I am not a god fearing person. I do not remember the last time I prayed, but I think it was, when I lost my friends in a climbing accident.
I prayed to him to “undo” the situation and “restore” so that the climb never happened and that we were defeated by the mountain and just returned. A few days later when, I was sympathetic to myself and the bereaved, telling them facts. I repeated the incident to everyone (and myself), trying to make a concrete fact in my mind that my friend was not going to come back. I was emotionless when this narration went on and I tried to be as specific as possible. Still I am a human and there were discrepancies that needed more info than I had.
At instances, I prayed that all that I witnessed or told to everyone was completely wrong and my friend walked back alive and met me with the same jovial face.
This prayer went on for many days and finally I faced the reality. There is no God to help me. The only thought that stuck in my mind was that 19 Oct is a sad day for me. It so happened that the news of my demise too started on the same date and reached peak the day later.
It is coincidental that a few months earlier than this tragedy, I had taken taken a “quiz” on some web page that claimed to find my age at my death and reasons for my death.
It said Freeze, fall, Electricity. I ignored this warning and went on my “last” expedition.
The page still exists and it tells me , as of today that I have overlived 3 years 11 months.
If I were to truly believe in this page, I have overlived by 6 year. The reasons for my demise 6 years ago had two of the “clauses” which are very close to predictiion. Freeze and Fall. My friends did have a fall at a high altitude. If I was with them on the summit attempt ,probably I would have taken the fall too.
On 19 Oct 2014, I discarded all above as pure crap. We set on a family drive Pune Nagpur which is around 720 km. Early start at 4AM. The night of 18th was pathetic as I did not get a sound sleep. Still I started my Honda Amaze on the dot. I have driven Pune Nagpur at least 3 times. I follow a routine where I do not stop. I eat inside the car. I do not overeat as it causes sleep. I stop once for a chai.
We reached Akola. I had a tea break. Then I took the Amaravati bypass. If you have never driven on this highway, I recommend you to try it once. It is an endless road with no traffic. Few times you get a Deja-vu and feel that you are moving in circles. Empty.. Dry after Malegaon. It is not an interesting drive but it is more like a ultra marathon where counting miles will get you nowhere.
I remember telling my better half while driving up a gentle ghat to “talegaon” that these are the best possible roads in India. It is a two lane road with a 1.5 ft divider on right.
I did not hear from my kids or my wife and its just a 70 km drive to Nagpur and I have done 600+.
The drone of few vehicles and the hum of my engine…. A blink of eye and As I open the eyelids I am rushing thru Foliage, Flowers on my windscreen. I immediately realize my mistake and steer hard to the left. Steam from the bonnet Tyres on right punctured my Honda limps to the left bank. I stop the car and get everyone out as I fear a fire is about to start.
My heart beats wildly as I realize the narrow escape. The steam has stopped. There is a mark on the road that show me my path. I apologize to my better half. But deep inside..I have lost confidence in long driving that will take a hell of a time to cure. I prayed thanking god for the intuition.
In 15 years of car driving, I have never met a single accident. With this one, my ego as a super driver has shattered. I feel old …My lovely car just 8 mths old. How could I do this to my family? Responsibility of a driver is shaken. That one Wink on a curving road. I cannot even imagine that I slept during my drive.
The Bumper has taken a bang on the right but the superb design has actually lifted the car and the wheel rim got over the 1.5 ft kerb pulling the rear wheel in same alignment. The rims took all the impact. Both tyres burst. The condenser must have leaked. And the radiator hoses.
When tragedy hits, humans switch automatically to what must be done immediately. There is a press reporter to my rescue. He gets tea for family. He also asks if tow truck is available at Karanja Toll which is 12 km ahead. I dial the Honda Roadside assist. They are very cooperative and arrange for a flat bed truck. My wife and kids are picked up by a friend who is in the vicinity and he drives them to Nagpur.
I always keep my head torch and Swiss knife with me on a travel. I have carried these on my last expedition too. It’s still 2 hours to kill. I know to roll the car over the flat bed I may need to change the rear wheel. The spare wheel has never been opened since it was assembled in the factory. I do not have a set of pliers to turn the Wing nut. I focus all my mind and energy to give it a tight squeeze. But nothing moves. Then I align a rod to the wing and hit with a rock.. There is slight rotation. I hit again ..and again.. Yes the nut is now loose. The flat wheel is replaced with the new one and I wait for the truck.
Its dark and insects keep hitting my face. The sweat gets colder. I switch off the flashlight. This highway is not like Mumbai-Pune. A vehicle rarely passes me every 5 minutes.
It is as dark as it was six years ago. I did not eat anything then. I am as hungry now. That accident happened around 3 PM or maybe an hour later.
This one was around 4:30PM. The climbing accident had 4 people. 2 died/ 2 injured. We were 4. All strapped to the seats. All survived thanks to the vehicle and reflex action.
When you are alone, your mind makes crazy connections. The truck is here now and I have company. My Car is towed aboard. I choose to sit inside the car and not the truck cabin.
It’s still 70 kms to Nagpur and an entire week to spend. Till the car gets mended to as good as new, I should work on a way to get back to Pune. Art should again be a good “diversion”.
The reason why I managed to churn so many paintings during Diwali!