Buckle Up: Save Regrets, Save Lives
“Good heavens!” I exclaimed, as the sight of the whirling sky and objects beyond the windscreen of my car sent a chill down my spine. I felt as though I was inside a cockpit, holding the throttle of a stunt flying aircraft. It felt as though everything stood still, as I watched my broken windscreen; pebbles scattered all around it. I crouched as my heart hammered, panic-stricken. I was sandwiched between the soft cold soil and the hard metal of my car. I felt a sudden and violent jolt of pain as blood oozed out of my body.
I lay there even as some adolescents got busy recording a video of the entire scene as if I had deliberately done this. My head began to spin; I was in a state of shock, unable to figure out what had actually happened in that split of a second. I felt numb as fear and confusion overcame me. After a while, the realization of having just met with a road accident hit me. The entire vehicle had turned turtle as I remained cocooned to the driver’s seat. I was all alone inside that ill-fated vehicle and was the sole bearer of the brunt of this impact. I tried my best to step out of the vehicle but couldn’t as the door was jammed. It seemed to take forever for me to open the car door. So I kicked at the already shattered windscreen and managed to get myself out of the wreckage. The doors of the vehicle didn’t open as the frame and structure of the car was totally deformed by the brunt of the accident.
A few boys who appeared to be kind of underprivileged helped me get out of the destroyed vehicle and they deserve a special mention here. The video-recording adolescents I previously mentioned about were also present at the scene. However, they seemed to be busy with their paparazzi-like activities. It was much later that I learned that those underprivileged boys who had helped me get back up on my feet were actually Safai Karmees. In school we were taught that “Outer appearances and riches do not make a monarch and one’s level of wisdom is not measured by just formal education” and the lesson learnt in school became clearer to me.
Visiting holy places of worship had always brought unto me a sense of tranquility and bonded me momentarily with some supreme source of energy which was extremely impossible to comprehend. This however, comes purely out of my belief systems and faith; I have no scientific explanation for the same. On 13th April 2019, at around 10.30 am, on the way to the Sai Temple at Byrnihat, a speeding had truck rammed into my car near Forest Service College on the Guwahati-Shillong (GS) Road. The truck driver disappeared from the spot of accident immediately – a hit and run case. My vehicle flipped 180° and spun around 4-5 times before landing on the other side of the road facing towards the Guwahati side of the divider. My car was completely damaged but despite severe injuries, I somehow survived. Fortunately, there was no liability on my part of injury, death or property damage. It was after this accident that I realized how precious my life was, not just to me but also to my family members, friends and dependents. I also learned that although small in number, there still are people who get some sort of sadistic pleasure in causing further damage to people who are already in distress.
Having said all that, the question which still remained unanswered in my head was how did I manage to survive after having met with such a deadly and virtually fatal accident? I have never disregarded the importance of wearing a seatbelt while driving and that is why perhaps, I am alive today. Had I not buckled that seatbelt up, I probably would have been tossed out of my car that day by the force of the impact of the collision which further would have resulted in graver injuries or worse, I could have been dead right there on the spot. People must understand that the force with which these collisions happen puts enormous strain on the body of the persons seated within the vehicle. It is downright scary to even think of the consequences of not wearing seatbelts. This is a fact proven by extensive R&D and countless dry-runs. Seatbelts are designed ergonomically to protect the person seated inside. Sadly, most citizens hardly look at the act of wearing a seatbelt as a life-saving mechanism while commuting. They wear seatbelts just to abide by rules and to avoid violation of the Motor Vehicle Acts. Driving without wearing a seatbelt is suicidal and I have pretty much explained the reason behind that by now.
Apart from all that, I have no scientific proof of this, but my feelings and my memory narrate another version of that same incident, hinting that my survival might be no less than a miracle. When I drive, I usually have a habit of chanting the Hanuman Chalisa, or any other Mantra for that matter, out of those taught to me by my father. It is not customary that everybody must do what I do; each person’s practices would differ based on their own religious and other beliefs and preferences. Doing so helps one connect with the supreme guardian of the universe. Metaphorically, it is a connection similar to that of the Global Positioning System (GPS) that guides us on earth, 20,200 kilometres away from the NAVSTAR satellite up in space.
Life is valuable; it is the only currency that never loses its value and yet we put not just one but the lives of several others at risk by not valuing our own. Therefore, I believe that it is always important to keep in mind that, “Seatbelts save regrets and save lives”.
The author Biraj Das is a Superintendent of Police with the government of Assam and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.