I witnessed a minor accident today that brought back memories of a similar yet contrasting incident I was part of a few years ago. A car brushed a motorbike parked at the roadside today, and the man sitting on the bike had a tumble. He cursed. The car stopped. The driver alighted. Sensing nothing as alarming, they laughed at the situation’s futility in a somewhat anticlimactic moment.
What I faced all those years back was far from ordinary, though.
On a late morning that day, I was driving my regular route to the office. There is a section with many overpasses, and they always get busy during peak office hours. A safe driver, I had held my lane and stayed there. I don’t usually drive fast, and I wasn’t even that day.
And out of nowhere, a forward jerk and a crashing sound warned me something had bumped into my car from behind. I peeked into the rare view mirror and saw a man in the middle of the road, a motorcycle lying a few meters away. People crowded around him, some picking him up and others doing the same to his bike.
Like a good samaritan and fearing the worst, I parked my car to the side and strode, worried into the crowd that had ballooned to almost fifty.
A scruffy guy in his early twenties was standing at the centre, multiple people checking him for injuries. I was relieved to see him standing, moving, shaking himself off the dirt. At least my worst fears were unfounded.
And then, out of the crowd came a question that jolted me, “Kisne thoka isko?” - who hit him? Right away, I knew things could soon get worse than anticipated. I was rushing for answers, justifications, and truths for the bulging crowd on why I wasn’t at fault.
Someone touched my shoulder and said, “In bhaisaab ka gaadi hain”. It is this man’s car.
I knew my justifications wouldn’t work with this crowd. They wouldn’t even give me a chance to tell the truth. A guy walked towards the sweating me. I fumbled, searching for the right first word. But before I could utter anything, I heard a voice. “Mera galti tha. It was my mistake. I was driving fast, lost control of the bike and crashed into the back of this person’s car. It wasn’t his mistake.”
I heard a few audible sighs. The voice of a man who has just been in an accident and his admission of the mistake made the crowd lose all interest.
As the gathering started to dwindle, I breathed a sigh of relief. I walked to the guy and asked him if he was okay. I offered to take him to the hospital if he was hurt. He declined. Though scuffed at a lot of places, he was okay overall.
Strangely, a few people left were getting restless again and hurling enquiries at the guy. I felt a hand on my shoulder. A man in his fifties leaned and whispered, “Saheb tumhi nigha ata. You should leave now, sir. You shouldn’t have stopped at all. Things could have gotten so out of hand.”
Though I was stunned at that moment by the heartlessness of this stranger’s advice, deep down, I knew his remark had some merit.
In a world constantly on the verge of annoyance and hostility, was staying back when I knew everything was fine a mistake? I didn’t have the courage that day to find the answer. After all, #life had to happen.