Today, I got out of a fix, a big fix I have to say, because of help from a few strangers. Now, my faith in humanity is restored and is up by one-tenth of one percent. Well, maybe, a little more. Just kidding!
Oh, the humanity!
First of all, unequivocally speaking, driving on Indian roads is challenging, difficult, hard, and not easy. Now, driving on Indian roads that are narrow and congested is even more challenging. More so, when you are driving on narrow roads with large open storm/rain water drains abutting them. Above all, driving on narrow congested roads with open drains—open drains that can swallow the entire car—is not only challenging, but fraught with danger. Mistakes can be costly, even deadly.
The city I live in has narrow roads. I mean n-a-r-r-o-w roads. The roads are so narrow that in many localities the authorities had to cover the open drains abutting the roads with concrete blocks so that traffic can ply in both directions.
Now, as is true with many things in India, the work to cover the open drains was done in patches. Therefore, in some sections, the open drains are covered and in some sections they are not. Furthermore, sometimes for arbitrary reasons the concrete blocks covering the drains are removed, probably for some maintenance work, and never put back in place.
Open drain deathtraps
So, what I am telling you is this: we drive on narrow roads, which have deep/shallow open drains abutting them, and if you are not particularly careful while driving, or if you make a small mistake, you and your car can end up in an open drain, thereby injuring or killing yourself. Capiche?
This is exactly what had happened in the wee hours of May 2018 to a Radio Mirchi executive, when a car she was driving fell into a 10-feet deep open drain in NOIDA, Uttar Pradesh, India. She, unfortunately, lost her life in that accident.
And, something similar happened with me, today.
Today, a Mr. Open Drain had a tete-a-tete with my car. On a particularly narrow turn, the concrete covers of the open drain had been removed and set aside for some maintenance work. No warning signs were posted about the covers being removed. The open drain was there just waiting patiently, like a pitcher plant, to swallow up anything or anyone. And to swallow it did; it swallowed the left front section of my car.
The morning traffic was particularly heavy on that section of the road. Furthermore, what is normally a covered storm/rain water drain, had the concrete covers removed for god only knows why.
Now, while trying to leave enough room between the vehicles—so that the millimeters between the cars can become centimeters—I edged my car into an open drain. As a result, the entire left tyre and almost half of the left section of the car was in the drain, and the right rear tyre was suspended in the air by a foot or so.
Firstly, this is not a pretty situation to be in. Secondly, it is even more aggravating when the cars behind yours start honking incessantly because they think traffic is being held up intentionally.
Yes, it was my intention to hold up traffic by driving my car into an open drain. I guess, it is so much fun to have your car stuck in a drain. Yay!
Finally, it is mind numbing how boneheaded some people can act in a situation involving an accident.
“Help me, Cassius, or I sink!”
It certainly took me a while to realize what had just happened. Once the reality sunk in slowly, I got out of the car, cursing all the while and blaming myself for this grave error. I was absolutely livid at myself for not anticipating this, especially when I have been driving on these roads for eons now. I stood there like a deer in a headlight, unsure at what to do next. Conflicting thoughts flooded my mind leading to decision paralysis.
Cars with people went by, each slowing down to watch the “fun”. Some people smiled, some grinned, a few shook their head, and some surely experienced schadenfreude. Similarly, a few passerby, roadside vendors and hawkers stopped to look at the event unfolding. A couple of them offered advice about what should be done next, but nobody stepped forward to help. That is until a gentleman driving a Scooter slowed down, stopped, parked, and headed over towards me. Next, another gentleman going in a car, stopped, looked at my predicament and asked me to wait. He parked his car, and he too headed over to help.
Then, everything happened very fast, kind of in a fast-forward blur, resulting in a hurricane of activities, and my car was out of the open drain as fast it was in it.
The two gentlemen who had stopped by to help requested a few other people who were just milling around, to assist. Next I know, close to 15 people had arrived out of nowhere to lend a helping hand.
What happened next seemed like magic. Would you believe me if I told you that my car was literally lifted out of the open drain by 12-15 good people?
Herculean strength, you say? I say Humanity strength!
Yes! We didn’t need a wrecker or a tow truck; the good folks who arrived to help lifted and pulled the front section of my car away from the open drain. The rest was done by the internal combustion engine, friction, and traction.
As they collectively lifted the front section of the car by the wheel well, I started the engine and turned the wheel all the way to the right. As a result of the lift-and-pull, the left wheel—which was suspended in thin air inside the drain—made contact with the edge of the road. Next, when I gently pressed on the accelerator, the wheel spun and caught the edge. Friction between the edge and the left wheel caused traction. Then, suddenly, with a screech of a tyre and a groan of the undercarriage, my car was out of the open drain and on solid ground.
“The greatest pleasure I know is to do a good action by stealth, and to have found out by accident.”—Charles Lamb
I didn’t quite know what to say or do next. I just sat in my car for a while, which to me seemed like an eternity, not believing what had just happened. The help from complete strangers blew my socks off and left me overwhelmed. I got out of the car smiled and thanked them all for their help. They returned the smiled and were happy that there was no damage to me or the car.
Next, they were all gone, just like they had arrived—suddenly out of nowhere—each one of them walking or driving away, each to their destination to face their life’s battles.
What I learned from this incident is that, first of all, there is goodness in most of us, not all us, but in most of us. And, secondly, that’s what enables good to triumph over evil. We just need a trigger to see goodness germinate, gain a foothold, and bloom in abundance. Finally, goodness in us manifests abundantly, when the act is altruistic in nature—when we don’t want anything in return.
“The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being”—Carl Jung
In retrospect, I realized that I couldn’t have given them anything material to show my appreciation, except thanking them graciously for their kindness. Trying to give them anything, other than a thank you, would have offended them and taken goodness away from this selfless act.
The gentlemen who helped me, helped me out of goodwill, out of their bigness of heart, rather than for any remuneration. They helped a complete stranger, because it felt good in their soul, I am sure.
And that’s what really matters. Acts, gestures, words satiating our soul.
They could have just gone their own way, as many others had. However, they stopped when requested and helped a fellow human being in need, a human being who looked clueless and out of his depth. At that moment I was angry, lost, confused, unsure, and probably a little dented if not broken. Without their assistance, I don’t know what I would have done.
“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”—Mahatma Gandhi
Humanity exists, but lies dormant in most of us because life happens, and we sometimes lose our way. We all are capable of going above and beyond in helping people in need. We all are capable of great acts of kindness, random acts of kindness. I experienced one just today.
To those few good Samaritans, who helped me out of a bind.
Who got me out of a hole, no pun intended.
Who will probably never know I have written a blog post about them.
Whom I’ll probably never see or meet again… not know their names or run into again.
Thank you very much!
May you all be blessed!