The other day there was a news item on how two head load workers rushed Aiyeneth (poet) to the hospital from an accident site, and were rewarded by a public sector bank for it. I guess this must be one way of discharging Corporate social responsibility - by encouraging such humanitarian acts which should come naturally to us, but unfortunately don’t. The news item brought to my mind my involvement in a similar situation some fifteen years back.
October is the month when the North East monsoon visits Kerala. It is the time of the year when you’ll be caught in the thunder shower if you don’t rush home after work. One such October evening saw me hurrying to the bus stand at around 5 in the evening after work. I had to pass the main overcrowded junction (kavala) to reach the bus station. As I was waiting at the zebra crossing, I saw an auto come close to the footpath at breakneck speed, and run over the right foot of a woman. A young policeman started giving the auto the chase but as he ran, he called out to the passersby to take the woman to the hospital. What followed could constitute the theme for a brief a comedy show – a tragicomedy, would be more correct, for it testifies to callousness that we humans are capable of.
The minute I heard the policeman shout out, I bolted across the zebra crossing. I told myself “Got to go a long way. The locals will do it”. At 90 degrees to the zebra crossing there was one more to be crossed and as I waited for the signal, I tried looking through the corner of the eye to see what was happening at the accident site. I couldn’t see through the crowd. So hoping that someone would have taken care of the lady ( but knowing fully well, deep inside me, that nobody would) I threw an elaborately casual glance (often times we try to fool ourselves) across the Zebra path. To my horror, I saw that the lady, who had been dragging herself towards a jewelry shop, collapse there on the granite platform encroaching into the pavement in front of the shop. She was wailing, and bleeding profusely from her foot. People walking up and down gave her a passing glance (like my elaborately casual glance) and, like I too tried to do, went their way hoping someone else will do it. Through the tinted door of the shop fitted with gleaming thick steel handle, the employees in the gold shop were watching the woman, now weeping aloud and begging to be helped. I waited for a couple of minutes, one-liner save-the-situation prayers racing through my mind, one after the other.
“Yippee! You’ve heard me, Lord, thank you, thank you. That guy is looking earnestly at her- he’ll---oh, no. He too is a shirker - like me!”
My God wasn’t going to let me off so easily. The woman stopped crying and lay down as though she had lost faith in humanity.
I retraced my steps with a sinking feeling. Why Lord, why do you do this to me? I want to go home - it‘s getting to be very dark. And I don’t want to take all that responsibility.
Feeling very sorry for myself, I went back, grudgingly. I couldn’t walk away ‘cos if something happened to her, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself after that.
The woman was hefty. I needed help to lift her to her feet.
“Sir, can you help me?” He looks though me as though I am transparent. (Do I sound like Phil Collin’s Another Day in Paradise? :-))
I asked another and another and another, panic rising.
No one would come to my assistance.
I stood there bewildered, not knowing what to do, when, out of nowhere, two of my students came running. The three of us helped the woman - now rather weak, and weeping weakly and groaning in pain -to the zebra crossing and then the next drama began.
I stopped an auto and we started helping the woman into it. Just then the driver turned around and saw that this was an “accident case”. He violently pulled up the starter lever and swish, he vanished! We had the same experience with two other autos.
Eh, listen you sitting up there so coolly, I prayed (?), what have I done to deserve this?
“M’am, shall I ask the traffic policeman for help?”(This cop was in the elevated island right in the dead centre of the junction where the four roads meet). That was my student.
Almost as if he heard her, he turned around and showed the stop sign. Till the traffic cop gave the green signal, all vehicles had to wait behind the zebra crossing to allow pedestrians to cross. We noticed an unengaged auto waiting at the signal, and started helping the woman into it. The auto driver protested but he couldn’t rush off as the round stop sign plate still faced our side. Anyway, by then I had decided I’d put my foot down and not let him go. What the heck, is this my responsibility alone? I asked my students, in a loud voice, to take down his number, and then told him that if he does not take us to the hospital, I’ll lodge a complaint. He grumbled, pulled a long face but I got in after the lady and the auto started.
The govt. hospital was only a furlong and a half from the kavala, and he kept muttering something under his breath all the way (Why blame him? I was also muttering against the almighty for putting me in a spot like that). We reached the hospital and two attenders helped the woman out of the auto. Taking change out of my handbag, I turned around to pay the driver, but the auto had vanished! The man and the vehicle had fled as though the very devil were after them!
What happened in the hospital was even more upsetting. But that can wait- - -