December 14, 2015
(I haven't mentioned any names. Please don't ask me to)
I had just finished dinner at PD outside campus and was walking back inside. A gray Maruti Swift suddenly lost control, spun 360 degrees twice and rammed into the barricade. A SASTRA watchman standing at the platform was thrown back and across the service road and hit his head on a sharp rock near the platform where the stalls were, right next to me. I was in shock. Like, I've seen a few road accidents. Truck ramming car, car tyre bursting and skidding to a halt, etc. None of these, however, involved any human lives at stake. I thought right there that he was gone. He remained sprawled on the road, motionless. I hadn't lost my cool. I approached him and tried calling out to him. No response. I tried patting him awake, hoping he was still conscious. Still no response. People started crowding around us and some people did the first thing anyone ought to do when such an accident happens – get the driver and beat him to pulp and remember to take the keys out! I got my phone out and dialed '108'. I was surprised at how there was no ring before someone answered. I had never dialed for an emergency service before and I didn't know they had people at the phones at all times. It was when the person at the other end asked what my emergency was, that I realized my voice actually sounded frantic. My hands were shivering and my legs felt weak. I told the guy at the other end that there was an accident outside SASTRA University. The call dropped after that. I remember thinking if that was normal. He didn't ask for any details. I was only hoping they were sending through an ambulance. I went back to trying to revive him.
The crowd surrounding me was completely unhelpful. A few people just shone their phone lights on him. Was that curiosity? Trying to identify who it was? Seeing if he was alive? I don't know. Then I tried feeling for a pulse. None. But I caught the rhythmic motion of his breathing. I screamed out that he's breathing and called to people to help me lift him up. No help. I'm tugging at this arms, unable to support his weight by myself. No help. Then a SASTRA watchman who I knew appeared from nowhere and lifted his torso up. I held his back and made him sit upright. Only then did we notice the huge gash on the back of his head. It was pretty deep. But surprisingly, it wasn't bleeding. I could see some fleshy stuff which, later, I thought might've been his brain but I can't be too sure. I must've told like 5-6 people to call an ambulance. A few obliged. The others just stared at me. Maybe I was unintelligible? Maybe I spoke in Latin by mistake? No idea. Could've been anything. I spotted someone in a white shirt talking to the emergency services, explaning our location. Someone ran back inside to get a vehicle. Meanwhile, someone had gone and informed his daughter who happened to be working her security shift at the university. She came in, pushing through the crowd and started wailing for her dad. She kept trying to pull my arm out from behind his back so she could see him. Some morons thought they were helping and shone a light on his head. His daughter saw the injury and completely went bonkers. The 2 of us (holding him up) told people around us to stop shining their flashlights on us. But again, I think our Latin accents didn't reach them.
After what seemed like an eternity, a white van pulled up near us and we hauled him into the vehicle. Then the guy who was with me there was all, “Who's going with him to the hospital?” I mean seriously? He's your colleague! You know him! You're the one who told me his name! So some guy sporting a lungi climbed aboard and I jumped in as well. One person wasn't going to be able to lift him up anyway. The doors closed and I asked the driver to go to Meenakshi hospital in Thanjavur. Apollo was too far away. By now my hands and legs were shivering so badly I was probably going to need to sit down. My hands and trousers were soiled and bloody. I told the lungi dude that my hands ached so he took charge of holding him up and I sat back for a while. We chatted a bit about the victim. Apparently Mr. Lungi was a relative of his and he felt bad because he was a good man who was about to retire. Much of the journey went by in silence. I kept looking back over my shoulder to see if we'd reached yet.
When we finally did, I ran out of the vehicle and said “Accident”. Immediately a stretcher materialized and 2 nurses and an attender came to the van. We carried the victim out of the van and onto the stretcher and they whisked him into the emergency wing. Mr. Lungi and I went inside and the receptionist walked up to us and asked us to fill up some forms. He volunteered and I walked out of the wing. It was only then that I realized that my phone was dead. I used the driver's phone to call up a friend at the hostel and asked him to inform my warden about the situation. Having done that, I waited. I went inside the operation theatre once because a nurse called me and asked me to pay some bills. I went back out but it was already taken care of so I didn't bother. After a while I realized my hands and feet were still shivering so I searched out a washroom and washed off the mud and the blood.
Then came the longest wait of my life. People from college starting coming into the hospital in huge numbers. A minute or two back there were just the 3 of us – Mr. Lungi, the driver, and me. Suddenly the entire watchman fraternity plus a largely built “employee” of the accounts department walked in and “took charge”. All they did (or rather could do) was walk into the OT and ask he doctors about his condition and then come out and talk in whispers. His daughter came in over there as well, along with 2 ladies who I assumed were relatives (but later found out were some security women from the girls' hostel). A few people realized that I was there as well and came up to me and thanked me. News about it must've spread. They asked me what happened, I told them. I must've narrated the entire episode at least 20 times to separate groups of people. There was some cross questioning too. “Was he crossing the road?” “Did the car hit him straight on?” “What happened to the driver?” I mean, come on! The man was hurt. I didn't give a rat's arse about the driver. Someone also asked me how many people were in the car. Like that matters. After about an hour, the driver of the van we came in said we should leave and I agreed. I needed to wash up and sleep. So the two of us, along with the security ladies who I mistook for relatives, got into the van and drove back to campus.
Even on the ride back I got no peace. The ladies drilled me with questions and kept yapping about their views on the incident. “Apdi oru satham ketuthu! Kadavule!” I could only think of those stereotypical aunties discussing the soaps they'd watched that day. Finally, I got back to my hostel (the van driver dropped me there). I narrated the entire episode one more time to the warden and got to my room. I needed that stuff out of my system. A quick bath and a few episodes of Modern Family did the trick and I was able to sleep.
This morning I went back to the main gate of the campus to enquire about his condition. The watchman at the gate recognized me and upgraded his salutation for me from “thambi” to “sir”. I honestly didn't know what to say to that. It seems he passed away at 1.30am this morning. The watchman at the gate thanked me profusely. I just said it was okay and carried on. As I look back, the man saluted me. I don't think I deserved that though.
I learnt yesterday that pedestrians aren't necessarily safe on the pavements. I learnt that the people crowding around you do it from instinct and not from the need to help victims of such accidents. I learnt that barricades don't help you. So people, please drive safe on the roads. I'd certainly think twice before hitting the triple digits on a highway henceforth.