“Slow on the accelerator. Slow on the accelerator”, I cautioned myself. I was wary of getting too close to the edge of the hill. And then, my leg did just that: jammed on the accelerator. I froze. The car started rolling towards the edge of the hill. I knew what was next. Screams of shock began to rise in my throat. The car began to roll off the slope of the hill in what seemed to me like a slow calculated movement. I felt the cold chill rising up in my spine. I knew just then that death was inevitable.
I had just started driving some months back. That faithful day, I had gone shopping with our house helper. I remember the back seat being buried under several shopping bags.
We have a common open parking space for locality members, owing to hilly terrains and narrow pavements. The open parking space resembles a small field, but with dangerous steep slopes on two sides. When we reached the parking space only the vulnerable sides of the field were unoccupied. I asked our helper to carry whatever she could and head home, while I park the car. I had meant to park the car swiftly and head home, when that unthinkable life altering incident took place.
I felt lost sitting inside a falling car. My hands were on the wheel, shocked and then terrified low screams broke out. I wanted to pause the dreadful moment and set things right. Several images began to flash up in my mind. I pictured myself falling to the ground below, with the car fully smashed up. I wear glasses so the thought of broken pieces ramming into my eyes, making me blind, seemed obvious, even if I survived the fall. I pictured a ghastly hospital scene with my parents weeping by my motionless and disfigured body covered with white cloth on the bed. My heart went out to them, and I was thinking what would happen to them now? Who would be taking care of them? I also realized my unfulfilled goals and aspirations. I remember saying, “But I have dreams”, aloud in my mind and feeling sad that I have to give it all up. I wanted to eject myself out of the falling car. I felt so helpless. My mind was alert. I knew what I wanted. I wanted to stay alive. I did not want to die.
Suddenly, the car stopped. I was out of my reverie. I realized that the car had hit a small but sturdy tree with wild shrubs and climbers growing around it, supporting the car momentarily. I quickly stepped out of the car, fearing that the foliage underneath could spill out any minute. By then, the neighborhood had become aware of something going amiss in the parking area. I could hear voices calling, “A car has fallen off”, and running footsteps. I was somehow calm by then. Already, a man was leaning over the edge of the slope extending his hand towards me and asking me if I was alright.
For a while, then, this episode kept playing in my mind. People told me I was lucky that I survived a terrible and possibly life threatening accident without incurring any injury. Well, I was grateful for that. But, I was also baffled.
Lying on my bed, I kept playing the scene over and over in my head. I kept asking God, why? Why was it so important that I live? I mean, yes, I appreciate the second chance; but, I felt like I needed an explanation. Some sort of heavenly interpretation, as to why I was saved that day. You see, I am not a religious person, but, I do pray every night before retiring to bed. I rarely go to church for personal reasons. I have my own demons. I felt like I could not live up to my parents’ expectations, especially my mother’s. As a child, I have always felt that my mother favored my brother more than me. By the time I started working, my patience for her complains began sounding more like petty nags. Our differences grew and it became difficult to draw my point-of-view without being rude and harsh to them, resulting in silent aloofness for days. This would affect the environment in the house. It was like we were all living under the same roof, but, in our own world. It was emotionally draining for everyone.
This dilemma for answers went on for a long time. I was in awe of the situation. Perhaps, I needed counseling for post traumatic event or maybe, I simply needed to talk to someone about it. Every day, in some neglected corner of a newspaper we come across some ‘miracle’ story. This was a miracle for me. I managed to keep a smiling face before every one. But, when I am alone, I kept trying to ‘decode’ the fact of the situation because I had experienced the worst sinking feeling ever during those few minutes of watching my life, almost fading into an oblivion. I felt it was my earnest distress call to God that probably saved me then.
I experienced two great emotions that day- loss and regret. Loss, for fear of having to leave my parents half way (I come from a matrilineal society). Regret, though, I was comfortably settled in my career; I wasn’t doing exactly what I needed to do to accomplish my career goal. That dissatisfaction loomed large, causing emptiness.
It has taken me over a year to fully understand where I need to channelize my energy on. Ironically, I understood that my parents’ happiness were important to me and with all differences said and done, I knew their complaining was just a part of them growing old. The other thing was to work on my career path with more focus and determination.
It has been an eye-opening experience for me. Like a message from God, to stay true to myself and pursue my goal without fear. God has plans for everyone. Usually, we create such situations for ourselves that we ignore the very essence of our life, finding it easier to suppress our innermost desire, such that we often end up hurting the people closest to us. Self-doubting is a sickness, combined with fear, is lethal.
It’s been over two years now since my encounter with death. I have moved out of my comfort zone, pursuing my goal again. The journey has not been easy, but it’s worth the try. There will always be challenges to make a dream into reality. My parents have been most supportive this time and every time I start doubting myself, I recollect my moment in that falling car. Death is a reality no doubt, but, prayers give hope. For all I want, as I reflect back on my life someday, sitting on my rocking chair manning my gray hair, is to have lived a life without regret.