I have been trying to write this post since Tuesday evening- the fateful day when it happened... But just could not get myself to write about it- till now that is. I guess it is only now- after four days or so- that words are forming themselves without sounding like sentences out of a documentary.
A normal day, which starts with the usual frenzy of activity. A couple of telemarketing phone calls- "Madam we are offering a new policy for accident insurance....." and I reply with "No thanks.. " as I get back to cursing my super-slow IDE while trying to fix some test-case. As noon approaches- I start feeling uneasy- maybe its the sudden change in climate.. I am not feeling very well. By the time I am done with lunch- I feel worse. So I decide to finish off with the current task and leave for home.
It's around 3:45pm when I leave office with the usual "Call me if its urgent" line. I get into my car, and get on the road. There's a mini bus in front of me. I am driving at 40KMPH. Hmm- the mini bus is slowing down- looks like it's going to take a turn now. I slow down- I don't want to overtake it - there's already a car to my left. I am not in a hurry- I slow down the car: 30KMPH.. 20KMPH... 10KMPH... Stop. I am waiting for the mini bus to complete the turn at the cutting in the road. I have been waiting for around 5 seconds now- the bus is waiting for traffic from that side to stop so that it can turn. "Come on... Take a turn!!" I say in my mind..
My car has surged ahead. No- I did not accelerate. And no- the car isn't in neutral. And yes- my foot is firmly on the break. It takes a millisecond for my brain to register that someone hit my car from behind. And as soon as that registers- I turn behind- and see that white car- with it's bonnet open- speed past me.. "The number- I've got to see that car's number!!!" my brain is screaming to me.. But my eye-sight cannot reach the number plate of that car- and it is then that I realize- that my car has rammed into the mini bus in front of me- and the bonnet of my car is into the bus sideways- almost up to my windshield..
Suddenly I forget all about that white car. The bonnet of my car has crumpled like a sheet of paper, as the corner of the turning bus stabbed into it. My hands are still on the steering wheel. I foolishly notice that the car has stopped running. Nothing happens for the next complete second. I am just sitting there- motionless- as if I expect this is to be a nightmare which will end any second now.
No it's not a nightmare. Here they come...
Who are all these people who are crowding around me? The mini-bus driver begins with a full verbal assault. "HANG ON A SEC!!!" I tell him. "I did NOT hit your bus on purpose!!! My car was hit from behind- and I got pushed into the bus!!!" He looks at me incredulously. I try to get my car started so that I can move it to avoid a traffic jam. The mini bus driver glares at me- "Madam- don't move the car till my Sahib comes- he needs to see the accident as it happened. I say.. "Ok" and proceed to take off my seat-belt and get out of the car..
Do you know what they mean by a "mob"? Well- I know now.
The mob is not letting me get out of the car. "Eee madam- stay where you are. Don't move. Don't leave the car. You think you can run away like this?" Me?! Run away?! What the hell are they talking about?! Do I really look that stupid so as to make these people think that I intentionally rammed into a mini-bus with my little Alto?! There are 10 people shouting at me at the same time and I am cornered in my car. "How dare you try to overtake and damage the mini bus?! Don't you know- the bus is under Transport Corporation (or something like that) and you can't get away after damaging it."
I am trying to make sense out of what those people are talking about. Me damaging the bus? I mean- really now. I am looking at my car- completely wrecked - and these people are threatening me not to move because I damaged the bus?!
Some people are putting their hand on the window and gesturing angrily at me. Ok- now I am scared. It suddenly dawns upon me that I am the only female around- and that it is only me against the mob. My hands are trembling now. I get hold of my cell phone and start dialing 9822... Manjusha's number. I am just a kilometer from office. She can reach soon and she will get someone along with her. "Hello.. Manjusha.. Can you come here right now.. I have met with an accident..." I am met with a brief, shocked, silence at the other side.. Manjusha's voice comes back on line- "Where are you right now..? " I tell her my location- in a surprisingly cold, accurate, machine-like way.
100 - the number is 100..
They are here- they are here!!! I have never been so happy in my life to see a police van. They let me move my car. I turn the key in the ignition- hoping that there is no blast like they show in the movies. It turns and the car springs back to life. I put it in reverse gear with doubt clouding my mind- "Will it run?!" I let go of the clutch and it moves behind- clearing all my doubts- it's running. I somehow take a U turn and park the car at the other side of the road. Some good samaritan from the crowd comes to me and hands me over two things which he picked up from the accident spot.. "Madam- here- your car's bumper and headlight- it had fallen off over there.. " I look at the two things in his hands- take them from him and thank him- I cannot believe I am carrying pieces of my car. I put them inside the car- or whatever is left of it..
Ok- so by this time I am in bad shape. Tears are stinging my eyes and and I am battling them so that they don't spill out. Of course I lose the battle as the first big, gigantic tear rolls down my cheek. By this time- the mob has been scattered away by the police. "No no no- I cannot cry right now.. Easy Priyanka easy.. " I tell myself. I get out of the car and walk towards the police personnel. I tell him what happened. I notice Manjusha and Dhanraj walking towards me.
They make a diagram of the accident- which car was where and who hit whom. They ask us to get the car to the police station, some distance from the spot. I am not sure of driving the car in that condition- but what the heck- I don't feel anything anymore- a sickening numbness has begun to set in. I drive the car in first and second till the police station. And I am greeted with expressions ranging from pity and horror as I make my way till there.
FIR time ..
The police station is a small place with a some cupboards, desks, a TV and a mirror saying "Majhaa ganvesh kasaa aahe" meaning "How does my uniform look?". I sit there silently. the police personnel question me and get all details. The FIR is ready in sometime. But I am up for another interesting ordeal now.
"Hello- is this the insurance company?"
I call up the car showroom (which had gotten me the car insurance) to get the insurance company number. A guy answers "Hello ma'am. Pleased to have received your call. How may I help you?". I clear my throat and say- "Hello- This is Priyanka- I got a car from your showroom in March- I have just met with an accident- can you please tell me which number I can contact on". Without a moment's delay the guy replies- "Oh- this is about insurance- hang on I shall transfer you to that department". I wait for the music to get over when other person comes on line with a curt "Yes?" I repeat my sentences just to be transfered again. By this time, Manjusha and Dhanraj are also fuming about the calls being transfered and their irritation fuels me a bit- and when the third operator comes online I tell her "This is Priyanka. I have met with an accident and need the insurance number. And if you dont have it- PLEASE DON'T TRANSFER THE CALL ANYWHERE WHERE I HAVE TO REPEAT EVERYTHING! JUST HANG UP" She meekly gives me the number. Manjusha is writing down all the numbers that I am speaking out. After five more calls- I reach the required person and intimate him about the accident.
Back to the pavilion
The police ask me to come around later. I somehow drive the car to the office parking where the main gate security greets with me shocked looks. I get the car into the parking and go back to my desk. Like an audio recording- I tell everyone about the accident. I have not called up my family yet- I know that would need to wait a bit.
Kunal, my teammate, says he'll drop me home. I am home now and am telling everyone about it. It seems as if it happened years ago as I recite the story again.
It's close to 9pm now- and I just want to sleep. No phone calls. Nothing. I just want to sleep....
It is only now that I am in a state to write about it without feeling numb. This incident has made me realize how lucky and special I am- and how many people there are out there who are praying for my well being. I am here today typing away about this only because I was wearing my seat belt. I am here today giving a recollection of the whole ordeal only because the car that hit mine, hit from the left side, making me hit the bus sideways. Had it been a head-on collision- my windshield would have rained on me.
I want to make an appeal to everyone who's reading this. Please wear your seat-belts while driving people. And please please live each and every moment of your life. Without regrets. Because I know what I am saying when I say that only the present moment is what we have. Live it.