After a heck of an escape from a highway motorcycle accident, he has moved on to travel thousands of kilometres more
A few months ago I had a close shave when my motorcycle skidded and I fell in front of a speeding lorry. I was overtaking the lorry and a bus came from the opposite direction. I slammed the brakes and tried to get out of the way of the bus. In the process, my wheels skidded and I fell in front of the lorry, which I sensed was only a few metres behind. Though I averted the first mishap, I was sure the lorry would run me over.
For a second I thought I was gone. I almost felt the front wheels of the lorry mounting my back and run all the way to my head, crushing everything on its way. But when it did not happen in a split-second, I looked back. To my horror and relief I saw I was right under the lorry. I could feel the heat of the engine and smell burning rubber. The right front wheel was inches away. It took me a few seconds to realise that the driver had screeched to a halt right on time, allowing me to live and tell the tale.
It happened some 15 km north of Kolkata, on Delhi Road. I am an ardent biker with a distance of over 75,000 km under my belt. I have gone far and wide, covering States such as Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa. But I am never complacent or careless. Rather, I am extra-cautious. Whenever I hit the road I tell myself I will not only ride safe but also take into account that even if others are at fault, the onus is on me to avert a mishap. I think this works since I never met with any accident worth mentioning, in the 15 years of my riding life. But what happened that day never came to me even in worst nightmare.
I cannot say how long I lay on the road. I was in a daze and could not even try to pull myself up. Two men from the lorry came out, dragged the bike out and pulled me out as well. A crowd gathered. The first thing I remember doing was to look at the driver. One of the cleaners said god has saved me.
I am a non-believer. I felt the T-shirt clad man seating at the steering wheel had given me a new life. I remember walking to him and reverentially touching his arm. I was too astounded even to thank him. I also forgot to remove my helmet so he could see the face of the one he saved.
After he drove off, I tried to regain my composure. I looked at the spot and tried to visualise what would have happened had I been run over. My body would have been lying in a pool of blood and the locals would be thrashing the driver. This sent shivers through my spines. I could not have done anything to save his life by declaring that it was not his fault. The dead do not speak.
After about two or three minutes I realised I should check out my own body. I was too numb to feel any pain. I found my left elbow and left knee slightly bruised: it was nothing, considering the potential magnitude of the accident. I moved my ankles to see if there was any injury. A pair of army boots I was wearing saved my feet. My bike was almost undamaged. Only the headlamp had broken. I limped to the road and removed the glass shards. Then I rode on.
Suggestions and advice began to pour in from all quarters. Some suggested I should give up biking. Many said I should go to certain temples on certain days. Some advised me to go to astrologers (perhaps those who specialise in forestalling motorcycle accidents). But I resisted it.
I argued that people meet with accidents even while walking, and people who believe in god or wear amulets and so on meet with accidents. Soon, they stopped advising me. Surprisingly, nobody appreciated the presence of mind of the driver who saved me.
I have since been able to ride over 3,000 km, across Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa. The only change that has come to me is that whenever I enter any dhaba along the highways where lorry drivers rest, I try to find the face of that driver who saved me. I am not even sure if I can recognise him if I see him. I hope against hope that I will find him one day.