Wednesday, January 04, 2012

'Journey' - My Tryst with Accidents

I have recently watched a Telugu movie named, Journey (dubbed from Tamil: Engeyum Eppodum). The movie is about love stories of two couples and the impact of a major bus-bus accident on their lives. Excellence (subjective and of course as per Indian/Tamil standards) in various departments like story, screenplay, photography, music and direction has made the movie worth watching and the accident scenes needing a special mention. But, this post is not about the movie, but about what it wants to convey – road accidents.
The accident scene in the movie is shot in such a realistic and horrifying manner that it has started playing on my mind, which has never been the case.
While I was in teens, whenever I read/watch an accident news, specially a major one – I used to think why not me; why I was not in that bus/train; I too travel often (every vacation – Dasara/Pongal/Summer); I used to dream that I was travelling in such a bus/train, but miraculously escape from the accident. But, sadly it never happened after I grew up. *Please, don’t assume me as a sadist/psycho/wicked.
While I was 7, a lorry (truck) hit our scooter on which Dad, Anna (brother), Mom and I were riding at Benz Circle, Vijayawada - everyone was jumped off the scooter – I rolled on the road for quite a distance and stopped dangerously close to the rear tyres of the truck. Though I escaped with minor injuries (scar disappeared in a few years), I don’t have a vivid memory of the complete scene.
Then, when I was around 11, I sat alone beside a right-side window at the back of the bus leaving mom and Anna sitting at the front. On a busy road, when the bus was stationary, the rear end of a truck coming from opposite side touched the bus and its rear-door chains stuck into the window exactly where I was sitting. Everyone including mom were scared, but I was watching it as a fun. I was sad too as it was not that thrilling with not even window getting smashed.
The itch (to come alive out of an accident) grew exponentially during my engineering, when I had to travel to a college on NH5 40kms away. I used to see damaged or over-turned vehicles on the road side almost every day. Why not one of them happens while I watch? Why not that happens to the bus I was going? During those journeys, I had seen some major accident scenes. Some happened few moments before we passed and some could have happened to our bus, but the chance went to the preceding. One of such accidents had one side of a private bus completely ripped off and some 30 bodies were moved into autos.
But, the wait was over one day. During third year, I and four other classmates got into an Express bus at college leaving another close friend MK who had a student pass. After 10 minutes, the driver tried an ambitious overtake around an overloaded (chili bags) tractor – the tractor fell half-way into a side-by ditch and a truck from opposite hit the bus on the right. Nobody was injured.  We were put into another bus. This time, I was standing beside the driver.  Twenty minutes into the journey, while trying to overtake an 18-wheeler truck-trailer the left-front side of the bus hit the trailer. That was a wow moment for me, to watch a live accident and had two incidents in a single journey; though, not fully satisfied as it was a minor hit. Again, none was injured. 
I was looking for more. A few months later, I and a friend LM (can compete with Kumbhakarna for his sleep in buses) got into a bus on return journey leaving MK on that instance too – I took the last seat and he was one row ahead. LM started sleeping; I tried to sleep on the last row lying horizontally, but could not. So, I got up and started gazing through the left window; Suddenly a BANG! And another BANG! A truck in the front applied sudden brake; our bus driver tried his best, but couldn’t avoid hitting; the front windows got smashed. At the same time, another truck hit our bus from rear; it was an old truck that had engine coming out (like cars). The engine protruded into the bus damaging the right side of the last row. And, there I was, on the left side on the same last row seeing this collision.
No, I was not shocked. I was not injured. Many in the bus got injured, mainly with foreheads hitting the front seats due to sudden brake. I woke up LM (yeah, still sleeping) and he asked rubbing his eyes, “What! Guntur came up so quickly?” I need not tell how much I pulled his leg in the college later. I can write a full post on his sleeping in the buses. Yeah! We had never left MK behind while taking bus.
Then, we were put into a different bus and there it was – my moment – my dream – everyone in that bus asking for the details and me telling the story – a live accident that I had live through.
Now, for the last 7 years (excepting the US stints), I have been travelling regularly (once or twice a month) from Hyderabad to my home-town Guntur – most often by bus (private/APSRTC) - start on Friday night and return on Monday morning . The journey includes NH9, one of the most accident-prone highways in the country, taking away hundreds of lives every year.
On every such journey, I see at least one accident and many ‘just-miss’ incidents. Two minor accidents happened to the bus I was in. Many times, I would be sitting in the left side window of the last rows, running parallel to a truck driver, only for the truck driver to put brake at the last moment to allow our bus to slide in. Still, I never had a ‘heart in the mouth’ kind of feeling because I have seen many before during college. However, since the day I watched this Journey movie, I have become philosophical about life as well as little worried about journeys. Wish, I come back to myself quickly as now I dream of driving car to Guntur one day in near future.
Hope at least 1% of these horrendous drivers that watch this movie think twice when they come on the road.

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