I would like to bring to your focus two different yet connected issues today.
I came across a newspaper report that instilled memories that were seemingly dead beneath the ashes of time.
It was an April evening. April was summer in Kerala. The late April campus was especially oriented towards the end semester exams and of course, a steaming series of work for a teacher.
It was about five years back. I worked as a Guest Faculty at a reputed institution, back then.
I was coming back home after an especially tiring day at college. The usual bus I took had left from the bus stand at Thalassery at the usual time. I was a bit late that day to reach the bus stand. So I missed that bus.
The reason for that was to be immortalized in my later writing life.
I went to a book fair at Thalassery old bus stand. Books have always been my craze. I bought Edgar Alan Poe’s collection of short stories with a yellowish cover and the title “Penguin Classics” on top of the front cover.
Then I went to the bus stand, I took a bus from the old bus stand. But I was tired and decided to choose bus ride instead.
I was fortunate enough to snatch a back corner seat in the next bus.
I was happy. So I waved to one of the Guest Faculties at the Legal Studies Department when I saw him get on the bus. He was late too. And he had to hang on to the iron bar on top as there were no seats available by the time he got in. I raised my left hand. He smiled and walked towards the front side of the bus.
The bus had already started. I listened to the music I had stored in the memory card of my cell phone. It was good music. I kept music as my constant companion to drown out all my tiredness and fatigue. Music is a good companion.
When the bus left Mambaram, my destination was coming nearer. The next stop was the Jawan Stop. There was a shelter for waiting for the bus on the right side of the road. On the left side of the road were two stationery shops. A few people flocked on the left side of the road to catch the rare buses that go to Chalode, my hometown. Buses to Chalode were rare from Thalassery in those days. I think it continues to be the situation. There are many buses running between Anjarakandy and Thalassery though. Anjarakandy is a junction and small town that sits between Mambaram and Chalode.
I was immersed in the music. I felt heavy with sleep.
Then, with a loud roar, something hit me on my back.
I was knocked forward. I couldn’t breathe.
I saw the metal sheet from the right flank of the bus rip off and dangle from one side.
Quickly it dawned on me that another bus from behind had hit my bus.
How? Why? Would I not be able to reach home in time? What would I tell my folks who are waiting for my arrival?
Something or someone repeated inside my head, “keep breathing… keep breathing….” So I did.
Someone, a human being, this time, asked me, “Are you wounded?” I couldn’t talk. I coughed and tried to nod.
The good people in the bus took me to the nearest hospital. They took my cell phone and called my parents at home. Because I had occupied the back corner seat I was the one most seriously hit.
My parents were in shock. Somehow, they managed to reach the hospital.
The doctor said I had to be operated immediately. The veins and tendons on the left wrist were severed by a piece of sharp glass. All over my face and body were bandages to cover wounds caused by broken glass and iron bars.
“You are fortunate to be alive,” one of the co-passengers who took me to the hospital and waited beside my bed until my parents showed up said. He is a good friend of mine at present. Later that night I discovered that the person was from Chalode too.
My parents spent thousands of rupees of money on my treatment.
My job as a Guest Faculty did not have a medical insurance or provision for applying for leave on a medical emergency. So my superior suggested I quit. I did that happily, as I was contemplating a life with my parents and family, with a less stressful job environment.
That one moment of the accident, that shock, that utter chaos, created something inside my soul—a realization that family is precious.
Then there was the case against the driver of the bus that hit my bus and the claim for insurance. When I came out of the shock and pain of the wounds, I started processing the events that took place on that evening. The bus that hit me was going to Anjarakandy. From there it was to return to Thalassery. The stops between Jawan Stop and Anjarakkandy junction were three or four. The bus that I was in was going to Chalode, through Anjarakandy. The bus that came behind was racing with the bus that I was in, for more passengers, for a few coins more.
When the case against the driver came to court, I met him face-to-face. He had a beard and long hair. He looked as if he was drugged. He said he knew where my house was. He said he wished he could come meet me at the hospital or at home in order to make apologies. He said he didn’t because he was scared of the wrath of my family. I said it’s OK. I realized that the man was also threatening me in a subtle way. He knew my house. He knew that my family lived there. He looked like a maniac. So I decided to drop the charges and leave the matter there. Deep inside I wished he refrained from driving jobs in the future.
Recently, I saw him behind the wheel of a bus named “Prathija” that runs between Thalassery and Chalode. The same man, the same looks, and my mind raced backwards. I shouldn’t have left him like that. If he caused another human being to suffer from his rash driving, I would never be able to forgive myself.
This craze for meagre economic profit haunts the private bus operators in Kannur. The impact of this madness is borne by the innocent people of the community. These private bus works or their owners never learn their lessons. Many people lose their lives due to bus accidents every day. The government too is blind towards this unabashedly open carnage. I was being lucky on that day. There are many who not as fortunate as I was. Here is an example.
Today, as I went through the pages of Mathrubhumi Daily, a Malayalam newspaper, a similar story hooked me. It was the story of Dilna from Kannur. Dilna underwent a bus accident at a very young age. The bus she was travelling hit a sidewall and the laterite stones fell over her causing her permanent handicap. She couldn’t walk, couldn’t go to school.
|A scanned cop of the newspaper report: Courtesy: Mathrubhumi Daily|
Her family doesn’t have the money for further treatment. When the insurance was claimed, the company did not release the money saying that the money that was claimed was more than they deserved. Who would teach these rascals the price for human life?
Thank God, Dilna is alive. However, she bears the cross of her wounds throughout, even if she didn’t deserve it.
I feel a guilty conscience when I saw the report. It is the fear of people like me that become the strength for the demons behind wheels racing buses across the streets. I am not worthy of taking up the case of Dilna or any other person. I know someone may feel more confident that I do at the moment. To that someone, I urge, please do something.