Thursday, 22 July 2010

Getting to the Right Side

18-19 July 2010
Being a British colony, Ghana used to drive from left side of the road in the past. Ghana got it to the right approximately 10 years after independence because it is surrounded by French speaking neighbours who run their traffic from the right side and it was difficult for Ghanaian vehicles after going to those countries and vice a versa. It has been a problem for me and for most of the volunteers who are from East Africa and UK to adjust to it. While crossing the road, the automatic reflex is to see towards right when the vehicles are actually coming from the left. I still have problem suppressing this automatic reflex as I have to make conscious efforts to do the opposite. At every curve there is rush of fear that the vehicle coming from the front might bump on your vehicle but it settles down when it just takes the right side and your vehicle as well takes the right side. It happens while walking as well sometimes. I am walking on the road and somebody walking from the opposite direction comes in front of me. I get to the left to give that person a side and that person goes to his right to give me side to go ahead and we end up in stand still for a moment. It is my mistake of failure of remembering that I am in country that walks and drives from the right side of the road.
In this post I shall go to the right side but not in the context of traffic. These are some of the very positive aspects of Ghana in comparison to India.
I found most of the European and Americans complaining about the disobedience of traffic rule. Compared to India, traffic sense of Ghanaians is better. Accra is a very small city compared to Mumbai, Delhi or even to Pune for that matter but majority of Accra residents have to spend a large time of their life in traffic jams and still I did not find unnecessary honking, lane breaking and overtaking. The Ghanaian traffic police are better in showing their signs and controlling traffic than Indian traffic police.
Ghana produces more electricity than it requires and sells the excess to the neighbouring countries. That means there are less power cuts than the ones experienced in rural parts of Maharashtra state. While many part of India, they have not yet been able to control electricity theft and to introduce prepaid electric supply, they have made it possible in the remotest part of Ghana.
We were told that north of Ghana is more traditional and women are deprived in that part of the country. When I reached Bongo which is a small town in this conservative part of the country, I found many women working in the offices and riding motorcycles. Certainly one won't find this picture in the small towns and villages of conservative north and central India.
Ghana could make to the quarter finals of the world cup football in spite of the fact that most of their opponents had better resources than Ghana. Whereas India which has a population 50 times that of Ghana have not been able to even qualify for any of the sports which are played world wide. (By this I mean athletics, football, swimming etc. And not Cricket and Hockey which are played by just handful of countries.)
One of the most striking thing, which I found here, is respect of the individual regardless of the community from which one comes from and the position which is held by them. On my first day when I was sitting in the office, the lady, who cleans the office, approached me, greeted me, asked my whereabouts and what would I be doing. She then proudly introduced her as well. Certainly this would not have happened in India where people are evaluated commonly and mainly by their caste, occupation and positions. The society in India is too hierarchical.
I am writing this post particularly for those who expressed their serious concerns about my plan of living in a country of blacks. Brown coloured Indians were looked down upon by our white rulers in the past. The relatively darker shade of the skin of Africans is still sometimes looked down upon by the brown coloured Indians. I thought I should take the side which is right, in this world of Relative Racism.