Reflections on an accident

Have you ever been confronted by the specter of death? Not the painless, comforting blackness that drapes itself upon a person content in the happiness of a life well spent, but the sudden, vicious snatching away of an entity that has barely begun to assert itself. When something perishes before its time, it leaves behind a void that cannot be filled. It is a painful thing to behold.

I once had the misfortune of having to see a life getting extinguished violently before my very own eyes. Believe me when I say that nothing in my life has ever been the same since.

It was a rainy day in May about four years back. There still being two weeks left for my school to reopen, I had decided to visit my native place in Thiruvalla, Kerala. I had always been fascinated by the sort of laidback charm and commonsense approach to life the people there exhibited. It was always an idyllic Neverland as far as I was concerned, where one could get away from the suffocating confines of the city and breathe freely. But, all that warped sense of security and freedom was rudely snatched away from me on a single afternoon, and the tingling sense of shock and adrenaline that resulted, linger in my mind to this day.

It had been raining all day, and the downpour had only let up in the afternoon. The sun had come out; bringing with it the heady smell that arises from the earth soon after a rain. I was determined to make the most of the afternoon, and when my grandmother remarked that she needed groceries, I volunteered immediately. Soon, I set off to the grocery store, known as a “palacharakkukada”, with a shopping list and not a care in the world.

This particular grocery store was located smack in the middle of the market, in a position of great strategic importance business-wise. The owner was a jovial middle aged former police man, who had set up the store using his rather meager pension and his not so meager contacts. Personally I was fond of the fellow, and used to chat with him whenever the opportunity arose. That day, he had just begun to tell me about what he thought of the educational system nowadays, which seemed to be churning out a lot of youngsters with no inclination to work, when I noticed the girl for the first time.

She looked about ten years old, but it was hard to be sure. She could have been anywhere between eight and fifteen. Her face looked aged and weary, and her gait was a curious mix of waddling and scurrying, which made it look as if she was being dragged about intermittently by an invisible line. She moved from one mound of garbage to another, poking her waif like hands into the filth without any emotion whatsoever on her face. Her clothes seemed older than her, and were patched up in several places. Over her shoulder was slung a surprisingly new looking jute bag, which was half full of empty bottles and plastic. In fact, the bag seemed to be the only thing fresh about her.

“…… and look at that poor illiterate devil, works like an ant from dawn to dusk and what does she get in return? One meal a day, if she’s lucky. That Selvam takes away all she earns in return for keeping her in his group. Now that is the sort of child that should be given an education. She knows the value of hard work…..” I was surprised to realize that the shopkeeper was talking about the very girl I was looking at. I knew this man Selvam. He was the manager of a small scale smuggling operation across the border of Tamil Nadu and Kerala who specialized in human resources. Simply put, he loaded a lorry each day at dawn with about fifty rag pickers and beggars from Tamil Nadu, ferried them across the border into Kerala, and dispersed them throughout the Pathanamthitta district by noon. By night, he collected them from the various corners of the district, took a major share of their earnings and dropped them back in Tamil Nadu. His operation was planned and executed meticulously, with beggars operating in rotation and keeping in touch with each other by mobile phones. In short, a gifted entrepreneur.

“….. in my days with the force, I had booked him several times, but what to do? Never once could I get enough evidence…” the ex-policeman continued, but a sudden screeching noise jerked my attention away. The girl, attracted towards a discarded packet lying in the middle of the road had ventured out without enough caution, and the driver of a black Scorpio who had seen her too late, was trying to avoid the inevitable. I have read in books that such incidents always appear to occur in slow motion, but here everything was over in a second. There was a sickening thud, the girl was jerked off her feet and thrown into a heap a few meters away, and the Scorpio, after a few moments of indecision, lurched back onto the road and sped away. It all happened with surgical precision.

Of course, the first person to respond was the ex-policeman, his years of training kicking into action. He hurried out of the shop, cursing the errant driver. I followed him, too numb to realize that I had just witnessed manslaughter. As I was crossing the road, I stumbled upon the packet, which had been the object of the girl’s curiosity. Without thinking, I picked it up. It seemed very light. Not surprising, considering that it was filled with old receipts. Someone’s discarded backlog of bills had become instrumental in taking a human life.

The girl was lying where she had fallen, a broken neck having put her out of her misery. A tiny trickle of blood dripped out of her mouth, and her neck was bent at an unnatural angle. These two were the only indications of death. The shopkeeper had called for an ambulance, and the crowd was muttering sympathetically, alternately blaming the driver of the Scorpio and the vagaries of destiny, which had forced the girl onto the streets in the first place. I thought about Selvam, who might miss the girl when he came around in the evening to collect her. He had lost an investment that day. I wondered if such incidents happened often. If so, he might have calculated those losses into miscellaneous expenses.

For after all, that was all that had happened. I doubt that the girl had anyone who cared enough about her to feel pained at her gruesome end. Had she continued to live, all her existence would probably have been spent in begging for Selvam or else in prostitution. The options for a girl like her are painfully limited. In that sense, it was perhaps to her advantage that she died. Or is such a logic too cold blooded and ruthless? I don’t know. All I know is that life, in its entirety, has not meant the same to me after that incident. I have now learnt to appreciate the little joys of life, the same things that I often ignored, having taken them for granted. I understand now that life is not lived in the distant future, but in the present. Life, with all its glory, with all its pains, ecstasy, trials and tribulations exists here, now, in this very second.

Planning for the future and saving up for it are all well and good, but it should not be overdone. For who amongst us knows when our own black Scorpio may come looking for us?

I have not visited my native place since that vacation.

For the past two days, I’ve been in a world of my own. I was roaming around Bangalore with two old friends of mine. “Friends”, is too cold a term sometimes to describe people with whom you have shared everything, people who know all your strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. I know this might sound cliched, but its true. Nevertheless, for lack of a better word, I shall call them friends…..

Both are people I met during a turbulent phase of my life when everything was changing for me, when nothing seemed to be going right. These two grounded me, supported me through a lot of problems,and gave me timely advise. The best part is, neither one of them is perfect. They both have their flaws. This makes it easier for me to accept them as friends, since I know that they are just as much human and fallible as I am. Admit it, we all hate “perfect” people; people who seem to have everything going for them, people who seemingly can do no wrong.

Anyway, I just had the most amazing two days of my life. I opened up to them in ways I had not done before, and they reciprocated. We discussed the most mundane things in life, as well as the most important, life changing stuff. It really made us feel like adults ( all of us are merely 23 yrs old) to talk about things like marriage( one of the two is happily married), changing jobs, love life etc. It wasn’t all serious discussions, either.In one moment of carefree abandonment, we traveled down the old Airport road in a Santro at 10 in the night, with the stereo on at full blast and all 3 of us woefully trying to keep pace with the songs…….

But that’s enough of my weekend fun.Its half past one on Monday morning, and I’m staying up in my friend’s house, where I’m crashing for the night. I wondered today where I would be without these friends of mine. Nowhere good, that’s for sure. They’ve bailed me out of trouble often enough. My opinion is that by the age of 25, if you haven’t made at least two friends whom you can call up at 4:00 am in the morning just to talk, you seriously need to re prioritize your life. It isn’t always about how strong and independent you are, but how vulnerable and dependent you are willing to be with another human being. You don’t always have to be the guy who solves all problems and councels others, sometimes it is better to approach your friends with your problems. If nothing else, it will give them the pleasure that you considered them close enough to share your troubles with them. And believe me, it works both ways.

Before I sign off for today to play NFS Undercover on my friend’s PS2, a quick word about his wife. It was a blessed love marriage, and I can see the love in their lives ( touch wood) quite plainly. I never had much opportunity to gel with her, but today i got one. I’ve to admit we got along really well. It often takes a lot of time for me to open up to others, but with her it was easy enough. She’s sophisticated and yet down to earth in a funny, endearing manner that makes it hard not to like her. Here’s cheers to their happy married life 🙂

PS. I haven’t forgotten about publishing my works. I would have done it tonight, but the only problem is that they are in my external HDD, which is not presently with me. I’ll do it soon enough.

I had always promised myself that I would start writing a blog one day; but was always afraid to begin one. I was afraid that once I threw my hat over the fence, I wouldn’t have the conviction or discipline to post regularly. So I kept postponing it, telling myself, ” One day…..”

Well, today, I had a near death experience. No kidding…. I very nearly kicked the bucket. I and my friend were riding a Thunderbird 350cc on the inner ring road at Bangalore, at about 5:30 pm today evening. It had started raining as we set off from his office, and by the time we reached the spot, it was pouring heavily. Suddenly, out of nowhere, there came a gust of wind that pushed the whole damn bike, carrying both of us, about one meter to our left, perilously close to the edge of the bridge we were traveling on. If you didn’t get the picture straight, here’s the important part, the crux, so to speak; the wind was strong enough to push a 350cc Royal Enfield Thunderbird, weighing all of 175 kilos, carrying an additional weight of around 145 kilos ( our combined weights ) one whole meter to the left. Its a miracle we didn’t fall. Had we fallen, there would’ve been nothing to prevent us being crushed by any vehicles coming from behind, what with the visibility being close to 2 meters.

This experience, shook me up, and got me thinking. There are many things in life I wish I had done, and a lot more that I wish I hadn’t. Nothing can be done to change the past, but at least I can make an attempt at the future. This blog is such an attempt.

I try my hand at writing at times, and the results have been sporadic attempts at creative writing that’ve been received somewhat enthusiastically by a lot of people. I propose to publish those works in a consolidated form here, and vow to myself to continue writing, heedless of the atrocities I am gonna commit upon my fellow Homosapiens by doing so.

PS. A few words about the title. I bounced off my ideas for a suitable title among a few of my friends, and this one emerged a clear winner. It reflects a quirky idea that most of the important things in my life have happened due to a lot of luck and faith, and have nothing to do with the talents I possess or the hard work I’ve put in ( sounds weird, but its true. All those moral science books I read in school were entirely wrong, he he)