April 25, 2020
Fighting for our lives is something that most of us will, thankfully, never need to do. Those of us, who have, hope not to experience it again. Over the years, I had been through some scary and near-death experiences, but this piece of writing is proof that I have survived them all.
The scars left by the scariest experiences in life
Will haunt the individual to his or her grave …
The ghost, cockles, bees, the accident and the train
Form an integral part of my life’s terrifying pain!
The Walking GHOST?
I had mentioned in one of my previous write-ups that 9 years of my life from age 4 to 12, I was brought up in Bengaluru. Our house was diagonally opposite the Wilson Garden Electric Crematorium, with its western wall visible from our abode.
This incident took place when I was eleven years. On many occasions, we, a group of friends, would stay back after school on Fridays, to play some sports, the most popular being cricket. On such days, by the time we wrapped up and made our way home, it would be pretty late in the evening. My routine on other days of the week was walking a good 20 minutes on the perpendicular road from my school located on Vittal Mallya Road (then Grant Road) in Ashok Nagar leading to the Double Road, Shanti Nagar bus stop from where I used to board a double-decker bus that would take me straight to my house in Wilson Garden. On Friday game days, we three friends used to take the parallel route to the nearby Corporation Bus Stop in Sampangi Rama Nagar. There, among us three, one would say ‘ciao’ as his house was across the road of the Corporation Building. The remaining two of us would catch the BTC bus that would go toward Lalbagh, bypassing the road leading to my house.
On that Friday, as usual, we disembarked at the bus stop on the curve of the hill before Lal Bagh. My friend stays a bit further up there and we bid adieu to each other as I had to take the opposite way. From this location, if I take the normal road it would be quite far having to walk backwards to reach the road turning right, then again walk a fair distance on the road parallel to the crematorium southern wall. The short-cut, saving a lot of time would be a man-made path through the crematory.
It was dusk at this stage (and I had never been so late) when I crossed into the Crematory from the far eastern side of its wall, hopping on those grey stones that had been purposefully taken off to make a diagonal way. I had often taken this route before and it was a cool thing that I did to reach home quicker.
Hitherto, whenever I took this path, almost every time I used to be the only one walking toward the western wall exit, a couple of exceptions being I had been followed by another person at a distance, the same way. Seldom, I remember having anyone coming from the opposite side. Walking almost half the diagonal track, I noticed someone walking in front of me at a distance in all white from where I was. I could figure out that this ‘someone’ kept an eye on me even from that distance and I focussed on that ‘someone’ as well. My heartbeat raced as I walked further and further as that ‘someone’ came nearer and nearer. It began to pound rapidly trying to figure out whether this ‘someone’, now pretty close was a ‘human being’ or a ‘ghost.’ I trembled and sweated profusely!
With just a few yards separating us, our faces stared at each other transfixed. Just as we were about to cross that narrow single path, almost simultaneously, both of us let out a chilling yell calling out-‘manushyana’ [Are you (a man/person)?] that echoed within the square walls of the crematorium and scared a few birds away. The answer we tried to establish was whether we were men and not ghosts. Immediately after passing that ‘someone,’ I took off as swiftly as my legs would take me not looking behind. Who knows? The ghost might be neck and neck following me!!
In normal circumstances, after coming out of the western wall onto the road, I walk downhill on the way to my house. In this instance, after leaping over the western crematory boundary wall, I jumped the wall of the park running across to the other side, exiting the park gate.
I do not recollect how and when I reached home from there. What I do remember was the next few days I was down with very high quivering fever. The ghost and I became the talk of my class. I was adamant for the lights to be put off, as I struggled to even close my eyes to catch some sleep. That was the last time, I had taken that short-cut, so much so, I did not even lie-down with my legs towards the crematorium for a very long time.
The Double-barrel GUN!
My weekends during my bachelorhood in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, were exciting. I was a friend of many a family who used to invite and take me wherever they went. My family friends had cars provided by their companies and we made the best of them by using those automobiles going out on Thursdays and Fridays. On one such weekend, driving without any purpose toward the northern Emirates, our four cars following each other, landed in the Emirate of Ajman, taking a deviation deep inside into no man’s land following the path wherever it led us. There were some signs in Arabic throughout our ‘adventure drive’ which we did not give much heed to.
When we arrived at a large body of water, we got down. Removing our footwear, we made it to the lake’s shore wading through on the water’s edge. We soon realized the shore was full of cockles burrowed in the sand and our joy knew no bounds while sticking our hands in the soft sand picking them, making a lot of noise all around in sheer excitement. We soon got plastic bags from our cars and spread out - I was at one corner of the lake, a few in the centre and the rest at the far end of another corner all collecting the mussels.
Engrossed in catching and collecting these bivalves in my bag, I didn’t notice four Emirati men in their traditional dresses on horses in front of me. My gaze suddenly fell on them. Pointing their double barrel- guns in my direction they shouted out in Arabic - ‘hayawan’ (animal), ‘muhadad’ (restricted), ‘almahzura’ (prohibited). Instantly dropping my heavy bag by now, I raised my hands as they fired in the air.
If not for the screams of women and children in the group emanating from the other side of the lake, that they were not aware of and which they luckily noticed, the angry guards seemed to mellow down and let go of me. If not for them, maybe I would have disappeared without a trace! They ordered all of us to clear the area at once, oversaw that we exited, before galloping away.
The Honey BEES!
In the late eighties, our neighbours and I had been on a tour of St Mary’s Island off the coast of Malpe. We were 24 of us, young and old, singing and making having a field day. After a heavy lunch, as it was hot and humid, some elders in the group craved for tender coconuts that were aplenty on the coconut island. Our young neighbour Umesh who is at the forefront of such challenges volunteered to climb the coconut palm and get the nuts for all of us to savour.
As he went up and up climbing the swaying palm, I being the ‘self-proclaimed cheerleader’ led a vociferous group on the ground encouraging him. He did a decent job climbing without even a rope between his legs, but as a precautionary measure, we young guys formed a human chain below, in case of any mishap. Our joy knew no bounds when Umesh, now high on the top reached the nut placing his palm over it.
Umesh had given the tender coconut a couple of gentle taps and had just turned it clockwise, when a swarm of honey bees (invisible at any angle) that had built their hive just behind, suddenly and swiftly attacked him left, right and centre. Hundreds of them were all over his head and face in a flash. Poor Umesh tried to fend them off using his right hand while still loosely holding onto the tree’s textured trunk by his left hand. All his efforts were in vain as they attacked with vengeance stinging him vociferously.
He could survive this way descending until he reached the centre of the palm tree and then lost his balance and came down crashing, bang on me. It all happened in a split second and though we were mentally prepared, no one expected that coming. His whole body landed on mine and in the process, my head thumped on one of those pointed stones bulging out from the Island. Blood oozed from my head’s impacted area, but as you all know I am still alive and kicking.
The Platform FALL!
Once my sister Venus completed her MBA at Mangalore University, Konaje, she received an interview call for the position of Assistant Financial Controller in a multi-national company, JK Synthetics Ltd in Kota, in the north-western state of Rajasthan. I had the pleasure of accompanying her for the interview and in a week Belatedly, I realised the company HR called back with the good news that she was hired. My sister made the bold decision of going and joining, for she believed it would be a good opportunity to start with, giving a boost to her career. This time, to set her up and to complete the other formalities, Dad decided to go.
On the day of her departure, the whole family had been to the Mangaluru Railway Station at Attavar to bid her farewell and wish her the very best. The train was to depart at a certain slated time and I always being cautious had an eye on the watch. There were still 10 minutes to go and we were all comfortably seated in the penultimate carriage chatting, laughing and teasing her. About four minutes from then, without any warning whatsoever, the train suddenly started moving.
At this juncture, we were startled and my three siblings and I ran toward the exit. Belatedly, I realized we had left mom behind and so I went to fetch her. Meanwhile, my siblings had safely jumped out. I urged Mom to take the plunge and understandably she could not muster enough courage to do so. The train was gathering a little speed and without any second thoughts I jumped out taking Mom along with me landing onto the edge of the platform.
In that confusion, as we landed on the concrete jumping forward, my legs were caught in between the gap of the platform and the train. By sheer luck, I was able to move them away in the nick of time as a couple of stairs of the last carriage passed. If it was not for that, my legs would have been crushed under those steps and that would have been another dreadful story.
To date, I have been involved in a solitary motor vehicle accident in my life. When I was in high school, I owned a two-wheeler ‘Samrat’ that looked like a red bike. We were visiting Dad at Unity Health Complex, Highlands. At night, leaving Mom, I took off from there to go home and fetch food for dinner as Dad always had a craving for home-made food. On my return, to reach quickly, I overtook an auto-rickshaw in front of me on SL Mathias Road without realizing and noticing another rickshaw approaching from the opposite side and crashed head-on!
My friend Gerald who we used to call Gerry, who passed away this February (RIP) and his late dad Richie Uncle were the first to run out of their house after hearing the big thud. I was rushed to the ‘emergency’ of the same hospital where Dad was. Apart from the ‘big thud’ that appeared at the outset to be a life-threatening accident, I seemed to be alright, but for the small laceration that still exists under my right arm.
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