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Monday, 9 February 2015

66. If Only Someone had Stopped (Published in Woman's Era December (Second) 2014 Issue)

If Only Someone had Stopped...

I was driving down the Ahmedabad-Vadodara highway on a summer evening. It was getting late and I wanted to reach Vadodara before it became dark. There was the sound of a blast and the car suddenly swerved to the left and then to the right with a jerk, but I manoeuvred the steering wheel dexterously to bring it to a screeching halt avoiding a major accident.

I was stunned at this unexpected development and the narrow escape all three of us had. I sat there like a statue for a few seconds trying to recover from the shock thinking of what all could have happened with the front tyre of the car bursting at such a high speed.

Still keeping my foot firmly on the brake pedal, I looked at my co-passengers, my teenaged son Rahul and his friend Vikrant and heaved a sigh of relief to see that both were safe. Too tired after the engineering entrance examination they had taken at Ahmedabad, both were dozing in the car.

Shaken out of their nap with the sudden jolts, they looked confused. Mercifully, despite their stiff resistance, I had forced them to wear the seat belts before starting the journey and that had saved them from any possible injuries caused by the sudden turn of events.

As I cautiously moved the car to the roadside, both the teenagers loosened up the seat belts and hopped out of the car. They quickly opened the boot. One of them took out the stepney while the other picked up the jack and the handle. They confidently moved towards the front wheel that had flattened to replace it. I smiled as I saw these youngsters taking on the responsibility and slowly stepped out of the car only to find that the stepney was equally deflated. Their faces fell and so did mine. We were in the midst of nowhere and the sun had already set. The dark shadows of the tall trees on either side of the deserted highway had begun to loom large looking frightening. I had no clue as to how we would tackle the situation.

As a feeling of helplessness was setting in, I heard a voice calling out to us. We looked around but there was no one.  
“Look up. Look up,” I heard someone saying.
All of us looked up simultaneously to find a man leaning over from the flyover right above where we stood, waving out frantically, and trying to draw our attention. The man spoke loudly, “What happened? Both tyres flat? Bring them up here. There is a puncture repair shop nearby. You can have it fixed up there.”

Before I could react and say anything, the boys picked up one tyre each and started rolling them upwards on the kuchha way leading to the flyover. In no time, they were out of sight.

As the time started ticking away, I became nervous. Almost an hour had passed and the boys had been away without any information. I was getting tense. I decided to call them up and dialled my son’s cell phone to check up on their whereabouts. The phone on the next seat started flashing, “Mum calling”   Oh... So he had left his cell phone here on the car seat.

Why is youth so impatient? It is pitch dark and the area is not familiar to me at all. I cannot leave the car here and go looking for them. Even if I go, where will I look for them? I was now talking to myself loudly. Should I ring up my husband? But he must have already boarded the flight by now. He was to go to Delhi to attend a meeting and that is why I had driven down the boys to Ahmedabad all by myself.

Tick tack…tick tack… As time was passing, I was getting too nervous and my heartbeat was increasing. Why did I myself not go with them? One boy could have stayed back in the car. But they acted so fast. They did not even give me time to react. I could not even see that man’s face clearly. Who was he? Why was he trying to be so helpful? Could he have some ulterior motive? Oh God! I hope the children are safe I crossed my fingers. Worried to my bones, my anxious mind was racing in all directions, all kind of negative thoughts flooding my mind about the well-being and security of the children. My emotions were shifting from anxiety to worry to anger to fear at a fast pace. 

If they were getting late, they could have at least called me up from somewhere. I picked up the phone to contact police but stopped. Looking at my watch again, I decided to wait for 10 minutes more.

I must have looked at the watch at least 10 times in the next five minutes. As my desperation was mounting, I noticed the strong beams of a big car slowing down just behind mine. Who is that, I tried to figure out as I could figure out a few people seated in the vehicle. Having read about so many incidents of the roadside robberies and waylaying, I promptly locked the car from inside and rolled the glasses up wondering what this new problem was. My heart was beating fast with anxiety.

And then, I saw what my eyes had been longing to see for the last one hour. Both the boys jumped out of the car and took the tyres out from its luggage boot. Seeing the boys safe and sound, I came out of the car. Meanwhile, the driver of the big SUV also stepped out. He was a smart young man of about thirty years. He too started helping the boys in fixing up the wheel. I was breathing easy now.

“Thanks a lot for all your help young man. Without you, we would have been doomed today,” I said.
“No problem, ma’am. It is my pleasure,” the stranger replied politely in immaculate English.
“If I am not too inquisitive, what were you doing up there? How come you spotted us from that flyover at this time of the evening in this deserted place?” my curiosity was increasing.
“It is a long story, ma’am,” he sighed and paused before he started, “Four years ago, I was also driving down at the same place with my wife. We were returning from our honeymoon. The time was also the same, 6.30pm to be precise, when my car met with an accident and we were badly injured, she much more than me. As she lay here in a pool of blood, on the verge of losing her consciousness, I tried to stop every single vehicle passing by to get some help but nobody stopped. People are self-centred. She bled to death at this very spot.”

His eyes lowered as if he was searching for his wife on the roadside but continued to speak, “After some time, I sat down on this verge and was about to faint when a good Samaritan saw me, stopped and took me to the hospital. Ultimately, I survived despite three broken bones and excessive bleeding after remaining in the hospital for about three months.”

He became silent as if searching for some words but continued, “Since then I come to this place every year on that day and spend the entire evening looking down from the flyover. Invariably, I find someone in need of help. Helping people in difficulty gives me a lot of satisfaction. My wife did not get help from anyone on that fateful evening. Only if somebody had stopped, she could have been alive today. But this is destiny. Now by standing there and finding someone who I can help gives me a feeling that I have done something for her.”

Sharing this, he slowly turned, wiped his eyes, and moved towards his car while I stood there speechless not knowing what to say.


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