to driving and lack of respect for the lives of fellow travellers. The fact that the so called ‘ educated’ people do not respect road traffic rules. Also a general attitude that accidents are events that are ‘ fated’. This attitude takes away the basic responsibility of the person in the driving seat.
Can we change the attitude of the citizens and young adults? Children themselves can be messengers of change and they can be more powerful in conveying the message. Hence we conduct Road safety awareness in schools.
We want our message to reach the next generation of drivers, if possible through driving schools and RTOs – they are our true hope to inculcate the right values of safety.
We want our message to reach civic bodies to improve related infrastructure.
We want our message to reach colleges where students can find innovative solutions.
We want our message to reach like-minded people and organizations, so we can collectively influence policies and implementation.
It is not easy to bring about the change, but we will persevere.
Our pathetic road conditions and potholes is another challenge. We lost our daughter because the Govt. did not maintain a road in Vellore.
I can give the example of Mr Dadarao Bhilhore from Mumbai who lost his seventeen year old son on a badly maintained road. The road was dug up by a telephone company. Dadasaheb, has filled 350 potholes with his own money to date. He is not a rich man. Yet he does it. This is an emotional reaction. How long do we wait for ‘Government?’ Somebody else can lose their lives while the ‘Govt.’ waits for ‘orders’ or ‘funds’.
At times we have noted that when the public start doing things on their own and media starts supporting this initiative the officials automatically ‘wake up’. If we wait for the Govt to wake up, many people may go to sleep permanently! In their grave!
What has been your greatest achievement personally?
I do not think I have achieved anything that I can term as ‘ great’.
I take solace in the fact that I know I raised by daughter well. She is loved by a lot of people. I think my daughter was my ‘ greatest achievement’ Unfortunately, I lost her, my ‘ greatest achievement ‘ in the accident. I am sure, had my daughter been alive, she would have achieved a lot.
We organised SafetyQuest in November. We think it instilled some values of safety amongst the children.
When we tell our story, people sit up and notice. It’s personal, and therefore every one can relate to it. They realize that if such a loss can happen to us, they may also be victims tomorrow.
We have seen our own friends change. We have seen our acquaintances become more aware. It is a matter of awakening the slumbering consciousness of parents to pay more attention to their awareness of safety for themselves and their children.
If our efforts make a positive impact on even one person, it will make a difference – every life counts!
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing?
I wish I did not have to start the Foundation because of this unfortunate event in my life. Had my daughter been alive, I would have still done something socially relevant, but I am not sure what.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
Many people. My daughter, my mother, Mr Uday Vijayan who was instrumental in founding Beyond Carlton, an NGO which works for better fire safety. Mr Uday started the foundation when he lost his son in a fire tragedy . So our mission in life is born out of personal pain and suffering. We, my husband and I, have tried to work on our horrendous pain by doing work through our foundation.
What does the future hold for you?
No idea. After the death of our daughter, we do not see far ahead. We will continue doing whatever we can. We do not have grand plans.
We would just very sincerely like to spread the word around and hope to improve safety.
Name : Dr Shubhangi Tambwekar
Born on 7th April 1964.
Did undergraduate and graduate studies from Goa Medical College and have MBBS degree from Bombay University (1987) and MD (Pathology) from Goa University 1992.
Work : Consultant Pathologist in Bangalore.
I have thirteen academic publications and have authored two technical books. I love reading.
Website of the foundation: www.thearundhatifoundation.org.in