It happened in a split second. A sudden sickening unbelievable sight of a motor-bike coming straight at me. Brakes slammed and the next thing there is an impact and the bike and both driver and rider go forward into the air and hit the road.
I am paralysed. Then pull over. People gather around. The bikers join.
First confused thought: At least they are still walking.
Blur. Fear. What is going on?
The bikers are angry. One of them is clearly hurt in his leg and arm. I ask the locals where the nearest hospital is. Over the bridge some say. We agree to go immediately for treatment.
The injured man is put in the back of our car. The other man drives the bike slowly behind me. We make it over the bridge. Up the stairs into a small private nursing home. The man is put into their ‘ICU.’ The doctor goes in to see. I wait outside.
A call to Sheba to tell what happened. A call to Vasu who I was due to meet. He tells me he will be right over. SMSs to a few folks to pray for me. The ward aide comes out with a list of things I should buy. I go to their pharmacy and purchase them. Antiseptic cream, gloves, gauze bandage, tetanus toxoid, some medications. I give the items back to the aide who goes back in.
Finally the man comes out. His name is Deepak. His friend, the motorcycle driver is Dinesh. Young men. Working for a computer repair company. They were driving to a client.
I was in an unfamiliar part of Mumbai. Was turning onto a main highway via a small side road, going up a slope. I had been following a trio of auto-rickshaws. I hadn’t seen the traffic light. It was red. I was clearly in the wrong. What could I say but ‘sorry.’ What was going to happen to Deepak?
The doctor had done a checkup. No head injury. No altered sensoria. Scraped leg and arm. Dressing done. Advised x-ray. They did not have x-ray facilities in the nursing home. The ward aide took us over to scan centre for the x-ray.
Deepak was hurting as he walked. His sandals were broken. His pant was shredded. Dinesh – amazingly as I think about it now – seemed unscathed. He had been wearing a helmet. Deepak had not. They talked about how the bike was totaled and that it was their boss’ bike.
While we were waiting for the x-ray to be done Vasu and Devan managed to find us. They leant a sympathetic ear. We got the x-ray done. No obvious fracture. But the radiologist would only give the final report in the evening.
In the meantime we called a mechanic to assess the bike. Vasu’s pastor lived near-by and knew a reliable fellow. We took Deepak to get some new sandals. Then Devan took him to get a new pair of pants.
The mechanic stopped by and did a quick dekko. Amazingly, it was minor damage – on an old beater of a motorbike. A missing pedal, a broken taillight (the other already missing), a broken brake handle, some impact on the fork. The mechanic told us that he could fix it in half an hour.
Devan came back with a newly outfitted Deepak. They agreed to let us fix their bike. We took Deepak with us in the car while Dinesh followed on the bike.
All along the terrible weight of fear. And the prayers that kept taking things forward. I found it hard to call Sheba since it all seemed so unclear as it was happening. A maze. A fog. But one made easier by the prayers of the people. By SMSes that came in telling that we were not alone. By Vasu and Devan being their and patiently helping work through the relationship with these men.
And then at 4.30 it was over. We shook hands. Deepak and Dinesh got on their bike and headed off. Devan took the bus back to work. Vasu and I went for a long-overdue masala dosa.
While at one point Dinesh had said that the cost of repairing the bike would come to Rs. 5000 – as the time went on they did not make any direct demand for money. We worked to get all the treatment done in the best way possible, and provided the modest restoration of Deepaks clothes and sandals. We also got the medications needed and promised to pick up the final radiologist’s report. No demand for money came from them. As time had gone on, they also understood who we were. I had given my card and address immediately to them at our initial meeting.
I wouldn’t say we parted as friends – but there was mutual respect and a kind of simple camaraderie.
Answers to heart-felt prayers.
Even now I am still carrying part of the weight of the incident. That freeze-second sight of the bike hitting the road and the two men falling off. The haze of confusion afterwards.
Just a little bit different in any of a myriad ways and I could be dealing with one or both of these young men suffering from life-time paralysis due to the accident. Or I could be knowing that I had played a part in the death of one man. Or in the earthly end of both.
We live our lives on the razor edge of destiny.
As I look out on the monsoonal green tree outside our flat here in Thane, as I hear the pigeons landing on the tin awnings above, and hear the sounds of the big city filter in – grinders and polishing machines from a near-by building where someone is doing up their flat – the low groan of cars punctuated by various beeps of horns – as the grey monsoonal sky bathes the house with soft ochre light – all I can say is that I am grateful. Very, very, very grateful.
The quaking inside me will probably go on for some time. It must go on. I was not just skipping stones on a quiet pond. The stakes were not trivial. Multiple lives, multiple futures had come together on that day.
As the rain has now started slanting down from the grey skies outside, I can say that nothing less that God’s own hand was somehow involved. Whether angelic beings directly intervened is beyond my ken. But I do see something far greater than chance operating. In keeping the Dinesh from getting any injury at all. In limiting Deepak’s wounds to abrasions. In stopping a mob from forming and executing their brand of ‘justice’. In building rapport between us over the hours. In having friends who came immediately.
The Good Book says that God listens to the humble and opposes the proud. I experienced the utter helplessness last week – and felt the gracious hand of Jesus on me. And continue to need His mercies on me as I heal from the shock. My prayers continue for Dinesh and Deepak too as they heal from their experience.