From the jaws of death
Well Folks, you might have wondered about what do I mean by being from the jaws of death. To put it in short, God gave me a new lease of life. Maybe the good deeds of my parents, my fore-fathers and my friends tilted the balance in my favor.
In the year 1999, I was working with the firm “Silverline Technologies” in Bombay. It was October 29, Friday. I left office at 21:45 and was supposed to leave for home at Nasik. I boarded a bus from Dadar at 23:15. I was seated in the second last row to the right, adjacent to the window seat. As was my habit, I would never sleep in a journey. I would spend my time observing the people, the surroundings and definitely; listening to my favorite music on my portable walkman. This night, I decided to listen to the mid-60’s old rock band “Doors” of the legendary “Jim Morrison”. The bus reached Asangaon, a tiny hamlet on the outskirts of Bombay at 01:30. People alighted to have a cup of coffee, for some like me indulged in biscuits or Rice and dal (which is the staple and humble food in dhabas all over Maharashtra). Enjoyed a bit of the night air and ofcourse relieved myself of the pressure that had built up in my bladder.
I resumed my journey at 02:07 towards Nasik. Now, the only thing in my mind was my meeting with my parents and my siblings; and I was looking forward to spend valuable quality time with them and sharing my experiences in the past one week in Bombay. I need not say this, because most are aware that Bombay at every moment gives you a different experience, that will be cherished or the worst case, will haunt you until your death.
It was 02:10 now, and I was eagerly waiting to listen to the next song on my walkman. The song, I vividly remember was “Light my fire” with its fantastic guitar pieces by “Robbie Krieger”. Very soon these wonderful guitar notes were to stop for an eternity and the strings of the guitar go “twang”. Suddenly I felt the bus swerving violently towards the left and dragging its tyres. I could smell the burning of rubber as the bus was being pushed by an invisible force towards the left. Within moments, I felt the bus in a free-fall. It was like bungee-jumping in the dead of the night. Now it was very clear in my mind, that I was falling into a black-hole, a black-hole of a different kind. I was scared stiff. The only word I could muster from my lips were the word “Amma”. The only person I remembered was my mother, in this dreadful moment. I could feel myself and the other fellow passengers being pushed, prodded, rolled, rocked around like the number pieces in the tambola box. Some of us would make it alive, while others would remain in the box, without making it out into some winning coupon. It feels nice to say I was one of the lucky number for a winning coupon; Yes, the coupon of God. I heard the sound of the bus hitting the ground, and felt it being dis-integrated into various pieces. In this motion, I could feel for the first time, how it feels to be sucked up by a black-hole; the black-hole in this case I later learnt was a slushy river bed. In fact, I had just fallen off a bridge.
Down below, in the hellish black hole; I was thankful that I was alive and kicking. I had not conked off like most others. I bade some time to get accustomed to the moonlight. Immediately within some moments, I found out that I was wedged in a space between the rear tyres, the axle and the skeletal remains of the bus. I tried to squeeze myself out of this tight corner, but could not. Oh God! My left hand was useless, I realized. I was not able to use them, but this was not going to cow me down. I mustered all my courage in my right hand, and thankful I was to the punishing routines in the Gym; for it was to save me this day. Once I was out of the junk, I found the platform that I was sitting upon was one of the rear tyres of the bus. I looked down and found the other tyre just below me. Oh Gosh! So the bus was lying on its side. Besides the tyre, I saw my fellow-neighbour passenger. He was a Naval cadet from Bombay, who was on his way to Shirdi to seek the blessings of Sai Baba. But I think, Sai Baba loved him and called him to heaven. He saved him the journey of making it to Shirdi, like countless of his devotees. He is blessed.
I jumped down and found my legs deep till my knees in the slush. Thank God, the river was just dry and there was no water. I plodded through the slush and found some of my co-passengers; some just sitting stunned, some knocked out cold and oblivious to what is happening around them, some calling out to their family members. I could hear the names being called “Papa”, “Mummy”, “Aayee” (mother in Marathi), “Sunita”, “Pravin”, “Mishra” and so on.
I saw another person cut in half by the metal sheets, that moments ago had provided a shield to us and gave the luxury bus its distinct shape and beauty. The sheets had turned into a dangerous weapon, rummaging through whatever it could slice through. I was thankful that I was alive. My body-building instincts, my immeasurable physical strength and mental toughness which had been hardened by my exposure to Body-building had helped me. The prayers of my parents, my friends, my well-wishers had pulled me alive out of this premature hell. I thought that the people needed help. I walked towards one of the edges of the bridge, holding on to the grass that grew around with my right hand. My left hand was useless. I motivated myself, pushed myself beyond my limits and reached the top. By then the police had already arrived, for they had been intimated by a good Samaritan who was right behind the bus in a car. I wish to have more of his kind in this world.
The police put me in a jeep and promised me that they will be helping the others too. I hesitated to leave behind my co-passengers, for I had seen the hell they were enduring down below. On being confirmed that the police would do their bit, whatever they could; I embarked on the journey to a small clinic in the village. I was lying on the floor of the jeep in agony. I could hardly breathe, which I later learned was due to blood rushing into my lungs because they were torn.
In the clinic, I was given pain-killing injections. My head was bandaged. The gash on my head which I was to later know was due to a flying piece of glass. But at this stage, my head was bandaged with a piece of glass already in the messy wound. Nobody had bothered to remove the piece of glass. I was told that my shoulder was broken. While I was sitting outside the dressing room of the clinic, I saw jeeps, ambulances and mini-trucks bringing in my co-passengers, and dead bodies. I counted 9 of them. On closer inspection, I found that these 9 people who had already bade goodbye to the world were my immediate neighbours in the bus. The last seat of the bus holds 6 people and the second last row holds 4 people, 2 on either side. So the dead accounted for the remaining people minus 1, that was me. It was my lucky day. As I said, a day on which the good deeds of my parents, my friends, my well-wishers tilted the scale of life in my favor. I sat there until morning, knowing fully well that the effects of the pain-killers were wearing off. I made a slit at the top of the T-shirt I was wearing and pushed my left hand into it as if like some sling to get some support to the damaged left shoulder.
At daybreak around 06:00, October 30, 1999, an ambulance arrived from Thane hospital to take the victims to a hospital in Thane. Even I was coaxed to get into the ambulance and leave for Thane, but I had other plans. I told them that I would like to go back to Nasik, to my parents. They enquired if I was able to undertake the journey. I replied affirmatively, for nothing interested me more than being with my family. I was made to sign a piece of document, which absolved them of any consequences if anything happened to me. I cared not what they had to say. I wanted to go home. That’s all.
I was dropped at the Asangaon railway station by an autorickshaw driver, who I still remember did not take any charges from me, even though I forced him to have his share. I could barely walk. I could find my breathing going tough. I was managing to keep alive and breathing by changing the position of my upper body, so that my breathing could resume. At 06:35, I boarded the Kasara local towards Kasara, from where I would have to take a bus ride to Nasik. In the train, I was subjected to the most extreme form of human callousness by the passengers. I found a vacant seat and took position. Immediately those around me got up and shifted to another seat. I could find them murmuring that probably I was a victim of some gang-fights, and was left for dead. They were right, for they did not want to be running their way into police-stations; which has a bad history with good citizens of this country. But it pained me, for I was wanting some help to try and manage to reach Kasara.
On reaching Kasara, I approached a taxi-driver, who like his fellow-beings whom I encountered in the train declined to help me. I pleaded with them to please take me to Nasik. I was losing time and I needed immediate medical assistance. I knew my time was running out. Out of a blue, a stranger approached me, as I was talking to these taxi-drivers. He came face to face and recognized me as a body-builder he had seen in lot of competitions in Nasik and all over Maharashtra. He was on his way from Nasik to Bombay. He pleaded on my behalf to the taxi-driver to take me where I tell him, and he managed to tell the taxi-driver that I was a famous sportsmen of Nasik. Well, Body-building made me so famous, I did not realize. I am still indebted to this stranger, whom I enquired about and told me his name was “Sanjay Dole” from the main Nasik city. Sanjay, wherever you are, “May God Bless you and your family”.
I reached Nasik after nearly 7 hours, instead of the normally 3 hours from Kasara; because I had to request the taxi-driver to drive very slowly due to the jitters I was going through. My bones were jarring and poking me. In the hospital, I found out that I had broken my shoulder into 3 pieces and broken my ribs in 11 places and my lungs were torn. The glass pieces lodged in my head were pulled out and the gaping wound stitched up.
The silence when my parents were told by the Doctor was palpable. I was shocked and beyond words, because it had put an end to my body-building career. Every now and then I would enquire with the Doctor, if I could continue with body-building, my passion. I was advised to stay in bed for nearly 7 months. It is one of the most enduring days I have ever gone through, since I could not move, nor turn on my sides, not sit upright. But I was keeping myself motivated to go through this ordeal and be back with my body-building. After the torturing 7 months on bed, when I saw myself in the mirror; I was in for another shock for I had grown fat and huge. I was resembling Mr. Jiggs in the cartoon series “Bringing up father”. I was shattered. A doubt lingered whether I could make to my original self. Deep down in my being, there was a resolve to get back at destiny. I made it very clear in my mind, that I wanted to go back to my passion. After 7 months of treatment (my parents suffered a lot during this period), I re-started my initial forays into exercising by squats and push-ups. I did feel a lot of pain in the ribs, but I could take a rest, change positions and somehow by my grit and determination, continue with my push-ups. Within 3 months, I could find myself getting into shape. Though I could never get back to the old form of mine, I am a pale shadow of what I once was. But I am more determined and more dedicated to the wonders of exercising.
Even to this day, I remain wide awake on journeys, not to look and observe my fellow-passengers; but to be aware if something untoward is gonna happen. An accident has changed my life.
My advice to my friends and others, “Have faith in God, for God will surely make a way for you. Listen to your mind, and believe in your inner self; for it is a powerhouse that can do wonders”.